Hello, Mr. Wynn. Thanks for stopping by Author Interview Corner.
Thank you, Lindsey! It’s an honor to be featured here.
My first impression upon visiting your website was as follows: “Wow! This guy has a TON of books!” How long have you been writing, and how many projects do you put out in the average year?
I’ve been writing for almost my entire life. As soon as I learned how to wield a word, I was writing little stories, and by first grade I was writing short books. Everything I was writing then was very derivative of the cartoons or sci-fi shows I was hooked on at the time, so it wasn’t sale-able by any stretch of the imagination, but it was good practice and I loved doing it. I think I gravitated toward writing initially because I had a lot of images trapped in my imagination that I needed to get out on paper, and since I couldn’t draw (or at least, didn’t have the patience to learn how to do it) and didn’t have my own movie crew or studio to make movies with, I settled for the art form that gave me the leverage to do the most that I could with the least. I learned the power of words very early on, and have always delighted in using simple constructions of letters and sound to cause explosions of color and imagery within the minds of my readers.
Most of the books I’ve written which are currently in print were put together and published after 2007, so it is only in the past seven years that I’ve really hit the writing hard and pushed to make it into a career. Before that, I bounced around from job to job and school to school trying to find something I could do (outside of writing) that didn’t make me want to off myself. I’ve trained to be a teacher, a pilot, spent time cleaning out and checking fluids on rental trucks, sold swords out of a booth at Scottish Games faires and was even a math tutor for a while. During that time, I spent a lot of weekends and weeknights refereeing for D&D games and building video games in RPG maker, which, I like to think, helped me hone my creativity. Being the “DM” of a big group for a long time means you’ve got to be able to craft (and tell) killer stories on the fly or you’re shuffled aside in favor of someone else who is more talented.
2010 was the year I really amped up my editing and production. It was the year I went back and started pulling together all of the half-finished projects I’d been working on over the preceding years and in the space of that twelve months, I put out thirteen books. In 2011, my total was fifteen, in 2012, it dropped to seven, (it was a difficult year) and in 2013 I bounced back with twelve. This year, I’m going to release at least five, but I’m already slowing down and planning on rolling things back in favor of other projects, namely short stories and other smaller, easier side-projects. It’s been a wild ride getting fifty books under my belt before turning thirty and I am ready for a break.
Do you write every single day or when inspiration hits?
Inspiration hits me hard almost every single day, so– both! My creative faucet runs full blast almost all the time, so I spend more time trying to get a break from the flow than I do trying to overcome writer’s block. That being said, I was once as haunted by writer’s block as anyone else– for most of my life (prior to 2010,) I struggled with it, but by writing only what interests me, when it has interested me, I have maintained a pretty constant flow in the years since.
Are there any authors who have influenced your work?
I would say that every author (and writer) I’ve ever read has influenced my work. Everything I read (and as the chief editor of seven online journals, I read a lot) I study and dissect in my mind, laying it out so I can understand the patterns, the math and music behind every line that moves me. My favorite authors to read and absorb are Cormac McCarthy, Storm Constantine, Peter Grandbois and Robert A. Heinlein, but I also have a lot of fun seeking out and reading obscure and/or little known independent sci-fi writers from the late seventies, eighties and early nineties. That, to me, is the most perfect era of science fiction– the point where intellectual sci-fi was beginning to become more action-oriented, darker and more real, but before it yielded entirely to modern pulp “syfy”.
Your sci-fi thriller series, Pink Carbide, is currently 5 books long, with books 6 and 7 scheduled for 2014 release dates. Please tell us a little about this series.
Pink Carbide is the story of one woman alone in a world where every government agent and two-bit gun runner is burning to get her in their sights. It’s the story of a world where everything is synthesized, where nanotechnology runs rampant and cybernetics have become a part of everyday life. It’s the story of a secret so profound it could change the face of the world forever, it’s the story of a mad man’s experiment and the revenge of a captured soul with only false memories to guide her into the great unknown– and beyond. There’s a lot going on in this series, but at the center of it all is a journey of self-discovery, of one person’s transformation from helpless waif to an unstoppable, spear-wielding goddess of justice carving her way back through the familiar hells of a cybernetic cityscape that was once her home.
What is it like writing a series, as opposed to a stand-alone novel? Do you find yourself planning ahead into the next book while writing the current one? Will the series end at book 7, or keep going?
Writing a series is a completely different animal from writing a single, stand-alone novel. With a single novel, you can create atmosphere by pulling details out of thin air and sticking them wherever they grease the machinery of the story. Generally, you don’t have to keep track of too many things at once, reserving more of your “head-space” for the rest of the story (and for important, life-related things.) When you’re writing a series, however, the little details you can’t forget (at least, not without creating plot holes) start to add up, and after a while, you’re running around with so many important ideas stuck in your head that the act of continuing to write in that universe becomes half a trudge through mental mud and half a race against burn-out. When I’m working on a series, it consumes my life for months at a time– I become obsessive, quiet, locked in my own head. I forget to shave and spend days fighting with words until at last I can rise from my self-imposed shackles and carry my manuscripts into the light again. For me, writing a short story is as satisfying as flying. Writing a novel is like a satisfying walk or a long, rugged hike through nature. Writing a series, especially one as long as the Pink Carbide series, is equal parts hiking, flying and lying face-down in the mud crying until the pain goes away.
When I’m writing a series, I’ve found that I work best when I have only a loose framework of future events laid out ahead of me. If the outline I’ve put together is too detailed and too dense, I get bored too quickly and end up setting the project aside, so I try to keep the details as sparse as possible. On the other hand, if I forgo an outline entirely, I tend to get lost and frustrated and eventually bored, which kills the project just as quickly. I like the flexibility that a basic skeleton of events affords, especially since I can have an idea, delete the entire skeleton and rewrite it from scratch without losing too much work. I do that pretty often while writing books, and when I’m writing a series, little changes in the outline can effect the entire universe in wide, sweeping ways. It’s almost like you’re trying to assemble the perfect timeline piece by piece, and every little tweak in the flow of events has the potential to erase entire characters from existence– or create the need for new characters to fill a vacuum that wasn’t there previously.
As for Pink Carbide, the series is definitely going to come to an end with book seven. For me, finishing the Pink Carbide series was (and is) kind of a homecoming for me. It brings me full circle. The first three books in the Pink Carbide series were my first three books in print, and the fourth book was my fiftieth. The main reason for the huge gap of time and writing between the third and fourth books in the series can be contributed more or less to a simple lack of inertia. With a series like this, a series which has so many little side stories, facts, details, etc. tying the universe together, there is a certain amount of mental momentum you have to maintain in order to keep the words coming. When I was working on Lithium Liederkreis (book four) initially, I actually pushed the manuscript up to about 90,000 words before document corruption literally wiped the entire book. It was crippling. My back-ups were a few months old, so I lost all but about the first 10,000 words. The last time I lost a book like that, I stopped writing altogether for at least a year, but the mental momentum I had built up writing books one through three kept me going through the loss, kept me writing book four. It was hard work trying to reconstruct so many words that I had already written, but I got the book up to about 70,000 words again before I lost it all a second time. After that second loss, I shelved the series entirely, deciding it just wasn’t meant to be.
Last year, however, I decided that, for my fiftieth book, I would pick up the series again and put what journal scraps remained of Lithium Liederkreis back on the page. I’d learned a lot about backing up my writing (I’m also using more reliable word processing programs now) and enough time had passed to make the material interesting to me again, so finishing book four came relatively easily. Ultimately, I think it was a good thing that there was such a long hiatus (four years) between book three and the rest of the series because it gave me a chance to really grow as a writer, to learn my craft and take the Pink Carbide books in a whole new (ultimately better) direction than what I had originally planned for them.
Have you ever gotten well and truly stuck while trying to translate an idea from your brain to written word? If so, did you manage to overcome the problem?
Every day. The words come pretty fluidly, but I get stuck on specific word choices pretty regularly. Not for long, usually, but long enough sometimes that I fall asleep at the keyboard if I’m really tired. For the best flow, I’ve found that it’s important to look after your body– you have to take care of everything, exercise, eat right, drink coffee or tea, sleep well, put on good music, etc. The fewer distractions you have from your own physical self, the easier the writing will come. It’s not easy– the body needs a lot of attention, but if you treat it right, it will treat you right, and your mind will be able to muse freely without being constantly dragged back to reality with thoughts of hunger, exhaustion, lust, anxiety, etc.
Here’s a fun question. If you had to pick a favorite character you’ve created, who would it be?
That’s a tough question! They’re all my favorites!
No, in all seriousness, each of the books I write is like a torrid love affair between me (as a writer) and the characters I am writing. I love them all passionately while I’m writing them, and then when the fire fades, I set the book aside and strike up a romance with a new protagonist. That being said, one character I do keep coming back to over and over again is Tessa Eisenherz of The Cygnus War series. I just can’t get enough of her. She’s interesting, so human, driven, strong yet sensitive and empathic. She has a rough, rugged, iron exterior that gets her through everything, yet she’s so soft on the inside that she feels every barb, every mile of broken glass that she powers though. Plus, she’s a hell of a pilot and loves the sky almost as much as I do. Can’t go wrong with a woman like that.
You’re one of those versatile authors who likes to dabble in a dozen different genres. Although the majority of your work appears to be science fiction, it certainly runs the gamut from there, right on through horror, romance, poetry, non-fiction, and even choose-your-own-adventure books! Was this a conscious decision you made when setting out to become an author, or did it just sort of happen that way?
I would say that it just sort of happened that way. Restrictions are the antithesis of progress in writing, so I’ve always followed my interests instead of trying to limit myself to a single genre. Over and over again, I find myself coming back to sci-fi, especially darker sci-fi, because that’s always been my primary passion, but I definitely enjoy all of my forays into other genres. I also like to create challenges for myself, and many of my books are, in a way, milestones that reflect that. Pink Carbide was a challenge– can I write a book? Yes. Pink Carbide: Aluminum Opus was a challenge– can I do it again? Yes. How about a third time? Yes, Pink Carbide: Carbon Aria, and so on. The Mars Manuscripts, Last Five Years, The Hyperborean Texts, Letters From A Dead Earth, even my upcoming Rise of the Forgotten God all started as challenges I set for myself, challenges I can look back on and say “yep, I did that.” The most ridiculous challenge I think I’ve ever set for myself was having over fifty books in print before turning thirty, but even that was no match for my tenacity. I turn thirty in May, and by then I should have fifty-five books in print. I’m still debating about whether or not I should go for one hundred books in print before I turn forty. Only five books per year? Doesn’t seem like much of a challenge compared to the last crazy goal. Yes, I am nuts.
I’m a die-hard horror fan, so I have to ask: Which one of your horror novels would you consider to be your best?
Another challenging question. Honestly, all of my forays into horror so far have been short stories or short story collections, but my favorite shade of sci-fi is dark, horrific sci-fi. Of all of the sci-fi novels that I’ve written which tread into the realm of horror, Like Oceans of Liquid Skin is the highest rated among fans I’ve spoken with, though it’s an interactive book, which may (or may not) be a mark against it for some. In terms of supernatural horror, The Hyperborean Texts is also highly rated, being a meta-fictional account of translated figures found during an anthropological expedition to the arctic circle. It’s very Lovecraftian in style.
In terms of more mainstream horror, the best piece I could recommend from my own stable of works would be the e-short I’ve written titled 8:05 (Horoscope).
Then, there’s Rise of the Forgotten God which comes out in early March of this year. It’s fantasy genre, but very dark and gritty. (It contains things like demonic dragons made of liquid blood, killer shadows that possess people, an unkillable evil from the distant northern wastes, etc.)
In addition to writing, you do some very interesting things with your voice. Can you tell us about some of those projects?
Thank you. Years ago, a friend of mine from the D&D group I used to referee told me that my voice was one of the reasons why I was such a successful DM and suggested I read some of my own work aloud. Being terrified of people, I quickly found that going out into the world and reading my material aloud at events, competitions, etc. pushed me entirely too far out of my comfort zone, so I decided to try my hand at audio work online. My first big project was an audiobook version of Pink Carbide, and I’ve done short bits of audio work here and there for a while now, though the bulk of the material I’ve done has been for Mark Slade’s Dark Dreams Podcast and the Blackout City Podcasts. You can find both of those over at http://www.spreaker.com/user/deadrecords0.
In addition to that, I maintain quite a bit of audio material on Youtube, soundcloud and my own Spreaker page, but at this point, it’s pretty much all just stuff I do for fun.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Never give up. Honestly, that’s the most important piece of advice one writer can ever give another. Don’t write for the success. Write what you love because you love it. There is no magic bullet or magic way or one true means of “making it as a writer,” so toss aside your ideas of writing something you hate because you think you might be able to ride Stephenie Meyer’s or E.L James’s fanbases to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The act of writing itself must be the reward, or you’ll never make it as a writer. The path is long and full of heartbreak, but it’s worth it in the end, no matter how many people you reach. I think the most satisfying thing about being a writer myself is not the checks that come in the mail, but rather the letters. My favorites, the ones that make the journey most worthwhile, are those that come from people who say that my books literally saved their lives by giving them something to live for in their darkest hours.
Write every day. Keep a small notebook on your person at all times, and use those little ten minute waiting periods when you’re standing in line or sitting in traffic to get ideas down on paper. Always have ideas brewing in your mind, and when you finally sit down at the keyboard to write, the blank page won’t seem so intimidating because you’ll have already done all the hard work of coming up with concepts, first lines, etc.
What are you working on at the moment?
A ton of things! I’m always juggling a million projects at once. Currently, the project that is taking the most of my time and energy is the sequel to Rise of the Forgotten God, tentatively titled Sisters in Slaughter. I’m also in the process of finishing up edits for Pink Carbide: Fullerene Symphony and starting edits for a project for Horrified Press entitled Plague. Other than that, a friend and I are currently formulating a joint project that might come into being sometime this year, and I’m preparing material for the formal announcement of Stormcloud Poets #2, which I’ll be posting more information about sometime later this month. I also love pyrography (wood-burning art) and in my free time, I’ve been preparing my next canvas with plans to start working on it (hopefully) as early as April.
Is there any news for 2014, other than books 6 and 7 of Pink Carbide, that you’d like to discuss before we wrap up this interview?
A chance to plug my own upcoming books? Heck yes! As mentioned previously, I have at least five new books coming out in 2014. Other than the last few books in the Pink Carbide series, 2014 will also see the release of Rise of the Forgotten God in early March and a book titled Black Magic: Shotgun Spacebabe which is tentatively scheduled for release in early May. In terms of short stories, most of this year’s work so far has been picked up by Nightmare Illustrated, including my story Mellified Man, which is slated for an upcoming issue and is, essentially, a story about a guy who is being slowly mummified into a grisly bee hive. Gnarly stuff.
Where can we find you on the web?
The best place to start would probably be my main author blog at www.eswynn.com. From there, you can find links to pretty much everything I do on the left-hand side of the main page. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Deviant Art, and pretty much every other social site out there.