The Way of Shadows
Beyond the Shadows
1) Pitch the first novel of your series.
The Way of Shadows is the story of Azoth, a street kid who apprentices himself to a legendary assassin in order to save a friend. Ten years later, that friend sees Azoth's master murder a prince, and Azoth must decide whether to kill the master who's raised him as a son or the girl he loves. The fate of a kingdom rests on his decision.
2) What are your favourite three books (not by you, either in the field or out of it)?
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, who in my opinion is the grandmaster of epic fantasy. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and The Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, a monstrous tome about cryptography in WWII and data havens now.
3) What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?
I started a fantasy novel in college, and poured about five years into it—though I was supposedly studying and then working during that time. I learned a lot, and there were good sections, but I realized I was working on a flawed skeleton, so no matter how I pushed the feathers around, I wasn't going to make that story fly. So I grabbed the most fascinating minor character from that book, and told his story in The Way of Shadows.
4) What was the hardest scene for you to write?
There's a couple of scenes of violence involving children early in the first book. My wife had worked with sexually abused children, so I knew that what I was writing happens every day, even in America, but it was difficult to have to contemplate it vividly enough to write it well. Then, having imagined it, it was difficult to decide how far back I could pull the camera.
5) Share an interesting fan story.
I got an email from a fan who rides the bus home from work. The bus route is a circle that takes more than an hour. He was reading my book and he said he missed his stop three times—and would have missed it a fourth, except that the bus driver noticed he'd been on the bus for almost half his shift.
6) What is your university degree in?
English. Yes, I wanted to be a writer. Yes, I ended up teaching. On the bright side, I quit. *grin
7) What's the best/worst thing about writing?
The best thing is when you come up with a brilliant way to solve a problem. You do something you've never seen anyone else do, and you feel like the king of the world. The worst thing is looking at it the next day and realizing you're not so hot.
No, the best thing is hearing from someone that your book touched them in a way they'd never experienced before. The worst thing is waiting. This business is utterly unpredictable. You have to put in years of work upfront, never knowing if you'll get published, and even if you do, your books could sink like a stone.
8) What is something you didn't know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?
I've just signed my second three-book deal; I'm being published or distributed in half a dozen countries, and there's tons I don't know. The truth is that it doesn't matter. As a writer, there are a million things you need to master, and the publishing industry isn't one of them. There will always be people who will explain P&L's to you or tell you why it takes a year and a half to get royalty statements. That's their job. Your job is to write great books, and that's hard enough. The most important to know is that everything takes a long time, and then when things happen, they happen all at once.
9) Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?
You can waste a lot of time learning different people's perspectives on the ins and outs of the publishing business—which often contradict each other, leaving you more confused than when you started. Forget it. What you CAN control is your book. Concentrate on making your novel the best it can be. Realize getting published is a process that always takes years, no matter how talented you are. Buy and study Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. It's solid gold.
10) How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?
First I tried to get an agent. I sent queries to the 33 agents that I would have been happy to have represent me. Fifteen rejected me, fifteen never responded, and three asked for writing samples, and eventually, to see the whole manuscript. Two of those bailed. Nine months after I'd first sent a query, I signed with the very last agent who was interested—who happened to also be my own first choice out of all 33—Donald Maass. If he'd said no, I'd probably be working some job I hate right now. Don then slowly collected five or six rejections, before Orbit and a few others all got interested at once.