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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.
Love fantasy and would love to win this!
It’s a great book, Krysten. My son swiped my own signed copy this afternoon and is already 40 pages into it. Good luck!
Okay, I may have to get this whether I win the contest or not. This type of story is right up my alley.
I love this! I agree that the single most important characteristic of an author is patience. In this biz, it’s all about patience. Thanks for a great interview!
Thanks for the comments about the importance of revision. It can seem like such a daunting task, so it helps to know it’s worth it.
Thanks for sharing Steven’s experience with writing. It’s always good to know someone else has gone through editing (throwing away), and rewriting.
I best loved what you said about the book being only 10% done after the first draft is finished. That’s so true.
This book sounds terrific! Looking forward to reading it. And thanks for the encouragement during revisions, which is the phase I’m in now. Must keep revising…
You always have such great information on this blog. And “Dark Talisman” sounds awesome!
Thanks for letting me know the blog is helpful to you, Joan. I sure try!
I LOVE fantasy and this one sounds incredibly intriguing. Am adding it right now to my TBR list. Thank you for such a fantastic interview.
I often have mind-bending moments when talking to Steve about writing. He’s got a way of summing things up that really resonates with me. I’m was excited to formally interview him.
I would really love to win! Thank you for the chance!
If anyone lives in or near San Diego, I’d be happy to sign your copy of Dark Talisman.
Patience. We need more of this.
I agree with the first commenter–I plan to download this book even if I don’t win the giveaway!
This is a great giveaway. Thanks for offering the chance to win.
I love the line about a novel being ‘revised into being’! Perfect! And very helpful as I’m deep in revising one of my stories! 🙂
Indeed, being in the middle of a book myself, this interview is a great reminder to me, too. Keep on trucking with the first draft even when ugly stuff lands on the page, for revision is where ‘great’ happens.
Loved the interview and I’m definitely reading DARK TALISMAN! Thanks!
I read with great interest your interview with Steven Booth. His admonition that the greatest attribute writers can have is patience struck a chord with me. I can’t wait to develop some.
Sounds fantastic. I’m going to rush out and get this. Fascinating!
Steven’s book sounds great, and I’m so glad someone is changing the stereotype of dwarves – dwarves rock! I loved Steven’s enthusiasm and agree that revision is the most important part of writing. Great interview! 🙂
I love the way this book sounds. It’s definitely getting added to my TBR pile! Thanks for the great pointers too.
Very excited for you, Steven, and can’t wait to read Dark Talisman! Thanks, Deborah, for your ever-insightful questions that help motivate and encourage all of us!
Finally a hero for the vertically challenged. I love this novel already!
I also like the phrase “the nectar of excellence.” Now that I have the image of revision as a tasty beverage, I am ready to quaff it.
Quaff! Can’t remember the last time I heard that word. You get a gold star for that one, Michael. 🙂
wonderful giveaway. Thank you!
Thanks for the great interview. As a writer struggling to understand my own process, I love hearing about how other writers “go with the flow.” Throwing away 2/3s of the first draft, following a character who you didn’t think was the lead, it all takes such guts! Thanks.
Not guts, Michael, so much as humility. There wasn’t really any risk, per-se — I mean, I wasn’t about to lose on some contract or opportunity — but it takes a lot of discipline and honesty to admit when you are wrong, and *yet again* more patience!
Thanks for a great giveaway!
Lots of great advice in this interview, especially for people attempting NaNo for the first time. This month might feel crazy, but the truly hard work starts at the end of November.
Love the interview, Steven! I’m in the editing stage of a middle grade fantasy and would love to win the critique!
I twitted, face-booked and blogged about this interview!
Loved the interview!
This looks like a great book. I appreciate the writing tips!
I love your 10% rule and Alaska comparison! Good advice!
The comments about revision were a great help. I’ve revised my own manuscript to death. And I was honestly wondering whether this was a good or a bad thing! Now I know 🙂 Thank you!!
Make sure you partner with an expert, and have a clear justification for doing the revision, then make sure there is a concrete improvement, afterwards.