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All reviews and opinions shared on The Faerie Review are mine alone. I review books of my own accord. All books reviewed on this blog are e...

Monday, October 8, 2018

Inside the Mind: Douglas Pierce

Our interview with Douglas Pierce, author of The Maiden's Song. You can find the full review here.

Lily:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Douglas, I really enjoyed The Maiden’s Song. I was hoping we could start by talking a little about the story and characters. Who (if anyone) inspired Seldy and Mouse?

Douglas:  Thank you so much, Lily for the opportunity. I’m really glad that you liked TMS. It is truly a labor of love. I love both of my main characters deeply. They’ve been a huge part of my life for the past several years. Seldy was truly the catalyst for the story. She is such a great character. I can honestly say that no one person was the complete inspiration for her, but she has traits and characteristics that I saw and admired in a number of different women in my life. There are a couple of them that figure much more prominently than others, and they know who they are. One of the cool things is that I came to know the model who portrayed Seldy in the cover shoot — Bunny Luna — in just this last year. Even so, she became a powerful muse for the character because she reminds me of Seldy in so many ways—much more than mere appearance. 
As for Mouse, he was inspired by the person I felt myself to be as a young man. I certainly don’t have his talent for music, or his skill sets in terms of healing or picking locks, but his empathy—his talent for understanding and appreciating most people he meets—is something I strive to do in every day life.

Lily:  That’s wonderful. Mouse is a great role model, and I love how various women in your life inspired Seldy. Did you know where the story was going to go when you started writing, or were there some surprises in there?

Douglas:  Oh, there were lots of surprises. I had a version of this story done about four years ago that was quite different in a number of substantial ways, including the fact that the ending was drastically different and Mouse didn’t have any magick at all. When I sat down to edit that book, though, I asked a few critical questions, and in answering those questions, I ended up rewriting it from the beginning. There are probably less than 50 pages in common between these two versions of that story. Even then, though, I had been planning a wholly different kind of confrontation at the end of the story, one that would have been much more physical and more of a traditional battle scene. But as I drew closer to the ending, this magickal ending revealed itself to me, showing me all of the connections that had just kind of fallen into place.

Lily:  That’s a big chunk of editing! I’m glad it turned out the way it did, I haven’t seen the original, but I really love this version. So, do you have a favorite character, out of the entire cast?

Douglas:  Wow. What a good question. I’m usually the one asking that of my readers, and I’m always interested in seeing who they pick. Most of the time, folks pick either Mouse or Seldy. I love them each equally. I think my favorite character in the whole book though is Tra’al, the old orc Marine. He’s got a such a great personality, and he is such a flawed character. But he feels so real to me. Klard is another character I love, in part because of how flawed he is too, and how it is so easy to see both the darkness and light within him.

Lily:  I loved Tra’al! He seemed very real, like someone you might meet in everyday life, and end up sitting and listening to his stories. If readers only take one thing away from your book, what would you want it to be?

Douglas:  That’s another great question. I think that would be how important and powerful a mother’s love for her child can be. I use a lot of flashbacks and dream sequences to explore critical moments between Mouse and his mother, between Seldy and both her adoptive and birth mothers, and even between Tra’al and his mother and Klard and his. How those moments are remembered and re-experienced in those sequences is crucial to the development of each character because I think it is the most foundational relationship we have. And our memories of those relationships can impact us all of our lives.

Lily:  That’s beautiful and very true. It brings a strong female presence, but also gives you great insight into the characters. Ok, let’s learn a little more about you and your writing. I understand this is your first book in this genre, were you nervous to take the plunge?

Douglas:  No, not really. I have had a deep and abiding love for epic fantasy stories for all of my conscious life. I’ve been writing in the genre ever since I was a teen. But other than a few short stories that I’ve had published in anthologies produced by a friend’s publishing company relating to role-playing games, this was my first full-on fantasy novel that I’ve tried to publish.

Lily:  You certainly write like this isn’t your first fantasy story, and I think you did an excellent job. Do you prefer to write by hand, on a typewriter, on a computer?

Douglas:  I’m definitely a laptop and iPad Pro writer. I can’t stand to look at my own handwriting. And I do way too many corrections mid-sentence to write things out manually. It would mostly just be scribbles and scratch-outs.

Lily:  Hehe I understand that. Sometimes I can’t decipher my own handwriting. What do you do if inspiration strikes when you’re in the shower or driving?

Douglas:  I get a lot of inspiration while driving. I live about an hour or so away from my day job, so I spend a lot of time in the car. I actively use that time to think about and visualize scenes. I have a really good memory for the ideas that I brainstorm. I can usually remember them until I find the opportunity to take a few notes. Ironically, I often don’t go back to re-read those notes. The act of writing them down is all I usually need until I start typing them out. Then I make a lot of changes as I go, refining them and honing them down.

Lily:  That’s awesome! It’s nice that your commute lets you do some brainstorming. Do you read all of your reviews, good and bad?

Douglas:  I probably will. I definitely want to read the positive reviews to see what resonates with different readers. And, it might be naïve, but I would like to believe that I will find value in reading the negative reviews too. I certainly found a lot of value during the editing process in hearing what wasn’t working for some readers. I made more than a few changes to the final story in response to some of the negative feedback I received. 

Lily:  I think that’s a great way to look at it, and hopefully any negative reviews that pop up have some useful criticism. Ok, any advice for aspiring authors?

Douglas:  Yes. It’s a cliché, but the first thing is to do a lot of reading. See how other authors describe things and characters. See how they propel the story forward. Take notes about what resonates with you and what you don’t like. Then, you have to sit down and just write, write, and write some more. Most of what you produce early on will be rough and hard to read at times. But it is only through doing it and failing that you can become better. Also, write the kind of stories that you want to read. Finally, I would say to get feedback from people that you can trust to be honest with you. Early on, it is good to have close family and friends read it because they will often be encouraging and want you to succeed. But as you get closer to being done with the story you wanted to write, seek out others who you trust and respect and ask them to be honest, to point out the rough patches and the wrong turns. And then take that feedback and use it to improve your story.

Lily:  It might be cliché, but I think it’s good advice. I think one of the biggest misconceptions I come across is that it has to be good the first time you write or you should give up. Just like playing an instrument, the more you practice, the better you are. It’s a Saturday night, what are you doing?

Douglas:  I’m pretty much a homebody, so most Saturday nights are spent at home chilling with my wife and watching TV. But I do love going out to a good movie, especially the kind of event movie that is widely anticipated, like Star Wars, or Black Panther.

Lily:  Sounds like a relaxing way to spend the weekend. Do you have a favorite genre of book to read?

Douglas:  Epic fantasy novels are my favorites. George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire Series (the novels that Game of Thrones are based on) and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles are some of my all-time favorites.

Lily:  Those are both on my TBR list, and I can see why you have such a great cadence when you tell your stories. You now have one week to spend anywhere in the world with one person, living or dead. Who do you take, and where?

Douglas:  I would take my wife, Pat, to Europe to see some of the places she has always wanted to see. Places like Stonehenge, and some of the castles in the UK and Germany. 

Lily:  Sounds like a fun week, with lots of great views. Now for the most important question: how well do you think you’d do in a zombie apocalypse?

Douglas:  I probably wouldn’t last that long. I’m slow and heavy, and I’m the kind of person who would play rearguard so that others I cared about could escape and survive. That’s one of the things that Mouse and I share. 

Lily:  We can stay behind and fight off the zombies together. What’s your secret superpower?

Douglas:  Empathy. I have the ability to put myself in the position of others. It really helps with writing about diverse characters!

Lily:  That makes sense. I imagine when you can put yourself into a character’s shoes it’s a lot easier to write about them. What’s your dream job (even if it’s not writing books)? 

Douglas:  When I was a kid I was fascinated by the military and military history. I succeeded in becoming a soldier and even served in a war (the Persian Gulf War in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait). I didn’t find the reality of that life to be equal to what I imagined it would be. It is much more enjoyable (and safe!) to imagine conflicts and write about them!

Lily:  Thank you so much for your service, and I’m glad you got to at least try your childhood dream job, even if it didn’t live up to expectations. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Douglas:  I’m about to start on writing the second novel in this series, The Guardian’s Quest. If you read and enjoyed The Maiden’s Song, I would invite you to join me on my Patreon site (details below) where you will be able to follow my progress and, by offering a little support, you’ll be able to read each chapter as I go. I hope to have the principal draft of this novel done in two years and will be posting at least one, and hopefully two chapters a month!

Lily:  That sounds amazing! I’ll have to head over there. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Douglas:  On my Patreon, Instagram, or Facebook and Goodreads author pages. You can buy my book on Amazon.

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