Please welcome Cleve Lamison to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Full-Blood Half-Breed was published on March 11, 2014 by Hydra.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Cleve: Hi Sally. Thanks so much for inviting me here. I started writing as a kid really, picture books, chapter books, and then comics as I got a little older. I started writing “seriously” in my early twenties; about the same time I started acting. An actor’s job is to tell a character’s story, physically, within the context of the reality in which he or she exists. And I was attracted to a very specific type of character and story. It became pretty obvious pretty fast that if I wanted to see the characters and stories I envisioned, I’d better learn how to write.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Cleve: Bit of both. Mostly a pantser, but I’ve learned I should know the end of a story, and have a loose plan for getting there before I start a project. I don’t always follow the plan, but having one helps keep me from spinning in circles.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Cleve: The writing muse is a demanding mistress, of time and devotion. If she is to grace me with those magic moments of pure inspiration, I have to honor her by writing every day. I have to grind out the words, even when I don’t feel like it, even when I’m too busy, or I have been up all night tending a colicky baby, or my parents or in-laws (especially my in-laws) are in town; even on my wife’s birthday, or our anniversary. The muse doesn’t care about my other obligations. Time is her tribute, and if she doesn’t get it, she gets stingy with her blessings. The challenge is finding balance.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Cleve: I like a lot of authors. George R. R. Martin is the first to come to mind. He’s a master storyteller. I like N.K. Jemisin. The worlds she builds are sumptuous and populated with tough, smart women-- my favorite kind. I like Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Mark Onspaugh, Michael Hughes. I’m a big fan of Jim Butcher and David Anthony Durham. This is a tough question because someone inevitably is going to get left out. There are a lot of great reads out there.
As far as influences, my time studying Shakespeare was a big influence. I don’t mean that in a pretentious way. I’m not comparing myself to Shakespeare or anything. But the year I spent studying and acting with the American Shakespeare Center (Shenandoah Shakespeare Express back then) left me with a love of language and some creative ideals about the human condition, philosophies that could be applied to all the creative disciplines, art, music, dance…anything that involves telling stories about people.
TQ: Describe Full-Blood Half-Breed in 140 characters or less.
Cleve: A warrior prodigy innovates his world’s sacred martial arts, creating a superior fighting technique and world-changing religious backlash.
TQ: Tell us something about Full-Blood Half-Breed that is not in the book description.
Cleve: Names carry power in the world of the 13 Kingdoms. Weapons are always named and warriors—those who distinguish themselves—are sometimes named after their weapons or deeds. Sometimes, it’s not obvious what a character has done to earn their name, for instance, Jambiax, Paladin’s grandfather is called, the Phantom. And while there is speculation, no one is quite sure why he’s called the Phantom. And Jambiax, like most mancers, keeps his own counsel. Not even his son, Rebelde knows what he did to earn the name.
TQ: You are a writer, director, and actor. How do you feel that writing for theater and film has influenced (or not) your novel writing?
Cleve: I hope it’s made my character and dialogue work stronger. My son often catches me talking to myself and accuses me of being a little crazy, and maybe I am, but typically when I’m talking to myself, I’m working out scenes in my mind. I I get into the heads of my characters, and try not to judge their actions when I’m speaking for them. I try to avoid characters that are evil for the sake of evil. Like I said before, every character is a hero in his or her mind. I want people to have mixed feelings about all my characters, good, bad or neutral. There are several ways in which Fox the Runt, the antagonist in Full-Blood Half-Breed, is very heroic. His back story is pretty astounding, and he makes a pretty convincing argument for his hatred of the protagonist, Paladin.
TQ: In the novel, Paladin Del Darkdragón is branded a heretic for blending the 4 schools of martial arts. Can you tell us a bit about the martial arts in the novel? What appealed to you about using martial arts?
Cleve: Years ago I heard about Bruce Lee combining different styles of martial arts to create Jeet Kun Do. His philosophy dealt with the fighter as an artist, choosing the best of all available martial styles to express his or her self in art of self-defense. That blending—the creation of something greater than the sum of its parts-- seemed somehow analogous to the great American melting pot experience, a particularly eloquent analogy considering the comparatively homogenous culture from which Lee came. And it worked perfectly with how I wanted to spin the genre’s “half-breed” trope.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Full-Blood Half-Breed?
Cleve: I spent a lot of time researching different styles of martial arts. Each system in Full-Blood Half-Breed has a real world counterpart. I researched several real world languages and cultures that influence the world of the 13 Kingdoms. But I spend 3 interviews talking about all the research that goes into something like this. I still do research, every day. World-building is a full-time job.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Cleve: Oddly enough, the old grandmother, Suki the Skullbender was the easiest to write. Most of us, if we’re lucky, will know someone like her in our lifetimes. She’s lived so long and seen so much, she has lost her patience for foolishness. And let’s be honest, the most agreeable teenager in the world is still 87% foolishness, and Suki’s grandson, Paladin—her magomusuko—is a long way from agreeable. Suki is learned and wise in the ways of the world. She’s fearless with her opinion. She wasn’t in my first draft. She’s a character created in rewrites, born strictly to serve a very specific plot purpose. But she really came to life. I am quite fond of the Skullbender. Even if she was inspired by my mother-in-law.
Paladin’s father, Rebelde the Darkdragón, was the hardest. At least at first. I started this book when my son was a baby, so the father/son interactions—emotionally—were written from the perspective of a new father still very much doting on his precocious baby son. That man had never known the singular fury of confronting a willful little smart aleck screaming, “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” in the middle of Union freaking Square during the holiday rush. It wasn’t until the third or fourth rewrite that I discovered those particular joys of fatherhood. And I suppose that was when Rebelde began to understand the diverse spectrum of emotions he could experience toward his son. There’s a chapter early in the book, that was all hugs and forgiveness the first time I wrote it, before I understood just how angry a father could be with his son. That scene reads very differently now. Rebelde goes a little ape when Paladin defies him, putting himself at risk. The chapter feels way more authentic.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite lines from Full-Blood Half-Breed.
Cleve: “We Speak Steel.” And “Your ignorance betrays you.”
TQ: What's next?
Cleve: I’m continuing to build the world of the 13 Kingdoms. The sequel to Full-Blood Half-Breed—tentativley titled, Shadow of the Raven, is pretty far along. Also, I’m doing the finishing touches on Geek Mafia, a literary fiction piece about a high school kid looking to reclaim his dignity after a brutal assault by the school’s resident bullies. It’s pretty dark. And violent. And funny. I’m also doing some Graphic Novel stuff as well. Occiaonally, I manage a half decent doodle of Paladin and/or one of the other characters in Full-Blood Half-Breed. I post them on Pinterest sometime (clevelamison) and your readers can also follow me on twitter or facebook-- @lamison or Cleve Lamison (writer)—to get updates on stuff.
Hydra, March 11, 2014
eBook, 286 pages
In Cleve Lamison’s hard-hitting debut, two young men divided by an intense hatred—yet marked with a common destiny—have the power to save the world . . . or destroy it.
It’s been two thousand years since the bastard spawn of the god Creador lost their war to enslave humankind, transforming the Thirteen Kingdoms into a violent world where the martial arts are exalted as sacred gifts from the gods—and honor is won through arena blood sport.
Paladin Del Darkdragón, a sixteen-year-old warrior-in-training, is a “half-breed.” His battle against pure-blood bullies like Fox the Runt has forced him to master the four fighting forms. But when he blends them, he is condemned as a heretic by authorities and banished from the training temples. Seeking redemption, he enrolls in the arena games, savage trials that end in death.
This year’s games mask an old plot driven by a new prophet. With a horde of Creador’s Bastards and an army of fanatics led by Fox the Runt at his command, the Prophet will bend the world to his will or burn it to ash.
Paladin faces an impossible choice: redeem his honor in a fight he can’t hope to survive, or abandon his loved ones to perish in the sweeping holy war consuming the Kingdoms.
Cleve Lamison, writer and costumed adventurer, was raised in Richmond, Virginia on a steady diet of Star Wars films, fantasy novels, and Marvel Comics. He studied Mass Communications and Commercial Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has worked as a soldier in the Army Reserves, a caricaturist and cartoonist, drama teacher, and eventually became a traveling actor and playwright.
He paid his acting dues touring children’s theater out of Richmond, dazzling preschoolers along the east coast with his lauded performance of Fideous Fastidious, the pink frog. Touring and regional theater followed. He portrayed Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet, Iachimo in Cymbeline, and he spent a year touring the country with the American Shakespeare Company portraying Othello and various parts in The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing. He has participated in workshops throughout the country, teaching about theater in general and Shakespeare in particular.
In 1997, Cleve moved to New York City and worked infrequently as an actor, writer and filmmaker while pursuing his first love of costumed vigilantism. In 2005, with fatherhood looming, Cleve retired from the hazardous world of theater entertainment to concentrate on making the world—or at least Greenwich Village—a safer place for his unborn child and children everywhere.
It was also during this time that Cleve combined his love of writing with his love of speculative fiction, and began work on Full-Blood Half-Breed and the Stormbringer Revelation series. Cleve lives in New York City with his wife, Michelle, his son, Paladin, and the ghost of their pet fish, Fishy.