Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/Ty-Johnston/e/B002MCBQRU/ ), the Nook (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/ty-johnston ) and online at Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/darkbow ). His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.
JGA: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. To start with, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got started writing?
TJ: I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was five years old. I started with comic books, reading and writing them. Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, the Fantastic Four. Those were my earliest fictional heroes. I wrote a couple of very short novels when I was in elementary school. In my late teens I began writing short stories and one horror novel. In college I studied journalism, then I spent the next 20 years as a newspaper editor or designer. During all that time, I kept up my short story writing, with a handful of sales here and there. A few years back, like many today, I found myself looking for a new career. I decided to turn my love of fiction writing into that new career, and so far I’m doing alright. In the last six years I’ve written five novels, four novellas, two screenplays and so many short stories I’ve lost count, the majority of that written in the last couple of years.
JGA: How do you go about the actual process of writing?
TJ: Not much is set with me when it comes to writing. I mostly write at home on an HP desktop, but often enough I travel to a library or book store and write on a laptop. Sometimes I write on a ten-year-old Mac I’ve got in a corner. It really depends upon the project. I use the Mac for screenwriting and graphic design because I’ve got the appropriate software there, even if the computer is old.
I have no set schedule for writing, though when in the depths of a novel I do set daily word counts for myself. Sometimes I write early in the morning, sometimes later in the day. Sometimes I write in the middle of the night, like I’m doing now.
Every once in a while I write using a pencil and notebook pad, but that’s rare, and I usually just do it for a change of pace and/or when I’m starting a new project.
JGA: How do you personally like to read books you buy these days?
TJ: I’m all over the place. I have hundreds of e-books waiting for me on my Kindle, but I also have a stack of about 50 books waiting on a shelf above my main writing computer. I enjoy both digital and paper. I buy both. If I’m at home and think about a particular book, usually I pop onto my Kindle and buy it. But sometimes I’ll be out in a book store and I’ll find something I want; in that case, I go ahead and purchase it.
Of late, I’m growing more fond of shorter novels. I believe that’s because I’ve spent much of the last couple of years reading longer works, including the Malazan Books of the Fallen by Steven Erikson and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I think I need a break from the longer novels.
I do tend to prefer novels more than short stories. Short stories have to work much harder to impress me.
As a writer, I enjoy working in both short and longer forms. Each brings different skills to the forefront for me. When I’m writing short stories, I’m much more emotional about it, and experimental. When writing novels, I tend to fall into a working routine that’s almost mechanical.
JGA: Which authors (or books) have had the most influence on your writing style, and why?
TJ: I tend to like writers who can convey much in few words, and I try to do the same. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the more flowery writers out there, nor the ones who spend pages upon pages dwelling on the inner turmoils of their characters, but that’s not for me. In writing, I like action and dialogue, and if done correctly, I feel those alone can show much.
As for writers who have influenced my own style, coming from my generation, I’d have to say Stephen King to some extent. Almost any writer under 50 has been influenced by King, directly or indirectly, even if they don’t realize it, because of the influence King has brought to so many other writers, even outside the horror genre.
Hemingway to some small extent has influenced my style, as has Ed McBain. Of fantasy writers, my own style is probably closest to that of the late Fred Saberhagen, and perhaps a little close to the late David Gemmell. The likes of Andrew J. Offutt, Robert E. Howard and Robert Asprin have also had a big affect upon me.
JGA: How do you go about planning your writing?
TJ: For short stories, I do very little planning. I usually have an idea in my head for a few weeks, then one day I sit down and start writing. If the plot is somewhat complex, I might make a few notes on characters or some such.
For novel writing, I usually have tons of notes and computer files containing notes. Right now there is a small notebook, nearly every page filled, and a handful of torn-out sheets sitting in front of my keyboard for my most recent novel, Ghosts of the Asylum. And then there are a half dozen computer files on my main writing computer, with some back-up files elsewhere.
My notes usually are broken up into several different types. One set of notes will focus upon characters, their names and mannerisms. Since I write a lot of epic fantasy, I also usually have a good number of notes about places, their names and characteristics. Then there are scene notes in which I break down everything important that needs to happen in a given scene. I’ll also have notes with a broader approach, reminding me of what is supposed to happen in the next few chapters.
Rarely do I find myself trying to do a complete outline for a longer project. I usually have a basic outline in my head, but most times I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen beyond the next three or four chapters. Whenever I’ve tried to completely outline a novel, it all falls apart by the time I’m halfway through writing the book, and I never like the results.
JGA: Why did you decide to write your novel, Ghosts of the Asylum?
TJ: Ghosts of the Asylum is a sequel to three earlier novels of mine, my Kobalos Trilogy. There were events in that trilogy, especially in the first novel, that brought forth the potential for much change in one area of my fictional world. Basically, the underworld in the city of Bond had lost its overlord, leaving a vacuum for someone to fill. Ghosts of the Asylum deals with that situation while returning some of the characters from the trilogy. Also, Ghosts of the Asylum and the Kobalos Trilogy are part of what will be a much longer work, perhaps as many as 40 to 50 novels, which I tend to think of as my Ursian Chronicles. If ever finished, these chronicles will cover about 2,000 years of time, looking at particular events. Some of the stories will be relatively small in the overall picture, but others will be much more huge, have a broad and epic approach.
JGA: That sounds like a very ambitious plan! Can you tell us a bit about the main character, and some of the challenges they have to face as the story progresses?
TJ: Kron Darkbow is the main character in Ghosts of the Asylum, and in the Kobalos Trilogy. To describe him in the shortest manner possible, think of Batman in the early Renaissance. That basically sums up Kron. Family deaths at an early age urged him into a life of vengeance, and he received training under the tutelage of his uncle, a border warden in the Prisonlands, as well as dozens of other wardens. Kron learned to fight in many different forms, to use a variety of weapons, but he also learned some alchemy, multiple languages and various other skills.
In Ghosts of the Asylum, he finds himself a marked man. In the Kobalos Trilogy, Kron had been involved in the city of Bond losing the leader of its underworld. Now a year later, there are elements of that underworld who want Kron dead for little more reason than they believe his murder would be a good notch on their belt, so to speak. Of course Kron isn’t going to sit still for that. There are also riots in the streets, and then there’s the matter of ghosts haunting the Asylum, a place where a hundred died during my novel City of Rogues.
JGA: Who are the readers would enjoy Ghosts of the Asylum the most?
TJ: I think those who enjoy action-oriented fantasy with some dark intrigue would like my novels. Modern readers of David Gemmell, Steven Erikson and George R.R. Martin might enjoy my works, though admittedly I’m not as talented a writer as those three, and I don’t get as indepth with my characters and backgrounds as does Erikson and Martin.
Also, those who enjoy R.A. Salvatore and Fred Saberhagen should find something to like in my novels.
JGA: What other items are you working on at the moment?
TJ: I’m not set on what my next novel will be, but I’ve got at least a hundred ideas floating around in my head. I do know what the next Kron Darkbow novel will be about, but I’m not sure yet if I want to tackle it or try something else. I’ve not written much horror in a while, and I’ve kind of been feeling the need for that. Also, I’ve got several ideas for literary novels, plus I’d like to expand and give a thriller a try.
Right now, the future novels currently at the front of my thoughts are tentatively titled Demon Chains, my next Kron Darkbow novel; Splintered Shields, a fantasy novel about my Belgad character; Day One, a horror zombie novel; and Nevermind, a mainstream more literary novel about three former college buddies who run into one another at a wedding in their forties.
JGA: If you could somehow change reality and become the author of any published book instead of the person who originally wrote it, which book would you make your own and why?
TJ: That’s a tough question because I could probably name a couple of dozen books, at least. Coming to mind is Watership Down by Richard Adams, for a variety of reasons. It’s a truly excellent novel, but it’s also a great, epic story that ranks right up there with the best of in the fantasy genre. Some readers might pull back from the novel because it is about rabbits, but they are missing out on some superb story telling. Other books that come to mind are The Stand by Stephen King, Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson and World War Z by Max Brooks. Just about anything written by Alexandre Dumas causes me a little jealousy.
JGA: Is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven’t asked?
TJ: I’d just like to thank you for this interview, Jason, and to thank my readers.
You can find all of Ty’s many many novels on Amazon.