It’s a new year and a new guest author interview! Today, we’d like to introduce you to fantasy and historical author, R.A. McCandless. R.A. has just released the second book in his Flames of Perdition trilogy, Hell Becomes Her. His first novel in the series, Tears of Heaven, won Best Science Fiction and Fantasy in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll and was also a finalist in EPIC’s 2015 eBook Awards. In addition to his two novels, R.A. has contributed to a number of anthologies. Currently, R.A. is working on the third installment in his Flames of Perdition trilogy.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how your books came about.
Telling a good story well and hitting some epic high note moments is where each Flames of Perdition—Tears of Heaven and Hell Becomes Her—book has come from. It’s hard to not to get carried away into the unrealistic of, say, a sword fight or a gun battle—shooting with precision over distance and while under fire, or slicing a an arm or a leg clean off with a used weapon. Keeping the physics of actions and reactions on target is where Del and her world came from. I wanted answers to questions like—What would an angel actually be like? What would living in a world that contains these super-powerful creatures require? Answering these questions, with some degree of reality baked into the crust was important. It’s especially enjoyable when readers catch the effort that went into making the world, albeit with the supernatural conceits, exciting and wondrous, but still within the realm of the real. That’s magic right there.
2. What helped you the most in writing your books?
Research, research and more research. Between the internet and my historian brother, I can get lost tracing down a single thread that might earn a line or two, maybe no more than a mention, within my books. I’ve had to scrap full sections on ancient coins because it leant nothing to the story—but I have it. That degree of background, for me at least, is what makes the world I’m writing in feel real. I love to reach out to experts and pick their brains for bits and pieces of a story I’m working on.
3. Are you planning more writing projects after your trilogy is complete, and if so, will you stick with the same genre?
As Robert Jordan once quipped, I plan to write until they nail shut my coffin. The Flames of Perdition series doesn’t need to end with the next book. There are a lot of stories to be told, and not just about Del. I have a few concepts for other characters to tell stories within the same world. Outside of that, I have a steampunk series The Constable of Aqualinne and a fantasy series that I’ve written at least a book for each. Those are worlds that I also want to share.
4. Can you describe your writing process? When and where do you do most of your writing? What kind of technology do you use to create and compose?
Scotch and more Scotch. Scene concepts and plot turns seem to be the easiest for me. The big picture of where we’re going and how we get there. I understand how to get from A to B to C on down the alphabet like a boss kindergartner. It’s the little details that I get bogged down in, and those my mind has to chew on like a pitbull with a femur. I’ve learned to not fight with a chapter or a scene too much, but get up, walk away, and let my head mill it down until it’s fine grain. Then, somewhere, mostly the shower or the middle of the night for some reason, it will click into place, and I’ll have to bolt to my composition pad and write until my wrists are sore.
5. How do/did you generate ideas for your books and short stories?
Aliens, mostly. They won’t leave me alone. Apparently, I’m big on Arcturus 17. But aside from the Quadrillion system, I read and watch movies/TV constantly. I’m not a couch potato, though I’d love to be. But a good, witty, well-written drama with clever lines, clever characters, and clever plots really turns the crank on the wheelhouse. It’s a better lubricant than 10-40W oil. I’ve taken to keeping a composition notebook next to me when I’m watching something so that, when I’m inspired, I can jot it down and not lose it.
6. What were the major barriers you overcame to complete your book projects, if any?
I really can’t speak for anyone else. At least, that’s what the judge told me. And my friends. And my wife. For me, if I’m not writing, it’s because I’m being lazy. I don’t get blocked by a story, where to take it, or what to do with it, but I will get tired of the grind of writing. Writing is definitely a job, the same way sculpting or painting is—you have to do the physical work before you live the jet-set, lavish, playboy lifestyle!
7. What are you reading now? Who is your favorite author? In your opinion, what constitutes good writing or conversely, bad writing?
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. This was recommended by a friend in order to help tide me over until Patrick Rothfuss deigns to provide us with the third installment of his Kingkiller Chronicles. Respect the Rothfuss!
Patrick Rothfuss is easily one of my favorites. He should be the king of the hill, if only he would release his third novel (and then keep writing). I would love to strike up a hate-hate relationship with him that had him gnashing his teeth and pulling his hair about my superior talent. Patrick, if you’re listening, this is my first shot over your bow, feel free to respond in kind.
Bernard Cornwell is excellent historic fiction. The guy knows his stuff. I like my historical fiction and fantasy to have dirt in the pages, with contemporary heroes who have legitimate flaws of time and place.
Tolkien’s The Hobbit was given to me as a gift and really opened the castle gates of fantasy to me. Suddenly, there was a whole world of swords, magic and fantastical creatures to meet. Immediately after I finished, I took all the money I had and biked down to the bookstore to buy everything else Tolkien had written. I had no idea I was getting the seminal fantasy series: The Lord of the Rings.
8. What advice can you give to first time authors?
Drink heavily. Also, get an editor who knows what she is doing. Not just someone who will find your misspelled words and your redundant commas—someone who will help you find your voice, make certain your characters and story flow, and that you aren’t head-hopping or switching narrators. This isn’t about becoming a homogenized, generic, corporate storyteller. It’s about getting past the basic mistakes and really writing some good stories. Don’t let the language get in the way of your vision.
We’d like to thank R.A. McCandless for taking the time to talk to us today. Below, you can find the links to both his published works and his social media. We hope you’ll take the time to learn more about him and give his books and stories a read.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22RA%20McCandless%22
Look for more author interviews coming soon. We’ll keep you posted!
Anne, Nancy, and Eric