In preparation for the upcoming (and long-awaited) release of SOLITARY 3, I thought it would be fun to post an interview I gave back when SOLITARY 2 was released. So here’s a little insight into my writing process. And stay tuned for more information on SOLITARY 3 and beyond…
Where did the idea for such a story (as Solitary) come from? Was it a slow process or did it just pop up in your mind?
I have been fascinated by the idea of complete solitude for many years. If one were to analyze me, they would likely tie it back to the fact that I am an only child and spent a lot of time alone when I was a kid. But there is something special about the intersection of the life we live within our mind and the life we live in the world. I wanted to explore what would happen to the human psyche when the real world is shrunk to the dimensions and experiences of a single room, and the touchstone of time is removed as well. In the end, Solitude was borne from a combination of two stories lines I had always wanted to play with: being trapped in a confined space with a complete stranger, and the psychological impact of immortality. I think the story works well on both levels.
Your character development is subtle over the course of the story but very detailed. How do you work with character development? Is there a particular method use?
Honestly…I have no idea. I do not use any formula or formal process, although I do sometimes create a very minimal character sketch for continuity when I’m dealing with a large cast of characters like in my WATCHERS OF UR series. Characters are very organic things to me. I’ll start with a trait or characteristic that relates to the story, then my muse just takes over. For example, Adam Redclaw needed to be a tough, resilient character both physically and mentally. So when I started thinking about those characteristics I kept coming back to a Special Forces operator as being the archetype for those attributes in a convincing but not bombastic way. Quiet calm in a deadly package. Once I had the character, it was easy to form his adversary, Valdés. I choose to disembody the character to heighten the sense of Adam’s complete isolation, and keep the antagonist shrouded in mystery for future installments.
How long did it take you to write this from start to finish?
This story came together very quickly – less than a week, I think. That’s about average for me when I am focused. My first novel THE WATCHERS OF UR: CRADLE is just over 80,000 words and took me 12 weeks to write. The second installment, SOLITARY 2, is just over 8,000 words and took me two days.
When writing a story, sometimes things don’t go the direction you had originally planned. What part in your book was the most surprising for you?
The ending was planned to be completely different. I had originally thought this would be a 15-20,000 word standalone novella. But in the middle of writing, a larger story blossomed that I could not ignore. It reminded me of something my writing hero Roger Zelazny said about taking risks when writing:
“Occasionally, there arises a writing situation where you see an alternative to what you are doing, a mad, wild gamble of a way for handling something, which may leave you looking stupid, ridiculous or brilliant ― you just don’t know which. You can play it safe there, too, and proceed along the route you’d mapped out for yourself. Or you can trust your personal demon who delivered that crazy idea in the first place. Trust your demon.”
Who can argue with a master like Zelanzy? So I followed the story where it led and I am very pleased with the result.
You’ve written Solitary 2. Did you know there was going to be a second part? What prompted you to write more?
I began writing SOLITARY at the same time I was reading JF Perkins’ series RENEWAL, and I had just finished Hugh Howey’s excellent WOOL series, so I was intrigued by the notion of a serialized story. As I got into the story, I realized that the backstory I had constructed for Adam Redclaw could open some really interesting possibilities if I wanted to turn this single story concept into a series. So I shortened the opening of the story considerably and sketched out a story arc that is really fun and interesting. If readers like SOLITARY and move on to SOLITARY 2, they will follow Adam as he copes with the realization that everything Valdés revealed was true, and that while he is no longer in prison, he is far from free. This and other themes will be explored in detail as the story moves along.