As a Christmas present to all of you, I would like to share my interview with Will Wight, the author of the Travelers Gate trilogy. It makes sense for me to share this with you all today, because Will is offering a Christmas discount on the second book in his trilogy, The Crimson Vault. He also has his next series coming out soon, and the cover looks amazing (Of Shadow and Sea). To add extra candy to the stockings, my book Creative Writing Career features his interview and many more, and is also on a Christmas sale for $0.99. So treat yourself to some Christmas magic and pick up electronic copies of both of our books and enjoy some wonderful reading this weekend.
Will went straight into an MFA program from undergrad, published the first book of his trilogy, and has had some success working as an author. The result of his drive to write was that he did not have to find a mediocre desk job like many of us have to do in order to pay the bills—he is a writer who pays his bills through his writing. We have much to learn from Will.
Justin Sloan: Will, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. As you know, I love your books and your writing style. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came up with this amazing idea for a trilogy?
Will Wight: For me, the ideas have always been the easy part. I collect bits and pieces of a story from everywhere: song lyrics, bumper stickers, desktop wallpapers, Reddit. The trick is sifting through all those little pieces and putting them together in a way that makes sense.
In terms of House of Blades specifically, I had several different core ideas for the plot, world, magic system, and characters. The magic system came from a little fantasy I’ve had for years: sometimes, I just want to step into my own little world where no one can get to me. In the universe of the Traveler’s Gate trilogy, that’s a superpower. The essential idea for the plot came from a frustration I’ve always had with fantasy novels. Namely, that the hero who miraculously inherits all of his power is usually a pretentious, self-focused jerk.
I wouldn’t like that guy in real life, so I decided to tell the story from a slightly different perspective.
JS: And you pulled it off exceptionally. When it comes to writing, do you have a method to the madness?
WW: No, it’s mostly just madness. I had a one-page brief outline of the plot before I started writing, and then as I got to know the world and the magic system a little more, I expanded the outline. Then I just kind of sat down and let words come out. Over and over.
JS: That sounds similar to my process, though I often have to go back and update the outline to make sure I’m not going off on a crazy path. How much do you think that your writing education played into your ability to pull off such awesome writing? For other authors looking to mimic your success, would you say a degree in creative writing or an MFA is a necessity?
WW: For me, it was a necessity. But for you? No, you’ll be fine. I learned a great deal over the course of my Master’s degree in Creative Writing, but it’s nothing you can’t learn on your own.
That said, there’s no way I would have learned it on my own. I just don’t have the kind of self-discipline it would take to find a mentor, join a writing group, and read a bunch of books on the writing craft. I needed the MFA coursework because it gave me the structure that forced me to do all that.
The classes teach you to look at writing as a skill that takes time, effort, and training. Without that perspective, you won’t be able to write at a professional level. If you already know that and you’re willing to put in the work, then you’re ready to start.
JS: In our previous discussions, you mentioned the importance of finding a good editor, making a great cover, and writing multiple books. Do you have any thoughts on how one should find people to edit or do book design? I know the San Francisco Writers Conference introduces writers to editors, but what would you recommend we look for in an editor? How about with an artist for the cover?
WW: You can find great editors or graphic designers with a couple of hours online. There are even some professional book covers you can get on sale for cheap. But there’s one keyword in there that you shouldn’t overlook: professional. If you want your book to stand out, then it needs to look professional.
Don’t publish your book without getting someone to edit it first. Someone who knows what they’re doing; not your mom. And I beg you, don’t draw your own cover. If you’re not a graphic artist who actually makes a living producing art for other people, you’re not qualified to draw a book cover. Beg, borrow, or steal the money it takes to buy a real artist’s time. I promise you, you will make that money back.
JS: That’s a big promise, but I hope it’s true. On the topic of writing multiple books, I imagine a series or trilogy is the best, but what do you think about the idea of writing books in other genres? Will Amazon still help market your other books if one is fantasy and one is literary or mystery?
WW: Now, why would I want to write a book that isn’t fantasy? Magic makes everything better! From firsthand experience, I know that releasing a new book is the best advertisement for your old books. Based on what I’ve heard from other writers, this works even cross-series and cross-genre.
But take that with a hefty crystal of salt, because I’ve never written outside the fantasy genre myself. Seriously, why would I?
JS: Are there any books on writing out there that you would recommend?
WW: There are so many great books on writing that it’s difficult to narrow it down. Jim Butcher’s Livejournal was a great help to me, even though it’s not strictly a book; and I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s On Writing. But there’s an abundance of excellent material out there teaching you the craft.
I’d say that many aspiring writers think they need to find the hidden treasure trove of writing secrets before they can write a book that people will read. Really, they just need to seize the information that’s already out there, freely available. Then they need to hone their skills, which you can only do by shutting up, sitting down, and writing.
JS: Thank you, Will. Before we sign off, can you tell us what you have coming up? I know everyone is looking forward to the next trilogy by Will Wight!
WW: My next work is entitled Of Sea and Shadow, and I’m hoping to have it out this coming winter. It’s set in a world entirely separate from the Traveler’s Gate trilogy, and it’s got Lovecraftian elder gods, pirates, assassins, muskets, enchanted swords, and a global empire that’s slowly falling apart. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. After that, I don’t know. I’ll probably wander the earth as a lonely samurai, writing wrongs and folding paper into cranes.
For more advice and author interviews, see Creative Writing Careers: Becoming a Writer of Movies, Video Games, and Books