Monday, September 23, 2013

An interview with our guest, David Revilla!

Meet our guest, David Revilla! He completed the Falsely Imprisoned writing challenge, now he gives us an informative interview!

Where are you from?
~ I was born and raised in Queens, New York, though I’ve traveled quite a bit. I have been to Europe, China, and Mexico and am planning to visit Japan and Ireland in the future.

Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
~ I wish I wrote full-time. Right now I'm working a contract job to help pay off my college loans and help support my real passion: writing. Though I'm ashamed to admit, I don't write as often as I used to. After getting home, I'm just so exhausted I can't even look at a computer screen anymore. But there are always the weekends, and I plan to do more writing once my muse comes back from vacation.

What jobs have you held that influence your stories?
~ Honestly? I keep my personal and professional life separate. I write because it's all I was meant to do in this life. My jobs have nothing to do with it.

Do you have a specific writing style?
~ Good question. I tend to focus on three specific things while writing: characters, setting, and dialogue, which is what I look for in a book. My stories focus on character interaction, inner monologues, and introspection. I want my characters to ask themselves just what they’re getting into and why they don’t just turn around and go home, or just abandon the mission altogether. Though I tend to live vicariously through my characters, I also input a bit of myself into each of them, good and evil. Each is a small extension of my fears, hopes, strengths, weaknesses, failures and successes. This allows me to empathize with the character better, and by giving them that more human feel I know that the reader might be able to find something to sympathize with as well. Oh, I also enjoy action scenes.

What books have most influenced your life most?
~ Choosing your favorite book is like having two children and having to choose which one you love most. The Hobbit is probably my all-time favorite novel because of its emphasis on the Journey. Like many young boys, I dreamt of going out into the world, finding adventure, friends, and getting famous in the process. I found Bilbo Baggins to be such an appealing protagonist because of his normality. Being able to empathize with the reader is one of the key elements in writing, which is what I owe to Tolkien.
Another favorite of mine is the Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. I was completely enthralled by the Salvatore’s legendary dark elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden. Salvatore’s description of Drizzt’s homeland, the Underdark, and its drow masters titillated the darker side of my imagination. It only furthered my belief that evildoers are so much more interesting than good guys, and that even in the darkest of places there is a light of hope, as Drizzt showed when he turned his back on his dark brethren and chose to fight for the side of good.
More recently, I’ve read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, arguably his best work, I think. The man makes me feel like a kid again with his stories and I’m reminded of why I got into this field every time I turned the page.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
~ The three most influential writers in my life have been R.L. Stine, R.A. Salvatore, and Stephen King.
I can't say enough about R.L. Stine. Without him, I would never have gotten into reading, let alone writing. The first time I picked up Goosebumps and started reading, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and that was back in 3rd grade. In fact, I handwrote my very first book around that time, followed by a sequel and a bit of a third.
I'm a relative newcomer to fantasy books, despite my passion for the genre. R.A. Salvatore is one of my favorite fantasy writers. Anything to do with Drizzt Do’Urden or the drow is all thanks to this talented author, but what I love the most about Salvatore are his vivid battle sequences, memorable characters, and strong introspection. It’s because of him that I tend to challenge the characters in my stories.
Stephen King taught me the value of short stories. They’re a great way to keep you writing and your mind exercising. Also, I am flabbergasted by the diversity of King’s bibliography. The man has written for almost every conceivable genre. I am trying to follow that roadmap and diversify my storytelling, with goals to have works published in fantasy, horror, science-fiction, adventure, and disaster books.

What book are you reading now?
~ You’re going to love this. The Ocean at the End of the Street. I’ve only started reading Neil Gaiman books a few years ago and find his stories to be reminiscent of my worst fears as a child. Needless to say, the guy’s just great. I’ve only started reading it but rest assured I will leave a review on Goodreads when I get a chance.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
~ Funny you should ask that. I’ve done some Fanfiction in the past and while I’ve been moving away from it, I’ve met some extremely talented writers that I feel would make great published authors. As for published authors, I’m still looking around, seeing who could be the next JK Rowling or GRR Martin.

What are your current projects?
~ Wow! Do you have forty minutes? I have a plethora of ideas at the moment that are fighting for the right to be written. I plan to write a trilogy of dark fantasy books which were, in a way, influenced by my debut novel The River Styx. I also have plans for a YA series, a high-fantasy series, a disaster/adventure story, and a science-fiction series. In the meantime, I'm also jotting down ideas for several short stories. I swear there aren't enough lifetimes.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
~ Had to be my best friend growing up. He always supported my career goals growing up and I am thankful for it.

Do you see writing as a career?
~ A career? Serious? It’s my life. But to answer your question....abso-freakin'-lutely!

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
~ Forever! It all happened when I picked up a copy of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps back when I was in 3rd Grade. Since then, I knew what I wanted to do with my life and handwrote my first story shortly afterward. My writing style and tastes have developed since then and now I want to write about so many things at once.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
~ I’m working on a new project under a working title. It’s a stand-alone book aimed at a young audience that deals with alternate realities and wish-fulfillment. It’s a fantasy story and that’s about all I can say at the moment. With luck, I’ll have it finished by the end of this year.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
~ Without a doubt, staying interested in the story long enough to see it completed. I actually started writing The River Styx more than two years ago and finished the first act. Then I strayed, did other things, finally came back to it and forced myself to finish the book. My mind tends to stray so often that it's very difficult for me to remain with a project once I've started it. Also, I have this nasty habit of rewriting the story over and over. It’s my foolish attempt at creating that perfect first draft.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
~ That’s a very tough question. I guess it all depends on what I’m into now. When I first started, I was all about R.L. Stine, his unique concepts and the twists at the end of his stories. Eventually I “graduated” into Stephen King’s more adult-oriented horror tales. Later, I stared reading military-oriented sci-fi books like those by Alan Dean Forrester and Orson Scott Card. I was also heavy into manga during my teenage years. In my twenties, I started reading Salvatore, Greenwood, Gaiman, and Brooks, heavy into fantasy and dark fantasy stuff. In short, my favorite authors go with what my interests are at the time.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
~ I know the “experts” will say to focus on what’s popular and write about that. But my advice is to write about what you enjoy most. Your readers will feel that passion from you and so long as you stay true to what you love, that affection will turn those readers into loyal fans. My advice is to write because you love it, not because it’s popular.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
~ I’d mentioned the perfect first draft. I want to tell other writers that it simply DOES NOT EXIST. Do NOT expect to finish your work in one sitting before sending it out to literary agencies. It does not work that way. Writing, like anything else, takes practice to perfect. More so, it is an art and should be treated as such. Besides, I find the process of writing the story far more rewarding than its conclusion, so it’s best to enjoy the time you spend with your characters instead of just hurrying them through the pages just so you can reach “the end.”

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
~ Oh man….I get headaches just thinking about it. Over three months of writing and I still can’t believe I finished it that quickly. Honestly, I thought I’d be writing for a whole year.
To start off, I needed a concept. When I began writing The River Styx, I was working on a completely different project. I always enjoyed mythology and tales of adventure, so I combined the two into my first book. After developing the concept, I had to go about doing research on my characters, their backstories, Greek Mythology, and historical facts. That wasn’t so bad and neither was the writing part once I got started.
The real challenge came with continuity. Given that this was my largest work at around 166,000 words, I constantly had to go back and forth between chapters to ensure that everything followed a set course of actions and events. Naturally, I had to rely on an outline to keep track of everything, and that involved a lot of writing on anything that was around my desk at the time, and taking breaks between writing sessions since both my eyes and my fingers got very sore after a while. I almost had carpel tunnel syndrome.
The psychological obstacles were the worst. I had to force myself sometimes to write. I would get bored, distraught, or just plain frustrated. Who knew being a writer would be so hard? I thought it was supposed to be fun, but more than once I actually considered quitting. The only cure was to create schedule and stick to it, whether I was feeling up to it or not. I would write at least 2000 words a days, working in shifts of morning, afternoon, and night, before calling it quits. In that way, I was able to finish the book, which at the time as more than 185,000 words, before going back and editing the hell out of it.

What do you think about e-publishing versus technical publishing?
~ By technical publishing, I take it you mean traditional publishing? Anyway, I tend to lean towards traditional publishing. There’s nothing like holding your first published book in your hands, having the feel and smell of it, and putting it on your bookshelf like a trophy. That said, e-publishing is everywhere. I’m not against e-publishing. In fact, I may even look into it if I don’t hear from a literary agent in the near future, though just for single works or short stories, mind you. When I do write my series, I want them to be in print format. I just don’t see it any other way.

Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one?
~ I've sent several queries but those that have responded have said "thanks, but no thanks." I’ve been following the traditional pattern of soliciting literary agents and waiting for a response. A couple responded pretty quickly, but most took weeks or even months to get back to me. I try to keep my query as simple as possible: one page, a brief introduction of characters, plots, challenges, and conclusion before ending the query with a short personal biography. Also, I try to find literary agents in my genre, those who specialize in young adult fantasy, which is what The River Styx is.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
~ Seattle. Love the rain. LOVE IT. Or anywhere out West. Maybe even British Columbia or Europe. Somewhere where there's a lot of space, privacy, and fresh air. That's for me.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?
~ Flight. No question. No cars. I hate driving and public transportation gets on my nerves. This way I can get up as late as I want and not be late for work or just travel wherever and whenever I please.

For More on David Revilla: