So after writing a review of JD Hallowell’s Dragon Fate, I interviewed the author to get a glimpse of his inspiration for writing.
Bookworm: “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Can you tell me what was your inspiration for Dragon Fate?”
JD Hallowell: “Dragon Fate is a very special book to me, because it very clearly marks the point where I made a radical change from being someone who wanted to be a writer, and who talked about being a writer, and who played around at being a writer, to being someone who actually was a writer and took it seriously. The book is the result of a major epiphany, and the inspiration and motivation for it very clearly came from a higher power: my wife and son.
We have a treasured tradition of reading books aloud together as a family, which has helped build family bonds and given us some wonderful shared memories, but which also has its practical side: it saves us from having to either buy three copies of everything we all want to read or wrestle each other into submission to be the one to read it first. By some complex set of rules that I have never quite managed to determine, I end up doing the bulk of the reading. We were working our way through a series by an author who shall remain un-named, and I kept coming across things in the story that I felt were inconsistent or that weren’t quite true to the way the characters or the universe had been presented earlier in the books…and it got to me. It got to me to the point that I started interrupting the reading to rant about it.
That did it.
They told me to put up or shut up. It wasn’t my story, and I didn’t get to decide what the characters did or how the story should go, and they weren’t going to listen to me complain about how someone else did things until I had proven I could do it at least as well myself.
Something clicked at that moment. I sat down that afternoon and started writing the book that would become Dragon Fate. I worked on it between 10 and 18 hours every single day for the next two and a half months until the story was complete.
They restored my complaining rights. I’ve been writing seriously ever since.
I don’t always know where the stories in my head come from, but sometimes one gets in there and I can’t get it out any other way but to write it down. Like any other author, I’ve probably been influenced in one way or another by everything I’ve ever read or experienced, and I’m sure that there are a lot of things that have influenced me strongly that I am not even aware of. I can tell you that I fell in love with the idea of dragons as heroes in Anne McCaffrey’s books. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of dragons and the incredibly varied mythology surrounding them, so it may have been inevitable that that the first thing I’d write that I felt was publication-worthy would be a book where dragons were central to the story. When I made that decision to sit down and write a book like my life depended on it, dragons were on my mind, and Dragon Fate is what came out.
Bookworm: “I love the cover of Dragon Fate. Can you tell us a little about it and who designed it?”
JD Hallowell: Craig R. Smith designed the cover, and I agree that he did a wonderful job. I was astounded at what a relatively simple image and some careful typography could become in the hands of a skilled graphic designer. I wanted a cover that would instantly communicate fantasy and dragons without being stale and that would still be readable at thumbnail size. When I saw what Craig was proposing for the cover, I instantly knew that it was right. The Dragon Fate cover actually took second place in the Tor.com Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Cover just a few weeks after it was released, so it’s safe to say that a lot of other people liked it, too.
Bookworm: “Can you tell us about your upcoming book?”
JD Hallowell: I just released Dragon Blade, the second book in the War of the Blades series. It follows on almost directly from the story told in Dragon Fate, but it’s faster paced, with more action, and it puts the Dragon Fate story in a wider context. I have another book in the same setting that I keep thinking is finished until I do another read-through, and I find that there are a few little things here and there that need tweaking. I’m almost at the point where I’m ready to apply Heinlein’s third rule and stop make further changes unless an editor asks for them. It is tentatively titled Dragon Home.
It is set shortly after Dragon Blade, and it deals with a lot of the political and social fallout of the events in that book. It should be ready for release later this year. I have already completed a fourth book that takes place in the same world, primarily following different characters and a different main story line, that happens in a time frame that overlaps to some extent with Dragon Home. That book is going through initial edits right now, and I’m hoping that it will also be released sometime this year, hopefully shortly after Dragon Home comes out. It has a working title of Dragon Justice. I’ll be putting more about these up on my blog as the release dates get closer.
Bookworm: “Who are some of your favorite authors?”
JD Hallowell: This is tough, because I don’t have one or two favorite authors that I read. My favorite poet is easy: A.A. Milne. Choosing a favorite novelist is almost impossible. I read a lot, and in many different genres, and for most of the authors I’ve read, there are books of theirs I liked and other books that I didn’t care for so much. For fantasy and SF, you could just start with Isaac Asimov and go through to Roger Zelazny. If I have to narrow it down, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert A. Heinlein, and Shelby Foote would be at the top.
Bookworm: “What advice would you give a beginning writer?”
JD Hallowell: Well, my first piece of advice would be not to ask me for advice: it took me until my fifties to get to the point where I had a book worth reading. If you insist, then I’d have to say: Stick to it. Don’t give up. Read Heinlein’s rules, and follow them.
Bookworm: “Any final thoughts on indie/small press publishing?”
JD Hallowell: It is a lot of work, and it’s not for the faint-hearted or easily discouraged. I’ve had a very good experience, and been very fortunate to have remarkably talented and supportive people around me, and I have no doubt that it would have been far harder for me without them. There is no magic key to writing and publishing successfully, whether through self-publishing, small press, or traditional, that doesn’t require hard work and the support of other people.
Bookworm: ”Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. And definitely thank you for providing us with such a wonderful read.”