Author Interview with Jarrett Mazza

Dragon Soul Press took time to interview Author Jarrett Mazza, featured in Reign of Queens, Lethal Impact, and Rogue Tales.

1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It was my eighteenth birthday and my parents gave me a laptop as their main gift. Realizing that I now had a tool to create stories, I decided to finally act on my creative impulses and began writing scripts, comic books, and novel synopses. However, it was in my second year of university, and I was a huge fan of comics, superheroes, movies, and literary novels, that I began my very first short stories. I didn’t think anything of it, at first, it was just fun, and exciting. Three years later I had my first story published, one year after that my MFA, and the rest just escalated from there. I consider myself a writer the same way I consider myself to be human. I breathe, I eat, and I live, and I’m a writer because I write. It’s part of who I am now, one of the best parts, something I need, desire, and I’m glad I have it. I can’t imagine a life without writing, and I just continue to do it because I can.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

It’s combination of things. I think about the story and then the characters, but most of the time, it just all coalesces on its own. I don’t overthink the process. I just do the work, put in the time, and I create.

3. How do you come up with the titles to your stories?

That’s totally a last-minute thing. Most of my work is untitled while writing, and then when it’s done, I conclude with something, generally, I could not have created prior to its conclusion. It can be aggravating to keep changing, and sometimes, I don’t know what the title is going to be. I like thinking about it, though. The brainstorming can be quite entrancing.

4. Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing the story?

Absolutely not. I am a fountain of perpetual creativity. I usually do dive in right away, and Dragon Soul Press has actually made that easier. There’s so many submission calls, I don’t have time to think about them all. I just love the content and I want to attack it as soon as possible. It’s great to just jump in, propel the narrative, and see where it ends up. I’m lucky to have been welcomed into DSP. I will be writing stories for them for as long as I am able.

5. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Nothing. Difficulty in writing is the rejection and the uncertainty, but hey, that’s the game, right? Can’t let it get you down. I just keep my head down and fight, and I like to fight, so I feel like I’m in the right place even when things aren’t going well.

6. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

Wow. Tough question. I have so many influences, but my favorite author is Craig Davidson. I love his work so much I could sleep with all his books under my pillow. Also, Michael Chabon, Greg Rucka, Stephen King, Scott Snyder, Lucy Snyder, Andrew F. Sullivan, Zoe Whittall, and Amy Stuart are awesome as well. Books, it’s all about Cromac McCarthy’s collected works, On Writing, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Fighter, The Road, Jim The Boy, The Shining, Watchmen, and anything coming out of Wolfpack Publishing right now. I love it all!

7. Who is your favorite character you’ve written?

Too many to count, and too hard to determine. I love them all. Depending on the day, I gravitate to each. I’m just glad I have all of them.

8. Which of your stories were the most enjoyable to write?

So long as I’m writing, I’m happy.

9. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Success, to me, means fulfillment and progress. Do I feel fulfilled and am I progressing? If so, then to a certain degree, I see myself as successful. I have many visions of a future with writing a part of it, but I prefer not to structure what lies too rigidly. It’s not that kind of job, unfortunately. I just want to be able to do it, and if I can, and if it’s about something, for something…then I’m a success. Also, I need to be surrounded by people I care about. I can’t enjoy any success if I don’t have people who care about me. I’m lucky to have them too.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

I am on all social media and if you Google me, you’ll see links to my website as well as my published work.

Author Interview with John Greville

Dragon Soul Press interviewed John Greville, a History and Reign of Queens anthology author.

1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

As a child in Baghdad in the early 1950’s, I was drawn to the small diaries sold at the upscale department store, Orosdi-Backs, on Rashid Street. The diary had a little pencil that sat in the hold along the spine. I scribbled in the tiny books, and felt some level of satisfaction. Later, in 10th grade, I read a short story by Thomas Mann, “Tonio Kröger,” about a young man who desired a normal life, and as a boy and teen was attracted to normal, popular peers. But he never really fit in, and his sensitivities were also trampled by the oblivious crowd. He became a writer, an artist, and I immediately identified with him. I was also transfixed by Hermann Hesse’s novel Der Steppenwolf, also about an outsider. In 11th grade I started writing poetry, and in college much better poetry and short stories. Finally, as a freshman at Berkeley, I discovered Tolkien, and devoured Lord of the Rings. Fantasy and SF became my reading passion, and ultimately, the landscapes for the stories I wanted to tell.

2. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Believable and compelling characters facing mounting challenges are vital, otherwise readers will lose interest. The depiction of setting is also critical, particularly in SF/F. The detailed world building of LOTR and the Earthsea trilogy, along with Dune, early favorites of mine, formed the foundations of the epic nature of the stories. Clean, crisp prose that supports the action of the characters also matters. I dislike overwritten scenes. I agree with Elmore Leonard: “I don’t want the reader to be aware of me as the writer.”

3. Describe your writing space.

I have a small foldout desk which supports my laptop. On the shelf above the desk sit my collection of dragons, including a spectacular specimen of an alebrije, a piece of Mexican folk art. Stretching to either side are my book shelves, overflowing with books, nick-nacks, scattered notes, and, for good measure, a couple of ornamental daggers. I occasionally plug in my head phones to listen to ambient noise of waves breaking on shingle or sand. Music I find too distracting.

4. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

The first draft is the most painful for me. Watching myself set down the crappy words and sentences that are parodies of what I have in my head is excruciating. I am constantly reminded of William Gibson’s advice: “You must learn to overcome your very natural and appropriate revulsion for your own work.”

5. How do you do research for your books?

It depends on the story. For my fan fiction novel set in Middle Earth, I combed through Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle Earth volumes to make sure I was within canon for the stub I was expanding on. For my own invented world, I studied different forms of government, economies, religions, cultures, mythologies. World building is intense, and I like to have a solid basis for my inventions. For the story published in Reign of Queens, I drew on my own memories of traveling through Wales, memories I also drew on for my story published in the forthcoming History with Dragons anthology. I also collect books on arcane topics such as the Tarot, witchcraft, shamanism, etc. I was struck by a piece of advice from a talk Connie Willis gave, when asked a similar question. She said it only takes a few telling details to place the reader in a particular time and place, and refrain from filling in the entire setting.

6. How do you handle literary criticism?

I welcome feedback. I have several beta readers whose comments have been invaluable. I also hired an editor to savage my prose. Humbling, but necessary. The give and take in writer’s workshops has also been important for my growth as a writer. I have learned as much giving feedback as getting it. It can be painful at times, but without it, I wouldn’t grow my craft.

7. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have completed three novels and several short stories. Two of the novels were inspired by works I love: LOTR and The Seven Samurai. Three of my short stories reflect my various childhood heroes: Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Peter Pan. I have a special fondness for my fan fiction set in Middle Earth, where I set out to tell the story of a character mentioned in passing by Tom Bombadil. I wondered about her for years before gathering my courage and writing her tale.

8. Who is your favorite character?

Oddly enough, I only have one character who so clearly channeled himself through me that I felt I was basically dictating his story. He is Gyrax, a clumsy jewel thief, who is released from hanging to do a special job in my novel Seven at Bay. For some reason, his Han Solo type wise-guy persona must represent some shadow self in my subconscious.

9. How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

I have several stories and one novel that exist in notes and bits of scenes. The one that is easiest to describe is a prequel to my current WIP, and describes the exodus of a people who leave their idyllic home city rather than succumb to the predations of an avaricious despot who covets their valley. Some 50,000 folk travel over a thousand miles to the north, seeking a land where they can prosper in peace, led by a young priestess who has a vision of their new home.

10. Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

My pen name, John Greville, comes from a nineteenth century house I lived in during my two years in London. The address was 2 Greville Place. It was a marvelous Gormenghastian dwelling, with nooks and hidies, perfect for my teenage day dreams.

11. Where can readers learn more about you?

On Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon.

Author Interview with Peter VanGelderen

Dragon Soul Press sat down with Author Peter VanGelderen, who has featured in DSP’s Reign of Queens and the upcoming Lethal Impact anthology.

1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I actually realized I wanted to be a writer later in life, after college actually. I originally wanted to pursue a career as a therapist and that’s what I went to school for. Prior to grad school, I ended up doing some revaluation, and I started writing to try it out as a new hobby. Within a week I was in love with the process and its been my passion ever since. I did attempt to write a fourth Lord of the Rings book when I was a kid, but it didn’t go so well.

2. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

I’ve gotten influence from many authors. George R. R. Martin and the Game of Thrones series was an inspiration in terms of character writing as well as cultivating peril and suspense. I’ve also been influenced by N. K. Jemisin, especially when it comes to narrative perspectives. Those are the two big ones, but countless others have surely been involved in the formulation of my own style.

3. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

I would actually prefer two, sort of a devil-and-angel-on-the-shoulder situation. On one, I’d want Douglas Adams for crafting one-liners and nuggets of witty wisdom. On the other, J. R. R. Tolkien, as he’d have insight on extensive world-building and detail-oriented writing. Plus, I think it’d be pretty great to hear them debate all day. 

4. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I am a sucker for an animal companion and all media that include one, so I love to add animal friends big and small to any story I can. Whether or not the animal is a typical pet, a massive lizard monster, or anything in between, doesn’t matter. I will almost always give them the personality of a dog or cat, though, especially if they are a giant lizard monster.

5. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When not writing, usually during my evenings, I often turn my brain off with video games. After spending all day writing narratives, I prefer to do something not so narrative-heavy. That way I can just let reflexes and chaotic whims take over so I can relax. I do usually watch plenty of shows and read books before bed, though. Other than that, I am often petting my cat or playing DnD.

6. How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

As of right now, I only have one completed book. It doesn’t have a name yet, one hasn’t come to me, but it features a massive expedition into a giant area of wild and dangerous nature. I’m very much looking forward to getting it published at some point, but I’m not sure how long that process will take. I have begun another and have been working on it for a few months, but it’s still very much in the beginning phases.

7. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I draw any inspiration I can from anything around me. Naturally, I take inspiration from any book I read, and building on that, any show or movie I watch. Games, songs, and musicals also are fair game. I’ve certainly watched my cat interact with the world and used it to describe animal behavior, it’s the same with my parents’ dogs and any other animal I see. Sometimes, I’ll take the few bits and pieces from my weird dreams that make sense and try to utilize them. I find that the variety helps a lot with keeping things interesting.

8. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Goofy, Caring, Kind. (This was given by my girlfriend, as this one actually stumped me a little)

9. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

Once again, I’m breaking the rules a little bit and including two. First off is J. R. R. Tolkien, as his work ethic and ability to build a massively complex world from scratch. That’s an amount of drive that I can only hope to achieve. Another important one is N. K. Jemisin, who isn’t afraid to be heavy-handed when including real issues that society needs to address. Her portrayal of oppression comes from a true knowledge of real-world problems and she has no fear when it comes to shining a giant, blazing light on subjects many others may only dance around.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

The best place to get info about me is on my author Facebook page, @PeterVanGelderenBooks. On there I have all my basic info, as well as links to my published works.