It’s time for another author interview. This time I chat with fantasy author Glen Dahlgren whose book The Child of Chaos is in this year’s SPFBO competition.

  • Hi Glen tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hi! My name is Glen Dahlgren. I’m a 30 year veteran of computer game design, developing fiction with noted fantasy and SF authors such as Margaret Weis (Death Gate), Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time), and Frederik Pohl (Heechee Saga). Heck, I even wrote a bit of Star Trek. I’ve always been of fan of those works, so getting to write in their worlds was amazing. It just made sense to apply all of that experience to worlds of my own!

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Sf is wonderful, but I love the mystery of fantasy. In my worlds, characters encounter the natural limitations of the relatively primitive society such that magic is more powerful and impactful because of it. When everyone has the tech to make a nuke, nukes aren’t special.

And I think I’m just drawn to mystical underpinnings. Gods, rituals, artifacts, prophecies, rules of magic—they all create the foundation for a compelling world where I want to tell stories.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

I released the Child of Chaos in the summer of ’20 after 20 years of work. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to finish it—but, with the help of some wonderful people, it became what it needed to be.

I was planning on writing the sequel right after, but a fan favorite character demanded his own book. That prequel book became the Game of War, the story of Dantess, priest of War. The novel took me about nine months to write. I’m getting faster! I expect to release it this summer.

While that’s being edited, I’m hard at work on book two of the Chronicles of Chaos: the Curse of Chaos (working title).

I love this world and these characters, so I hope to stick with them for some time.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I’m a game designer, so I enjoy writing smart characters that need to figure their way through difficult problems. I’d say that in Child of Chaos, it was primarily Horace (the villain) who devised the most ingenious plans. In Game of War, Dantess is forced to play an actual War Game and it takes all of his skill and ingenuity just to make it out alive.

Galen—the main character of Child—had some personality traits that a lot of creative people identify with. He is a frustrated story-teller in a world that actively devalues him. But we all know that stories can change the world.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Don’t get discouraged. Keep writing. Allow yourself to write badly (especially for the first draft). If you’re too critical of yourself, you’ll never get to the stage where you can make it better. Also: finish. Completing a work means you can move onto the next one–and believe me, it will be better.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I haven’t been wonderful at setting and keeping deadlines. Hey, it took me 20 years for my first book! The thing I try to do is keep forward momentum. If I’m not writing, I’m living in the world in my head, sorting problems and forging the way forward. Sooner or later, I get to the end.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I cannot start writing until I have an outline. That said, the outline will change many, many times as I’m writing. I’ve learned in game development that you always have to leave room for discovery. I look at it this way: I always give my characters a map, but they don’t always follow it.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I really enjoy YA Fantasy and I have a lot more to say there. When I’ve completed the Chronicles of Chaos, I’ll see where the winds take me.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

I don’t shy away from darkness in my books. I put my heroes through the wringer. And Horace is probably the evillest villain I’ve encountered. I actually had a hard time writing one of his chapters because I knew what he was going to do. But I think I would have a harder time writing an ending that didn’t reflect my own sensibilities, which respects the power of friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

They’re all great properties for very different reasons. When I was a kid, I had all the Star Wars trading cards taped to my wall (along with all the other merch I could afford at the time). If you asked me then, there was nothing that could compare, but I think fantasy overtook SF later in life.

Of those properties, I guess I would choose Harry Potter.  While I love the world and the races that the seminal Lord of the Rings presented, the property is huge. There’s so much lore.  Harry Potter feels more intimate; almost everyone can connect with it.

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