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Michael J. Sullivan
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Author Q&As! > Michael J. Sullivan - Q&A [Aug 2016]

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message 1: by Jenna, I'd be free if not for Temper & Edgewalker (last edited Aug 02, 2016 12:09PM) (new)

Jenna Kathleen (jennakathleen) | 4603 comments Mod
Exciting news, everyone! Michael J. Sullivan, the author of the Riyria Revelations, Riyria Chronicles and Legends of the First Empire, has offered to answer questions for us! He will not be reading the other discussions about his books to allow people to share their opinion freely while reading. If you have any questions for Michael or just want to let him know how awesome his books are, let him know here.


Jarek "the Mistborn" Dąbrowski (jarekthemistborn) | 408 comments Hey Michael, just finished the riyria revelations. 6 books in just over a month which is light speed for me. Its the Best Series i Read so far. So refreshing so gripping with awesome characters with royce and hadrian up front:) The last book was a masterpiece and the last page in the book....omfg! Made me feel so...well i smiled and shed a tear in public:D Thank you so much for this story:)


message 3: by Jenna, I'd be free if not for Temper & Edgewalker (new)

Jenna Kathleen (jennakathleen) | 4603 comments Mod
First of all, thank you for joining us, Michael. Those of us reading Riyria right now are all really enjoying the series and I know others in the group love your books as well.

I know you write because you love to (I've read through some of your other Q&As). My question is: how much research do you put into your books and is this also a part of the writing process you enjoy?


message 4: by Seán (new)

Seán | 602 comments Hi Michael, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. I'm currently on the final book of the Ryria Revelations, and have thoroughly enjoyed the series - I'm looking forward to an epic finale!

My question is: were there any sections of the series that were particularly difficult to write, due to the words not quite being 'there' for you? The series as a whole flows really well, and it reads as if everything went according to plan. But I'm always interested in getting some insight into the writing process, so just wondered if at any point you reached a slump in the writing, and if so, where exactly you did?

Thanks again - I'm looking forward to diving into the Ryria Chronicles pretty soon after finishing up the first series :)


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Hey all - thanks for the group invitation and for reading my books. As Jenna said, I'm purposefully staying away from the other discussion threads (so you don't have to feel self-conscious about what you post there). So if you have (or see) a question there please repost it here. Also I'm happy to answer any other questions you may have. It could be about my published books, what I'm working on now, or even publishing in general (for any aspiring authors out there). So ask away!


message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Jarek wrote: "Hey Michael, just finished the riyria revelations. 6 books in just over a month which is light speed for me. Its the Best Series i Read so far. So refreshing so gripping with awesome characters with royce and hadrian up front:) The last book was a masterpiece and the last page in the book....omfg! Made me feel so...well i smiled and shed a tear in public:D Thank you so much for this story:) ."

Hey Jarek, thanks for reading. So glad you enjoyed the series. I must say I was pretty proud about that ending. It had been something I was hanging onto for a LONG time. And when I finally typed that last page, I sat back from my desk, smiled, and said..."Now that's good!" It wasn't in a egotistical way (although it sounds like it). I was just so happy to meet my primary goal which was to end the book in a very satisfying way.

I think writing all the books before publishing them (as I did with Revelations and Legends) allows me to weave threads and make sure I'm working toward an ultimate conclusion that I'm happy with. I'm deathly afraid of starting a series, spinning out of control and having no way to reign everything in and finish up - so finishing them first is my way of avoiding that.

Interesting side note, for most of the series (view spoiler)


Jarek "the Mistborn" Dąbrowski (jarekthemistborn) | 408 comments Thanks for replying Micheal.(view spoiler)


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Jenna wrote: "First of all, thank you for joining us, Michael. Those of us reading Riyria right now are all really enjoying the series and I know others in the group love your books as well.

Glad to hear it. I really enjoy doing these Q&A's so thanks for having me.

First of all, thank you for joining us, Michael. Those of us reading Riyria right now are all really enjoying the series and I know others in the group love your books as well.

Jenna wrote: I know you write because you love to (I've read through some of your other Q&As). My question is: how much research do you put into your books and is this also a part of the writing process you enjoy? "

I do enjoy research. I think I have a curious mind and so doing research helps to scratch my curiosity itch. Research, for me, comes in two different ways. One is I'm a lifelong collector of somewhat odd facts. When I come across something interesting I file it away for future use. A few examples...Newton stuck a needle in his own eye and poked around his optic nerve. He did this to experiment with what color would be produced. I thought this showed amazing insight into the "creative mind" and one of my characters (who is a bit "off" but very inventive), also did this. I thought it was a way to say a lot about of character with very few words. I came across the origin of the word "constable" and again found it interesting, so when doing a scene in a stable, I was able to work that little fact in. I'm kinda an old guy (mid 50's) and have been reading and learning for many many years so I have a bunch of this stuff stored up.

Then there is research for a specific book. For instance, much of Emerald Storm takes place on a ship so I had to do a lot of research on sailing. I read many books on the subject before starting that book so I had my facts straight. The tricky part with something like that is deciding how much to expose and how much to hold back. You want to come off as authentic, but you also don't want to let your "research" show though. It has to be written in a seamless way with the plot. It's a tightrope and I'm sure it's a bit of Goldilock's porridge. For some there is too much detail, others too little, and for some...well you get the idea. Thanks for asking.


message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Sean wrote: "Hi Michael, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. I'm currently on the final book of the Ryria Revelations, and have thoroughly enjoyed the series - I'm looking forward to an epic finale!

Thanks Sean. I do think the ending is pretty epic. I do hope you find it satisfying when all is said and done.

Sean wrote: "My question is: were there any sections of the series that were particularly difficult to write, due to the words not quite being 'there' for you? The series as a whole flows really well, and it reads as if everything went according to plan. But I'm always interested in getting some insight into the writing process, so just wondered if at any point you reached a slump in the writing, and if so, where exactly you did?

I've never really suffered from "writer's block" or anything close to it. My problems tend to be solved in pretty short order (usually solved by taking a walk and talking the problem out loud. There is something about engaging the verbal center of my brain that helps to get me "unstuck." All that is from a plot perspective. As for "problems with words" I do find writing fight scenes to be a challenge. I find it difficult to make them interesting and so I have to work a bit harder when I have one of those. I try to not focus on a blow-by-blow account of each stroke and instead try to make a story within a story so the scene has a beginning middle and end.

Sean wrote: "Thanks again - I'm looking forward to diving into the Ryria Chronicles pretty soon after finishing up the first series :) "

Nice! I'm really happy with the way Chronicles have been received. I know many people shy away from prequels (there have been some bad ones in the past), but I have heard from many readers that they are "prequels done right." And that is something I'm really pleased about. Hope you enjoy the reads!


message 10: by Jenna, I'd be free if not for Temper & Edgewalker (new)

Jenna Kathleen (jennakathleen) | 4603 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Interesting side note, for most of the series [spoilers removed]"
(view spoiler).

Michael wrote: "Then there is research for a specific book. For instance, much of Emerald Storm takes place on a ship so I had to do a lot of research on sailing."

I think the amount your exposure of the research you did for the Emerald Storm was fantastic (not that I know that much about sailing). I think it helped a lot that Hadrian and Royce had no idea what they were doing so they were only given exactly what they needed rather than a boatload (haha) of extra information.

Michael wrote: "You want to come off as authentic, but you also don't want to let your "research" show though.."
An example that immediately came to my mind when you said this was The Thousand Names. There was obviously a lot of research on military tactics that went into this book and I found myself so interested in the formation drills. I don't know how he did it, but having that much background information can backfire so easily and just become boring, and this book wasn't - it was great. On a less intense scale (which is not a bad thing, just different), the Emerald Storm was a bit similar. I don't think many other books would have me intrigued by what a ship's cook should and should not do.


message 11: by Seán (new)

Seán | 602 comments Michael wrote: "As for "problems with words" I do find writing fight scenes to be a challenge. I find it difficult to make them interesting and so I have to work a bit harder when I have one of those. I try to not focus on a blow-by-blow account of each stroke and instead try to make a story within a story so the scene has a beginning middle and end. "

This is really interesting to hear! As a reader, I find the blow-to-blow type action scenes (looking at you Sanderson!) quite difficult to follow. I would rather just have something short and sweet that lets my mind fill in all the individual slashes and dashes. The action in Riyria has been spot on in that regard - what I think you do really well is capture how sudden a death can be. Within one sentence a character suddenly has a sword thrust through them - spoiler for Book 6: (view spoiler)

Not every fight is drawn out and the suddenness with which a lot of them happen adds a lot of realism with the idea that everyone is mortal, and one sword-thrust is enough to stop anyone, no matter their status. I must prefer this to a single fight spanning ten plus pages.


message 12: by Tammie (new)

Tammie | 4280 comments Hi Michael, I've read most of your books and love them. Such great characters! I don't know if I'm too late for this since it seemed to have happened yesterday, but I'll throw my question in anyway. I was wondering if you still plan to publish the urban fantasy you were working on?


message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments @Jenna - yeah, I didn't want to do it either (view spoiler) but until I came up with Mercy I couldn't find any reason form to live. So the obvious solution was to give him one ;-). And yeah Mercy was a great red herring, because she wasn't - they BOTH are heirs ;-)

Glad the level of detail of Emerald Storm worked well for you - I guess the porridge was "just right." I've not read Django Wexler yet (need to, he's a great guy that I have a bite and a pint with often when we are at the same conventions). Glad you liked his books.


message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments @Sean - glad you liked the fighting aspect of the books. Here's a behind the scenes piece of info from the spoiler you mentioned...(view spoiler)


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Tammie wrote: "Hi Michael, I've read most of your books and love them. Such great characters! I don't know if I'm too late for this since it seemed to have happened yesterday, but I'll throw my question in anyway. I was wondering if you still plan to publish the urban fantasy you were working on? "

Hey Tammie, thanks for being such an amazing supporter. Definitely not too late, I'll keep checking in on the post until the questions stop coming. As to your question. Wow, that's a blast from the past. I haven't thought about Antithesis in years. Okay, so here's the skinny on that.

Long, long ago (15 - 17 years maybe) I wrote the book you are referring to. Like the other 13 books that I wrote during my 20's and 30's it didn't get picked up. So I quit writing altogether and very dramatically vowed to, "Never write creatively again." Well ten yeas was about as long as my "never" lasted. I started writing the Riyria books in 2002, but only on the condition that I wouldn't publish. -- How they turned out to be published is a whole different story, that I'll be glad to share if anyone is interested.

Anyway...fast forward to 2012 (or there about). I had finished Riyria Revelations and wanted to resurrect that fantasy set in modern times. I tore it down to the studs and rebuilt it from the ground up. Robin and I even took some trips to New York and Death Valley (two of the major settings) so I could accurate portray them. I wrote the book, gave it to Robin and her reaction was, "It's okay, but not great." We hashed around ways to fix it and I did come up with what I think could work, but by that time the will was gone. For me two strikes and you're out (I guess). With so many other stories vying for my attention I just couldn't see writing that book AGAIN. And the changes weren't minor. So, it's now deep in a drawer. I sometimes toy with handing it out to people for free, but then I don't want them to see how bad it is. And it really isn't THAT bad, but if Robin doesn't think it's up to the standards I've set through my other books - well, it doesn't get out.

So, no, I don't plan on publishing that urban fantasy (Antithesis). I may do a different urban fantasy - I still would like to try my hand at the genre, but it won't be that one. Thanks for asking!


message 16: by Scott , Karsa Orlong (new)

Scott  Hitchcock (lostinthewarrenofchaos) | 8082 comments Mod
Michael as always thanks for taking the time.

If Riyeria or AOM were ever made into movies or TV series do you have certain favorite actors who see fitting the roles perfectly?

Sean Bean as Hadrian as one example.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000293/


message 17: by Solseit (new)

Solseit | 1460 comments Dear Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! This is really amazing!
I have to confess I did not start the Riyria books yet (shame on me, I know, but I already bought #1 including the audiobook, so I will start soon, it is a promise!) but I am intrigued to know more about the publishing history of the series! It sounds like an interesting story and I am really curious at this point!


message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Scott wrote: "If Riyeria or AOM were ever made into movies or TV series do you have certain favorite actors who see fitting the roles perfectly? "

The Riyria characters change all the time (mainly because the people who I had originally envisioned when writing them - are now all much to old to play the parts - yes, it's been that long 14 years in fact. Sean bean would make a great Hadrian! My two current favorites for the pair are Chris Hemsworth (Hadrian) and Tom Hiddleston (Royce).

As for Age of Myth. One of the things I do when I start to write a book is make up character profiles for each person. I then spend a few days searching around the Internet for pictures that I can use to help depict them. While not perfect matches (how could they be) they do give me something to help envision the characters. As part of the pre-order promotion, we gave away a document with some of these character profiles. If you would like to see it, you can by going here.


message 19: by Michael (last edited Aug 04, 2016 03:57AM) (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Aristea wrote: "Dear Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! This is really amazing!
I have to confess I did not start the Riyria books yet (shame on me, I know, but I already bought #1 including the audiobook, so I will start soon, it is a promise!) but I am intrigued to know more about the publishing history of the series! It sounds like an interesting story and I am really curious at this point!"


Hey Aristea, thanks for picking up some Riyria. I do hope you enjoy your time with Royce, Hadrian, Arista (close spelling!), and Thrace/Modina.

My publishing history is a LONG story. I'll try to keep to the shortened version. But even that is long. ;-)

Okay, so when I was very young, I liked to tell stories. I was playing hide-and-seek at a friends house and found a typewriter in the basement. I was fascinated. I actually put paper in and typed "It was a dark and stormy night." (It was what Snoopy was always typing and I wanted to complete that line.

Anyway, I went back to the game and forgot about the typewriter until one day I made the mistake of telling my mom I was bored. Her answer, well then clean out the front closet - Doh! While doing it I found a portable typewriter (my sisters that I didn't know exist). Needless to say the closet never got cleaned. I whisked it away and started writing my first book - a knock off of Lord of the Rings - hey I was only 10 or so! I would type them out, bind them with a construction paper cover held together with yarn through holes made by a three-whole puncher. They were works of art I tell you!

Anyway, throughout high school I wrote more stories, but my grammar and spelling were so horrific that my friends (the only ones to read them) termed them "Sullispeak" and prided each other at their ability to decipher what I wrote.

Move ahead to my twenties...I didn't really think I could make a "career" of writing, so I turned to art. In the mid 80's when Robin and I started our family we wanted one of us to stay home and since she made three times my salary the obvious choice was for her to bring home the bacon and for me to raise the kids.

I didn't have much to do while they napped (early on) or when they went to school (later) so I wrote books. Thirteen to be exact. The first 8 or 9 weren't meant for publication, they were just me trying to teach myself to write. The last few I thought were good enough to publish and I started submitting them to agents. After about 100 rejections, and about a decade writing, I figured this was pure folly so I quit writing (and vowed never to do so again).

Fast forward to when my middle daughter was thirteen. She was really struggling with reading (she's dyslexic). Fantasy had started me on the road to being a reader and since the Harry Potter books were being so well accepted, I bought her a copy of the first one. She didn't read it, but I picked it up. I LOVED it. It reminded me of the joy of a good, well-written, adventurous fantasy. This ignited my desire to write again...but I had no intention on submitting for publication, I just wanted to write something for myself and Sarah, and maybe I'd share it with a few friends.

Well one book became 5 and then 6. By the third I thought I just may have something worth publishing, but couldn't bring myself to doing anything about it. When Robin read book #3, she concluded that she would will them into existence. So she started query agents. After about another 100 rejects we landed an agent! Woohoo!! The finished lined reached. Errr...not even close.

My agent spent about a year shopping the series (by this time I think I was up to book #5), and got no where. Robin decided that she would self-publish them and started learning what that was all about (this was long before Kindle by the way). We actually printed 200 (or was it 300 I can't recall) copies of The Crown Conspiracy that we were planning on using for reviewers. But she had also sent the manuscript to a few small press publishers. To our surprise, one wanted to publish it.

Okay now at the finish line -- but not yet. The small publisher offered no advance and was only doing 2,200 copies so the most we would make from it (if it sold out) was something like $3,000. As it turned out we never got a cent, but that's another story.

Anyway, sales of the first book were good and they were going to publish the second, but they didn't have money for the print run. Robin was smart enough to have the contract written in such a way that the rights reverted under such a situation so we got the rights to book #2 and self-published it. We wanted to maintain a "one book every six months" schedule so we self-published book #2 - #5 (and eventually book #1 when it sold out its print run).

With the series nearing it's end .... and sales doing moderately well, Robin thought it might be worth trying New York again. By this time we had a new agent who had we got for foreign rights. She had worked in NY before so she said she would shop it.

Well, we expected a year or two to go by but within a few days of sending out the manuscript the agent got 5 or 6 editors interested. Orbit made a really good "pre-emptive bid" (an offer that's designed to make you sign right away before a book goes to auction, and since they were our first choice, and they had a great plan for how to roll out he series, and because the offer was really good (most debut authors don't get six-figure contracts but we did). We signed a three book deal with them for The Riyria Revelations.

After saying goodbye to Royce and Hadrian, I started writing Hollow World - a science fiction novel that had really intrigued me. Meanwhile, Robin was depressed because Royce and Hadrian were gone. So were the readers. I didn't want to "tack on" to an ending that I had so carefully constructed so I decided to go to the other side of the timeline and show how the pair met. I started out writing a book which was born from a short story (The Viscount and the Witch) and when I got 1/2 way through I realized I didn't go back far enough. So The Crown Tower was written and the two books were submitted to Orbit or publication.

Now, based on really good sales for Revelations, I expected another nice offer...but was really pretty insulted by what they put on the table. Their theory was prequels don't sell well (which is true) but still. Revelations had made them a ton of money and even if Chronicles flopped they'd be doing well. So, I decided to self-publish them but my agent went back and got them to double the offer so I did end up signing.

While those books were coming out I finished up Hollow World. Orbit's scoff books are focused on Space Opera so they weren't interested. Another publisher was, and they made a good offer, but I was itching to do some self-publishing again. I also wanted to try out Kickstarter. So we did something really odd with it. (1) held a Kickstarter (2) kept the ebook and audio rights (later sold audio rights) and (3) found a small press who would do "print only" Hollow World isn't nearly as popular as Riyria but because it is self-published we make MUCH more per book and it turned out to be much more profitable than the good offer we got.

Next I started wiring the First Empire. Which I thought would be three books but expanded to 5 by the time I was ready to submit it. We told Orbit we had one requirement - the books had to be released in hardcover (hardcovers are the A-list of publishing). They didn't think Michael was at a point to move to hardcovers and would only publish them in trade paperback. So we went looking for a new publisher (and by this time we had yet another agent). Again multiple publishers were interested, two offers came in and a few more were being written. But just like Orbit, Del Rey made a pre-emptive offer that was (a) really good and (b) they were once again our top choice so we took it.

There was a mix up between my agent and my publisher with regards to "competing works" and the deal almost fell apart. My editor, agent and Robin worked hard to get a compromise and part of that meant that if I wanted another Riyria story coming out anytime soon I would have to release before December 2015 (so it wouldn't be too close tot he AoM release. Robin held another Kickstarter (so we could print hardcovers) and found a distributor and I wrote The Death of Dulgath in 63 days. Robin and my editors worked around the clock getting it into shape and the hardcover hit the street December 15th (ebook in mid-October).

Since then I've been doing edits to Legends, mainly based on Robin's alpha read. Books 2 - 3 were in real good shape but 4 & 5 needed major work...and in fact with he rewriting it has expanded to 6 books. I should be done with those changes in a month or so.

What will I write next? I have no idea. There are about 12 - 15 stories vying for my attention: Riyria Chronicles #4, Hollow World #2, a new sci-fi series, a new fantasy series, The Fall of Percepliquis (Elan book set between Legends and Riyria), a horror story, and a few others. I'm going to take the rest of the summer (once I finish edits) to sort through them and figure out what is next.

Will it be self or traditionally published? I don't know it depends on what the publishers offer and what I think I could do if self-publishing. Both have pros and cons. The biggest pro of self-pubsihing is having us in complete control. But that said, Del Rey has treated us amazingly well, so there is a good chance I'll do more business with them.

Told you it was a long story, and much of it was left out ;-)


message 20: by Scott , Karsa Orlong (new)

Scott  Hitchcock (lostinthewarrenofchaos) | 8082 comments Mod
Great point I hadn't considered about the actors changing with age. Love the ones you have picked out to fill the roles.


message 21: by Solseit (new)

Solseit | 1460 comments Thanks Michael! It is such an interesting story, I always love to know more about the "behind the scenes" deals regarding everything really! It makes me love books a lot more - and to provide evidence of this, I started reading Harry Potter only after know J.K. Rowling's story before publishing!
I really appreciate you taking the time to walk me (well us!) through it!


message 22: by Jenna, I'd be free if not for Temper & Edgewalker (new)

Jenna Kathleen (jennakathleen) | 4603 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Scott wrote: "If Riyeria or AOM were ever made into movies or TV series do you have certain favorite actors who see fitting the roles perfectly? "

The Riyria characters change all the time (mainly..."


Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston would be awesome as Hadrian and Royce. If you put Sean Bean in there, people would just be expecting Hadrian to die at any given moment. ;)


message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Scott wrote: "Great point I hadn't considered about the actors changing with age. Love the ones you have picked out to fill the roles."

It's a byproduct of the books taking so long to "get out there." I wrote Riyria in 2002, the small-press release of the first one was in 2008, and the "big-five" version 2011. Now we are almost 5 years since the release of it!


message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Aristea wrote: "Thanks Michael! It is such an interesting story, I always love to know more about the "behind the scenes" deals regarding everything really! It makes me love books a lot more - and to provide evidence of this, I started reading Harry Potter only after know J.K. Rowling's story before publishing! I really appreciate you taking the time to walk me (well us!) through it!."

You are very welcome. It's probably TMI but, I want to be as complete as possible. The sad truth is few authors have "easy births" into publishing. It's a difficult profession littered with many rejections, years toiling with no positive feedback, and abject depression. Persistence is definitely the key. And once you "make it" you constantly wait for the knock at the door saying you have to go back to your "old life." ;-)


message 25: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Jenna wrote: "Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston would be awesome as Hadrian and Royce. If you put Sean Bean in there, people would just be expecting Hadrian to die at any given moment. ;)"

Haha, excellent point! Poor Sean...I think he wears a red undershirt - that he might want to think about changing.


message 26: by Jenna, I'd be free if not for Temper & Edgewalker (last edited Aug 05, 2016 04:03PM) (new)

Jenna Kathleen (jennakathleen) | 4603 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Aristea wrote: "Thanks Michael! It is such an interesting story, I always love to know more about the "behind the scenes" deals regarding everything really! It makes me love books a lot more - and ..."

I think people have a general understanding that getting published is hard, but when they read the full account of the struggles of an author trying to get published, they actually understand. It's not like a tough exam or presentation at work that you work for a week or a month and then you're done. It's years and years of rejection.


message 27: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments @Jenna - very true. Becoming a novelist is not an easy thing to do, and many authors have stories much worse than mine. I watched Stephen King's Biography (from the show Biography) and man did HE have it tough!! Makes my journey look like a cake walk.


message 28: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) | 1767 comments I love the castings too, Michael. They're pretty close to what I've had in my head.


message 29: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments That's because great minds think alike Chris ;-)


message 30: by Solseit (new)

Solseit | 1460 comments Okay, I almost finished Theft of Swords - and I loved it! For a second or two I thought my name would be (too) close to a villain - I was really going in panic mode for a number of pages there. Thankfully, crisis averted!

I really enjoyed the story - it is a true fantasy with a hint of, what I like to call, Arthurian touch (yes, Hadrian). One of my favorite lines is this one: "Another last minute, good-deed job".
I am really glad I got an opportunity to interact with you Michael, which lead me to read the Riyria Revelations sooner than I planned for and I really had a blast!


message 31: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Great Aristea - Yeah, Arista is a great character (based off my wife). Her part gets larger and more interesting as the series progresses. I hope you'll continue with the series, but even if you don't thanks for spending some time in Elan in Theft of Swords.


message 32: by Dani (new)

Dani | 577 comments Hi Michael,
I haven't read any of your books yet but hope to read them soon - they have been on my tbr list for a long time now (and yes, I feel the shame).
I just want to say that I think it's awesome that you take the time to answer all these questions. It's all really interesting to read. And I'll be sure to save your answers regarding Riyria for when I can finally read the spoilers!

Can I still ask you a question please?
I was wondering about your remark about having 12 to 15 stories vying for your attention to be written next. Do you normally have a particular process for choosing your next writing project, or is it chosen mostly/solely by instinct?
How do you 'know' you're on to something great?


message 33: by Michael (last edited Aug 10, 2016 02:50AM) (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Hey Dani, No need to feel shame. There are a ton of great books out there and I know all to well the crush of a towering TBR pile. If you get around to reading my books, great. If not, well then I just hope you are enjoying whichever ones you have gotten to.

It's my pleasure being here - so of course you can ask me something. That's the whole point!

Dani said, "I was wondering about your remark about having 12 to 15 stories vying for your attention to be written next. Do you normally have a particular process for choosing your next writing project, or is it chosen mostly/solely by instinct?

For the most part I've not been in a position to HAVE to choose. My publication history went pretty much as follows:

* I wrote a series (The Riyria Revelations) and while I thought it would be 5 books it grew into six. While writing those, they were the only thing I concentrated on and as I was convinced they wouldn't be published, I never really looked past them.

* When that series did eventually get published (first through a small press and then through self) I was so busy editing books to meet a self-imposed book every six-months publishing schedule. Really all I could do was work on editing. You see there is a big difference between written and done. And so I pretty much worked on Riyria Revelations from 2002 - 2011 either by writing or editing those six books.

* Then the books got picked up by a big-five publisher, and they put it on a really tight release schedule, and again I couldn't even think about writing anything else until the editing for that re-release was done.

* So, once Revelations was finished, I decided to resurrect one of my "trunk novels." The story is called Antithesis and it's about two opposing forces that inhabit two people until they die, and then it moves on to someone else. Throughout the ages this power has manifested in people like Ghandi and Hitler, and the two forces are usually battling one another. The person with the power is limited only by their imagination. And my story opens with it transferring to a clueless actuary who doesn't know how to control the power or what to do with it. Anyway...I took that story down to its studs and built it from the ground up. I even took a few trips for research (one to New York the other to Death Valley) and when all was said and done, my wife, and alpha reader, took a look. She deemed it "not good enough for release." So back into the trunk it went.

* By that time, Riyria Revelations was doing really well, and my wife had been pestering me because I could still visit with Royce and Hadrian (my two main characters from Riyria) because they were still in my head, but she couldn't. Truth be told, she has quite the crush on Hadrian, and she actually became depressed for about six weeks after reading Percepliquis because there were no more stories with the pair. Anyway, I had no intention of writing more, but between her an the fans...and considering I had just spent a year writing a complete failure. I decided to return to familiar territory and write the "origin" story of the pair. Hence Riyria Chronicles was born.

* Back in 2011, when my self-published books were removed from the shelves to make way for Orbit's version, I found myself in a unique position where I had no works "on the market." Robin asked me to write a little short story as a gift to my fans and to hold them over for the few months when Riyria Revelations was in pre-order but not shipping yet. So I wrote The Viscount and the Witch. This story showed how Royce and Hadrian met Viscount Albert Winslow, who became their "liaison with nobles" and found jobs for them to perform. It seemed to make sense to use the short as a place to start. It wasn't until I was about 3/4's through that book when I realized i hadn't gone back far enough so I ended up writing two Riyria Chronicles --- The Rose and the Thorn (book #2) and then the Crown Tower (book #1).

* While writing those books a story came into my head and kept building with extreme pressure. I didn't think it would sell, I didn't care if it did. But I just HAD to write it. I simply wouldn't be able to write any other book until I got that purged and on paper so Hollow World came into being, a standalone science fiction novel. Again, there wasn't really a "decision" to write it - The story was so forceful that I could barely hold it off while writing the Chronicle stories.

* With that done I wanted to do another series (since I had just finished a one-off book. When creating Riyria I had about 8,000 years of history and only an EXTREMELY small portion of it got on the page...and some of what's there is basically a lie, the result of powerful people shaping history the way that suits their needs. So I knew I wanted to go back in time and there were two obvious choices. (1) Show the formation of the First Empire (which is talked about in Revelations but what everyone believes is far from the truth or (2) Show the fall of that First Empire (which is also discussed in Riyria). It seemed to make the most sense to show the rise before the fall, so I stared writing The Legends of the First Empire with the intention of a trilogy. Well three books became four, then five, and now six.

* After finishing the series (but before editing it) I had a very small window to release another Riyria book. It's complicated but it has to do with my Legends contract and "non compete clauses" - Anyway we worked it out that if I could get a book out by the end of 2015 then it wouldn't conflict with the new series. Seeing as how the last Riyria book came out in 2013, I wanted to get another Riyria out before the new series started. Hence, The Death of Dulgath was written in 63 days in April and May and edited from then until October.

* Since then, I've gone back to work on the edits for Legends, and as I mentioned five books (which it was when I started writing The Death of Dulgath) is now six. I had originally expected to spend two years on that project and I'm now at more than three and a half years....with much more editing still to come.

* So, as you can see for the past 14 years there wasn't a lot of question of what to write next (except for Antithesis which I trunked). I was writing the "next logical book" (with the exception of Hollow World - which wouldn't let me rest until I got done with it). Now, I have many opportunities before me. You see while I've been writing all those books, other story ideas have come to me - and they are all waiting their time in the queue. I could (a) Write the Fall of Percepliquis (that middle history story set 1,000 years before Riyria and 2,000 years after Legends...but I just finished a large series, and I'm thinking I might need a "single book" to clear my head. (b) I could write a 4th Riyria Chronicle next...but I just wrote one of those last year so I kinda want to do something different. (c) I could write a sequel to Hollow World - I left some threads in it that could be pulled into a sequel even though the book was a written as a stand alone. (d) I have a new science fiction trilogy that is outlined and just waiting. (e) I have another book based in Elan (also fully outlined) that happens after the events of Revelations, but takes place in a different part of the world and with different characters than the RR books. (f) I also have the beginning of a horror story, and trying a different genre has some appeal. Then there are a whole bunch of other stories that are less fleshed out but still interesting to me. Really the slate is pretty open....and that's the first time that has happened in just about as long as I can remember. Legends took me much longer than I expected, and I feel like I need to do some decompressing before I figure out where to go next.

So, the TL:DR version is. To date I've written what was the "logical" next book - but now that I have those cleared out I really could write just about anything I want. I just have to figure out what that is.

Dani said, "How do you 'know' you're on to something great?"
I don't. I'm writing books I want to read, so it's pretty easy to make my audience of one happy. Well maybe I should say an audience of four because I also write for my wife, son and daughter all of whom wait impatiently for my next book. When I'm done writing, and if I (and Robin) deem it worthy of other people's time and money - then it'll "get out there." So what I'm doing is writing a book for me and hoping others will like it as well.

It's easy for me to think my books are "great" from MY perspective. After all, they are hand-tailored to my particular reading preferences. So of course I love them. But whether other people will find them to be a good use of their time isn't something I know until after the books are released and I get feedback through people talking about them, reviews, and of course sales.

I think reading books is a pretty subjective thing, so the exact same book is going to be seen by some as great, by others as "all right," and by (hopefully just a few) as utter trash. So far I've been fortunate in that all my books have been well received. I'm still waiting for the shoe to drop on what would be a true clunker. All I can do is keep creating the best book I know how to write and then let others decide how it ranks on a scale from "great" to "trash."


message 34: by Dani (new)

Dani | 577 comments Thank you for your answer/background story, Michael. I love that you really dived in and answered so elaborately.

Of course I will get round to reading your books. For your time alone they have moved up the pile considerably :-) and the more you talk about the Riyria world and its rich history (8.000 friggin' years?!) the more curious I get.

You've had a rocky road to publishing, that's for sure. But perserverence and great writing always pays off in the end ..or so I'd like to think :-).

Reading your last three paragraphs (in answer to my second question), you've made me see that it's best to write the book you yourself would like to read or in other words, to write for yourself first and foremost. I have always felt this to be a logical place to start writing from when I read or heard these words, but because they sounded so logical to me, I never really took time to consider the concept more carefully. After reading what you wrote about it, I now actually get their importance. It's writing with a different perspective and drive altogether (i.e. going inward vs outward) and I am tempted to believe that this must result in writing from a deeper place within yourself. At any rate, you've given me some interesting food for thought.

Btw, I do not know if you had any say in choosing the cover for The Death of Dulgath but I absolutely love it.

I'll be curious to know what you're going to write next (after some much-deserved leisure time?). I can perfectly imagine you'd like to take on something different now. Whatever it will be though, I wish you much fun writing it.


message 35: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments Well for the record, I'm not sure if writing for yourself or writing for "the market" is the right way to go. I'm just talking about me and my approach to such things. It could be the exactly wrong thing for all I know. After all I did that for years and didn't get anywhere.

As to the cover of The Death of Dulgath. This was a book I self-published, so yeah I had a lot to do with its cover. It's the fabulous work of Marc Simonetti - who has created covers for my French edition versions of Riyria, and also covers for George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Terry Pratchett and many more. I gave him direction on the scene I wanted and pulled out some of his other works that inspired my concept.

When the Legends of the First Empire was sold to Del Rey, they asked me for input on the covers, and once again Marc was selected. I had a lot of input to Age of Myth -- and now Age of Sword (which Marc is creating right now. Much more input than I had with the Riyria covers which was basically none.

I'm curious as well ;-). As much as I've enjoyed The Legends series, I'm looking forward to something new. I don't think there is any doubt I'll have fun no matter what I choose - otherwise why do so ;-). Sometimes people ask me how I can "put my butt in the seat each day." (Apparently that's a thing with some authors). But for me it's like asking a child, "How do you motivate yourself to play your favorite game." I wake each day excited to get to the keyboard and its when I'm not writing that I feel frustrated.


message 36: by Jenna, I'd be free if not for Temper & Edgewalker (new)

Jenna Kathleen (jennakathleen) | 4603 comments Mod
There hasn't been any activity here for quite a few days, so I'd like to start the wrap up by thanking Michael again for joining us to answer our questions. We're not a very large group, but you still took the time to answer our questions in great detail so thanks for spending so much time with us!


message 37: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) | 1767 comments Yes, thanks Michael! It's always great when you can share your insight and experiences with us.


message 38: by Dani (new)

Dani | 577 comments Thanks again Michael. It was wonderful having you answer all of our questions. It was really enjoyable and insightful.
Now I look forward to reading your work even more :-).

Ps. It must be nice to have much more input on your cover art now and you've got a good eye for it too. Mr Marc Simonetti's work is more than beautiful. The cover for Age of Myth is gorgeous as are the French covers of Riyria. Truly breathtaking illustrations!


message 39: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeljsullivan) | 39 comments @Jenna - it's been my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

@Chris - always great to talk to you...and all the people of the group.

@Dani - thanks! I'm very fortunate to have Marc creating such incredible covers for the books. He's a true talent.


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