Last Fall when I read your novella, “Dread Night,” I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d see if you had any other material out there. Lucky for me your début novel, First Born was just released last month. I didn’t realize it was the beginning of a series either, but suspect you’ll be sharing a bit about that as we kick off this interview. My review is on this blog.
You’re a relatively young writer. When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
It was around the age of 19 or 20, and I’d just finished reading a book by Jim Butcher. I decided to entertain myself and not wait for some author to write the next one – I shall write my own novel, I decided.
That same night I planned out the entire Legacy series, realized I had about 20 books worth of material (although most was utter garbage), danced and panicked at the same time (which looks a lot like shuffling) and then decided to plan out ONE book at a time.
I began writing Firstborn the next day.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
It took me a total of 3 years.
One year for the first draft and trying to sell that. Bad idea.
Another year to rewrite, edit and make it all better and self-publish it. Good idea on paper but I suck at marketing, so I failed miserably.
A third year to get signed by AEC, rewrite the novel, edit it and finally, last December 13, I managed to publish it and erase it from my ‘current projects’ list.
Personally, I enjoyed the style of humor I found in your writing. How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
Since I have no education in writing, I went into stream of consciousness, did it badly, and watched a friend of mine put so much red pen on it, that I told her I might as well start over. The second draft was very robotic. By the time I got singed on by AEC Steller, my then-manager there told me to rewrite it, and the resulting concoction was something both well-written (if I may be so bold to say so) and with my own touch of narrative. (Anyone who’s ever read a word I’ve written knows what I’m talking about – that crazy blend of humor, action and sarcastic monologues)
Some authors consider themselves readers first and writers second. Were you an avid reader when you were younger? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
At a very young age I was into Enid Blyton, and then in my Secondary school I discovered the Animorphs series, which turned me onto sci-fi. I remember being one of the first in my country to own the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which I took to with gusto (not a fan of the movies though). Then in Junior College I discovered The Skullduggery Pleasant series, the Chronicles of the Necromancer and the Inheritance Cycle – which I think formed me as the giant geek you see today.
When did you start writing? Relate an anecdote from your earliest writing years.
I started writing because I wanted to impress this girl in Junior College. We were a group of geeks who were very much into fanfiction and bad poetry. Needless to say, I never impressed said girl nor anyone else.
I did however recycle two original short stories into Firstborn – Jack the Metal Elemental and Djinn were both part of that, as was the scene with the Lizardmen at the school.
I guess peer-pressure can be a good thing sometimes.
Why do you write?
Because it’s the only thing I’m good at. I remember watching a very inspirational speech by Corey Taylor at the Oxford house a few years ago, and his premise was that one should do what they are good at, because eventually they will fall in love with it, rather than pursue an ideal love and live life in misery when they don’t find it.
I agreed with that, and so I did some soul-searching to find the one thing I’m good at and that gives me that ‘special buzz’ that we all look for.
The next day I was typing chapter 1.
I believe there are readers out there who really enjoy fiction with a twist of humor. What is the funniest/most embarrassing/scariest story from one of your books signings or events?
This is from October 2012 at the London MCM Expo, the first time I was ever at a comic con and the first time I was selling a book I wrote.
We pitch up at this aircraft hangar they were using. Someone had mislabeled the seating so we had four possible seats for us, each a half hour away from each other. This was an hour before the doors opened by the way.
So me and my friend Shaun, we go to the information booth and I ask where our seat is. We get pointed to one of the places, but it’s reserved to another artist. I go back to ask again.
“It’s all right love, just sit there anyways. We might ‘ave mixed the names up.”
So we set up table there.
Ten minutes before the doors open: the artist whose name was on the table shows up. We get evacuated from the table and I go to the info booth again. This time we get sent to a different place altogether.
And it’s the wrong place.
So I go the administration’s office – “Where’s our table?” I ask. “Draw me a map please.”
She draws me a map.
With the wrong directions.
Now the doors opened, people in horns, costumes and more makeup than a Broadway show, start flooding in. Shaun and I have been walking around for 45 minutes, we’re pissed off and now we’re getting trampled by our potential customers.
So I find the first security guard and ask him where our table is.
“You’re asking now?” he says with a flippant attitude.
And I snap. “Listen dude, we’ve been going in circles trying to find a place you idiots neglected to properly mark in the first place. No one has any f***ing idea where they are. Don’t you take that tone with me ever again.”
Meanwhile Shaun is literally vibrating with rage and he stays silent.
The security guard looks at the map and points. “It’s over there.”
“No, no,” I say. “F*** that. Take my hand and lead me there, like a f***ing child. Go on lead the way.”
We set up half an hour later.
And here’s the punch line: the next morning, the same lady from the information booth was running around, clearly lost and she saw us and asked “Hey do you know where this table is?”
We stare at her incredulously and burst out laughing. Then she walks away and we get on twitter.
It’s ironic – the information booth, asking from information it was supposed to provide in the first place.
Who was your mentor?
I don’t have a formal mentor. However Jim Butcher has a 60 page article on his live journal, detailing every lesson he learned under his tutor on how to write proper arcs, characters, etc.
I recommend it for anyone as a guide.
What book are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Time Riders: The Pirate Kings by Alex Scarrow and When Stars Die by Amber Forbes.
I’ve just finished Skullduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of the Dead Men, Russian Roulette, House of Hades, Iceberg by Clive Cussler and Devil May Cry: the Chronicles of Vergil.
Where do you find ideas for stories?
Books usually give me an outline or a new method of putting words, but for content I usually look at movies, TV Shows, and a lot of video games.
However, every book, every scene, has a soundtrack in my head and that usually defines the pace and the tone of the scene. Without that I can’t live the scene and I can’t properly write it.
Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?
Jim Butcher said “I don’t have a muse. I have a mortgage.”
I don’t believe in a muse – I believe in desperation to get something done and sell it before you’re hungry. Writer’s Block is for people who can afford it.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
I hire a discreet assassin to shoot them in the genitals. Failing that I usually see if it’s something constructive or just a troll.
Often I ignore them, but occasionally I do write a blog post where I examine reviews and compare them. Thankfully for every troll out there, that are ten good reviews which make me very happy (and occasionally tear up.)
I never reply to any review ever – but if the troll pisses me off, I borrow Ray’s pet dragon Bogart to set them on fire.
Although I may have been under the impression Firstborn was your first substantial novel, I’ve since learned you’ve been a busy writer. What are some of the other pieces you have in the mill? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I just handed in a pre-edited version of Book 2 of the Legacy Series, with the tentative title of Memories. (It’s up on the AEC stellar website, so I guess it’s OK for me to talk about it)
I’ve also finished book 1 of my sci-fi series The Pandora Chronicles – although I still need to go over it again and rework some pieces. But I still want it out there in 2014, so don’t fret.
I’m also working on a thriller serialized fiction – essentially an ongoing story in short story format, rather than a full novel. I’ve finished the pilot and currently I’m working on the second episode. This is a first for me, so I’m still experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. It’s different from novel writing in some ways but I’m somehow trudging through.
What other types of artistic talents do you have?
Whatever the situation I can make anyone laugh. Sometimes unknowingly. I’m trying to experiment with voice work so that I can implement that into my blog.
On a completely unrelated topic – I can annoy anyone at any moment in time, to any degree. I have no idea where that comes from.
Ryan, this has been an enlightening interview and I’m really glad you took the time to share your work and processes with us. I’m serious when I say I can’t wait to read the next installment of the Legacy Series – I gotta find out what Ashendale and his side kick will be up to next.
Readers and fans can follow Ryan Attard on his website: http://ryanattard.com and be sure to “Like” his work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RyanAuthor Don’t forget Ryan has a sense of humor and good taste for a clever tweet – test out your talent by tweeting him: @enkousama
Ryan is one of the growing bullpen of talent currently being cultivated by the staff at AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. Be sure to stop by their site to discover more talented authors and their work