Our guest today, Andrew Seiple, has been a voracious reader, roleplayer, gamer, and library enthusiast for years, and is finally getting serious about writing (his words, not mine). 🙂
After a torrid, decades-long love affair with science fiction and fantasy, he’s found a true joy in writing books about super heroes and villains. His latest concept is the ‘Tales from the Teslaverse’ series, stories set in a world full of mad science, super powers, and magic. He is the author of the Dire Saga, the story of a supervillain forced to live in a world that scorns her.
Andrew Seiple is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
So Andrew, other than writing itself, have you done any projects that took you out of your comfort zone?
Yes! I’m working on a Middle Grade fantasy novel, based around a friend’s imagination and art. It’s been tricky coordinating with essentially another author and keeping things within her approval boundary. Also a bit of a culture shock, since I’ve been writing superhero stuff up until now. The tropes and the beats are quite different.
That’s interesting, and useful, too, since I’ve got a MG novel that’s been banging away at me, wanting to be written. Is that your upcoming work, or do you have something else in the pipeline?
My next upcoming work, set to publish around Black Friday, is a collected box set of the Dire Saga. It shows the life and times of Doctor Dire to date, collecting the first three volumes of her story. It takes us from her tumultuous start in a city gone mad in darkness, to her grudging acceptance of supervillain status and attempts to work within that paradigm. It culminates in a trip back to the Teslaverse’s golden age, to beat up Hitler. There are ups, downs, laughs, sorrows, and a hell of a lot of good story in these pages, and it’ll be the perfect jumping off point for a new reader.
What else are you looking forward to in the future?
I have two big projects on my plate. The next one in the queue is the Fourth book in the Dire Saga, tentatively titled Dire:Wars. It’s about Doctor Dire ending up in charge of a banana republic, having to navigate international politics as a player. The second project in line is a fantasy novel, a deconstruction of traditional epic fantasy that shows the “happily ever after,” bit. The story never really ends, and old heroes don’t always do well after all’s said and done.
Do you have any writing heroes?
Oh man, so many… Terry Pratchett, first and foremost. He is very much missed. After that comes Stephen King, truly a treasure of our time. Roger Zelazny gets mad props as well, love his stuff. There are a whole host and slew of others, but those are the three that stick out the most as people I respect without hesitation.
I also admire Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelazny, even though they were very different writers. Who else do you admire?
Jenna K. Moran. Seriously, go look her up, her prose is the closest you’ll find to pure beauty. That lady could write a shopping list, and it’d be a work of art.
What do you think is the most important quality a good novel must have?
Good characters. I don’t have to like’em, but they have to be fun to watch and memorable. If you can’t manage that, then your novel isn’t for me.
What’s your basic writing philosophy?
One thousand words a night. If you can crack that, you can be a writer. Also, finish what you start. You won’t get far as a writer if you can’t finish your manuscripts. Everything else is up to you, vary and mix it up to suit your circumstances and skills.
World building is a huge part of fantasy and sci-fi. How do you handle it? Is it all thought out ahead of time, or do you make it up as you go?
Oddly enough, I have an edge here. I’ve been playing tabletop roleplaying games for decades, and usually I’m the guy running them for other people. So the same skills that I use to brainstorm fun and entertaining campaign settings come into play when I’m designing worlds. At the most basic level, start with what’s different from mundane Earth, and go from there. If you’re dealing with a fantasy world, figure out what sets it apart from other stock fantasy worlds, ask what makes it unique. If you can crack that, the rest falls into place.
My son has been a D&D dungeon master for years, and he says much the same thing about gaming and world building. Do you structure your novels ahead of time as well?
When I get an idea and a solid beginning for a story, I write down a loose structure of plot points. Then once I’ve got a few chapters worth, I start writing. I don’t follow the plot points precisely, and the story changes as I write it, so after I get so far I write the next few chapters, and so on until I come to the end. It’s basically outlining, but it’s more guidelines than hard rules.
Which is harder for you, drafting or revising?
It’s harder to revise than it is to write my first draft, hands down. Cutting out plot points or god forbid, shifting events around because they make a better story… those things make me weep. But sometimes they’re necessary. Sometimes. Got to trust your editor and betas, in the end. No first draft is perfect.
I agree–revision is where the story is given shape. What’s the best part about being a writer for you?
I’m going to quote Dean Wesley Smith here. To paraphrase; “You get to sit in a room and make stuff up. Best job ever!” There’s more to it than that, of course. Reading good reviews on my books makes me smile. Seeing the royalties hit my bank account makes me sigh in relief. And a million other things, but overall there’s a lot of good here, and if I started listing each one we’d be here forever. Which I’m okay with, you’ve got a nice page. But at some point your readers might get cranky.
Do you have a definite writing routine?
About nine PM, after my daughter’s in bed and I’ve played a few quick video games to clear my mind, I pop open my latest manuscript and start translating the outline to the page. Along the way if I come up with a better twist or plot point, I pause to think it over, then fold it in. In between tough bits I surf the net or pull up music. Takes me an hour or two to get a thousand words on the page, though that’s not solid. Some days it’s more like fifteen hundred or two thousand, other days I get on a roll and time flies by. Whatever the case I’m usually finished by eleven PM, and in bed by midnight. Sometimes I use additional video game time after my quota’s met to push myself to finish faster. This works for me, and is the best routine I can set up with my day job currently being what it is.
What do you do when you get stuck?
I eliminate a lot of problem points through outlining. For the rest, I push through and write anyway. I write down stuff that I know doesn’t quite work, with the understanding that I’ll come back and rewrite it later. It’s that simple, really. Once you convince yourself you can blitz through damn near anything, well, you will. And eventually you’ll stop getting stuck.
Writing is one thing–publishing is another. What’s the hardest thing about publishing for you?
Keeping up with the schedule that I set myself. I wanted to release something every three months, and I haven’t always been able to do that. Just not enough time in the day, or sometimes I get lazy and have to push myself to write. But I have faith that as I go on, I’ll get better at this.
Part of being an indie author is lining up the cover art. How do you handle this?
This is one of those areas where my artistic talent is on par with bread mold. And not the good bread mold either. I’m talking the raggly, scraggly kind that you find after the bread gets shoved back behind the cereal for a few months. My first cover was photoshop and a lot of help from a forum friend. My second cover came with a favor due to another friend. But my third cover, and all thereafter? I pay money for those suckers, and it’s money well spent. I do try to keep the same artists on the same project lines, for continuity of style. Easier to build a brand that way.
Many authors prefer the traditional trade published route. Why do you like being an indie author?
Well, for me the best part is that I’m pretty much my own boss. I don’t have to go wait on people who don’t have my best interests in mind, or try to court gatekeepers who can’t or won’t give me time to explain why we should make each other rich. Sure, there’s more work to handle, but most of it’s pretty easy when you break it down and look at the different parts. It’s barely any time at all compared to the time I spend writing, so I do it gladly, knowing that so long as I keep my readers happy, I can write as I please.
What made you choose to become a writer?
I’ve enjoyed farting around with writing for years. Did a lot for roleplaying, did a lot with fanfiction. Started writing seriously back in 2013, ended up with half a book that I immediately threw away. It was pretty horrible. Then in 2014 I had a crisis occur in my day job, and writing turned from idle pleasure to a lifeline. It helped me de-stress, helped me cope with an increasingly bad situation. I’m through that situation now, but writing is still a huge pleasure. I’ve found something I’m good at, and I can keep doing it as often as I please, for as long as I please. You are who you are when you’re at your worst, and when that Hour of the Wolf hit, I wrote. I am a writer, now and forever, and no matter what anyone thinks or who opposes me, they cannot take this truth. I will not be stopped. I will never again be brought so low. I will write, and with every word I make my place in this world a little more solid, a little more real. Until the end of my days, (and hey, possibly beyond if I can swing it,) so may it be.
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite things to do?
I’ve been enjoying, playing, and running tabletop roleplaying games and miniatures games for decades. Oddly, the experience has strengthened my world-building and characterization skills. I also enjoy computer games, and reading. My library card gets a weekly workout, and I’d have it no other way.
What, in your opinion, is the best book to movie?
Watchmen. Say what you will about Snyder and his recent track record, he did justice to Watchmen.
I’ve got lots of readers who also write. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Oh, I’ve got a lot of advice! First one is don’t give up your day job. It takes time to set things up to support a full-time writing career, trying to leap directly to it is a good way to go broke. Second piece of advice is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You probably won’t be famous with your first book, or your second, but by your third or fourth your chances go up pretty nicely. And by your nineteenth book, you’re definitely doing something right. Don’t let yourself get too glum by setbacks, just keep writing and publishing, and you will reach whatever writing goal you desire.
Please share a favorite line from one of your books.
“Look at me when I’m killing you!” from one of the badass villains in my series. Sorry, can’t tell you who, that’ll spoil the surprise.