Willem Neill, who hails from the city of Brisbane in Australia, just published his debut fantasy novel, Embered Soul. I’m currently reading it and enjoying it thoroughly. Thanks, Willem, for participating in my Author Interview series.
How did you decide to become an author?
I’ve always harboured a vivid imagination and a desire to escape our world from time to time. There is no better way to do this than through the wonderful medium of fantasy and science fiction.
Of course, there was the multitude of reading and exploring of various worlds of fantasy heavyweights like Tolkien, Fiest and Rodda, but for me, the spark that made me decide to be an author was two things:
- A knack for the written word, and
- Dungeons & Dragons
Indeed, the idea for my first proper story developed from fleshing out the back story of a character I created which quickly became my favourite – Sebastian the Wandering Cavalier. It was writing his story that turned into the story of many other people he knew and lived with. This developed further into the full on creation of a fantasy world I call Vhundus. It was then that I decided that this world needed to be shared with as many people as possible, because I loved it and found it so interesting and thoroughly enjoyed every little detail that evolved every time I sat down and thought about it.
Then, with a good push that could come from only a good friend, I set to work on making my creation a fully fledge professional novel; people like those sort of things after all.
How does your professional background help with your writing?
Professionally, I’m an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and have been for over ten years. While I can’t say that the service has directly impacted my ability to write, it has taught me valuable lessons in matters such as discipline, routine and networking – all critical components that every professional writer needs!
Furthermore, it also assisted me with my attention to detail and how to keep your writing brief but punchy! You want all the juicy details delivered to your reader in one delicious bite. Senior officers don’t have a lot of time to read all your documents, you know?
This applies to my fantasy in more ways than I care to admit. While my novels and stories therein are quite large (or will be when I eventually finish them!) it’s still so important, for me, that my writing is concise and catchy. This probably applies to epic fantasy and science fiction more than most genres (but, I’m biased), but readers can lose interest very quickly if you don’t give them what they want, especially because reading thick books with lots of characters can take so much energy.
Plus, I get to use all sorts of whitty dialogue and sayings that only veterans will understand and that can be really fun.
Can you tell us more about why you wrote your book?
I wanted to introduce people to my world and creation. While I absolutely love spending hours wandering the mythical lands of my fantasy, it’s all for nothing if I can give to other people to enjoy as well. The act of giving is an important one to me and there was no way I could do it better than by writing a thrilling fantasy story to get people hooked and want to come back over and over.
Fantasy is a huge genre, covering many themes, topics and sub-genres, but I wanted to make an impact on readers by making them a world that was uniquely mine, which I hope will become someone’s new favourite somewhere in sometime.
To me, this first book is more than just the start to a new series, but the birthing of a new world, which I fully intend to nurture and grow over my writing career, because that’s what it deserves and my potential readers deserve to be there for the entire ride.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
You must finish what you start! Doesn’t matter how bad it sounds, how poor the grammar is or how much more attractive that new story idea may sound, finish what you start. A first draft is nothing to be intimidated by, it’s meant to be bad and it probably will be, but that’s ok! This is why we have re-writes, editors and beta readers. The most important thing you can do to get your first manuscript finished…is to finish it!
To do this, you need discipline and routines (remember those?). You don’t have to write everyday right away, but why not? It doesn’t matter how much you write in a day, as long as you actually plant yourself and write. I find meeting word counts is a good way to do this. I started off writing 1,000 words a day, but you can do whatever you like – 500, 2,000 or 10,000, it doesn’t matter! But if you sit down every day, preferably at the same time (it does work!) you will find that you can smash out that manuscript quicker than you thought possible.
Honestly, I’d go for a 1,000 words and just go where your imagination and your characters take you. Make sure to listen to what your characters want – that’s really important!
What are some upcoming publishing projects you are working on?
I’m currently elbow deep into my second novel for the Fall of Creation series, which is the first series in Vhundus, but I am also working on a collection of short stories that I will use as more reader funnels and getting them collected into a nice little omnibus for people to buy in print. I have so many people who want print books that I simply must oblige them.
I also am looking into developing a gallery of artwork and exploring the idea of producing graphic novels in the future. That’s a market I hold high regard for and I want my fantasy to be a part of it – those Conan the Barbarian fantasy comics were the best! But that’s way down the line, of course. In the meantime, expect more books from Vhundus and short tales about the characters who live there. They are a really great bunch and I can’t wait for you to meet them all.