Interview with Richard C. White about his new book Harbinger Of Darkness!

Some of you may remember way back before #Writober  started, I asked What are you planning for #Writober? Back then, a million years ago, I mentioned that I planned to do Readers Imbibing Peril XII’s Peril in the First. I listed the books I planned on reading and half of those have changed, but I also mentioned a surprise. Here is that surprise. I was given a copy of Harbinger of Darkness by Richard C. White in exchange for a review. He also agreed to an interview. Imbibing So Much Peril!

My Review

 

four stars

The cover of Harbinger Of Darkness by Richard C. WhiteThough I’m not usually a kings and princes, guilds and taverns kind of reader, I enjoyed many things about this novel. I especially enjoyed the strong female protagonist. Perrin, by day, working in her father’s bookshop, uses a charm to change her appearance and becomes Raven, by night, master thief who doesn’t play by the rules. I was pulled into her world through visual description and quick-moving action scenes. I also enjoyed the crisp, natural dialogue.

There were some areas of the novel that I felt dragged slightly. Though there was a rich, layered story being told, I sometimes thought it could be told with fewer words. There were a few times I worried the story would turn to fairy tale stereotypes, but the story took a creative turn and rewarded me for my continued reading.

Harbinger of Darkness is a visceral adventure through a world of magic with well-developed characters, dynamic dialogue and a good dose of two-handed sword fights.

Interview with Richard C. White

Reading your bio at the end of Harbinger of Darkness, was fascinating. You have a career with a defense contractor and you write novels? Can you tell us about a day in the life?

Im a technical writer, by trade, so as I like to describe my life as six weeks of boredom followed by two weeks of panic. Most of the projects I work on are what we call eight-week spins, so for six weeks, theres not much for me to do while the developers and programmers work on their projects. However, once the code goes final, I have one week to write the users manual, update the technical manual, review and update the requirements spreadsheet, and write the change sheet. Once thats all done, then I have to get the government lead to review and approve my documents before the end of the second week, so we can release on time.

I try not to let that six-week slack period go to waste though. Most of the time, Ive been able to work on my latest story while Im on the slow part of the spin. Ive been able to sell my project managers that Im getting in typing practice. Generally, theyve been cool about it though – as long as I am at my desk, answer my phone/email, and help out when needed, etc. – its sort of like being on-call.

Most of my writing is done at home though. I try to carve out an hour or two before bed for writing, but that doesnt happen all the time. Getting a chance to spend time with friends and family is pretty darn important for physical and mental health.

One of my favorite writing exercises is going on writing walkabouts on the weekend. Ill take a Saturday or Sunday and go out and do an hour or two of writing at a coffee shop, then walk to the park and write, then hit a restaurant to write/eat, then maybe a local pub or a bookstore and write some more. The object of a walkabout is getting outside of the house to write, but not abusing a businesss hospitality. If I hit a coffee shop, I only stay a while and I order somethingsame for a restaurant, pub, bookstore, etc.. Im not there just to leach their electricity or wi-fi.

So, between working in some writing at work, in the evenings at home and on the weekends, I manage to balance family, work, and my writing. I wish I could say I was one of those who wrote every day, but I do what I can. Maybe after I retire, Ill consider trying to write full-time, but I dont see it happening anytime soon.

I would see the Star Trek and Star Wars book titles on the bookstore shelves and assume they were books that rehashed the scripts. I only learned about the media tie-in genre this past summer, but you’ve lived it. What, to you, is the purpose/joy of media tie-in and what’s it like to write for licensed media?

There are a number of different types of media tie-in stories. Some are novelizations of an existing property, say, Star Wars. There you take the movie and expand on it. A movie script would probably make a long novella, so to get 80-100,000 words for the novel, you get to go into descriptions, what the characters were thinking in certain scenes, what might have been happening right off screen, or how did that character we last saw on this planet manage to get to the other planet in the nick of time? Novelizations are a way to linger over a movie/tv show/game and fill in a few blanks.

Other media tie-ins are original stories set in the established universe. Now the authors get to maybe go back and revisit characters who only appeared in say one episode of Doctor WHO or NCIS and maybe instead of them being just a walk-on, now we get to do an entire story about them. Sometimes, we can tell stories of what happened between two episodes or even two seasons of a show to cover what happened to the characters (provided the season didnt end on a cliff-hanger). Other times, we come up with completely unique stories about charactersperhaps we tell the story of what they did before they came onto the show or if theyve left the show, perhaps we do a reunion story, to catch the fans up on whats happened to this or that person.

However, writing media tie-in stories has its own unique pitfalls. First of all, most people dont get to start off writing media works. You cant just write a Supernatural novel and send it to the publisher and hope theyll pick it up. Most of the authors you see whore writing media tie-in have been approached by an editor and asked to pitch something. Studios are very protective of their properties, so for the editor to sell you as the author, they like to be able to point to something youve already done to prove you have some writing chops.

So, if you get the opportunity to write something, then you get to do the tie-in dance. First off, the editor gives you your right and left boundaries, a.k.a., the licensor is looking for a story about X and Y, but dont go into Z or U. Why? They may or may not tell you, but the licensor is the final approver, so learn to keep them happy. Then the writer comes up with two or three plot pitches, which have to be approved by the editor and then the licensor. Once they decide which they like best, then you do a synopsis or perhaps a chapter breakdown and again the editor and then the licensor have to approve them. Finally, you get to write the short story, novella, or novel. And again, it goes through the editor and the licensor.

At any time in this process, the licensor can go, Nope, thats not working, and thats it. Hopefully, your editor can smooth thing over or help you come up with a way to mollify the licensor, but if they say no, then your story is dead. And I mean dead, since youre using their characters, theres no where else to sell that story. Sure, I guess you could try to file the serial numbers off the story and change it enough to make it your own, but in that case, why not just write a new story?

What inspired you to write Harbinger of Darkness?

Its hard to say what was the initial inspiration for Harbinger, but I can definitely trace some of its literary roots to stories like the Scarlet Pimpernel, Batman, Zorro, and the Green Hornet. However, I wanted to make the main character a bit more human. Perrin isnt necessarily out to right great wrongs or even make the city safer, although, she winds up setting herself against some of the greater criminals in her own citybut for her own personal reasons. Instead, this is about someone who feels trapped by circumstances and she is forced to take what some would call drastic actions to free herself and be able to follow her own dreams in the end.

I also wanted to try and determine for myself if I could write a story about a nocturnal character who a) is not independently wealthy, so they must maintain their secrets while holding down a regular job and b) must keep their secret identity from their own family – no faithful Diegos or Alfreds for Perrin. It was fun to take the trope of the costumed crime-fighter and morph it into what I wanted for this story. Hopefully, Ive succeeded.

Halloween’s coming up, do you have a favorite horror author/novel?

I have to admit, I like dark fantasy, but Im not much into modern horror. That being said, I do enjoy the Saga of Pandora Zwieeck series by Steve Roman. Even if Steve wasnt my publisher, he does write a damn good yarn with this series. Im constantly nagging him to put out the third book so I can find out how this first arc is going to end.

I did enjoy earlier Steven King The Shining, Carrie, Firestarter, and I remember making the classic mistake of trying to read The Exorcist at midnight when I was 12(ish). Not great for sleeping, let me tell you.

What’s your favorite scary movie?

Alien. Far and away, one of the most intense horror movies that I can remember, It was marketed as a Science Fiction movie, but it was a classic locked-house monster movie. Others I really enjoyed over the years were Jaws, Psycho (1960), The Birds, Cat People, An American Werewolf In London, and for a touch of comedy, Young Frankenstein and Abbot and Costello Meet the Wolfman.

What’s your biggest fear? Do you think it’s rational or irrational?

My biggest fear? Spiders, and of course, its irrational. Obviously, Im thousands of times larger than they are, but I dont like them, never have, and suspect I never will.

Which dictionary do you use?

My go-to dictionary is the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, ©1964, that I was given when I was in Kindergarten, and still use to this day.

Any advice for writers who have yet to feel their novel is finished or are yet to be published?

If youre feeling like your novel isnt finished, my advice is to really think about what youre doing. Are you really doing restructuring and introducing new plots or are you simply playing with where do the commas go in other words, are you really making meaningful changers or simply procrastinating? Eventually, youre going to have to take that next step and either start writing those query letters to try and get an agent/publisher to take a look at what youve got or else start down the path to self-publishing.

A number of people I know have worked and reworked and re-reworked their novels to death because they were afraid of what someone might say or think if they read it, but writing to be published is not for the timid. After a while, youre going to have to put it out there, with the understanding that once you release it, you have no more control over your story. People may like it, they may dislike it. Odds are something you write is going to be misinterpreted (dont even get me started on literary criticism here). Some people may even be offended at what you wrote.

Dont let that fear stop you because you have NO control over it unless you never write again. Once its published, the writer part of you has to forget about it, put pen to paper, and start working on your next book. The promoter part of you may have to spend some time with making sure people know your first book exists, but thats another tale for another time. As a writer, once you say, The End, except for making corrections/edits, its on to the next story and dont look back.

Cover of Terra Incognito by Richard C. White

Richard C. White has also shared his writing wisdom in a book for writers – Terra Incognito: A Guide to Building the Worlds of Your Imagination.

You can learn more about Richard C. White and his books on his website RichardCWhite.com, his facebook page AuthorRichardCWhite, on Twitter @Nightwolfwriter and at StarWarpConcepts.com

Wanna see Richard and hear his voice? Here’s a video interview on Youtube.

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Interview with award-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Calhoun

After sharing his fun guest post, Finishing Your Script by Defeating Act Two, Geoffrey Calhoun kindly took the time to answer my questions about his writing practice and his business We Fix Your Script. His answers are full of great information. Make sure to follow the links to learn more about his favorite books, authors and websites. I’m going to thank him up here because I like the interview ending with his advice for new writers. Thank you, Mr. Calhoun, for sharing your time and experience.

Geoffrey Calhoun

 

Geoffrey D. Calhoun  has optioned several screenplays and has worked as a writer on two features coming out in 2017 “The Little Girl” and “Studio 5.” His multi-award winning thriller “Pink Bunny” is scheduled for a 2018 release. Geoffrey has won multiple screenwriting awards and has worked as a producer, an assistant director, and director on indie film productions.

 

First, thank you for your guest post, I noticed people have been re-tweeting it and liking it on Good Reads.

That’s fantastic! I’m really glad people enjoy it. I love this craft and writing about it. It’s important for us as writers to pass down what little tidbits of knowledge we’ve learned for the up and comers. Just like our mentors did for us.

When did you first know you were a writer?

Jeez, that’s a tough one. I guess it was quite by accident really. I had a coworker who moonlighted as an editor for a local kids show. One day he just walked up and challenged me to see who could come up with a better treatment for a script. I secretly have a bit of a competitive streak in me. So I accepted. That night I went home and learned how to become a screenwriter. Eventually we compared stories and I won. That was the end of it, until my wife read the treatment and suggested I do the script. I confessed that I really enjoyed the process. I’ve never stopped since. As a side note, that script was actually optioned at one point but never made it to production.

Do you write every day? Tell us (me and my readers) a little about your writing practice.

I do. In one form or another. When I am actively working on an assignment then it’s a minimum of four hours a day for writing. When I’m not on assignment, then I am constantly developing stories. I can’t give you an approximate time spent on this because it’s all of the time. Perfecting and developing a story is always on my mind whether I’m grocery shopping or actively mind mapping. I keep note pads all over my home and in my car so I can jot down ideas.

What is your best trick for getting more words on the page?

Music. When I am writing I have to have music playing. Right now my son is practicing his baritone, so I can write while he plays, but otherwise I pull up a customized playlist. I have specific tracks I listen to when I want to write a specific emotion to a scene. If I don’t have music on, it’s more of a struggle.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Honestly, with my peers. When I want to clarify an idea, I pick one of a handful of people that I trust. I will chat with them and bounce ideas until something sticks. They are a sounding board. They’ll tell me what’s crap and what’s genius. The myth that a writer sits alone at computer and creates brilliance one key stroke at a time is a lie. No one does that. Sure we do the work, create the character, and story, but every great writer has a few friends that they turn to and clarify their ideas with. It’s usually done over a casual drink or lunch. But it’s done. Anyone that says otherwise isn’t telling the truth.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

Syd Field. This man is one of founders of modern screenwriting. I had read a lot of how to books before I got to his book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. His was the first book that really opened my eyes to story and the importance of structure. It changed my writing. To this day I read it every year and still learn something new.

Who are your favorite authors?

With novelists I’d say a gentleman by the name of R. A. Salvatore. He’s written a thirteen book series within a fantasy realm that is fantastic called “The Legend of Drizzt.” I’ve read all of them. As a screenwriter I’d say David S. Goyer, Christopher McQuarrie, and Jonathan Nolan. These guys are masters at their craft and are what I aspire to be.

What are your favorite books?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The smart humor in that book has seeped into my writing style.

For screenwriting it would be Screenplay by Syd Field. “How to Write a Screenplay” by Viki King and “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier. I still reference all of these books to this day.

What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

John August’s. His is great. It keeps you up to date on the latest changes in screenwriting. Screencraft, I visit their blog. They talk about a lot of the struggles that screenwriters face. Stage 32 is another website that is nice to go on and get support from other writers.

Let’s talk about We Fix Your Script (really nice looking website btw):

Thank you 😊

WeFixYourScript.com

What inspired you to start this business?

Having been in this business for awhile now I felt it was time to stand up and give a supportive voice for the indie screenwriter. I think back to all of the times I had paid for and received coverage from “professionals” and more times than not it was filled with vile comments. Never positive or supportive. It was brutal. I would get feedback telling me that I would never make it. Some would be offended that they had to read my work.

To me, this is unacceptable. This bullying attitude of arrogance that can be found in our industry has to stop. To tell someone that they’ll never make it and to slander their work is wrong. That writer came to you seeking help. They put their soul into that script and you tell them it’s a terrible piece of garbage and they are wasting their time. How dare you? Sure this writer may just be starting out. Yes they need help. So why not help them? Mentor them.

I’ve seen great writers, people with serious potential, walk away from our craft because they couldn’t take the criticism anymore. I can’t stand by and let that happen. I founded this website to offer a safe place for a writer to bring their work, where they know they will be supported and treated with respect. We won’t just dog your work to make ourselves feel superior. We will help you become better at our craft and provide creative ways to make your script great. Think of us as mentors.

We Fix Your Script has an impressive group of consultants. How did you all get together / find each other?

I’m lucky to have found a great crew that shares the same vision for this service as I do. I’ve met all of them while I toured the country with my multi-award winning script “Pink Bunny.” Over time this idea had been brewing in the back of my head of starting this service for the indie writer. I’ve vetted all of our writers to make sure they have the best of standards and every single one of them is just an amazing and beautiful person. I couldn’t be luckier.

Tell us about how We Fix Your Script works. At what stage in the writing process would we contact you? We’ve ordered a product, what happens next?

We have options for any stage of the writing process. If you just have an idea and you need to develop it more then you can get a one on one session with a consultant and work it out over skype. We call that our development package. If you’ve written a short script/feature/web-series and need feedback, we do that as well, but we take it a step further. Not only do you get comprehensive notes but we also give you a one on one skype session with your award winning and produced consultant that specializes in your genre. Say you want us to do a rewrite or need grammar and formatting fixed, we do that as well, on a case by case basis. We cover all of your screenwriting needs.

You’ve won many awards for script writing (there’s a list in your bio on WeFixYourScript.com):

Yes, I’ve been very blessed.

How did you choose which contests to enter?

Film Freeway is great. They give you reviews on each contest. You can also use the ISA International Screenwriting Association as well. They even offer discounts on contests. Between the two I was able to figure out where I wanted to enter.

Any advice for putting together a winning submission?

Screenplays for contests can be very different than ones you want to sell. If you are looking to put together a winning script, I would suggest something character driven with an interesting concept that really grabs the reader. I would also recommend that you play around with your structure a bit. Do what ever you can, to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. For instance, “Pink Bunny” is a Rashomon styled thriller that really bends reality at a few points but the characters are so interesting that it keeps you around for the long haul. But if I wrote a summer blockbuster, it would be dead in the water in a contest. Also, I have to say this: make your script perfect in every way, whether it be grammar, format, or structure. A perfect script with a cool concept and deep characters will land you in the top 10 percent of most contests.

Are you working on any enticing new stories you can tell us about?

I just finished an assignment for a popular TV channel but unfortunately mums the word on that one. I was also hired to rewrite two scripts that are moving into production this year. Which is exciting. I’m currently in negotiations to have one of my scripts optioned.

And just for fun:

When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I love family time. We can be hanging out at home or grabbing a bite to eat. Doesn’t matter as long as I’ve got them around.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

I’m a dog person. Right now, my greyhound that we saved from a racing track is asleep next to me. That’s what she does, nap. The fastest couch potato on earth and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Final question:

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

Don’t give up. Screenwriting is about the long game. It’s about sticking with it and perfecting our craft. Remember, it takes, on average, ten years to become an overnight success.