World Anvil Spotlight

world anvil logoOn 11/15/2018, B.K. was the subject of a live Spotlight question and answer session on the World Anvil Discord server. An abridged transcript is presented here!


Qurilion

WELCOME EVERYONE!

Today, we will be spotlighting @BK Bass, author of several series including The Ravencrest Chronicles, The Burning Sands, and The Tales of Durgan Stoutheart; and a managing partner of Kyanite Publishing. He is also creator of the world Erimos, featured right here on World Anvil!

( https://www.worldanvil.com/w/erimos-bkbass )

BK Bass

Hello everybody!

Qurilion

Thank you for joining us for this spotlight. We’ll be talking about writing, world building, and the wonderful world of publishing/getting published.

Tell us about yourself and your work!

BK Bass

I’ve been an avid fantasy and science fiction reader, tabletop RPG gamer, and all-around geek for about 30 years. I’ve dabbled in writing fiction off and on for that long, but made it a full-time endeavor in the past year. I’ve published five books so far (four novellas and an anthology), four of which are being issued as revised editions and as an omnibus early next year. I also am a managing owner of Kyanite Publishing and act as acquisitions director, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of our bi-monthly speculative fiction journal: the Kyanite Press.

(https://kyanitepublishing.com)

Qurilion

That’s pretty dang impressive! Are those books traditionally published or self-published?

BK Bass

My first four books (the first four volumes of The Ravencrest Chronicles) were self-published, and are the four that are being re-issued as second editions by Kyanite Publishing. The fifth, Night Shift, was first started as a project on Wattpad; but has since been published by Kyanite Publishing.

(http://kyanitepublishing.com/product/night-shift/)

Eoin

Great to hear you made it this far. First thing I’m curious boils down to quite a simple question, namely: “What do you like most about your writing? What do you feel proudest about when handing someone your book?”

BK Bass

Thank you!  I think my favorite thing about my own writing is being able to transport my readers to new worlds. I’ve been complimented both personally and in reviews that I’m able to paint a picture in the minds of the readers. I’m proudest of simply having created something new!

Evi

Can you make a living off of your own writing or is it primarily the publishing that makes it possible?

BK Bass

The question of making money on writing is going to be asked by Qurilion later. Short answer: I write for the love of the art, and any income is considered by myself to be a bonus.

Qurilion

What genres do you write in?

BK Bass

I mostly write fantasy, focusing in secondary-world settings. So far, I have works either published or in-progress in the sub-genres of dark flintlock fantasy, heroic fantasy, and sword and sorcery. I’ve also published a cyberpunk novella and am working on an alternate history cosmic horror set in 1939 at the outset of WW2. I also have a post-apocalyptic western novel half-way written, and an epic fantasy trilogy in the planning phases (which is the subject of my World Ember project!)

(https://www.worldanvil.com/w/the-faewylde-war-bkbass)

Qurilion

Do you have a World Ember wordcount goal?

(https://www.worldanvil.com/community/challenge/worldember2018/homepage)

BK Bass

I plan to hit the 10K base goal, but am hoping to hit the 50K goal for the ‘Novel’ badge. Whether I accomplish that or not is yet to be seen!

Eoin

So, I’ve asked this one before, but I think a lot of people will be curious to hear the answer. How do you go about worldbuilding for your novels and what are the main things you would tell anyone building their world with a story in mind?

BK Bass

I’ve taken two approaches. Sometimes, I just write the story and let the world grow around it; other times I craft the world before I write. It depends a lot on the scope of the work and required complexity. If the setting will be small and simple, I just write. I always have a story in mind first before I worldbuild, but sometimes new stories grow out of the worldbuilding. It can be a very organic process where one side of the coin inspires the other. Usually the FIRST things, no matter what, are the genre and tone.

With my Erimos world, for example, I knew I wanted to emulate the style of Robert E. Howard’s Conan in an Arabian-inspired setting that was a world covered in deserts. With my Ravencrest Chronicles books, I was going more for dark urban flintlock fantasy – but it ended up with a nautical feel after the world started to grow; so that is a good example of the two aspects feeding each other.

Qurilion

Which brings me seamlessly to my next question: What comes first – setting, character, or plot? Do you pick a genre to write a story in, or does the story come to you and determine what the setting is?

BK Bass

I usually pick the genre first. Studying different sub-genres of speculative fiction is a fascination of mine, and as a result it’s become my self-proclaimed (and peer recognized) area of professional specialization. (I have written some genre study articles for my own web site, and I write a column on the subject for the online portion of the Kyanite Press.) Once I’ve figured out the genre, the plot is the next step for me. Many experts will say to focus on character, but I follow the old pulp fiction method of generating plots first. Often, my characters will grow organically during the writing process. I like to joke that I write what the voices tell me to!

Qurilion

You’ve written genre study articles? Can you elaborate on that? That sounds real interesting!

BK Bass

Yes!  Over on my own website at bkbass.com I have a series of articles exploring the history of the fantasy genre as a whole; and also examining specific sub-genres, what identifies them, and examples of popular works in them. There’s also an article about a variety of ‘punk genres and one about the history of science fiction. On kyanitepublishing.com I have a column called “Discovering New Worlds with B.K Bass” where for each article I write a study of the genre followed by a short fiction of my own creation in that genre.

(https://bkbass.com/main/essays-articles-and-musings/)
(https://kyanitepublishing.com/kyanitepress/discoveringnewworlds/)

Qurilion

How do you structure your writing? Where do you stand on outlining vs discovery writing?

BK Bass

That will depend on the project. I have a few that were 100% discovery written, like my Ravencrest Chronicles books and Night Shift. Warriors of Understone had a rough outline – just one sentence per chapter – but it went off the rails half way through and grew into something different (and better, in my opinion.) For my upcoming epic fantasy, I have an Excel spreadsheet with an outline of 5 sub-plots and 6 POV characters in a 7-point story structure (developed by Dan Wells). The more complex a story, the more necessary an outline. Since I’m in the middle between a plotter and an pantser, I say I’m a ‘planster.’

( https://thewritingkylie.com/blog/the-basics-of-the-seven-point-story-structure-and-how-to-use-it )

Qurilion

I think it’s something that new writers don’t always know to take advantage of: the tools and theories that exist to help writers write. Do you talk about those things as well on your site? Stuff like the seven point structure or the hero’s journey?

BK Bass

I haven’t explored it in an article format yet, but I do discuss it when helping other authors develop their own skills. That is something I’d like to explore in more detail in a series of articles. I think that will probably appear on Kyanite’s website.

Qurilion

Do you have a daily word count goal?

BK Bass

Because of the publishing work, I don’t get to put in a ‘full day’ of writing very often. I usually try to hit 2,000 words in a session when I do write. Everybody has a different pace, but most people working the grind could probably hit 1,000 – 2,000 a day. If I do have a full day of writing set aside, I’ll try to hit 7,500. My record for one day so far was 15,000, but I was channeling the muse that day!

Qurilion

What is your creative process for getting there? What does your writing environment look like? It is very fixed and scheduled, or more whenever you happen to have the time?

BK Bass

A quiet environment, alone, with no distractions. Soft instrumental music appropriate to the genre, or jazz as a go-to in any situation. Plenty of coffee. Often, writing is a morning exercise for me; but sometimes I’ll have late-night bursts of inspiration. My partners and I have scheduled ‘writing days’ for ourselves so that we can set aside the publishing business and work on our own projects three days a week. When I do write for a full day, I’ll usually do two or three four-hour blocks with two-hour breaks in the middle. Pushing the mind often leads to diminished quality, so one sees that writing marathons are rarely as productive as they seem once you get to the editing process. Doing a couple of hours a day often nets better results.

Outside of sitting down to write, a writer can always be working. Staring at a wall counts, depending on what’s happening inside your mind. I’ll often try to work out an entire scene in my head before I even sit in front of a keyboard.

27, a Tomodatchi

What do you write about when you have time? Do you write about the genres, or have you worked down to the smaller aspects? What have you written about recently? Do you write about whatever you feel like?

BK Bass

There’s a lot of different things that I’ll write about.  Either articles or working on my fiction. A lot of the time it depends on what mood suits me, but other times it depends on deadlines. I try to do the articles regularly (although I need to get better at that!), so sometimes it’s a matter of it being time to work.  Most recently I completed Warriors of Understone, a heroic fantasy novella set in a dwarven kingdom.

Qurilion

How long did that take to write?

BK Bass

Technically, about 8 months.  But it sat on the back burner for some time while we were laying the foundations of the publishing business.  Best guess on the actual number of hours: about 32.

There were some extensive revisions in there too.  A lot of the work comes after the rough draft.

Qurilion

How do you keep writing without stumbling or getting stuck? How do you deal with writing blocks?

BK Bass

I always have several projects going at the same time. Right now, I have six in various stages all the way from worldbuilding to final revisions. If one thing isn’t working for me, I’ll work on another. Deadlines often dictate how this works, but for the most part I try to make reasonable commitments. Another method if you really need to work on that one story is to go back and read the last page, scene, or even chapter leading up to where you left off. Getting into the story you’ve already written is a fantastic way to get back into what needs to happen next. Some authors will bounce around writing different scenes in various parts of a book, but I’m a page-by-page writer and can’t bring myself to do that!

Qurilion

Although it is a different format here on WA than writing a novel, I imagine this issue can come up after concluding scenes and chapters: the creative dump. It’s something I struggle with; I finish an article and my brain just shuts down. How do you avoid that? How do you keep the flow going?

BK Bass

I write a lot of cliffhangers into my scenes and chapter endings, so as primarily a discovery writer that keeps me going because I want to know what happens next!  Sometimes it’s just time for a break, though. It’s always good to let a chapter ferment and come back tomorrow. Fresh eyes give you a fresh point of view to catch what might have gone wrong.

Qurilion

As with anything, I imagine a lot of it comes down to habit and just grinding the days away until you get there.

BK Bass

Yes, sometimes you simply must show up to work. I would say I spend more days writing because it’s my career than because I have some spark of inspiration. When I’m up until 3am writing…that’s because of the spark!

27, a Tomodatchi

Which other works have been spark-driven? Also, have you given up/left any works alone? I’d assume the time constraint might have that effect on someone.

BK Bass

I would say Night Shift was also born of the spark, and Warriors of Understone to an extent – although it was developed more methodically.

I’ve abandoned a lot of projects in the past 30 years, and I consider them all ‘training’ for doing this seriously.  Currently, I’ve seen everything I’ve started through.

Ancient Udan-Merve

I once read one writer, when giving advice, to refer to the pre-writing part as “composting” and, in passing, said “I’ll assume you know how to compost”. Is there some way or maybe some hints on how to properly “compost”?

BK Bass

This is referring mostly to the brainstorming that comes before anything is written down. This part of the process is different for everybody, and volumes have been written on the subject. The best short advice I could give is to have a vision in mind for what your story will be before you write it. This could be as general as a theme or as specific as an outline with every scene detailed. I can say from my own methodology that before I start writing the actual prose I know – at the very least – the genre, sub-genre, tone, themes, setting style, and a little about the major characters. This would be even without an outline.

aka-click

I love how you said that a lot of your world-building develops around the characters and the stories for your novels. I always feel like I “fail” in world-building when I talk to other authors who spend months and weeks researching and developing the worlds they write in.

Question though, have you ever been in the middle of writing a story with the more organic world-building and had to stop to put do research, and how does that affect the overall flow of the novel?

BK Bass

Actually, yes.  During the writing of The Giant and the Fishes I had to do a lot of research on age of sail naval architecture, design, and early gunpowder weapons. I had a passing knowledge, but wanted to get the terminology right. I don’t think it affected the flow, as I prepared before a scene.  For example, just before a major naval battle I did a lot of research on cannons.

Qurilion

What are the inspiration for your settings and stories? In particular, The Burning Sands and Erimos? What books, authors, movies and so on?

BK Bass

In general, I’m inspired by a lot of the classic authors of speculative fiction. I have had work compared to Fritz Leiber (The Ravencrest Chronicles), Robert E. Howard (The Burning sands), and a fusion of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Conan Doyle (Beyond the Veil). These authors were the inspirations for these projects, so those comparisons are a sign of artistic success for me!

The Burnings Sands – the series associated with the world of Erimos mentioned above – is inspired by the work of Robert E. Howard with his Conan stories. Also, developing this project is a focused project inspired by a chapter in James Scott Bell’s “How to Write Pulp Fiction” called ‘The Pulp Fiction Writer’s Insurance Policy.’ Bell details the importance of having a strong serial character that does not have a character arc – one that the author can generate one story after another focused on plot to develop a long-term following of readers. Brego, the protagonist of The Burning Sands, is my insurance policy. I’m planning to write a lot of books with him in them!

(http://jamesscottbell.com/styled-7/styled-51/index.html )

Qurilion

Tell us about Erimos!

BK Bass

Erimos is a world of eternal summer. Two suns traverse the sky in a 48-hour day with only 12 hours of darkness. Deserts stretch across an inhospitable land where only the heartiest of creature may survive. The cultures are inspired by real-world Arabian counterparts, ranging from nomadic tribes to economically corrupt city-states to a sprawling empire. It is a low fantasy setting where magic is rare and wonderous, but there are a variety of fantastic races and creatures such as elves, orcs, giant lizards, and some other races that are yet to be named (anthropomorphic humanoids based on lions and hyenas, in particular.)

( https://www.worldanvil.com/w/erimos-bkbass )

Qurilion

Playing fast and loose with physics, I imagine?

BK Bass

Yeah, it’s more about the tone, feel, and story here. I’m not too worried about the science behind it all for this setting.

Qurilion

How did Erimos and those stories develop?

BK Bass

As I mentioned before, I had in the back of my mind James Scott Bell’s theory of a pulp writer’s insurance policy. I had Conan in mind for an inspiration, but wasn’t sure how to take that and make it something original. I was participating in a Twitter-based author chat session (organized by @storysocial, every Wednesday evening) in the beginning of the summer that was focused on summer themes. Over the course of the discussion I didn’t have much to add because I didn’t have experience with seasonal themes, but then I was asked IF I were to do something, what would it be? Off the top of my head, I mentioned doing a secondary world covered in deserts where there are no seasons – it’s just hot all the time. A little spit-balling lead to Arabian influence and the sword and sorcery genre, and the feedback from my peers was an overwhelming insistence that I develop the idea further. I linked that with the aforementioned ‘insurance policy’ ideas, and The Burning Sands was born!

Qurilion

Do you still participate in those Wednesday chats?

(https://twitter.com/storysocialchat)

BK Bass

I have a few times, but it’s been hard to fit it into my schedule lately. I’d love to do it on a regular basis like I used to, but fitting time for writing, the publishing company, family, etc makes it very difficult.

Qurilion

How does a published author prepare for WorldEmber?

BK Bass

This being my first WorldEmber, I’m not sure how qualified my answer will be; but I’ll tell you what I’m doing so far! I have an epic fantasy project I’ve been wanting to do an extensive ground-up worldbuilding project for, so I’m using WorldEmber as motivation to get that going. I’ve set up the world page and categories, made a map, and collected some inspirational concept art and am uploading quite a bit so that my resources are ready to go. I also spent some time designing heraldry, as the primary setting is a medieval European-style feudal kingdom. (Yes, my work drips with tropes; and I have no shame about that!) I already have the first book outlined (this is the one with the excel spreadsheet), and I am making general notes about characters and locations, getting names decided, etc.

(https://www.worldanvil.com/w/the-faewylde-war-bkbass)

Qurilion

How are you using World Anvil to help organize your novel-worldbuilding?

(https://www.worldanvil.com)

BK Bass

I’m finding WA to be a great place to keep character and setting notes organized and displayed in a pleasing manner. I also love sharing my worldbuilding, so the presentation factor is a huge plus. I’ve always organized my worlds in an encyclopedic manner, even back in the day when it was on notebook paper in 3-ring binders. WA is the perfect platform to accommodate that!

Evi

How do you keep still coming up with new fresh good name,  even after this much writing?

BK Bass

That’s actually a huge challenge!  I spend a lot of time just sounding things out. My domestic partner / girlfriend thinks I’ve gone mad sometimes because I just spout garbled nonsense at the wall for hours. Also, I like to draw some inspiration from other languages like Old Norse or Latin, mythology, etc.

Qurilion

You mentioned that you’ve published five books, but also that you’ve actually started a publishing company. Starting a publishing company isn’t a very typical path for an author to take. How did that come about?

BK Bass

This is the crazy part of my story, because I never planned to do anything like this. An acquaintance on Twitter mentioned starting an indie book review site and publicly asked if anybody was interested in helping out. I figured I was reading some indie books anyway, so why not. A third partner joined her – actually a friend of mine but we had no idea each other had volunteered! In the process of reading and reviewing these books, we saw a lot of amazing talent that was struggling to get noticed. We discussed our frustrations – as one does – with the oversaturation of self-publishing and the inaccessibility of traditional publishing. The thought occurred that somebody could create a publishing company using a traditional model and a tightly controlled budget to take chances on the authors that the big guys might not take chances on. Then we decided we could be those people given the three of us already had diverse professional backgrounds in business management, accounting, marketing, and public relations; and Kyanite Publishing was born!

Qurilion

What has your experience with other publishers been like? What insights have you gleaned about those interactions since becoming one yourself?

BK Bass

I went to self-publishing more-or-less directly upon starting to take writing seriously as a career. Honestly it was part impatience to see my work printed and part fear of the multi-year drudge of rejection letters you hear so much about. I did query a few things. I had some short stories accepted on a pro-bono basis for online publication – which is a lot easier than getting published and paid for it! I also received rejections from several more traditional publishers for various projects. Since becoming a publisher, I’ve realized just how overwhelming the flood of submissions can be. I wouldn’t be surprised if many publishers just glance over submissions and reject anything that doesn’t really stand out for some reason. I try to carefully review every submission I receive, and the time involved has become something of a mountain to climb. All of the authors I have interacted with have appreciated the time spent – even those that I’ve rejected – when I am able to give them informed feedback on their projects rather than a form-letter response. I’ve actually rejected a few authors that I have since mentored and become friends with, much to my own surprise!

Qurilion

How many submissions do you get on average in, say, a month?

BK Bass

We had an open submission window that just closed on the first of this month which ran for 90 days, and during that time we had a little over one hundred books submitted.  We are currently taking book submissions by invitation or for our open anthologies – of which we currently are looking for stories for two of them.  For our journal, we are open all year and probably get about 30 submissions a month for that as well.

Qurilion

When dealing with publishers was there any common threads you can now untangle, now that you’ve joined “the dark side”?

BK Bass

Mostly, as I mentioned above, that publishers are too busy to read everything or give everybody detailed feedback. If you query to the big houses, expect any rejection to be a form letter or a generic “It sounds interesting, but it’s not a fit for us.” Don’t take it personally. These guys are just doing their job, and they are usually working on formulas to look for “what sells” out of a book submission. That’s one thing that sets Kyanite apart. Due to our hands-on approach and indie-style budget, we are able to focus more on the craft and the love of the art. We might not make anybody the next J.K. Rowling, but we’ll get some books out there and make sure the quality of the finished product is on par with anything the big guys are putting out. And if we DO discover the next superstar, all the better for everybody involved!

Qurilion

What do you include in a query letter? What do you want to see in one coming to your publishing company?

BK Bass

Every publisher is different on this, so if you’re going to query you definitely need to check their guidelines. What I like to see is a brief introduction of the author themselves (a book contract is a long-term relationship, let’s get to know each other), a good elevator pitch of the book (tell me WHY I want to read it), a SHORT synopsis of the plot (I need to know what happens in the book, but I don’t have time to read a 2,000 word synopsis of every submission. I want to know within 5 minutes what this is all about), and what you feel sets the book apart as far as marketability, exploration of themes pertinent to today’s audience, etc. Also, make sure to include all of your contact information, name, pen name if applicable, and links to any online presence such as your own website or social media presence. You would be surprised how many times I’ve gotten submissions with no information at all other than “Here’s my story, hope you like it.” That isn’t going to sell your story!

Qurilion

Last spotlight, we had an in-depth discussion regarding diversity and inclusion in fiction. What is your approach? What are some of the tendencies you’ve seen regarding that from publishers?

BK Bass

I haven’t had a lot of experience with this in regard to other publishers, but in our case we look at the story before we even look at the face behind it. The details of the author’s heritage, gender, or other factors are not part of the decision-making process; I want a great story no matter where it comes from. That being said, we feel that having a variety of individual voices is advantageous to building a diverse portfolio. We have been lucky to sign authors both for our magazine and to book deals from a lot of diverse backgrounds. We have about a 50/50 split on gender, representation of both African and Asian descent, authors of various sexual preferences, and authors from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Sri Lanka, Germany, France, and Belgium. On that last note, I’m actually wanting to get a map for the office so that I can pin our authors’ home locations and keep track of the growing global empire!

Qurilion

And finally… The million dollar question (sometimes literally): are you making a living as an author currently? Do you have any advice for those who have that as their desired career path? We hear a lot of doom and gloom about starving artists, and I’m not sure that’s always helpful.

BK Bass

I think it is helpful to be realistic. The Guardian published an article in June of this year that stated that only 13% of professional authors – worldwide – make a living income on writing alone. Most authors write for the love of the craft and if they are lucky might supplement their income. The average self-published author on amazon makes between $500 – $1,000 USD annually. A traditional contract for a first-time author might pay an advance of between $1,000 – $10,000, but this must be paid back either from sales or from the author’s pocket!

The best way to avoid the ‘doom and gloom’ is to make sure you are writing for the right reasons. If you are writing hoping to get a multi-million-dollar movie deal and be the next J.K. Rowling, you are setting a very high bar for yourself. Do I hope that this happens to me? Hell yeah! Do I expect it to?  Nope. Is there a chance it could happen to me, or one of my authors, or you? Yes.

Write because you love to write. Tell a story you want to tell. Send the message that you think the world needs to hear. If you make money doing it, that’s a bonus. Writing is art, and art should never be about the money.

Am I making a living as an author and/or publisher? It’s bad timing to ask that, because we are just launching our first few projects. As we move through releases in 2019 and have a larger catalog of available products for sale (including quite a few of my own titles – all of which are on the same royalty agreements as all of our authors), I’d love to revisit that question. If I’m making enough to buy groceries, I’ll be happy. Anything else is gravy.

Qurilion

We’ll ask again in 2020!


OPEN Q&A SEGMENT

Vail

If you don’t mind, I would ask two questions. Do you have any general tips for writer’s block (you probably already covered this, sorry) and what’s your favorite book series that you’ve read?

BK Bass

I did answer the writer’s block question in more detail above, but the short version is that I keep a number of projects going in different phases so that I can bounce around.  Also, read over what you wrote in your last session to warm the fire back up.

My favorite series so far?  That’s a hard one!  I’m going to have to go with the Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore (Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn).

ElementalShrike

What countries/cultures do you like the best, and which ones do you draw your inspiration from?

BK Bass

I’m a sucker for medieval fantasy.  I would say I draw a lot from medieval northern Europe, but also hope to do something based on dark-age Anglo Saxons.  Erimos is heavily inspired by Arabic cultures, but brings them to a more bronze-age feel.

Eldritch Sparkles

What would you consider your finest work, whether it be a book or a single scene?

 BK Bass

I think my best work so far – and my editor Sam agrees – is Warriors of Understone, the first book in The Tales of Durgan Stoutheart.  It’s a heroic fantasy set in a dwarven kingdom, and it deals very heavily with themes of breaking from a traditional patriarchal caste-based society and moving towards a meritocracy with more liberal gender-identity ideals.

ElementalShrike

ooh, on that note what is your favorite system of government and what systems of governments do you use the most for your worlds?

And also (unrelated): Do you like chocolate?

(And bonus: What is your opinion on NaNoWriMo?)

BK Bass

My favorite system of government to write about is actually the Oligarchy, because I like to pick apart the current socio-economic problems plaguing modern-day America (home sweet home).  I would say the Oligarchy shows up a lot in my worlds, a lot of times in the form of a council of nobles or merchants. I also like to explore feudal systems; and will be doing this in detail in The Faewylde War.

I love chocolate; and will perform feats of amazement in exchange for it.

NaNoWriMo is a great motivational tool for those who need a little boost, but I think there’s the potential of writers either feeling forced to rush or not putting in the same effort all year.  I’m honestly torn on it. It’s not for me, but it might help others.

Eldritch Sparkles

My next question is, what elements do you try your best to put into – as well as avoid – in your writing?

BK Bass

I like to put in some elements that feel familiar, so that when writing a narrative I don’t have to info-dump.  Strange and unique worlds are very interesting, but it’s hard to have a tight narrative if you’re stopping every other paragraph to explain the world. Erimos is a good example.  It’s a fast-paced action adventure, so the familiar Arabic elements help me to paint a picture with limited descriptions.

I avoid carbon copy tropes.  I have orcs, but I’m working to develop a unique culture.

ElementalShrike

How realistic do you do your worldbuilding, usually? I tend to just do hard, hard science which is quite restrictive. How far do you go to make sure your world is realistic?

BK Bass

In my fantasy, I usually play it pretty loose.  I try to make sure it all makes sense, but I’m not worried about the nitty-gritty details.  In sci-fi, I prefer to be a bit more technical; but again, I’m not going to go to Star-Trek levels of jargon in my writing.  A certain amount of ‘handwavium’ keeps the narrative flowing.

Eldritch Sparkles

When Worldbuilding for a novel, where do you typically find it most comfort to start?

BK Bass

If I’m going to do an intense ground-up worldbuild for a book, I’ll have the plot in mind first and then draw a map around the needs of the plot.  A lot of times, if the world in the book is going to be simple, I’ll just have an idea in mind and let it grow as I write. The drawback there is that one must clean up the details and check for consistency during the revision process.

Eldritch Sparkles

Do you have a process on developing characters?

BK Bass

I don’t really have anything formulaic that I follow, but I always try to make sure I know why they are doing what they are doing.  If you answer that question, a lot of the rest falls into place. The worst characters are those without motivation.  They also need flaws, especially if they are heroes; or redeeming factors for villains.

For example: The main protagonist of my Ravencrest Chronicles series is a self-centered alcoholic thief; but he grew up in an orphanage, and helps the owner take care of the kids through ‘donations’.  In this case; we have an anti-hero with a redeeming quality and a motivation to help others – if even only a specific group of others.

Eldritch Sparkles

Do you always create new worlds or have done anything on Earth?

BK Bass

I actually have a few projects set on Earth.  Beyond The Veil is a series set in the late ’30s / early ’40s that is a bit of a mash-up of Lovecraft, Sherlock Holmes, and Indiana Jones (It sounds crazy, but I think it’ll work!)  I’m also working on a science fiction novel set on earth after an alien invasion.  That one’s a bit of a post-apocalyptic western.


POST – Q&A FOLLOW-UP

Eldritch Sparkles

Have you ever killed off a character you liked?

BK Bass

Yes, in-fact there’s one in a book I recently finished that was a favorite character of my own and some readers. I actually got tears from one reader as a result. I would love to detail the example, but it’s a huge spoiler!

Eldritch Sparkles

Who is – in the opinion of your editor- the best villain in your work; and how does this compare to your own opinion of your best villain?

And, to you, what makes a good villain?

BK Bass

Of villains in my own work, my editor – Sam – was very much affected by Taslit in Warriors of Understone. Taslit was written to evoke emotion from anybody who has ever experienced bullying. My own favorite so far is Shagoth, from the same book. He and Durgan (the protagonist) have a lifelong history of conflict that is established in the first scene of the book. They don’t interact again until the end of the second act, and Taslit actually acts as a proxy for that conflict. The resolution of the conflict between Durgan and Shagoth, though, coincides with the resolution of the main plot of the book and presents – in my opinion – a very emotionally powerful moment.

What makes a good villain?  The best thing one can do when writing a villain is to ask ‘can I write this book from the villain’s point of view and make him seem like the hero?’ If the answer is no, you need to flesh out the villain more. The cackling evil lord in his dark tower works in some cases, but if you want a strong antagonist he needs to be a real person with real motivations. ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ are very subjective, and very rarely does a true villain think he is on the wrong side of a conflict.

Eldritch Sparkles

Do you have a book that you wish you could re-write.

BK Bass

I can’t say that I do, no. That being said, I’m actually in the middle of a revision of Seahaven for the second edition publishing coming up this January. It was my first publication, and I rushed the editing process. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m ‘rewriting’ it, but I am cleaning up some of the grammar and verb usage, such as adding a more active voice to the opening chapters.

Eoin

How long does it generally take you to fully complete a story, and what are for you some of the major steps/hurdles in that process?

BK Bass

It depends a lot on the length and finding the time to write.  I wrote a trilogy of 20,000-word novellas one per week back in the spring, but then my latest complete WIP was a 25,000-word novella that took 8 months, because it mostly sat there while I focused on other things.

It’s different for everybody. I write very fast and my drafts usually tend to be very clean, but that’s not the average.  I don’t know if it’s a ‘gift’ or just reading so many books over the years. The average from my research is 1500 words a day and 3-5 revisions. If I really crank out something I do 7,500 – 15,000 a day and only do one revision.

Everybody is different, though. You have to find your own pace.  The biggest hurdles are 1- finding time and 2- writing even if you don’t feel like it on a schedule.  Stephen King says if you want to be a successful author, you have to “show up to work” every day.

Eoin

What inspiration do you draw from and what resources could you recommend? Both theoretical as well as motivational.

BK Bass

Inspiration and resources for an author are one and the same for the most part: Books.  Read the genre(s) you love – a lot – and a few outside your comfort zone; and then write.  A lot of my inspiration comes from stories from the old pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century and classic SFF books. Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Terry Brooks, Fritz Leiber, Tolkien (everybody says that one so i save him for last.)

Also getting involved in the Twitter #amwriting and #writerslife communities are wonderful for motivation. There’s all kinds of chats, prompts, and other things going on. You have thousands of people to bounce ideas off of, beta readers to find, and even publishers and agents that are searching for talent there!  There’s also a plethora of books out there to help to learn skills, and Brandon Sanderson has a series of lectures on YouTube on the Camera Panda channel.  It’s essentially a university creative writing course focused on scifi/fantasy that’s free.  I highly recommend it.

(https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH3mK1NZn9QqOSj3ObrP3xL8tEJQ12-vL)


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