Captivating, riveting, fast-paced fantasy – ‘Orison’ enchanted me.
Today, I get to interview author Daniel Swensen, an intelligent and delightful writer,
in the second of my Author Interviews. If you haven’t read ‘Orison’ yet, do.
Daniel Swensen is a talented writer from Montana and I first discovered him on Twitter and his blog Surly Muse…devouring his advice such as: ‘At the most basic level, characters should enter a scene with a goal in mind and then meet with some sort of obstacle that prevents them from reaching that goal. If you take a look at your scene and can’t find any goal to speak of, then congratulations! You’ve just found a prime candidate for the chopping block.’ (Daniel Swensen: Dramatic Scenes… Surly Muse: April 2012)
His advice helped hone my own writing skills, and when he released his short story ‘Burn’, I was hooked…
Daniel Swensen – Author
Your writing is intense, intelligent and dynamic, and I was immersed in Orison’s plot and characters as soon as I began reading. What helps you to immerse yourself in the writing process?
Thank you! I would say the main tool in my writing process (besides Scrivener and the act of writing itself) is music. I have a set of playlists that I cue up on my computer whenever I sit down to write. They’re mostly made up of movie soundtracks, ambient, and orchestral stuff, although there are a few songs with lyrics. When I first wrote the draft of Orison, I had a “high gear” playlist for the battle scenes and a “low gear” playlist for the calmer, more introspective parts of the story. The familiarity and rhythm of the music helps me get back in the proper headspace for writing and helps me disappear into the world of whatever tale I’m telling.
Persistence is also key for me. When I first sit down to write, I always struggle with self-doubt, second-guessing, and a rising conviction that whatever I’m writing is terrible. I just have to keep going until I push past that threshold and can start the real work. It’s like the endorphin rush when you exercise — if I can just hold out long enough for that to kick in, I’m fine.
When my daughter read Orison she immediately wanted to cosplay Story, do you have a favourite character in the book and why, or why not?
That’s tough. “Favorite,” to me, implies that I’d pick them above all the rest, and I can’t quite do that. I love all the characters. I love how they play off each other. Those bonds and conflicts are what the book is really about. So I feel to take any one of them alone would diminish them.
That said, I loved writing Story because in my own reading, I was having a tough time finding the kind of female protagonist I wanted to see… so I just wrote her. I’m really happy with the results. I love her determination and self-reliance.
I love Wrynn’s dry wit, Dunnac’s sense of honor and stoic humor, and Ashen’s struggle to fit into the world.
If I had to pick a favorite reaction to a character, it would have to be how readers have responded to Ashen. I didn’t really expect him to be a fan favorite, but so many people who have read the book have expressed their enthusiasm and love for the character. I’ve already had some ask when he and Camana are getting their own book!
So, I hate to dodge the question, but I couldn’t really pick a favorite. I love them all too much. I would love to see a Story cosplay, though. I’d feel like I’d “made it” as an author.
If Orison made it to the big screen, which it totally should, who would you love to see playing your characters?
While writing Orison, I actually did some “casting,” to help me find the voices for certain characters.
I’d cast Martin Freeman as Wrynn. He has a soft-spoken affability about him, but there’s iron behind it, and to me that’s the essence of Wrynn. I would cast Mads Mikkelsen as Dunnac — he has that perfect aura of charisma and menace. I could never quite find an actress who really fits how I see Story in my head, but a couple people suggested Ellen Page, and I can see that happening. (I had imagined someone more like Naya Rivera, but that’s still not quite right.)
I’ve actually had this conversation with readers, too! There’s a website called The Imagine Film List where you can propose actors for books if they were to get adapted into movies, and people made some amazing suggestions over there. Like Simon Pegg for Wrynn and Idris Elba for Dunnac — actors I never would have thought of myself. One reader said Danny Trejo should play Ashen, which I think is an amazing idea. The iflist page for Orison is here.
Are there other stories from Calushain, what can we expect from you in the future, and are there other genres you’d like to explore?
There are more stories in the works! I have been working on the Orison sequel, Etheric, for a little over a year now, and still hope to have it out in 2015, although there’s no official release date and I can’t promise anything. After that will be a third (and final) book in the series. I’m also working on another book in the same world, about a young woman finding a fallen dragon-god in the snowy north. The working title is Beneath the Broken Sky, and if all goes well, that might be in people’s hands by 2016. Again, I can’t make any promises.
I’m not entirely sure where I’ll go after that. For some time, I’ve wanted to expand the characters and events of my short story Burn into a full-length urban fantasy novel (or series), but Story and company are taking up all my creative efforts right now. I also want to start generating more short fiction, but I’m learning that staying focused and diversifying my writing efforts is a unique challenge!
We often talk of the need to create or write because of an innate desire, what does writing do for you?
The written word is an amazing thing. It lets us communicate information across boundaries of time and space, with people from faraway places who are hundreds of years dead. You can make up a story — characters and situations that are wholly fictional — and if you do your job well, people will react as if those characters were real. They’ll laugh and cry and mourn and feel intense emotions for people and events that never existed. I think that’s extraordinary. Stories are incredibly powerful. More powerful than reality itself in some ways, I think.
But to be honest, I’ve never been one of those writers who sits down every day with unbridled enthusiasm for writing. I’m not wired up that way. My stories tend to grind out slowly, and contentment only happens on the far end of a lot of hard work and anxiety. Those moments of frisson where everything just jumps to life and the prose flows like water — that’s maybe one day a year for me. Two if I’m lucky. The rest is all a hard push through thick mud.
But the connections that I’ve made with people through my writing — the wonderful writers I’ve met, the readers who share their joy with me after finishing something I wrote — they make all of that worthwhile. That’s why I write. That’s where I get to feel the incredible power of the written word: by sharing it with others.
A great insight into the writing world of Daniel Swensen, and I am so excited for Etheric!
You can find Orison released and available to buy through Nine Muse Press and also available at Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk, all other local Amazon stores and Barnes & Noble in eBook and paperback. Burn is also available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
You can find out more at his Amazon Author Page and on Goodreads.
Daniel blogs at Surly Muse and is represented by Nine Muse Press.