This time on 10 Quick Questions we welcome Steven Kelliher whose first book, Valley of Embers, will be released on August 16. Oh hell, that's tomorrow... great timing!
GRM: Tell us about your book.
SKE: Valley of Embers starts out traditional enough. You’ve got a Fantasy world with a long, untold history, a dark adversary that hasn’t been heard from in a while, and some powerful heroes trying to figure out what’s what and who’s who as they unravel the central mystery at the novel’s core.
My intent for this series is to present a dark, action-heavy Fantasy yarn that takes twists and turns you wouldn’t expect. There is a dark lord of sorts, but it’s not quite what you think. There is a powerful central protagonist, but he isn’t always the one to save the day. I’m not subverting the genre like the Grimdark guys and gals, but thus far, readers have been pleasantly surprised by some of the shifts in the narrative and some of the standout moments going to characters they assumed would only be there for support and/or fodder. I had a couple of beta readers compare my writing style to Steven Erikson (not claiming to be that great!) in that I don’t handhold the audience. I drop you in, and you’re going to have to orient yourself to the relative chaos of the world I’ve created.
Above plot twists and action scenes, my goal when writing is to present and develop characters the reader cares about. Hopefully this gets them through any confusing intro threads or strange imagery at the novel’s outset. I promise … it all makes sense if you give it some time.
GRM: Where did your inspiration come from?
SKE: As with any of my writing projects, the end product ends in a totally different place than I began, but the core imagery of the novel and series at large was heavily inspired by Hayao Miyazaki, specifically his work on Princess Mononoke; more specifically, the opening action scene where Ashitaka takes down a corrupted boar on the edge of the forest.
I explore themes of corruption in nature throughout the book and series, and you can see Miyazaki’s influence in the fight scenes and landscapes described.
GRM: Why did you choose to go Self-Published?
SKE: I’ve been a professional writer for 10 years. Graduated with a degree in journalism and jumped into sports reporting (combat sports.) I’ve had pieces published on ESPN, LA Weekly, etc. This isn’t to brag, but rather to show that I know how contracts work.
Moreso than my writing career, however, my fighting career led me to choose indie publishing. The publishing industry is eerily similar to the murky world of fight promoters. Most authors are happy to be at the table. Publishers know this, and debut contracts reflect that.
There is undoubtedly more drivel in the indie pile than in those works that are forged in the extensive editing stages that major publishing houses enact. That said, I’ve seen too many talented authors invest the time, money and expertise into crafting successful indie debuts as of late to not give it serious consideration. Time will tell if it was the right decision.
GRM: What was the hardest part about taking this route?
SKE: The idea that I may have been able to get a few publishing deals with my debut series; in fact, I had interest from a couple of small presses in the genre. I was actually counselled by a friend, hybrid author and editor not to accept a deal right out of the gate if I truly felt I could make it as an indie.
I’m probably most nervous about the marketing aspect of self-publishing. There’s a lot of hysteria out there on ideal marketing plans and release schedules. I’m just going to try to keep making the series the best it can be, and hopefully audiences respond.
GRM: Morning, afternoon or evening writer?
SKE: Anytime I force myself to do it … but it usually ends up being before bed, which, for me, is anywhere from 1-3am. I’m in chronic pain 24/7. I don’t sleep much.
GRM: Architect or Gardener? Planner or Pantser?
SKE: Tried and failed to finish 3 previous novels as a planner. Shifted to a pantser for the book I ended up publishing, and found myself as a bit of a hybrid by the end.
I came up with the central premise and just started writing, but the act of writing itself often gives me ideas for future plot threads, which I mark down. Think of it as a scatter plot, with plot points I write toward, while being free to take various paths to get there.
GRM: Silence, music or what when writing?
GRM: What’s the weirdest fact or piece of information you had to research in order to write the book?
SKE: Where the term “nock” came from in relation to bows and arrows.
GRM: To steal (paraphrase) from Rod Stewart, what do you wish that you know now, you knew when you started the journey to a finished and published book?
SKE: There is no right or wrong way to do it in this business. It’s something I learned in my fighting days. Bruce Lee always said, “Take what works; leave the rest.” I applied that to my study of the martial arts, and I’m applying it to my writing career. Thing is, what works changes depending on who you are and your relative strengths and weaknesses.
As a character in my book says at a crucial juncture, “I know who I am.” And this is the path I’ve chosen … for now.
GRM: You’re on a deserted island with enough food and water to survive. There no building materials around so you must wait for rescue. What three books would you have with you, to help you pass the time?
SKE: The Silmarillion by Tolkien. In terms of bang for your buck, it doesn’t get any richer.
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. The most purely cinematic standalone novel I’ve read. I could watch … err, read it on repeat.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’m a sucker for good prose, and that one always inspires me to write. If you’re on an island, reading the same three books will get old … but writing never will.
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It is always exciting when a new author releases their debut book and having read the interview what a great time to pick it up. Thanks, Steven, for taking the time and answering the questions!