Please welcome Steve Diamond to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Residue was published on April 20th by Ragnarok Publications.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Steve: Thanks for having me! I've been writing for a long time now, but I didn't start taking it seriously until 2007 or so. It wasn't until 2011, though, that I began taking a hard look at my writing. I caught a break with a short story for a small press, and I realized I really wanted to get better so people could enjoy my work. So I wrote lots of short fiction to start, and a ton of practice fiction based on tabletop RPGs I was playing. That was when I really started to improve, and authors I knew began telling me I really needed to get more fiction out there.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Steve: I started out pure panster. But as time went on, I found I needed a bit more structure to my writing. I found I needed to know--with a pretty good measure of concreteness--what my ending was, and a few stops along the way. That said, I'm still not a complete plotter. I've tried that method too, and I hate it. The lack of discovery takes all the fun out of the writing for me. I'm in the middle of panster and plotter, but I shade closer to panster.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Steve: For me, the first difficulty is figuring out my ending. Starting has never been hard for me. But that ending? Coming up with a finale that doesn't feel cheap, cliché or forced? Yikes. After that, it's finding time to sit down and actually write the thing. I'm the Finance Manager for a Department of Defense contractor. It's rather demanding. When I get home, I like to spend time with my wife and kids. So it isn't until they are all asleep that I can generally do any writing. And by then, I'm generally pretty exhausted. But that's hardly a unique situation. I try and write, even if it's only for 30 minutes. And I think about what I'm going to write all day, so when the time comes I can get it all down on paper fairly quick.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Steve: Influences? The main influences on my writing are Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Jonathan Maberry, Brian Lumley, Joe Lansdale, and Robert McCammon. They are, unsurprisingly, also my favorite authors. Now this isn't to say that no other authors are inspiring to me, nor that I don't have other favorites. I'm a fan of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Westerns, Thrillers, Comedy and any mix of those genres. I learn different things from different authors in different genres. That's why I try and read so widely. I didn't learn the same things from Sarah Pinborough as I did from Jasper Kent or from Daniel Abraham. But those three are amazing storytellers from different genres that have taught me tons.
TQ: Describe Residue in 140 characters or less.
Steve: Residue is a YA/Adult Horror novel about a kid named Jack Bishop who can see psychic residue left behind by monsters and murder victims.
TQ: Tell us something about Residue that is not in the book description.
Steve: Residue is really a mish-mash of a few genres. Of course the main genre being Horror. But it's also got some Science Fiction in it. It's also got a lot of action in it, and hopefully some humor. As people, we are rarely just one thing, and I feel like books should follow suit. Likewise, the book description doesn't highlight the general attitude of my characters. For some reason, a lot of YA and Adult Horror these days (and I suppose YA in general) has a lot of whiny protagonists, or protagonists that play the victim the whole novel. Call me crazy, but I've know a lot of people--teens and adults--that don't fall into that classification. So my characters are strong--not necessarily in a physical nature, but strong in some aspect--and they are proactive rather than reactive.
TQ: What inspired you to write Residue? What appealed to you about writing fantasy?
Steve: Residue was inspired by watching the TV show Chuck, while also doing a re-watch of the X-Files, while re-reading Brian Lumley's Necroscope. I know, some wildly different types of shows and books. Now my novel takes place in present-day, small-town America, so it isn't quite what I'd call "fantasy". Perhaps a bit Urban Fantasy. Urban Horror. Whatever. Anywho, what appealed to me writing this type of story was the idea of monsters in a small town combated by kids. After that, the idea of having kids be real, strong protagonists that try their hardest to get through a situation that could kill them. Lastly, when I first came up with the idea for this novel, a prom scene came to mind. It's...intense. I simply couldn't wait to write a story that led to that scene.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Residue?
Steve: I did some research on ESP, and I clarified some of my knowledge in Norther California. I also did research on my own and though subject matter experts on firearms. Additionally, I went shooting quite a bit to get a newbie's understanding on guns, and the human body's reaction to them when using them for the first time. It was all super enlightening and a serious blast (no pun intended).
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Steve: Jack was the easiest character to write because his reaction all felt natural. How would I react to finding out I can see psychic residue? Pretty easy stuff. Plus I'm a guy, so guys are easier to write for me. Alexandra Courtney--Alex--is the main female point of view character in the novel, and she was hard to write. She can read minds, and writing that in a way I felt was unique turned out to be pretty difficult.
TQ: Which question about your novel do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q: How do you handle mind-reading in your novel?
A: Why is mind reading always shown like it's such a drag on the character? Such a burden? I never understood that. I think of people I know who have had disabilities for most of their lives, and to them, it isn't always a burden. People adapt. So why wouldn't a person who has been able to read minds adapt? Why would that person just see it as a normal part of their life...like breathing. When you look at it that way, you get to start having fun.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Residue.
"Some girls do cheerleading," Alex said. "I shoot stuff."
A week ago I was a normal kid with normal friends at a normal school. I had a normal and boring job. Now I had freaking ESP, was going on some cloak-and-dagger mission for a guy I had never met, and was apparently becoming a weapon that people were fighting for.
TQ: What's next?
Steve: I recently published a Horror anthology I edited - Shared Nightmares. I also have a short story in an anthology about giant robots coming soon. Now that those are off my plate, I'm working on the sequel to Residue, currently titled Parasite. Book three, Catalyst, will follow shortly thereafter. Somewhere in there I have a short story for a charity anthology, and I'm pitching around another Horror anthology. We'll see if Privateer Press wants more from me this year. I'm also on the lookout for any other anthologies I can participate in. I've really come to love writing short fiction, so if you want me, you got me.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Steve: Thank you so much for taking the time to set this up. It's been terrific. I hope you and your readers enjoy Residue!
Project Sentinel 1
Ragnarok Publications, April 20, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 226 pages
RESIDUE follows 17-year-old Jack Bishop after his father is abducted and a monster is let loose in his small town. As he looks for his father, he begins to notice that he can see the psychic residue left behind by monsters and murder victims. Along with the mind-reading Alexandra (Alex) Courtney, Jack uses his growing ESP abilities to stop the deaths in the town, and find out why his father was taken.
About the Author: Steve is your typical reader of books who loves to tell you what is good and, more importantly, what he hates. He grew up reading Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Terry Brooks. Then he got a job at a Waldenbooks. In addition to improving his literary tastes, he was soon doing a lot of the managing duties there, and helped that particular store become the Numero Uno ranked store in the country. It was during this time that he decided his taste in books was better than everyone else’s (duh), and his customers/friends/family agreed.
Steve Diamond founded and runs the review site, Elitist Book Reviews (www.elitistbookreviews.com), which was nominated for the Hugo Award in 2013, 2014 & 2015. He writes for Baen, Privateer Press, and numerous small publications. RESIDUE is his first full-length published work. His is also the editor of the Horror anthology, SHARED NIGHTMARES.