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Author Interview: Dan Fitzgerald

Dan FItzgerald is the author of The Maer Cycle and The Living Waters, which is the first book in The Weirdwater Confluence Duology.

Interview

Use three to five words to describe yourself.

Nature-loving fantasy writer.

Can you give us a little background on your latest book?

The Living Waters was inspired by a real-life journey on a log raft on the Mississippi, which I joined when I was thirteen years old. It was billed as an outdoor school on a log raft, and we had to forage and fish for our food, bathe in the river, living literally on it. It was the most amazing experience of my life, and I have long thought about writing a book about it, but I never felt like I could get the details right if I tried to write a memoir. Then I thought about what it would look like as a fantasy book, and things kind of took off from there.

I wanted to really focus in on the nature aspect, living off the land, the amazing people you meet who call the riverside their home. So the book is not your usual swords and magic story; it’s a journey to a mystical place, more about wonder than dread. It’s why I call it sword-free fantasy.

Can you give us any insight into your planning and writing process?

I’m a full-on pantser, meaning I don’t really do much planning ahead of time, unless a jumbled notes doc on my phone counts. I start with a notion, which I let gestate as I’m writing and editing other books, making little random notes as I go. When it’s time to write, I shoot for 500 words a day, twice that on days when I’m not working, and I typically don’t write during editing phases. With such a modest daily goal, I easily find a rhythm, and words are never hard to come by. It averages out to enough for two books a year these days, or that is my goal anyway. As a new author with an indie press, it’s going to take a while before anyone knows who I am, so I have to keep producing quality books if I want to have a chance at making this something other than a hobby.

Silence or music or other when writing/editing?

Silence for sure, though I write standing in the kitchen at night, and the sound of the dishwasher thrumming is my usual soundtrack.

Based on your experience, can you offer a piece of advice to budding authors?

Write that book, polish it as well as you can, publish it, and get right to work on the next one. Your first book probably isn’t going to be a bestseller, and it may not get much traction at all right away. And that’s fine. If someone discovers you by reading your seventh book, they may go back and read your previous books. That’s my philosophy: there’s your newest book and then there’s your back catalog. Best not to sweat every review or sales, as that way madness lies. Just keep writing and keep improving your craft, and don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

You can erase one book or series from your mind entirely so that you can read it again for a first time, which do you erase?

Brutal question. I’m going with my current favorite, Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar, a brilliant nontraditional fantasy with fully realized characters and a romantic arc that steals your heart whether you want it to or not. I want to live that love story again for the first time.

Who are some of your favourite authors/books?

Right now anything fantasy romance or romantic fantasy. Before I got into fantasy, I was a huge fan of detective novels, and I read scads of books by Belgian crime writer Georges Simenon, who wrote the Maigret series. That’s my comfort zone right there. And on the literary side, I have read all of Faulkner’s books at least once, and several of them thrice. He and Toni Morrison write the best prose I’ve ever read, if I’m in the right mindset.

Who are your favourite book characters?

I really loved Cassandra in Devin Madson’s We Ride the Storm, and I couldn’t get enough of Graves, the disabled crime boss in J Calamy’s steamy crime romance The Boss.

Do you have any favourite magic systems?

Anything with a light touch. I prefer magic on the personal level more than the world level. I actually thought this was a strength of Tolkein’s, how most of the world was not magical at all, so magic was special, and mysterious, though he did have some world-level stuff too. I tend to write that way too—magic is real, but it’s not showy, not most of the time anyway.

You can bring one world from a book or series to life and live there, which world do you choose

I’m going with Simenon’s early 20th century Paris. Despite some of the societal issues you find in books of that era, there’s something so cozy, so rich, and so real in those pages. I would love to sit drinking beer and eating sandwiches with the detectives, or go out for a big boozy lunch and eat ridiculous amounts of traditional French food in some little café where all the regulars have their own little table, and even their own napkin the owners keep for them.

What book or series would you love to see on the big screen?

Seriously, anything indie. There’s so much great stuff out there with a totally different perspective and storytelling technique than what Hollywood cranks out. Not to be a broken record, but if any Hollywood execs are out there reading this, Legacy of the Brightwash is your next big hit.

You can collaborate with one other author, who do you choose?

I’d love to collab with Ashley Anglin, a fellow writer with Shadow Spark Pub. We are like twins in many ways, with our interest in languages and cultures and how they evolve and interweave throughout history.

Have any cultures/civilisations inspired your writing?

Many, for sure, but in my current duology (The Weirdwater Confluence), I took a lot of inspiration from my yoga and meditation practice. The setting is neither European nor Asian, but I hope it has a few hints of each, and is something new as well.

What is your favourite mythical creature?

I love the sasquatch, because you could almost believe it’s real. I like my fantasy to border on the believable, and sasquatch definitely does that. I want to believe there are things in the world we haven’t discovered yet.

What is your favourite mythical race?

Well, I wrote a whole trilogy about a mythical race called the Maer, in part because I hate the evil race trope, and writing mythical races is always a bit fraught. This idea that they are inherently different, that they have different racial traits beyond the merely physical, is dangerous territory. The goal should always be to show their similarities, rather than their differences. I am a big fan of dwarves, however, if we’re going for classical fantasy races—I love the idea of underground dwellers delving deep into the earth and finding its hidden wisdom and riches.

You can have one superpower, what is it?

Being rich enough not to work, like Batman. I’d love to just have all that time to focus on good works, including writing.

You have the ability to morph into any real—not mythical—creature. Which creature do you choose?

I’d love to be an otter, at home in the water or on land. I was lucky enough to be in a kayak and watch them slide down their little chute into the water and then frolic around in the river, making little chittering noises, and I’d love for that to be my life.

You can go back in time and live a different period of history, when do you choose?

I’d go with fin de siècle France, that period of excess and artistic madness between the old world and the new. Of course, that’s assuming I’m a person of means; as a poor person, pretty much all periods of history would be equally terrible, unless we’re talking about some imaginary pastoral situation where there are no vicious rulers to steal the fruits of your labor

You can meet any five people in the world, who would you choose?

Barack Obama—he’s just such a genius, and I’d love to pick his mind.

Georges Simenon, the greatest writer I’ve ever read.

Hypatia, one of the first known female alchemists, a Greek/Egyptian philosopher and mathematician.

Marie de France, the writer of the 12th century stories known as the Lais, which are such perfect little literary gems.

Finally, why not Gandhi, who couldn’t have been as perfect as he is often portrayed, but he surely would be a fun person to have a conversation with.

Would you rather…

  • ride a dragon or fly a spaceship?
    • Spaceship. Dragons are too unpredictable.
  • have the ability to fly or be indestructible?
    • Indestructible. The body is too fragile.
  • be an elf or an orc?
    • An orc with a heart of gold (I don’t believe they all must be evil)
  • have the ability to travel to mythical worlds, from your favourite books, or the ability to travel faster than light and visit planets and solar systems in this world?
    • Mythical worlds, because I want to believe they exist.
  • face one orc or three goblins in battle?
    • One orc. Goblins, kobolds, and other creatures are always more trouble in a group.
  • be an expert swordsman or archer?
    • Archer. I’d prefer not to be inches from death, thank you.
  • be able to wield elemental magic or raise and control the dead?
    • Elemental magic. I believe the dead should stay that way.
  • live in a city under the ocean or one floating in the clouds?
    • Clouds please. I’d never trust the underwater city not to leak.
  • be able to see the past or see the future?
    • The past, hands down. Who wants to know how they’re going to die?

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure!

Thank you for taking the time Dan, we really appreciate it.