This week, I was given the privilege of interviewing a new author friend, Luke Taylor, author of The Muiread, Evening Wolves, The Quiet Kill, and more. This interview absolutely a must-read for aspiring authors who are looking for tips on writing. Luke gives us several examples of stereotypes YA/Fantasy writers should avoid. In addition to this, he gives some great advice to those of you who are struggling with the idea of whether or not you should take that step and try writing for the first time!
- When did you first begin writing?
“Soon after I learned to write. I was always drawing pictures, and without knowing it, I was making storyboard narratives. So eventually I just started writing words to go along with the pictures. In school I made little books and kids loved to read them and it just kept growing. So, I’d say 7 years old, just to be safe.”
- What were you like in school?
“I was a good student and I was always very kind, but I was constantly distracted by my imagination, and I doodled and daydreamed a lot. Unless something held my interest, like geography or art. Even then, I had advanced apitude for things I liked, so, I enjoyed them! No one enjoys something they suck at! For me it was fun to know all the European captials even when other kids didn’t know where Europe was, but when it came to, say, math, I couldn’t bring myself to focus on long division because I was still dreaming of adventures in Europe.”
- Did you ever foresee yourself as an author?
“I did when I was in high school but never before then. I always knew it was something I could do, but I never imagined writing would be so valuable to me or that what I wrote would mean so much to others.”
- Do you write full-time or part-time?
“I write full-time but I also play music full-time! It balances nicely! I have a very consistent schedule, which helps. Sometimes I write too much, though!”
- What is the easiest thing to write about? And what is the hardest?
“The easiest thing to write about is whatever comes to me, more or less describing the movie I’m watching in my imagination. The hardest thing is to write technical explinations and things that we all know are necessary but really don’t care about that much. Some people love to research those things, and I don’t mind research, but I’m not passionate about things that aren’t dramatic or cinematic. If it’s too techinical, I get lost. Both as a reader, and a writer.”
- Tell me about the cover! Who designed it? Did you do it yourself?
“The cover was put together by Laura Gordon, who has done every cover I have to this point, but the artwork was actually done by an artist named Slava Gerj. His portfolio is loaded with surreal and fantastic images, and I knew that I wanted the story to be a gateway into this fantastic adventure, but also for the reader to get that flavor of steel and stone, mist and smoke, and the greyscale highland mountain range set behind the gothic gateway was something that was not only perfect for the story, but very different from the bright colored oil paintings and some of the other types of covers with human character models and vibrant battle scenes. To me, The Muiread was more like an ancient story than a modern one. Laura did a wonderful job of making the lettering look etched, and I wanted to use the vertical concept because it was popular back in the 90’s and I haven’t seen too much of it recently. Also, I wanted to leave the integrity of Slava’s art.”
- What are your thoughts on book trailers? Useful? Provocative?
“I think they’re fun but they’ve never made me want to go get a book, and I haven’t seen very many of them to be quite honest. I think they’re a good thing to have, but not essential by any means.”
- Have you ever considered author collaboration? If no, why not?
“I absolutely have. As a musician, that’s all you do! And let me tell you, it’s far more rewarding than playing on your own! With a book there is a lot to consider, and I just haven’t had the opportunity yet, but I would love to collaborate. I know what I could bring to the table, and it would be a great experience for me, seeing as I always seek to learn and grow.”
- Which authors inspire you?
“Dashiell Hammett will always inspire me for being so quick and sharp and intelligent, but I get inspired by any writer who’s really good at what they do. With Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo inspired me to write YA, because I didn’t know what she accopmlished in that book was possible in the genre before I’d read it, and it opened my eyes to more or less do what I’m best at, which is character-driven ensemble, knowing that I could do it in YA. I also recently had the chance to read an ARC of Julie Eshbaugh’s Ivory and Bone, and I was very inspired by what she did on many levels in that book, not only visually and with the uses of the senses, but on a technical level with the use of first and second person. I think when you read something really good, it feels bold and confident, too, and seeing someone passionately give me their story helps me passionately give them mine.”
- What is your favorite book quote of all times? If you use a quote from The Muiread, I won’t judge.
“Not including the Bible, since, we’d be here all day, I would say, “Forever is composed of nows.” It’s from a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson. There are a lot of cool things in The Muiread, though.”
- What advice do you give to young authors?
“Thank you for this question! I hope they’re reading! I would tell them to go for it and to write in first person. Only they know how to speak from their own perspective and no one can tell them they don’t see the world how they do. I’m sure they’ve written diaries or thoughts at some point in their lives, and have read enough books, so they actually know more about writing than they think they do. If they’ve got a story they need to tell, please tell it! I guarantee you someone wants to read it. You’d be suprised just how many someones are out there!”
- What are you working on right now?
“I’m about 3/4 finished with my YA fantasy Vault of Dreams. I can’t say too much about it just yet, but it’s going to be epic! I think you’re going to like it, Rose!”
- Give me an insight into your main character’s thoughts.
“The Muiread is split into five parts, parts 1 and 3 belonging to a narrator that doesn’t get named till the end of part 3. In a way, this is done to suck you into the movement of the journey, but also the lore of the land, since he himself is a part of the history and the lore of The Muiread, but he doesn’t know very much. He’s a warrior that can’t be killed by human hands and in all fairness he hasn’t done much in his life but war. So this changes the way a person is. He’s very pragmatic but he’s also very dense. He sees things black and white but somethings he can’t see at all. I thought of a legendary figure from another time. In a way, he’s stuck in the past, because he’s a representation of the Age. He’s the man that’s seen the redundancy of the cycle of humanity and he knows nothing else, so, since the story is about the Ages finally changing, he’s able to consider a new way of life and you can see him change throughout the book, but you get to watch that change from the outside, which I thought was neat.
“All that said, Realmsplitter may be the main character to most, but Grizel is the main character to me. Thus, part five is told from her perspective. I hope when the trilogy is finished and put together in a nice omnibus format, the stories will be seen as one giant book, and some of the questions people may have will all be answered, especially since there is supposed to be a good deal of mystery involved. On top of that, it seems Ivy is the favorite of ALL characters so far!”
- In The Muiread, you practiced many different kinds of interesting dialects and slang. In your opinion, is there a thing as too much slang/dialect?
“It depends on the reader and what they like. The woman whom I dedicated The Muiread to said that I needed to write a story that could be read aloud and passed down, and it really hit me that I wanted to make it as immersive as possible. I have studied accents and languages for many years and tried the best I could to make it authentic, and hopefully people can have fun reading it aloud. That said, Grizel has a different accent than Miora (even after Miora’s speech impediment is healed), even though they’re twins. It reflects their upbringing. I don’t think there’s too much of anything if you do it well. If you do it, though, you have to commit and go for it all the way. For me, it was an honesty thing, I wasn’t trying to be clever. I listened very carefully to the actresses I had cast for the characters, and so far everyone’s really liked it!”
- What advice would you give to fantasy writers? Where do you think the fantasy genre is lacking?
“My advice to fantasy writers might be counter-intuitive to some! That is, don’t make it too intimidating with crazy wierd names and things that don’t make sense. One might say, that’s stupid! But the ultimate goal of an author is to relate to their reader, to be able to meet them where they are and touch them with something they’ll never forget. Let your imagination run wild, but just don’t make it so dense and detailed and intimidating that nobody can follow you.
“If the fantasy genre is lacking anything, it’s standalones! Brandon Sanderson was brave enough to make his career on them, Elantris, Warbreaker, but now with things like The Stormlight Archive, we’ll have to wait God knows how many years for the tale to end! It’ll be worth the wait, yes! But we need more standalones! Leave it all on the field, cover to cover! Put everything you have into one book.”
- What is the most stereotypical character to you?
“I know some people like this, but the most stereotypical character to me is the jerk who’s a jerk because something bad happened to them when they were a kid. It can be done well, just as the shy genius or the soft-hearted strongman, but it’s done poorly far too often and it gets irritating. Being tough and stony is not being a jerk. Jerks reek of immaturity. Being guarded and enigmatic is awesome. Being a child because you still are one is not!”
- Similarly, what is the most stereotypical problem?
“I’d say the curse upon the land is used a lot, but the chosen one doing a chosen act, such as Arthur taking Excalibur out of the stone, that sort, as in, only this one person can do this one thing to save this one place from this one bad guy. It’s supposed to be relateable, but how can something naturally exclusive be inclusive? Did I miss something?”
- How would you suggest authors avoid stereotypes, or do you believe stereotypes are there for a reason and authors should employ them?
“Great question! Yes, there are things writers must do because we should. Such as, if writing a legal thriller, you must know the law. It’s a rule. If you’re in New York, you have to get the street names right and the travel times. Ect. So, in fantasy, there are things that work. One of them is being great. The human soul will never tire of the ascension to power, strength, or greatness. So when that battle comes at the end, and we’ve gone through a journey with the MC, we expect them to stand toe to toe with the baddies even though four or eight hundred pages ago they couldn’t, and we want them to win, because we feel we’re winning too. Another is the artifact. If you do it right, you can win a lot of hearts and minds with a mystical magical artifact, especially if you have to hunt for it, steal it, solve puzzles for it, or hang it around your neck and refuse the temptation to slip it on your finger whenever the going gets rough.”
- Explain your writing process. What is the first thing you do? How do you feel about outlining?
“Everything I write I see like a movie, and many times I need to “cast” the movie and pick a director. That said, the idea hits me first and I start to imagine it in chronological order, just like popping in a DVD and watching where it takes you. But I can’t get too far until I write. I have to wait till I get the voice of the story, and then I write like mad until there’s a natural break. Then I read over it and imagine it, tweak it, speak it out loud and see what it looks like in what would be the finished book format, and then keep thinking about the whole of the story/movie. I refuse to outline to set it in stone because it has to breathe on its own. I can’t write like I’m clocking into the factory, and I don’t want to watch this movie and enjoy where it’s taking me knowing the ending or knowing, because I’ve outlined, that it has to go here now, or it has to go there now. I want to be taken on the journey, too! And I write on the journey, so it’s fresh for the reader. It’s mostly a linear process, but I do get glimpses of the end or exciting parts in the middle and wait for them. By the time I get to them, they’re always better, because they’ve simmered and stewed, and the physics are all right with the characters and I don’t have to force anything. But, when still in the early phases I do take lots of notes for ideas, work on characters, names, research, ect. But I can’t really do that till I’ve got the voice of the story, which, other than editing and tweaking, beefing up and what not, is what you read when you open the book. That way, it’s a pure thing, moment to moment.”
- What were your inspirations when you set up your book world?
“Obviously Scotland! If you watch any programs on Scotland you’ll say, hey! That’s just like The Muiread! I wanted it to be real, like Derek Cianfrance filmed it. It’s not the craziest fantasy world anybody’s ever read, but I’d love for it to be the most realistic to imagine yourself in. And there are two other locations, one being sort of Spanish/Mediterranean, the other being like Utah/Colorado, because I love the wide open feeling and the rock formations, the dust. Perfect for fighting dragons!”
- If we wanted to find and buy your books, what sites can we visit to do so?
I don’t know about you but I feel like I learned something!
If you want to pick up one of Luke’s books, check out his Goodreads page!
What’s on your bookshelf?