Hello folks today for your eading pleasure I would like to present an interview with fantasy author Richard Lee Byers.
GNOH – Hello Richard, thanks for popping over for a chat, how are things with you?
It’s been an aggravating week, but basically, I’m good. I’m heading off to Oasis 24, an SF convention in Orlando, later in the day. With luck, I can forget my frustrations and unwind there.
GNOH – Can you tell us about yourself?
I started my working life in the mental health field but have been a professional writer for a while now. People who read my horror fiction have probably guessed I live in west-central Florida since I set so many stories. When I’m not working, I like to fence and play poker.
GNOH – What prompted you to first put pen to paper?
I’ve always loved fiction and thought I was imaginative and had a knack for language. All that just came together in my head to make me believe I too could tell stories and enjoy doing it.
GNOH – Who are your literary heroes?
There are so many that this is a hard question to answer. But some of the major ones are Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Roger Zelazny, P. G. Wodehouse, and Raymond Chandler
GNOH – You are predominantly a fantasy author, what’s the draw of fantasy for you?
Fantasy combines many elements I enjoy, including swashbuckling adventure, monsters, magic, horror, exotic worlds, and the opportunity to draw on real-world history.
GNOH – You have written a series for kids The Nightmare Club, how does that differ to writing a novel for an adult?
For one thing, the protagonist always has to be a kid. If you’re writing for really young readers, then the language can’t be too difficult.
GNOH – Do you censor yourself, and what do you think is the ceiling for subject matter in a young adult story?
I haven’t worked in the YA field for a while now. My notion of what the ceiling is may be outdated. I have the impression that things have loosened up since the days of The Nightmare Club, although depending on the line and the specific project, there are probably still limits.
Back in the day, I knew there were things I wouldn’t be able to do, but I didn’t exactly censor myself, or at least, I didn’t think of it that way. My approach was to come up with plots that had no place for graphic sex or torture scenes. They wouldn’t have incorporated such scenes whether I was writing for kids or adults. That kept me from turning out a watered-down version of a plot that actually needed such moments to achieve the proper dramatic impact.
GNOH – What do you think makes for a good kids novel?
A brisk pace, a strong plot, imagination, and relatable characters. (I think those things are virtues in an adult novel, too.) Above and beyond them, a kid’s novel should reflect the challenges and experience of growing up.
GNOH – You have written a number of novels set in the Forgotten realms universe, can you tell us how that came about?
Shortly after I broke into professional writing as a horror writer, the horror market crashed (this was in the 90’s) and my editor left Zebra Books. That was all bad news for my career, and I had to look for other opportunities.
I was a lifelong fantasy fan and had always intended to get into that kind of writing eventually anyway. I was also a D&D player and was sure I could write novels for the fiction line based on the game. So I queried the editor, and he invited me to submit a short story to one of the Forgotten Realms anthologies. He liked what I sent, and things built from there.
GNOH – How does writing in someone else’s universe compare to writing in your own? Is it as restrictive as I think it would be?
There are restrictions, certainly. You have to maintain consistency with what everyone else has done before you. It’s like writing historical fiction. To write a good novel about the Old West, for example, you have to research what it was really like.
You also can’t derail the franchise. You can’t blow up the shared universe, and you also can’t solve problems, resolve conflicts, or kill major villains if the publisher still needs those elements to drive future novels, game scenarios, or whatever.
That doesn’t mean you can never tell a big story with far-reaching consequences. It does mean the publisher will evaluate the implications for the franchise carefully.
If you had a successful series that was all your own, you’d have to think about these same issues. You’d need to keep things fresh without losing the elements that made the series popular, at least until you were ready to shut it down.
Really, I don’t think this kind of writing feels all that limiting if you like the franchise you’re working on. If you’re working in a world that doesn’t interest you just to get a paycheck, then I suspect the restrictions might seem more annoying.
GNOH – Have you ever been tempted to push the boundaries of the franchise?
I’ve never asked to do something the publisher shot down, so I guess not.
GNOH – How much of the creative process is taking up by world building?
It depends on the project. A fantasy trilogy set in a world of your own creation is likely to take quite a bit of world building. Even if it too is set in a world of your own creation, a fantasy short story takes less. There just isn’t the need or the room for the same amount of detail.
With real-world and shared-world settings, you may not have to do much world building at all. But you will have to do research.
GNOH – I’ve always wondered how does an author come up with all the names for their characters in a fantasy novel?
In my case, with difficulty. I’m not a linguist, so if it’s a world of my own creation, I either look at names or other words in an existing language and play with them or just jam syllables together until I hit on something I like.
In the case of the Forgotten Realms, there are lists of names to which I can refer, so I tinker with those.
GNOH – You have also written a number of horror stories, do you approach the writing of these in a different way than to your fantasy stories?
To a degree. In a horror story, you must always be sure you provide the scare. But my fantasy almost always includes moments of terror and lots of suspense, so my approach doesn’t vary all that much.
GNOH – Which do you prefer writing?
No preference. I like them both.
GNOH- I see you have also written an X-man novel, did you get to select the X-man team in the book?
Wolverine had to be in it. Other than that, I could use whomever I liked.
GNOH – Who are your favourite X- Men.
Wolverine and Nightcrawler.
GNOH- Can you tell us about your recently published collection The Q Word and other stories?
The Q Word and Other Stories is a self-published ebook. It contains some of my best stories, including one new one, and is priced to move at $2.99. The KIndle version is available on Amazon, and the book is available for all platforms at Smashwords.com
GNOH – How did you select the nine stories that appear in it?
I wanted to provide a cross-section of my work, and these stories do the job. There’s fantasy, horror, one science-fiction story, and one humorous essay.
GNOH – It has been published as an e-book, what is your take o the e-book revolution?
My prediction is that eventually, all publishing will be electronic except for special collector’s editions of selected works. The rise of the ebook is good news for writers, who now have new and inexpensive options for presenting their work. It’s also good for consumers, who will now obtain that work conveniently and less expensively. It may turn out to be bad news for traditional publishers. We shouldn’t count them out yet, but they’re in danger of becoming obsolete.
If people want to read my opinions about this in more detail, I have a post on my blog:
Also, check out Michael A. Stackpole’s blog. He’s a genuine authority on this particular subject:
GNOH – Do you have any advice to other authors on how to avoid the pitfalls of e-publishing?
Since I just got into it, I may be the wrong person to ask. It’s entirely possible that I’m currently headed for any number of pitfalls of which I’m unaware.
But if we’re talking about electronic self-publishing via Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, people should be aware that you absolutely have to format your document correctly before you upload it. Fortunately, there are free guides available for download.
There’s also free software that’s supposed to format your document for ebook publication automatically. But I haven’t tried to use any of it yet, so I can’t recommend a good program.
I’m finding the greatest challenge with a self-published ebook is promotion. It’s just hard to get your project noticed. But I’m plugging away and experimenting with various strategies. I’m going to give away the first Impostor story for free. Maybe that will help to launch that particular project.
GNOH – Which of your published works are you the most proud of and why?
This varies according to my mood. I’m often most proud of what came out recently or what I’m working on that at the moment, which I think is a positive, productive way for a writer to think.
I’m quite pleased that I was able to launch a successful series within the Forgotten Realms with my Aoth Fezim character, and I’m very proud of my recent horror short story “Zombie Camp.” I think it contains some of the sharpest, subtlest writing I’ve ever done.
GNOH – I see your are also working on the comic book Simon Vector, thatÕs a new title to me can you tell us about it?
Simon Vector is a space-opera character created by the artist Johnny Atomic. He asked me to script a three-issue mini-series about the character. Unfortunately, I don’t know yet when the series will be available. That’s still up in the air.
GNOH – How does it feel seeing an illustrator bring your thoughts an ideas to life? Have you ever thought that’s not how I envisioned it?
It’s always interesting and frequently gratifying to see what an artist does with your ideas. You do sometimes get art that doesn’t match the images in your head, but that’s okay as long as it reflects the story. The one thing that’s truly disappointing is to end up with a generic cover that doesn’t reflect the specific content of the story at all. Fortunately, it’s been a while since that’s happened.
GNOH – So what does the future hold for you?
In June, The Spectral Blaze, the final volume in my current Forgotten Realms trilogy, is coming out. I have a contract to do three more Forgotten Realms novels after that.
I’m also continuing my adventures in electronic self-publishing. There will be more collections like The Q Word and Other Stories. Eventually, I will republish my old horror novels. I’m also creating a series called The Impostor. It’s my attempt to a hero pulp like The Shadow or Doc Savage for a modern audience. Or, depending on your frame of reference, it will be a superhero comic in prose. Those stories will start appearing in a month or so.
Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview Richard.
Richards books can be purchased in all the usuall places