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“WOW doesn’t even do this book justice. This book is everything you want and expect from your favorite fantasy books, but usually don’t get. Dark Elf, Altira, is fierce, strong, determined, and feisty!”
—San Francisco Book Review
I concur with the San Francisco Book Review‘s reaction to Steven M. Booth’s debut Dark Talisman, the first installment of the Guardian Chronicles. Steve’s story is a wonderful read, lush, taut, and laced with wit. The adventure starts with thievery and rapidly evolves into a spirited quagmire of hostile alliances, heroes made and broken, and an enemy so powerful he commands creatures made of the air itself. In the eye of that storm is the ninja-like dark elf Altira, a cross between the irrepressible Lyra from The Golden Compass and the cold-blooded comic-book assassin Elektra. Altira walks through walls, she is one with the shadows, and her ego is rivaled in size only by the chip on her shoulder. Thief, rebel, outcast, orphan—Altira is a dark elf with a darker attitude . . . and the fate of millions in her deadly hands.
Today I interview Steve about characters and revision. After the interview you’ll find entry instructions for my FREE 10-PAGE CRITIQUE giveaway and Steve’s KINDLE FIRE HD/signed book giveaway.
TE: Dark Talisman isn’t the first story you set in the lush world of Salustra, but it’s the first to publication. What was it like to have a secondary character stop the action and demand her own book – and first place out of the chute?
SB: Honestly, I feared for my life. When Altira tells you to do something, while absently picking at a nail with a wickedly-pointed dagger, I’ve found it’s generally a good idea to do as she says — if you want to keep on living. 🙂
Seriously though, it was fun, and actually more of a business than an artistic decision. I really enjoy writing Altira. I think she’s an outlet for some sort of pent-up, sarcastic reservoir inside my psyche. And I knew the moment I wrote the first chapter that she would be much more marketable than Therin and the creatures in Emerald Guardian. So, it only made sense to put her first, and of course the book was a prequel, and it had to be placed there anyway.
Reviewers are raving about the unlikely friendship between the fiercely self-focused dark elf Altira and the spirited dwarf Tyke, who latches firmly to Altira despite her efforts to ditch him. You’ve said you deliberately challenged fantasy tropes with Tyke. Will you explain this?
It’s true; everyone loves Tyke. And it’s not surprising, really — he’s very likable. In Dark Talisman, he’s one of the most accessible characters. In my opinion, Dwarves have been treated rather poorly in Fantasy, over the years. The archetypical Dwarf is short, ugly, hairy, stupid, slothful, and overly concerned with digging for wealth. They end up, in many books, as nothing more than comic relief. I decided the time had come to ‘turn the tables’ for them. In the Guardian Chronicles, my Dwarves are the polar opposite of what I just described. They are still short, but are solid muscle and immensely strong, fast, probably the single deadliest race in the world, wicked-smart, and the best magic users short of the Guardians.
Tyke’s name is not an accident — it’s a ‘Red Herring’ designed to lull the reader into the tacit assumption that he’s a dullard when quite the opposite is actually true. He’s not intimidated by Altira one bit because he knows that in spite of her prowess with ‘sildars’, she basically could never harm him in a fight.
Do your stories change substantially during revision?
I’m laughing right now. That’s like asking if the temperature changes in Alaska. Stories that do not change during revision aren’t really stories; they are random assemblages of words bearing little resemblance to art. When I was writing Dark Talisman, at the very beginning I took the story in a completely different direction, we realized we needed Tyke, and I threw out roughly two-thirds of the manuscript and started over. The result was a thousand times better.
I see on writing blogs from time to time that authors have ‘finished their book’ because they have completed the first draft. When you have the first draft, you are 10% done with your book. The rest is revision. Books aren’t ‘written’ into existence, they are revised. Revision is the life blood of literary excellence. Writing is a synergistic process requiring more than one person. You cannot truly write solo. Period.
What advise do you have for other writers as they embark on the revision phase?
First, the single most important characteristic that a successful author must possess is patience. Excellence in craft, inspiration, brilliance, flair, everything else pales to insignificance next to it. Without it you will never succeed.
Next, be excited! Your work is about to ascend to the next level. Embrace revision, it is the nectar of excellence. Use it to turn the mediocre into the magnificent! Think of it as the gateway to future success.
Finally, choose your editor carefully. Never choose an equal. Always choose a master. Thus you learn. Thus the final result will exceed the sum of the parts!
To enter DearEditor.com’s giveaway for a FREE critique of the first 10-pages of your novel (any genre/category), simply click here or email your name and ms genre to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “giveaway entry” by midnight November 13. (Do not submit any of your manuscript.) To enter Steve’s raffle for the free Kindle Fire HD and an ereader copy of Dark Talisman, use the Rafflecopter entry form below by midnight November 13.