Interview with Fantasy Author Thomas Miller
It’s time for another author interview!
I want to introduce you to fantasy author Thomas Miller. We met years ago now when we both joined a small publisher on the same day. I’ve since moved on from the publisher, but Thomas and I are still friends, sharing the hurdles of writing and publishing fantasy.
Plus, I LOVE seeing the photos of his beautiful family and scenes from where they live in the UK. Talk about an inspiring setting!
But before I give too much away, please met the fantasy author Thomas Miller!
First a few icebreaker questions:
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
My favorite comfort food is milk chocolate with coffee. The two were just made of each other! The way bitterness of the coffee blends with the smooth sweetness of the chocolate. I’m going to go have some now. My least favorite food is raw tomatoes. I’m fine with salsa, tomato sauce, tomato soup, just not raw tomatoes. There is something about the texture that I find gag worthy.
I’m now thinking of tomato soup with coffee mocha. It is not sitting well! lol. So let’s move on. If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?
This one is easy. A game room. I’ve been playing tabletop games since I was a kid. Board games, role-playing games like Dungeon and Dragons, you name it. I would love to have a room filled with all my gaming stuff and dedicated solely to gaming. It would have to have a slight medieval feel to it, with a large wooden table as the centerpiece. There would have to be shelves and display cases lining the walls for all my books, games, and miniatures. Then the piece-de-resistance would be a mounted red dragon’s head on the wall.
If you build that, I want to come and see! It sounds so awesome. What simple pleasure makes you smile?
A quiet walk through nature. There is just something about going for a walk outside that just seems to take my mind off whatever is troubling me.
That answer doesn’t surprise me at all based on the photos I’ve seen you share. Plus I think walks are a great tool for writers. It gets our minds and bodies moving.
OK, the warm up is over. On to the writing questions!
What is your latest book?
The latest book I’m working on right now is Tomb of the Fallen. It is the third book in my fantasy series, The Soulstone Prophecy. The other two books in the series are Cradle of the Gods and Time of the Stonechosen.
I would say the biggest challenge is continuity. As I’m working on the third book, I’m constantly checking the prior two books to make sure everything matches. How did I describe this magical affect, what title did I use for this character. When you start out with a new story, you can make things up when you need them, but in a series of books, you have to remember the details.
For the writer, the process of writing a story can last years. A reader experiences your story over a series of weeks or even days, depending on how quickly they read. If you make a mistake, even a minor one, they are going to see it. You don’t want the reader tripped up while reading and getting knocked out of your story because you forgot some detail.
Oh, that is so true and only gets worse the more books you write in the same world! If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
That’s an easy one. The Time of the Stonechosen has Come!
That will definitely make people curious! When you are writing, how often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
More often than you might think. I combine the two writing arts of pantsing and plotting. For those who aren’t familiar with the terms, a Pantser is a writer who writes from the seat of their pants, creating things as they go. A Plotter is a writer who needs to plot out the entire story arc and have everything lined out and sticks to it. As a “plantser”, I mix the two.
I tend to plot out the beginning, the middle and the end of my story, then write down things I want to accomplish in each section. Then, I break the sections down into chapters, which usually consists of individual scenes. This is where the pantsing comes in. Once in a scene, I never know what is going to happen, I define the setting and the point of view character and then I let the characters take the story and run with it. Often, after I complete a chapter, I have to change future chapters or add new ones to accommodate changes the characters introduced.
Your style sounds very similar to mine. And yeah, sometimes characters can wreck havoc on a laid out plot! Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I’m with you. Even though I don’t make it a hard and fast rule, I tend to write my scenes in order. I think this is true for any author who is used to being surprised by their characters. If I write a scene out of order, I can safely say I will rewrite it or discard it later because of changes that occurred in earlier chapters. I have had that happen enough now that I just take each chapter as it comes.
I also found I’m more excited to take the story right into the next chapter and have a clearer image of what is going to happen and how things are going to play out. I also find ideas and little details that were revealed in prior chapters are still fresh in my mind and I can continue to flesh them out. A lot of the time, it is those little seeds of inspiration that end up fleshing your characters out.
Again, I think we are on the same page! I often finish a chapter totally inspired to continue the story, and hope my enthusiasm carries through for those reading. Speaking of writing, do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?
I hate the word ‘had’. I chose to write the Soulstone Prophecy series in 3rd person omniscient. In this style, the story is told from several different characters’ points-of-view. But, I tend to refer to things that happened to the characters in the past and this introduces the word ‘had’. One of the things I do when editing is checking how often I use each word. Invariably ‘had’ is scattered throughout my writing like a heavy handed use of salt, it is literally everywhere. When I edit, I read through the story out loud and if the sentence sounds alright without the word ‘had’ in it, I delete it with much prejudice.
I think that is the first time I’ve heard of “had” as being a pet-peeve, but I don’t disagree. The book should be happening, not have happened, right? So do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?
I generally share with my beta-readers after I have rough drafted a chapter and then given it a couple of editing runs. In this digital age, I would be surprised if there were still authors out there who go it alone to the very end. It is just too easy to share your work with others.
For me, I share the story with my beta-readers as I write it and even go back and edit chapters they have commented on when the ‘creative juices’ stop flowing or I’m not sure where a particular chapter I’m working on is headed. I find going back and editing something they have commented on helps keep me engaged in the story and inspires me to go back to that chapter-in-progress and continue on again.
That sounds great! I hope readers realize how much they inspire authors. And it is so easy to be found these days. I can’t imagine what it was like when a fan had to send a letter to a publisher who forwarded it to the author… Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?
The feedback on my work I find the most surprising are those at the far end of the spectrum, if someone really loved my work or truly disliked it. I’ve been lucky so far to not receive a one or two-star rating for any of my work, but I have had a couple three-star ratings that were scathing.
One particular reader just couldn’t identify with my main protagonist and really tore into the story in their review. I remember reading that review, then checking the star rating, and then wondering if they had made a mistake and really hadn’t wanted to rate it as a one. On the other side of the equation, I have had some five-star reviews that were gushing with praise for my work. I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t my mom in disguise.
Lol. Moms can be sneaky, but I truly believe they are honest fans who love your work! Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?
Not at all. I still regret not taking typing in high school. I just wish I had known how much typing I was going to be doing. Back then, it was almost exclusively girls taking typing. I didn’t even consider it. Hindsight is indeed 20/20.
As for how it affects my writing, I would say I think and type at about the same speed. I’m not so slow I cannot get the story onto screen fast enough. I like to say I write the rough draft like I’m running down hill. There will be time to correct spelling on the walk back up. So, I just type as fast as the story comes to me and don’t think about punctuation or spelling. I do all that stuff later. I did try using a voice recognition program to dictate my story, thinking the same principle would apply, but found I couldn’t think fast enough to dictate the story. I seem to have the speed of typing and the process of creating the story synced.
That is a great way to explain the first draft, letting the story run away with you down hill. And it feels so wonderful when it moves that smoothly! When you finish writing, do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?
Absolutely! The idea of having to take something so large as a novel and crush it down into a single page was not only daunting to me, but it seemed almost impossible. I really struggled with this when I first had to do it. What finally worked for me was some advice I found on a writer’s blog. They said to take each chapter of your book and boil it down to is most basic element. Nothing more than a few sentences. Continue to do that for each chapter and then when your finished, just string them together. Presto! A synopsis! This really worked for me.
That is a great tip! Let’s go back to sharing. Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?
Yes, I do. Ignore them. Bask in the glow of your positive reviews and ignore the negative ones. At least, the truly negative ones. If someone says they couldn’t get into your story because of the grammar, then obviously you want to take that to heart. But if someone doesn’t like the main character or thought some relationship didn’t make sense, then I would ignore it.
Look at it this way. They are entitled to their own opinion and they took the time to read something you wrote and then even more time to comment on it. That is really something when you think about it. A complete stranger took the time to read something you wrote and then comment on it.
I’m thankful at that point, full stop. It doesn’t really matter what they wrote. If it is positive, then that’s just icing on the cake. I would also make a suggestion here that helped put things into perspective for me. Think of your favorite book of all time. Now, go find it online and read all the negative reviews. Even your favorite story of all time has negative reviews. You know the book is awesome, but still there are those out there who don’t think so.
Such a great point! Both that even our favorite books have negative reviews and that everyone is entitled to their opinion. This leads nicely into reviews. A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
As an indie author, how many books I sell depends on the number of reviews that book receives. I’ll take any I can get, positive or negative. Every review matters because it is what most buyers see along with the cover. I do it myself.
When I’m looking for something to read, I start with genre and then start looking through titles and covers. When something catches my eye, I’ll look at the number of reviews. If there are loads, I’m more like to click on it and read some of them. So, your review matters. Even if it is just to say your really enjoyed it and are looking forward to the next one.
Well, there you have it! Readers, your reviews matter. And this is the end of the interview. Thank you so much for your time, Thomas. And best of luck finishing your third book!
A Bit About Thomas
Thomas grew up devouring stories of swords and sorcery. When he wasn’t reading, he was creating fantasy worlds for his friends to explore in tabletop games. He continues to share his stories and hopes his work inspires others to share their stories.