My author interviews are drawing to a close, we have less than a month left of these posts and I’m not sure yet what I will do about replacing them. But, to this week, I am thrilled to have Charles E Yallowitz as my author interview. Charles is a huge supporter of fellow authors, please do go check him out. You can find him on his blog: Legends of Windermere, his website Charles E. Yallowitz, his amazon author page Amazon Author Page, Facebook and finally Twitter.
I recently published the 8th book of my fantasy series, LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE: THE MERCHANT OF NEVRA COIL. The 9th book is with my editor right now, so I’m working on a post-apocalyptic action comedy. It isn’t the fantasy stories that I usually write, but I’m having a lot of fun and hope to have that released early next year. After that it’s back to LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE by writing Book 12 since I want to get ahead in first drafts. The benefit of having a decade where all I could do is outline and plan means I have a lot of stories on deck.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
Some of my characters were created by myself and friends when we played various role-playing games in college. These came about through stats and I evolved them into book characters when I started writing beyond the outlines. Others just pop into my head to fill a void or because I’m really into a certain topic. Many times this comes about through daydreaming after a rough day or when I’m bored.
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
Definitely. If it isn’t a trait that I have, it’s one that I wish I had. Loyalty is a common theme with my characters, including some of the villains. This is something I personally strive to uphold. Yet there’s more openness in my character’s actions and statements, which I never feel like I could do in real life. One could even say that I try to live vicariously through many of my characters. Might be why they’re always eating and never gaining weight. Going back to villains, I do have one that I created based on traits and habits of human beings that I totally despise. I think this is why he’s the only irredeemable character in the entire series.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
I let them brew for a bit and just spew them into a notebook with a character biography that’s changed forms over the years. I get a lot of subplots from doing this because I say where the character came from, their habits, where I want them to go, and potential obstacles. I primarily use ensemble casts, so there’s a lot of relationship and interaction development. When I write the book, this tends to alter the original plan because I get to see the chemistry in action.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
Predominantly a planner. I do outlines, character bios, a lot of notes, and take an hour every morning to review the scenes I want to write. So I definitely go into a book with a plan . . . which is promptly twisted and changed when I start writing because the characters have other ideas. When doing an outline, I don’t always consider a character’s mentality and habits. So I’ll see w
here the real story goes once I get in there.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
Mostly outlines and notebooks that I’ve jotted stuff down in over the years. I go through old ideas that never went anywhere to find minor characters and monsters for the current stuff. Basically, I scavenge the fallen stories because there’s always a few gems in there. The only other big tool of mine is a ‘Deity List’ that I complied as I created the Windemere pantheon. It’s probably 3-4 pages long, but it gives me a good variety of deities to use. This way it isn’t always the same big names and a few minor belief systems can be shown.
Yes and it will probably keep changing. I’ve tightened my word usage a bit while retaining my love of flowing sentences. Early on, I loved back and forth conversations that flushed out characters. Now I’m at a point where I can keep things more focused, but that might be more due to being so far in the series. I’m always learning from my mistakes, so my style and technique will always be evolving. Honestly, I think I’ll be scared and confused if I ever hit a point where I have a ‘perfect’ technique.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
I used to actively look for inspiration when I first decided to be an author. It took a little more of a push to get myself into the zone. Now I might be watching TV or reading the paper when an idea will come to me. It’s usually a sudden jolt of an idea that won’t leave me alone. Though it doesn’t happen as often as it used to since I have so many series that I’m trying to juggle. New ideas seem to get absorbed by the old ones these days.
What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc
Sadly, I’m an author without an office to call his own. There isn’t much space in the house, so I work at the dining room table or sitting on the bed. Once my son comes home, I don’t get to do much writing. I’ve had to learn to turn on the author brain whenever I get a moment. One thing I always need is music or the TV. It’s typically a source of noise that I can control, which makes the unexpected phone calls easier to handle for some reason.
Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
If it’s taking over your brain then I say run with it. Getting that first draft done is one of the hardest parts and so many new authors unwittingly avoid that milestone. I used to aim for the perfect story at the beginning because ‘editing was for chumps’. Then I realized how ridiculous that mentality was and blew through my first drafts to get the foundation ready. Nobody really told me that the bulk of completion comes from edits. Not clearly anyway. A lot of quotes and witty sayings that hint at such a thing, but nobody ever flat out admitted that editing is the real work.
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I don’t know if you can really call this a true decline. To me, it seems like the industry is changing. Maybe I’m just being optimistic, but the rise of eBooks and Indie Authors has altered the landscape. People definitely still love to read, but they’re going after different books. Shorter works are getting more popular, which I’ve considered is because people have shorter attention spans. We’re so used to getting things quickly through technology that a lengthy story, especially on a Kindle, makes us groan and walk away. I’m including myself on this since I’ve noticed a change in my own patience. So there are pros and cons to everything going on here. It will definitely be interesting to see what the industry is like in a few years.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
I’ve kind of ignored the 50 Shades of Grey thing beyond a few eye rolls and silly jokes among friends. It’s not something that interests me, but the series obviously jacked into a major audience. This is what some people want for a guilty pleasure and the same can be said for any popular franchise. After all, reading is entertainment and a single book never pleases everyone. To be honest, I do get confused and a little jealous when I see articles about 50 Shades being both successful and terribly written. It leaves me wondering if most of the business is luck. Still, it could just be that I don’t understand the franchise due to my own lack of interest in the subject matter. In the end, who am I to judge the tastes of someone else when I probably have a few favorite franchises that people dislike?
If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save?
As many as I could while ‘accidentally’ knocking the fascist leaders into the bonfires. Oops.
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
I tried for over a decade to go the traditional route. Submitted query letters, waited for a while, got a rejection, muttered curses, and tried again. At two points, I attempted a Publish-On-Demand company using money I saved for that specific purpose. Both times failed because the pricing was insane and I knew nothing about marketing. This time I went the Indie Author route, which I never expected because I only learned about it a year before I published. I don’t regret it at all, but I still would like to get even a taste of traditional publishing. It would be nice to see my book in a library or bookstore.
I wish I knew how much of the advertising is done by the author. There was always this image in my head of the author writing, editing, and doing public appearances while a PR team did the marketing end. That isn’t even close to reality. I’ve had to learn a lot about advertising through social media and getting over my own shyness, which hasn’t been easy. Though I can’t say I’m upset about the surprise since I like having this amount of control.
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
Outside of grammar tips, I never really got much advice. I tend to tell aspiring novelists to keep writing even if it’s nothing more than a few notes throughout the day. You really need to carve out time and every minute is a step in the right direction. Another piece of advice is to always find the silver lining to what you’re doing. Being an author can be rough on the spirit, so you need to be your own cheerleader.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
Somewhere in the middle because it depends on the fanfic to me. I love the ones where there’s respect for the original story and the person is doing it to show their appreciation. Even ones where a fan tries to rewrite something to bring out a relationship they wanted to see can be interesting. Then there are those that do seem like a slap in the face to the author because they come off as an elaborate insult. I guess it really depends on the intent of the person writing the fanfic.
I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?
Writing is really it for me. I’m terrible at painting, singing, dancing, acting, and any other arts. Probably the only other creative outlet I have is jigsaw puzzles, but I don’t have the space for those. I’d love to clear an area that I can put some together, glue them to boards, frame them, and use them as wall art.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Miserable. I did try my hand at teaching, but I didn’t like the lack of freedom. Even as a substitute, it felt like I had to aim kids at a test instead of developing a love of learning. That’s an entire rant that I’ll avoid. I’d probably have a job that pays the bills and leave it at that. Not a happy answer, but that’s the truth.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I loved writing stories in 2nd grade, but didn’t realize it could be a career until I turned 14. I read a fantasy series called ‘The Books of Lost Swords’ by Fred Saberhagen and the author light clicked on. Haven’t been able to find the off-switch since.
What authors do you admire, and why?
So many to choose from. I always toss out the usual fantasy names like Tolkien and Lewis. I just admire anyone who had the courage to write and publish a book then see it through to the end. Not too long ago, it wasn’t easy to do and even now you really have to work to see success. I definitely have my favorites like the above and I could keep on going. Right now, I’m looking a lot at Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) to get inspiration for the fantasy adventure short stories series I mentioned earlier. To run with a single character through so many adventures and have success is something you don’t see very often today.
Find out more about Charles in his author bio
Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. ‘Legends of Windemere’ is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.