- a veteran game designer and the author of Mischief Maker
Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!
I’m a midwest guy born and bred. At least I thought I was until I moved to the east coast. Now I’m a bit of both. I love different things about each of those two areas of the country. Professionally, each contributed something different to my career path.
I started out working for TSR, Inc. in Wisconsin. I did two tours of duty there, as a programmer for a bit, but primarily as a writer and game designer. I wrote all kinds of things from Dungeons & Dragons materials, Marvel Superheroes products, Gamma World supplements, and board games. I had the great honor of turning Tracy Hickman’s Ravenloft adventure into a campaign setting.
Eventually, I left the halls of TSR, Inc. for the green, Maryland pastures of Bethesda Softworks, maker of video games. I worked on Elder Scrolls games and Fallout games. I had a second great honor of being the lead designer on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Throughout all of this, I’ve had a love of fantasy and science fiction, in books, movies, and games.
Bruce, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
I’d take a sabretooth tiger. Why? It’s a sabretooth tiger! I love both cats and dogs, but I lean toward cats. Assuming I don’t have to worry about actually caring for it, or my own safety, I can’t think of a cooler cat to have than the infamous sabretooth tiger. I even used one in my second book. I suppose it would need its own couch to sit on, or I’d have to get a bigger one for the two of us. And I could walk it around the neighborhood and be the envy of all my friends.
Your logic is impeccable. I might need a sabretooth tiger myself!
What do you write? And how did you get started?
I write contemporary fantasy, stories set in the modern world. In particular, they feature the Norse gods with Loki as the main character. However, this is the Loki of the Viking myths, not the superhero movies.
I’ve spent most of my adult life working with fantasy and making fantasy stories. Deciding to write novels was an easy transition. I had an idea that I thought would be special, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Eventually, I started putting pen to paper. It took two years to write the first book, while I worked full-time. The second and third books were each must faster as I got more comfortable and had more time.
While your other work has been pretty formative for the gaming world, I’m so glad you found your way to novels!
What do you like to read?
Just about anything in the speculative fiction arena. I read epic fantasy, urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, superhero fiction, science fantasy, science fiction, hard science fiction, etc. I’ve even read some LitRPG. Anything highly imaginative grabs my fancy. My favorite authors include Jim Butcher (of course!), Seanan McGuire, Iain Banks, Roger Zelazny, Alistair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Holly Black, Karen Marie Moning, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. However, that only scratches the surface. I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction for decades, so the full list is very, very long.
I think you’re just reading author names off of my bookshelves… (j/k). Excellent choices!
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you
Don’t go back and edit, just get it all down first.
This is generally really good advice. However, I find that things occur to me that need to be fixed/altered/improved and if I don’t take care of it right away, I’m like to forget it. So when something pops up that needs to be changed, I tend to go back and do it while it’s fresh in my mind. Even then, I’m careful not to get sucked back into fixing everything. It needs to be worth the effort.
Small stuff, or issues of continuity, I jot down in a list and then take care of them in a future pass. For example, my main character is Loki and he causes mischief all the time. While writing a later chapter, I realized he should have used his mischief powers to handle a particular issue in an earlier chapter, so I stopped, went back, and fixed it. But then I also wrote a note to myself to look for places where he could use mischief throughout the book for flavor. That got dealt with in a subsequent pass.
I’m a NaNoWriMo veteran, so I generally try this method as well. But! I’ve been known to realize I missed something and go back to add things to earlier chapters — even if I usually HATE writing out of order.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice they can pry out of your cold, dead hands
Just keep writing.
Once you stop, you risk not starting again. I’m not talking about taking a vacation. I’m talking about when you’re not sure what should come next and you just stare at the screen. I had such a moment in my first book. I didn’t know how to move the story from the castle to the battlefield. So I just skipped the transition and started writing the battlefield section. I actually ended up writing the whole rest of the book before I figured out how to fill the gap. I went back and wrote those chapters without any problems. Just keep writing.
What a great technique! For smaller things, I often just use square braces and a note for what needs to be filled in. [Describe the villain’s castle here].
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
Loki Redeemed (3 books)
Mischief Maker (#1)
Where does a misunderstood Norse god hide a thousand years after Ragnarok? In the suburbs, of course. Loki is spending his days eking out a living as a stage magician when not one, but two attempts on his life force him to come out of exile.
Loki and his constant companion, Muninn the raven, return to the Nine Realms and Asgard. After he recovers his lost magic, Loki is forced to come to terms with what it means to be a god in modern times. Are the Aesir truly divine, or just people with extraordinary abilities? Loki certainly doesn’t feel very godly.
As he wanders the fabled lands of the elves, dwarves, and giants, Loki finds new friends and old enemies. Behind the attempts on his life is the impending threat of a second Ragnarok. The victors write history, and the surviving gods of Asgard painted Loki as the villain. He now has a shot at redemption, and a chance to stop Thor from committing genocide. Can motorcycles and guns defeat swords and sorcery?
Odin’s Escape (#2)
It’s tough being an exiled Norse god in the modern world. Not that Loki believes in godhood anymore. He’s just a guy trying to make a living as a stage magician in Chicago. Yet somehow the problems of the Nine Realms keep landing in his lap.
Odin has escaped from Hel, and she wants Loki to bring him back. But the All-Father and his outlaw motorcycle gang have other plans, and that can’t be good for anyone.
First, Loki and his friend Ullr, Norse god of archery, need to figure out who is killing off the nobles of Asgard. Sif and Frigg are blaming Loki, and he must travel the Nine Realms to figure out who is framing him and stop the killings.
This is not superhero fiction. Odin’s Escape breathes new life into Norse mythology, reinterpreting the legends through Loki’s modern lens.
Ymir’s Return (#3)
Where does a misunderstood Norse god hide a thousand years after Ragnarok? In the suburbs, of course. Loki is trying to restart his career as a stage magician and put the trials of the Nine Realms behind him, when his precious heirloom is stolen.
Loki and his constant companion, Muninn the raven, return once more to the Nine Realms and Asgard to recover his enchanted sword, Laevateinn. Once there, he learns that strange new giants have arrived in Jotunheim and are holding the young heir to the throne hostage. The plot thickens when Loki realized the giants are the minions of Asgard’s ancient enemy, Ymir the frost giant.
Long-lost secrets held by the Norns must be uncovered and brought to light. Reluctantly, Loki is forced to team up with his old foe, Thor, to face the new threat. But first Loki needs to wake the sleeping god of thunder from his magically induced slumber and keep the nosey detective from throwing him in jail.
What a fantastic interview! I love how you describe your journey from game designer to author, and your books sound fascinating. As someone who enjoys speculative fiction myself, I’m definitely adding them to my reading list. I also appreciate your take on commonly accepted writing advice – keeping the words flowing is so important! My question for you is: how do you balance your love of cats with your fear of sabretooth tigers? 😉
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