Ask the Author: Michael J. Sullivan

“Hey all, I'm so excited to have this opportunity to answer any questions you might have. Anything goes, it can be with regards to my books, writing in general, or publishing. ” Michael J. Sullivan

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Michael J. Sullivan Hey Kishi,
Thanks for asking...and congratulations for taking the plunge. I have a lot of advice. First, don't worry that your early work isn't "good enough" --- they rarely are. It takes a lot of practice to learn what works and what doesn't. And that means you are going to write a bunch of books that aren't "ready for primetime" - but with each one you'll learn a little more, get a bit better, and eventually you will.

Stephen King says you should consider your first 1,000,000 words as practice. And Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours working at something to gain a level of proficiency. Those numbers sound just about right to me (based on my own writing). My first published book was the fourteenth I wrote.

As for getting stuck early on -- just write your way through it. Rarely do you truly know where the best place is for a story to start. I've had books where I've thrown out 50 - 60 pages at the beginning, other books where the original beginning actually ended up being around page 105. If you spend too much time on the beginning you can get "wrapped around the axle" and that stops all forward momentum. What you need to do is get through to the end. Then when editing determine you'll find where the start of the story actually is, and, again, it's rarely where you thought when you started.

Hope that helps.
Michael J. Sullivan Sorta...BOTH Alric AND Mauvin uttered that line...but at different times in the book. Alric wasn't one of the people listed in the quiz so of the choices listed Mauvin was the person who ALSO said it.
Michael J. Sullivan I think Romeo and Juliet is a must read. It has everything: romance, tragedy, conflict, and some excellent plot twists. It's just as good today as it was when written and it's fairly easy to follow so the differences between it and modern English aren't to hard to follow.
Michael J. Sullivan Hey Kathy, thanks for reading. So glad you've been entertained. You are not the only one who has become saddened as the end approached. My wife got pretty depressed after reading Heir of Novron. Then she said, "You know, you can bring them back anytime you want to." Which is how the Riyria Chronicles came into being. When I finished Revelations, I didn't have any intention of writing anything more with the pair, but I'm so glad I have.

As for more stories with them. I asked people to "weigh in" in The Death of Dulgath and the response so far has been a resounding "more please." I'm currently finishing up the second pass edits on my next series (Legends of the First Empire). Just wrote chapter 6 of book 5 and I hope to have that done in 4 - 6 weeks. When I am then I'll decide on a fourth Riyria Chronicle. As I said, the readers have spoken, now I just have to make sure that I have a good story to tell, and if so we'll be all set.

As for the Elven world. Definitely check out Age of Myth coming out in June. In Riyria the races lived pretty much apart from each other (due to an edict about not crossing the Nidwalden. In the new series (Legends of the First Empire), I go back 3,000 years to tell the true story about Novron and the events I've hinted at in Riyria. History is written by the victors, and the deeds of many ordinary men and women have been usurped by those in power or lost to time. At that point in history, the elves (Fhrey) and humans (Rhune) interacted much more and there was a lot more magic in the world. So theses books should give you a nice peek into their world.

Thanks for writing a question. And thanks for reading. I'm glad you have enjoyed them so much.
Michael J. Sullivan I collect names. I get them from everywhere. Road signs, people I meet, people I hear about. A long time ago, back when the nucleus of Elan was forming (around 1995), I went through a very old dictionary. At the back of which was a section on biographical names and proper names. I compiled a list of the ones I thought were cool. That’s where I got Dahlgren, and Essarhaddon was the king of Syria around 670 BC. I changed the spelling slightly to something I liked better. These days I tend to use the name generator in Scrivener. I run it over and over looking for interesting names. I then build a list by keeping the most interesting one with an eye towards the sort of people I am looking for. The nifty names I like that I have no use for yet, go into a long list that I keep.

So if you are wondering if I spend hours coming up with names that have secret meaning, the answer is—sometimes, but not often. Pax, one of the leading character in Hollow World is latin for “peace” (not a hard brain teaser). Hadrian’s last name happened to be Blackwater, an interesting coincidence as a mercenary company goes by the same name, but it was founded in 1997 and Hadrian’s last name was created in 1995. Mercedes was chosen as a subtle clue.

Mostly I audition names the way a director might audition actors. I look for the name that will best suit the part. When I was looking for a smart mousy fellow, I thought of Myron, but he might also have been called Mortimer. When I wanted an elegant thief I picked Royce off the list. Novron had to sound unusual, strong, commanding. I always liked the name Arista. Her family were derivations: Alric, Anne, Amrath. And then there are some names I find that force me to create a character around. Such was the case with Scarlet Dodge. Mostly, I try and find names that readers can pronounce. Common or easy names that give a specific impression. (The exception is for elven words which were purposely hard as a plot clue.)

In conclusion, there’s no system, or methodology, not really. My mind is a chaotic mess and stuff just happens.
Michael J. Sullivan Hey Cambell,
Thanks for the question. I can't claim to be an expert on fantasy literature as a whole, but just as people are becoming more enlightened in society, and as writing is a reflection of society, I think there will be more diversity int his regard. As for myself, I don't really have much in the way of sex (of any kind) within my books, but I do have characters that are attracted to the same sex as well as those attracted to other people. It's not something a shine a big spot light on, as I don't really see it as "a big deal" it's just one aspect of someone's personality. For instance, in my new book, Age of Myth, Arion's current partner is a woman. The only way you know this is she briefly mentions it in our conversation she is having with her mother about the fact that she has recently split from Celeste.

I have put sexuality front and center in my science fiction novel, Hollow World - mainly because all people in the future are genetically engineered to be identical and lacking both male and female sexual organs. They achieve sexual gratification through sensations directly to the brain and so self-gratification is common. People still fall in love, but because everyone is identical it's not based on appearance or "sexual attraction." When a man from our time is introduced into that society it does lead to questions about what is love and some people have criticized the "homosexual aspects" of the book. I find this pretty amusing as the characters in this story never have any kind of physical contact, just an emotional one. Plus, since one of the characters is neither male nor female I'm not sure you could classify their relationship with a male as either heterosexual or homosexual. Still, I expected that reaction and it's one of the reasons I wrote the book.

In any case, I wish I was better educated to direct you to some good works. I did find this link that might have some titles you are interested in.
Michael J. Sullivan Hey Trent,
I'm so glad you are excited, so am I!! I'm not yet "big enough" to be sent on tour, but I am making progress. My publisher is sending me to a number of conventions for signings.

* I was in Chicago for C2E2 a few weeks ago
* I'll be in Phoenix for their Comic Con in June
* I'll be in San Diego for their Comic Con in July

Of course any books bought directly from my website's store can be signed and personalized, so consider getting your copy of Age of Myth there. As for your other books. I do plan on doing some traveling this summer so I'll be "out and about." If you could send me your location (privately of course) I'll let you know if I'll be in the area.
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Michael J. Sullivan Hey Benjamin. Thanks for writing. I've not read any of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows book - but I will certainly add it higher on my TBR pile. I've been pretty "heads down" with editing book #4 of the new series (which needed some MAJOR rework - Thanks Robin for making the book so much better!) I just have to do the edits to book #5 (which should be much easier) than I'll have some spare time and I can do more reading for pleasure and I'll certainly give Adrian's stuff a try. Direct recommendations mean so much especially given how slow I read and how high my TBR pile is. I'll add him on the challenge list.

Glad you have enjoyed the adventures of Royce and Hadrian. The reception to The Death of Dulgath has been really the likelihood of a fourth chronicle is looking good at this point. Still, until I have a story mapped out and a good part of the writing done (such that I know it's "working" I won't know for sure - but chances are pretty good.

Thanks for being interested in Age of Myth. I'm getting pretty excited myself. The ARC's are in, the final copy edits and proofing have been completed so it's just a matter of waiting now. I think June will be here in a blink of an eye.

The Death of Dulgath was a nice opportunity to spend more time in Royce's head than I have in the past. Usually Hadrian is our major POV character of the duo and I found it really fun to give more information on Royce and what he is thinking. And yes, you are right. That book certainly shows how Gwen has been chipping away at Royce's exterior. It also made him admit something to himself that he's been trying to avoid. He's not very happy with Gwen being his "fifth thing" but he now knows there is no denying how he feels.

Thanks for the questions.
Michael J. Sullivan The original covers as shown here:

were indeed painted by myself. And yes, I created the "symbols" that were used to represent each book and also are used on the top of the covers. My background is in art and it's what I did before returning to writing. I guess I figured art wasn't a hard enough career so I increased the stakes by switching to novelist ;-)
Michael J. Sullivan Hey Christomir, thanks for the question. I guess that depends on WHICH revelations you are are speaking about and what you consider a spoiler ;-) The series does go back 3,000 years and explains the TRUE story about events that are spoken about in Revelations so there there are definitely connections between the two series. But there are lies in legends and truth in myths so depending on which order you read the books the experience will be different...but they should be equally enjoyable.

Keep in mind that the Legend of the First Empire books aren't Riyria prequels. Yes, they happen chronologically before Riyria, but the two series tell very different tales with different people and cultures. As such, each series stands on it's own and you don't NEED to know anything about "the other" (no matter which "the other" is). But for those who DO read both, then they will have what I hope is an even better experience...the sum of the parts being larger than whole if you will.

Bottom line, depending on which you read first, you'll come to the other series with additional information and as such your experience will be different than a virgin reader. Will that spoil things? It'll change the experience to be sure, but in many ways "being in the know" on certain aspects will provide a different perspective which will provide its own sense of satisfaction. So, reading Legends first will provide "spoilers" for Riyria just as reading Riyria first will provide "spoilers" for Legends. What I mean by that is your pool of information changes the experience, but I've worked hard so that both experiences are rewarding in their own right.

It's hard to speak without details, but let me try to illustrate. In Legends, you'll meet people who are "historical figures" in Revelations. But history is written by the victors and what we remember about them depends on how their events are recorded. If you lived in the United States in the 1770's would you have a different perspective on people like Jefferson, Adams, and Washington then we do today? I would think so. Similarly, were there other people during those times who have been completely forgotten even though their contributions might have been equally monumental? Again, I would think so. It's exploring the differences between perception and reality that really attracted me to this project.

One thing I learned since the release of The Riyria Chronicles (which truly is a prequel) is that people have read both chronologically and in order of publication and each insists that THEIR way led to the most satisfying experience. I'm really pleased that both approaches work, as that was one of the prime goals I was shooting for. I suspect there will be a similar reaction when people come to Elan starting from two different starting points. At least that is what I've set out to do once again. Time and readers will ultimately decide if I met this goal as well.
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Michael J. Sullivan
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Michael J. Sullivan
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Michael J. Sullivan Hey Jerry, it's my pleasure. I've learned about a lot of good books here by watching what friends are reading. I'm glad you are enjoying Theft of Swords. Thanks for carrying the trilogy in your store!! (And how exciting that you are opening a place for people to enjoy books and coffee - two of my favorite things). I would ABSOLUTELY come by your store if I'm ever in or around Chapin. I'm not sure how many people would come...I'm still just a "little guy" when it comes to sales, but I'd love to meet you, get a coffee, and buy a book to support your new endeavor.
Michael J. Sullivan Hey Noir, it can be confusing. So, here's the deal. I wrote the Riyria Revelations: Theft of Swords | Rise of Empire | Heir of Novron and I thought that would be all I'd ever write about Royce and Hadrian, but like you, my wife was sad (depressed actually) when the books were over and she moped around the house lamenting, "You know, you could bring them back if you really wanted to." Well, you and she weren't the only ones, and as more and more requests came in I decided to write the "origin story" of the pair and so I wrote The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn. Those two books pretty much tell the story of how Royce and Hadrian got together and started Riyria. And, once more, I thought that may be the end of the books with Royce and Hadrian - but I told people I would write more if they still wanted more.

So....recently I released the third book in the Riyria Chronicles: The Death of Dulgath. With the origin story told in books #1 and #2, this book is pretty much a standalone tale, and in fact many people are being introduced to the pair through it.

Whew, that's a long answer. Here's the TL:DR answer.

1. No, Riyria Chronicles are not the same as Riyria Revelations, but they are related and contain the same two main protagonists, Royce and Hadrian. There are also appearances by others such as Gwen, Arista, Hilfred, and young versions of the Pickerings.

2. The Death of Dulgath is the third Riyria Chronicle, and if you are missing Royce and Hadrian you can pick it up (without reading book #1 or #2 of the Riyria Chronicles) or if you are really missing the pair, you have three more novels with them!

Hope that helps to clarify things. If you still have questions, I'm here!
Michael J. Sullivan
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Michael J. Sullivan I adore audiobooks!! And I do think they have been instrumental in my success as an author. For instance, I've been giving away free copies of my short stories in audio for some time now and the Free copy of The Jester just hit 100,000 downloads! That's a ton of people who were introduced to my stories just from that alone.

At this stage of my career, audiobooks are a major part of my publishing strategy - so yes, every project I do has an audio component. In fact, I've even sold a few audio projects BEFORE signing the books with traditional publishers for print/ebooks as controlling them is the best way for me to make sure they are created the way I want them to be.

The only thing I do with regards to 'changing in writing' - is that from time to time if there is an important piece of internal dialog I'll sometimes add an attribution to it...something like "Royce thought." My editors tend to want to whack those off because the text in the book is in italics so the extra words aren't necessary - but I put in them in there because I want the audio listeners to be 100% sure it wasn't said aloud as if it was, it could significantly change the meaning and although the narrator will usually change his voice just a bit for internal dialog, the change may not be enough for people to be aware it was a silent thought.
Michael J. Sullivan You can do so now....from all the major stores like Amazon & B&N. I'll be having a pre-order on my site probably by mid-March. Also, Robin just came back from a marketing meeting with Del Rey and they are going to send out bookmarks and bookplates if you pre-order from the stores. So I'll be announcing that son as well.
Michael J. Sullivan Hey Lulu,
There are possibilities for ALL kinds of things. The trick is trying to fit them all in ;-). My immediate plans are as follows:

* The five books of The Legends of the First Empire (I'm finishing up edits to book #4 and hope to be one with edits on Book #5 by May.

* I "think" there will be a fourth Riyria Chronicle book - that is based on the feedback I've received so far, but I'll wait until I'm done with the First Empire books to make that final determination.

* I definitely want to write a "Fall of Percepliquis book" - Basically Esrahaddon's story with the origins of Nevrik and Jerish thrown into the mix. I could actually see a whole series of stories with Jerish and Nevrik who are on the run trying to avoid the Seret Knights.

* I outlined a book about 4 years ago - that I haven't had a chance to write yet. This one is untitled, but it has a nice allegory to events going on in our world today.

* I really want to get a sequel to Hollow World out. People have been asking and waiting for it, and again, there is a lot about that world and those characters that have been building inside me and want to get out.

* I have an idea for a sequel story to Revelations - that occurs pretty far in the future.

And that is the list related to "current worlds" - I have a whole additional list for books that are completely outside those.

So, as you can see...I have a lot on my plate. The "Big C" runs in my family - especially on my father's side (whom I take after more than mom). I've already outlived both my father and sister (one died at 50, the other in her 20's) so at this point I feel like I'm on "borrowed time."

Bottom line. Yes, those ideas are possibilities...but there are also a ton of books ahead of them that I've already thought about in much more detail. Who knows what the queue will look like as I get the first set of books completed. Watch my blog as it's pretty good for announcing what I'm working on.

You're not the only one asking for this, and the more people request something, the higher up on the list it becomes (to some degree). For the most part I pick my projects by the book I really feel compelled to write or one that I really want to read. We'll see if I can get to the ones you requested.
Michael J. Sullivan I don't know anything about script writing. So I don't know if I would do a good job. But since we are playing with dreams, I do believe I would like to have a great script writer produce the screenplay while I had final say on every word.

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