Gregory D. Little
Author Interview Questions
1: Hi, and thanks for joining today. In your own words tell us about yourself, not you the author, but just you!
A: Virginia born and raised, I love traveling with my wife, playing video games (though I have less time for that these days), anything combining chocolate and peanut butter, The Simpsons seasons 1-9 (I’m dating myself), and Virginia Tech football. I am a sucker and will give my yellow lab snacks anytime he wants. In return, he carries his bag of poop on walks. Seriously.
2: Why did you decide to become an author and what’s the best part? Yeah, it’s a double-whammy of a question. So unexpected!
A: As a kid I would make up stories for characters from my favorite shows, books, and, yes, video games, after they were done. In high school friends and I would take turns DM-ing our own, invented tabletop RPGs, and I remember the feel of satisfaction I’d get when I’d come up with a plot twist that would surprise the players. Not long after I’d realized that Star Wars novels were a thing, my friend and I started passing a notebook between us, writing our own. This mostly consisted of trying to end the chapter in a situation it would be impossible for the other person to recover from, but it was a lot of fun.
I’m something of a pantser when I write, so I’d have to say my favorite part of being an author is the little thrill I get when I’m able to connect two disconnected aspects of the story in a way I hadn’t expected or intended.
3: So, tell us about your work. Sell us on it! Why should we read it and why it will capture us?
A: This one got a bit long, so for the tl:dr crowd: Giant skeleton cities! Spider police! Hollowed-out center of the planet with the gods imprisoned inside! Skeleton mass-transit systems! Magical tools and weapons powered by souls harvested from Heaven and Hell! A protagonist who is the secret, teenage daughter of a terrorist and a business mogul who are now arch-enemies!
For those who’d like a more rambling explanation: I wanted to create a setting that was weird, wild, and really captured the imagination. What I came up with was a non-Earth world whose gods tried to destroy humankind. Despite creating immense, city-sized beasts to wipe out all human civilization, the gods failed in their attempt. Humans hijacked the gods’ soul-powered tools (called wrightings) and used them to slay the beasts and imprison the gods in the core of the hollowed-out center of the planet. Humankind transformed the corpses of the great beasts that had smashed human cities into new cities themselves, and a new social structure emerged where any humans that had supported the gods, along with all their descendants, were marked by glowing eyes and cast down as an underclass for nearly two-hundred years.
In my short story “Godbane” (which you can read for free on Wattpad), I introduce readers to Larimaine and Cassia, teenage lovers from across the two social classes who decide to sneak into the Pit, the hollow core of the world where the gods are kept imprisoned. What they find there changes their lives profoundly. Cassia eventually goes on to become a business mogul, while Larimaine becomes a terrorist leader dedicated to destroying everything she’s built.
The Unwilling Souls series is the story of their secret daughter, Selestia. Sixteen and apprenticing in the Pit to be one of the smiths that will help maintain the prison of the gods, Selestia (Ses for short) is sent to investigate a routine disturbance when the Pit is attacked. In order to protect the secret of her parentage, Ses is forced to flee first the Pit and then Crocodilius, the crocodile-skull city she calls home. Running from officials of the Centrality who think she has ties to the attack, Ses has to hope that one of the parents who never cared enough to acknowledge her will take her in. Along the way, she learns the dark truths about her family that shatter her understanding of the world and risk the return of the gods themselves.
Also, there are spider police and skeleton mass-transit systems. And that’s just the first book.
4: Why did you choose the genre you write in over others to start your publishing career? Did others appeal to you more and you chose this? Was there a bit of choice weighing or was it rather simple?
A: This series is my first attempt at writing YA, though it’s morphed into an epic fantasy with a YA protagonist. That’s not terribly surprising. I tend to like big, sprawling epics. The first manuscript I ever wrote was a 280,000 word monstrosity with at least a dozen points of view. It was a mess in many ways, though it is still my cousin’s favorite book I’ve written, so I must have done something right! I’m working hard to keep the Unwilling Souls series under control, adding just one new secondary POV to each volume.
5: So far, what would you say has been the hardest part of being an author?
A: Marketing is the worst. I hate doing it, and trying to focus on it can easily eat up all the time that could be spent writing or editing. What I’m doing right here is the only kind of self-promotion I enjoy, and even then I massively overthink it.
6: Now for the ever-so-shocking follow-up question. What’s the best/easiest part, if there is one?
A: That feeling as a messy, disjointed bunch of scenes and plots and characters is gathered together and fused into a functioning, thematically cohesive story. That, or maybe when the first draft of a scene just pours forth, perfect in the first draft. That’s pretty great.
7: Tell us about what your experiences in the author life have been like. I don’t mean the writing aspects. I mean the daily human life. Tell us what it’s like to live the day life you do and be an author at the same time. What’s it like when people in your life and, the people you come across, find out you’re an author?
A: I work a full-time day job with a long commute, an hour each way. This is great if I’m in the brainstorming phase of a project, because instead of an audiobook or podcast I can just put on music and let my brain wander, plotting out the story. It’s bad when I need actual writing time, as well as time to see my wife, friends, family, etc. I’ve tried the dictation thing and just can’t seem to make it work. So writing is relegated to nights, weekends, and early mornings if I can’t sleep. It means projects take longer than they otherwise would.
People are always very excited to find out I’m an author, but I always hope the people who aren’t into fantasy as a genre won’t ask me to describe the plot of the books. Have you ever tried explaining a fantasy book to someone who isn’t into fantasy? You come off sounding like a crazy person.
8: Writing is a hard craft and a harder career. What are the things that keep you going, both in improving the craft and enduring the downs/lows of the career?
A: My mom used to work in a school library and so her librarian friends always stock their shelves with a couple of copies of my books, which is really great of them. I got a second-hand story from one of them that a student had borrowed Unwilling Souls and, upon returning it, called it the best book she’d ever read. That one still works to keep me going when the going gets rough.
9: What do you love about the genre/s you write and what others appeal to you?
A: I love that fantasy and science fiction can explore the messy realities of being human in ways that can provoke thought while not provoking the same kind of heated responses and closed minds that they might if presented in a political essay. Also, there are the pure senses of wonder, possibility, and escapist fun. I know people who say they don’t want to read about anything that couldn’t happen in real life. If I want real life, I’ll go outside. When I read, I often want to read about something I couldn’t see in real life.
10: Tell us about the plans for your series and body of work.
A: I’m not sure I’ve ever put this down in writing, so I’m probably jinxing myself, but the plan for the Unwilling Souls series is to wrap it in four books. The first book has only Ses as a POV, but beginning with Ungrateful God, I introduce a secondary POV, and the idea will be to add one secondary POV with each volume. So the fourth and final volume would have Ses plus three secondary POVs. This is to help give the series a more epic feel as events ripple outward from Ses’s actions and consume more and more of her world.
For the rest of my work, I’ve got plenty of other story ideas on the back-burner while I work on this series. Some of those may involve cleaning up earlier, pre-Unwilling Souls manuscripts for eventual release, while others will be entirely new. But I find it easier to keep my focus on one invented world at a time.
11: The writing and publishing world has changed a lot. Self-publishing, small to medium presses popping up, and things like becoming a hybrid between indie pubbing and traditional. What are your thoughts on that? Any predictions on what the future might hold? What would you like to see, both as an author yourself, and, as a consumer/reader?
A: I think we’re already starting to see the traditional publishing world adapting in an attempt become more flexible. Just in the time that I’ve been writing seriously, I’ve seen publishers relaxing rules on simultaneous submissions, recognizing that authors are increasingly leery of locking down a submitted manuscript for months at a time with a single publisher. That being said, I think we’re also seeing an increased focus on finding the next home run author or series. Combined with the incredible surge in self-published titles, the difficulty in getting noticed is increasing at least as fast as the tools to help. Like television, books are becoming an ever-more-fragmented market, with more and more competition in the form of both books and other media. That said, the advent of bingeing means people are consuming more content than ever before as well. I certainly can’t predict where we’ll be ten years down the road. I just wish I had the time to churn out books a little faster, as that really seems to be the key to
12: The always done and asked question. Who are your favorite authors? What are you favorite books? What are you reading now? Tell us. Tell us!
A: My favorite current series is The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (the pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). Old-fashioned space opera with a modern sensibility, a solid grounding in hard-ish science, and fantastic character work. Right this instant I’m actually concluding a reread of all the books in that series available to date (six with a total of nine planned). Daniel Abraham is one-half of the James S.A. Corey pseudonym (the other half being Ty Franck), and I love Abraham’s solo work as well, in particular his epic fantasy series The Dagger and the Coin, which concluded last year. Honestly, the world would be a better place if everyone read Daniel Abraham’s work.
R. Scott Bakker’s The Second Apocalypse series-of-series presents a dark, challenging deconstruction of Tolkienesque epic fantasy, laced with philosophy based magic systems and underpinned by concepts drawn from modern neuroscience. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and his command of the language to evoke imagery is often awe-inspiring. Prospective readers should note that Bakker’s world is several notches more grimdark than George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, though, so it won’t be for everyone.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend Blindsight by Peter Watts, an alien first contact story that’s probably the most jaw-dropping book I’ve read in the last five years.
13: I’ve got to know…what’s your favorite word to use. Every author has one. What’s the word you catch yourself using a lot? We’ve all got those as well. What’s your favorite word just to say? Something where you like the way it sounds. What’s your favorite curse worse, if you’ve got one and or use them?
A: Ha! If I tell you, everyone will just be looking for it! In all seriousness, I know I’ve got several, and if you’d asked me a few weeks ago, in the throes of final edits, I’d have been able to give you a list. Right now, though, I’m drawing a total blank. This is probably part of the problem.
14: Tell us about your latest release. Or, when can we expect your next one? What are we in store for?!
A: I’ll keep things vague for those who haven’t read the first book, but Ungrateful God picks up a couple of months after Unwilling Souls leaves off, with Ses and several companions nearing the end of a long journey when Ses wakes one morning to discover something … demonic. Keeping to the spirit of the first book, I introduce a crazy new city carved into one of the slain, giant beasts (this time it’s a ghost crab), a city where no one can remember what happens at night. As I mentioned above, I add a secondary POV, a character readers of the first book will be familiar with (and have strong emotions toward). I had lots of comments after Unwilling Souls from readers who wanted more time spent in the Pit (the hollowed-out center of the planet where the gods are imprisoned, for those future readers who are skipping questions). Let’s just say I listened.
15: Lastly, where can we find you? Facebook? Twitter? Website? Links to your material. Go on, don’t be shy. Share!
A: This is getting long these days, which I guess is a good thing!
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/gregorydlittleauthor
Book 1 of the Unwilling Souls series
Book 2 of the Unwilling Souls series
A Game of Horns
A Red Unicorn Anthology (two stories, “The Whole of Me” and “His Most Violent Friend”)
An Anthology (my story “Shattered Pieces Swept Away” is set in the distant past of the Unwilling Souls universe and serves as a nice lead-in to the series or Book 2)
The Colored Lens: Spring 2014
My first published story, “Some Say in Surf”
You can read “Godbane” the story that inspired Unwilling Souls and serves as a more direct prequel.
I’m also a member and regular contributor of the Fictorians writing blog: www.fictorians.com
Bio: Rocket Scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little’s short fiction has appeared in The Colored Lens and A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He is currently working on his fantasy YA series Unwilling Souls, set in a world where technology is powered by the souls of the dead, the gods are locked away in the hollowed out center of the planet, and what remains of humanity has rebuilt its cities out of the corpses of the great beasts that destroyed them.
Gregory D. Little is a member of and regular contributor to the Fictorians writing blog (www.fictorians.com). He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.