Friday, September 5, 2014

Interview with Michael Waller (author of The Wizard's Gift)


Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Michael. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.

Well, I am English, in fact better than that I am a Yorkshireman, living in upstate NY. I am retired from my real “job” and as usual find myself very busy. I have read avidly since I was a mere lad but did not begin writing until I was in my twenties. With the exception of Tolkien I have never been a great reader of fantasy novels so I cannot say why my first novel should be about a wizard, or at least about the legacy of a wizard. Possibly because I am not tied to genre reading I think of The Wizard’s Gift as simply an adventure story. There is very little magic per se, more the constant presence of how magic is having an effect on the characters and their quest and journey.  I hope that the story maintains its momentum and also that I have captured the way of life of the time and place that I am trying to depict. Nothing annoys me more than pieces set in other eras where the dialogue is all modern idiom, and humourous asides.

Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?

There was actually a more than twenty year break in my writing. I began with feature articles and started on the novel when in my twenties, but then I was offered a position in the Middle East and being a new father took it. Career began and writing stopped. I didn’t return to my original longhand notes until I had retired and then I had a completely different perspective on the story, it became larger, more complicated and as I wrote the characters grew, and in fact several new ones appeared. I wasn’t that ambitious with regard to publishers so I more or less did nothing with the novel until I decided to publish it through Kindle. I realised that it was one of thousands so a little more effort was forthcoming and I learned about virtual book tours, and here we are.

Q: Great story! In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

When I first started writing articles I was advised never to worry about the beginning, which in an article is vital. I was told just start writing anything to do with the subject in hand and by the time you get to the end you will know what the beginning should be, and you can go back to it.  I write in a modified version of that idea. I always write in longhand to begin with, my trusty fountain pen with a sea green ink. I start with an outline of what I am thinking of and this soon begins to get more and more specific as I go along. When I transfer the longhand to the computer I flesh out the early note part and polish the remainder. When I reread I change words, have better ideas, and just refine the story and make sure that it fits in with what has gone before and what I think is to come.  The title crops up somewhere along the line and the cover blurb I never give a thought to.

My greatest struggle is that I can not even begin writing unless I have some inspirational spur. It may be as simple as a word or phrase that takes my fancy, or it might be some location that I suddenly see as being the perfect place for some part of the story. When that happens I have to stop what I am doing and begin writing before I forget anything. Conversely when nothing stirs me I am dead in the water and no amount of effort or re-reading what I have written will get me started. I enjoy most, and therefore find easiest, writing dialogue. No amount of a character’s personal history, or the unfortunately ever present, introspection, will tell you about a character as much as what they say, and what they do.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. I know you already touched on this a bit, but were there any twists or turns in The Wizard's Gift that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

Actually the story that I finished with is very different from the idea I originally had. This may be partly due to the fact that I started the book and then became sidetracked for twenty years. But it is more a case of the fact that as I went further into the story I found that I needed to keep going back to deepen the underlying theme and characters. Characters appeared whom I had never envisioned, and the story as a whole is a great deal more complicated than I thought it would be. I had a completely different life laid out for Janorin, and the priest Strantor was never thought of until I needed some way to link the original theft of the Gift, and the journey across the Wasteland.

Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I definitely write for myself when it comes to fiction. I had written feature articles and there one had to take the magazine and its readership into account. With my fiction I write to produce something that satisfies me, and consequently readers and reviewers feelings about the work do not influence me. However, I do not hold with a very prevalent idea in the arts that my opinion of my work’s merit is the one that counts. I am quite open to the fact that what pleases me may not be of much worth. I remember an interview with Phillip Glass where he was asked about people’s comments that his work was basically all the same. He had the temerity to say that his work was varied and exceptional and that it was the listener’s fault for not being able to see that.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

If the truth be told my work has had very little exposure, hence this virtual book tour. My daughter, in between telling me that I am a little old man, read it and liked it, which surprised me, though I don’t know if that counts. It has been reviewed once, and I have to admit that the points the reviewer raised seemed to me immaterial, and the points I thought important were never mentioned, either to be praised or ridiculed. So I suppose I am just sitting here waiting for reactions to flood in, hopefully.

Q: Hopefully subsequent reviews find a deeper connection. To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

I mentioned Tolkien earlier and Lord of the Rings really took hold of me at its first reading. I was about twenty two and I literally could not put it down. I took it to work with me, I read it every spare moment I had at home, I was completely in its spell. And very importantly it was the story that held me. That may seem obvious but it was not until further readings that I began to be aware of the quality of the writing. That first read just had me wanting to know what was going to happen next. That made me realise that no book, no matter how literary, has any value unless it is based on a great story.  What Tolkien did for my understanding of story, Dickens did for my understanding of character. Dickens' characters are amongst the most memorable in literature, yet he never labours over their psychology to describe who they are. Everything they do and say takes the reader deeper into the character. A perfect example of “show me don’t tell me”. During all of the years I spent working abroad I always had a copy of Lord of the Rings and a complete Shakespeare with me. A sublime story in one, and the most powerful and melodic dialogue in the other.

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were The Wizard's Gift to be optioned for the big screen?

This question is causing me some problems as I am not a great fan of current movies, lots of effects and very little substance (and even less worthwhile dialogue). I had thought I had a couple of people until my wife pointed out that they were dead. However here goes, starting with actors from Lord of the Rings. I would be happy with Viggo Mortenson as Garnbrort and John Noble as King Premendis. I think that Susan Sarandon would work well as Sarenta. And though he is far too old I cannot imagine anyone else than Sean Connery as Carantor the retired captain of the palace guard. The other two major characters, Caran Tuith and Bataan, really give me pause for thought.  Possibly Christian Bale and Johnny Depp

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a sequel to The Wizard's Gift on the way, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?

Yes there is a sequel, following Bataan one of the main characters. It is about three quarters completed and is proving to be difficult to find an ending for that satisfies me. I also have two other stories which fell victim to the same long break that The Wizard’s Gift did that I would like to finish. Both are contemporary thrillers for want of a better description.

Well, best of luck with all three, Michael, and thanks for taking the time to stop by today!

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About the Author

Michael Waller was born in Middlesbrough in the North Riding of Yorkshire, UK in 1951 where he was soon creating havoc as a short trousered rebel. Fortunately as his mother was head cook at police headquarters his numerous run ins with the constabulary were dealt with in the privacy of the family home. A junior school run by nuns, and then an excellent grammar school under the watchful eye of Marist priests educated him to have a love of literature, music and science. Though they did nothing to curb his anti-authority streak.

An initial ramble through all manner of jobs finally came to a halt in the oil and chemical industry where his love of science and all things technical provided him with gainful employment for almost thirty years. Whilst working he spent several years in the Middle East with visits to India, and around Europe before landing in the USA where he has lived for the past twenty years.

Retired now he writes, take photographs and restores vintage British motorcycles in upstate New York.

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About the Book

The Wizard's Gift
by Michael Waller

The last of an ancient group of wizards leaves a gift to the newly arrived race of men. It is revered and cared for by a line of priests until it is stolen, and the high priest and his sovereign murdered by a king who believes himself destined to be a great wizard. But from ancient writings the high priest had discovered that the gift is not benevolent as was thought. This forces the son of the high priest, unexpectedly elevated to his father's position, and the young prince who is equally suddenly king, into a race to find the gift before it can be used as that may cause the destruction of the world. Accompanied by the retired captain of the palace guard they hope to speed their journey by crossing the Wasteland, a seeming desert, which is fabled to be populated by monsters, and from which no visitor has ever returned. In the course of their adventures they are hunted by dog faced men and captured by slavers, but the young prince truly becomes a king, and the priest discovers that he has a destiny that goes beyond the bounds of his world.

1 comment:

  1. Did you tell your daughter thanks for the little old man comment?
    It is tough to get noticed in a sea of self-published authors, and I have a lot of author friends who never figure it out. Hope this tour makes a difference. Writing the second book will also make a difference!
    And I had a thirty year hiatus with writing, so my first published novel looked nothing like its original version!

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