Friday, September 20, 2013

Author Bruce Blake at The Desk

Author Bruce Blake visits with us at the desk today. He is quite the fruitful author. No, I didn't say fruitcake. Seriously, he wrote his newest novel in fourteen days! It's almost as if he's been sprinkled with sparkly dust by the fairy God Mother in charge of words and imagination. I think you will enjoy getting to know Bruce. I also think he'll become one of your favorite new authors to read once you pick up a copy of any one of his books.

Mr. Blake will you share a bit about your writing with the readers?

One of the most common questions you hear asked of authors is 'where do your ideas come from?' If you read a few interviews, you'll find a wide variety of answers, many of which are pre-formulated to evoke laughter or feelings of inadequacy. Part of the problem with the question, I think, is that so much time has often passed since the author had the idea for the book, he or she likely doesn't even recall the impetus for the novel.

In the case of my upcoming book, When Shadows Fall, it has only been a couple of months since I began work on the project, so perhaps I can give you a tour of the writer's mind (please tread carefully...there's a lot of darkness and it's a bit messy).

I had finished writing the third book in my Icarus Fell urban fantasy series and began work on another project which, I'm sorry to say, didn't go so well. It did, however, put me in the mood to write epic fantasy; it had been nearly six months since I completed the Khirro's Journey trilogy, so it was time.

Step one to story idea: choose your genre (or sub-genre).

Once I've settled on what kind of story I want to write, I try to think of a ways to make it a little bit different from the norm. In the Khirro's Journey trilogy, I chose a non-traditional protagonist. For this series, I decided to have a prophecy discovered on an ancient scroll. Not so different, you say? How about a little confusion as to who the prophecy refers to, both on the good side and the evil side? I'm interested.

Step two to story idea: think of a twist.

The third thing that came to me as I ponderied the nature of this prophecy was the term 'Small Gods', which then became the title for the series. Something about it captured my attention, possibly because when we think about gods, we don't think of small things, but big, all-powerful beings. This prompted me to sit down and really think about the Small Gods, their role in the story, and other details about my world in general.

Step three to story idea: build your world.

As the world came together, more characters and story ideas came to light. I started thinking about having two groups known as Small Gods to throw more uncertainty into the prophecy. When I began digging into the religion, which I decided to be Goddess-based, I wondered what it would look like if the devotees of the religion were all women. What would happen to the men? What if a sect of men broke off and were secretly in opposition to the women? The more I thought, the more possibilities screamed at me to get writing.

Step four to story idea: imagine the possibilities.

The last thing I decided on—which is something I hope most authors do when they set out to write a new book—was to challenge myself. Not only does When Shadows Fall follow four different story lines, but I was determined to make the voice of each different and distinct. But it gets the second book, which I am currently writing and expecting to be ready for a Dec. 1 release, I am writing one story line from the POV of a blind character—no description based on sight—and another from the POV of a character who doesn't speak the same language as any of the other characters. Fun stuff.

Step five to story idea: challenge yourself.

So there you have it...where a story idea comes from, at least in the case of When Shadows Fall. For me, it is rarely in a dream or a flash of light, fully-formed and ready to put pen to paper—it's work. Not as glamourous as thinking a muse sits on my shoulder and whispers, but it gets the job done.
A hundred hundred seasons have turned since the Goddess banished the Small Gods to the sky, leaving the land to mankind alone.
For Prince Teryk, life behind the castle walls is boring and uneventful until he stumbles upon an arcane scroll in a long-forgotten chamber. The parchment speaks of Small Gods, the fall of man, and the kingdom's savior—the firstborn child of the rightful king. It's his opportunity to prove himself to his father, the king, and assure his place in history. All he needs to do is find the man from across the sea—a man who can't possibly exist—and save mankind.

But ancient magic has been put in motion by a mysterious cult determined to see the Small Gods reborn. Powerful forces clash, uncaring for the lives of mortals in their struggle to prevent the return of the banished ones, or aid in their rebirth.

Named in a prophecy or not, what chance does a cocky prince who barely understands the task laid before him stand in a battle with the gods?

Tell us a little about your new book, When Shadows Fall.

This is the first book in a new epic fantasy series called 'The Small Gods', and it's easily my most ambitious work to date. The main story line revolves around a prophecy found by Prince Teryk and his sister, Danya. It speaks of the rise of the Small Gods—who were banished by the Goddess a long time ago—and the fall of mankind. The story follows the siblings, who think Teryk is the saviour of mankind named in the prophecy, as well as a priestess of the Goddess, a sailor who hates the sea, and a little gray fellow named Thorn. There's a lot going on.

A prophecy? Hasn't that been done to death? What makes your book any different than all the others?

I like to do what I can to take typical fantasy tropes and turn them on their ear a bit. In this case, there are some doubts about the prophecy. Does it actually refer to Teryk? Exactly who are the Small Gods? There are a bunch of other things mentioned in the scroll that don't even make sense. Trust me when I tell you I've got a few surprises up my sleeve.

You recently published Secrets of the Hanged Man, the third book in your Icarus Fell urban fantasy series. Why back to epic fantasy after that? Why not more Icarus?

For all those Icarus fans out there: don't worry your favourite (sort of) dead guy will be back, he's just taking a little break after almost being dragged off to Hell. I love epic fantasy, though, so I often find myself drawn back to it. After I finished Hanged Man, I actually started another project which is kind of a historical epic fantasy, but I didn't feel like I was quite up to the task of that particular story yet. When the Small Gods paid me a visit instead, I was intrigued, and I just had to find out more about the story.

I heard that it only took a couple of weeks for you to write the first draft of When Shadows Fall. Is that true?

Yes. If you include writing a prologue after I'd done the editing on the rest, there were fifteen days of first draft manuscript writing in all.

How did you write it so quickly?

Firstly, I write full-time, so I put in 5-7 hours every day, but even then there's more to it. I attribute the speediness of the first draft to two things: planning and planning. Not only did I spend a month developing the world and the story while I was finishing up some other things, I also spent five to ten minutes planning at the beginning of each writing day when I first sat down. It's amazing how much more can be accomplished when you have that kind of clarity. If I finished what I planned and still had time, I took another five or ten minutes and planned some more.

What are you working on now?

The second book of the Small Gods (sorry, I don't have a title yet). I'm expecting to have it out Dec. 1. It's going to bring together some of the story lines from When Shadows Fall, split some up, and add in some others. I'm having a great time writing it with some interesting voices and challenging points of view.

How long will the Small Gods series be?

I can't say for sure, but I'm expecting five or six books.

I've always been curious about longer series: have you already planned everything that will happen?

Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Not even close. I have some highlights and ideas that I know I want to hit, and I have some thoughts about the climax, but it will be as much of a surprise to me as it is to everyone else, at this point. The problem with planning something that's going to run long is that it changes on you...those darn characters tend to take over and go running off to do things you never expected.

Any final words to new writers out there?

Two, really. The first is to work on your craft...always. Do it by reading books you love and analyzing them to figure out what it is you like so much. Do it by reading books you don't love, and figure out why that's the case. Take classes if you can, go to conferences, read books on craft—lots of them—and learn from other authors you come in contact with.
The second is never quit. You're not really a writer if you don't finish, you're just someone who writes.


Bruce Blake lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. When pressing issues like shovelling snow and building igloos don't take up his spare time, Bruce can be found taking the dog sled to the nearest coffee shop to work on his short stories and novels.

Actually, Victoria, B.C. is only a couple hours north of Seattle, Wash., where more rain is seen than snow, and the dog is too small to pull a sled. Since snow isn't really a pressing issue, Bruce spends more time trying to remember to leave the "u" out of words like "colour" and "neighbour" then he does shovelling (and darn those double l's). The father of two, Bruce is also the trophy husband of a burlesque diva.

Bruce has been writing since grade school but it wasn't until a few years ago he set his sights on becoming a full-time writer. Since then, his first short story, "Another Man's Shoes" was published in the Winter 2008 edition of Cemetery Moon, another short, "Yardwork", was made into a podcast in Oct., 2011 by Pseudopod and his first Icarus Fell novel, On Unfaithful Wings, was published to Kindle in Dec., 2011. The second Icarus Fell novel, All Who Wander Are Lost, was released in July, 2012, and the third, Secrets of the Hanged Man, in July 2013. Sept., 2013 saw the publication of Blood of the King, the first book in the Khirro's Journey epic fantasy trilogy, followed by second book, Spirit of the King, in Dec., 2012, and the third, Heart of the King in Jan., 2013. He has plans for more Icarus novels, several stand alones, and several more books in the Small Gods series.

If you'd like to learn more about Bruce, you can find him at the links below.
Twitter: @bruceablake

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