Welcome to the blog Author D.R. Ranshaw! He is a voracious reader and writer of science fiction and fantasy, and also maintains a tremendous blog that you all should check out. Links to all of his great stuff are at the bottom.
On to the interview!
Question 1: How did you become interested in writing? How much time do you spend on it?
I’ve always loved to write, ever since I was a small child. I learned early on about the power of words and storytelling, and it was an intoxicating lesson that’s stayed with me my entire life.
Writing doesn’t necessarily happen every day — there’s family, career and other recreational pursuits to juggle — but I made a resolution (of sorts) to try and see if I could get a little writing done each day this year… so far, it’s holding up. It’s amazing the progress you can make by spending even half an hour a day writing.
Question 2: What is your favorite fantasy setting in a book you’ve read?
Has to be Middle Earth. Tolkien was my first and greatest inspiration. At age 12.
Question 3: What is your writing process? Do you plan/outline? Discover as you go?
I’ve discussed the pantser/plotter issue on my blog. People who know me would automatically assume I’m a plotter, because in real life, I’m a pretty concrete-sequential type. But to their (and my) surprise, I’m mostly a pantser. In real life, people’s actions tend to be largely spontaneous and often unexpected, and I’ve found the same to be true with fictional characters — which is great, because it means they’re assuming life and wills of their own.
I do sit down and outline a scene or sequence to provide some structure, but I’m no longer surprised (or annoyed) when a character refuses to be locked in to that sequence and does their own thing. (“Wait! What! What are you doing? That’s not what I scripted you to do!”)
Question 4: What is the best book you’ve read in the last year or so?
The Skystone by Jack Whyte, an Arthurian tale which endeavours to tell the story without bringing magic into it. Great story.
Question 5: What is your editing process? Do you use beta readers or critique partners? How many drafts do you typically go through before you feel it’s complete?
I don’t dread or hate the editing process like so many writers seem to. I do formal edits of entire drafts, but also do ongoing edits… often, I begin a writing session by looking over what I wrote last time and editing that before proceeding on to new material. Because of that, it’s not always easy to categorize just how many formal drafts I go through… although my first novel had five ‘official’ drafts prior to completion. My wife and daughters tend to be my beta readers.
Question 6: What’s your least favorite trope in fantasy?
The continuing use of already established races and cultures by new authors. For example, although they’ve been around for a very long time in literature, Tolkien almost literally wrote the book on races like elves and dwarves, to the point where lots of writers seem to feel the need to emulate his take on them. I’d prefer writers come up with new races and cultures.
Question 7: What types of research do you do for your writing? How much of your research typically makes it into your manuscripts?
Even though my current WIP takes place in my own fantasy world, which allows me to make up many of my own rules, I do several kinds of research… for example, there’s practical things like weaponry and tactics; literary references my characters make… had the books in question been written yet for them to know those quotes? I also tend to research historical battles when plotting my own… if it’s happened historically, and I use a given battle as a template, no one can come back at me and say my account is unrealistic.
Question 8: What two authors do you think could collaborate to make something awesome?
That’s a tough one to answer; I view writing as such a uniquely individual creative endeavour that I find it almost impossible to imagine being able to share a story’s creation with anyone else, or to imagine others doing that.
Question 9: If a historian was going through your writing, what would you want them to say about your overall catalogue? What impact, if any, would you like to have with your writing?
I think, what with the glut of writers our modern age has produced, about all anyone can hope for is to be considered entertaining, possibly thought-provoking at times, and generally, a story teller people want to keep returning to. In terms of impact… I think any writer wants to be able to catch lightning in a bottle, like Tolkien or Lewis or Rowling have all done.
Question 10: What is your current project?
I’m working on Gryphon’s Awakening, the sequel — or, more properly, the continuance — to my novel Gryphon’s Heir.
Before you go: Where can people find you and what links would you like to share for your books and website?
Look for me at www.drranshaw.com and you’ll find pretty much everything you need there… I maintain a weekly blog, progress reports, a bookstore tab detailing where you can purchase my work, and more! On social media, I’m most active on Twitter @drranshaw
Thanks for the time D.R., come back soon for another chat!