Interview With Ty Arthur
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
Certainly, and first off, thanks for having me as a guest at your blog! I'm a new dad living in the perpetually frozen Montana with my wife Megan and our son, Gannicus Picard. I've worked as a freelance writer and editor primarily covering heavy metal news and gaming guides for nearly a decade, with the occasional tech piece here and there thrown in for good measure.
Making the move to fiction has been my latest endeavor, and it’s been a wild ride of ups and downs. Even for all the low points though, it’s been well worth the effort, meeting some amazing people in the indie fiction scene and getting to experience the accomplishment of seeing my words finally landing on print and digital devices to be devoured by the readers.
How long have you been writing, and how many books have you published to date?
In terms of fiction, I've been at this for about four years now, and it’s quite the trip to look back at those first short horror stories I came up with when getting serious about writing anything that wasn't news or entertainment related. The meat grinder that is the book industry nearly chewed me up and spit me out in those early days, but I can say without hesitation I came out the other end a better writer.
So far I've had two short stories published in anthologies (with a whole mess of eye-opening rejections along the way), a standalone sci-fi / horror novella titled Empty, and now my full-length dark fantasy novel Light Dawning is slated to arrive at the end of the month.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
Although it takes place in a low fantasy world, Light Dawning is primarily a horror story. Those horror elements come from multiple angles: cosmic horror from ancient things beyond human understanding that are inimical to sane life, but also the more down-to-earth horror of the awful things people are willing to do to one another.
The story revolves around four main characters who are all trying to deal with the grim reality of living in Cestia, an occupied city. It's been three years since the invaders arrived, and no crusading army has ever arrived to oust the soldiers or save the civilians left behind. Conditions have deteriorated significantly for the lower class, with death always around the corner and things much worse than death becoming an everyday fact of life.
It’s in this bleak setting that the characters have to decide how they plan on living out the last dying days of Cestia's former glory. Some will do anything to survive just a little bit longer and want to avoid the notice of their oppressors, while others have embraced rebellion and are willing to engage in any act of barbarity to seek revenge or freedom.
While very much a fantasy tale involving monstrous beasts and people with the ability to wield supernatural powers, the focus is more on a study of how these characters react to their surroundings and how the occupation changes them. For instance, how does one deal with a concept like motherhood in a city where rioting is routine and people being beaten to death in the street is a regular occurrence? Do you embrace friendship and lean on those around you, or reject everyone else entirely since it won't be long before anyone you grow to love will be taken away from you?
Very much in the grimdark genre, I've entirely thrown out the stereotypical fantasy notion of a humble and unsuspecting hero rising to greatness and defeating the world's great evils, and turned most of the standard genre tropes on their heads.
Do you have a favourite character? If so, why?
Of all the characters in the book, two stand out most to me. My favorite would probably be Tala, who is the strongest character of the bunch. Despite having been dealt a very band hand in life, she always soldiers on, and she's managed to keep going despite extreme hardship that would have destroyed anyone else. Harboring a dangerous secret within her, she has no choice but to remain strong in face of unrelenting adversity.
Representing how so much is expected of women in a society while they are frequently treated poorly despite their contributions, Tala has to spend every waking moment working to keep a maelstrom of insane whispers and screams from spilling out of her mind. If she lets her guard down for even a split second, no matter what physical or emotional hardship being endured, she could inadvertently open a doorway between sane reality and another place filled with nightmare things. Sadly, very few will ever acknowledge her constant efforts, but if she ever lapses in her vigilance, the world will suffer for it.
Besides Tala, I loved writing the character Father Erret. Not your typical priest or cleric of a fantasy novel, Erret is an extremist who managed to anger his own religion's hierarchy and ended up having to leave his home to spread his beliefs elsewhere. Rather than descending into despair over the city's current condition, Erret is in a constant state of religious rapture, believing the entire invasion and occupation to be a testing of his faith and an opportunity to turn the citizens to his way of thinking. He believes pain to be the proper expression of a life worth living, and would happily watch the entire city burn if it would convert the survivors to his religion.
You write in several genres. Do you have a favourite? And if so, why?
It’s actually surprising to me that I ended up bouncing back and forth between different genres with each release. I've been reading epic high fantasy since I was old enough to pick up a book, so I always figured if I ever got serious about writing that would be my focus, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Most of my work is based on personal experiences that I translate into fictional settings and then expand upon, and it just happened that my first real attempt at a short story was a modern day horror tale.
My previous novella Empty was actually first conceived as a story about a man contracting lycanthropy and having to hide it from those around him, but as the story progressed I didn't feel like anything was clicking, so I shifted to a space setting with some of the same themes presented through a sci-fi filter.
Considering that my next upcoming work again shifts genre, I'd have to say at this point I don't actually have a favorite, and am having more fun exploring many different facets of fiction rather than sticking to one single style.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?
I work from a “write what you know” perspective, starting with a small kernel of truth and then extrapolating it out into something more fictional. It’s easier to get invested in the characters and create an emotional or riveting experience if I'm personally attached to the story because it’s something I actually lived through.
There's an old joke that gets thrown around about “being a drinker with a writing problem,” and that's actually the process I use for the core of my stories. Before writing a single word, I spend a lot of time putting together music playlists featuring the themes or tones I'll be trying to express in upcoming scenes, and then I focus entirely on building that world with headphones on and a shotglass close at hand.
When the basic framework of the story is built and several major scenes written, from there I switch to a more sober approach with less music, honing in on the details and making sure all the various concepts are meshing as I intended and that my key ideas are coming through.
What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
If you couldn't tell from the way I switch back and forth between genres, sometimes it’s maintaining interest in one single tale and not writing the frameworks for five or six at a time! When I'm on one specific project and seeing it through to completion, I've learned over time to look for specific mistakes that are easy to miss as you get too close to a project.
For me, those tend to be things like repeating specific words and phrases far too often. You don't notice things like that when you're wrapped up in a story, and it takes some time away and returning with fresh eyes to realize where those mistakes lie. Having reliable editors to give you blunt feedback and not just say “it's great, don't change a thing!” is an absolute must.
What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?
Hah, well, these days most of my time goes into exclaiming “what is that in your mouth?!?” or “why are you bumping your head repeatedly against that wall?!?” as my son learns to walk and explores our home.
Outside of keeping a toddler from swallowing who knows what and stopping him from getting into electrical outlets, I'm a huge fan of horror films, and love following all the latest on indie projects and crowd-funded movies. The Void was the big one I'd been anticipating for years, and I wasn't disappointed by its portrayal of a Call Of Cthulhu roleplaying scenario in movie form.
On a similar note, gaming is probably next biggest passion as I work to build a collection of everything from classic old pen and paper systems like Earthdawn to newer entries like Shadow Of The Demon Lord.
What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?
Light Dawning spent a very long time in the gestation and creation stages, originally starting in late 2015, so I'm excited to get onto something else finally. I'm really in need of a sort of “palette cleanser” that lets me explore other styles of writing, so I'm doing something way outside my comfort zone and putting together a collection of horror-themed erotica coming out towards the end of the year. I realize that's not going to be for everyone though, so no hard feelings if anyone who loved Empty or Light Dawning passes on that anthology.
After that I'm diving into a new full-length novel exploring an action-packed, dystopian noir future. That book is going to be a wild ride, and I can't wait for details on that to finally become available. Looking further into the future, sequels to both of my previous books are absolutely in the works, so if you want to know what happened following Hansen's decision in Empty or need more of the grimdark world of Light Dawning, rest assured they are both coming.
Ty Arthur gets to meld his passions with his work while freelancing for the likes of Metalunderground.com and GameSkinny. His debut sci-fi / horror novella “Empty” was released in early 2016, with many more dark tales still to come. Arthur writes to exorcise his demons and lives in the cold, dark north with his amazing wife Megan and infant son Gannicus Picard.