Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Interview with fantasy author Scott Muller, creator of the "Legacy of Ten Saga"...

Today, in the Forum, we have fantasy author Scott Muller. Creator of “The Legacy of the Ten Saga,” Scott has already released two amazing novels and is now working on the third. I’m excited to learn where his in-depth world building will be taking him (and us) next.

Tim Greaton: Scott, it would be great if we could start off with a quick bio of you. Be sure to give us a little “dirt” about you while you’re at it. 

Scott Muller: I’m a mutt, the best of Russian, Polish and German heritages. The grade school I attended was in the country, had less than 100 students, and I still remember the names of all the kids I grew up with. It was the sixties, a time of war, music, drugs and protest. I watched the Beatles arrive in the US, and Kennedy be assassinated from our school gym floor. I witnessed Glenn being shot into space and the Apollo landing on the moon in the same room. By Junior High, I found that I had a gift for math and science, probably an artifact of the times, and went on to accumulate three engineering degrees, including a Masters in Science from Colorado School of Mines. I lived in Brazil for a little over a year and spent my twenty-first birthday in Rio de Janeiro. I have stories of Carnival and those days on the beach which I still cannot share. I love to travel and have enjoyed the hospitality of many countries. I flew into London on the day Princess Dianna was in her car crash and stayed for eight memorable weeks, seeing the funeral, visiting castles, drinking ale and perusing museums. For the last decade, I’ve worked as the Tech. Lead of a Quality organization, breaking things for a living. I eventually grew up and married, then remarried a wonderful understanding woman and we hatched two brilliant kids who challenge me daily.  

Tim Greaton: As time goes on, do you find the time you spend writing has changed your lifestyle or scheduling in a notable way?  

Scott Muller: I try to write a bit every day. It takes less time away from my family. The writing comes quickly because I have mulled over the story in my dreams for weeks. The other side of the business—social networking… well, it consumes time like the government spends money. I take periodic days off from my day job and spend them working on my novels in a small Einstein’s coffee shop in Westminster, Colorado. On a good day, I can put 20,000+ words down on paper. People ask if I’m driven to write all the time. No, not really. My wife and kids come first. If my writing schedule needs to slip a bit, so be it. Kids only grow up once and I intend to make the best of it by cherishing and building those relationships. I missed out on much during my first marriage, worrying too much about career and business. I’m fortunate in that, at this time, I do not have to make my living at the craft. Someday, I would like to escape the cube and make this my full time gig! I have found that my author friends, whether romance, erotica, paranormal or fantasy, are a close-knit and supportive group of people. Everyone pulls together. I’ve made some great friends. I also try to find time to build guitars. I’m currently working on a Torres 1937 Segovia Concert replica for myself.  

Tim Greaton: It seems that most people have a hero or model that they look up to. Which writers have inspired you and have impacted your life and your work?   

Scott Muller: Models? I look up to Irina Shayk, she’d have to be my favorite. Oh, you meant those kinds of models… Sorry! I’ll carry on now… I have a couple heroes and each has brought something special to my writing. Twain and Steinbeck had a way with everyday folk, how they speak, and how they lived. I try to keep my characters real. Poe was the master of the macabre. His work still gives me chills. I try tried to incorporate Poe in my writing of the dark mage and Lich. Dickens could describe a scene so vividly that you could see, smell, hear, and taste it. His influence shows up in scenes in the Keep, the dining room, and the library. Tolkien was the first fantasy author to blow my mind by creating an entire world of myth, language included. I was hooked. He was the main reason I began story-telling. Tolkien opened up my imagination. I try to be as creative in my development of mythical creatures as Tolkien, but his shoes are very big and I’m afraid I am but a student in comparison.  

Tim Greaton: Do you have a great personal story you tell us?  

Scott Muller: I met Bob Hope in the Denver airport back in the 70s. It was very late in the evening after an exhausting day spent in L.A. I walked up to him, extended my hand, and said something to the effect of—“Mr. Hope, Thank you for all the laughs and good work you do for our boys at war.” We shook hands, I turned and walked away. He yelled back, “Don’t you want an autograph?” I said, “No thank you! The memory of meeting you is enough.” He snorted and followed us down the concourse and insisted we take an autograph saying—we’d regret it someday if we didn’t. All I had was my luggage. He signed the garment bag with a pen he kept in his pocket—which, I suppose, he kept for just such a situation. He seemed a bit dismayed that I didn’t want his signature. I can’t imagine that happening in this day and age. There was also this run-in with a group of supermodels in London in 1997 at the Hippodrome, but that story will have to wait for another time. I was such a brash American, didn’t even know who they were. Apparently that was quite charming…  

Tim Greaton: Have any difficult people from your past motivated you to write about and possibly abuse them…fictionally, of course.  

Scott Muller: I really haven’t made many enemies; I’m a very social and easy going guy. There were more than a few kids I went to high school with who have never grown up. I remember my 20th high school reunion. I couldn’t go, so I sent a short one page bio with pictures of me, the family, and the kids, so that people could see what I was doing. They apparently thought it would be funny to use an unkind picture they pulled off the WEB in the yearbook instead of one of my pictures. My kids were excited to see the pictures and their jaws, as well as mine, fell open when we opened the yearbook and saw the picture that my name was under. It was in very poor taste. I burned my yearbooks, figuring that part of my life was over, and that I had no reason to ever go back. I’ve come to the realization that in life, you meet a lot of people who are not worth getting to know. I put my effort into getting to know those that are. None of my characters are based on people from my junior high or high school days, but I’m tempted. Please note, that there were also many incredibly nice people from my school.  

Tim Greaton: There’s a lot of buzz about your books right now. Could you tell us a little bit about them? 

Scott Muller: I have two books out. The first is titled, Eyes of the Keep, Book 1, from The Legacy of the Ten Saga. It is a story of a group of wizards who have lost their way, and the original wizards (long dead), known as the Ten who may have facilitated the calamity they are now facing. They have forgotten their heritage, their skills, and have become irrelevant. They inadvertently discover that the world needs their help and unfortunately, they are ill equipped to deal with the dark forces ravaging the realms. Everything they believe is challenged, most of what they know is wrong. The second book was released in January and is titled the Third Sign continues the Saga. I am working on book 3, Darkhalla and have committed 137 pages to ink so far.  

One of many underlying themes in the series is a lesson in complacency. Another is how those with ultimate power try to repress and control by weaving plausible lies. Finally, it is about teamwork and fellowship when faced with insurmountable odds. I’ve attempted to create a rich world populated by people real enough to be family. I also built a system of magic with complex rules that I hope are as believable to the reader as they are challenging to the characters.    

Tim Greaton: What part of this story fascinated you and made you want to write about it?  

Scott Muller: We tend to think of Grand Wizards as all-knowing and infallible beings. I wanted to explore how a group of wizards, who were once considered gods, would react if everything they prided themselves in knowing was wrong. What if their heroes were not what they believe them to be? What if they needed the help of other, common men? Could they swallow their pride? I also wanted to explore the shades of gray between right and wrong. In my book, the sides are not clearly delineated, and often-truth depends on which side of the fence you are standing. I like to ask myself what I would do when faced with two equally bad choices. I also drew from my experience with savants (as defined in 18th century English—expert). I picture these wizards as being savants, brilliant in a single narrowly-focused area (i.e. magic of potions) and yet in others—clueless and ignorant.  

Tim Greaton: You call yourself a storyteller, not a writer. Can you explain?
Scott Muller: Sure. I think of myself as a bard. I can weave incredible yarns. Storytelling is a gift, writing is a skill, and some call it a craft. I am still learning the craft. I make mistakes. My typing is crap. Most people have a bucket list, I have a… screw-up list. A list of things I get wrong. Things like two spaces after a period (old manual typewriter habit), forgetting my comma after said—things like that. I am still learning the craft. I thank people for being patient with me.

A storyteller makes you feel like you are in the scene, know the characters personally and are witnessing the action firsthand. The difference is the degree of engagement. A book can be well-written, the prose—beautiful—and yet it can leave a hollow feeling of incompleteness in the reader. A storyteller pulls the reader in and makes them forget that they are reading a book. I have had people read my book from cover to cover staying up all night to finish. When readers write and ask questions about personality quirks of the characters—it lets me know they are more than engaged. They care enough about the characters that they wish to more fully understand their personalities. It is almost cultish.

As Yoda would say, “Dialect writing he does—from the dark side it comes. Enjoys it, he must!” 

Tim Greaton: One of my rather famous past writing instructors taught that something about a book should always be over-the-top…because that’s what will make a story memorable. Describe a character or setting in your story that is over-the-top.  

Scott Muller: It is humorous and hugely entertaining how much of a bumble these wizards have inadvertently become. They know as little about this fantasy world as the reader, and the two groups take a journey of discovery together. Two of my main characters are more like a squabbling pair of married folk. They have been together so long; they know each other’s buttons and finish each other’s sentences. They are in fact, the medieval equivalent of the odd couple. One character jumps before looking. The other will push someone over the cliff first to see what happens. There is a scene where they are arguing over diner about magic, that several readers have pointed out as a lot of fun, complete with spittle flying, arm waving, fist slamming and almost incoherent talking with mouths full. One reader said they felt the need to clean the food off their clothes when the scene ended. I’m flattered to know my scenes make readers feel as though they are there.  

Tim Greaton: You have some wonderful descriptive segments in your story. Did you learn your storytelling skills from a family member or someplace else?  

Scott Muller: Someplace else. I enjoyed reading Dickens and Michener as a teen. I guess it rubbed off. People have told me I have a gift for describing a place without weighing down the dialog. It is a great complement, and I hope I can continue to live up to their praise.  

When I was growing up, my grandfather used to tell me stories about the old country and what it was like growing up in Eastern Europe in the late 1800’s. He would pace his stories and digress into details that left me wanting for more. My Dad is an avid reader and has thousands of paperback books. I used to raid his collection (‘60s and 70s) and read Cooper, Heinlein, Asimov, Z. Grey, and L’Amour. Many of these were written to describe places people had never been. They had to be good at their craft. My grandfather used to only read a few pages a night, then close his eyes and visualize what he had read. I once asked him why and his explanation caught me off guard. He said something to the effect of, “I know what I read, but I am not sure that I have interpreted it correctly. Did the author mean for me to take the simple explanation he provided, or is he trying to distract me like a magician. There may be more to what has been written, this I need to ponder. I need to visualize the scene and fill in the details from the hints I have been given. I need to understand if he meant what he wrote.” He taught me to do the same.  

Tim Greaton: Do you plan a sequel or is your book part of a series?  

Scott Muller: It is part of a series. I have the books planned in the series, however, I can’t fully predict how many there will be. Suffice it to say, I will write as many as need be to tell the story. My outlines are fairly detailed and tend to be about 60-100 pages long. I have also considered taking some of the characters off into side stories. They deserve their own stories and my fans have very receptive to the idea.  

Tim Greaton: That’s definitely a serious length for an outline. Can you tell us more about your writing method?  

Scott Muller: Sure! I worked on the full outline for the series, broken into books based on my average chapter length of 20 pages. I usually work on two books at a time, trying to keep the story consistent across the book boundaries. For a series, I find I have to be extra careful not to leave omissions or open plot lines. I plan all the arcs and subplots out in detail. I try to answer all the questions left hanging as I move through the series. I find that writing detailed outlines, timelines, and character sheets help me keep my facts straight. I also keep a list of unresolved issues, which I know I will need to address at some time in the future. Once in a while, my characters develop a mind of their own and go off and do something unexpected. I just go with the flow, and let them tell their own stories when they feel the need. These little happy accidents can lead to entire new twists that I never would have thought of had it not been for their help!  

Tim Greaton: Just for fun, which of your characters would you want to spend a week with in the real world…and why?   

Scott Muller: Sheila, but my wife would never allow it. She knows me well enough to keep us apart. Sheila is a battle elf, 5’7”, 110lbs, dark hair, green eyes, fit, and very physical. She’s an outdoor girl with attitude. Think of a cross between Jolie (Laura Croft), Dushku (Doll House) , and a bit of Summer Glau. Throw in a bit of biker attitude and a good dose of living on the edge, and you have Sheila. We would end up pounding shots and getting into trouble.  

On the guy side; Zedd’aki, because he seems to have some repressed issues, he’s wickedly clever and has a dry wit. I’d like to pick his brain while hoisting a mug of mead, and gnawing on a few meat pies or turkey legs. His understanding of magic comes from a different place from the other wizards in the Keep. He is the only mage that both fears and respects the magic. He knows far more than he lets on.  

Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly purchase your books.  

Scott Muller: My website is Everything can be found through the site: autographed softcovers, eBooks, and the blog. My books can be found at Amazon and CreateSpace. They are part of the Amazon Select program, so you can borrow them for free if you are a member. There are direct links from my website to most of these places, here is the Amazon link to book one: I can also be found on Facebook, with tags, or EyesoftheKeep, TheThirdSign, and soon--Darkhalla. My Twitter ID is @ScottDMuller.  

Tim Greaton: Thanks for spending time on the Forum today, Scott. I have no doubt that a number of our readers are already scanning online bookstores for a copy of your book. 

Scott Muller: Tim, everyone, thanks for having me by. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Now, I suppose I should get on with it. As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently working on “Darkhalla,” the third book in the “The Legacy of the Ten Saga.” The goal is to have it out around September.

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