Today I have another Brain to Books Cyber Convention post, the first in a double author feature. Remember, this great event for authors and readers alike is coming to Goodreads this April, on the 8th, 9th and 10th.
Be sure to check out all the details and pertinent links for the event here:
Now on with the main event, our Brain to Books author feature.
Today is the first post in a two part interview feature for urban fantasy and science fiction author Timothy Bateson. This post features an interview with author himself, and tomorrow be sure to come back for a Fireside Chat with his lupine character, Richard Parsons.
Interview with Timothy Bateson
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
Having grown up on the outskirts of London, I consider myself to be very much a city-boy at heart. I’m an avid amateur falconer, with experience in handling raptors from little owls all the way up to the magnificent martial eagle.
In 2005, I moved to small-town Alaska to marry my lovely wife, and fellow writer, Sandi, and haven’t looked back. It was here that I had my first encounter with captive wolves and that re-awoke my love of werewolf stories that showed the human aspect as much as the wolf.
I broke into the short story market in 2014 with “Under a Hunter’s Moon”, which is now one of three prequel stories to my first attempt at writing a novel.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
“Blackmailed into consulting for the Seattle Police Department's Supernatural Taskforce, Richard Parsons enters a race against time when a mysterious killer starts tearing apart his fellow lupines (werewolves). - Locked room mysteries were not part of the deal that keeps him out of jail”.
When I married Sandi, in 2005 she showed me her first draft for a vampire book she’d been working on. I found myself engrossed in the background details, especially the werewolf bar-tender, Art. It became obvious that there was a lot going on in the background of the story that could easily spawn other stories.
We sat down and set out a lot of background material, which led me to starting National Novel Writing Month in 2007 or 2008. That was when I first started to write what will become “Of Wolves and Men”, and led to my first published short story “Under a Hunter’s Moon”, as well as two other prequel stories.
How long have you been writing, and how many stories have you published to date?
I started writing back in my college years, but never managed to find time to finish a project. Thanks to my wife, Sandi, I stared writing again in 2007, and took part in that year’s National Novel Writing’s Month with my first attempt at writing a werewolf novel.
To date, I’ve had two short stories, and one drabble published in anthologies. My urban fantasy pieces, “Under a Hunter’s Moon” and “Shifting Dreams” appeared in Halloween collections released in October 2014. Then in May 2015, my first science fiction story “Evaline Transcendent” was printed.
Of all the stories you've written, do you have a favourite?
I think “Under a Hunter’s Moon” is probably the one I’m happiest with, because of the length of time it took to get it written at all. Originally sections of this story were flashback scenes that kept cropping up in various attempts to draft a novel, but they kept slowing the plot development down. Once I removed them from the novel, the rest of the story came together very quickly, and I was able to tie down details of a very significant event in the life of my novel’s protagonist.
Why did you decide to write in the urban fantasy & science fiction genre?
I grew up reading books by authors like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Piers Anthony, Ursula K. LeGuinn, and many more of the fantasy and sci-fi greats. During college, I picked up books by authors like Terry Pratchett, Harry Harrison, and Tom Holt. I realized that it was possible to deliver a story with humor, and an understanding of the human condition.
Over the years, I’ve expanded the range of authors and genre’s I read, but fantasy and science fiction are the two I always return to when I want something with depth. Because of that they’re also the two genre’s I’m most comfortable writing, and I decided to primarily focus on urban fantasy because of my love of the city, and all the problems inherent in putting so many people in such a small space.
What is the hardest part of writing urban fantasy fiction
In any setting the reality that the reader enters into has to be internally consistent. If you set up rules for magic, you cannot break those same rules without some very exceptional circumstances, and there must be consequences for doing so
In an urban fantasy series, especially one set in a city your readers will already be familiar with, you have to maintain a certain level of external consistency too. Unless you have very specific reasons for altering the reality they know, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of research on local history, the styles of buildings that can be found in certain parts of town, and even spending hours on Google Maps trying to find the ideal place to hide you secret organization’s headquarters.
The same also applies to any book set in an historical setting, but at least most readers are willing to accept minor historical inaccuracies unless they detract from the story. However, if you change aspects of an existing city, people familiar with that city pretty upset.
What do you enjoy most about writing in the urban fantasy genre?
Being a city boy at heart, I think I’ve always been drawn to the stories of the urban jungle. Growing up I heard a lot of the stories of London’s history, and became fascinated with the goings on in the little back alleyways, and side turnings that lay just off the major tourist areas. When I was old enough to explore the city on my own, I would wander those back streets, finding bars, clubs, stores and businesses that most people probably didn’t even know existed.
Being able to bring that kind of realism into my stories lets me write about characters who are native to the city, and know where all those short cuts go, what businesses operate in the dark corners, and even dream of the creatures that could be lurking, waiting to surprise the unwary. And that’s where the fun comes into writing urban fantasy - even I can be caught unaware by the twists and turns that occur in those back alleyways of the plot and characters.
You write in several genres. Do you have a favourite? And if so, why?
As a published author in both urban fantasy and science fiction, I would love to say that was impartial in terms of my preferences. However, I definitely have a preference for writing urban fantasy; it’s a genre that has grown on me over the years, and continues to do so.
When I first started reading fantasy, I always felt that too little time was spent exploring the cities, and the particular problems that arise when large numbers of people are gathered in one place. By focusing on the people and the city environments it lets writers create stories in what is essentially an unnatural environment, and see what ideas shake free. For creatures like vampires, it is a potentially endless food supply. For the werewolves the cities are incursions into the wilderness and their hunting grounds. Add mortals, fae, and other mythological entities, and things become so much more interesting.
Who is your intended readership?
The people who I’d like to see enjoy my stories are those that understand that none of us are perfect, and that we all have flaws. However, even the most flawed of us have redeeming features, even if they are buried deep. My intended reader is the one who can see beyond the surface, and hopefully find that buried inner redemption.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?
Since I first started writing, I think my writing process has changed a lot. When I first started out, I’d simply start writing a scene, and see where my mind went as I moved forward. But, I found that I often stalled out before the story could be completed, because I had a habit of rambling. So, now I have definitely moved myself clearly into the camp that plots well ahead of typing the first word on screen.
My plot outlines usually start with a basic idea of where I want to start, and finish the story. Those become my markers for everything that comes between them. I usually sketch out my ideas on a mindmap, and see where my brain takes me. From there I take notes one what will make up the plot itself, what’s going to end up as background material, and what I’d like to save until later.
Sometimes my ideas might be sparked by reading another writer’s work, and wondering what would happen if my characters were placed in the same situations. Other times, I’ll be watching the news, and make mental notes. But I also like to draw on mythology, fairy tales, television, and movies for potential inspiration.
I’m still trying to get myself into a good writing routine. Every November I commit to National Novel Writing Month, and a minimum of 1,667 words per day, but then outside that period I seem to find it harder to maintain that kind of pace. So, now I’m trying to get into the habit of writing something every day, even if what I work doesn’t result in progress on my current story project. The good thing about this is that I’ve been able to start putting together a number of author biographies, kept up on my weekly blog posts, and book reviews.
What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
I work in retail, and rarely have the same days off, or even the same hours on the days I work. Being at the mercy of scheduling makes it hard to get into a writing routine. I rely on a consistent writing schedule, especially when I’m trying to get a project finished, or am working to deadline.
I find those days when I work a mid-shift are the ones where there is insufficient time to write before work, and I’m too tired to be productive after work. When I work several of those shifts in a week, I have to force myself to be extra productive on my days off.
Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?
In terms of authors who’ve influenced me the most, I think I would have to look to people like Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, and Dean Koontz. Each of them has such a unique style of writing and looking at the world, but write about characters that you can’t help but like, no matter what they go through.
Terry Pratchett makes the list, because of characters like Samuel Vimes, who face the world head on, with a no-nonsense approach and a grasp of the realities of the world around them, while also showcasing characters who don’t have a clue what’s going on.
However, it’s Terry’s own personal struggles, and his outspoken views on the rights of the individual that earned my respect. Right up to his death he publically fought deteriorating health, and still managed to fight for what he believed in.
Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books remind us that even the underdogs can win, if they are willing to make sacrifices. They also introduce us to characters with special gifts, each very different in what they can do, but both of them sharing those experiences with the readers at a very personal level. While both writers being us into their world through the eyes and thoughts of their protagonists, they have also created worlds that exist outside those characters, and continue to function even when we’re not looking.
How do you research your books?
I’m an avid reader of mythology from all over the world, so there are a lot of books in my apartment that relate to the various mythologies, cultures and histories. I think it’s important to have an understanding of the history and culture behind the mythologies, because all of those factors shape people and how they approach life.
Since I write urban fantasy, I also spend a lot of time reading online articles about the places I write about. When I’m planning to write about a particular location, I spend a lot of time trying to find out about the history, location, and the surrounding environment. That means I spend a lot of time on sites like Google Maps, and Wikipedia, as well as any sites from the place itself. But, I always reserve the right to alter details, especially if I have to create, or alter things to make a location fit the story I want to tell. This happened in “Under a Hunter’s Moon” when I needed a museum, but couldn’t find a museum in Seattle that had the right combination of layout and exhibits, so I created one based on my years of visiting museums in London.
What advice would you give beginning writers?
I think the most important piece of advice to give anyone who wants to write is “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes”. No matter what you write, fiction, non-fiction, or memoir, you are going to have the opportunity to edit that work.
The worst assumption you can ever make is that you will be able to produce a piece of work that is perfect in every way. Even the top authors, and publishing houses make mistakes, but they learn from them and move forward.
From personal experience, even your editor and proof readers will miss errors. As long as you produce the best work you are capable of, then you can be proud of that work, regardless of any errors.
Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?
I have a customer at work, who I know follows my writing work, and blog posts. One day they came into the store and reached the checkout lanes during a very busy period. They waited in my line for nearly five minutes when there were other lanes open, and getting through customers faster than I was able to at the time. By the time they reached the front of the line, they were pretty much vibrating with excitement at the news they wanted to share.
They informed me that they had been doing a search online and seen my picture on the first page of search results. Then we all laughed when they told me that they had been searching for ‘falconry in Alaska’ instead of for anything related to writing.
It’s nice to know that I’m being found in search results for something that I haven’t had many opportunities to take part in recently.
What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?
When I’m not writing, I can often be found reading, or working on any number of online projects. I produce two weekly blog posts, “Midweek Mumbles” and “Someone Else’s Words”. The first is pretty much my forum for anything I want to post, from upcoming book events to information about tools, or life hacks that I’ve found useful. The second is a quote I found inspirational, or interesting, and turned into a graphic. I also produce a book spotlight column that highlights books by authors that I’ve collaborated with online, or met in person.
When I get the chance though I try and get some time handling raptors, even though those opportunities are a lot rarer now that I don’t live near a falconry center. Over the years I’ve handled every class of raptor, except condors and vultures. I’ve snuggled face-to-face with barn owls, and been nose to beak with eagles, and there is nothing like the thrill of hearing that the talons that are gripping your arm have the crushing power of two alligator jaws.
How did you become interested in falconry?
When I was in my early teens, my father taught at one of the local schools. One day, he told me that they were going to have a falconry display team come in, and show off some of the birds. I’d always been fascinated by the appearance of owls, and wanted the opportunity to at least see one up close.
I was very grateful that my parents were both very supportive of the idea, even though it meant I would have to take a day off from my own school. The time I spent in the school gym, watching as the team demonstrated the abilities of their owls, and then their hawk was a revelation.
Among the demonstrations they had several of us lie down shoulder to shoulder, and then flew the barn owl right over the entire group. It took several passes for me to realize that I’d not heard a single sound from the bird the entire time it was overhead. Yet when they flew the other raptors, I was able to hear some of the wingbeats.
It wasn’t until they allowed some us a chance to handle a couple of the more ‘kid-friendly’ birds that I was hooked for life. I was able to handle the barn owl, a species I will always have a soft-spot for, as well as their Harris Hawk, and that’s when I decided I was going to take every chance I could to handle these amazing creatures.
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to attend several displays, falconry centers, and gained experience in handling several breeds of raptor, including eagles. And, in spite all the years of experience, I still consider every opportunity to be an honor.
Are you working on another book?
I’ve always got something in the pipeline that I’m working on. I’m currently working on the first draft for my novel, as well as reading through the already completed second book in the series, written by my wife Sandi. Once I’ve got my first draft written, I’ll probably take a short break to outline the third book in the series, which will be a joint project between Sandi and myself.
What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?
Right now, I’m concentrating on getting the first draft of “Of Wolves and Men” completed, but am keeping my eye on postings for short story submissions. I’ve a few ideas of stories I want to try, but won’t dedicate the time to unless I’ll be sending them in for possible publication. At the moment, unless there’s a chance of being paid for it, I want to concentrate on the novels.
In terms of secrets, there are a few things that I’ve been keeping close to my chest. However, I can safely say that “Wolves in the Desert” gives a very good indication why Garfield Feldman (who appears in “The Lupine’s Call”) has a dislike for Richard Parsons, the protagonist of the majority of my stories. And in “Of Wolves and Men” we’re going to find out some very interesting things about Nazurl Nagura, Richard’s ex-girlfriend.
For more on Timothy Bateson and his books check out his website:
The story Under a Hunter’s Moon can be found in the anthology Moon Shadows
The story Shifting Dreams can be found in the anthology Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2014
I'd like to thank Timothy Bateson for stopping by today, and be sure to check out his virtual booth at the convention this April. Also, check back tomorrow for the Fireside Chat with his character, Richard Parsons.