This morning we welcome Book Country writer and wrimo Dan Croutch to the member spotlight! An IT admin, father, golfer, and gamer, Dan is also hard at work on his debut epic fantasy novel, THE KINGS OF CARNIN. He *just* uploaded a new version of the WIP for all of you to read and enjoy!
NG: You joined the site during NaNoWriMo. Tell us about your experience on Book Country so far? What’s your favorite part?
DC: The experience so far on Book Country has been nothing short of great. I found the site while doing research into the publishing industry after finishing NaNo. It mentioned how Penguin had a site that provides tools for people to self-publish electronically. Since this is an avenue I was interested in, I was naturally drawn to the site. I have thoroughly enjoyed the community involvement around NaNo and the great feedback from other site members on my query and manuscript alike. There are a lot of resources for both people looking to workshop their work and also fully self-publish; it’s not just for “either—or.”
NG: How has your NaNo novel progressed, three months after NaNoWriMo is over?
DC: It hasn’t! I’ve actually put it on hold in favor of revisions to last year’s NaNo, which also happens to be the first book in the series. Once those changes are made and the new draft posted to Book Country, I’ll start back up. Hopefully it’ll be finished before the next NaNoWriMo comes around.
NG: One of the most intriguing parts of THE KINGS OF CARNIN for me is the story about Blistrar, the precious metal that makes the kingdom of Orisgothia famous for its swords. What was the inspiration for that?
DC: There are a couple of things which lead to the creation of Blistrar.
First, Blistrar actually came from a story element that has been evolved out of the book. Originally the story focused around a sword created with a special mixture of the metal. Since a lot of high fantasy stories tend to focus around a specific special object, I decided to remap the book into another direction. Blistrar and Ari’s sword still play a key role in plot advancement during the beginning of the story, but things quickly move on into other, more supernatural elements.
Second is the story of Carnin, the world where this all takes place. Because there are so many competing kingdoms I needed something that would make Orisgothia stand out above the rest. There had to be a reason behind its success in battle, something that gave them a slight edge in the centuries long stalemate. The unique properties of Blistrar metal, when mixed with traditional metallurgy, create an alloy superior in strength and weight. It is here the value of Blistrar is realized.
NG: Your protagonist, Ari, has humble origins, but he rises quickly and ends up the commander of a big army. How did Ari’s story come to you?
DC: Ari and his story are a culmination of many things. As a lifelong geek I have found myself in a plethora of MMORPGs, fantasy based online games, all of whom have contributed to the character. As long as ten years ago I began playing games using his name for the avatar. The basic premise of the story changed as my development of Ari and his backstory did while playing.
A lot of inspiration also came from watching the story unfold in my mind. Throughout my high school years I would often drift into imaginary worlds. Ari and his story became one of my favorites. Since I was playing the main character, it only suited that he went from humble beginnings into someone of power and authority; it was escapism after all. The addition of magic and supernatural ability fits well with the genre. I’ve also found great inspiration, believe it or not, from many stories in the Bible. When it comes to the ultimate battle of good versus evil, and examples of people on either of those sides, few other sources are packed with such a concentration of stories to draw imagery from.
I’ve read a lot of ancient epic stories/poems, like Homer’s Odyssey, as well. These helped deepen the world creation and add substance to the storytelling. I love how those tales are filled with such raw imagery but written with such elegance simultaneously.
NG: Where does your work stand on the J.R.R. Tolkien-George R.R. Martin continuum? More generally, who are the fantasy authors that you admire and model your writing after?
DC: Definitely more on the Tolkien side of things. I read The Lord of The Rings, as many of us did, as a child and fell in love with the storytelling. Tolkien’s and the works of classic fantasy writers like C.S. Lewis have certainly shaped my own storytelling. I haven’t read much of the modern works which are popular now, although that is changing since I’ve started getting into some market research. I’m still very much an old-fashioned person and stick to the classics whenever I need some comfort reading.
I also grew up a huge fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles series and anything by Jules Verne. I love a good science fiction world and, in my opinion, Frank Herbert created one of the best. I’m hoping to start a cyberpunk sci-fi novel with this year’s NaNoWriMo, but it will be nothing like Dune.
NG: Since you’re a Twitter regular, will you recommend some cool writers/publishing people for all of us to follow?
DC: I love using Twitter to get close to agents and publishers online. Many agents are fairly interactive and surprisingly candid when answering questions. They also post updates on their slush pile. Sara Megibow (@saramegibow) of the Nelson Literary Agency is outstanding. She does weekly query and sample pages critiques on Twitter and responds to questions, no matter how many. I had really hoped to land her as an agent! Literary Rejections (@litrejections) posts agents that are open to queries as well as hosts a database of agencies. They provide encouragement during the onslaught of rejections you get while querying. Jason Hough (Dire Earth Cycle series, @JasonMHough) and Stefan Bachmann (The Peculiar, @Stefan_Bachmann) are two authors whom I’ve read and are very active on Twitter. They are great resources within their genres and just fun to chat with.
You can also find many publishers and agents on Twitter, too many to list. Be sure to Google their name and you’ll find their stream. It may even give you a leg up in the slush pile if you’ve interacted with them regularly; it has worked a few times for me.
Don’t forget to follow Book Country (@BookCountry). Regularly posting great articles, blogs and links to industry stuff it’s a one stop shop resource for authors looking for information.
NG: Well, thank you! When you’re not on Twitter or on Book Country, what do you do? Who is “offline” Dan?
DC: I don’t think there is such a thing as an offline Dan. I’m an IT Administrator by day which naturally demands a lot of online time! I have three kids, twins and an infant, who keep my spare time more than filled. I enjoy spending as much time with my wife and kids as I can outside of work. Usually on Sundays you can find me watching the final round of the PGATour (golf) weekly tournament with my kids. I’m known as a gamer to my friends and still find the occasion to jump online and join the fray, though those days are few and far between. Somehow in-between all this I get some revisions in or a few hundred words into a manuscript.
Where do *you* stand on the J.R.R. Tolkien-George R.R. Martin fantasy continuum? Join the conversation on Book Country!