Saturday, February 26, 2011

Interview #4 Steve Thomas

An Exercise in Futility

When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was child, and finished the first draft of my first novel in college.  I never submitted it to publishers because I’m allergic to red tape.  The files sat on a flash drive for about five years until I learned about the growing world of indie publishing, and that motivated me to go further with the hobby.

If you are not a full time writer what do you do to pay the bills?

My bills are paid by a career in electrical engineering

Any tips for your fellow Indie authors?

Take it slow.  Don’t rush to put out books just to cash in on easy publishing.  Hold your own work to the same standards as any other book you’ve read.

What was your route to indie authoring? 

After I finished the first draft of this novel, I had basically given up on writing.  I decided early on that job prospects were far better in the field of engineering, and I didn’t want to turn writing into a job for fear of sucking all the fun out of it.  I would still write little things now and then, but I guess my attitude toward the book was a sort of resignation.  I found out about indie publishing via a friend who had an interest in game design.  He had apparently used a print-on-demand service for some project or another, and when he mentioned that to me, my reaction was “Wait, you can do that?!”  I had no idea that indie publishing had progressed so far.  Once I found out, the decision was instantaneous that I would polish my book and print out some paperbacks to give away to friends and family.  I sold a few at the office, too, just about enough to cover the cost of that whole endeavor.  Reception was good enough that I started work on a second novel immediately.

Then a few months later—it was actually on my birthday and I had taken the day off from work—I stumbled across Amazon’s Kindle publishing service.  I was almost late to dinner with my family because I was so engrossed with preparing the ebook.

What do you see the biggest challenge in being an Indie author as?

Marketing, by far.  It’s very difficult to get your name out there.

What served as your inspiration for “An Exercise in Futility”?

Like many fantasy novels, this one has its roots in a game of Dungeons and Dragons.  My turn as Dungeon Master came up, and for a few weeks, I was eyebrows-deep in developing a setting: The Kalharian Empire.  One of my players was particularly interested in political intrigue, and this novel grew out of a piece of the history I created especially for him to play with.  Of course, as I wrote the book, the Dungeons and Dragons influence largely withered away.

What other work do you have available?

For the moment, this is the only one.

What sites is your work available on?

You can find it at the following:

Are you currently working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

I am.  It will be another novel (working title: In the Pursuit of Mortality) set in the Kalharian Empire, roughly 80 years after Futility.  The Kalharians are worried about an Elf who is conducting some research that the Empire cannot tolerate, so they conscript an Ancient Horde assassin to take care of her.

I finished the draft in Deccember, and am in the midst of revising the manuscript.  It’s hard to predict, but I estimate releasing it as early as Fall 2011.

Are there any authors that you really look up to?

I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett.  His has a wonderfully entertaining worldview, and is one of the few authors that can consistently deliver humor in writing. 

Oscar Wilde is another favorite.  Every time I read anything by him, I spend the next week talking in epigrams. 

Have you ever been published in any magazines or any national publication?

I have not.

Do you have a homepage/blog/twitter/facebook etc... that fans can follow your progress or contact you at?

A blog was just added to list

I have a bit of an aversion to social networking.  I’m in the early stages of building a website, but by “early stages,” I mean, “I realized I need one and haven’t done anything about it yet.”

As it stands, the best I can offer is an e-mail address:

Thanks for reminding me that I need to fix that.

What is your favorite book/series?

My favorite is the Discworld series by the aforementioned Terry Pratchett.  No need to repeat why.

Are there any specific sites that you visit for advice or inspiration?

I’ve been frequenting  There are a lot of helpful and sympathetic people in their writer’s forum.

Is writing more of a dream job, hobby, or way to earn extra cash?

Lucrative hobby?  Am I allowed to combine two options?  I do it for fun, first and foremost.  I have a stable job that I love, and I have no plans to change careers.  As long as the books pay for themselves, I consider my writing to be a success.

Which of your characters do you relate to the most?

Atreus.  That’s an easy choice because his personality is so similar to my own.  For those who haven’t read the book, Atreus is the King of the Underworld in my mythology.  I wanted to avoid the archetype of the evil Hell-god, and instead made him a scholarly gentleman who collects the stories of the dead.  He’s probably the only person who’s as interested in the history and mythos of my world as I am. 

What discipline of magic would you study if you had the choice of any in the world you created?

That’s a fun question.  Conjuring would be a lot of fun (because who doesn’t love fireballs?), and Illusion yields all sorts of fodder for practical jokes, but I think I have to go for Enchanting.  Making artifacts and long-term effects leaves more room for experimentation.

Of course, if I had Summoning powers, I could skip the epic brawls with my cat whenever it’s time to go to the vet…

Why did you choose to use a nomadic people in your story?

One of the majors themes that I like to invoke in my writing is the value of civilization, what it improves, and what it destroys.  To that end, a conflict between an urban culture and a nomadic one seemed like a natural fit, since most humans were nomadic prior to the invention of agriculture. 

Elves typically would not be associated with necromancy.  Why did you choose to have an elf as the teacher?

Elves, being immortal creatures, have a funny relationship with death.  It’s not part of their natural lifecycle, because their natural lifecycle doesn’t end.  As such, it seemed to me that when faced with death, they would be the ones least able to handle it.  Most people, despite the pain, realize deep down that death has to happen.  Elves, as a culture, haven’t come to that realization.  They are consistently appalled and saddened by every single death they encounter, at least among their own kind.  It seemed natural to me that they would be the ones to study how to undo death, and would pass on that knowledge.

Did you use any kind of historical basis in your book?

History was absolutely an influence.  The Kalharians are largely based on the Romans: an unstoppable military empire who believe that they are doing the world a favor by conquering it.  I actually read Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul while I was writing.  The Gurdur were a loose amalgamation of Native Americans and very ancient Hebrews (when they were still nomadic).  I modeled the plot after pretty much every time a culture ran afoul of another culture with overwhelming technology.

Did you have to do any special research to add the realistic feel to your nomadic culture?

I didn’t, actually.  I mostly tried tapped into whatever stuck with me from history classes, and tried to logically work out how their culture would function.  I’m glad they felt realistic!


  1. Thanks for the interview, Scott.

    I'll be checking in throughout the day in case anyone else has questions for me.

  2. I'm so with you on elves. I never thought to have them research ways to avoid death. That alone makes me interested to read your book.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium