Author Spotlight: Steven Kelliher
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is the author of the Landkist Saga, Steven Kelliher!
Steven is a fighter turned writer who resides in the Boston area. A former sports and entertainment writer, his work has been featured on ESPN.com, LA Weekly and other known outlets. He wishes all disputes were still settled with a friendly game of hand-to-hand combat, is a fan of awesome things, and tries to write books he’d want to read.
He hopes you like them.
Thanks for joining us today, Steven, and congratulations on your upcoming release of The Frostfire Sage. Tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Unfortunately, I’ve been slacking on actual reading, as writing has been consuming a massive part of my life. Catch 22, if I’ve ever had one.
One book I did read semi recently was Dyrk Ashton’s Paternus. It stood out to me not just because it was damn great, but because I really didn’t expect much from it when I picked it up. That’s not to say I doubted Dyrk’s abilities, just that, well, Urban Fantasy is not my thing, and I thought Paternus fit firmly into that subgenre.
I expected a fun, slice of life diversion featuring vampires and the like. Instead, I got an epic, myth-filled extravaganza that blew my socks off, and I’ve got an ARC to the sequel sitting on my night stand now.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
For a long time, I would have gone with Ranger or Druid, if only because I grew up camping, love the outdoors and love the idea of animal companions.
If I really want to be useful to my party (assuming I like them,) I’ve got to pick Fighter. It’s what I know how to do, and I’m pretty damn good at it. In terms of weapons, I’ll pick Sais. I trained with a few Japanese weapons throughout my years spent on the dojo mats, but I never took to anything as quickly as the Sais.
Call me Raphael, I suppose.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I used to write by hand, but then I realized it was damn hard to read what I had written, and it was near impossible for me to keep organized notes that way. I switched to laptop and keyboard for convenience, and I haven’t looked back.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I went through a short phase of writing along with music. Mostly epic fare. Instrumental type stuff. The Destiny 2 theme was pretty great for that.
Usually, I write in near total silence, but my real secret to hitting that zen state is white noise. I realized quite recently that I’m able to slip into a flow state much more quickly when I have my window AC unit buzzing in the background.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I have a near-identical plotting method to VE Schwab. I discovered that by accident when I came across a random YouTube video of hers explaining her plotting methods. I call mine the Scatterplot Method, and I think Schwab calls it Story Beats.
Essentially, I think of the major events of the novel and write them down in bullet point style. So, I might have a beginning, middle and end in mind, and those events represent three points on the graph that is the plot. As I get into the drafting process, I come up with more events or points, and set them down in chronological order. It’s a bit of a living, breathing organizer. I think this method allows me to have some level of plot structure while also affording me the ability to make changes on the fly.
In terms of something unusual … hmm, I’m pretty boring as a writer. One thing that I do NOT have, however, is a good attention span. I write very fast, by most standards, and my drafts tend to be close to the book’s final form. That’s a good thing, because I can rarely sit for more than an hour at a time working on the same project.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Not fantasy, per se, but martial arts have had a huge impact on my life, and by extension, eastern mysticism. I became obsessed at a young age with the Bushido Samurai code, and by learning the truth about the origins of the Japanese Ninja clans. There’s a LOT of mythology involved with those warrior cultures, and I took to those stories much more readily than more western warrior mythologies, though the Norse stories do strike a cord with me.
I don’t consider myself religious, but Japanese Shintoism has always appealed to me, even before I really knew what it was. It’s a beautiful representation of how man and nature should always respect one another, even if they don’t outright revere each other.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Westworld Season 2. I rarely watch TV. When I do, I tend to focus on more short-form, premium fare, such as Game of Thrones, Westworld and a few of the better Netflix offerings. As for Westworld, I’m not typically a fan of Westerns, nor strict Sci Fi, but a mix of the two? That’s something I can get down with.
I’m also a sneaky big fan of James Marsden, who plays Teddy on the show. I think he’s vastly underrated and was curious to see his role.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
A few years ago, I’d have spend six hours of said day training. Now, however, I’d likely spend it in nature, either hiking, camping, going to the ocean or going on a drive with my wife. I like to keep moving.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
Semicolons are too clinical to appear in any work of fiction, in my opinion. Though, I do use them from time to time … 😉
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
Batman meets Bloodsport in near-future Seoul, South Korea, where martial arts superstar [Name Redacted because it’s a damn secret] is embroiled in the midst of a deadly political conspiracy that traces its roots to to the highest towers and lowest basements of Tokyo.
Ooh – sounds intriguing!
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
An adaptation of the Dragonlance series of novels. They were my gateway into fantasy, and I’m fiercely protective of the characters, from Tanis Half-Elven to Raistlin Majere. It’s a story that started out as little more than ‘popcorn fantasy’ and evolved into something truly special, and I was sad to see it come to an end in favor of the more bland, less coherent Forgotten Realms campaign setting.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
LOTS of famous authors provide the same piece of advice over and over and over, and I wholeheartedly disagree with it. This advice?
“Write every day.”
Some days, your back hurts. Some days, you have to socialize like a normal human. Some days, real life gets in the way, and that’s okay! Artists do not have to pretend we’re martyrs, nor that our work is more important than anyone else’s. Divorcing yourself of that mentality can be liberating. For people with no work ethic or motivation … it may also be crushing.
“Get the clay on the table.”
It’s simple. But on those days when you feel like your writing is crap, and imposter syndrome sets its barbs and refuses to let go, this simple piece of advice can help tremendously. Get the clay on the table, dammit, and remold that shit later.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
The edo period of Japan … as long as I wasn’t immediately killed.
I love the culture, and many of the most enduring legends and true stories of the country come out of this time period. It was violent, full of upheaval, but it was also full of small and large scale heroics, and immense change. Change, as we know, is always interesting.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Borrowing from my mindset up above, I simply do not write on days when I don’t want to write. Or, something I’ll often do is sit down and try to force myself through a few paragraphs. At best, I’ll find that the muse is summoned, and I’ll want to continue then and there. At worst, I’ll feel like I gave future me a head start on a given scene, sort of like loosening the lid on the pickle jar before you ask your wife to do it for you.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Mickey Zucher Reichert’s Renshai series is excellent. It’s steeped in Norse mythology and full of excellent fight scenes. Most of all, the training montages are some of the best in the genre, so you believe when average fighters turn into expert fighters, and I very rarely see it referenced. I blame questionable cover artwork and virtually zero marketing from the publisher.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
Do you like Avatar: The Last Airbender but wish it was less kid-friendly? Do you like Princess Mononoke but wish it was less steeped in philosophy and more steeped in demons and forest spirits doing battle?
Well, the Landkist Saga might be for you, as elemental warriors battle the forces of darkness and attempt to uncover a mystery at the heart of a long and bitter war between forces beyond their reckoning.
Basically, if you like stories in which heroes get sick of the warring of gods and decide to involve themselves, my work might be for you.
Brilliant, Steven. Thanks again for joining us, and good luck with the release!
Steven Kelliher is the author of the Landkist Saga. Book four, The Frostfire Sage, will be released on July 13th 2018.