Here’s a brief synopsis; After a wizard breaks into his room, Ryan Wilkinson is whisked away to the beautiful kingdom of Elyria. The Elyrians are searching for their next Dreamlancer and believe Ryan to be an excellent candidate. To prove his worth, he must compete against the Kingdoms of the Dream Realm in the Tournament of Heroes – a series of six grueling contests ranging from jousting and dueling to engineering and sailing. While he is reluctant at first, Ryan is intrigued. “What the heck?” he reasons, “It’s all just a dream.”
As he begins his training, Ryan deals with struggles in his real life. His best friend is getting ready to move to the other side of the country, and he’s developed a horrible crush on his best friend…who happens to be falling for another guy. But to make matters even worse, Ryan discovers that a mysterious force has been tampering with the energies that flow between the Real World and the Dream Realm. The consequences are dire: the very fabric of reality could be unraveled. Perhaps he is not “just dreaming” after all.
Hi, Beau. It’s a pleasure to meet and get to know you a little. First, tell us about yourself and what drove you to write in the first place?
Hi, AT, thanks for having me here. Let’s see…a little about me. I was born and raised in Indianapolis, and have lived there my whole life. I went to Purdue University, where I studied web development – which is now my day job and one of my other passions. It may be tough to see the parallel at first, but my interest in building websites lends itself to my interest in writing: at their most basic levels, each is a creative process. They just have different goals and are applied in different ways.
That’s where I get my kicks. I love using my imagination and creating something with it. I used to write a lot of (admittedly bad) poetry in high school, and began experimenting with novellas in college. But it was in early 2009 where I got this idea that I wanted to attempt an actual novel. I wanted a “bedtime story” that was all mine: some wild adventure in a faraway land that would hopefully entertain readers of all ages. So, I let my imagination loose and came up with an entire world. I had so many different ideas that one day I just started writing, and in the act gave my story life and direction. I’d had so much fun with it that I wanted to keep doing it…and here I am!
What writer or writers inspire you?
Several! J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books might be an obvious answer. I admire Tolkien’s linguistics and details, and have recently started listening to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Are you seeing the theme? I love grand, rich worlds filled with magic and adventure. I just recently picked up my first Stephen King books and feel bad that I was late to the party – I truly admire his command of the language. I’m a big fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books and love how accessible he makes his own fantasy world. Guys like Orwell and Vonnegut are some of my favorites; they’ve written some powerful stories that have personally affected my worldview. I’ve added many classics to my “To Read” list, so I imagine this list will grow exponentially in time.
Your style of writing; would you say it’s reflective of any of your favorite authors or books?
Yes, definitely. I think any time you expose yourself to any author’s prose, you ingest their vernacular – whether you mean to or not. When I was writing Dreamlancer, I was right in the thick of the Dresden Files, and as I re-read my book for edits, I could see how Butcher’s books had influenced my writing.
I’m sure finished products affect each writer differently. Considering that, do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?
Right now, I’m working on a series of books, so taking elements and expanding on them is the name of the game. There are many things I want to build on, but it will be interesting to see how my plans change as the stories unfold. There have been some ideas I’ve scrapped that I may try to work into other stories as well, but right now my focus is on Dreamlancer, so we’ll see about that.
Here’s something I struggle with. Maybe your answer to my next question can help writers that share this particular concern. When you write a story, what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes want to break out and be chaotic? (E.G., not a happy ending?)
One thing I really like to do is take the reader’s expectations and use it against them. I think it makes a story so much more compelling when you think you know what’s going to happen, and then the opposite happens. I love it when an author really makes me think about his or her characters’ motives and gets me thinking about all the different ways the story unfolds…only to catch me off guard. If you’ve seen or read George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones, you know he does this well; he’s said that he wants “readers to be wary of turning the next page” (or something along those lines) and he really is a master of that. You have to be careful, though, that these twists aren’t “too convenient” or go against the grain of your characters’ normal behavior – that produces the direct opposite feeling in the reader.
Aside from that, I think it’s important to not let your story get in the way of telling itself. Just write whatever comes to mind and worry about how clearly you’re communicating your idea later when you edit. It’s clear to me in my re-reads when the story was leaping off my fingers and when I was “forcing it.” The quality is so much better in the former. Now, that is not to say that sitting down and forcing yourself to write is bad…about 95% of the time, you’ll build momentum and the story begins telling itself for you. You can always smooth out or remove the rough patches later.
How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins? In the case of Dreamlancer; how about the world you created? Tell us a little about it and the efforts you made to craft such a vivid image.
As far as the world in Dreamlancer, I have it pretty easy. It’s a Dream Realm, so whatever I want to include in it is pretty much fair game. Dragons? Of course! Zombies? Why not? Cyborg Ghost Ninjas? Should I include just one, or an entire army? (some or all of these things may be included in Dreamlancer, but you’ll have to read to find out!) Coming up with religions and mythologies is as easy as sitting down and letting the imagination flow. If it’s a little weird, so what? For me, something weird and wonderful is a good reason to pick a book up!
Characters and personalities require a little more care, though. These are the people (or beings) with whom your readers will develop a relationship. But I usually start with an archetype in mind and the character takes shape on its own. I always try to keep character motives in mind when I write. I often ask myself “Now, why would so-and-so go and do that?” and if I can’t come up with a good answer, well, I’ve hit a snag. I rely on my instincts a lot…if a character “feels” right, then my readers will probably enjoy them as much as I do.
I mentioned before that I really just wanted to tell a fun story – ideally something people would read at bedtime with their children. I have a big interest in fantasy novels, so it needed knights and wizards and magic. But I wanted it to be a little more accessible than something like Tolkien’s work. The protagonist, Ryan Wilkinson, is from “the real world,” and using him as a narrator helps accomplish this; he helps us keep this crazy dream world within a frame of reference with which we’re all familiar. I’d share snippets of my work with my girlfriend, and she kept asking for more, so that was a nice motivating factor for me. In the end, I was pleased with the story.
When writing Dreamlancer, did you just sit down and churn out the words or did you work from an outline?
At the very beginning, I’d just power out different passages, but now I have tons of notes and outlines. I often go for walks on my lunch break and think of all kinds of great ideas. I can’t really write at work, but I would scrawl down ideas on a note pad and take them home with me.
I’ve got so many ideas that I actually created a scroll with a timeline of events, mythologies and origin stories. It’s about five feet long now…and probably only a third of the way filled in. I’ve got so many threads prepared, and with patience and a great deal of effort, I hope to weave together a very nice tapestry for my readers.
So, what’s the perfect writing environment for you?
At my computer, usually between the hours of midnight and 4am with a can of Coke Zero. About 95% of the time I’m blaring some kind of weird instrumental music to help keep me focused.
Is anything in your book based upon real life experience, or is it purely imagination?
The story has two “components” – the Real World and the Dream Realm. Unsurprisingly, most of the Dream Realm stuff is pure imagination. But a lot of the people in the Real World portions of the book are inspired by real people and things I’ve experienced.
What has been the toughest criticism directed toward you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I haven’t received much tough criticism yet. I imagine it will only be a matter of time. The worst I’ve heard so far is “too many run-ons and over-explaining things” but that’s not a tough criticism. It was the truth. I did have a publisher tell me they didn’t think my work would be a commercial success for them, which is never good to hear, but it’s not exactly uncommon either.
The best compliment is from my dad. He’s ingenious and can build just about anything…but he hates to read. Unlike me, he takes no joy from it. But he read my book, in the space of a weekend. He sent me a text at 5 in the morning once telling me he had stayed up just to read my book because he couldn’t put it down. As my father, he’s gonna put up the effort. But to be the reason he’s read a book in the last decade or so? What an honor.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read a lot and pay attention to what you like. Write a lot to get better at writing what you like. Both go hand in hand. Be open to criticism and don’t take it too personally if there’s a lot of red ink on the page. It doesn’t mean you’re terrible; it means you can get better at what you love. On that note, you better be writing because you love it, because it brings you joy and not a paycheck. There are no shortcuts in writing; it’s a long journey. Relish it!
Beau, I appreciate you stopping by. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you on other social media platforms, as well. This next question, however, is one I and several others will be discussing this week in several forums. Bullying, verbal attacks, and other misconduct committed by authors against other authors has become regular, and crosses multiple social media platforms. Has this affected you? Secondly, how do you recommend others to respond to such attacks?
I’ve not experienced any bullying first-hand, but I do see it on forums and blogs and the like. Anonymity and cynicism – what fine bedfellows they are – run rampant on the internet. It’s very easy for people to be scathing when they’re wearing a mask. One of my favorite Stephen King quotes is this: “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” How true, right?
The best way to deal with these people is to simply ignore them. They want to make you feel bad. They want to tear you down or get a rise out of you. Why let them? Why give them so much power over you? Don’t respond to their attacks…the second you do, they’ve already won. And you’re not a loser, so you don’t let the other guy win, dammit! It’s not easy to brush off some jerky comment. But before retaliating, ask yourself if it’s worth your time. I bet dollars to donuts it isn’t.
Finally, tell us about relationship building, as it pertains to marketing in this new era of e-publishing. For example; the importance of peer reviews and reader reviews.
Super important. E-publishing is great for everyone because it makes the process easier than ever. However, that means the market is absolutely saturated with choice. How do you get your voice heard? Getting your name out there to a diverse crowd helps. Connecting with other writers lets you tap into other audiences. For me, just starting out, most of my connections are with friends and family. They’re great supporters and all, but there are only so many of them. But other writers tend to have their own groups of reader friends, making them a valuable resource for reaching different audiences. But beyond that, other writers have strategies and techniques that work for them, and they can share that info. It is the “Age of Information” after all, and info is the most powerful currency around. Networking and cooperating tremendously enhances your ability to reach new readers and to market to them effectively.
Thanks for chatting with me, Beau.
Thank you for having me. Looking forward to reading your book soon!
Beau’s book, ‘Dreamlancer’ is available here, You can also connect with Beau on various social media platforms:
Dreamlancer Specific Sites