Please welcome Adam Burch to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Song of Edmon was published on September 1st by 47North.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Adam: Thanks for inviting me! I suppose there are three answers to this question. I've always enjoyed creative writing from a young age. I remember in fifth grade, my teacher had all of her students write a "book". We made these covers of cardboard and contact paper and drew our own cover art. Then, some of us volunteered to read our stories in front of the class. I remember mine was called "Cops" and it was about two detectives, a young rookie and an old gumshoe, bringing down an evil crime boss. The gumshoe died leaving the young rookie to carry on the never ending search for justice, only now as a veteran as he's given a newbie partner at the end of the tale. I recently reconnected with an old classmate who still remembered me reading the story in front of the class.
Later, I lost this confidence to write fiction as school teachers focused more on analytical, essay writing and I wasn't as good with that. When I did try to write stories, I often felt like they weren't good enough in other's eyes, or were considered cliche. Part of the problem is that I was a teen! All I knew was cliche! People are more willing to tear down other's work than build it up. So I stopped, thinking I just wasn't good enough to write.
As an adult, I moved to Los Angeles after college to be an actor and I joined a writer's group founded by Jim Uhls, who had adapted Chuck Palahniuk's, Fight Club, for the big screen. The group would cast performers to read their material for feedback. Eventually, I worked up the courage to start offering the writers my suggestions on their work. Some of them thought my observations were pretty darn good and I thought to myself "Hey! Maybe I can write too!" Of course, I quickly realized it was a lot easier to discern what wasn't working in others' material versus generating my own. Still, I started to develop a practice of writing regularly, even if terribly.
My friend from the writer's group, Philip Eisner, a really smart guy who wrote the cult classic, sci-fi movie Event Horizon in the 90's, starring Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne, invited me to table-top game with him. I'd never done that before, but learned it was a perfect blend of collaborative storytelling, acting, and socializing. I had a blast creating a character and after our gaming sessions, writing the story from his point of view. However, the group eventually disbanded as people's schedules and real life superseded fun and I was left with all these "diary entries" and nothing to do with them. I missed my friends and I missed writing for them. A friend said, "Why don't you just keep going? I think it would make a good book!" So that's how Song of Edmon, and its upcoming sequel, Roar of the Storm was born!
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Adam: Okay, I'm going to admit that I didn't know what a "pantser" was, and had to look it up on urbandictionary.com. I guess that tells you which one I am!
My feeling is that writing by the seat of one's pants is fun and perhaps useful to create a daily practice of just putting words on the page, but it's not professional. Once I am done "pantsing" for the day (usually through a daily journal ala Morning Pages), I set that aside and I plot. Stories need to have structure for maximum effect and I personally need to know where the finish line is before I start the race. Once everything is outlined fairly extensively, I go for it.
I want to make it clear that this doesn't mean that I do not leave myself open to changes and discovery in the process. If something hits me while brain transmits to fingers which in turn transmit to keys, I don't tune out the muse, as it were. I heed the call, but I always make sure that it fits within the structure I've given myself, or I go back and restructure the outline to make it fit.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Adam: It's hard to put my finger on just one thing. There always several challenging aspects to the process. The first is my own fears and doubts about whether I am worthy enough to tell a story, whether my ideas are worthy enough to be told. However, I set those aside and tell myself, "All I have to do today is a little bit, and it doesn't have to be perfect." I do that everyday and after a while...
Once I finish a draft, it's knowing that the first pass is always going to be crappy, that my ideas and writing actually AREN'T good enough. They need to evolve to be better. So then it's going through everything again as many times as I can stomach, section by section, always asking myself if I've made the strongest choices, in the fewest words possible.
One thing I am good at, though, is trusting my beta readers and editors. When they tell me something isn't working, I believe them. I was lucky to have a lot of allies that took the time to do that with Song of Edmon (and probably still have a few readers who might say it upon finishing the published book). I "kill my darlings" easily and honor my faithful publishers and editors and Beta readers' suggestions to make the story better. Still, it always stings a bit to hear that they didn't like something.
My first experience reading reviews is a little like that, too, even though the majority are positive. Yet, I know that the sequel to Song of Edmon, Roar of the Storm, takes things in such a direction that it addresses many of the negative reviewers' feelings! Just stick with me, folks!
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Adam: We're all a product of our influences right? The first movie I saw in the theater was Return of the Jedi. Ever since, I've been a huge Star Wars nerd. Even the prequels! Blasphemy, I know, but I think the prequels' failings inspired me to write my own stories just as much, if not more than the classic trilogy because I wanted to accomplish what they sort of failed to. I read all the expanded universe books and comics before Disney bought the franchise.
Star Wars definitely turned me on to the work of Joseph Campbell and the mono-myth. A great book is The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler, which breaks down that structure for writers. Robert McKee's, Story, is a good resource for screenwriting as is The Coffee Break Screenwriter which has great exercises to just do a little bit at a time.
Otherwise, there is so much great Sci-Fi/fantasy out there, old and new, it's impossible to list everything. Tolkein, Ursula K. LeGuin, HG Wells, Isaac Asimov's Foundation. Dragonlance was big when I was an adolescent. Dune by Frank Herbert is one of my all time fave's and Kevin J. Anderson who writes the sequels and spin-offs with Brian Herbert was always super supportive in his e-mails to me. Dan Simmons, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games, George RR Martin... the grittiness and reality of his series was a revelation. Each of his characters feels like a complete person with a fully fleshed out history and personality. Pierce Brown's Red Rising series is killer and he sent me a supportive e-mail before I even had an agent. I've also always been a huge Greek Mythology buff, too, and Madeline Miller's, Song of Achilles, was inspirational (you can see that just looking at my title)! I highly recommend it to anyone.
Mostly, though, the team I gamed with was the biggest inspiration- Phil Eisner (Event Horizon), Samantha Barrios, Jack Conway, Matt Bramante (who worked on Bladerunner 2049), Abby Wilde (of Zoey101 fame), and Matthew Mercer (of Critical Role). I was really writing to entertain them and just their intelligence and humor and creativity inspired me to no end.
TQ: Describe Song of Edmon in 140 characters or less.
Adam: A boy chooses between violence and peace on a distant planet divided between light and dark. The outcome determines the fate of the world.
TQ: Tell us something about Song of Edmon that is not found in the book description.
Adam: Well I've already mentioned how the inception of Song of Edmon was a D&D game. However, I can also tell you that Song of Edmon is merely the backstory of the character I rolled! In fact, the "real" adventure doesn't even begin until book 2, Roar of the Storm, out in January.
Part of this was due to the fact that I felt it would have been disingenuous of me to take the story that my entire group told as a team and "cash in" on it, so to speak. (Let's forget the fact that I'd never written a novel before, didn't have an agent or a publisher and the likelihood of me even getting either of these was slim). I felt like I needed to earn their endorsement to write the story. If I could turn Edmon into a book that people wanted to read, then I would have gained their trust to continue the adventure.
So, I told Edmon's history, using only what I had created to craft my tale. This led to some pretty fancy maneuverings to set up minor details that will come back in book 2, which initially had nothing to do with Edmon's personal journey. Additionally, I had to tailor Book 2 to tie up story elements that were never addressed in our game. There are also a few things my team suggested that I steer clear of because they have their own, possible future stories in mind!
Also, I narrate the audio book and it was a great way for me to combine my acting and writing.
TQ: What inspired you to write Song of Edmon? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?
Adam: Since I've answered the first question in detail, I'll tackle the second. Science Fiction is a place I can imagine fully "What if?" There really are no limitations, besides what my brain can think up. Additionally, it is just a great forum to working out problems, be they personal, or societal, under the guise of a fantastical background.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Song of Edmon?
Adam: The great thing about speculative fiction is that, again, one isn't really constrained by reality, so long as the rules of the created world are well established and not consistently violated. The "research" is about establishing and refining the rules from gravity, to technology, to space travel, to the names of things, and the fictional history. Then, maintaining the consistency in the writing with what has been established during my world-building/plotting phase.
I do think the best science fiction has one foot in the real world and real world physics, though. So some of the research included looking up things like drones that hovered on sound. I wanted to make the technology and culture of Tao, Edmon's home planet, of a piece. In Song of Edmon, everything is centered around music, sound, and water. I was lucky enough to discover such technology had basis in reality and felt that gave justification for creating a society that was centered around it.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Song of Edmon.
Adam: The cover was done by Adam Hall @atomcreative, an artist my publisher 47North, found. It's not so much something specific from the novel as much as a feeling or tone the novel gives. The story takes place in the distant future on a far-flung planet within the network of wormholes collectively called The Fracture. The Nightsiders of Tao, whom are at the center of the novel, are a warlike society that hearken back to cultures of antiquity- The Samurai, the Vikings, the Spartans.
I think Adam's cover really knocks it out of the park conveying the melding of ancient warriors with tech in space.
TQ: In Song of Edmon who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Adam: This is an interesting question, and I'm not sure there is a clear-cut answer. The novel is written in first person and while Edmon is a fabrication, he is by nature a lens through which my own thoughts and feelings are focused. I kind of had to go back to my own adolescence and remember how I felt about certain things growing up, different relationships I had. Granted, none of them are as extreme or necessarily as traumatic as Edmon's are, but the feelings Edmon has are not dissimilar from my own. Additionally, a lot of authors write protagonists, who are so clearly extensions of themselves or their ideal. Ultimately they come out on top or do the right thing most of the time. One aspect I remember from my youth was that it always felt like I did things wrong. While Edmon gets to be evolves into a bad-ass, he's not a Gary Stu. He makes a lot of dumb decisions and he pays for them. Of course, I'll remind readers who are frustrated by this to remember their own adolescence and that there has to be failure before there can be success. Hopefully, the subsequent triumph is so much the sweeter because it is earned by the suffering.
Other than that, I will say Faria was a bit challenging because I was constantly questioning whether or not his philosophies were consistent and made sense. I think, often, one comes into contact with these mentor figures in heroic stories who give the protagonist fortune cookie wisdom. When one stops to think about their cliche sayings, often they don't really make a whole lot of sense. Part of my solution to this problem was recognizing that Faria is not a perfect master, in fact a lot of the wisdom he dispenses is the opposite of truth. It's part of the reason why Edmon emerges from his training with his master definitely stronger, but also a bit flawed, a bit twisted. In a way, it's my take on a Sith Lord training someone rather than a Jedi Master.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Song of Edmon?
Adam: Honestly I hate when stories are solely pedagogical. If the characters are merely stereotypes or there only to service the author's ideology, then it is a boring and worthless story in my opinion. So, yes there were some social issues I wanted to include within the story, but first and foremost, Song of Edmon couldn't be about that for me. It had to be about character. It had to be about Edmon, his emotional journey, and the emotional journey the reader takes with him. The social issues are part of the world that he lives in, just as they are part of the world you and I live in. I doubt you or I walk around everyday seeing ourselves as a mouthpiece for one particular social issue or another. I feel like I am fully three-dimensional, integrated human being, and my beliefs and caring about social issues are just aspects of me. Edmon had to be that too- a fully realized human being, as did the other characters in the book.
TQ: Which question about Song of Edmon do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Adam: "Do you think we could turn Song of Edmon and the Fracture World Series into a best selling film or television series? What about into a graphic novel with beautiful artwork?"
My answer to those questions are a resounding YES!!!!
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Song of Edmon.
“You expect to shut that feeling away?” he asks. “No, I ask that you feel it more. There’s no other way to stand over your enemy and cut out his heart. Accept your hatred and you won’t be rash or stupid, you’ll be cold. Don’t quiet the maelstrom. Become the storm.” - Faria, Song of Edmon
TQ: What's next?
Adam: As far as Edmon and the Fracture World Series, book 2, Roar of the Storm comes out in January. If people like it, I definitely have a third book in mind! But we'll have to wait and see!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Adam: Thank you! These were great questions and a lot of fun to answer!
Song of Edmon
The Fracture Worlds 1
47North, September 1, 2017
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 444 pages
In Adam Burch’s thrilling series debut, a young man must choose between violence and peace in a distant world divided between those who thrive in endless sunlight and those who survive in eternal darkness.
The isolated planet of Tao is a house divided: the peaceful Daysiders live in harmony while the pale Nightsiders pursue power and racial purity through the violent ritual of the Combat.
Edmon Leontes, the gentle son of a ruthless warrior noble and a proud Daysider, embodies Tao’s split nature. The product of diametrically opposed races, Edmon hopes to live a quiet life pursuing the music of his mother’s people, but his Nightsider father cruelly forces him to continue in his bloody footsteps to ensure his legacy.
Edmon’s defiance will cost him everything…and spark a revolution that will shake the foundations of Tao. His choice—to embrace the light or surrender to the darkness—will shape his own fate and that of his divided world.
Roar of the Storm
The Fracture Worlds 2
47North, January 23, 2018
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 412 pages
When he rebelled against his father, Edmon Leontes lost everything, but a lot has happened in the twelve years since he left his remote home planet of Tao. He has made a new life for himself as the medic aboard a starship, earning his keep traversing the galaxy with a misfit crew. Edmon thinks he has left his tumultuous past behind him, yet all that changes when his father dies.
Phaestion, the man he once called brother, has inherited Edmon’s birthright. But Phaestion’s ambitions of domination are not limited to Tao, and he is not inclined to let a rival—even one in exile—continue living. Phaestion’s pursuit of power spans the universe, running afoul of powers no one is fit to be meddling with. Edmon will need to confront his past as he and his crew race across worlds to uncover the origins of the Fracture…and save the universe from complete destruction.
Born in the SF Bay Area in California, Adam graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a BA in Media/Communications and a minor in Theatre Arts. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and worked in many small "hole in the wall" theaters playing everything from Shakespeare and Moliere to Pirandello and Tom Stoppard.
He also holds a black sash in the martial art of Wing Chun Kung Fu.
He came to Song of Edmon through a meeting with screenwriter Philip Eisner (Event Horizon), who asked him if had ever played D&D. Subsequently, the character of Edmon Leontes was born.
You may catch Adam on the random episode of ABC'S Scandal or in the cult classic Nazis at the Center of the Earth