I recently had the pleasure of meeting Michael Eging and his writing partner, Steve Arnold on social media. The two of them have written a dark fantasy series, beginning with The Paladin of Shadows Chronicles, Annwyn's Blood. The two of them were kind enough to let me interview them and the following is the result of said discussion.
Mike: I started writing in Junior High School. My father passed off to me The John Carter of Mars Series, Sailor on the Seas of Fate (Elric Series) and other. As I read them, I realized I had stories I wanted to tell as well. Throughout High School, I had a few notebooks that I would write in and doodle illustrations in the margins. My grandmother’s old typewriter allowed me to clack away into the wee hours of the night on a variety of short stories and a never finished novel.
Steve: I remember even as a child being simply awed by the imagination of writers, how they could come up with entire worlds. I tried to make stories of my own but just could never come up with anything to compare. Then when I was about twelve I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. I started running a game with Mike as my first player, and sort of fell into making up dungeons and creating histories and back-stories to go along with them.
Why do you write?~
Mike: Now? For sanity’s sake in large part. With life being so consuming, it is wonderful to push aside the crush of the everyday and create. Also, a few years ago, I was busy taking my older children from activity to activity and slowly crunching away when I had time on a novel. Suddenly it dawned on me that if I didn't take this seriously, one day I would be gone and I wouldn't have these stories to pass on to my kids.
Steve: I find it's an escape. It's refreshing to take a little time, go off to a world unlike my own and imagine what life would be like. It's also a way to show other people how I see them, sort of hold a mirror up to the world.
What would be your choice for a superpower?~
Mike: I have always been an Iron Man fan. So, I guess no super powers per se, but I would really dig a suit of armor, with a splash of hot rod red. Or the really cool stealth armor, even better!
Steve: Never really thought of myself as a superhero. I don't really have a good answer for that one, though I have often thought it would be pretty cool to be like John Carter on Mars, master swordsman and with a physique made for another planet. Right now if I was to put on one of those muscle breastplates my physique would (to paraphrase one of my favorite authors) 'fill it like Jell-o fills a mold'.
Who is your favorite author?~
Mike: I have many favorites. Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Stephen R. Donaldson, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Timothy Zahn, David Drake… and the list goes on. However, I keep coming back to Roger Zelazny and the Chronicles of Amber. I first found those in the library in the late 1970s as a child and I remember curling up sitting in the windowsill at the library to read them as I waited for my parents to finish work and take me home. The noir opening of Nine Princess in Amber grabbed hold of me and I found myself riding in a car on the mad chase to Amber - the car driven by a man who you are never quite sure has a complete grip on reality… or does he?
Steve: Terry Pratchett, hands down. I like the funny edge and how he captures the stupid things we do. I first found Colour of Magic in the library in high school and have been hung up ever since.
What are you reading now?~
Mike: I am reading a book by an ancient Greek historian/chronicler name Procopius called the Secret Histories. It is a scandalous account of life in the Byzantine court of Justinian and good pre-reading for future projects.
Steve: Hah! Draft chapters of Book Two of the Paladin of Shadows. Seriously, it's like this never ends. I just got done re-reading The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek. It's an analysis of the origins of totalitarian governments and why they end up the way they do.
Who is your favorite character to write?~
Mike: I was just talking to my wife and writing partner, Steve, about this. I think my favorite character to-date is Roland, from the Song of Roland. When I was in college, my favorite professor, Dr. Paul Pixton, introduced me to The Song of Roland. I was sucked into the world of Charles the Great and his valiant knight who faced down treachery and found immortality in legend at Ronceveaux. Dr. Pixton mentioned that he hoped someone would one day produce a movie based on the story. Shortly after I wrote an outline for the script and put it on the shelf as I pursued graduate studies in History at the University of Maryland and took my first post-college job working on Capitol Hill. Over a decade later I dusted off the outline and wrote the first draft of the script. Needless to say, it needed a lot of work, and a friend who works in Los Angeles mentored me into developing the script further. Many producers and agents who read the script loved it, but wondered why I pursued a medieval epic as my first project. Sometimes, passion for something just can’t be shaken off because of “the market.” As a result, while yet unproduced, Song of Roland was my first optioned script and will always have a special place in my heart. Stay tuned, there is more to this story to come!
Steve: I don't know that I can say I have a favorite overall, but in Annwyn I have a special affinity for Aldonzo. Yes, he's young, vain, shallow and foolish, but he has the greatest potential for growth out of all of them and I think ultimately that's what I've liked in any of my characters or for that matter characters in other writers' stories – that they learn something. I like kids' movies a lot and I think that's why.
Do you have a writing process?~
Mike: It depends on when something pops into my brain! I try to write every night after my wife and children head to sleep. Even if only a few paragraphs or two. But sometimes, I will wake in the night and something is just burning on my mind. So, I jot it down before I forget it. A fantasy novel I am currently working on is the result of one such encounter with a story in the darkest of the night.
Steve: I like to roll things around in my head for some days before I write them down. I rarely have something flash into my head that I just have to get down on paper that turns out any good. I've found if I go with the first thought I get it's usually just a variation on what I've already seen and seems tired and overdone. But if I let it sit in the background and percolate while I work, run errands or whatever, I find that new variations, new perspectives, come to mind and things get a lot more interesting. This was the difficulty I had trying to write as a kid – I hadn't learned to wait yet. Once I have the idea then I try to decide, what am I writing? Crime drama? War story? Hero fantasy? What is the core feeling I want to evoke? I want to have a general idea, then identify basic elements of hero, villain, motivations. Then nail down linking details. How does it all work? What's the environment and context? How do we get from point A to point B? Why does the hero/villain/wingman want this and not that? Sometimes this takes back story that never sees light in the final product, but you need just the same so your storytelling is consistent. Then fill in all the little style points in between with stirring prose.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?~
Mike: Understanding the marketplace will be critical to your long-term success. E-books and print on demand have given a voice to aspiring writers across the globe. After a well-written piece of work, I recommend two things. First, read voraciously. Not just in a singular genre, or path. Read authors who inspire you, find new voices and dig through old, new and emerging classics. Second, find a way to stand out. There is a deluge of material for readers to search through to find your work. Find ways to get in front of your readers. Find others who are willing to take a risk, read your work and join your chorus.
Steve: Write what you know. You can take your own personal experiences, no matter how mundane, and put them into a story no matter the setting. People really want to read stories about people. Settings are just trappings, window dressing, that adds flavor, but it's the experiences lived and lessons learned of your characters that will make them memorable. And don't be afraid to let things percolate for a while. You'd be surprised what can come into your head that way.
What inspired you to pursue writing?~
Mike: My father at first. He read my work. Encouraged me. Instilled in me a love of the written word. Whether books, short stories, poetry, or screenplays, he was the greatest influence in my life. Second, my own family. As I held my children in my arms, I realized that I wanted to share these worlds and characters with them. Third, good friends who encourage me to not give up and allow me to share with them ideas, thoughts and stories. Friends, like Steve, keeps me inspired.
Steve: I just wanted to emulate those people that made it possible for me to while away some of the more boring parts of my life in a much more fulfilling way. It wasn't until Mike started approaching me about helping him with his projects that I seriously considered doing this for real.
Mike: We just launched Annwyn’s Blood, Book One in the Paladin of Shadow Chronicles. These characters have been with my writing partner and me since college. Albion of the Dark Ages, after Rome fell and Arthur’s Camelot, was a dangerous place and ancient forces contended with newer ones for control of the isle. Here is the blurb we did for Smashwords that encapsulates this:
Amid the dying embers of a fallen Empire, a young knight embarks on a personal crusade to reclaim the soul ripped from him by a deceitful lover's bite, and to save his family and their world from the rage of the implacable god who sent her. Ancient magic awakens from centuries–old slumber as the dead no longer rest in peace, and long buried legends and secrets could be the world's only hope.
This was something that when we wrote it, we received responses from publishers and agents that they loved our writing, but seriously…. Vampires? Please send us your next novel. So we put this on the shelf in the mid 1990’s and moved on to other projects. We co-wrote the story for a WWII thriller screenplay and a horror script. But this novel was sitting on the hard drive and nagging me to get into readers’ hands. So I called Steve and said, “Hey, if I can recover these old WordPerfect files, do you want to do something with this?” Of course, the result is Annwyn’s Blood. We are very excited to revisit this world and bring all of you along with us.
Steve: Annwyn is a Dark Ages vampire tale, with a reluctant hero that finds himself hounded by an Elder God who's desperate to make him point man in a bloody bid to regain power in the world of men. It started out as a short story Mike wrote back in the late 1980's, inspired by a little 'girl trouble' he had. Some time later he got the crazy idea to turn it into a novel and he called me up to help. To be honest I don't know why – my real passion isn't writing, it's drawing (every year I do a piece for my wife for Christmas). I suspect he wanted his old dungeon master to figure out a backstory. So I thought about it, not really sure what I was going to be able to do with it (which is probably where I began to realize things work better for me if I let them stew for a while) and eventually came up with a couple of chapters which he thought (rather to my surprise) were great! We spent the next five years finishing the book, and then the rejection letters came. Like your stuff; not what we want. After a while we just had to set it aside and get on with life, jobs, kids, and so on. Then I had an idea for a story, a WW2 spy/crime thriller and jotted up a treatment just because it was in me. It was hard to do that much. Mike turned it into a screenplay and now it's getting shopped around with Roland. Next came the horror script and by now we were settling into this whole 'writer' thing (or at least I was; I think Mike had long ago). By then online publishing was a big deal and Mike realized we could bypass the gatekeepers, so he pulled Annwyn off the shelf, blew the dust off it, sneezed a few times, and sent it back to me for a fresh edit. And here we are.
I'd like to thank Mike and Steve for sharing with the folks here at Eye on Ashenclaw...now go buy some books!
Please join me and the other amazingly talented authors over @ Skulldust Circle where we have formed a Writer's Circle that must be seen--a collection of brilliant, up & coming independently published speculative fiction authors with much to give both now and in the future!
All of my work can be found on AMAZON -- Kindle versions here
See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!
Please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase my full length novel, Covenant of the Faceless Knights, the short stories: Wothlondia Rising, and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!
All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2012 unless otherwise noted.