Friday, May 15, 2009

Robert Newcomb Interview

This interview appeared before at my old Suite101 site. Robert Newcomb writes interesting Epic Fantasy books with intiguing characters and plenty of action. I enjoy his books immensely and highly recommend them. That’s why I’m sharing this interview again. Information on Robert Newcomb’s books can be found at his web site at:

Debbie Ledesma: What led you into a writing career?

Robert Newcomb: My path to a writing career was fairly circuitous one. Had you asked me earlier in life, writing fantasy novels would have been the farthest thing from my mind. I was a businessman in upstate New York. As a result of a fairly unique offer, I sold my businesses and moved to Florida. My wife had just read her first fantasy novel, and she liked it. She said that I should read it, and I must admit that at first I was hesitant. But to my surprise, I liked it too. My wife then challenged me to sit down and try to write one of my own, and I took the bait. At first I would write a bit here and there—mostly as the mood struck me, and the various ideas came along. Before too long, The Fifth Sorceress was finished. Frankly, I was surprised at how much I had enjoyed the process.

DL: How long did it take you to write the first book and how long did it take to get that book published?

RN: How long did it take to write The Fifth Sorceress? I always find it interesting that people ask this question—it is without doubt the one that is most frequently asked. When I was writing the book, my work habits were very erratic. Some days I would turn out one page, some days ten, and some days none at all. Overall, I suppose it took me about twelve months.

Finding an agent, selling the work, and seeing the first book on the shelves took longer. Including the editing, that process lasted about sixteen months, I’d say. But the time went by fast, because during that period we finalized the deal for the first three books and I had to begin writing the second volume, entitled The Gates of Dawn. I have been inordinately lucky, I know. This has been a magical time for me—a whirlwind—and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

DL: With three books published, you’re relatively a new author to the genre. Why did you choose the Fantasy genre to write in?

RN: I chose the fantasy genre because the creative p ˛ossibilities seemed so endless. To my mind, even sci-fi and horror don’t allow for the great range of self-expression that fantasy does. I also feel that the use of magic has a far more intriguing quality about it than aligning warp coils or calculating the distance in light years to Ceti-Alpha Five, for example. But don’t make the mistake of believing that I think less of sci-fi. It’s just that for me, fantasy is so much more intriguing. The questions worthy of exploration are infinite. Who can learn magic? What makes some persons better at practicing it than others? What is the mythology of it, and how do the people in the story make use of it—for good or for evil? These are the kinds of things I choose to pursue in the world I have created. Some say that the final frontier is outer space. In a strictly realistic sense, I suppose they’re quite right. But in an artistic sense, for me the real frontier is how my characters learn and employ the magic, and how their lives come to be affected by it.

DL: How many books is your current series going to be?

RN: How many books will the series be? That depends. I’m asked that one a lot. My standard, joking answer is that I’ll write as many as my publisher wishes to buy! But seriously, I think I would like to see the series go to ten books. The trick is to continue expanding on the story, and still keep it interesting. I don’t want to wear out my welcome, so to speak. I like to think of as each book as one chapter in an ongoing tale. I would also like to write a series of prequels to the current story, if there is sufficient interest.

DL: Do you have ideas for any other books besides your current series?

RN: I would love to write a series of prequels to "The Chronicles of Blood and Stone". And I am currently working on something else in my spare time. It’s a modern day thriller, with fantasy overtones. But given my current time constraints, it will have to wait for a while.

DL: What authors do you enjoy reading?

RN: I don’t really have ı any fiction authors that I am following just now. In recent years I have turned away from reading novels and toward reading biographies. In my youth I read Ian Fleming, Ernest Hemingway, Frederick Forsyth, and Lawrence Durrell, (the "Alexandria Quartet"), among others. Durrell’s work is sheer poetry, and I reread the Quartet from time to time, just to revisit his amazing style.

DL: Do you attempt to influence the way people view society through
your writing, and if so do you believe Fantasy can have an impact?

RN: I don’t try to preach any brand of morality in my books, or project my personal political philosophies onto my readers. Frankly, I’m not sure that I have the right do that. My primary goal is to tell a great story, to captivate the reader during my time with them, and to entertain him or her in the best way I know how. For me, that is what good fantasy is really about. When someone picks up one of my books, I want them to know that they’re about to go on an adventure—one —that they will hopefully sweep them away. Personally, I think lectures should be left to the college professors, rather than to the fantasy authors. But others disagree, and that’s fine. It’s all a matter of taste and style. But do I think that fantasy novels can have such an impact if written that way? Yes, of course.

DL: I’m always fascinated with Fantasy that has mythic themes. Do you use themes from mythology in your books?

RN: As far as mythology is concerned, I don’t use any of the traditional mythological references in my work. The mythology of "The Chronicles of Blood and Stone" is all home-grown, so to speak. The adepts who originally refined the "good" side of the craft are called the Ones Who Came Before. The first masters of the "dark" side of the craft are called the Heretics of the Guild. These opposing groups supposedly exterminated themselves in a cataclysmic war eons ago. But their differing brands of magic live on, and continue – to struggle for dominance. These beings presumably reside as spirits in the heavens, but much of their true nature has yet to be revealed. Just as it is my plan to reveal a little bit more about the magic as the books go forth, so too shall it be with the history and mythology of these two groups.

DL: What themes or modern day issues do you include in your works that you want to share with readers?

RN: The primary theme of my books is the good old "good vs. evil" question. But my villains don’t see themselves as evil. Due their biological makeup, they are more prone to want to practice the darker side of magic as a force of nature, and they can’t fathom why anyone would wish to do otherwise. They believe themselves to be as right and as vindicated as do the forces for good. This leads to some very interesting dynamics between friends, relatives, villains, heroes, etc. Good should win, of course, and it does. But I always try to leave behind the seed ≠ of some future darkness that is about to follow in the next book. At that point I want another domino just about to fall, and start another interesting series of events.

DL: What would your advice be to any aspiring writers?

RN: To aspiring writers, I would say this: Above all, don’t become discouraged. Second only to that is the fact that you mustn’t take criticism personally—a certain amount of it always goes with the territory. If your work is good, it will eventually be found. Polish your manuscript as best you can, and then try to find a good agent to represent you. It can be difficult to find representation, but you have to persevere. There will probab /ly be many rejection letters to wade through, before that magical one comes along. And be especially wary of polite, well-meaning comments from family and friends. Don’t ask what they liked about your work—ask about what they didn’t like, instead. It will be far more productive, I assure you.

When you write, don’t be afraid to go for broke—the delete key is always there at your fingertips to wipe out your mistakes. Own the page, and keep going! Most of all, try to write a little bit each day, no matter your personal circumstances. A little every day is a lot better than a whole bunch every once in a while. If you must rise at 4:30 AM each day to accomplish this, then so be it! In the end it will be worth it. At the rate of only one page a day, in a year you will have a 365 page novel.


jmacri7 said...

Robert Newcomb,

I love these books and think of Tristan and his adventures often. I realize that Del Ray does not wish to publish the rest of the series -- so, my question is - why not ebook the rest of the series and sell them yourself online. I'm sure your fans will buy them up. I'd be the first in line! I need to know what happens next!

mac32 said...

I agree with jmacri7. I would definitely read them in ebook form.