26 August, 2017

#Interview with Michael Meyerhofer, #Author of The Dragonkin Trilogy

About the Author:
An active member of the SFWA, Michael Meyerhofer's debut fantasy novel, Wytchfire (Book I in the Dragonkin Trilogy), was published by Red Adept Publishing, and went on to win the Whirling Prize and a Readers Choice nomination from Big Al's Books and Pals. The sequels, Knightswrath and Kingsteel, are out now--along with The Dragonward, Book I in the sequel Godsfall Trilogy. His stories and poems have appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, Strange Horizons, Planet Magazine, and many other journals.

He received his BA from the University of Iowa and his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. An avid weightlifter, medieval weapons collector, and unabashed history nerd, he currently lives, teaches, and inhabits various coffee shops around Fresno, CA. 


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An Interview:

Thanks, first off, for giving me the chance to do what writers do best: talk about themselves! I’m glad to be here (well, electronically).

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
It’s hard to say when I first realized I wanted to be a writer because for me, there was never a conscious “a ha” moment. I just remember reading books as a kid, immediately getting hooked on the raw imagination and escape they offered, and automatically instinctively wanting to produce that for other people. I was probably also drawn to writing because as a kid, I was painfully shy and lonely, but storytelling (whether you’re the reader or the storyteller) somehow takes something negative and alchemizes it into just about the greatest thing in the universe.

What inspires you to write?
I tend to derive a lot of inspiration from the people and the events around me. In my view, it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a fantasy novel or a spy thriller or a sci-fi book without a single humanoid character; what makes any book actually work is adding depth to the characters, and the best inspiration for that is the actual people around us. Add to that the fact that I’m an unabashed history nerd. I can honestly say that if I haven’t watched every single documentary on history or ancient religion that you can find on Youtube, I’ve come close. That stuff fascinates me because it speaks to the human condition, but it’s also great fodder for writing. For example, when I was putting together the Codex Lotius—which is a list of the sayings and precepts that form the basis for the Isle Knights in my fantasy novels—I drew inspiration from the philosophies of Democritus, as well as the years I’ve spent reading Zen poetry. That’s another great thing about being a writer. Basically, you’re a chef with unlimited freedom to mix whatever ingredients you want.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
I love to take traditional fantasy tropes and turn them on their heads. The good guys can’t always be good and the bad guys can’t always be evil. In fact, if a reader experiences some existential panic because they can’t decie how they feel about a particular character or event, that’s a very good thing because in addition to being entertaining, it mirrors real life. Especially in my later books, too, I worked on adding more well-rounded female characters who can pass the Bechdel Test—that is, they’re not just there as window dressing, but actually add something vital and unique to the plot. 

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Ha, absolutely! I’m also a teacher and I was telling my students just today that for every “final” page you write, there are probably three pages that ended up in the trash—but that’s okay, because it’s how we improve. At this point, I’ve published five novels, with a sixth forthcoming, along with poems, a few poetry books, and some short stories here and there. But I also probably have hundreds (if not thousands) of bad poems, stories, and half-finished novels collecting dust on my hard drive. Again, though, that’s a good thing. There’s no such thing as wasted effort in writing. Even a bad story is good exercise. And, of course, you can always cannibalize it for ideas later!

Tell us about your writing process.
To be honest, my process has changed a lot over the years. I used to write almost entirely by “feel.” I’d come up with a scene or character, sit down, and start writing. That’s not a bad way to start but eventually, that “new car smell” wears off and the real work begins… which usually leads to abandoned manuscripts. So nowadays, I still start off with a concrete scene or character, but as quickly as possible (maybe after writing two or three rough chapters), I put that aside, sit down, and try to map out a whole chapter-by-chapter outline. Usually, I weave in elements of whatever’s been on my mind lately, whether that’s something happening in the world or some random thing that stuck with me from a documentary or conversation. Once I have that outline (which of course changes many times), I dive back in. At that point, it’s a matter of work. I like marathon writing/editing sessions so unless I’m very absolutely not in the mood, I force myself to write one whole chapter (about seven to twelve typed pages) per day. Obviously, what’s produced will be rough, but I push through until I’ve reached the end of the book. Then I go back and start editing (again, I try to get through one chapter per day), round after round, adding in more extended metaphors where I can, until I think I’ve got something readable. 

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Definitely. I probably shouldn’t admit this but even my villains are in some ways reflections of me—impatience, anxiety, frustration, etc. Oh, and Rowen and Jalist definitely both inherited my sardonic sense of humor. 

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Once I have my rough draft done and I’ve moved on to the editing stage, I put on headphones and have the computer read my manuscript back to me while I follow along. Whenever I hear something bad, I pause the playback and rewrite it. Something about having your own story read back to you adds a certain legitimacy to it, while still highlighting any mistakes (or patches of plain ol’ bad writing) that you might otherwise gloss over. So it allows me to be more critical of myself while still actually kind of enjoying the usually tedious editing stage. It’s also a trick I’ll use sometimes if I’m stalled halfway through a manuscript and don’t know how to finish it, i.e. I kind of let the story itself take the helm and tell me where to go.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Write without ceasing. I’ve taught creative writing before and I always tell my students that. What I mean is that whenever you’re standing in line somewhere, or waiting in a restaurant, or riding on a bus, or walking along the sidewalk, think in the back of your mind about how you’d describe whatever you’re experiencing. It’s a great way to strengthen your writing muscles but it also has the added benefit of (hopefully) making you a bit more conscious of the world around you. Aside from that, the next best thing you can do is read without ceasing. With that, again, I’m not being literal. I just mean, try to be aware of the great, imaginative, inspiring work that others have done. Even if you dislike a piece of writing, you can learn from it. As Robert Pinsky put it, “Read the way a chef eats.”

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
- If I’m out somewhere and Cyndi Lauper comes on, even if I’m cold-sober, there’s a good chance I’ll start dancing.
- I’m hopelessly addicted to weightlifting and have been since I was about 14.
- As a teenager, I once found my car inexplicably filled with bees, asked them to leave, and they did. I am since convinced that I am the Bee Whisperer.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
All three books of the Dragonkin Trilogy are out now, which was quite literally a dream come true for me. The sequel series, the Godsfall Trilogy, is almost done. The first two books, The Dragonward and The Wintersea, are already out, and the final book, The Undergod, is “done” and just needs some editing and cover design. Beyond that, I’m also working on an entirely new trilogy set in a different world, a maritime Rome-like empire in which the only source of magic is as potent as it is addictive.

About the Book:


​In the dragon-haunted land of Ruun, Rowen Locke has been many things: orphan, gravedigger, mercenary. All he ever wanted was to become a Knight of Crane and wield a kingsteel sword against horrors he's known since childhood. 

But that dream crumbled—replaced by a new nightmare. War is overrunning the realms, and in a world where no one is blameless, the time has come for one disgraced man to decide which side he’s on.







Reviews:

"Michael Meyerhofer excels at complicated and layered characters that are a mix of good and bad, flawed and desperate. Each stands apart from the other, giving readers a range of characters to root for as well as despise." Readers Favorite

"... a rich history, reluctant heroes and a few surprises along the way." Big Al's Books & Pals
"Meyerhofer is a great writer, and I look forward to the rest of the trilogy..." Adventures in Storyland

"... the dialogue shines in this book." Footnotes

"Michael Meyerhofer's writing style and storytelling is intriguing, unique, and beautiful..." Like a Bump on a Blog

"If you enjoy your Tolkien-esque adventures, then this is definitely a book for you to check out." Dab of Darkness

"The characters are well-developed and very real. I felt as if I could glance up and see them standing in front of me." I'm a Voracious Reader

"... with the feel of the tomes of the late 80s and 90s, the humor and the darkness likened to R.A. Salvatore's  style and the wondrous symbolic nature found in many of Tad Williams' works..." Cabin Goddess

"... a fantastic start to an epic fantasy series. " Laurie's Thoughts & Reviews