I’m so excited to welcome fantasy author Leeland Artra to Saturday Coffee with Authors! We are in a marketing group together, use the same cover artist, and his debut novel, Thread Slivers, is one of my favorite indie reads ever. I can’t wait for Thread Strands!
Tell us about yourself. When did you start writing and what made you start?
I started writing in 1973 because the nuns said I had to. Then I learned to spell. After that I kinda lost interest mostly due to boring school assignments. But, that didn’t stop from doing weird things like waiting till all my over achieving classmates finished their assignments earlier, offering to proofread them, and proceed to use them as source material with full citations. My English teachers got a real kick out of that and I usually got higher scores than most.
Of course when I started roll playing in the early 1980s I found I enjoyed being the game master more than the player. I would build very complex puzzling scenarios with lots of background data. It never bothered me the players rarely discovered everything that was happening. I had fun with my stories and worlds. I was often told I should publish, but aside from making some custom stuff for friends I never did. But that didn’t stop me from continuing to expand my gaming world and writing deep complex histories.
In 2012 I decided it was time to try something new for fun. I started pulling my notes together and turning them into a real book. I had to pick something that could end, and there was one scenario that my players never succeeded in solving. I resolved to finally play that scenario out myself and thus was created my debut novel.
Tell us a little bit about your latest books.
Thread Slivers is my debut novel and the first of a trilogy, it was published in January 2013. What shocked me was that it jumped to bestseller status in only two weeks. It has remained a top selling book for six months now while I have been working hard on the second book in the trilogy Thread Strands.
Thread Strands is just about to come out (sometime around the middle of August 2013). Thread Strands picks up all the loose filaments and begins pulling them together revealing much of what is really going on. Of course knowing what is happening doesn’t mean the heroes know how to save the world.
What makes these books fun is that the real heroes are not what they seem. The bad guys are not your typical bad guys. Many readers have pointed out they actually like the bad guys. Essentially the world has differing groups who are just trying to grow and live. Yet, this is causing a massive conflict. Well there is one bad guy who, although not really bad to start with, has let grief take him too far.
This leaves the outcome a bit gray, as some of my readers are rooting for the “bad guys.”
Where did you come up with this idea?
I have often heard that there is nothing more dangerous than an intelligent good person who just decides to be bad. This is played out in many movies such as The Shawshank Redemption for one. In that movie (which I love) the main character says “I had to come to prison to be a crook.” I love that theme. So I built a scenario where if people failed everyone lost. Oddly enough many players tried, many times, some of the players even tried multiple times, yet no one solved it before it was too late. I thought that would be fun to finally play it out. I so I had one of the really powerful wizards in the world realize he had to come at the problem sideways instead of head on. So he secretly arranged for many possibly powerful people to be in key places early and then he lit the fuse, so to speak.
Many of the other ideas in my books come from other sources, like the learning the elven fighting and hunting styles in one night is loosely based on the Matrix where the heroes really are not fully prepared. Yes they have the potential but they need the skills too. So in the Matrix the solution was “direct tape download into the brain.” In my books the solution is “strange secret entity teaches the skills overnight in a very special way.”
Who did the cover art for your book?
Streetlight Graphics, Glendon Haddix and Steve Dotty are my real life art heroes they are amazing! I love working with them. Steve took my imagined world and drew it sometimes better than I originally imagined it. Then Glendon made photo realistic images based on the sketches. WOW that is talent!
Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while working on this book?
I learned I still love fiction. I find it hard to think about anything else other than possible new stories, better character profiles. I love foreshadowing and I find I do it almost like breathing.
Who do you find to be a huge inspiration for your writing? And why is that?
Babylon 5, Firefly, Dr. Who, anything by Roger Zelazny or Lois McMaster Bujold. The worlds, the characters, the story telling. I love it all. That the world moves and shifts even when not being observed is what I love about the stories there.
Which one of your characters would be the best to meet in real life?
Duke, I mean really who wouldn’t want to meet that old wolf?
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Decrypted by Lindsay Buroker and before that I read Fargoer by Petteri Hannila. I highly recommend both (although Decrypted is the second book, you should start with Encrypted).
Besides the genre you write, what genres do you like to read?
I read and write science-fiction and fantasy. I love the fantastic possibilities and nothing is better than a fun romp in someone else’s amazing world.
What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer?
I dare not say… Well OK, I misspelled a major country in my debut novel. I did a search and replace and got it backwards. It was published that way. I’m correcting it finally with the release of an updated version with some other typos fixed as part of the release for the second book in the series.
If you had to pick one trait that makes you a better writer, what would it be?
I’m a bit analytical (after all I’m a professional software engineer in my day job). I make sure all the parts fit and I double and triple check things like timelines, events, physics, and possibilities. I want my worlds to be totally possible.
What is the one thing that seems to always get in the way of writing time?
I get sucked into things like books and TV series. Netflix streaming is both my nemesis and dear friend. Nothing is worse than running into a series that is awesome where I can lose hours a night. The same goes for books. I have often stayed up to 4 A.M. reading a novel because I just didn’t want to put it down. This can really make me sleepy.
When you are not writing, what are you doing?
I wish I could say exercising. But, truth is I am almost always on the computer doing something if I’m not grudgingly doing some chore.
What is one of your favorite places to write?
I have taken over the dining room table and I kinda like it. I can watch my son play with his stuff and my wife can read her book across from me. It makes life very nice.
What is one of your favorite places in the world?
Hawaii, I never got there as a kid. I finally got there a few years back and have been there three times now. Not once have I regretted the trip or left there happy to be going home finally.
What is one thing about you most people find interesting (or unusual etc.)?
My sense of humor. I’m often cracking jokes and making stuff up. For example I’ll spin you a story about the origin of a particular dish in a restaurant that everyone loves until someone pulls out a phone and checks Google to see if made it up.
Are there any more projects you are currently working on? Do you know when we might get to see those?
Certainly, Thread Strands is only weeks from rolling out to the public. After that is Thread Skein book three and the conclusion to the series. After that I have already started a couple of backstory novels that will be one book only items. I might do anther trilogy after that.
What is your favorite quote?
I’m a professional writer. I tell lies to total strangers for money.
What secrets would you share with aspiring authors?
Write the books you want to read. There will be an audience out there, and you’ll be happier.
Name one author you’d love to meet and tell us why.
Oh that is hard. Um, I think I’d love to meet Lois McMaster Bujold and Timothy Zahn. Oh and Lindsay Buroker … wait you said one. Um, well I’m too much of a fan boy. I want to meet with Lois Bujold because dang I want to confirm some suspicions I have about the sharing knife series. Timothy Zahn is just cause his stories are so fun, I bet he is a lot of fun to chat with. And of course Lindsay Buroker because I love her writing style.
You’re throwing a fiction character party. What fictional characters would you like to invite (name and where they are from (book/TV/Movie/etc.) and why?
Dr. Who, all of the main characters from Firefly, and I’d love to meet Miles & Ekaterin Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Naturally I’d invite Ticca, Lebuin, Ditani, Duke, Elades, Illa, Risy, Nigan, heck everyone from my own books. It would be a heck of a party!
Now for a little This or That:
Coke/Pepsi Soda bad – Make mine a Diet Dr. Pepper please
Cat/Dog Dog no Cat… a heck I like both and would love either
Water skiing/snow skiing Snow skiing
Romance/Action Action with some romance is nice
Convertible/SUV Convertible 4×4
Flip Flops/Dress shoes Sneakers
Vampires/Zombies Neither I really don’t get into the monster genres
Historical/Futuristic Fantasy any day, any time
Lara Croft/Jason Bourne Oooo Dang… um… I haven’t got a chance with Lara so Jason
Hero/Villain Villain (they get all the cool stuff and I think I make it work)
London/Paris London (I love pasties and shepherd’s pie)
Africa/Asia neither I prefer Hawaii
Ice cream/Chips Is it Nutty Coconut?
Hot dog/Hamburger Hamburger with dill pickles and cheddar
Beer/Wine Amaretto, neat
Skittles/Hershey Bar Skittles
I can’t believe it! I’m a bestselling author. You can find all my books on Amazon!