Thursday, January 29, 2015

Author Interview: Donald Schlaich

How about we start out by having you introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about who you are.
My name is Donald Schlaich, and I'm a graphics arts professional and aspiring author. I've finished and self-published my first novel, Reckless Magus, and am working on the edits for the sequel, Dragon Magus.

I'm a geek who's been a fan of fantasy my entire life, and who underwent a kind of revelation when I discovered Terry Pratchett in Highschool. I'm also an avid biker, who sometimes regrets living in a city that gets ten feet of snow a year.

Where did the impetus to write come from? 
I've woven stories in my head for as long as I can remember, and when I was young, I can probably say I might have lost at least one job to living partially in daydreams as I went about my work. The stories have been a part of who I am for so long, and once I actually started putting them on paper, I found it hard to stop.

Explain who Abe Spellchaser is and how he came to be.
Abraxas "Abe" Spellchaser is an apprentice Magician, someone who has the potential to understand and use every type of magic. He's been trained by his father since he was ten years old in the use of his magic, including walking between worlds. He's confident in his knowledge, but he's mostly book-taught in his magic, and he's been stranded without any of his notes in a place where magic doesn't work according to rules he had written down. In place of his notes, he's left with his inquisitive nature and a tendency to get himself into trouble.

Abraxas Spellchaser is also a character I played several years ago in a Dungeons and Dragons game. I lived inside his head for a couple of years as I played him, and the first real long-form writing I did was recording the story of the game we were playing at the time.

How did you go about creating the universe in Reckless Magus?
I started with the characters of Abraxas and Simon, two characters who I already had a strong handle on, along with the history of Abe's father Nerick. There are bits of this universe that have been growing in my head for almost fifteen years, and once I had the two characters who the first story would center on, the rest of the world started to come together.

Magic features very heavily in the novel. Explain how the magic in your books works.
There are many different disciplines of magic, of which the first book only highlights a few. Not everyone has the talent to use every type of magic, and those who focus on a given type of magic often are referred to by their primary discipline.
* Mental magic, the ability to speak mind-to-mind, edit another person's memories, or even restructure their whole thinking process. Those who are skilled in this type of magic are typically referred to as Espers.
* Spirit magic is the one I've had some of the most fun figuring out and expanding upon. It's specialists are called shamans, and they specialize in the ability to reach across the boundary between waking and sleep to reach the creatures that live in the Dream Lands, a place made of spiritual energy, and making deals with them. In the universe of the Spellchaser Chronicles, this is probably the most common discipline, since even a minor talent in this area is required to be able to dream.
* Energy manipulation, the creation of light and energy, and the binding of that to an object, and it's specialists are called Illuminators.
* Travel magic, the ability to open doors and bend space to get from here to there. This discipline is the one Abe probably had the most practice with, and the one he most regrets not being able to use throughout the first book.
* Magicians are those who have the ability to use each discipline of magic, though their talents may vary in terms of strength and how much they've practiced with any given discipline.

There are several more disciplines, but I feel like going too much farther is probably a spoiler for future books.

Who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character?
I think my favorite character in the first book is Ari, a thief who Abe partners with. Ari is a person who goes through life with a laugh, never taking anything too seriously, and it's fun just watching him go to work in a scene.

I'm not sure if I have a least favorite character; I think to best write people you have to at least like them enough to understand what's going on in their head. I have characters I love to hate, like Jacob, an Esper who works against Abe and Simon because of his own worries and feelings of inadequacy.

If Abe's adventures were made into a movie, who would you like to see cast in which roles?
I would love to see the Spellchaser Chronicles made into a movie, though I've never taken time to go out and character board what I'd like everyone to look at. Maybe Luke Youngblood, but that may just be reaching out for a solid actor from a show I'm watching right now (Galavant's Sid).

What's next for Abe and his companions?
Abe's next adventure is in the editing phase, and there's an element of traditional sword and sorcery to his life: where he goes, trouble either follows or was already getting ready to throw it's coming out party when he arrives.

What are some things you'd like to write that aren't in the Spellchaser universe?
I've got a couple of other fantasy stories that I'm going to spend some time on once I'm done with Dragon Magus. After I finish those, I'm not sure what comes next. I may spend a bit of time world building, and see what my beta readers enjoy me fleshing out.

Why did you decide to publish your book the way you did and what has your experience been? Would you recommend it to other authors?
I self-published Reckless Magus, and some of the reason is that I figured I had the kind of skills I needed to do that from my day job. I wasn't completely right, but it's been a wonderful learning experience.

I also wanted to self-publish because there's a way in which I like the independence offered by self-publishing. I wasn't paid any small advance that my book had to earn back before I saw the long-term profits, but instead it's been a slow trickle of sales, and the size of that trickle is somewhat my fault. I got caught up in the other parts of my life and haven't been pushing Abe's story as much as I should have. 

What advice do you have for new writers?
Write. Keep going and just write. It's a muscle that you build the more that you do it, so exercise that muscle. And let your first draft suck. It's a common bit of advice you hear, but that's because it's true. Write when you're writing the story, and leave the editing for after you're done.