The Literary Vixen presents…
Joining us today is Ryan Southwick! Author of The Z-Tech Chronicles.
How long have you been writing?
Angels in the Mist was my first serious attempt at writing a novel. The original file was created in 2010, so it’s been 10 years now! I wasn’t sure at the time I would even finish 1 book, let alone 8.
Describe a typical writing day.
3 years ago, I started getting up early to create a few hours of productive time before my day job starts (the “5 am club”, I think they call it). After I get up, it’s straight to the espresso machine to start it warming up, check a few news sites to see what’s going on, then fix my wake-up juice (mochas are my preferred poison), open Scrivener, and hit it.
I’ve always been easily lost in whatever I’m working on, be it programming, reading, or story writing, so once I start writing, I sometimes forget to have breakfast or lunch, and will write straight through to the afternoon. Unsurprisingly, those are the chapters that tend to flow the best. My workstation is in the kitchen, so I do get to see my wife and kids throughout the day, but they’ll usually steer clear if they see I’m in “the zone.” =]
By 3 pm, my creative energy is spent, so that’s when I usually pack it in and spend more time with the family, do chores, etc. I’m in bed by 8:30 pm so I can get up early and do it all over again.
Where do you get your inspiration for your books?
The Z-Tech Chronicles was inspired by characters my friends and I used to play in college, combined with a desire to tell a fantastical tale in an accessible and believable way.
As for my other series, they’re random thoughts usually that come up from watching a show, or even writing my current works. Sometimes I’ll see a character or scenario that isn’t well-explored. It’ll rattle around in my head for a while. If I stop thinking about it, then I’m probably not excited enough to write about it, but if it sticks, the only way to get it out is on paper, and that’s when I start writing.
For example, the idea for another series I’m working on, the Timeless Keeper Saga, came after watching a few shows and reading books about characters who’ve lived for a very long time. Every author has a different way of portraying how time has affected them, but they’ve never settled right with me, so I decided to write my own in a dystopian setting.
Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.
Happy to say that’s a tough choice! There are several characters who stick with me. If I had to pick one, though, it’s probably Zima from The Z-Tech Chronicles. She’s a complex, walking contradiction: logical yet unpredictable, affectionate but deadly, soft-spoken but intimidating, naïve yet worldly, a natural leader who’s completely lost. Her mind works differently from everyone else’s, which makes almost any interaction with her awkward, but her innocence gives the awkwardness an endearing tone. Writing (and reading) from her perspective a ton of fun.
When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc) scene, how do you get in the mood?
It’s not hard at all. I have a pretty vivid imagination and high empathy, so slipping into the character’s shoes and really feeling the situation comes easily. I also tend to write about scenarios that interest or move me the most, which helps.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Empathetic, obsessive writer. =]
When writing a series how do you keep things fresh, for both your readers and also yourself?
First, I make sure the plot and characters don’t resemble anything I’ve read or seen before. The Z-Tech Chronicles has vampires and cyborgs in it, as well as some paranormal, but all three have their own lore and style that make them unique to other series, and they play together in a way that builds something greater than the sum of its parts.
Second, as I’m writing, I keep a mental tally of what subjects, scenarios, conversations, etc. I’ve already presented to the reader. If it’s relevant but hasn’t been discussed, I may throw a few words in to remind everyone what’s going on, but I’ll keep it very brief. Likewise, when I’m writing a scene, I first look for elements I haven’t covered yet (conversations between 2 characters who haven’t spoken much, relationship complications, combat that explores a character’s strengths or weaknesses… the list is endless). This ensures every scene and chapter is truly a new adventure, and every book a fresh story that stands apart from the rest.
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with me?
Several things! To date, only the first book of the main Z-Tech Chronicles series is published. The rest of the series is already written, so I’m working on editing the other 5—yes, 5!—books leading to the series conclusion (it was originally 3 books, but they were way too many pages each for my publisher’s taste, so I’m splitting them up). Book 2, Angels Lost, is due this coming March, which I’m really excited about.
I’ve also just completed the first draft of the first book in the Timeless Keeper Saga, which is a light dystopian / science fiction series with elements of fantasy to keep things interesting. I’m really happy with it so far and am in the process of tightening it a bit. Look for more information soon. My guess is it will be a three-book series. It centers around a half-blind farmer in one of the few remaining agricultural domes on a wrecked earth, whose world is turned upside-down when a strange outsider enters his life and challenges everything he and his entire dome considered true. She has a few more surprises, too, that keep things interesting. =]
Last on the current roster is a science fiction / planetary romance series with elements of fantasy, tentatively called Starcrossed. The protagonist is a young woman who is also an accomplished ambassador to other human colonies who are just coming back into contact after 10,000 years apart. Things spiral out of control, and she’s soon stranded on a strange colony world with unexplained phenomena that threaten her life, made more difficult when she loses the ability to speak. Her salvation comes from an innkeeper with issues of his own. She has to figure out how to get off of a technologically-bereft planet to prevent her own from breaking into inter-stellar war.
There are a few more ideas in the works, but I’ll leave those for future articles. =]
What advice would you give to other authors?
Don’t give up.
Don’t wait for your book to be published before you learn and use social media (you may hate the idea, but you’ll need to get over it, otherwise don’t expect to sell many books).
Your first draft will suck. Always. That’s what second and third drafts are for, so don’t be discouraged.
Get feedback early. Yes, showing someone the pages you’ve poured your soul onto is hard. Yes, it will suck (see above), but the right reader will understand that and give you advice based on where you are—advice that will take years to learn otherwise. Find that person. It could be a friend, a writing group, whatever, just make sure you have eyes on it other than your own of someone willing to give you honest feedback.
When someone offers criticism, don’t argue. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t convince them to your side. Say “thank you.” Afterwards, aggregate their feedback with others’, then decide offline whether the feedback has merit and is something you want to pursue.
What is the one thing you want people to know about you and your books?
I write from the heart. It’s the only way I know to create anything worth reading. If you read my books, I hope you find as much joy (and laughter, and sorrow, and heart-pounding adventure) as I did when creating them.
Thank you Ryan Southwick for chatting with me! I will include his information down below. Check out The Z-Tech Chronicles, today!
An ancient, powerful evil is loose in San Francisco. The heart of Silicon Valley must fight back the only way they know how — with compassion, unwavering determination, and, of course, super-technology.
Anne Perrin is resigned to a life driven by an adolescent trauma: a strict routine, no socializing (outside of the safety of her waitressing job), and no romantic relationships. When her cautious lifestyle lets the perfect partner slip through her fingers, Anne vows she won’t let it happen again and ventures into San Francisco to find happiness.
Her first night out in a decade becomes a nightmare when her date turns on her with sadistic intent. But his nefarious plans for Anne are unexpectedly interrupted by a mysterious savior. Valiant, smart, compassionate … Charlie is exactly the partner Anne has been looking for. And best of all, he likes her too.
Things go well between her and Charlie until an assailant with unexpected strength plunges Anne into a world she didn’t know existed — nor could have imagined — where super-science and an eclectic group of extraordinary individuals may be the solution to Anne’s lifelong loneliness … and humanity’s only hope against an ancient threat.
Ryan Southwick decided to dabble at writing late in life, and quickly became obsessed with the craft. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
His technical skills as a software developer, healthcare experience, and lifelong fascination for science fiction became the ingredients for his first series, The Z-Tech Chronicles, which combines these elements into a fantastic contemporary tale of super-science, fantasy, and adventure, based in his Bay Area stomping grounds.
Amazon Author Page: https://amazon.com/author/ryansouthwick
And to The Z-Tech Chronicles: