I feel lucky to be able to interview such an array of talented authors. Each one is unique and draws inspiration from different sources, but they all have one thing in common: passion for putting the things they see and feel into words.
This week we have the pleasure of meeting fantasy author Curtiss Robinson. A military man and martial arts enthusiast, it’s no surprise his background inspires what he writes…I can only imagine how amazing his battle scenes must be.
Curious about our guest? Then, please, read on and get to him.
Note: Listed at the end of the interview are upcoming book signing dates.
Welcome! I can’t wait to start. Can you get things rolling by telling us about yourself?
The Heroes of Dae’run trilogy is an epic fantasy version of my experiences in combat while deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. I am a 20 year combat veteran and a 30 year martial arts instructor specializing in MMA and US Army Combative training. Paired together, my experiences and training give me endless inspiration for creative writing (can you tell I love adventure?). I am married with four amazing kids who also contribute to the humor and interactions in these books. I know characters need depth so I pull from all sorts of interactions going back decades in some cases.
Wow! All that experience must make for dynamic yet believable action scenes.
Are you interested in other forms of artistic expression besides writing? What keeps you motivated/inspired?
I play the guitar and sing a little, but I spend the bulk of my artistic expression writing. Ironically, there is a guitar playing bard in Book 2 – Defenders of Griffon’s Peak and Book 3 – Guardians of the Mountain. He became a very fun character to write given bards are traffickers of information as well as entertainers.
I am inspired to write by an overactive imagination. Yep, I am one of those guys who sees orcs and goblins waiting for me in the bushes (which might result in a simple glare or a flying sidekick depending on my mood). Demons and werewolves come for me in very vivid nightmares and my real life combat skills are really put to the test against them. I love to play games with my kids and my pals online which is better than reality in many cases. There is something amazing about assuming the role of a hero, healer, or assassin that opens up an entirely new world of possibilities for me. I love it. Grab my books on amazon.com and see for yourself.
What draws you to novel writing? Do you write in other formats? What can you never see yourself writing?
I have written both short stories and poetry, but novels are the pinnacle of evolution in my opinion. I still use a little poetry in my books and every novel has sub plots which could be sold as short stories but I love the whole package I compile in a novel. I have also noticed that aside from comic books I read as a kid, I never really read any other format (other than the novel) for long. Protectors of the Vale is about 114k words. Defenders of Griffon’s Peak is a bit longer. Guardians of the Mountain is the final epic conclusion at 145k words. I suppose if I go any longer I will be in the super novel category. The only style I do not see myself using is epic poetry, but who knows…people change and I might give it a shot one day.
As a reader, what do you think makes a good story? What’s one thing a ‘bad’ book taught you to not do in your own writing?
There can be no doubt that the single best aspect of any story is the emotion in the characters! Now don’t get me wrong. I love writing the combat sequences and I love building suspense in the plot but when a character falls to his knees in agony from being mortally wounded and then finds the courage to stand just one more time…it blows me away. When a character watches his best friend fall almost assuredly to his death at the hands of the enemy and then defies what he knows will be his own death in order to avenge the fallen…I cheer! I want my readers to feel these things…to ride the emotional roller coaster and then run back to get in line again. That is good writing.
One bad thing I found in otherwise great books is failing to immerse the reader into the story early on. I won’t name any names, but a certain author I can no longer read was famous for taking 300 pages to get going and then after such a painfully long time this author would reward the reader with a taste of action or a bit of suspense. By then the reader is so starved for it he will devour the treat like a ravenous beast. In my situation, I felt like pulling my hair out or worse…the cardinal sin…skipping a few chapters. That is the worst mistake, aside from just poor writing, that any author can make.
I certainly agree. I’m working my way through a book like that at the moment…sigh…
What elements do you find are crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Well a good beginning, middle, and end might sound simplistic but that is the road all books must travel. As mentioned above good characters are critical. The story-line MUST be believable even in fantasy where the impossible feels as real as life. Suspense is very important to me and the action sequences are as well. These are tools I use to keep the reader engaged. Ultimately, the plot must reach the climax and conclude. Resolution is an art. Every writer has a choice to make at the end. He/she can either leave the reader with a cliffhanger at the end of a natural pause in the action (which leads to the next book) or he/she can resolve all plot and character matters with finality. Readers are smart. They will never forgive an author for just failing to do one of these two things.
I am best at character development, action, and suspense. I am pretty good at most of the other things I mentioned above as well but romance is a weakness. My characters have feelings, experience love and joy, but romance in detail is not my forte. I make no excuses for it but I don’t think my readers are missing much with everything else I have going on.
What draws you to your preferred genre? Why is it popular?
It is all about dreaming of the impossible in fantasy. Don’t we all want to have the strength of Hercules, the speed of the Flash, and the weapon skill of samurai warriors? I remember my childhood fondly where my friends and I pretended to be super-heroes and in some cases super-villains. Fantasy is the place where elves can live 1000 years, dwarves mine gold by the ton and make magic weapons for battle. It is the battleground for mighty sorcerers, powerful dragons, and deadly creatures of myth and lore. Fantasy is so popular that it now has multiple subcategories including high fantasy, epic fantasy, modern fantasy, and even paranormal fantasy. I believe this genre is as popular as ever and will continue to grow as long as there are those who dream.
Can you tell us about your books? What other projects are you working on?
I have been writing bits and pieces of stories and poetry since high school but it wasn’t until 2007 when I was deployed to Zabul Province, Afghanistan that I started writing seriously. Fantasy Adventure writing was my escape from a year of hardship where my small team of 12 Americans were charged with training the local militia to fight the Taliban. Amid the death and sorrow of combat that I saw daily, I found writing about heroes battling villains to be exciting, interesting, and even therapeutic. You can see the trials we faced in the highs and lows of Protectors of the Vale and Defenders of Griffon’s Peak…my first two books. The third book is the grand finale with more excitement and edge of your seat, tale-spinning than mortal man deserves. They are all on amazon.com and easily found on Google.
I am working currently on a modern fantasy novel and several articles right now. I cannot disclose anything more without the government tapping my phone or sending mercenaries to silence me. Stay tuned for more exciting developments.
Did you choose a traditional publisher or self-publish? Do you have advice for anyone taking that route?
I chose a self-publisher at first, but I am now traditionally published with Beau Coup Publishing who have really taken my work to the next level with professional marketing. My advice to all writers regarding publishing is to KNOW why you are writing. If you want to see you name on the cover of your book in a professionally produced jacket without an eternity of rejection letters then self-publishing wins hands down. If the author just loves to write and has no immediate need for gratification and ultimately wants to get their book into the hands of the masses then traditional publishing knows no equal. I suppose there are those like me who evolve from the former into the latter. Just know why you are writing and what the end state is before you choose.
Thanks for that. I think it’s encouraging for writers to know that just because they start one way (i.e. self-publishing) doesn’t mean they can’t later move to another (i.e. traditional publishing).
What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?
The single most difficult aspect of writing is what I call back checking. This is the rear guard of any written work that includes: proofreading, editing, and packaging. Adoring fans are plentiful with good writing but the mob is a fickle group. Let an author forget to tie up a matter of vengeance or fail to explain the details of how the main characters know certain things in the story and like Dr. Jeckell drinking the Hyde formula they will transform! No book is ever truly perfect but an awesome editor and dedicated proofreaders are worth their weight in gold. I am usually able to overcome these challenges in the usual ways…begging, pleading, and bribery. Writing is a lot like working for the mafia now that I think of it.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
I would have to give RA Salvatore, JRR Token, and Troy Denning my highest marks for fantasy but I enjoy Pittacus Lore who wrote the book I am number four and Veronica Roth who wrote Divergent which are both modern fantasy. I also have to mention James Wesley, Rawles who wrote Patriots. That book set me in motion and really got me thinking about real world issues (but I won’t go into it now).
What advice would you give to new writers, especially those looking to break into your genre?
Never ever give up is the only advice that matters. Sure education and experience are important but if writing is in your blood then you will discover the tools you need to be successful. I suppose the best advice for aspiring fantasy writers, who need a little coaching, is to write because you love it and pay your bills with other work until you make it big. I have managed to write three books (the Heroes of Dae’run Series) while on active duty with the Army, raising 4 kids (with my lovely wife), training MMA fighters and Soldiers in martial arts. There is time but it is hard to make a living early on so be creative and have back up income whenever possible.
Yes, yes and yes. Exactly right.
How can readers get into contact with you?
My life has been an open book for my fans. I love answering book related e-mail and my fans are always welcome to write or PM me on Facebook. I have been fortunate so far with this sort of open door policy. I LOVE feedback so as long as it remains a positive thing I will support my readers with personal attention.
This has been a great opportunity for me to reflect on my work and get some great publicly. Be sure to go to amazon.com to grab a copy of my books while the titles are fresh in your mind and happy adventuring!
NOTE: Curtiss Robinson is participating at a Fantasy convention in Columbus, Ohio June 12th through the 15th. He will be doing signings both Friday the 13th and Saturday the 14th. He is sponsored by Heroes and Games and will be doing signings at their store as well. See links for details.
Facebook Author Page https://www.facebook.com/author.CurtissRobinson
Thank you so much for visiting us today, Mr. Robinson. We appreciate what you had to share on writing and why you write books. Readers, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll visit our guest at his links and leave him a message below.
Have a wonderful week, everyone!