10 Questions with AC Cobble

AC Cobble, author of the Benjamin Ashwood series was kind enough to answer ten of our questions about his books and his writing life.

What do you like most about the writing process?

My favorite part is at the end of developmental editing and when I start copy editing. That is when I get a sense for what the book has turned into. That’s also when I’m putting in the finishing touches, including most of my best lines. I really enjoy reading over the book at this stage and making those final tweaks. Usually, I find it’s turned out better than I expected (which isn’t always saying much).

 Benjamin Ashwood

Which books have had the greatest impact on your writing?

Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World had a huge impact on me. I think Jordan nailed the perfect fantasy opening with that novel and it spun my imagination into overdrive. There were some stumbles later in the series, but that book was special.

Several people have noted some similarities between how Eye of the World and Benjamin Ashwood begin. Sometimes I regret it now, but I did that intentionally. I meant it as an homage to both Jordan and Tolkien’s work, but the plot quickly goes in an entirely different direction. It’s fair to say though, without Eye of the World, Benjamin Ashwood would be a different series.

Which of your characters is the easiest for you to write, and which is the most challenging? Why?

Ben and Rhys are very easy for me to write. Ben has a clear moral compass which guides his actions, and Rhys is just a lot of fun. In some scenes, the two of them function as the angel and the devil on my shoulders.

I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but I spend a lot more time thinking about Amelie than the boys. This is Ben’s story, and because of that he has to be the leader and the focus, but it’s important to me that Amelie comes across as a strong person as well. I like to think that there could be an equally compelling story written from her point of view – not that I plan to do that. Writing opposite gender authentically can always be a challenge too. I frequently worry that I’m not getting it right.

Do you plot your books in detail, or develop the story as you are writing it?

I start with about a 3 page outline which includes all of the locations, major scenes, and turning points. From there, I start filling in the blanks A to Z. I frequently throw out sections of the outline and insert something new as I go. Those spur of the moment modifications have never changed the overall plot, but they have frequently turned into my favorite scenes.

What do readers most enjoy about your Benjamin Ashwood books?

The pace and the action. I received a lot of feedback about that after Book 1, and I’ve made intentional decisions to keep things brisk and hopping in the later books. I have to stop myself sometimes from lingering on some obscure bit of world building or a treatise on economics. The lesson for me is that no matter how much fun I’m having imagining the world, the readers want to know the character, like the character, then keep the damn story moving!

Which fantasy books written in the last few years would you recommend to readers of The Book Base?

Jonathan Renshaw’s Dawn of Wonder, Alec Hutson’s Crimson Queen, Phil Tucker’s Path of Flames, and Will Wight’s Unsouled.

When and where do you do most of your writing?

I recently went full-time as an author and now nearly all of my writing is done in my home office. I’ve tried going to coffee shops and other places because there are three kids ages four and under running around the house, but, home is more comfortable. I’ve gotten pretty good at making coffee too.

Prior to going full time, I travelled frequently for my “day job”. Huge portions of my first three books were written on planes and all over the world. Singapore, India, Germany, Poland, the UK, the Netherlands, and the Philippines all snuck into the pages. You can see some of the influences if you are familiar with those countries.

Who would you want to play the role of Ben if the Benjamin Ashwood series was filmed for the big screen?

An unknown up and comer. Ben is set so strongly in my head that it would be difficult for me to separate him and any other character I was familiar with. I feel the same about Amelie.

Recently, I had a discussion with some fans and several of us felt Idris Elba would make a great Rhys.

If you could have written any book in history, which would it be and why?

Old Man and the Sea. I don’t mind admitting I’m a complete hack compared to Hemmingway. The simplicity of his language and the complexity of his themes are stunning to me. I know I will never be able to write like that, but I wish I could.

What are your writing and publishing plans for 2018?

Empty Horizon: Benjamin Ashwood Book 4 in December 2017 – and it can be pre-ordered on Amazon right now!
Burning Tower: Benjamin Ashwood Book 5 in June 2018
Weight of the Crown: Benjamin Ashwood Book 6 in December 2018

Check out AC Cobble’s great website and sign up to his newsletter.

10 Questions with David Estes

David Estes, author of The Fatemarked Epic, The Dwellers Saga and The Country Saga, dropped by The Book Base to answer ten questions about his fantasy books and his writing life.

What do you like about the writing process and which parts do you like the least?

Creation! One of the coolest and most satisfying things about writing is the power to create something from nothing. Worlds, characters, battles, suspense…it’s extremely rewarding. There are times when I look back and think, “How did I do that?” Even I don’t know sometimes.

If I think too hard about the fact that my stories and characters and world wouldn’t have existed if I hadn’t sat down day after day, month after month, year after year and taken the time to pour my emotions and ideas into my writing…well, I go a little crazy. If anything, the ability to create something only motivates me more. I think that motivation is best highlighted by my bestselling epic fantasy series, The Fatemarked Epic.

Which books have had the greatest impact on your writing?

So many! On the epic fantasy side, my favorite authors are Tolkien, Sanderson, and George R. R. Martin. Tolkien’s worldbuilding had a huge influence on me. As a kid, I read The Lord of the Rings more than a dozen times, until the cover was falling off of my books. In fact, one of the reasons I wrote more than twenty books before I attempted to write an epic fantasy was because I didn’t think I could live up to the high standards set by Tolkien. When I finally finished The Fatemarked Epic, I was surprised to find myself feeling worthy. I would be proud to share it with Tolkien were he still alive.

Sanderson’s creativity motivates me to be MORE. More everything. More creative, more focused on creating complex characters. Just more.

And Martin, well, his books have shown me that it’s okay to be EPIC. That’s one reason why The Fatemarked Epic is nearly a million words spread across five books. I had a lot of stories to tell, and I didn’t want to skimp on any of them.

Which of your characters is the easiest for you to write, and which is the most challenging? Why?

For me, the easiest characters to write are those that are three-dimensional. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether they are good or evil or something in between, as long as they have depth. That tends to make the words flow onto the page.

A good example is Rhea Loren from Fatemarked. She is quickly becoming the most hated/loved character in any of my 30+ novels. It’s her inner conflict that makes her so polarizing. We all go through hard times, and she is no exception. How we react to the crap the world throws at us is what defines us. Rhea reacts in a lot of different ways as she learns who she is and who she wants to be.

The hardest characters to write are those I can’t become in my mind. Usually they don’t have enough depth and I’m forced to rewrite them or scrap them altogether. I refuse to write a character that doesn’t come alive in my mind. It’s not fair to me or to the reader.

Do you plot your books in detail, or develop the story as you are writing?

I’m more a pantser than a plotter, because I like being surprised by the direction my books go in. Also, I’m a firm believer in creativity breeds creativity. So the more I write, the more the ideas flow, which allows me to formulate the story as I go.

That being said, for a massive undertaking like The Fatemarked Epic, I had to do some planning. Before I started writing, I drew a map, mapped out the royal family trees for three generations, created my magic system, and wrote a summarized 500 years of history that I could sprinkle throughout the series. Then I started writing!

The Fatemarked Epic has been compared to The Lord of the Rings and Throne of Glass. What are the similarities, and what sets your series apart from these works?

It’s an honor to be compared to other epic series. The Lord of the Rings in particular gave me warm fuzzies, for reasons I explained earlier. Honestly, Fatemarked has little in common with either series, except for the epic nature, dragons, and magic.

I think it gets compared to LOTR because of the epic battles between good and evil, and compared to Throne of Glass because of the huge cast and extent of worldbuilding. But everything else is different, from the magic system, to the types of characters, to the plotlines. Regardless, it’s an honor!

Which fantasy books written in the last few years would you recommend to readers of The Book Base?

So many! Anything by Brandon Sanderson, his writing is flawless. If you haven’t read LOTR, read it!

Also, I recently read Battle Mage by Peter Flannery and was so impressed with the quality of his writing and worldbuilding. And it’s standalone book at around 800 pages! Happy reading!

When and where do you do most of your writing?

In the morning between 6am and 8am. Sometimes in bed, sometimes at a desk. I write almost every day.

Who would you want to play the role of Annise if The Fatemarked Epic was filmed for the big screen? What about Grey and Rhea?

I suck at these questions! Honestly, I have no idea. All three characters stand out so much in my mind that it would be hard to get comfortable with anyone playing any of them. However, my cover artist has brought them to life on my covers. Annise is portrayed in battle on he cover of Fatemarked, Rhea is on the cover of Truthmarked battling a sea monster, and Grey is shown on Deathmarked fighting in the desert.

If you could have written any book in history, which would it be and why?

I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I wish I’d written The Lord of the Rings. It sets the standard for all things epic fantasy. And those movies! SO GOOD.

What are your writing and publishing plans for 2018?

Great question! With the last book in The Fatemarked Epic, Lifemarked, releasing on November 21st of 2017 (available for preorder on Amazon), I’m planning a new epic fantasy series! I have a title for the first book and the series already picked out, which I shall reveal in 2018. I’ve also mapped out some of the basics of the world, characters, and plot. I plan to start writing it in December of 2017 and then work on it for all of 2018. I expect it to be at least a trilogy, but it could be longer, depending on how things go (I’m a pantser, remember?). Although it’s both sad and exciting finishing a series, it’s always fun starting a new one.

David Estes has a great website and he is offering a free Fatemarked short story to all of those who sign up to his mailing list.

You can also follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

David says he loves keeping in touch with his readers and he’s been known to send out signed bookmarks to those who have reviewed his books an Amazon and let him know about it!

Book Blogger Q&A: .bibliophile. .anonymous.

Book Blogger Q&A 49 features Jessie from .bibliophile. .anonymous.

Here are her responses:

.bibliophile. .anonymous.How long have you been a blogger?

I started blogging in late April of 2011 after a friend of mine IRL started her own and inspired me.

Approximately, how many books do you read every year?

Usually between 110 and 150. This year I am on track to read about 160ish but we’ll see! I get distracted easily.

What were your favourite books as a child?

  • Lois Lowry was a big favorite – The Giver, Number the Stars are still favorites of mine to this day.
  • J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter – ubiquitous nowadays but I first fell in love with Harry when I was 11.
  • Judy Blume, still loved but I could not have made it through adolescence without her funny, insightful novels.
  • Louis Sachar’s Wayside School is yet another I loved.
  • Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is bloody brilliant and a favorite since I read it at 12.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons and am now contemplating a reread of the first four or beginning The Iron King by Julie Kagawa.

If you had to pick one, what’s the best book you’ve read in the last twelve months?

I might have to go with Heartless by Gail Carriger, the fourth in her Parasol Protectorate series. I’ve loved the whole series, and reviewd this last past and just simply adore them. If not that, The Crippled God by Steven Erikson. Despite this being the tenth and concluding volume of my second favorite epic fantasy series, I loved and treasured every page.

Who are your three favourite authors?

Steven Erikson, Sarah Dunant, George R. R. Martin

Which book has had the greatest impact on your life?

Probably The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings or Dune. Both were given to me in 6th grade (about 11) by my father and those novels set me on a path of love of fantasy/sci-fi/high imagination I’ve never put aside.

Which books are you most eagerly anticipating?

Now that I’ve finally got my hands on both  Dance and Heartless, I’d love to read Scott Lynch’s next: The Republic of Thieves. Due out soon (I hope!) his Gentlemen Bastards series is another must-read.

Which book character is most like you?

A mix of de Lint’s Jilly Coppercorn whimsy, Jordan’s Aviendha fondness of weapons and martial arts, and Hermione’s insufferable know-it-allness.

If you had to invite some book characters round for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Paul Atreides from Dune because he inspired a galaxy-wide fanatic war, Eddard Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen from A Song of Ice and Fire series so I could definitively answer all the riddles these two men were privy to, Yossarian from Catch-22 for sheer absurdity, Lord Akeldama from The Parasol Protectorate for all the witty repartee I could stand.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Blog because it’s fun, because you love it, blog because you have thoughts that you need to express. I love bookblogging because reviewing and analyzing these books has lead me to refine my taste in books and learn more about what I truly like to read and what I hate.

Which other book blogs do you recommend?

Many thanks to Jessie for taking the time to contribute to The Book Base’s Book Blogger Q&A series.

Check out her great blog and follow her on Twitter.