An Interview with Thomas A Knight, Author (well worth celebrating)


Thomas A Knight

While I usually participate in the Celebration blog hop started by VikLit, I am putting in a bit of a twist this week.  We celebrate many things – meals, the coming weekend, a vacation.  Today I am going to celebrate someone who, in addition to being an excellent writer, is generous almost to a fault, and has helped many, many people reach for a dream.

Thomas A. Knight is preparing to publish the third book in his Time Weaver Chronicles, a heroic fantasy trilogy that begins with a bang with The Time Weaver, proceeds through Legacy, and leaves you wanting to read the final volume, Reprisal, which will be coming out early next year.

A reluctant hero must come to terms with a new world, new powers, and a family history buried deep in the folds of time.
     Learning to accept and control his powers is the hardest thing Seth has ever had to do, but the longer he spends in Galadir, the more he grows to love this new world and the female warrior accompanying him. When a much more ancient and dangerous wizard awakens and threatens to destroy Galadir, Seth is the key to defeating him. Now he must save a world he never knew existed with magic he never knew he could wield, if only he could learn to control it in time.

The Time Weaver

 Once upon a time…

…a warrior of light defeated an insane wizard, but behind every heroic story lies a truth never told.
     A man washes ashore on the island of Arda after a terrible storm, remembering nothing but his name: Krycin. The blue wizard Gladius finds him, takes him in, and is determined to help Krycin regain what he’s lost.
     The Fates have other plans. Krycin’s presence on Galadir is disrupting the fabric of the universe. The solution? Eliminate him, by any means necessary.
     When Gladius sides with the council, his efforts to destroy Krycin spark a war that threatens all life on Galadir.
                Legacy

Coming 2014:

 
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A couple years ago I first participated in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest sponsored by Amazon.  This contest is open to authors who own their works, published or not (meaning that the work is owned by the author, free and clear).  The entries (one per person) must be fiction, no graphics, and novel length.  The books fall into different categories:  Young Adult, Mystery, Romance…  The process of elimination begins with submitting a short ‘pitch’ that must ‘grab’ the reviewers and make them say “This is a book I want to read!”  Since your entry is one out of 10,000, and 8,000 of those entries will be eliminated based on that ‘pitch’, the odds are very low that you will make it. 
 
Every year Thomas presides over a group that coaches contestants, gives feedback and suggestions on the pitches, encourages, and builds up confidence.  There is no reward given him, except for the knowledge that he has been truly helpful. 
 
In the course of all this, I had a chance to read his work, and I found it enjoyable.  The stories are well worth reading, and Mr. Knight is well worth listening to:

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Give us a brief summary of your book and its place in your trilogy. (Note: ‘It’s the last one’ is not an acceptable answer.)
Reprisal is the third and final installment in The Time Weaver Chroncles and marks a huge milestone for me as an author. It’s a finale, so all loose ends must be tied up, for better or for worse. I can’t promise a happy ending, but it will be an ending, and it will be fabulous.
Can you share a passage that you really like, and tell us why? (Note: if you want to clarify the passage, where it is, what it is that made you happy – good writing, caught the mood, made you proud, no spelling errors – just kidding – put it in)
This excerpt is from Chapter 1. I was looking for something to set the tone of the book, and I tend to write a lot of action scenes. I wanted to excite the reader, get their blood pumping, and give them a little something that fans have been asking for. This is what happens next, a direct continuation of the action at the end of The Time Weaver. Without further ado, here is the excerpt:
The bridge drew closer by the second, but Malia held back enough to ensure that every one of her remaining soldiers made it before her. When the last one had begun to cross, she slowed, stepped onto the bridge and turned to face the army that had begun its advance again. Walking backward, she watched Morganath make several more passes over the silent army. It didn’t matter how many he torched, the remaining wretches continued, some of them burning as they walked. Malia was half-way across when the first of them stepped onto it with her.
A voice behind her startled her. “What are you planning?” Ceridan asked. “You’re not going to take them on by yourself.”
“I will slay each and every one if I have to,” Malia said, her voice tainted with anger. “They have taken everything from us, and I intend to make them pay.”
Ceridan’s hand grasped her shoulder. “Easy, general. It’s Grian we want, not those poor wretches. Stick with the plan. We will get help from Caldoor and regain our kingdom.”
The undead approached fast, but Malia turned away from them anyway to face Ceridan. “Do not speak that name in my presence. He is the defiler, the usurper, a vile maggot in the corpse of a once great kingdom.” Ceridan backed up from her tirade, trying to direct her attention to the undead approaching behind her, but she ignored him. “He has taken our homes, our people, and our kingdom, and all we can do is run. We keep running or die and become one of them.” A tear ran down her left cheek as she lost control of her emotions. “I just want them to go away,” she said, and turned back to face the approaching creatures. Drawing all the magical energy she could muster, she ran through the first of the undead with her sword and screamed a single word. “Incendras.”
A massive column of fire burst from her hands and the sword, spreading out and flowing down the length of the bridge. Any undead in its path were vaporized, and still it continued as the sword took over and lapped up the energy. She felt its greed as she fed it, but didn’t stop. The bridge caught fire, the ancient iron wood fueling the flames, and still she continued, ignoring the frantic voice behind her. The sword felt good in her hand, and rage fueled the spell as it extended beyond the bridge and into the horde gathering on the other side. When she could take it no more, she ended the spell, raised the sword into the air with the blade pointing down, and drove it into the bridge up to the hilt.
The wood exploded, starting at the sword and spreading out before her, tearing the bridge apart. Flaming chunks flew into the air and fell into the canyon as the eastern half of the bridge crumbled. Supports split and fell, the railings gave out, and the entire structure sank as only the western half remained. The only thing holding it up was stone and chains in the ground on the other side. Malia gripped the sword and used it to keep herself from falling into the canyon, but Ceridan wasn’t so lucky. He slid down the surface of the bridge and fell off the end, catching one hand on a stray piece of wood. It was all that kept him from falling into the canyon below.

You have done a tremendous amount of worldbuilding with this series. Will you have any further stories set in this universe?
Oh yes. I’m already planning a new trilogy based on a favorite character of mine. He made an appearance in Legacy, but it was just a cameo. My next book, The Spell Breaker, will be all about Taraxle. His life started as an assassin, but he turns into a magic absorbing force to be reckoned with. I hope my fans will stick around to read his story.
So let’s talk about you:
What got you started writing?
I started writing The Time Weaver in November of 2010 when I took part in National Novel Writing Month. Before that, I spent almost twenty years creating plots and characters for role playing games. I knew nothing about creative writing, spelling or grammar when I began, but I’ve spent countless hours learning from my mistakes. I’m entirely self-taught, and still participate in NaNoWriMo every year.
How did this idea come to you? Did it just pop into your head, or did it come on slowly as details began to be set?
Inspiration comes from many places. I’m inspired by the people I meet, the books I read, the places I go, and the games I play. But in the end, what really got me writing was an intersection near where I work, and a question: What would happen if time stopped?
What is your process? Plotter? Pantser? Hybrid? (note: feel free to preach. 😉
Pantser, all the way. I come up with an ending, and a beginning, and then let my hands and my subconscious mind figure out a way to get me there. Sometimes things don’t go the way I expect, and I have to adjust my ending, but that’s okay, so long as the story keeps moving forward. I’ve found myself talking to my wife about the story I’m working on as though it were real events taking place. She’s even asked me: “You have no idea what’s going to happen, do you?” Truth is, I don’t.
Do you have any favorite tools, techniques or gimmics that keep you focused?
Not really. I’m a burst writer, so I’ll put down like thirty to forty thousand words in a very short time, and then let it rest for a while and do other stuff. Staying focused isn’t too hard when you work like that. As a software developer in a busy office, I’m used to distractions, so its easy for me to switch modes from one task to another. When I sit down with the intention of writing, I write.
Quickly now: you’re in the middle of a crowded place with lots of bustling people. You suddenly get a (mental) thunderbolt that illuminates a problem you had been having with your story. All is revealed, or the way out of the dilemma occurs to you or an insight comes to you. How do you preserve it?
I have a notoriously bad memory, so the answer may surprise you. I rely on my memory. Over the years, I’ve adopted a technique to help me remember things like this. I have compartments in my mind, like filing cabinets, where I store various thoughts and ideas. When I have an epiphany like this, I store it away in it’s appropriate cabinet or drawer, and pull it back up later. I have lots of ideas, all the time, and I rely on this system to keep myself organized. The important stuff sticks, and the less important stuff fades away and stops distracting me.
Who are your helpers? (Does your family go glassy-eyed and turn the talk away? Do your friends ask you for the next installment? Do you keep it all to yourself and only hand it out when you’re ready for it to be looked at?)
My wife, first and foremost. She is my best editor, and my last line of defense. She reads everything I write, gives me honest feedback, and makes it better. We work together on my final drafts, and when we’re done, there is very little wrong with my books. I also rely on a hired editor for the first run through, and a small group of beta readers who I trust to give me honest feedback.
You wake up one morning, open the door, step outside – and realize that you are in Galadir. The door, which you closed behind you, vanishes and you can’t go back. What do you do? Who would you be? What challenges would you face? Would you be pleased, or would you hide under a rock?
That depends on where on Galadir I end up. If I land in one of the more civilized regions of Galadir, I would look for the nearest magic academy and sign myself up. The deserts of Astara are brutal and unforgiving, which would probably be a death sentence if I wasn’t near a town or village. If it was the Eastern Badlands? Run. Run and hide.
What is next?
Another book of course, and the beginning of another trilogy. The Spell Breaker Chronicles is all I can think about right now. It’s burning in my head, and needs to come out. I tried writing it a while back, but it wasn’t time. Now it’s time. This November, I plan on putting down the first fifty thousand words.
Where do your names come from? (Some people like to know. Since I pull my fantasy names out of thin air, for the most part, I’m a little curious, too…)
I’m not ashamed to say that I use a name generator for the vast majority of my names. It’s a program called Ebon, which allows me to use a different dictionary of name roots for each region of my world. That way, I can generate semi-random names that all sound similar in style for a region. Some of my names come from existing characters from campaigns I’ve run, or are borrowed from friend’s characters. Krycin for instance was a name created by my best friend, and was used as a nod to him. A few other names were taken from real people (with their permission, of course). Those people know who they are. Still, a few of my names, like Seth and Malia came out of thin air. They just sounded right. I think in these cases, it wasn’t me who named the character, but the character who told me their name.
I know you have a crowdfunding site to help defray some of the costs – with some truly nifty goods on offer.  I am placing the link HERE – check it out!

Say something to those reading this. Anything you want, on any subject.
Balance. Life is all about balance. Don’t obsess, don’t work too hard, don’t play too much, and never forget the people who make you who you are.
I can’t think of any way to top that sentiment, Thomas, so I will close this interview with a suggestion to the readers that they look into your work, starting with your website:
 

 

Another Writer’s Tool Discussed


“This is a very good story,” the Editor said quite a few years ago.  I was fresh out of grad school with a story I’d written and wanted to shop.  “It isn’t in our line of business – ” (they were a company that printed a lot of inspirational material.  They were one of the well-known companies, and if I were to name them, they would be recognized.  They had printed fiction in the past).  ” – but this is too good for you to send to a Vanity Press.  Keep submitting it – and don’t let yourself get discouraged.  It’s tough out there, but you’re good.”
Grieving

That was nice to know, of course, and she gave good advice, though issues arose that kept me from submitting for a number of years.  She hesitated, as though carefully considering what she wanted to say, then went on.

“Are you only working on the one story?”
I said I was.
“Oh no, dear.  You need to have more than one underway.  Otherwise, when you finish your current work, you will be knocked sideways.  Grieving, actually, and there will be nothing to distract you. and you’ll be lost.”
Well, that was nice of her, I thought.  But it sounded strange.  I was, as I said, fresh out of grad school, and I knew everything (just ask me at that time).  I didn’t give it another thought until I finished my story, finally and for all.
She was right.  I was lost, at loose ends, missing my characters, following them, forming them, making sense of my ideas and getting acquainted with them.  Seeing where they were going and helping them get there, polishing their descriptions and speech, making them as wonderful as I could (Reveling in polishing, I’d call it now).  And when the last word was done, the last paragraph polished, there was nothing more to write, the story was told –
I was empty.  And, as she said, I was grieving.
I remember that month or so.  I wandered around, doing my bread and butter stuff, riding the train into the city (1 ½ hours daily in which to jot and polish and daydream – gosh, I miss it!), walking through a season of rain (the sun was, actually, shining) and wondering what, oh what I was going to do.  Grieving, she said.  What?  These weren’t real characters, for heaven’s sake!  I mean, I made them up out of my head.  Didn’t I?  (Did I?)
Ultimately, I had another project underway, but it took a while.  I was ready this time.  I’d had an idea for another story, and I wrote up some notes about it – character thoughts, notions on where it was going – what I call ‘blips’ now.  I housed them in a notebook.

Be careful what you start.  I am a pack-rat.  I started notebooks for everything I was working

on.  I liked the ones I used in college: 6″ x 9″, three subject notebooks, or 5″ x 7.75″, all spiral bound.  They were fairly portable, but not too small (that gives me a hand cramp). 

Three ring binders didn’t work, even when I was in my briefcase-carrying mode because (1) they were cumbersome even with a shoulder strap briefcase, and
(2) someone apparently laid a curse on me at birth: ‘All her three ring binders will end up with one bent half-ring, which will cause her manuscript pages to jump off the ring and tear’. 
It is a dreadful curse, and if you combine that with my dislike of misaligned punched holes, three ring binders, even the expensive ones that hold The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, are ruled out.  Marble notebooks are nice, but if you muff an entry, it is a  bit of a production to tear out the offending page.  If you do it too well, the corresponding page on the other side of the stitching will cast loose its moorings, and if you do not, there is a rather odd-looking flap of paper left.(Warning: the spirals in spiral-bound notebooks end up squashed and distorted and will also foul up your paper.)

Writing instruments are important, too, I’ve learned:

  • Pencils smear (I don’t like smears, whether on my forearm or on a page)
  • Fountain pens, which I happen to love, have water soluble ink that tends to fade rather badly. (see the image at right, which I had trouble reading when I photographed it) 
  • If you use permanent ink, your pen will get gunked up rather badly.  This is not a problem with the kinda-sorta throwaway pens, but with the Mont Blanc I inherited from my father, which has the 18K nib, it is not optimal.
  • Rollerballs have ink that sinks through the paper, so you can only write on one side of the page.  The other side is a complete loss.
  • Felt-tip pens can be fun, but they can smear.
This leaves me with good old ball-point pens, preferably blue.
Over the years I have developed a good system:


When you have an idea, jot it down.  If it seems to have possibilities, jot it in a notebook.  (Some kind of minor ideas are jotted in separate sections of three-part notebooks. 

When you transcribe a page, mark it.  I draw a diagonal line across it.  If the whole page is transcribed, cut the upper corner off.

Never throw them away.  They may be worth something in five hundred years.  On the other hand, I myself won’t be worth much by then.  Sigh.

Still, it’s another tool writers can use.  (And it beats paper towels – see THIS POST…)
 

Using Visuals When Writing


One of the things I really need when I’m working on a story is something that I can actually look at, that will give me an idea of how something looks, works, is sized.  Several series of books are chock-full of photos and explanations, and they are invaluable.
The Shire Egyptology series is a good example.  It is published in the UK and each book covers a subject – food and drink, household pets, medicine, textiles, weapons and warfare, Akhenaten’s Egypt…  They are not written by the same person.  The photographs and explanations are especially useful.
Their website is here
Ancient Military history is covered by the Men At Arms series published  by Osprey (here is a sample of one of their books on New Kingdom Egyptian military). 
I have similar sources for other books; one series set in 1830’s Paris was helped immensely by a book of old photographs.
 
Time-Life books put out Echoes of Glory in two volumes.  This is one of the most useful books I have ever encountered.  It is separated into sections covering edged weapons, firearms, soldiers’ life, the home front.  Modern photographs of arms and equipment are paired with period depictions.  It has been invaluable to me, being, as I am, rather visually oriented.
In Mourningtide, I write of the effect of the death of a son and brother on his family.  One of the characters is Ramesses, the younger brother of the man who died.   He became the pharaoh Ramesses II, one of the great rulers of his age.  I have seen his statues and photographs of his reliefs, but finding anything that has him pictured as a living person in the flesh is difficult.  Fortunately, I have succeeded.
Here he is, Ramesses himself, as depicted by Yul Brynner in the movie The Ten Commandments.  He is not a prince in this photo – the golden headband with cobra and vulture tends to indicate that he has succeeded his father.  I find it a very enlightening photograph, something that I will have to refer to over and over, I think. 
One more item for my toolbox…