Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: S. A. Swann

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 13, 2009

wolfbreedAuthor website:


Could you take a minute and explain what your new novel Wolfbreed is about?

Wolfbreed is a historical dark fantasy about werewolves, the premise being that during the 13th Century the Teutonic Knights come across a brood of werewolf young and raise them to be weapons in the Northern Crusade against the pagan Old Prussians. One of these werewolves, a seventeen-year old girl makes a bloody escape from one of their strongholds, and is taken in by a Prussian peasant family who’re unaware of what she is.

Would you mind describing what the process was like for you in first getting published?

So long ago I barely remember 🙂 What I did is fairly typical. I completed a novel MS. (This was the second novel I wrote, the first is unpublishable.) With a complete manuscript in hand, I wrote query letters to all the agents I found that handled SF. (The wiser me 15 years later would recommend less of a scattershot approach. Research the agents and query those that represent not just your chosen genre, but who represent people with similar writing styles, or whose careers you’re looking to emulate. And make sure the agent has sold stuff recently.) When an agent requested to see the manuscript I sent it off, and she agreed to represent me, and sold it to DAW, where I’ve been publishing most of my stuff until recently.

What do you enjoy reading? Who are some of your favorite authors?

For enjoyment (opposed to research) I try to range a lot. Because I’ve been shifting genres a bit, I’ve been reading a lot of werewolf-themed fantasy lately and my current favorite is Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series. Also, since I actually know a number of authors, I try and read them as well, like Toby Buckell’s stuff, for instance. I also really like Michael Chabon, John Scalzi, and Neil Stephenson. For literary influences (the folks I read too much in high school) I’d turn to Heinlein, Niven, Mack Reynolds and Robert Anton Wilson. (That explains my politics right there.)

Are you or have you ever been a gamer? What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?

I was heavily into RPGs in my younger days, D&D, Campions and GURPS mostly.

Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.

My experience with video games predates the whole MMORPG phenomenon. The closest I came was getting DOOM to work over a modem to do a death match.

Would you mind sharing an interesting and/or amusing story from your gaming past?

I was a big first generation DOOM fan, and even got involved in level editing. I even uploaded one .WAD file for DOOM I that I’m still sort of proud of. I wanted to have a setting in a cathedral that actually looked like a cathedral. Back in the days of 2d maps, it wasn’t easy. But I think I did a pretty good job 🙂

Would you say your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer? Please explain.

I ran characters in several multi-year long campaigns, and that experience directly influenced my writing, especially in terms of action sequences.  Playing a character though some combat sequences, especially when some creativity is involved, is good practice in thinking through how to write an action sequence.

Would you say there is grind in the writing process? Please explain.

It’s different things for different people. With me it’s mostly the non-writing elements that go along with being a professional writer. This is why I’ve foisted the publicist job to my wife 🙂 Submissions, proposals, networking, research; all that stuff is grinding to me.

By contrast, what would you say is one of the most rewarding things about being a writer?

Two times, the first is the point at which I’ve completed a project. Having the finished manuscript has always been a rush. Even that fist unpublishable novel I wrote, in that case maybe even more so since I didn’t at that time know I could do it. The other time is seeing the book complete, printed, on the shelf. that never gets old.

When do you find time to write?

Since I have a day job, I get up in the early morning and do most of my work between 7 & 8 AM. If I’m facing a deadline I’ll also commandeer my lunch hour, and maybe another hour after work if I’m truly pressed. If I’m being leisurely on a project I’m doing 800-900 words a day, if the wind’s at my back I’ll do 1000-1500 words. Writing full time I’ve done as much as 3500 in a day, but that burns me out in a week or two.

How do you tend to escape these days?

There’s no escape. Life is always there, and the laundry will always need done. I just treat it as a job, which it is as much as the 8 to 5 Database Manager gig. That means it isn’t optional. If I have a project, I write every single day, no excuses.

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Two things. First, only pursue this if what you love, and what you want out of it, is the writing. It takes years to build a career at this, and a love of writing is the only thing you have to get though those years of effort. Second, if you pursue this, you must persist. You must start writing. You must finish what you start. You must submit what you have finished. And you must then start writing something else. Otherwise decent writers remain unpublished because they become hung up somewhere on the process, they never finish, they revise endlessly, they don’t submit their work to markets, or they don’t start a new project while they’re peddling the old project.

You wake up to a world where Wolfbreed has been made into a massively multiplayer online role playing game. Which character would you roll up and why?

I’d want to play Lilly, because she is the heart of the story on several different levels, and she is the main engine of the story. Without her, the book would evaporate into nothing.

One Response to “Reading the text: S. A. Swann”

  1. […] The interview I mentioned earlier is now up on the blog Grinding to Valhalla. […]

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