This weeks author interview is with fantasy author Nils Odlund whose new book will be released at the end of this month!
Hi Nils tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
To begin with, I’m originally Swedish, but since 2007 live in Cork, Ireland, and I write in English.
About ten years ago, I stumbled onto writing, as a hobby, almost by accident. At the time, I was applying for game design jobs, but had no actual experience making games, and I wanted to change that. Only, I had no idea how to get started making a computer game, so instead I decided to create a setting for a Pen & Paper RPG.
This turned out to be a lot more fun than I’d expected, and I put countless hours into it, coming up with all kinds of more or less relevant little details. At one point, a friend of mine suggested that maybe I could write a short story about someone living in the world I’d created, as an example of what life there could be like.
That’s how it started. One short story became another, and another, and another…
There’s a bunch of them, and then there’s an unfinished novel. Somewhere along the way, the world-building faded away, and I spent all my time writing stories. Eventually, I decided it was time to get serious, to stop messing about with exciting ideas and promising beginnings, and to actually finish something.
What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
The escapism. The fantastic worlds that can’t be real, but that we can still travel to in our imagination. Why limit yourself to the real world?
Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?
My latest project is the Lost Dogs series, which I’ve been working on for the last three years. The tenth book in the series is almost ready to publish, and it should be available before the end of March.
The series tells the story of two people. One is a middle-aged man (Roy) who gets the chance to make amends for a mistake that’s plagued him for half his life. The other is a young woman (Alene) trying to come to terms with who she is, and to find her place in the world.
It’s fantasy, but much of the challenge has been in coming to terms with how the fantastic aspects are just the backdrop against which the story takes place. It’s not a typical fantasy story with magic to discover and monsters to defeat. Rather, Lost Dogs is much more about internal conflict and personal struggles.
This wasn’t something I planned for, and I didn’t consider it when I started writing. It made it difficult for me to find people who wanted to read the story I’m telling. As soon as I mention that one of the main characters is a werewolf and a superstar wrestler, people get the impression that the story will have a lot of brutal, furry action (and possibly a fair bit of kinky sex), and that’s not at all what the story is about.
It eventually went to the point where the tag line I used for the series was “A Story of Werewolves, for people who don’t like Werewolf Stories,” but I’m moving away even from that now.
What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
I have this idea that I want to write about everyday characters in fantastic worlds. Characters that just live ordinary lives there, and who don’t become heroes or go away on fantastic adventures to save the world. I believe there’s room for stories like that within the fantasy genre, and I don’t see much of it written.
When you contrast the fantastic with the mundane, you can make it seem even more amazing, than if you just throw tons of awesome things onto the reader.
Then again, once you start writing about a person, even an ordinary everyday Joe, you’ll get to know them, and you’ll realise that they aren’t so ordinary after all.
For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
One of the hardest and most difficult lessons I had to learn was that no one is going to care about my story just because I write it. I need to make the reader care, and I need to make the reader want to keep reading.
It’s not enough that find the story fascinating.
It’s not enough that I love my characters.
It’s not enough that I know the ending is amazing and will blow your socks off.
If I don’t give the reader a reason to care, they’ll toss the book and go read something else.
What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
For a long time, I wrote my books with a three-month deadline, because that’s how far in advance you could set up a pre-order on Amazon (this has changed now). It made sure I had a deadline and pushed me to get the story done.
I also make sure not to strive for perfection. Good enough doesn’t mean something is bad, it really does mean good enough. Also, it’s achievable.
With my first book, the novella Emma’s Story, I tried to polish it to a shine, fix every little detail and address every ounce of feedback. It took me a few months to write the first draft, and another two years of tweaks and adjustments before it was done. Even then, the final version wasn’t all that different from the first draft.
The trick, as such, is to learn when something is good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
I’m a plotter. Much of the reason I was able to keep up a three month per book release schedule was that I’d already outlined the books in advance – the entire series. I aimed for an outline that’s detailed enough that actually writing the first draft is akin to filling in the colours in a paint by numbers colouring book.
With my next project, I’m stepping back a little from this, because even with such a detailed outline, I wasn’t able to stick to it. Partly, because the story still took my by surprise from time to time, and partly because I changed as a writer. I’ve learned and improved a lot since I started writing the Lost Dogs series, and I eventually got to a point where I realised that the outline I had for the series just wasn’t good enough for me anymore. I’m going to keep the bare bones, but the details all need to be redone.
What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
My next book, Nothing Left to Lose, is the tenth in the Lost Dogs series, and it will be the last book of that series. However, it is not the end of the story.
Like I mentioned above, I’ve come a long way since I started the series, and I feel like the last few books are significantly better than the earlier ones. I’m going to be revising the first books in the series to clean up language and content issues, and that will bridge some of the quality gap, but it won’t fix everything.
It feels like it’d be a waste of time and effort to add books to the end of a long series, when most readers won’t get past the second book. Instead, what I’ll do is I’ll start a new series, with a new name, that begins where Lost Dogs ends. That way, the people who have read Lost Dogs will get the continuation of the story, and new readers will be able to hop into a new story without having to go through a huge number of books, where the first ones aren’t representative of the latter ones.
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?
Lately, I’ve taken a liking to noblebright. Positive cheerful stories, with less doom and gloom. Maybe it’s just me getting older, but I feel like it’s not just this last year. The world’s become increasingly dark and hostile for a long time, and more and more often, I feel like I need to get away from that.
What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
Star Wars. It’s basically space fantasy with lasers.
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