Tonight we welcome Jeffrey Getzin, a fantasy author. Thank you Jeffrey for sharing your experiences with us. Enjoy the interview everyone!
Title: Shara and the Haunted Village
Author: Jeffrey Getzin
Social Media connections:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jeffrey-Getzin/127322360649271 (author page)
https://www.facebook.com/SharaAndTheHauntedVillage (Shara and the Haunted Village)
https://plus.google.com/b/107462058414643327439/107462058414643327439 (author page)
https://plus.google.com/b/106742355528059710210/106742355528059710210 (Shara and the Haunted Village)
Release Date: Sep 21, 2012
Where to buy: Amazon.com
“Jeff’s writing … is excellent—a tight, quick-moving story with strong characters and a very personal touch that makes this fantasy story read—very much—like an excellent Leiber story, with more modern and complex sensibilities. I wholeheartedly recommend this story.”
— Ryk E. Spoor, author of Phoenix Rising
“Easily devoured in an afternoon yet somehow as satisfying as a seven-course meal … a veritable feast of charm, reminiscent of an Irish ghost story with a dash of high fantasy thrown in. The characters are strong and deftly written, and most importantly fun … I enjoyed this romp into fantasy immensely and eagerly await the next tale these two [characters] decide to take part in.”
— K. R. Schulteis, author of Calling
“The narrative structure was … pure and handled with confidence. It was immediately apparent that Jeffrey Getzin is a writer with skills. He knows what he’s doing. Even better, the ultimate twists of the tale were deeply imaginative and clever. He made me think and feel, both. The voice held true, as well, without wobbling. All in all, an absolutely delightful read.”
— Josephine Carr, author of My Very Own Murder
Other Work: Prince of Bryanae (http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Bryanae-Jeffrey-Getzin/dp/1451525753), A Lesson for the Cyclops (coming soon)
Please provide a snippet from your most recently released book.
Shara couldn’t take her eyes off the slain men. Sure, they had been going to murder her, but there was something sad in the way their bodies lay sprawled in the dirt, their open wounds gaping.
“We should do something about the bodies,” she suggested.
The two of them were sitting cross-legged on the ground, facing each other. D’Arbignal offered her a waterskin, which she accepted. She took a drink, and her stomach growled—an all-too-familiar feeling for her of late.
“Like have a parade?” D’Arbignal said with an impish smile.
She frowned. She enjoyed D’Arbignal’s sense of humor, but it didn’t seem to stop within the boundaries of good taste.
“Throw a party?” he said. “Compose an epic poem?”
She sighed and handed the waterskin back to him. “I meant maybe we should bury them.”
“By all means, milady,” D’Arbignal said. “Do you have a shovel on you? No? Mayhap a pickaxe? A mattock, perchance?”
At last, he picked up on the sadness in her eyes, and his tone softened.
“I appreciate the sentiment,” he said, his expression becoming thoughtful, “but really, there’s no practical way to dig graves.”
She felt moisture in her eyes and was surprised to find herself crying, but for the life of her, she didn’t know why.
“Couldn’t we cover them with rocks or something?”
He leaned forward and wiped away one of her tears with a gentle touch. He shook his head solemnly. “It would take hours of back-breaking labor to accumulate enough rocks to cover just one of them. It’d be days before we’d covered them all.”
“But…” She fumbled for something to say, for some way to make it work out. “But we can’t just leave them there for the birds and the flies.”
“What birds?” D’Arbignal said, his eyebrows arched. “What flies?”
“Do you see any birds or flies?” he said, making a sweeping gesture with his arm to encompass the entire village, the forest, the clearing, and the sky above.
She searched the skies, unnerved. Nothing. And he was right about the flies, too: there were none swarming around the slain bandits. Back in Cerendahl, it wasn’t uncommon for the body of a starved commoner to be left stinking by the side of the road for days until someone finally got around to disposing of it. When it got hot enough, entire carpets of flies would cover the body. And then the birds … best not to think about the birds.
She looked back at D’Arbignal, feeling a dread that gnawed at her from within.
“Do you see any living thing other than ourselves?” D’Arbignal added.
She cast her gaze about with increasing desperation. No birds, no insects, no grass … why, even the trees were dead and leafless. Neither was there any sound: no chirping nor rustling. There wasn’t even a breeze. It was if the world had died while she had lain unconscious.
“There’s nothing,” D’Arbignal said, and at last, she picked up a nervous undercurrent to his voice. “Everything’s dead.”
She knew he was right. Then she saw something that should have eased her mind, yet only increased her apprehension.
“If everything’s dead,” she said, pointing down the road into town, “then why is there smoke coming from that chimney?”
1 When did you first start writing?
I started writing at a very early age. I remember writing a poem in grade school that started:
Tires, pliers, hubcaps, and spokes,
And liquids that stop radiator smoke
All these parts help make a car,
So you don’t have to stay where you are.
Ah yes, it was apparent even at that early age that I would grow up to be the individual I am now: one with no ability to write poetry whatsoever!
(Actually, I’m quite proud of the following poem I wrote recently:
You may beat him down with baseball bats,
With gunfire, fists, and knives(-es),
You may break his back upon your knee,
But still, like bats, the Dark Knight Rises.
Does his obsessive nature disturb you?
Why do you seek his doom?
‘Cause he’s better-equipped than you,
and has a car that goes zoom.
Just like phoenixes and sourdough,
With the intensity of Death’s scythe(-es),
Just like hopes springing high,
Still the Dark Knight Rises.)
2 Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
It never really occurred to me that I should “be a writer”. I have always written throughout my life: in high school, college, graduate school, and beyond. I just found myself writing.
I had never really considered it as something from which I could earn a living. Early on, I knew I’d be doing something with computers: perhaps teaching computers, or perhaps programming them. Whereas writing was always a difficult, involved journey for me, computers came easily.
Would I be a professional writer if I could generate sufficient revenue from it? Hmmm. It’s hard to say. I think I would prefer to do what the great mystery author author Steve Hamilton has, which is to work both as a novelist and as an employee of a corporation.
3 What genre do you prefer to work within? Or do you mix it up?
It’s odd, you know. Technically, I write Fantasy novels, but I really don’t read much Fantasy. I read Mystery, Horror, Humor, and Suspense, so consequently, while my books are all technically “Fantasy”, they tend to have elements of Mystery, Horror, Humor, and/or Suspense in them.
I definitely do not engage in the genre clichés. There are no prophecies describing a young hero who will grow up to defeat a Big Evil. There are no vampires. The physics of my world are realistic (save for the possibility of magic). I strive to make the characters seem recognizable to the reader, even if they do belong to different worlds.
But yes, I do mix it up a fair bit.
For instance, my first novel Prince of Bryanae is very dark and violent, with long character- and story-arcs, intricate plot twists, and heavy themes such as redemption and predestination.
My second book, Shara and the Haunted Village, is a much lighter book. There is much more humor in it, and it’s a bit of a fairy tale.
My upcoming book, A Lesson for the Cyclops, is again completely different. It’s a sad love story about a tragic woman who thinks herself beyond hope … but is shown that maybe there’s more to herself than she realized.
After that is The Return of the King, which is a comparatively light-hearted adventure about what happens when the king of a small country has vanished and then a man shows up looking very much like a younger version of the missing king.
These books are all loosely related in that they all take place in the same world, and events in one affect what happens in the others. There’s definitely a story-arc in my books.
4 Where does your inspiration for these stories (this story) come from?
I draw my inspiration from many sources. I often borrow bits and pieces of real life and use them to form the kernel of an event, character, or plot twist.
Other than that, my stories tend to evolve in one of two ways: either I have an interesting character for whom I have to provide a plot, or I have a plot for which I must add a character.
The idea for this particular story, A Lesson for the Cyclops, came to me as many do, when I’m falling asleep. A character named D’Arbignal appears in some of my stories, and in one book, he mentions that he once belonged to a circus called the Venucha Players. Well, as I was drifting off to sleep, it occurred to me that the story of this young rogue joining that circus might be very entertaining.
However, I couldn’t just write a story called “D’Arbignal Joins the Circus”. D’Arbignal is witty, charming, and flamboyant, and I’ve learned through trial and error that he makes a terrible main character. He’s entertaining in limited doses, but he can’t be the main character.
So I started thinking of about who might be at the circus when he arrives, and how his arrival might affect those people.
I like to deal in character contrasts, so I was thinking what would be the opposite of a D’Arbignal? I’ve gotten into the practice of using women as my viewpoint characters, so I tried to think of a woman who would be so far removed from the type of life D’Arbignal lived that the difference would be worth exploring.
That’s how I came upon the character of Maria, the Cyclops. She’s a tragic character: horribly disfigured, she earns a very meager living as a freak in the circus’s freak show. She’s the lowest of the low at this circus; even the men who do untrained manual labor look down at her.
So what would happen, I asked myself, if this dashing, handsome rogue showed up injured at the circus and poor Maria falls in love with him?
Once I asked myself that question, the rest of the story wrote itself.
5 What has your publishing experience been like?
Like most self-published authors, I tried going the traditional publishing route, but I found it too be too tough a barrier to penetrate. The publishing industry seems to be in turmoil, and is rapidly tightening on just a few names and niche genres. While new ideas and authors do get published, it’s difficult, and there are way too many talented authors out there competing for those limited spots.
Therefore, I tried self-publishing. While it’s quite a bit of work, I find it very rewarding. I like being able to control every aspect of my book: everything from finding a good editor, to commissioning a cover painting, to doing the actual setting of type (I love ligatures; I hate bad page breaks).
The result has been a mixed bag.
On the one hand, it’s been a complete financial disaster. I’ve yet to even break even on my books, let alone turn a profit.
On the other hand, I’ve managed to reach so many wonderful readers who have found that my stories resonate with them. I don’t merely want to amuse my readers; I want to generate emotional reactions, to touch them in meaningful ways.
And here, I’ve been so wonderfully successful that it makes it all worthwhile to me. A friend of mine (to whom Cyclops is dedicated) was such a fan of my work that he read “Prince of Bryanae” three times even though he was dying of brain cancer. Can you think of a greater compliment than that? Dan knew the clock was ticking and yet he chose to spend those precious hours reading my book. I can’t help but be humbled every time I think of it.
Likewise, I’ve heard from survivors of child abuse or spouses of soldiers with PTSD who have told me how accurately I’ve portrayed these horrible situations, and how moved they are by how my characters deal with them.
I still keep hoping that as more of my books get out there (readers seem to prefer book series to one-offs), I might start to see some profit. However, even if I never so much as break even, just knowing that there are readers out there who love what I write makes it all worthwhile to me.
6 Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? i.e. You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I do most of my work in bed! Seriously!
Most of my ideas come when I’m lying in bed, drifting off to sleep. I like to play around with characters and various scenarios, seeing how well they fit. It’s like going to a clothing store and trying out outfits to see which ones are god-awful and which ones click.
So I play with ideas and characters until I feel I have enough for the basis of a story. Then I start to write.
And I write in bed, too. I sit in bed cross-legged as I am now, typing on my laptop as I am now, and the words just flow from me.
If this makes it sound easy, I assure you it is not, because while that last step, the writing, may be easy, the first step is incredibly time-consuming. It may take weeks, months, or even years for me to think of a worthy story to tell. I’ve been prolific as of late, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s agonizingly slow, grinding work coming up with stories.
Then there is finding the time and energy to write. I work at Google in NYC. My commute is long. I have family commitments. I practice mixed martial arts. Free time is a precious commodity, and free time when I’m not exhausted and burned out is as rare as an altruistic politician. So once I start to write, it just pours forth, but it’s so very hard starting …
7 How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
In general, I think about the character and where he or she is from. What is the culture like there? What do the languages sound like? Those help shape the names.
Other than that, it’s just trial and error. I write down a name and see how it looks and sounds. Sometimes, if I find one I like, I may tweak it a bit anyway. For instance, the owner of the circus in Cyclops was originally named Marcos but I changed his name to Marco because it just flowed better.
8 In your most recent work, who is your favorite character and why?
Ooh, it would have to be Maria, the Cyclops! She’s such a great character. Life has whacked her around something fierce to the point where she has very little spirit or self-esteem left … but her strength is not gone. It’s just that it’s faded to a mere glowing ember, and it’s so moving to see how she grows when someone fans the fire.
At first, she comes across as a nobody. Everybody’s treated her like one for so long that she’s accepted it as who she is. But she’s not a nobody. She’s brave, compassionate, and intelligent. She’s hidden these traits so long that she barely remembers them, and she’s as surprised as anybody when they resurface!
9 Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
A challenge I have with D’Arbignal at times is that he’s so handsome and so talented and so witty, he runs the risk of turning into a Mary Sue. It’s always a balancing act: I need to let him be all those wonderful things and yet still show that he’s imperfect, since let’s face it: we may claim to love perfect people, but in our hearts, what we love are the imperfect ones.
In “Shara and the Haunted” village I showed how foolhardy D’Arbignal can be. He’s extremely good at getting himself into bad situations, and while he’s good at getting money, he’s not very good at holding onto it. He also has a dark, self-destructive streak that pops up from time to time.
In “Cyclops”, the risk of him being Prince Charming was dire. He’s so handsome and Maria is so scarred, it would be too easy for him to just ride in on a white horse and make everything happily-ever-after. But while he’s very bright, he can be a bit obtuse at times. He often charges into a situation before he’s fully taken its measure, resulting in awkward moments and bruised feelings.
In addition, I found a way to use his amazing abilities as a disadvantage. I mean, if you’re someone as talented as he is, how can you possibly access the riskiness of an action? After all, if you’re still alive, it means that every time you dove headfirst into a life-or-death situation, you won! Therefore, I realized that one great flaw for D’Arbignal would be overconfidence. He does spectacularly stupid things at times because he just can’t recognize when some things are beyond his abilities.
10 How did you/do you market your work?
Still working on that one!
Seriously, you don’t want marketing advice from me. My books sell very poorly, and this is despite wonderful reviews, endorsements from genre giants, and terrific covers by artist Carol Phillips.
11 Can you describe the feeling you had when you saw your published book for the first time?
You want the sad, honest truth? I’m a perfectionist with my writing, and I’m never satisfied. The first time I saw my published book, I was able to enjoy it, of course, but I kept thinking of all the things I could have done better. (Ooh, and I hate it when I find a typo in one of my published books! LOL)
12 Favorite authors?
Mr. Salvatore is of course the reigning champ of the fantasy industry, but more than that, he’s such a smart, knowledgeable, and kind man. I’ve learned so much from him.
Steve Hamilton is perhaps the greatest living “writer writer” that I’ve read. By that, I mean his prose is just so damn good that I find myself instantly immersed in his books. No warm-up period, or am I going to like this? experience. I literally am hooked by every book he’s written before the end of the first sentence. Wow.
13 Have you ever suffered from a “writer’s block”? What did you do to get past the “block”?
Absolutely. All writers have, I think. What I’ve done is allow it to happen and not to panic.
Hey, I’m a full-time software developer with a wonderful girlfriend and fantastic hobbies. I have other things to keep me occupied if I don’t have a story to tell at the moment.
Every night, I toy with the characters and stories in my head. Eventually, something will pop out ready to write. It might only take a few weeks as has been the case recently, but one time it took nearly a decade. I’m not going to panic. The nice thing about self-publishing is that you don’t have an agent screaming at you for your next book. I write my books when they’re ready to be written. Not to go all Orson Welles on you, but I will write no book before its time! 😀
14 What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
The hardest thing for me to learn was that pretty much every first draft is a piece of garbage and that’s ok. If I could teach any one thing to an aspiring writer, it would be to teach him how to be a brutal self-critic, to revise his or her writing without mercy.
Writing is an iterative process. When we first start writing, we think we just dash off a bunch of words and we’re done. Oh, if only that were so.
No, your first draft is garbage. So’s mine. And as he showed us in his great book On Writing, so is Steven King’s. Everybody’s first draft is garbage. The treasure comes during the editing. Look at it like a sculpture. You take a first pass, and you’ve chiseled away enough stone so that what remains looks sorta like George Washington, but only kinda sorta. That’s when the real work begins, where instead of chipping away huge chunks of stone, now you have to chip delicately away tiny bits to refine the sculpture to make it more in line with your vision.
15 Are you working on anything new? If so, can you tell me about it?
I have a number of works in the pipeline. As I mentioned above, “A Lesson for the Cyclops” is on deck. It’s written, it’s edited, and it’s formatted for print. Now I’m waiting on the cover. It should be very soon.
After that, I have (the somewhat ironically titled) “Return of the King”, in which the missing King of Bryanae returns to his kingdom and Strange Things Happen.
Next, I have a piece I’ve started that I hope will lay some foundation work for some subsequent books, while being a scary and fun story in its own right. This piece has not yet been titled, nor do I know yet how long it will be.
After that, I have my very first (and unpublished) novel waiting for a significant rewrite. It’s funny: it’s the book that introduced my world and many of its major players, yet I’ve never published it. When I wrote it, my skills as a writer left something to be desired. However, this book ties a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated characters and events together. I hope to get this book worthy of publishing, because if I can do that, my readers are going to experience chills when things just keep going click!
Finally, I’m toying around with an end to the series. I have some ideas. I have some characters. I have some pieces of plot. However, it hasn’t completely gelled yet, so I think about it at night as always, waiting for the book-worthy story to emerge…