Where are you from?
There are those who say that I originated from a fracture in the space time continuum, but I actually started life in a sleepy little town called Santa Clara. I’ve lived most of my life in California, a state in the boisterous nation of the United States. Having said that, I traveled extensively in my youth; picking up a little accent in France, and a lot of rain in Britain. Now that I’ve shrunk a little with age, and grown more wary of loud music and young adults, I have come to realize that it’s not where you come from that is important, but where one is going.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book is titled Tales of Mad Cows and Brothels, an epic story about a Welsh nobleman, an Irish pirate, and a French rogue priest on a collision course with an assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth I. What inspired me to write it was a complex mixture of liquor fueled writing sessions with my co-author, bawdy adventures, and a grotesque sense of humor. It all started in nineteen ninety two, when my college roommate and I were preparing to go to the Renaissance Faire at the Black Points Forest in Novato, California. My roommate produced a ten page story about he, and I, and another friend, during the Renaissance wreaking havoc across the green lands of England, all the while being irreverent, despicable, drunk, and ruthless. This story preyed on our warped sense of humor, and by the time it had been read, I knew I needed to add to the body of work. Soon it was a competition between my roommate and me to write the most insane, warped, funny story using the same characters, in the same setting. Once I wrote those first semi-cohesive stories, I was passionately invested as a writer. Though my partnership with my college roommate didn’t last, I’ve been writing ever since.
Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
This is an excellent question, and one that I’m going to answer based on my philosophy about one’s passion. I spend ten hours a day working as a high-tech professional. So, it is safe to say that my career is not writing. I think if one was to survey most Indie authors the ratio of those who work a day job and write when they can to those who have the opportunity to have writing as their career, would be fairly lopsided. Having said that, it is a dream of mine, and I’m sure many others, to write books that entertain, and make a living of it.
Now, about the balancing act. I am a man suspended over a chasm, walking a tightrope, while carrion birds dive for my eyes, and hungry demons below call for me to jump. Being a creative person, or rather an artist who must work a job that is anything but creative, it is painful and taxing both physically and mentally. In regards to my family, I’m an empty nester. So, there is only my wife and I and our pets. My wife is very understanding when it comes to my writing, even though she may not agree with everything I write. So, what is the balance? I typically write when I get home. I work on my various projects into the night, then stagger to bed, to try and get enough rest to make it through another day at the “salt mines”. I try and write on the weekends between the domestic duties of maintaining a household and walking/biking on the many trails near my home. There’s never enough time to relax and just fade into the worlds that exist in my mind. I’m always aware my time is limited.
What jobs have you held that influence your stories?
Jobs that have influenced my art? I’d have to say every one that I’ve ever had. When I was fifteen, I got a job in a hardware store in the tiny town of Cool California - it really was called Cool. Anyway, when I wasn’t lugging sacks of dog food, or stacking bales of hay, I’d wander the aisles envisioning the things I could make with the pipes, and fittings, and the threaded rod, and the brass items. I would imagine I was a secret agent, or army soldier, or trapped by a robber. This pattern of imagination was with me in many of my previous jobs. While working those jobs, I interacted often with various personalities and, dare I say it, characters.
I think that most authors gather resources from their personal experiences, and work is one of those experiences. Drawing from those past jobs, or even from my current work, helps feed my inner monologue and build believable characters, dialogue, and action that go into my books.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My works are mostly action adventure stories. They are the types of stories that I like to read, and are the types of stories that my friends like to read. I try not to make melodramas, or put too much protracted action in. I try to have my characters and their situations make sense and be true to the story. I like archetypes and humor, though my humor may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I like anti-heroes and characters who are victims of circumstance, driven by destiny, or fate.
How did you come up with the title?
I have five books. Each title was a labor of love. Tales of Made Cows and Brothels was derived because the first story my roommate wrote was titled “This Is Not About Mad Cow Disease”. We thought it was clever if we titled the final work Tales of Mad Cows, then thought we should add some sex, and added word brothels to the end. In hindsight we probably should have titled the book something else.
The titles that I have created myself, such as The Lantern of Dern Blackhammer, is a descriptor of the contents. The story is literally about the lantern that the dwarf Dern Blackhammer forged during a war between the gods, and mortals. In the story titled In the World of Hyboria, the adventures of the barbarians and their wizard friend take place on the continent of Hyboria; a place created by the late Robert E. Howard. Thadius was derived from the main character’s name, Moras Tiberius Thadius, who is a widowed, retired, Roman general that harbors a terrible secret – though he doesn’t quite know it to start. And, finally the American Civil War novella titled Sawbones; a story about a British surgeon who uncovers a devious plan to alter the outcome for the South. With the exception of my first book, all the others were titled based on what they are truly about.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
All my books have a hidden message. In Thadius, the message is that one is never too old to live life; In Sawbones, the message is that it doesn’t matter who one is, or what one does, because a person is judged based on their character, their honesty, their kindness, and willingness to do the right thing. I’ll let your audience read my fantasy novels to determine what the message(s) are in those.
How much of the book is realistic?
I like to think that my readers will find my stories very believable. I strive to get the reader to buy into the setting, characters, and the plot. Those who have read my work say the story (any one of them) pulls the reader in and makes them inhabit the world that I created. In the case of my historical works such as Thadius, and Sawbones, I did extensive research to paint a picture of the period in which they are set in. I really wanted the reader to taste the dust on the road, and feel the cold of the rain when it fell. I wanted the audience to feel the heartache of the age, and the longing, as well as the elation, and passion.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’m not sure that any author can separate their personal experiences from their characters. Though the subjects may be fiction, and the protagonist/antagonist constructs of my imagination, they are formed from my interactions with life and love, and sadness, and anger. They carry the components of those that I’ve met on my journey through life, as well as other books, movies, and stories I’ve been told. None of my characters are based on any individual. I form them from the raw clay of my imagination, then I season that avatar with what I think makes sense. Often times, those things I thought fit that character, doesn’t, and the character begins the evolution process toward what they end up being in the final product.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I’m glad you asked. The biggies have been Dante Alighieri’s Devine Comedy, Robert E. Howards’ Conan books, Alexander Dumas’ the Three Musketeers, Dan Simons’ Hyperion, Larry Niven’s The Ring World, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and of course Tales of Mad Cows and Brothels (classic!).
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d have to say Larry Niven. He is an amazing author and one of my favorites. He’s written both science fiction and fantasy, and his works are based in wonderful science.
What book are you reading now?
Currently I’m reading the Wolf’s Moon by Patrick Jones, the Chronicles of Koa by K.N. Lee, and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burges.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m much more a writer than I am a reader. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read, but reading takes up my time, and that’s time I could be using to write. So, I typically opt to write rather than read most of the time. In truth, I really haven’t been gripped by any contemporary authors, yet. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t very talented Indie authors out there who do fantastic work. It’s just I haven’t been smitten with any I’ve read yet.
What are your current projects?
I’m working on one fresh storyline that is science fiction. It’s a story about a group of young adults whose world is turned upside down by war. The setting is on a continent called Augerland that has human habitation on the west coast. The technology that the humans have is steam power, and some electrical power– sort of a nineteenth Century setting, but that is not the only technology left on the continent. The working title is Harrow’s Gate. I’m also working on the second book in the The Lantern of Dern Blackhammer universe. This story is centered on the ancient city of Moore that is buried beneath the current city. Ford, the main character is sent to retrieve the codpiece of the White King of Moore. The problem is that there is little that is known about the old city, how to get into it, or what is really there. Next, I’m working on editing/rewriting the second story in the Mad Cows series. The working title is Doom of Rogues, and centers on the three anti-heroes seeking revenge for being cursed by a witch from the first book, whom they tried to kill. Lastly, I’ve finished and am waiting to edit/rewrite the third and final story in the In the World of Hyboria stories. This is the final and gripping tale of Grimface the wizard and his two barbarian companions who meet their destiny in a final epic battle against the last Atlantian.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have two friends who have been my writing cheer team. My friend Dave has been reading my work since the first Mad Cows short stories back when I was in college. He shares my somewhat twisted sense of humor and even today plays an instrumental role in acting as a sounding board for my project ideas. Then there’s Gary, a friend from work who I let read Tales of Mad Cows and Brothels when I was editing it. He also plays a role as a sounding board, and creative catalyst. I have received lots of moral support from other friends, but the most consistent has come from Dave and Gary.
Do you see writing as a career?
I have a career as an information technology professional now, and dabble in writing as a hobby career, having said that, I dream, and long to make my sole career the creation and promotion of my novels/novellas. I am not so much a technical writer, or a journalist; I don’t really enjoy those aspects of writing. Creative writing I love and have a passion for. So, if it were to happen, that I was to be solicited by a publisher and/or literary agent today, I’d pick writing as a career over what I do as my day job.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There are always elements of the plot that could be changed. At this point I think that I have things pretty tight, but my process consists of much iteration, many drafts, and much rework. I’ll create a rough draft and work on it, only to find a year later that it really needs half of the chapters torn out and rewritten, or the plot needs to be completely changed. My latest published book, In the World of Hyboria Book 1 and Book 2 is actually two five chapter short stories based on the world created by Robert E. Howard (who created Conan the Barbarian). The nice thing about being an Indie author and publishing in only electronic format is that one can take a work out of circulation, fix issues, and put it back quickly.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My interest in writing came about while I was in college. My college roommate, I, and another friend of ours liked to attend the Northern California Renaissance Faire at Black Point Forest in Novato. To wet our appetites (so to speak) for the debauchery that was to take place, my roommate and I began to write short stories detailing the exploits of our faire characters. They were tales of drunken, loutish, roguish behavior that mocked authority, and deflowered any aspect of innocence. They were written tongue in cheek, and meant to be a parody of fantasy books we’d read. We’d laugh heartily about the mad stories, then climb in the car and drive to the faire. It truly set the mood, and taught me that writing a story meant that an author had the power to convey emotions and imagery through their work. It was a revelation to me and made me wonder if I had that kind of talent, or if I was only doing something funny that was just for that one moment. The jury is still out.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current work centers around four projects, Harrow’s Gate (SciFi), The White King of Moore (SW Fantasy), In the World of Hyboria Book 3 (SW Fantasy), and Doom of Rogues (SW Fantasy). Each of these books are built on the foundation of what I’ve learned as an author over these past years. The following is a rough draft snippet from Book 3 In the World of Hyboria Return of the God-King (to be published 2014):
Blood oozed from his wounds. The deep scratches and minor punctures all over his body were inflamed and burning from the saturation of sweat that covered him. His escape from the briar walled stockade bore witness to his desperation by keeping bits of his flesh as souvenir. The crunch of leaves, branches, and detritus echoed with each footfall. He willed his stride wider by the moment as his pursuers gained on him. It was no use. If they were to capture him again, Grimface knew they would do to him what they did to the other captured souls; sandwich them between wicker webs and burn them with rolls of red hot reeds one spot at a time until all the skin is gone. He shuddered at the thought. His ankle twisted and he tumbled, rolled and came up running still. Behind him, the whoops of the Pics cascaded from his left, right, and directly at the back. If only he could speak, if only he could sing to summon a protective demon, or raise a mist to hide within, but the Pic shaman had made him mute with a spell to deaden his tongue and throat. Grimface’s power was useless now.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Time management. In recent days, I find that as I sit to compose, my cursor finds its way to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or Goodreads. I am then immersed in the world of my peers and contemporaries. I read their posts, add posts of my own, promote my work, and then realize that I have thirty minutes to write before going to bed. But, this visibility must be kept up, or an author can fall into the abyss of obscurity, and be lost. Or, at least that’s how I feel about it.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Wow, my favorite author? I love Dante Alighieri, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Larry Niven, Dan Simmons, H.P. Lovecraft… Okay, just one…I would pick Tolkien. Tolkien’s two defining books The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings were written very differently, but yet contain the same masterful style of authorship. The Hobbit, a simple adventure story set in Middle Earth was a delight to read as a child and adult, yet contained a intricacy that allowed me to be immersed in the lands of Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings was a captivating epic, whose complexity and detail dwarfs most other books that I’ve read in the genre. That’s not to say other more contemporary writers don’t have complex stories, but I am saying that when I first read Tolkien, it hit a note with me that has resonated to this day.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
As an Indie author who is e-book centric, I do very little traveling in regards to my writing sudo-career. I would love to go to conferences, conventions, do book signings, appear on talk shows, and do radio spots, but that doesn’t seem to be what is open to me now. So, I stay in my cottage, in my office, and write when I can most of the time.
Who designed the covers?
I designed the covers of my books (thus far). It is actually one of the parts of the book production process that I really like. I guess it appeals to my creative intellect, and I would go as far as to say it is nearly equal to my love of writing the book.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing for me is the editing. I am a terrible editor, and when I type I make many typo errors (though I’m getting better). The creative part is not so hard – but the work of editing and rewriting kills me. Yet, it has to be done, and I see the benefit from all that work in the end product.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I don’t think there is enough time to tell about all the lessons learned. Number one – lose any arrogance one may have. Even the most perfect, well educated, and skilled writer makes mistakes. Two, never consider a rough draft a finished product – NEVER! Three, accept critique as the betterment process – and not an attack on your creativity, or personal abilities. Four, take frequent breaks from working. Five, be kind and honest with other writers – but also be tactful. Six, be open to change. Seven, become visible in the authors/readers community. Eight, be generous with your success – in other words, give to charities such as animal shelters, cancer research, food groups, etc. I could go on, but I’ think I might bore your audience.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Writing is much more than putting down words on a blank page. Writing is a means to convey emotional content to those who read. It is a way to shape thoughts and feelings from the abstract to the physical. Don’t rush to judgment about other writers. Know what you like to write, i.e. know your genre. Have a really good editor. Don’t rush to publish or show your work to literary agents or publishers. Take your time, make sure you’ve caught all the mistakes and filed down all the rough edges. Keep writing no matter what.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Be kind to people, animals, and yourself. Cruelty should always be shunned. After having said that, I’ll say, if you like action and adventure stories get a copy of Thadius, Sawbones, In the World of Hyboria, and The Lantern of Dern Blackhammer. Also, if one is curious, one can download a free copy of my original book Tales of Mad Cows and Brothels at my website. Also, keep abreast of my writing activities, when my projects will be available, and generally what I’m doing by checking me out on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it [your work] to life?
For my historical fiction books, the research was daunting. To put a set of characters into a historical setting requires making the settings believable. In order to make them believable, the context of the setting has to be spot on. As an example, one would not see firearms in the Roman Republic, nor would one find American Civil War soldiers battling with hoplite shields and spears. Another aspect of struggle in creating wonderful stories is the hard work it takes to make characters believable. Each character has their own personality, characteristics, and foibles that make them unique. Also, it is important to give one’s characters flaws, even some serious flaws that pose challenges within the plot. I often use my knowledge in psychology, science, engineering, philosophy, biology, and many other disciplines to shape, polish, and make believable characters for my works.
What do you think about e-publishing versus technical publishing?
Fantastic question! Each has their benefits. We’re in the early years of the e-book revolution. Things are a bit chaotic at the moment in the industry. Currently e-publishing has opened the doors to would-be authors whose works would otherwise be left in a box in the attic. In that sense we as consumers get to see ideas, themes, and plots that we would not be exposed to otherwise. On the other hand, the quality is all over the map.
In the past, the paper publishing industry has held a strangle hold on the book industry ever since Gutenberg first printed the Bible. Now, that hold has slipped a bit, and those well-known publishers are now competing with new business models like Amazon, Smashwords, and many small press publishers, but it hasn’t made access to the paper publishers any easier.
With paper publishing one gets the advantage of the industries strong network of distributers, stores, and publicity/advertising, not to mention their internal services such as editing, cover art, and many others (all things the author does not pay out of pocket for). But, that traditional path is a hard road, filled with query and rejection letters a plenty. It is a difficult business to break into.
The new model of e-publishing is far more open; sort of the Wild West. There are many options such as finding a small press e-publisher who deals in one’s genre, or publishing with Save Space, Lulu, Amazon, or Smashwords. This is a harder path in the sense of editing, cover art, promotion, publicity, advertising, and general visibility, and we authors pay out of pocket with little chance of financial return.
For me, I chose to do self-publishing with e-publishing because I wanted to get my product out to readers. I felt that I’d gone the traditional path with paper publishing, and found that it’s a more satisfying process to do it myself. Looking back, I see that the e-publishing process posed many challenges that I didn’t realize, but were overcome by dogged perseverance and networking. There is no panacea out there. It is nice to see that now there are traditionally published authors that have come to try their hand in self-publishing through the e-publishing.
Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one?
In 2000 I was signed to Pulsar Publishing, a subsidiary of Romance Foretold Publishing. Both companies went out of business in 2003. At that time I began to work on my manuscript Thadius, and then went on to work on Sawbones, and The Lantern of Dern Blackhammer. Those works took a long time to write and edit. When I came out form my man-cave to see the light of day, I realized it was 2008. I got a copy of the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market 28th Edition, and began submitting query letters to agents and publishers. It seemed that the following was the standard reply of the day: “We like the concept, but don’t think your project is a good fit for us right now.” This was code for, “We don’t think we can make a profit publishing your book.” So, I resigned myself to keep writing and keep trying. I eventually realized that if I wanted to get my art in front of readers, I’d have to do it myself. Currently I am unaffiliated with any agent, and sell my works as self-published through companies like Amazon, and Smashwords.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Are you familiar with the castle in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast? That’s where I’d like to live; a secluded manor house on a palatial estate, hidden behind a forest, and beautiful. This place could be in the United Stated, Unite Kingdom, or New Zealand… some place amazingly lovely.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I think I’d like the ability to teleport. With this ability, I could leave work, pop in at home, write, pop back to work – work there – then pop home again to write more. Also, it would make visiting relatives who live in the United Kingdom and other places a bit easier.
For More on Lawrence BoarerPitchford:
Lawrence BoarerPitchford, Author
The Lantern of Dern Blackhammer
In the World of Hyboria
Tales of Mad Cows and Brothels