So after writing a review of Brian Rush’s Goddess-Born: A Tale of Two Worlds, I interviewed the author to get a glimpse of his inspiration for writing.
Bookworm: “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Can you tell me what was your inspiration for Goddess-Born: A Tale of Two World?”
Brian Rush: “Inspiration for a story can come from the strangest places. In the 1990s I played a video game called “Master of Magic.” It was a strategy game, much like the Sid Meier’s Civilization series but with magic instead of technology. One of the features of that game was that the game map was twofold; there were two worlds, one somewhat magical, the other highly magical, and several ways to get from one world to the other. The main way was by means of magical towers that were guarded by monsters. So you had to defeat the monsters and take possession of the towers, and then any units in the same square as the tower could move between the worlds.
So that actually was the beginning of the Tale of Two Worlds concept which began in
The Green Stone Tower. Other than the two worlds connected by magical towers, one of them
more magical than the other, there isn’t a lot of resemblance between the stories and the game,
but that was the starting point.
Goddess-Born itself began with nothing but the characters of Sonia and Malcolm
who had been set up in the final part of The Green Stone Tower as infants, plus of course the
background already developed in Tower. I started the story twenty-one years after the end of
Tower, with Sonia and Malcolm as young adults. Everything flowed from there. I had already set up the Kingdom of Grandlock as a modernizing monarchy with early-modern technology, so having the country go through a crisis of democratic revolution was a logical development.
Adding the distorting effects of magic and the subtle interference of the gods built the rest of the
plot, and the other characters suggested themselves in the course of developing it.”
Bookworm: “Who was your favorite character you’ve ever written? Why?”
Brian Rush: “That’s a hard one. I think I would have to say that my favorite character is Karla/Angéefrom the Star Mages trilogy. She’s one of the two viewpoint characters – the series is written in alternating first person, with half of it in her view and the other half in that of Correl/Falcon, who was Karla’s lover and Angée’s father. As to why, well, initially Karla is a Crystal Mage, one ofthe truly nasty sorcerers. Think Sith Lord with more power and more perverse depravity. She is callous, indifferent to the welfare of most of humanity, and quite deadly. And yet her ongoing love for Correl (who is a Star Mage, one of the idealistic wizards who are the Crystal’s flip side) lifts her out of her otherwise completely selfish approach to life.
After Karla becomes Angée through a process of self-sacrifice and reincarnation, a more
noble side of her personality comes out. And yet her memories and experience from being a
Crystal Mage continue to give her a hard edge and a ruthless streak in service to her new ideals. I
like her because of the contradictions and paradoxes in her personality. I always enjoyed entering into her mindset. I may even write more stories with her as the central character, although it won’t be real soon.”
Bookworm: “Who are your favorite conventionally published authors?”
Brian Rush: “My absolute favorite conventionally published author is without a doubt Neil Gaiman. I’ve read just about everything book-length that he’s written: Stardust, Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys. I love his style, the compassion he shows, his sense of irony and his ability to craft a story. I’ve sometimes wished I could write the way he does, but there’s no way that’s going to happen, which doesn’t mean I can’t learn to write as well. But he and I are radically different people and if I were to try to shape my writing to what he does I would ruin it.
There’s a pretty long list of others I’ve liked a lot, too, if not quite as well. Jim Butcher’s
“Dresden Files” series is wonderful. On the surface it looks like yet another urban-fantasy
schlock thing with wizards and vampires and whatnot in a somewhat-shifted modern-day
world, but the character of Harry Dresden himself lifts it way above that level. And characters
and stories are what fiction of any kind is about, right? The rest is just trappings. I also like
Jacqueline Carey for the richness, sensuality, and passion of her writing. And the whole concept
of Blessed Elua just tickles the hell out of me.”
Bookworm: “Do you have any advice to other authors who wish to self-publish?”
Brian Rush: “Really at this point I can say two things.
First, there’s a learning curve to writing fiction whether you self-publish or go through
publishing houses. It just manifests a little differently. If you go through publishing houses,
you write books that are never accepted, piling up rejection slips from agents and then from
publishers, until you learn enough in the course of writing to create something that is accepted. If
you self-publish, you write books and publish them and they don’t find an audience because they
aren’t quite good enough to stand out, until you learn enough in the course of writing to create
something that does and that sells well.
No matter how you approach it, the only way to learn to write is to write. I look back on my earlier efforts now, like the Star Mages trilogy, and while that is by no means awful, I know I can do better now. If I were writing that trilogy today, it would be much better than it is, because I learned a lot in the course of writing it and The Green Stone Tower and Goddess-Born. There just aren’t any short-cuts and that has to be accepted. As the I Ching is fond of telling us, perseverance furthers.
The other thing I’d say is that you should not skimp on quality, ever. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money on editing, cover design, etc. but it does mean that if you don’t, you need to spend a lot of time. If you have any aesthetic sense you can learn to design your own covers, but you must work at doing so (unless you’re already a graphic designer, of course). You can do most (not all) of your own editing, too: the proofreading and style-editing parts, which are the tedious and time-consuming parts. You still need someone else who knows what they’re doing to read your work and tell you where it falls short, where something doesn’t ring true, where the pace is too slow or a character isn’t working, that sort of thing. An author is always too close to his or her work to see that kind of thing. But about 90 percent of editing in terms of time spent can be done by the author.
But the point here is that none of this will do itself. There are skill sets to acquire if you want to self-publish and don’t have a lot of money sitting around. Even when you have those skill sets, and any writer really should be able to proofread for example, using them can be tedious and time-consuming. Too bad. You have to. There’s just no excuse for publishing anything that isn’t as good as you can make it. If you’re self-publishing, you are responsible for all of that. You can’t blame the publisher for a typo or a bad cover because you are the publisher.
Treat your book like a work of art, because it is one, and make it as absolutely perfect as you are
able to before you hit that upload button and go live.
Bookworm: “Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.”