First, last day to grab Heart of the Witch for $0.99! Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Witch-Judy-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B00AR5HMZO/
And now I give you the last author interview I’ll be doing for a while, as I’ve become swamped by activities leading up to the release of Journey to Landaran. Today we have Anthony St. Clair, who has travelled far and decided to put that love of travel and science fiction into his writing. You can find out more about Anthony at Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7104178.Anthony_St_Clair
1. What first made you decide to write?
At the most basic level, I knew in middle school that I would build my life and career around words. Though I’ve worked in various industries as a writer, copywriter, and web editor, what has really made me decide to write is to know my purpose.
My purpose is simple: I want everyone to enjoy full lives, to live the world in whatever way that means for them. So many people are not happy with where they are and what they’re doing. If my stories help people find within themselves the courage, love, and focus to do what they yearn to do, then every word I’ve written is worthwhile.
2. You mention that the world in your books is similar to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. What about that world interested you and what similarities and differences does your world have?
My wife can always tell when I’m reading a Discworld book, because I pretty much laugh myself hoarse the entire time I’m traveling in that story.
So much of what I love about Pratchett’s work is how he’s made his world approachable and accessible to anyone. A sequential series, such as Harry Potter, is wonderful and engaging in part because you know there’s an ultimate end, an ultimate payoff or confrontation. But in series such as Discworld—and I would also nod to Doctor Who—the world is infinite and boundless. Each Discworld story is connected yet independent; you can come in via any book, at any time, and be fully engaged. The series has something for anyone, and that’s my hope for the Rucksack Universe series.
While the Rucksack Universe has fantastical elements, it is also very much a similar version of our world, changed by a catastrophic event known as The Blast. There are no vampires, werewolves, or magical systems, though there are gods, powerful forces, not-exactly-human figures, and, of course, destiny-slinging bartenders. The fantastical is interwoven with the ordinary, yet the extranormal elements also happen on an unseen level, unknown and unobserved by most people.
3. Tell me about your latest book.
In 2000 I lived in Ireland for a few months. I stayed mostly in western Ireland, and got to know places such as Galway, the Aran Islands and, one of my favorites, the town of Clifden in the region of Connemara.
My latest novella, HOME SWEET ROAD (http://anthonystclair.com/homesweetroad), began as a short story, but I was never fully happy with it. In 2013 I decided to tear it up and start over. That showed me this story was about an ordinary woman who hides extraordinary secrets from two men who are not what they seem—but neither is she. Set in Clifden, the story introduces new recurring characters, but at its heart it shows us a pivotal moment in the life of Aisling, a woman who runs a hostel and plays a mean fiddle, but really is a powerful protector of Ireland and of the world.
Aisling’s grandmother was the most famous Awen of Ireland, but Aisling never knew that until she returned home from her travels, said her good-byes over the old protector’s grave, and learned from Jake Connemara that she was now Awen. No one has yet tried to steal the three relics under her protection, which combined are said to give the possessor the power to control the world. But when two strange backpackers arrive in Clifden, Aisling’s life and the fate of world rest on one moment.
We get glimpses into other aspects of the Rucksack Universe, such as the Jakes and Jades, the bartenders who help keep destiny and decision on the right course. We also learn a little more about The Blast, the catastrophe that destroyed the city of Galway and marks the point at which the world we live in and the Rucksack Universe diverged.
At its heart, HOME SWEET ROAD is about trust: how you learn to trust yourself, putting your trust in the right people, and what happens when you trust—and distrust—the wrong people.
HOME SWEET ROAD is available in e-book and paperback, more at http://anthonystclair.com/homesweetroad
4. What was the most valuable lesson you learned in writing?
Know thy process.
Working on my fiction was nigh impossible until I sat down and worked through what I needed to do to write a story. I don’t mean the discipline or the time or the mechanics of writing; I mean the “why” of the story, the reason that I needed to write the tale instead of, say, repairing my back fence or organizing the garage.
For me, my process is to write like I travel. I need to have some idea of where I want to go, but then give myself total freedom within that journey to change.
I can’t just sit down and go from zero on a story. I need to know why the story needs to exist. I ask myself this question: “If I was telling my best friend why she should read this book, what would I say?” Once I can answer that question as both one word and one sentence, I plot out the story, including the action and emotion, scene by scene, all the way through.
Figuring out my process was probably harder than actually writing a book. Now that I know my process, I can crank through my planning and manuscript writing at a strong pace.
5. Who is your favorite writer, and why?
As Discworld has evolved, Pratchett has shown again and again not only the depth and breadth of his storytelling range, but also the strength of his writing. If writing fantastical stories has a downside, it’s often that the literary aspects get overlooked. Pratchett’s writing is tight, the wit is cutting, and his insights always make me think twice.
There are some Discworld books, such as Thud!, that I probably read once a year. Even though I know the ending, the journey is so engaging I want to take that trip again and again.
6. What are you working on next?
I’m now turning my full attention to finishing preparations on FOREVER THE ROAD, the first novel-length work in the Rucksack Universe series.
In one form or another, I’ve been working on this story since 2003. One day on my way to the office, I had an idea that made me pull over and write it down (I couldn’t care less that it made me late to work). After years of hard work and refinement, FOREVER THE ROAD is in revision, and I am so excited to share this story with readers. It sets the tone for many of the tales to come.
FOREVER THE ROAD is a tale of travel, destiny and beer. Three travelers in India battle their hearts and their destinies as an awakened evil prepares to destroy all life.
Set in the fictional city of Agamuskara—which means “smiling fire” in Hindi—the book tells us more of the story of Jay the traveler, Faddah Rucksack (the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage), and the mysterious more-than-a-bartender Jade Agamuskara Bluegold.
FOREVER THE ROAD takes our world to a pivotal moment of destruction or renewal. Yet at its heart, the story is about connection: our longing to connect with others, and what happens when we don’t.
More info at http://anthonystclair.com/forevertheroad
7. You say you write “travel fantasy”. What are qualities of these sub-genre?
Traveling the world has defined my life in more ways than I can count, and the world of the indie traveler is the world of the Rucksack Universe.
Travel fantasy revolves around indie travel—not the book-a-cruise kind, but the kind where you backpack Asia for a year, live in another country, ride the same buses the locals do, or have been so many places you have to get more pages added to your passport. There’s often a large backpack involved, and dorm-style rooms in hostels where you can meet people from all over the world. There’s street food, friends you haven’t met yet, and a world where you treasure everything you experience, if only because you know there is so much more in the world than you can ever, ever know.
This sub-genre is all about people who don’t have roots, gave up their roots, or had to go somewhere else to put down roots. These folks aren’t tethered to where they came from but seek fuller lives elsewhere. They’re vagabonds, globetrotters. The world is home, and home is the road.
8. What advice do you have for other writers?
There is no writer’s block.
One of the most damaging things writers can do is to get caught up in the idea of how artsy our craft is. Art is a component, but writer’s block is a pretentious fiction that derails many writers who could otherwise write amazing books.
As Steve Jobs once said, “Real artists ship.” We can struggle, we can face difficulties, but ultimately, if you’re a real artist, you will get the project done and put it out there for the world.
My dad is a utility contractor, and my father-in-law is an electrician. I once told them that I actually see my job as an author as more similar to their jobs than that of an “artiste.” There is no “contractor’s block” or “electrician’s block.” If they’re having an off day, they shrug, push on, and get it done.
The notion of writer’s block is death to creativity and craft. When you treat writing as a job, something you do every day, no matter what, you are far more likely to get your book done and build the writing life you want.