Just Another Rabid Reader had the pleasure of sitting down with Matthew D. Ryan, Author of Drasmyr, A Fantasy novel that tells of vampires. I will also be posting a review of this novel, which you will be able to find here. I love doing author interviews, because it always gives us a glimpse of the author as a human, rather than thinking they are automatons that just pumped out words. With every interview, I learn something new and exciting about the human beings creating the words I read, and of course, Matthew D. Ryan was no exception. As always, a click on the cover image above will take you to Smashwords, where you can purchase this author’s works!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m kind of an odd duck. I’ve been into the fantasy genre ever since I was a young kid. I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading every fantasy novel I could get my hands on. I studied philosophy and mathematics in college; math because I was good at it, and philosophy because it was fascinating. I moved into literature after graduating from college when I wrote my first novel… basically, the first draft of “Drasmyr.” I’ve also done work in computers, but I think I’ve finally figured out that writing is where I want to go.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
As I am not yet employed (though I hope to be soon), I volunteer at the medical library in our local hospital several hours every week, and spend some time each week looking for work. I game (I developed an RPG for the world my writing is set in), watch movies, work on my blog, occasionally bowl, and otherwise lead a pretty sedate life. There is not much to do in terms of recreation where I live, maybe hiking and swimming, but most of my friends aren’t into that although I would gladly do both—just not alone.
3. Is there anyone who has influenced/encouraged you to write? Who and how/why?
My sister is probably my biggest cheerleader, although my dad and one of my brothers also provide encouragement. My sister is usually my first beta-reader. She has an English degree and her insights are usually quite valuable. I know, I know; she’s a relative, so I shouldn’t rely solely on her (and I don’t), but she is quite good at it. As for my dad, he usually limits himself to verbal encouragement, although he has read a few of my short stories, but, unlike my sister, my dad really has no literary training. And he’s also biased because I’m his son. My brother not only has an English degree, but he is also a writer; we check each other’s work and provide that much-needed encouragement for each other.
4. Can you give a brief synopsis of your journey to publication with your first piece of fiction?
I wrote the first draft of “Drasmyr” in 1995, I think. I tried the traditional route, and collected the usual series of rejections. Then I put the novel away; I even gave up on writing as a profession and tried computers for a bit, but didn’t like it and I kept coming back to writing. I wrote a sequel to Drasmyr and wound up tossing it because it came off sounding too much like a standard Dungeons and Dragons adventure, and that’s something I don’t want to write. Anyway, through the years I did a few more rewrites of Drasmyr, sent it out a couple times, but still found no success. Finally, given that parts (and only parts) of the novel are written in first person, I figured that that might be a turn-off to publishers, but it was something I wasn’t willing to change. So given that and the fact that the publishing industry is metamorphasizing into a whole new beast with the advent of the e-book , I decided to self-publish. I tweaked the book as much as I could, until I was sick of working on it, and finally self-published it on Smashwords. That’s the book’s story. If I want to dig deeper, the very first thing I actually published was a short story entitled “Haladryn and the Minotaur.” That was published in 2000 or 2001 (I’m not sure) at a now defunct web-zine called “Pegasus On-line.”
5. Do you have a day job as well?
I’m currently in between jobs, at the moment; I’m looking for something that will sustain me while I continue to write. I’ve worked a couple high-tech jobs involving computer programming, but have found that I’m not cut out for that type of work. If I was limited to maybe 10 hours a week, it wouldn’t be a problem; but 40 hours a week of constant programming is just grueling. So, I’m on the look-out for a low stress job that will provide enough money to help me get by on.
6. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
My writing career has been one of fits and starts. However, I was writing stuff even so far back as grade school. Several months ago I found a short story I had written when I was 8 years old. It was about a giant vampire fighting Godzilla, and was about a page of single-spaced type. It wasn’t very good, of course, but it was a beginning, perhaps. Anyway, I wrote my first book “Drasmyr” in 1995ish. No one wanted to publish it, so I put it on the back burner and tried my hand at computers. But I keep coming back to writing. I’ve cleaned “Drasmyr” up considerably since then, and I self-published it in February of 2012.
7. How did you choose the genre you write in?
Oh, that’s easy. I’ve been a fan of fantasy for as long as I can remember. I was big on dinosaurs when I was about four years old, and that morphed into an interest in dragons and all things fantastical as I aged. I even went so far as to develop my own fantasy RPG system in high school.
8. Where do you get your ideas?
Isn’t that kind of like “where does time come from?” I don’t know. I’m just a naturally creative person. Plot devices and storyline twists come largely from my thirty some years of gaming. Character development and such comes from an aggregate of living experience and the innumerable books of writers who have come before.
9. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not exactly. I can always write and come up with ideas. It’s just I suffer from depression and as a result I have a tendency to suffer from writer’s burnout. I get in these stretches where I have the time to write, I could even come up with ideas if I wanted to, but the thought of sitting down in front of the computer and banging out a chapter or two fills me with revulsion. I’m figuring out how to deal with that though. It is usually more acute when, as recently, I am unemployed and have too much time on my hands. Once I get another job (which may be somewhat optimistic in this economy), I expect that to go away.
10. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
That’s still a question in the process of being answered. My first draft of “Drasmyr” was written stream-of-consciousness. I pounded it out over the course of about three or four months. Since then, I’ve taken to preparing some kind of notes and outline for the books I write. For example, I am currently working on the next book in the series after Drasmyr called “The Children of Lubrochius.” This one, I’ve written an outline, plus I have a lot of notes.
11. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien was probably the first serious fantasy series I read. I don’t think any fantasy author can reasonably claim that they were not influenced by Tolkien. There a number of other authors and series that I enjoyed as a youth: “The Dragonlance Series” by Weis and Hickman, Raymond E. Feist’s “Magician Series”, Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonrider’s of Pern,” Patricia McKillip’s “Riddlemaster of Hed,” and many others. But besides Tolkien, I think the biggest influencers were Tad Williams “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn,” and Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson’s “Wheel of Time Series.”
12. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
If I had the backing of a big name publisher, I would have made a couple of minor structural changes, but nothing so major that it would drastically alter the book. And, of course, I probably would have tweaked it some more. But a big name publisher might have forced me to change certain things I don’t want to (like the first person present tense of the vampire’s musings). So, ultimately, I am satisfied as it is.
13. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
This is kind of a work in progress. I do most of my marketing through my blog. The plan is to use Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and draw traffic to the blog, which, of course, is set up like a mini-website with a link back to Smashwords where the book can be purchased.
14. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I have two books on the back-burner that I have not published yet because, in my opinion, the writing is still too rough. However, with the rise of the e-book, whether rightly or wrongly, anything can be published these days through Smashwords or other venues. I am withholding the two books mentioned because rushing them to publication would reflect poorly on me. They may be published in the future, but only after serious revisions. In the meantime, I am still working on the rest of the books for my series (“From the Ashes of Ruin”).
15. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
“Drasmyr” mixes a number of elements. It is one part mystery, one part gothic horror. It tells the story of the vampire, Lucian val Drasmyr, and his struggle with the wizards guild of the city of Drisdak. So, basically, it’s a vampire story set in a fantasy world of swords and sorcerers, but the vampire in question is more from the vein of Dracula than it is anything like any of the modern treatments of the vampire.
16. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The setting, the characters, and all the creatures are fictitious and fantastical. My understanding of human nature and how my characters react is, to a certain extent, shaped by my personal experience, but beyond that there is only one scene drawn from my experience and that was really just a way of venting some pent up emotions about God and man. That would be the vampire’s soliloquy in chapter 35.
17. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
The vampire’s soliloquy in chapter 35. Basically, I was in an anti-religion and God sort of mood at the time, and I dug into that inner turmoil and angst to write an emotionally powerful sequence about how the vampire currently despises his former “master/god.” Read into it what you will, but I won’t go into further details.
18. How did you come up with the title for your current novel?
I wrote the novel before I came up with the title. Once the novel was complete, it was easy. “Drasmyr” is simply the surname of the master vampire in the book. His full name is Lucian val Drasmyr. In my opinion, Drasmyr sounds kind of vampiric and reminiscent of Dracula who is pretty much the inspiration for Lucian.
19. What project are you working on now?
The next book in the series. Actually, it’s the first book in the series to which “Drasmyr” is the prelude. The book is entitled “The Children of Lubrochius,” and it deals with the machinations and schemes of the evil young sorceress, Korina.
20. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Not sure. I’m about five chapters into the next book and I envision about twenty-five. Hopefully, it will be finished by January 2013, but I’m running a little behind schedule; anyway, it will have to be spruced up a bit before final publication. So, maybe in a year and a half or so. I wish I could go faster, but I can’t.
21. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Oh, I love my vampire. He’s like my dark, alter ego. I also like to explore the relationship between morality and societal rank. That’s going to be a continuing theme throughout the series.
22. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism was by an editor from a big house a number of years ago. My training in writing comes from philosophy, and she said something to the effect of “Well, that’s not real literary writing.” I mean, she was right, to a certain extent. Analytical philosophy is its own brand of writing that is one-half mathematics and one-half writing. It doesn’t concern itself with many of the rules and other minutiae that literary writing does; it’s got its own rules and minutiae to deal with. So, that was kind of disheartening. The best compliment wasn’t verbal. It was the first time someone put my book in their library on Smashwords. After all my hard work, somebody thought well enough of my efforts to put it there. A small victory; but a meaningful one. We struggling writers need every ounce of encouragement we can get.
23. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Keep working and writing. The more you write, the more your craft will improve. They say to write every day. Something. No matter what. For myself, I have difficulty with this, so, I’ll modify it and paraphrase a friend of mine, “Do something writerly everyday.” If you can’t write, read. If you can’t read, critique a movie. Experiment on dialogue. Do something and keep at it.
24. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I am honored that you like my work, that you read it, and that you enjoyed it. I will keep at it as long as I can, and I hope we develop a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.
About the Author
Matthew D. Ryan is a published author living in upstate New York on the shores of Lake Champlain. He has a background in philosophy, mathematics, and computer science. He also has a black belt in the martial arts and studies yoga. He has been deeply involved in the fantasy genre for most of his life as a reader, writer, and game designer. He believes he saw the legendary Lake Champlain Monster (a.k.a Champy) once and he has a cat named Confucius.
Twitter Handle: @MatthewDRyan1
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