I have been interested in doing author interviews for a while now and thought that the best approach, to fit with the theme of the blog, would be to ask the authors questions regarding a specific aspect of writing that they consider themselves to be experts on. Today we get to have our first author interview with Gus Gallows, a fantasy/ sci-fi author. Gus wrote The Price of Honor, Book 1 of the Lore of Algoron and The Price of Dignity, Book 2 of the Lore of Algoron series.
Gus has an interesting approach to creating his stories. (Remember when we talked about planning out your book, and finding what works best for you? Here is a cool thing to try if story boards, lists, or outlines aren’t your thing!)
He is a very organic writer and develops his stories in a role-playing environment. So here is the interview!
Heidi: Gus, you say that you develop your stories using a “play to write” technique. Can you explain that a bit to everyone?
Gus: Certainly. Most of my stories have come from a game my brother runs. It is a MUD (Multi-User Domain) that was developed starting over 20 years ago. In this text based role playing game, I got to develop cities, and kingdoms, and most importantly, characters and role play. I would develop the beginning of a storyline to get the role play flowing and then simply let it flow organically. Each player played their part to grow the story. I became so engrossed in these story lines that I and all who participated had an amazing time while at the same time, inadvertently, I had captured enough material for a complete series of novels.
All that was left was to organize the material, make a few creative changes and embellishments, fill in some gaps, and BLAM, a novel emerged. Early Dungeons and Dragon novels were written using the same concept. They would run a campaign and at the end, loved the storyline so much that they were able to embellish it where needed and come out with some fantastic novels.
Heidi: What games do you typically like to play to get you in the right mood?
Gus: Pretty much any role playing game. Anything from my brother’s mud, The Dark And Shattered Lands, to World of Warcraft. Sometimes you can find inspiration in unlikely places, like a board game. So many games are out now that are story based that it is not that big of a stretch to lay the foundations for a novel.
Heidi: Do you think this technique only works for authors of fantasy or sci-fi as those are typically the genres where you find role playing games?
Gus: Actually no. It is a pretty common misconception that RPGs are limited to Fantasy/Sci-Fi. There are excellent mystery RPGs like the Call of Cthulu, or even something as open ended as the Sims. You are only limited by your imagination.
Heidi: So, how do you manage the time? Is it kind of like you play for an hour, then write about everything you just played?
Gus: My first book was written on a storyline I had developed in game over 4 year prior. The story had been nagging at me and I had written a few short stories on it to try to let the story out, but what really put it to print was when I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge during the month of November where you have 30 days to write 50,000 or more words. I decided to write mine on the story line I developed while playing a disgraced Minotaur who was trying to reclaim his honor.
It had been 4 year since I had played the character, so I had to add a lot to it and omit a lot, but at some point, the story took over and pretty much wrote itself as the memory of the experience came pouring back to me. You don’t have to play then write, play then write, play then write. For me, it works best if you play to completion, or at least to a reasonable part 1 conclusion and then take time to absorb everything that you experienced, maybe take time to interview the participants and then put it to paper. Most prefer to write while it is fresh in their memory’s, I prefer to wait, let the story mellow and blend a little bit. If I try to go right from the experience to the writing, I lose some of the cool things that happen when you let your memory fill in the blanks with things that weren’t necessarily there. :)
Heidi: How do you think this style has helped to improve your writing?
Gus: I think that it has freed my mind from what would normally develop into a writer’s block. It’s like a collaborative effort. When many are involved, the human dynamic can take the story into direction you would never have considered. On a side note, you can’t always follow the developed storyline 100%. There are time when your author side has to change things to keep it flowing in the right directions. This is also largely due to the human dynamic. You just have to know when to step in and change direction of the stream or when to just let it flow freely on to the river.
Heidi: Do you think there are any drawbacks to this style of writing?
Gus: I don’t think it is for everyone. I think you have to be of a certain mindset to write this way. There are many OCD types that would have a stroke if they came in while I was writing. There is no rhyme or reason behind it, very little organization, and a sense of chaos that could overwhelm most traditional writers. You do have to be organized to the point where you keep track of your characters and descriptions and city names, etc, so that they do not inadvertently change throughout the story without a reason. But most of it is organic. You just let it happen.
Heidi: What advice would you give to a budding author who would like to try this technique?
Gus: Pay attention. Pick good role play partners to participate in the game so your story does not wind up on the side of ridiculous. Most important though is to have fun. If you’re not having fun and if the game becomes too much like work, it will not be as memorable as it needs to be for you to create from it days, months, or years later.
Heidi: Do you have any projects in the works that you’d like to tell us about?
Gus: I am starting my third book, The Price of Love, book 3 of the Lore of Algoron. I can’t wait to write this one. It was my favorite storyline in the game and it is even told to this day in character by the many bards still roaming the text based world of Algoron. It is the tale of a Dragon who inadvertently inherits the foster care of a toddler elven girl. It is a tragic story that I can’t wait to put to print. Right now, it’s just a matter of finding time to do it. My work and my life has me way busy, but I will do it soon enough.
Also you can find my current books in print on Amazon worldwide or on my CreateSpace stores and they can be bought for the Kindle.
I also try to keep everyone up to date on my latest developments which can be found on one of my blogs at http://www.gusgallows.com
Heidi: Well, thank you so much for your time today! This is such an interesting and exciting method to creating books and I am thrilled to find someone who has experience and can give us some of the ins and outs!
Gus: Thank you, Heidi, it was a sincere pleasure.
Readers, I hope you found it as exciting as I did! Look forward to a guest book review on Booksfor Linda in the near future! Better yet, go try them out yourself!! Any questions or comments for me or for Gus? Ask away in the comments below.