I love interviewing myself! There’s no pressure, no worries if I say something stupid…oh, wait. I’m just talking to myself. Which makes me sound crazy. But sometimes a little insanity makes the world go ’round!
So here are some questions and answers regarding my novel, The Guardian, which is the first book in the Guardian trilogy!
#1 – What inspired The Guardian?
Inspiration and ideas come from literally everywhere. As far as The Guardian is concerned, it started with a strange idea. One summer, I was reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and re-watching the first season of “Prison Break.” In my head, the two stories merged and I asked myself, “What if Michael Scofield [the protagonist in the show] was a wizard and could break his brother out of prison using magic instead of getting himself incarcerated to get inside?” That brought up a host of questions like does such a character know he has magical abilities prior to being sentenced or does he learn about them later on. The idea’s concept stuck and I had to explore it; thus, The Guardian was born.
#2 – Where did you come up with Alex’s name?
Getting the right name for your characters is an important step in the outlining process for me. I love etymology, so I pick names that fit a character’s personality or have some kind of symbolic significance. There is much more that goes into naming characters than I think most readers realize and a name can make or break a character.
Concerning Alex Croft, I knew I wanted to name him Alexander. It’s a small homage to the “Prison Break” character Alex Mahone but Alex Croft isn’t based on or supposed to look like Mahone. I mainly decided upon Alex as a name because it means “defending man,” which fits. Alex’s middle name, Luke, came easy, too, since there is a symbolic connection between that and a role Alex assumes later on in the trilogy. But I really struggled over Alex’s surname. Finally, I ran across the name Croft and looked it up. It’s an Old English term meaning a small pasture beside a house. I knew that was perfect for Alex since he calls himself a “country boy.”
#3 – What are the Words? Did you make them up or are they a real language?
The Words are actually star names! I went through a night sky field guide and wrote down every star name I thought could refer to something else in its meaning. For instance, Yildun (in the constellation Ursa Minor) means “star,” and it fits because of the star-like light the speaker’s vial produces. Other Words and their star name meanings are a bit harder to connect, but I managed to make them work in my head, so they stayed. I actually have a whole list of the Words, their star name meanings, and their connections, and I refer to them often, especially when I introduce new Words.
#4 – Who was the easiest character to write?
Alex, Sunniva, and Niobe were the first characters whose backstories were fairly solid in my mind before I started writing. Alex is down-to-earth, Sunniva is jovial but has experienced her share of heartbreak, and Niobe is a torn soul. They aren’t based on anyone I know but they embody universal desires – the desire to make your life count for something, to uphold what is right and true, and the desire for love and justice against evil. That’s what makes these characters resonate the most with me and, hence, makes them easy to write for.
#5 – Who was the hardest character to write?
Bigelow Turk, the sadistic chief guard of Erebus Penitentiary. It’s tough to get inside the head of such a twisted character, but I had to do my best so as not to make him a dark comic figure. I won’t reveal spoilers but I will say I had fun plotting out Bigelow’s demise. Rest assured – he will get what’s coming to him!
#6 – Which scene was the most difficult to write?
Definitely the ones involving Bigelow’s brutality; I wanted to show how atrocious he was without crossing the lines of good taste. Also, one character’s death was difficult and I almost considered letting the person live. But the death gives another character justification for future actions. It’s never easy to kill off a character but sometimes it has to be done for the sake of the overall story.
#7 – Why does Alex room with apprentices younger than him? Doesn’t that seem weird?
I assure you Alex isn’t a pervert and he’s the furthest thing from it. Still, I did give consideration as to how readers might view this. But to be fair, Alex and the other boys have separate quarters. After The Guardian and into books two and thee, the cozy dorm is long gone. So for now, I wanted to ground Alex as a kind soul, someone Jason and the other boys could look up to as a father/brother-figure they can confide in when they feel they can’t go to anyone else.
#8 – Who are JKR and NS on the dedication page?
J. K. Rowling and Nick Santora! Rowling’s name I trust you’ll recognize but Nick Santora was one of the writers and producers of “Prison Break.” Since the idea for The Guardian trilogy originated from these sources, I felt it was only fair to extend credit to them. Will either of them ever read The Guardian? Well, one can always hope!
#9 – Where is the Voror Council? Are the Realms in an alternative universe or are they an extension of the “real world”?
There are three chief Realms, the Voror Realm, Sangre Realm, and Protected Realm (where “we” live). I like to think of the Realms as existing in our concept of reality though the rules governing them are a little different. Such as Griffons and Phoenixes don’t openly populate our world but they do in the story’s world without question.
#10 – Will Niobe ever overcome her lisp?
I’m still debating over whether or not to eventually cure her of her speech impediment. But I’ll certainly make my mind up once I start drafting book three!
#11 – Why is Festus LaCroix fascinated with alchemy? And why does he insist people call him by his full name?
Festus LaCroix is a tinkerer. But instead of tinkering with woodworking or stamp collection, he likes alchemy. Alchemy has an important symbolic function in the novels, too, which is why I wanted an alchemist character. Alchemy is a bit misunderstood, so who better to bring new light to it than a character who, on the surface, is a bit eccentric yet certainly has a pulse on what’s going on around him. As to why Festus LaCroix insists on being called by his full name, that’s his unconventionality coming out. To echo Alex’s words, if I had a name like that, I’d probably insist on people calling me the whole thing, too.
#12 – If The Guardian was made into a movie, who would direct it?
I love and respect Tim Burton’s style and the types of stories he’s drawn to. They’re dark without being horrific, low-key without being depressing, and weird without being warped. I’d love to see how Burton would translate The Guardian’s world, especially the Council. A second choice would be Peter Jackson; his style is organic and more realistic, so that would be an utterly different interpretation from what Burton might do. But I would fully trust both men with my story and characters!
#13 – How long did it take to write The Guardian?
The idea came to me and I started outlining it in 2007. I worked on several drafts until it got to a point where I was happy with it. To be honest, some chapters and scenes didn’t deviate much from their initial draft, particularly the prison escape, Alex’s first meeting with Festus LaCroix, and the garden scene where Alex gets his first chance to talk to Niobe one-on-one. Those were fairly solid in my mind from the start, so they were easy to get on paper and quick to edit.
#14 – Why did you opt to self-publish The Guardian as opposed to traditional publishing?
I considered traditional publishing but it’s such a long and drawn out process that ultimately doesn’t leave much control in the author’s hands. First, you have to submit a query letter and wait for a response, and most publishers don’t want simultaneous submissions (i.e. you have to wait to hear from one publisher before you query another). If someone likes your concept, you may be asked to submit further paperwork, usually the first three chapters or so. That means another waiting period, and most publishers respond to queries and the like within six months to a year. Even if a publisher accepts your manuscript, there is no guarantee they will market your book and the shelf life of a print book is rather short. But self-publishing gives you complete control over your book’s release date, marketing, design, price, and other elements. Likewise, the option of print on demand means your work can be in print indefinitely. I went through CreateSpace and I’d definitely publish through them again.
#15 – What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
I can think of three tidbits off the top of my head:
(1). Don’t spend too much time reading books on writing. Reading books on craft and attending writing classes have their place but don’t get bogged down or obsessed with them. Some beginning writers spend more time reading about how to write rather than actually writing! So grasp the basics, learn proper grammar and spelling, know how to revise and proofread, familiarize yourself with the genre you want to write by reading notable works from its canon, and take it from there.
(2). Don’t copy someone else. I don’t mean this in the plagiaristic sense; instead, don’t try to be like another writer. I knew someone who, depending on who he was reading at the moment, would try to emulate that author’s style and voice. It kind of annoys me to hear people say an author is the new Arthur Conan Doyle or Tolkien or someone else. Those writers were their own person and can never be copied, just like no one can copy you. So be yourself – use your voice, develop your style, and don’t let inspiration become an interference.
(3). Do love what you write! Eric Garcia explained it best when he said, “Write the things you want to write. If they’re weird or strange or don’t fit into some mold that the rest of the world seems to conform to, don’t stress over it….I strongly believe that if I’m not absolutely in love with what I’m writing, then all I’m doing is typing.” Ditto.
#16 – Are you writing anything else?
To keep my mind fresh and free from writer’s block, I always try to switch back and forth between projects. While drafting The Guardian Prophecy (Book Two in the Guardian trilogy) is top priority, I’m also editing an outline for a science fiction romance (currently entitled) Cold Fire, drafting/editing a nonfiction book for first-time/new college students called R U Ready 4 College?, and playing around with old and new ideas alike for various novel-sized projects. For years, I’ve committed to writing at least a page of something every day and I’ve kept that promise. In fact, that’s how I wrote The Guardian, so it’s a schedule and formula that works for me.
#17 – What happens next?
The journey Sunniva mentions at the end of The Guardian is actualized in the second book, The Guardian Prophecy. New characters come aboard, Alex and Niobe’s relationship is explored more, one character commits betrayal, and you’ll get the first glimpse of Belial of Rastaban (the chief antagonist). The Guardian Wars, the last novel in the trilogy, features more introspective moments for Alex as well as closure regarding new roles he assumes. As far as where all of this takes Alex and his friends, you’ll have to read and find out!
You can get your own copy of The Guardian through these retailers worldwide:
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4487452