Tell me about yourself?By day I’m a lawyer. I do quite a bit of writing in that job, but it’s a very disciplined kind of thing. You can be creative with legal arguments (I’ve even won with a few of those), but you can’t massage facts. Particularly on appeal (where I do most of my work), the facts are what they are. You can’t do away with bad facts and you can’t make up good ones.
Somewhere along the line, I decided that I wanted to be able to make up facts. Not just facts, but people and words and worlds. I had always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy, so I decided to start writing it. I wanted to write something completely divorced from my workaday world.
I started with short stories, most of which are collected in The Last Ereph and Other Stories. See? There’s one of those made up words (an ereph is kind of like a priest, except not). My first novel, Moore Hollow, is about zombies (except not) - the remnants of a crooked politician’s reelection scheme deep in the West Virginia coal fields. The Water Road trilogy - which concludes March 22 with The Bay of Sins - is more of a traditional epic fantasy (except not).
I think my legal writing has made me a better writer of fiction, and my fiction writing has made me a better legal writer. Writing is writing and practice (as my clarinet teacher said way way ago) makes better. I plan on getting a lot more practice in over the years to come.
Tell me about your current Book:The Bay of Sins comes out on March 22. It’s the final part of The Water Road trilogy (the other two parts came out last year). It’s an epic fantasy, but not the standard kind. There’s no magic, although the world is filled with “fantastic” things, like telepathy. There are no humans in it either. Oh, and it’s set in a world that’s roughly equivalent technologically to late 18th/early 19th century Europe, so it’s muskets and cannon instead of swords.
Interwoven with the story of Antrey’s return from exile are stories of assassination and political prosecutions as the world tries to make its way forward. In bombed out Innisport, the Altrerian woman who saw the city through its occupation and initial recovery, Mida, finds herself on trial for treason. Complicated as that is, Mida’s conscience is haunted by a Neldathi locked up with her because he wouldn’t fight against her people. All she wants is for life to get back to normal, but now that might not be possible.
Finally, the newly founded Neldathi city of Albandala has been the sight of a high-profile assassination. Hirrek, once one of Antrey’s closest advisors, has to figure out why a madman turned into a killer and, more importantly, if it was due to some outside influence. What Hirrek finds shows that perhaps the war isn’t as over as some people want it to be.
When a stranger shows up on her exile island, Antrey Ranbren must decide whether to risk the peace she sacrificed so much for, or else risk losing all the Neldathi gained during their bloody uprising.
What are you working on now?Right now I’m working through a few short story ideas before I launch into my next novel. One story is about a guy who gets caught up in a kind of magical duel between a pair of wizards. Another is about someone who finds a wish granting machine in the oddest of places. I also have a talking animal story I’m going to pull out and polish for the “underground” anthology that was just announced.
As far as the next novel goes - right now I have so many ideas that I’m still sorting through things waiting for one to demand to be written. I’m leaning toward either a standalone sci-fi novel about a woman whose life in exile is turned upside down and she’s forced to confront her past or starting a steampunkish series about a collapsing empire and the chaos its causing to its world.
But then there’s the comic sci-fi about the dullard who gets the galaxy’s worst tattoo . . . and the potential trilogy about discovering the source of magic . . . and the book about an old, cynical champion brought out of retirement to defend one last innocent person. You get the idea!
Where is your favorite place to be when you write?In my studio at home. I have an open square setup, with one side given over to my writing computer and the other two filled up with synthesizers and other noise makers. It’s right by a window, so I can keep track on the neighborhood. It’s not “comfortable” (it’s a stand up desk), but that works to my advantage. It keeps me on task and makes the inevitable distractions easier to avoid.
I blogged about it a while back: https://jdbyrne.net/2017/01/23/where-the-magic-happens/
What is your favorite lesson you have learned about the business of writing?I don’t know if this is a “favorite” lesson, but maybe the most important is that producing books - which is not quite the same thing is writing - is a long process that can really be a slog at times. The actual writing, hopefully, will be a more inspired, slave to the muse kind of experience, but everything else can feel an awful lot like work. That’s particularly true for indie authors who have to format books and the like. It’s not always easy to make yourself do that kind of stuff, but the sooner that’s done and the book’s out there the sooner you can move on to the next one.
What is your favorite Website?Prog Archives (http://www.progarchives.com/). It’s a vast discography of progressive rock albums, all cataloged into different subgenres (which are debatable, to be honest, but that’s half the fun). Not only is it a great resource if I’m checking out a new band, but it’s the kind of place where I can go to look up one thing and wind up wasting a lot of time clicking around from one album or artist to another (sort of like Wikipedia).