Steve Rzasa returns for another interview, celebrating the release of his new book, Broken Sight! This is the third book in his Face of the Deep series. Discover a future where religion is forbidden until the uncovering of an ancient holy text threatens to destroy the tolerance that has maintained a generational peace among the planets.
Steve now provides some fun insight into how his writing works, his story development process, and advice for/from other writers.
1. If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be? Why? Who would you NOT want to talk to?
Mary Shelley, because she came up with Frankenstein and must have had one fantastic imagination. I’d love to hear her talk about what it was like for that story idea to form. I don’t think I’d like to talk to Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens–his writing is funny, but he comes across even in that as arrogant and probably a jerk. I don’t suffer arrogant well.
2. If you got to borrow a character [or several] from another writer, who would you choose?
That’s a tough one—I don’t usually want to use anyone else’s characters, mostly because I’d get annoyed if someone did the same to me. I think authors tend to be protective of their characters. But if you twisted my arm, I’d have to say Jack Holloway, disbarred lawyer turned prospector on an alien world John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. Here’s a good guy who’s a rogue through and through, who makes no apologies for it and loves to stick it to the bad guys. Plus, he knows his way around the legal system.
3. Do your characters talk to you? Do you see the stories as images? Do you ever argue with characters you hadn’t planned?
That’s funny. I was at a library conference and we heard Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank and several other acclaimed teen novels, say her characters talk to each other. One of my library coworkers gave me a funny look. I told mine don’t talk to me—I hear them conversing. This happened a lot while writing my third and latest book, Broken Sight (Marcher Lord Press, 2011) Sometimes even the timbre of their voice is clear.
Yes, I do see many scenes for my stories in my head—like film. Makes it easier to write. But sometimes I have to stop and draw out a scene, usually of a city or starship.
4. Do you have any writing rituals? I.e. a particular place you must be to write, a particular snack you need to have available, or your morning routine before sitting down at the computer?
My best writing is done around 11:30 am on Wednesdays, in one of the study rooms at the library where I work. That’s a half hour before I go on the clock. I always plug in my headphones and bring up some tunes on my Sansa – different tempos help me imagine different scenes. Then I pound out about 3 or 4 pages on my laptop.
5. Do you prefer writing on the computer or a notebook?
Computer. I can write faster that way. It just seems the ideas get down on paper – or “screen” or whatever you want to call it – in a more organized fashion. That and my handwriting is atrocious after many years of reporting for newspapers. But I do use notebooks if I’m on the rode, primarily for outlining or coming up with story ideas.
6. Have you ever wished for a particular character — or idea — to walk into your story? Has that happened?
When I came up with pirate Charlotte Ruby Bell, who features in my new book Broken Sight, most of her attributes were not developed ahead of time. She just kind of – appeared as I wrote. She was one of the semi-villains in The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed , my previous two books from Marcher Lord Press. It is almost like she came to life on her own. So I guess you could say she did just walk into the story—and boy am I glad. She’s one of my favorite characters of all the ones I’ve written.
7. What piece of writerly advice do you wish someone had given you?
I wish someone had told me about point of view – how to use it effectively, when not to bombard a reader with too many at once – because having to learn it all in the intensive editing of my first book was stressful. It’s perhaps the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given me on writing. Glad I know it now, though!
8. What kind of advice do you wish characters listened to? Or offered?
I wish they offered advice on what they should do next in some situations. Most of the time I know them well enough to anticipate reactions – almost like with a real person. But every once and a while, the plot throws a wrench into the works.
9. Do you have a “theme” in mind for every story you begin or does it develop in the drafting and revision process?
With all three of my books – The Word Reclaimed, The Word Unleashed, and Broken Sight – the general theme is that God is in charge and His Word, as expressed in the Bible, has a power all its own. So when I wrote those books that theme was always tucked in the back of my mind. What changes as I write and rewrite is the manner in which I tell it to the reader.
10. Is there something you do that no one ever asks you about? This can be anything — something unusual you eat, playing poker as a day job, a hobby, whatever you like.
Well, a lot about me is unusual. But I enjoy riding my bike to work in the spring, summer and early fall — no one asks me about it, and I’m not exactly among a horde of people racing two-wheeled down the road every morning. Even in a town that’s only two miles across, pretty much everyone drives everywhere. So I guess that makes me the odd man out.
To learn more about Steve Rzasa and his books, check out his website at SteveRzasa.com.