eyE[before]Charles

Thcharles-yallowitzis week, I interviewed a regular fixture within the blogging community; the very talented Charles Edward Yallowitz. Though I have been all too certain Charles and I would cross paths eventually due to our mutual love of the fantasy genre, the chance to finally grill him is an exciting one. Charles is a fantasy author from Long Island who published the first book in his Legends of Windemere series at the start of this year, ‘Beginning of a Hero‘, which I am happy to say I recently added to my Kindle reading list. Charles also maintains a dedicated blog, featuring updates on the Legends of Windemere series aswell as tales about his trials and tribulations as an author.

A gifted story-teller, enigmatic blogger and esoteric imaginator; here are a few words from the fantastic Mr. Charles Yallowitz.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“At the age of 7, it sounded like it would help get women and free drinks. Seriously though, it really was a spontaneous spark that I couldn’t get out of my head. I still haven’t got it out of my head. I was 15 and I had just finished reading the first volume of Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Book of Lost Swords’. The idea that I could write popped into my head and I started designing characters for a book. I began writing short stories and excerpts for my English classes which got praise and it kept rolling from there.

“I think… it just kind of happened, and I found that it made me very happy. The idea of entertaining and inspiring someone with a story really connects with me. I’ve escaped into books since I was a child, so maybe part of me thinks this is a way to continue that tradition… the spark got set off in my brain and took over.”

Why appeals to you most about fantasy as a genre?

“The fantasy genre has a lot of standards, but a lot of flexibility. There are the traditions of swords, magic, dragons, and various other races. It’s a very time-tested genre. Yet, you can get away with more awe-inspiring moments than in other genres. A character diving into shadows as a mode of transportation is easier to explain through magic than technology. We have technology in our world, so you have people trying to figure out the physics. When you use magic, people are more willing to suspend disbelief.

“In terms of the flexibility, you can get away with changing the standards. In my world, I made orcs different than the wild marauders that most worlds use them for. They’re civilized even though they live in the wild and their species has a beauty and the beast thing going on. The males are ugly, brutish, powerful beings and their women are gorgeous Valkyrie-like beings. In a fantasy world, you can get away with altering stuff like this because there is nothing in the real-world for people to compare it to. If you try to have a human fly around space without a suit then you need to know your science and explain everything. People are a lot more critical of genres that take place anywhere near our reality.”

What do you think is the most important or defining aspect of a good fantasy novel?

“I’ve actually written and deleted so many things here because I can’t think of a defining aspect of fantasy. Typically, fantasy is a story that takes place with magic, or at least in a medieval-type setting. When you get into the future and technology, it becomes science-fiction. Unless it’s Star Wars, because the Force (essentially) turns that into fantasy… but (truthfully), I think it’s just in a genre all its own.

“I think the sign of a good fantasy novel are the heroes. Not so much that the heroes are brave and noble, but believable. A pitfall of fantasy is that you’re working in the genre that is the farthest removed from our reality. The heroes are the bridge between the reader and the world you’ve created. They need to feel relatable to the reader or you won’t draw them into the world. This can be done with flaws, quirks, and anything that makes the character more human. For example, Luke Callindor is cocky and brave, which makes sense for a new hero. To make him believable, I rarely let him get out of a situation unscathed. He screws up a lot, which has led to many readers telling me that he’s a character they can stand behind. The hero doesn’t have to be infallible for the story to be good. In fact, a character like that tends to hurt the story because the reader feels like there’s no risk of failure, so the ending is predetermined.”

As genre definitions continue to blur together, and it becomes increasingly popular to blend traditional fiction categories together (such as science fiction and horror, etc), where do you see the future of the fantasy genre heading?

“Fantasy has blurred with other genres for a long time, so I think it’s going to stay the course. You already see a lot of technology slipping into fantasy with the use of airships and lanterns appearing. The alteration of these objects is that they are powered by magic, so it’s more of a magi-tech society. It could lead to a sub-genre of magi-tech books within the overall genre. The sub-genre trend is probably going to be the big change.  Some people don’t even realize when they’re crossing genres now. For example, having a cowboy in a fantasy setting isn’t far-fetched thanks to Stephen King’sDark Tower. The same is going for zombies appearing in fantasy.”

You have to fight Luke Callindor (the main character from the ‘Legends of Windemere’ series) to the death, armed only with whatever you have in your pockets right now. Go.

“*looks down at pajamas* Well . . . I guess I’d run until I could find something to fight back with. Luke’s dual saber, flipping, jumping style isn’t easy to predict, so I’d probably keep tossing stuff at him. Try to keep him on the defensive with whatever I could get my hands on. I could throw him off his game by yelling secrets or see if I can rework him in my head to change him. You know, get rid of a leg or turn his swords into a pair of live eels that slip away. I wouldn’t win, but I’d like to think the moment Luke kills me, he’d blink out of existence too. Kill your creator and you go down with him.”


Charles’ blog can be found here – Legends of Windemere

And the first book in the Legends of Windemere series is available for purchase here (on sale for $2.99) – Beginning of a Hero – Book 1 of Legends of Windemere

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eyE[before]Tammy

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This week, I put the inquisition to the talented Tammy Salyer. Tammy is an independant author, editor and all-round awesome human being. A former para-trooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, Tammy has a uniquely gritty writing style which makes me personally a big fan of her speculative fiction. The debut novel in her Spectras Arise science fiction series, ‘Contract of Defiance‘, dropped last year, while the sequel, ‘Contract of Betrayal‘, hit Amazon in February this year.

On top of all this, Tammy maintains her blog and runs an editing service called Inspired Ink Editing, available for proofreading, copy, and manuscript evaluation. She is also an avid cyclist and has asked me to drop the secret cyclist’s code word: Wiggo (or Cadel for Australian readers). I don’t know what this means, and if I have offended anybody, it’s Tammy’s fault. 🙂

Without further ado, the brilliant, beautiful and definitely-not-bombastic Tammy Salyer.

What first made you want to become a writer/author?

“Someone said that they write to quiet the voices in their heads, and in short, that’s true for me as well. If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have become a linguist. First, because I think Noam Chomsky is super cool, but second, and more germane, I think humans have access to few things more powerful than words. War and peace (negotiations) hinge on language; marriages, births, and deaths, are memorialized with words; all our memories and the events of our lives are conveyed to others and made immortal through communication. Words are our link to the future and past, and those truths have always fascinated me. I didn’t become a writer because I have a vivid imagination (though that’s part of it); I became a writer because it is a good way to live forever in the absence of becoming a member of the living dead (which, in many respects, I hold out hope for).”

You are predominantly a science fiction author. What is it about speculative fiction that most appeals to you?

“I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and I believe all those stories severely warped my grip on reality. Writing speculative fiction, besides being loads of fun, lets me access things that are firmly rooted in real life, yet still transcends these quotidian tropes in limitless ways. Also, when I get tired of doing research on any particular topic, speculative fiction gives me the nod to go ahead and make up what I need to.”

How important a role does ‘world-building’ play in your writing? How much time do you spend constructing fictional settings, and what processes do you go through?

“The world of a story is just as much of a character in any story as the people who populate it. For me, the world-building part of writing is an ongoing and integral part of the process that is consistently unfolding in my subconscious. I’m very much a discovery writer, so I rarely sit down with the sole purpose of designing aspects of the events and social structures of my fictitious worlds — until I hit a plot question that requires my undivided focus on knowing some specific detail of the world in question to keep moving forward with the story. For more on my process and questions regarding world-building, I recommend reading a guest post I wrote for mystery author Susan Spann here.”

As a science/speculative fiction author, how much do you borrow from modern social and technological conventions to build a futuristic world? How do you see our species evolving culturally, technologically, or otherwise?

“Wow, great question, and one that could be an entire post all on its own. I think it’s best to just take a couple of points. My military science fiction trilogy is heavily influenced by some of the experiences and stories I heard from other soldiers during my time in the US Army. I don’t know if “borrowed” is the correct term, but definitely influenced by and extrapolated from. I’ve always been a technology buff, too, so I really enjoy challenging the limits of known physics and technological innovations to bring in new inventions.

“As far as our species evolving, I firmly believe that there will eventually be some type of whole-planet unification once we get to the point of realizing that continuing to exist as independent cultures and corporations is going to end up with us fighting against unbeatable odds for the last scraps of resources and physical space. Our evolution, if we’re lucky enough to get there, will be a giant kumbaya of homogenization. That, of course, can play out in myriads of interesting ways. I guess it will all depend on who has the best-smelling peace lilies.”

The crew of your interstellar survey vessel, the ‘S.T.S. Melchizedek’, have succumbed to violent food poisoning, congesting the air recycling vents with their stomach bile. In accordance with Star-Trans protocol, what is the appropriate action you should take in order to resolve this crisis?

“Clearly, in a case such as this, it would have been better if Star-Trans had given me that raise I requested last year, and the captain and first mate really ought not to have barred me from the bridge and denied my request for leave when we’d overnighted on planet Kali. If these fops had done the necessary, I would not be quite as inclined to jettison the entire crew during one of their goosestepping vomit party dropout sessions (nodding to the Breakfast Club) and take the STS Mikshake to my shady cousin Viggo, who can part out and scrap a Class D freighter faster than you can say “My King Most High“. I really could use the money. After all, vacationing on Kali isn’t cheap.”


Tammy’s blog can be found here – Tammy Salyer: Alternative Reality Engineer

The first Spectras Arise book can be found on Amazon here – Contract of Defiance

The second Spectras Arise book can be found on Amazon here – Contract of Betrayal

And Tammy’s editing service can be found here – Inspired Ink Editing

Also, feel free to look up Tammy on Twitter here. She is lovely, and will probably not hurt you unless you are a zombie.

eyE[before]Seyi

This week, I caught up with the remarkable and fascinating Seyi Sandra David. Seyi is seyi-sandra-davidthe best-selling author of ‘The Impossible President’, ‘The Feet of Darkness’ and ‘Tales of Five Lies’, and is also a regular columnist for the London based publication ‘Black Heritage Today. She is one of the few popular authors who have made the transition from mainstream to independent publishing, making her outlook invaluable to the independent publishing community.

In addition to all of this, I personally am a big fan of her blog and her prose, and couldn’t be happier about an opportunity to get to know her better. So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Seyi Sandra David.

 What first made you want to become a writer/author?

“I love that very straightforward question. I (have) loved to string words together (for) as long as I could remember. I realized from a very young age that I have a hyperactive imagination. I wrote my first work of fiction at the age of thirteen though it was not published. My dad gave the manuscript to a publishing company and the company thought it was a plagiarized copy, their refusal dented my enthusiasm a bit but I continued regardless and went on to college, then (to) university to get a degree in English language. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a published author because the stories just kept coming.”

What is your single most pleasant memory as a professional writer?

“I have a huge grin on my face now with the memory. My single (most) pleasant memory as a professional writer was the day I held my first novel in my hand. I was ecstatic with joy when my publisher sent the The Impossible President to me at home. It was no longer in scribbles on my notepad, and then it hit me with a bang; I am now a professional writer, it was also a sobering moment, I knew there was no going back, I’ve entered the cult of the novelist, it is a lifelong calling.”

As an experienced writer who has published within a variety of fiction genres, as well as working as a columnist and a dedicated blogger, how difficult have you found transitions between writing styles in your work?

“I am like an actor; I know how to switch roles easily, though I have to confess that my editor, Barbara Campbell (Black Heritage Today) used to joke that I should not write a report with the intro of a thriller. My style of writing conformed totally to the in-house style of the magazine, at the back of my mind I know I am now a columnist, not blogging and neither writing a scene in a novel. It just flows easily and when I am blogging, I switch on to what I call ‘friendship mode‘, since I am practically aiming my content at friends. I also write many short stories to illustrate my points so the writing styles are easy to navigate though somewhat interwoven together.

“On my works of fiction, the story flowed with the plot, just like Jeffrey Archer, my prose is easy flowing with no complications. Sometimes, I do have a plot line for a story but once I start typing, the characters usually have a life of their own and events are played out smoothly. I write supernatural and psychological thrillers (The Feet Of Darkness and Tales Of Five Lies). I have also dabbled into what I call ‘political fiction’ with the publication of The Impossible President. I have to confess that I do not find it difficult and I am going off track (at all), my editor is like a mother hen who can quickly put me back.”

How important a role do you feel your life experiences have played in developing your literary voice, in the fields of both fiction and non-fiction? What life events have been most defining?

“While growing up in Nigeria, I hated the way men treat women as second fiddle or as childbearing machines. I had always believed women have the innate ability to do anything they set their minds to do. My first novel, ‘The Impossible President’ was born out of the desire to see a woman installed as the president of Nigeria. It was my vision and it played out in the story as the major character, Sharon Nwosu, scaled through life threatening hurdles to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in Nigerian political landscape.

“I have seen women beaten by their husbands and the society accepted it as normal but I hated it and I was not afraid to voice my opinions. I was also a reporter with ‘People’s Advocatethen, a local newspaper and that gave me a platform to develop my literary voice. When I moved over to the UK, I wrote ‘The Feet Of Darkness‘. I was appalled by the religious trap people find themselves, the trap of killing innocent people to gain acceptance in paradise (suicide bombers). I tried to find the balance between proper religion and the supernatural and I found out that the greatest belief on earth is love, hence the subtitle of ‘The Feet Of Darkness’ is ‘Can Love Overcome Darkness? The London underground bombing of 2005 was a defining moment in my career, I am a Christian and the deaths of so many commuters were unjustified and immoral. In ‘The Feet Of Darkness‘, I tried to reason with a suicide bomber, what prompted such a drastic life decision where he believes killing innocent people was the right decision towards martyrdom or glory.”

As someone who has recently re-edited and re-published ‘The Feet of Darkness’, how important do you think efficient editing is within both the independent and mainstream publishing industries?

“It cannot be overemphasized, efficient editing is the backbone of a book and no matter the message inherent in the book, if it was riddled with mistakes the message could be lost. Both the independent and mainstream publishing industries are aware of the importance of proper editing hence you can see a published work with three or four editions. Once they noticed a mistake, the proper thing to do would be to withdraw such books from circulation and rectify such mistakes. Although, you will rarely see a publishing company admit to a mistake in their books, they can colourfully describe it as an abridged version (another word for edited).

“‘The Feet Of Darkness’ was re-edited and republished by Arrow Gate a London based publishing company. My first publisher, Author House UK did not live up to its promises; they did not market the book to its full potential.”

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only take any one board game with you, what would it be (bearing in mind that there’s no one else to play with on the island)?

“I would take Chess with me, it is a game of thinkers and it would help me think of another compelling story.”


Seyi’s blog can be found here – SeyiSandraDavid.org

Seyi’s book, ‘The Feet of Darkness’, which has recently been re-released, can be found on Amazon.com here – The Feet of Darkness – Amazon.com

And Seyi’s collection of short stories, ‘Tales of Five Lies’ can be found here – Tales of Five Lies – Amazon.com