Today I am delighted to present an interview with a writer acquaintance, Paul Magnan. His debut novel, Kyu, The Unknown: The Coming of Dis (Book 1) is the first in an urban fantasy series set in an alternate world.
The Territories have been unified for a thousand years, brought together under the sword of Harra Ardrassis and the sorcerous power of his immortal sister, Haena. But the Unification has always been contentious; hostility and distrust grows stronger every year. Surrounding the Territories is the Disian Curtain, a desolate darkness filled with ravenous, twisted horrors beyond imagination. Ruled by Infernals called the Diaboli Domini, these terrors desire nothing more than to devour the flesh and souls of all humanity…
- Tell me about your main character. Did he spring into your head fully-formed? Or did you get to know him little by little?
The main character, Kyu, has had a long and eventful journey. Kyu as he is shown in Kyu, The Unknown: The Coming of Dis is the final incarnation of a few character variations. He first sprang into being in 1980, when I was a senior in high school. Back then, he wasn’t prose; he was a comic I created for art class. I drew him as a creature hidden within a hooded robe; he had claws for hands, and his face couldn’t be seen. I gave the name “The Unknown Flurg”. He was an arena fighter who battled all sorts of strange creatures and beings. The violence was graphic, which meant that my classmates loved it and my art teacher hated it. Fast forward a few months. I have always loved reading, and dabbled in writing short stories. A friend recommended that I write a book with Flurg as the main character. I loved the idea, and started writing. Fast forward to 1983. I finally finish the novel. It was 153 single-spaced pages of crap, but hey, at least I wrote it. Then life took over. Years went by without me writing. Flurgwas all but forgotten. Then, about ten years ago, he came back to me. I started in short bursts, changed his appearance (his name was changed at the request of my publisher), and built a brand new world for him. He is still an arena fighter in an alternate world, but he has a conscience now, and several other characters to interact with.
- What was your hardest scene to write?
I can’t go into detail, because it’s a spoiler. Let’s just say it’s a loss I felt as keenly as the characters involved. I wanted to get it exactly right.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both! I am in my element when I am writing, but you know as well as I how hard it can be. People who aren’t writers don’t realize how much work goes into the process. They think we just throw a few words onto the page and voila, out comes a perfectly formed story. Mm, not quite. There is research, and editing (and more editing, and more editing…), and the process itself is time consuming. When a writer is in the zone, hours can go by unnoticed. That’s the energized part. If a writer is struggling, frustration takes its toll. That’s the exhaustion part.
- What are common traps for aspiring writers?
There are several, and they are insidious. Sometimes experienced writers still fall into them. They include info dumps (is that backstory really necessary? If so, “show”, don’t “tell”), repetition, “head-hopping” (switching character POVs without a scene break), “purple prose” (confusing pretentious suckage for eloquence), overuse of adverbs and adjectives…the list goes on. Experience and a willingness to learn helps put these behind beginning writers.
- What is your writing Kryptonite?
The same as probably every other writer out there: social media and the Internet, which has reduced my attention span to that of a squirrel. It seems I put a lot more hours in writing “back in the day”, when I had a Smith-Corona electric typewriter and my biggest distraction was the anime cartoon “Star Blazers”. I miss that show.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Right now, I am writing a series that I project will be four books in total. Kyu, The Unknown is Book 1. I’m now finishing the edits to the sequel, The Oracle of Xiaroc Isle. Once these four are done, I have plans for another series. I may write a stand-alone book someday, but now I’m busy with this.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Oh, so much. The main one being, “Chase that dream! Don’t sell out because everyone says you’re wasting your time!” My younger self also needs to go to college for English and writing, and be willing to put in the work and learn from those who have already walked this road. Don’t go thinking you already know it all, younger self, because you don’t! Put in the time! Polish your craft! Never give up!
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It informed me of the business aspect of writing, from contracts to promotions. A publisher may like your work, but they publish it because they think it will sell. They put money into it, and they expect a return on this investment, which is obvious and understandable. A big part of that selling process is promotion, and while the publisher will do what they can, it is up to the writer to do the lion’s share of this, especially if they are just starting out. Working with a publisher has also taken the blinders off my eyes in regard to my work, especially when it comes to editing. Those “darlings” get killed, believe me. As they need to be.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My book is a fantasy/alternate reality that shares some contemporary aspects with this world. One of the things I researched was how swords are made today compared to how they were made in medieval times. I learned the composition of the ore, and what carbon content is best for this type of steel, along with contemporary forging processes. Quite often I realize I need research when I hit a certain scene and realize I have no plausible way to write it, so research happens before and during the writing process, at least for me.
- What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
This presents many challenges. Obviously I have no idea what’s it’s like to be female, so I just try to be honest about human feelings, emotions, and motivations. As far as physicality goes, I try to keep that to a minimum when using a female POV, and hope I’m bringing something accurate and worthy of respect to the table.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The total process takes about a year. Six months to write, another few months for editing, then working with the publisher for a release date.
- What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Probably to be not overly influenced by writers I admire, which is tough. I see what they have done and think to myself, That’s what I want to do! At that point it’s a balancing act. One can’t help but be influenced by others, but it cannot come at the expense of your own unique voice. It’s your voice that makes the mark, not a distilled version of someone else’s.