Today’s Author Interview is with Author Dylan Altoft. Dylan is the author of the Werewolf Saga, with book 1 – Beast Born – being up in Amazon right now.
Dylan writes YA with both the supernatural and action-adventure. He’s currently working on the second book in the Werewolf Saga series – Blood Brothers.
Follow him on twitter for updates about his books – @authoraltoft
Barely escaping the clutches of the legendary Vampire assassin known as Hunter, Arthur Thorn is finally brought to the home of the Werewolves to begin his training, if he even survives it.Blurb for Blood Brothers – The Werewolf Saga Book 2
Questions about the writing process:
Do you prefer stand-alone novels or series as an author?
Weirdly, having just completed my second book, I think it is easier to write a series. As an author, when writing a stand-alone or the first book of a series, you have to create everything from scratch, keep each character as original and fresh as you can, and especially in fantasy, you have to create the world-building elements constantly without taking away from the plot, or you’ll kill the pacing. With a series, I don’t have to worry about what certain characters are going to say, in dialog with new situations, I find the characters are nearly writing themselves through me, it can be more thoroughly focused on developing a character as opposed to introducing and revealing a character as you would in a solo or first book. So I definitely prefer to write as a series because, after the first book, so much of the groundwork had been laid that I can focus on the characters and their journeys more going forward in the series.
How much do you write each day?
When writing my book, I have a rule with myself which is to write at least 1 page a day. I can go beyond that as much as I want if I have the time (I work full time outside of my writing), but no matter how tired I am, I write one page, even if it’s forced and terrible. A favorite phrase of mine is, ‘A bad page can be edited, a blank page cannot.
How do you select names for your characters?
Honestly, there is no system. I say a bunch of first names out loud in different ways until I settle on one I like, and then I do the same with surnames until I decide the two fit together. There isn’t a system of it reflecting their personality or a trait in any way. I tend to avoid more traditional so that the reader has a name that sticks in their mind more than something generic.
What’s the hardest scene to write?
My comfort zones as a writer are fight scenes and dialog between my characters. However, the hardest scenes for me to write would be new location introduction scenes. Mostly at the start of a new chapter, my biggest flaw is keeping the pacing going, so where I have a character enter a grand, spectacular room, I add as much detail and vivid imagery as I can, to the detriment of what I imagine is probably the readers’ interest. I struggle to write a scene if I think the character is standing in a blank room, but I also don’t want to waste five pages setting up every wall sconce surrounding them within five feet. That is the hardest for me to write, but I struggle to know the right balance of description and then starting the moment.
How long does it take you to write a book?
My recent book I have finished, as of writing this answer, took me over a year. It is around 400+ pages, and despite my best efforts, editing has not reduced that by much. My writing process longevity is entirely dependent on my work schedule, which is why on my days off, few of which I ever have, I try and cram in as many pages as I can, but I aim to try and get one book out a year given I am currently writing a series, and I don’t want my series to be like the dark tower where it takes me 20 years to finish, ha- ha.
What did it mean for your writing process when you published that first book?
I found my writing process to be much less chaotic. I can admit when I published my first book, I was almost insultingly naive, and it had not been properly edited to a reasonable standard at the time; corrected since then, to my best efforts, therefore my writing process has incorporated as many mini-edits as I can muster as I write, correcting punctuation and grammatical errors as I go so that less is missed when I get to the editing stage. It has lengthened the amount of time It takes me to finish a page, but it also then shortens my editing process, which I prefer immensely.
How many unpublished / unfinished books do you have lying around?
Honestly? 7. I started writing books when I was twelve, and they are as bad as you can imagine from seeing that age number. I wrote 3 fantasy books named the ‘Chronicles of Schempra’ which will never see the light of the world without having to basically completely re-write all of them. I wrote two superhero books about a crime fighter, a book that is two-thirds finished about a war between gods and mankind. Along with a few other short book ideas that I finished but will never release. I do sometimes re-read small passages from these books out of nostalgia, but they are honestly terribly written, so I do not want to publish them unless it is for free or to raise money for charity.
How long have you been writing?
As of writing, 12 years, on and off, given work and personal commitments. I am also a stand-up comedian, so I count writing my comedy material as writing as well.
What’s your goal with writing? Hobby/full-time?
I would honestly love for my writing to be able to pay my bills, but I wouldn’t say writing full-time is my ‘goal’ as much as it is a sincere wish. My overall goal as a writer is simply to write as many books that people enjoy as I can before I expire.
Plotter or pantser or somewhere in between?
Hard to answer. I don’t plan anything out when I am writing, so if you are ever surprised by an event or a twist in my books, know that I was just as surprised as you when I wrote it myself. I know certain events that I want to happen to characters of mine, as well as knowing how I want their journey to end, positively or negatively. I just don’t plan the where or when exactly. I guess I would describe myself closer to being a pantser, but I am definitely a chaotic writer overall.
How much has your book changed from the first draft to published/now?
My first book publication has changed from being a well-meaning garbled mess of a story to now being a reasonably formatted fun book that hopefully never needs to be changed again, but that’s for my reviewers to tell me.
Do you use a writing software?
Yes, Microsoft word, if that counts. I also use Grammarly as part of my editing process.
Thoughts about writerly things:
Pseudonym yes or no?
Not for me, but I completely understand if some writers wish to use them, especially with erotic writers given for unforgiving google searches can be.
What do you think about writing communities?
On Facebook? Barely existing and very toxic in some parts. Twitter? Extremely helpful and supportive. Honestly, given how my debut as an Author started, if it hadn’t been for the extremely understanding and kind nature of the Twitter writing community, my book would have nothing but 0* reviews on my amazon page. They have taught me SO MUCH as a writing professional, and what expectations and standards the reading communities out there expect. I would highly recommend the Twitter writing community to any and all new writers out there looking to put their work forward.
Book reviews, do you read them?
Yes, over and over again, obsessively, positive and negative.
And how do you handle the positive and the negative ones?
For the positive ones, I tend to nearly get myself teary-eyed. If I am able to, I thank the person who gave it and sometimes ask what particular parts of my work they enjoyed, if they are willing to speak to me, that is. The positive reviews honestly keep me going as a writer. If my book had 20 zero-star reviews, my second book would probably not have come out as quick as it did. As for the negative reviews, I study them profusely. I see what was disliked, and personally speaking, most of my detractors’ complaints were entirely valid. I haven’t experienced a single troll review in my career as a writer so far, and every problem I was told, I have given my absolute all to try and fix. Praise makes us happy but not stronger; we learn more from solving problems we can fix than anything else. But if I just received a mean-spirited hate review that had nothing constructive or critical to say, I would probably be irritated that it has permanently tainted my star rating on Amazon, but I would get over it after a few days and never visit it again.
What’s the most important thing in a hero?
Being relatable. A hero needs flaws. A hero can be inspiring and something for a reader to look up to and want to be like, but if a hero is perfect, there is no humanity in them, and a reader, in my opinion, will quickly disconnect themselves emotionally from a character that is seemingly perfect. A hero needs to struggle, internally and externally, and the internal struggle of questioning themselves morally or emotionally creates a narrative that a reader can connect to on a personal level. If a Hero cannot relate to anyone, then anything they do heroically is not appreciated, just expected.
What about the villain?
I would say a Villain has the same requirements as a hero, hence why heroes and villains that are often quite similar are the most compelling, narrative-wise. The smaller the disconnect between the personality of a hero and villain is, the more intrigue and interest a reader would have, as it allows them to put themselves in both sets of shoes and ask themselves which person they would be in the right circumstance. Villains can question themselves and their motives, similar to a hero, but I would say a larger drawing point for a villain would be their follow-through. A willingness to do ANYTHING to complete their goals, even if it means sacrificing a vital part of themselves to do so, spiritually, mentally, or physically. But just like with a hero, if there is no humanity in their actions and words, they come off as one-dimensional, predictable, and uninteresting. If a villain is one hundred percent evil, the reader can guess everything they are going to do and say in nearly every situation, which is just not compelling for a narrative.
What’s the best writing snack out there?
Biscuits. My preference is chocolate bourbons, but the slightly sweet crunch of a biscuit allows a writer to nibble while they write without completely distracting themselves and having to stop writing to eat it.
Tea or coffee? Maybe soda?
If you could choose any side character from your book to write a spin-off story about – who would it be?
Definitely Cratos Mane, the mentor of the main character in my current series. His past is larger hinted at but never explained in detail. I have a head-cannon about why he is how he is and all the secrets that the book hints at, which will be revealed in small increments; if fans of my book would ever like such an idea, I know I could absolutely write a spin-off book about Cratos. The only struggle then would be just keeping it as one book.
How do you celebrate big achievements?
I am not trying to sound sad here or anything, but I honestly don’t. When I graduated from university or had my 18th birthday, etc., I don’t usually do massive events for myself. I live an extremely active lifestyle with my work, exercising, writing, and personal commitments, so if I ever have the opportunity to celebrate something. I tell people I would prefer to have a relaxing laugh with some friends and a few drinks. I personally appreciate my large achievements in a way that someone appreciates a filled bookshelf with old hardbacks. They are something a treasure deeply but quietly.
What about the small ones?
Probably with a large cheat meal for myself, junk food.
Do you prefer stand-alone novels or series as a reader?
Series. Most of the books on my shelves are series or trilogies. One book for me, as a reader, never seems to be enough adventure and story to contain in just one book. I am an extremely greedy reader, and ‘The end’ doesn’t cut it for me as a reader.
Do you ever google yourself?
Yes. Because I am also a comedian as well as an Author, I try and make sure my services as an entertainer are displayed when my name is googled for marketing reasons, as well as checking to see if my work as a writer also appears. Though I would not recommend googling me yourself unless you wish to see me in pink leggings.
Do your family and friends support your writing?
Yes, even if they don’t read it, they still buy my books which I appreciate immensely.
What do you do when not writing?
I work full time to pay bills. I am also a practising martial artist and a fitness freak, exercising every day. I also work as a freelance comedian and have been doing my work as that for around five years now.
Has a book ever made you cry?
Yes, the book that did it was from the Dark Tower series written by Stephen King. Readers of that series probably know what I am referring to.
What book format do you prefer your books to come in?
Hardback makes holding and turning the pages so much easier to read.
What’s your spirit animal?
Can I choose Dragon? If no fantasy animals, then a wolf.
(You can always choose dragon – Tea)
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Stubborn, ambitious, funny.
Favorite music right now?
Metal and Rock.
Do you have any pets?
No, but in the future, I would love to have multiple Husky dogs as pets.
A big thank you to Dylan Altoft for patiently answering all my questions. And remember to pick up his book – Beast Born – on Amazon.
I love to hear from my readers, so leave a comment and brighten my day <3