What is your writing process like?
I am just convinced that what I write is terrible all the time. And that sounds like it is not true but it is and one of the funniest parts is that it's actually contradictory to what intend to do because I plan for stories to have a certain effect. So, I'm writing Reaper and I am planning to, I wanted the end to have a lot impact and I wanted it to feel like it made sense and I wanted even if you'd guessed for you to be okay with Eithan and the big reveal at the end.
So in order to do that I, of course, worked with the themes and the character journeys throughout the book and I had seeded some stuff in previous books but it's also, in Reaper in particular, I wanted to make sure the journey felt real and it felt emotionally rich and organic to the characters and that I was setting up the big moment appropriately. I also wanted to, in case you didn't like it or didn't want it or were emotionally invested in it not being him, so I wanted it to still be a full Lindon book before the whole Mad King/Abidan stuff at the end.
So that's why Lindon effectively has a little over a hundred thousand word book and then we've got the Abidan thing at the end. So, I wanted that to happen and I had designed all that very carefully to work. I had really tried to do setup for Mercy's revelation for Lindon's revelation. I do wish I had made it explicit that Lindon was at peak Overlord before he did his advancement. I could have easily done that but I just didn't notice. So I wish I'd done that.
But, otherwise, I had designed it all very intentionally with all this setup and then I realized later, by that I mean a few days ago, that it never occurred to me that I might have succeeded in that. So that while I did it intentionally, and this was an intentional design that I had set up, I just assumed that it wasn't going to work. I just assumed people were going to read the book and that the setup I did wasn't going to work, that people weren't going to buy it, they weren't going to enjoy the book, the moments weren't going to land, that it wasn't going to work. So, that is how I read things. I know that I've got a lot of friends, I've got a lot of people that don't believe me that it feels like okay but you have sold a lot of books. People are constantly telling you they enjoy them. How does that not break through?
It's not based on rationality, it's a character flaw, it's a problem I have, it's an emotional issue I'm dealing with. I don't know what it is. But it sucks. And, the problem is that if it were based on logic and rationality I wouldn't feel like this in the first place. I'd go okay well I'll emotionally respond based on how it works. But because it's an internal problem, internal problems don't really have external solutions, unfortunately. So I've got to keep working on that and growing as a person in that area.
So one experience I had in this book in particular was when I had finished the first draft, the alpha draft, I wasn't giving it to my alpha readers because I was certain that it wasn't good enough to be read by anybody. So, I didn't give it to the alpha reader because I was like listen this is a really complex book, there's a lot of moving parts, there's a lot going on, so this isn't even readable yet. And they let me go about a week longer than we had agreed and then, finally, they were like look just let me read it. Just let me read it in the state it's in. And I was like alright I'll send it to you, whatever, I'm working on it but I guarantee you'll see what I'm talking about. And I had a good reason for it. I had a real sound theoretical basis for it. And they read it, two people read it, and came back to me and went you're an idiot.
So we had a meeting in an Olive Garden where they effectively berated me for like okay what the heck why didn't you give this to us, this is great. It's really good, this is definitely a beta draft if not an advanced beta draft. Why in the world did you think this was broken? What is wrong with this? There's nothing wrong with it. I felt terrible. I felt like it is broken but they don't think it's broken but also I have screwed up by letting it go too long. So, I have messed up in every way. I have let them read a bad draft and I also didn't give it to them soon enough so they're disappointed in me. So I've screwed up everything. So I started crying in an Olive Garden. This did happen. This was like two months ago and when they saw how hard I was taking it they were like whoa whoa calm down what is happening? So that was a huge overreaction to what was happening. But it was, I was just thought it was the worst of all worlds. Not only have I screwed this up also I screwed up giving it to them.
So I gave it to them and they gave me their feedback and I gave it to the beta readers. And, as usual, this is my normal experience, the stuff I think is an insurmountable problem that's going to make me have to rewrite a third of the book was stuff that took a few lines to fix. It was very easy fixes, it was stuff I could go back and change very easily. But I just felt like I had failed at everything I had set out to do. And so because I felt like that, I was reading the book like that, and I created a case in my head on why that was true. So that was my experience writing Reaper. I ended up working the process better than I ever had before, I ended up with a really good product early on and thought it was terrible. So, when people ask me to evaluate how I feel like I've done it takes me a lot of distance to read the books as a though I was a reader instead of as the writer. And only when I do that can I then evaluate it. Every time I've done that I've been like I really like it.
My least favorite books when rereading the Cradle series were one and two because I think they don't have as much of the same tone as the later books and I hadn't quite fleshed out some of the ideas as well. As a reader, I think that. I read the books and I go eh. Also, I've read those the most so I'm sure that contributes to it. But, I reread those and I go they're still pretty good and once Blackflame begins I was like it just hits the pedal and goes. And sometimes people are like yeah but you wrote the books so of course you feel like it works. Frankly, it's the opposite. I was going in expecting for this to be garbage and for me to hella hate every second of it and I was like wow these are actually close to the books I wanted to write. And I couldn't believe that. So that's a peek inside the writing process for me. It's sort of the opposite of whatever the movie thing, where the writers are like I'm writing the greatest thing ever and the people read it and are like eurgh. It's kind of the opposite of that, so that is my usual writing experience.