Could you take a minute and explain what The Warded Man is about?
The Warded Man is a story about fear, and how it affects people. It is set in a world where demons, called corelings, rise up from the ground each nightfall, hunting and killing any human they can find until they are banished by the morning sun. The only protection humanity has from this scourge are ancient symbols of power called wards, only half-understood, which have the magic to keep the demons at bay if arranged properly, but whose protection is limited and fragile. Humanity has been reduced to a few scattered cities and small, isolated villages, hiding behind wards at night like willing prisoners.
The Warded Man introduces three characters, Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, and shows how each of them has their life altered by a demon attack in their childhood, and how it puts each of them on a journey to discover a different way to break humanity’s veil of fear and actively resist the corelings once more. Arlen becomes a Messenger, traveling the deserted roads between cities as he seeks the lost “fighting wards”. Leesha, an Herb Gatherer, privy to ancient books of knowledge that give her the Secrets of Fire. And Rojer a Jongleur (minstrel) whose music holds a strange power over the corelings.
If that long-winded answer didn’t sell you, you can just use this equation:
Dimensional Characters + Demons + Violence + Sex = Awesome
What was the process like in first getting published?
I wrote three books before The Warded Man, none of which I attempted to publish. They were my training books, as I learned how to put a story together. I wrote in my spare time, devoting 2-3 hours a day to it, mostly during my NYC subway commute, or late at night after my wife had gone to bed.
When The Warded Man, my fourth book, was written, I felt I had finally gotten the formula right (or as close as I was going to get), and approached a literary agent, Joshua Bilmes (www.awfulagent.com). I did this because submitting a manuscript directly to publishers is a much more difficult path to publication. An editor may or may not ever read an unagented manuscript; they receive too many. But a manuscript from a respected agent is always read.
Joshua initially turned my work down for publication (rightfully so, as it turns out), but he took the rare step of explaining why, and helping me to understand some of the weaknesses of my writing style. Once I saw those flaws myself, I took a year and rewrote The Warded Man and resubmitted it. It was immediately picked up for representation and has since sold in fourteen countries around the world.
Then the real work began…
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Nerd stuff, mostly. I’ve always been a big fantasy and science fiction geek, reading comics, fantasy novels, watching SF TV and movies, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. A youth well spent, it turns out to my mother’s shock, as that heady mixture proved very fertile.
I think it’s the case with most any writer. Ask them what they themselves were reading between the ages of twelve and thirty, and you’ll see the core of their artistic influence.
Of course, real life is as much an inspiration as anything else. The Warded Man was inspired in great part by the aftermath of September 11 in New York City where I was living at the time, and the resulting war on terror.
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 always a pen & paper gamer, mainly because it was an extension of my love of reading. I played mostly AD&D 2.5 (Skills & Powers expansion) in the Forgotten Realms setting. I would usually DM, and delighted in forgoing modules and creating my own ridiculously elaborate campaigns. I played console, arcade, and computer games as well, but not as obsessively as the hundreds of hours I put into writing D&D campaigns.
Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.
My D&D groups splintered over time, and became increasingly harder to pull together as I got older. Needing an RPG fix, I tried playing NeverWinter Nights, and was totally blown away by it. I went into a trance and it ate up all my free time for months. I did zero writing. When I finished that game, I decided, purely as a defense mechanism, to keep my distance from such games if I ever wanted to get any writing done.
But sometimes, late at night, I can hear Warcraft calling…
Would you say that your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer? Please explain.
Absolutely. I learned far more about storytelling from DMing than I ever did in a writing class. And creating elaborate characters to portray, knowing full well they may die in the world you’re sending them into, is good training to keep an author from getting too attached to characters he might one day need to kill. Gaming is also good for the immediate feedback to your ideas from other gamers, which is invaluable for the practicing writer.
Grind is a term used frequently in gaming vernacular referring to something that is rather repetitive or unpleasant that one engages in in order to progress in the game. Would you say there is grinding in the writing process? Please explain.
I think there is. Certainly there is in my process. I am a meticulous outliner, and will usually have written pages of notes on a given chapter before I ever write a word of prose. When I do, I usually write quite quickly, mainly because all the hard work was arranging the notes. It’s like leveling up and taking forever to cast all your defensive spells, drink potions, and ready weapons before charging around the corner to take out that Boss that’s killed you 50 times already. The fight itself is extremely exciting, but it tends to be over in a flash.
Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?
Never think your writing is so good that you can’t make it better.
You wake up to a world where The Warded Man has been made into an MMO. What class would you play and why?
Messenger, I think. It’s the warrior class, and closest to the classic D&D ranger I used to gravitate towards as a PC when I wasn’t the party thief.
I’ve actually thought about a Warded Man MMO far too much. I even planned out how the level-ups would work.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?
Thanks for sticking around through the whole interview!