Hey all! Today I’m welcoming Terry to my blog for an interview. His newest book, Relic Tech is out now, and sounds like it could be awesome!
Hey Terry, welcome to The Five Year Project. Want to tell me a bit about your goals and how you go about achieving them?
Thank you for having me, Misha.
My goal is to write interesting stories that other people will want to read. I think I’m like most authors, and write stories I’d like to find on the bookshelf, if I hadn’t written them myself.
Like most authors who aren’t full-time writers, I have a full-time job (teaching high school English) and a couple part-time jobs (grading e-course work and serving as a member of the Village Council) in addition to writing. Plus, I’m a husband and father to two daughters, which means I’m pretty darn busy. Thus, if I want to get my stories written, I have to carve out the time to do so.
I’m the same way. Always better to write what you’d like to read. So what are your favorite sorts of stories and characters?
I enjoy stories with action and conflict, stories that have interesting plots with an occasional surprising twist connected to intermingling subplots—a few and not a distracting plethora.
I enjoy characters that are overall ‘good guys.’ That doesn’t mean that they’re perfect and don’t have some aspects of gray to their beliefs or motivations. Main characters that use the skills, abilities and talents that they have are more interesting to me than ones that are the ‘top dog’ where everything in the plot largely revolves around the decisions they make and actions they take. I prefer it when the main characters are just as likely to be forced to respond to events and actions of others in the story as they are to take action that alters a story’s course of events.
Some good examples of characters I like to read about would be: Vlad Taltos from Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos Series, Prince Corwin from Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, Atticus O’Sullivan from Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. I think a sold cast of supporting characters is important as well. They’re the ones that add depth and make the plot work. Each of the examples above have this.
To achieve those sorts of stories, both strong plot and great characterization are needed. How do you go about balancing them?
Good question. I don’t have any sort of forumula–50% of each chapter must be focused on direct actions taken by the POV character, 98% action verbs used throughout the story, etc.
I believe the best characterization comes through readers learning about the characters within the context of the story. I’m less on telling the readers what a character thinks or feels, say, about the death of a comrade on the battlefield, and more about how the character responds–what he says, and what actions he takes. I allow the readers to witness how events impact the characters, change the characters’ views, causes them to falter or to grow. The readers fill in the blanks rather than being told what’s in those blanks.
A strong plot, I believe, needs to have direction. That doesn’t mean everything proceeds in a direct line from point A to point B to point C. The characters in the story have goals, and they’re never 100% the same, which jostles the plot’s direction, and characters, around a bit. That’s the way real life is, and its effects are amplified when situations, events, and conflict in the story are a bit larger and more volatile than the reader’s average, everyday routine life.
In Flank Hawk (my first novel) Krish, a farmhand who joined the local lord’s militia to escape his mundane life, finds himself on the front lines of an emerging continent-wide war, and not the annual crop disruption raids he and his older cousin anticipated. The death of his cousin provides a point of crisis, propelling Krish forward, forcing him to grow, or to wither, or to turn and flee. He endures and is taken under the wing of an experienced mercenary. Krish isn’t anywhere near the best swordsman (or spearman) on the battlefield—and he never will be. But his resilience and steadfast loyalty gets him noticed, opening the door to a whirlwind of struggles and events, culminating to a point where his decisions and actions come to matter. They matter far more than if the story had been about a simple crop raid, after which he returned to his life as a farmhand.
That’s an example of what I think comprises a synergistic balance between a strong plot and great characterization.
Excellent way of putting it. What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m working on the galley proofs of my SF novel, Relic Tech, sent by my publisher. It’s the final step before the novel is ready for publication. It should be released in early November of 2013 (it may be out by the time this interview is posted J). Which it is. See info and links below.
Otherwise, I have about 10,000 to 15,000 words to finish the first draft of Soul Forge, the third novel in my First Civilization’s Legacy Series. After that I have an alien invasion novel planned. The first chapter is written but I don’t have a working title for it, yet, which is unusual for me.
Sounds like you’re very busy at the moment. Want to tell us a bit more about Relic Tech?
Security Specialist Krakista Keesay, a relic tech, meaning he relies upon technology dating back to the late 20th century, awakens critically injured with his life fading despite advanced life support. Not only that, but he’s on trial for committing horrendous crimes: kidnapping, planetary quarantine violations, destruction of the interstellar civil transport Kalavar, and treason. Actions he doesn’t remember.
In a desperate bid to clear his name and reveal those guilty of wiping his memory and framing him, Kra demands to have his brain hooked up to the experimental Cranaltar IV, an alien device he hopes will draw out those lost memories, translating them into digital form—evidence. The drawback? The process will utterly destroy his brain. He’ll never know the results.
Using the classic frame story structure, Relic Tech relays Specialist Keesay’s story, unraveling the mystery—how and why he ended up a dying man, accused of horrific crimes.
From foiling a political assassination attempt to serving as a conscript defending the Tallivaster Colony from the Crax’s overwhelming invasion force, readers can follow Kra’s adventures, and discover his innocence—or reaffirm his guilt.
Here’s what one pretty neat individual had to say:
“The tech level premise is fascinating, but what really makes the novel special is the spirit of Krakista Keesay. Kra is a hero to root for—often underestimated, adept with brass knuckles, bayonet, shotgun, and all sorts of old style weaponry. He proves that, while technology matters, so do courage, intelligence, and daring.”—Tony Daniel, Hugo-finalist, author of Metaplanetary and Guardian of Night.
Sounds awesome. What inspired you to write it?
Several notions inspired me to write Relic Tech. One came from my pondering about the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in society. Often it’s based on economic status usually derived from access to opportunity and education. That led me to ponder a technological schism, and how a determined individual using old technology and skills would fare if humanity became a space-faring society.
Last question: What is the best piece of writing advice you can give?
Treat your readers (beta readers) properly. Refrain from sending them a first draft and requesting feedback—no matter how much you’re craving an opinion. Go back and revise and edit first, making the work a solid piece. Why? The writer will get feedback focusing on the obvious problems assaulting the reader. Instead of providing insight on subtle plot holes or pacing or more elusive concerns, the bulk of the commentary will relate to what the writer could’ve addressed on his or her own, including grammar and poor sentence structure, wandering plotlines, and stilted dialogue (among a host of other concerns).
Insightful readers are a valuable resource. It’s both improper and unwise to ask them to read subpar work—and especially to re-read a revised version after having suffered through a horrid first draft. Even the most steadfast supporter will be deterred from helping out in the future. Their time is valuable too.
Thank you very much, Misha, for the opportunity to ramble on a bit to your blog’s readers!
Thanks for visiting!
Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK and BLOOD SWORD. He is focused on completing SOUL FORGE, the third novel in the fantasy series.
His newest release from Gryphonwood Press is RELIC TECH, a science fiction novel packed with action, adventure, aliens and even a bit of a mystery. It is now out at Amazon, Amazon UK and Smashwords.
In addition to writing novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. The genres range from science fiction and mystery to horror and inspirational. GENRE SHOTGUN is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.
To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website and his blog, Up Around the Corner.