Interview With David Kristoph, Author Of Tales Of A Dying Star

Excited for the first author interview on my newly-updated blog! This is a feature I used to do all the time, until it fell by the wayside. Happy that it's back, because delving into the thoughts of fellow creators is one of my favorite things ever.

Happy to introduce David Kristoph, author the Tales Of A Dying Star series (and plenty more to come!)

Describe the moment you first realized “I’m a writer!” Be as literal - or as fanciful - as you like.

After plowing through the Wheel of Time series back in high school (or at least the first 8 books--the others had yet to be written) I realized I wanted to create worlds and stories of my own. It took me another 10 years to work up the courage to actually start writing, though, and another few years after that to publish my work. 

What were your earliest experiences with science fiction? What drew you to this genre as an author?

My first foray into Science Fiction was VALIS, by Philip K. Dick. That led into classic Asimov and Heinlein. I love the genre because it invites us to - and even demands that we - attempt to predict the future, to envision how we may one day live. 

Naming conventions, especially in sci-fi, fascinate me. Do you have any special techniques you’d like to share? Do the names come to your in flashes of brilliance? Or do you labor lovingly over each one?

Naming conventions are hard! I use a combination of a few things. For normal sounding names I steal names from baseball players. For exotic names I'll look up foreign names (say, Swedish) and then bastardize them, tweak them to give a bit of flair. But honestly, it's a chore to me. It's one of my least favorite parts of writing! Typically what I do is sit down and come up with maybe 30-40 names at a time and put them into a spreadsheet. Then, as I'm writing, I'll pull from that spreadsheet as needed.

Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month this year? Have you in the past?

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo. I think it's a great event to help beginner writers, though. Most beginners struggle with finishing a project, or sticking with it after a few weeks. It's tough, because writing is a lot like eating your favorite meal every single day. You love it at first, you're excited and can't get enough, but after a few weeks you're sick of it and want to try something else. NaNoWriMo helps beginners push through this and get to the end.

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

I'm a hardcore plotter. I never sit down to write unless I have a fairly detailed outline first. I never feel prepared enough until I know the entire book in my mind, and having an outline keeps me focused while writing, so I never languish at where to go next. And I outline with a lot of detail. For example, I have a techno-thriller called Spore that I'm currently submitting to agents, and its outline was 8,000 words long (for a 122,000 word book). 

You’re working on several genres simultaneously (thriller, sci-fi, fantasy). Do you have some examples of how these genres feed into and enrich one another? Do your stories take on cross-genre characteristics, or do they differ widely?

I do write in a wide variety of genres, and sometimes that creates a bit of overlap. For example, in my fantasy novel Pillars of Wrath (currently with agents) I created a religion whose members worship the sun. They pray at morning, noon, and evening, and stare at the sun until they go blind. Then when I was writing my Tales of a Dying Star series, which is science fiction, I thought, "Hey, that sun-worshiping religion would work perfectly in this setting." So for that series I created the "Children of Saria," a star-worshiping cult who refuse to believe their star is eventually going to expand into a Red Giant. And because the genre is science fiction, that concept works in wonderfully different ways than the fantasy.

You mention your love of video games in your bio. Tell me a bit about what the intersection of gaming and writing means for you. Do you ever think of narrative in game design? Ever consider making games or exploring interactive fiction? Or do you keep the two worlds completely separate?

Gaming is a lot like literature because you immerse yourself in a different world. The difference is that in literature you're a bystander, while in gaming you're an active participant. The latter really helps me think creatively, and puts me in a good mindset to think up new books or worlds. And it's funny you mention interactive fiction. Although I haven't considered working on a video game, I'm currently working on a collaborate fiction project with a buddy of mine to create a "Choose Your Own Adventure" series. Those types of books have been around forever, but ours are going to have a real emphasis on story, which CYOA books typically lack.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

Self-publishing is a wonderful tool because it allows anyone to put their work out there in an easily-consumable medium without barriers to entry. And, it's terrible for the exact same reason. There's a lot of awful work out there. So many books are hastily thrown up on Amazon without being edited or filtered through beta readers. I've self-published my Tales of a Dying Star series, but I follow all the same steps a traditional publisher would. My story goes through two sets of "beta readers" who give feedback on the plot and overall story. After passing through them it goes to a professional editor--because let's face it, no matter how careful an author is, they're blind to their own mistakes. Having said that, I do have several books out with agents/publishers now, and I still think there's a lot of value in traditional publishing.

I love establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries! Can you name one (or more) authors, editors, publishers, agents etc. who are doing great things right now?

Absolutely! J.S. Morin is another up-and-coming science fiction and fantasy author with some great work. Check out his Twinborn series. As for artists, the immensely-talented Milan Jaram does magic with a paintbrush. He also happens to be the cover designer for my Tales of a Dying Star series, so my opinion might be biased.

More About David

David lives with his wonderful wife and two not-quite German Shepherds. He's a fantastic reader, great videogamer, good chess player, average cyclist, and mediocre runner. He's also a member of the Planetary Society, patron of StarTalk Radio, amateur astronomer and general space enthusiast.

David was kind enough to host me on his blog as well! Hop over and check out my interview on his site :)