Tag Archives: writers of the future

Talking Writing With Brad Beaulieu

(This is the first interview in the Indie Fantasy Bundle Author Series.  Links to all other interviews are provided at the end of this one!)

Brad Beaulieu and I met about ten years ago at the twentieth anniversary Writers of the Future workshop, where we spent a week learning the craft from Tim Powers and K.D. Wentworth.  (I still have the notes Brad made on a story of mine from that week.)  From the beginning, he struck me as a person who had an inquisitive and analytical mind that matched his creativity.  Since then, it’s been a pleasure watching his career grow, gaining strong fan support and critical acclaim.  When the opportunity to curate for StoryBundle arose, I knew I wanted to include Brad’s work.  His debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, is available as part of the Indie Fantasy Bundle available through February 10, 2015.

Hearing Brad talk about writing is a pretty cool experience.  Though most writers think about their creative process, Brad delves into it.  The result can be a wide-ranging conversation or a tightly focused discussion, but it will always be interesting.  If you have the chance to catch one of his convention workshops (he taught at GenCon’s Writer Symposium last year), I highly recommend it.

In the meantime, Brad was generous enough to answer a few questions about his writing process in general, and The Winds of Khalakovo specifically.  Enjoy!

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Secrets are a big part of what drives your story and adds complexities to your characters.   How did you approach weaving those secrets into the plot?  Can you talk a little about how those secrets—the ones withheld and the ones discovered—impacted the characters’ choices?

Agreed, and I’ll take it a step further. I think secrets are a big part of what drives any story. Even those that are light or comedic in tone are driven by story questions, the answers to which are revealed only after torturing the reader for a time. Throughout much of The Hobbit, we have the overriding question of What is Smaug? and How dangerous will he be when Bilbo and the dwarves reach the Lonely Mountain at last? In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we have the mystery of who, in fact, framed Roger Rabbit.

In The Winds of Khalakovo, I tried to introduce mystery early. I wanted the inciting incident to show up quickly, and for it to lead to more questions as the story played out. Early on, there’s an attack on a windship, which the hero of the novel, Prince Nikandr Khalakovo, responds to when it happens. That attack is much more than it seems at first. As it unfolds, larger mysteries are revealed to the reader, which lead to even more mysteries, until the full scope and stakes of the novel are shown near the end of the book.

One of the central characters is a boy named Nasim. He’s a cipher early on. He doesn’t speak often, and when he does it is often unclear what he’s speaking about. Nasim is, in fact, very powerful, and the reasons for that are revealed later in the novel, but one of the things you have to be careful of in novels is having characters that are too powerful. I had initially envisioned Nasim as a savant, a boy gifted with incredible magical abilities, and he is that, but he also lives with a condition that is similar to what we think of as autistic.

It was necessary to limit Nasim in some way, but as it turned out the incarnation I used in the book led to some very interesting reveals. It’s the very root of his condition—an autistic savant—that led me to know so much more about who he really is and where he came from, something I probably would never have come up with if I wasn’t trying to keep his power in check in the first place.

One of the many things I love about The Winds of Khalakovo is its sense of deep history.  How much of the novel’s backstory did you develop before the writing began?

Continue reading Talking Writing With Brad Beaulieu

The Light Beyond the Wet Blanket

100_2648Back at this post, we talked about throwing away the Wet Blanket—turning off the part of your prefrontal cortex that inhibits creativity—in order to use new writing skills and be creative at the same time.

It’s easy to say.  There are writers who have, it would seem, a natural ability to bypass the Wet Blanket or perhaps have no Wet Blanket at all.  Hearing their advice—”Just do it!”—can be so frustrating because the fact you can’t just do it makes you feel like a failure or an imposter.  It’s even worse when the advice is coupled with judgment about a writer’s worth that’s based on this single measure.

But know this, my darlings: Very few writers can “just do it,” and natural ability is no indication of future success.  The fact your creativity doesn’t perform on command is normal.  Tapping your creativity can be learned.  But it is also, unquestionably, difficult at times.  And the most difficult time is when you’re actively working to improve your skills.

Research performed at the University of Pennsylvania found free and creative thinking could be enhanced by inhibiting the left prefrontal cortex with a mild electrical current.  Shocking your brain sounds a tad extreme for home use—not the sort of DIY project I’d recommend—so let’s see what else we can do, hmm?

Continue reading The Light Beyond the Wet Blanket

Crossroads Finally Makes Sense

Many years ago, I was able to attend the Writers of the Future writing workshop in Los Angeles, taught by K.D. Wentworth and Tim Powers.  K.D. gave me a piece of short story writing advice: Mutilate the cows on the first page.  For me, who had a bad habit of burying the SF element too many words into the story, it was an excellent piece of advice.

But it was Tim whom I got to know quite well during that week, and I had the chance to spend much of a later convention hanging out with him and his wife.  Over coffee, I expressed my huge admiration for the event-puzzles Tim wrote as secret histories, and asked his advice on writing about the weird and wild in present-day settings.  The conversation was fascinating, far-reaching, and made my brain hurt with the effort to keep up.  His process of discovering and connecting historical events with fantastical motivations and influences stuck with me as I plotted out Crossroads of America.

Now, Crossroads is not a complex secret history, though it does draw from real historical reports, regional folklore, and local events.  But the biggest missing piece has always been why the major character–Jack–ends up in a position of such influence, why she is the one who must act, and why her actions might have the power to solve the, um… problems.

Today, while hunting Google for the names of a couple locations in the California wilderness, I came upon this:

“Scientists are puzzled by a mysterious Los Padres National Forest hot spot where 400-degree ground ignited a wildfire.  The hot spot was discovered by fire crews putting out a three-acre fire last summer in the forest’s Dick Smith Wilderness.”

And all of a sudden, Jack has a complex backstory that makes her the inevitable choice for the role she must play, and it’s all based on an actual event!

Now back to adding words to my NaNo count.