Interview with David T. List (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 


Q] Welcome
to Fantasy Book Critic David. For starters, could you tell us a little about
yourself and your background? What inspired you to write and describe your
journey to becoming a self-published author.


DTL: I’ve been interested
in story telling forever, but it wasn’t until I read the Wise Man’s Fear that the idea of writing occurred to me. Pat’s
writing felt so lyrical and ambiguous and clever I had to try it. By then I had
a pile of maps, monsters, and histories of my fantasy world – Silexare. It was
the perfect landscape to brew stories from and only needed characters with
goals. I wrote a story called A Sawmill’s Hope. We’ll not get into that
one too much here. It is, perhaps, the one I should have let die.


I started plotting VIOLENCE & VIGILANCE shortly thereafter. Around 2014 I found a
book called
The Blade Itself, which
blew my mind. I learned that third person stories can be just as intimate as
first, and that unreliable narrators are the best narrators. Sometimes
thereafter I read
Kings Of The Wyld,
which convinced me I can be exactly as hilarious as I want to. Fantasy doesn’t
have to be a stick in the mud. After that came
Red Rising, which at first felt gimmicky with its intense (at times
melodramatic) present-tense telling but soon gripped me tightly. It made every
past-tense book I tried to read feel dusty and dated.
Red Rising is why VIOLENCE
& VIGILANCE
is in present-tense.


In 2015 my four-month-old daughter passed away in
her sleep, during what should have been just another afternoon nap. As you
might imagine,
VIOLENCE & VIGILANCE
grew darker after that. I struggled with
VIOLENCE
& VIGILANCE
for some time, starting over repeatedly, throwing around
the idea of immortality and death and grief.


It wasn’t until 2017 when my work friend Ben
and I started a writing group that the book began to truly pick up steam. Turns
out weekly deadlines were exactly what I needed to push forward.


I queried literary agents in the attempts to
traditionally publish, but hated the idea of it. I’m blessed with a healthy
portion of delusional optimism, and I just knew I had something worth reading.
I didn’t need to grovel at someone’s feet or sit on my hands awaiting a
response that may never come. I couldn’t leave my entire fate up to someone
else.


My band plays fairly regularly and I’ve been saving
our earnings for years, specifically to cover the costs of self-publishing.
When the time came to finance editing and cover art, I was ready.

 

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to
be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main
motivation and source of inspiration?


DTL: I’m definitely some
flavor of “plotter”. I collect ideas as they occur to me, and they strike with
no warning. I can be inspired by a song as readily as a view of rolling, green
hills out the car window. Unsure what to call the feeling, or emotion, but when
it strikes, I jot something down. Eventually a pile of notes I’ve collected
come together like puzzle pieces. I suppose that may be an epiphany.


For writing, a clear head and no distractions are all
I need. Inner turmoil is tough on the muse. But if all goes as it should, by
the time I’m sitting down to write, I already know the scene and just have to get
it out.

 

Q] What was the main inspiration for Violence & Vigilance and
the world within? Where did the idea come from and what compelled you to see it
through to the end?


DTL: It’s such an old
idea and has changed so much. At the start, I think there were three main
ingredients:

-Wizards versus warriors. As tired as that idea is,
I was stuck on the idea of an island for both, and a war between them.

-UFC. I liked the idea of arena fighters, returning
champions, grudge matches, crowd favorites.

-Super Mario bros. Weird, I know, but I was into the
idea of undeath. Coming back after you die. This was probably the wrinkliest of
the inputs and was eventually phased out. I won’t go into detail on the
ridiculous scenarios I tried to accomplish in the name of “dying without
dying”.

                                           
 

Q] Let’s talk about the stunning cover for Violence
& Vigilance
. Can you reveal how you and your cover artist worked
together to create it?


DTL: I reached out to Felix in April of 2019. It
was quite out of order, considering VIOLENCE
& VIGILANCE
was not finished, much less edited, but I knew better than
to wait too long. Felix started sketching ideas then. Thankfully, he had
the sense to change up what I originally asked for. I’d wanted a scene that
represented the monks of the western island, Ausgan, versus the barbarians of
the east, Fohrvylda. With each of his attempts I’d say “Okay now change that person’s helmet. That’s Jeret and he should
be in blue
.” Or “Okay give him black
hair and a scowl. That’s Magus Kalderys
.”


Finally
Felix, in his ultimate wisdom, realized it was the characters he should
focus on, not some arbitrary ocean/mountain battlefield packed with details.


Q] What was your first reaction
when you saw it? How does it hold up (in your opinion) to what the main story
is about?


DTL: Call me soft, but even when paying for art, I am
hopelessly humbled at the site of any artwork based on my writing. I love the
art he made. He captured Basalt Kale, who has had enough and wants to
die. Irdessa, who may as well have one boot on her fallen foe and is
basking in the glory of the crowd. Kalderys, marching forward and
looking sidelong but never distracted in his mission to see Intemrus’ Will be
done. Captain Jeret, who is so happy when the story starts but succumbs
to rage. Kraus the Thirsty Bandit, who probably just made a joke and is hoping
you’ll take a swing at him.


If I
could change anything, I wouldn’t! But if I could, I’d want to also see Magister
Obsydia, Prime Sentinel Selu, Vyker
with his spear, Papu the Falconer, Otto
the Rain Catcher, Sura the Shield
, and a hundred others. I’d want to see
His Presence Intemrus and His Might Vretos, staring each other down across the
Faithless Sea!


Maybe
we’ll see some of them on the cover of book two, assuming they survive VIOLENCE & VIGILANCE.

 

Q] Let’s talk about Violence
& Vigilance,
a lot of authors have a harder time writing a second book
after their debuts? How was the experience for you? This is a completely
different genre as compared to your debut from 2014. How difficult was it as
compared to writing your debut?


DTL: Frankly, this one came more naturally (*ahem* That
is, after I worked out the mechanics of the magic and plot over the course of
half a decade).


I
mentioned that Joe Abercrombie and Nick Eames had a hand in my
writerly inspiration. A Sawmill’s Hope (2014) tried to be something for
someone. I’m not sure what or whom. Violence
& Vigilance
feels like freedom from those weird expectations. I wrote
it for me. If I want Vyker to stab a murder-ostrich right up its ass,
done. If I want Kraus the Carcass to try and fight the most murderous
thing in sight, done. If I want Magister Obsydia to prefer nudity and
wear it comfortably at all times, done.


Don’t
get me wrong, I loved the creation process of ASH, particularly the world and
the beasts and the underlying fairy tale, but the protagonists were kids. Most
of the protagonists in VIOLENCE &
VIGILANCE
are already murderers when we meet them. It’s just so much more
freedom.

 

                 

Q] Can you tell us more about the
world that The Turesia Untamed series is set in and some of the story’s major
characters? What are the curiosities of this world?


DTL: Oh man. That’s a big rock to flip over. I’ll try to
be succinct.


Turesia
is an island archipelago in the South Sea of Silexare. There are other
continents upon which other stories will take place. Some are mentioned in this
book such as Tiasa (where A Sawmill’s Hope did/will take place), and
Halandor (where future stories will take place).

For the
sake of succintivity, the archipelago Turesia was claimed to have come about
long ago as a connecting ramp from the heavens down to the ocean, a means for
the Great Beast, aka the south island, to arrive.


Regarding
characters, lets stick to the two mains:

Irdessa the Undying, seen on the cover, is the daughter of a military
strategist who maintained peace and order on the east side of Fohrvylda. When
the story starts, she has already been arrested alongside her friend Torvald
the Tactician, and they are crowd favorites in the arena Keswal. Her
father’s already been killed.


To
paraphrase her with two sentences from the book, “The only intimacy she had
time for was the sort only one party survived. She’s never considered that a
bad thing
.


Basalt Kale is a consonant monk who lacks any noticeable
consonant gifts. He lives in Erudition, the capital of Ausgan. He’s a decade
older than others of his rank and shows no sign of improving, ever. We open the
book with him plotting suicide.


His
line: “When life fails to entice you, consider alternatives.” Very
uplifting, I know.

 

Q] So for someone who hasn’t read
any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write,
what would be your pitch for Violence & Vigilance?


DTL: My focus is on Silexare as a world, with its
histories and magic and religions and beasts and oddities! But those can only
matter if the characters matter, and so it’s from their lens that I observe and
record the world. This is surely why I try to smash in as many points of view
as my editor will allow.


Violence & Vigilance asks: What if the monks who were sacked by Vikings had
been able to defend themselves with elemental magic?

 

Q] So what can readers expect
from Violence & Vigilance and what should they be looking
forward to according to you?


DTL: Violence & Vigilance is, in its heart, a story
about loss and grief, and the horrible ways those twist us. The awful things we
justify. I’m a comedian at heart, so those despicable deeds cannot go down
without some jokes.

 

Q] Violence & Vigilance
is the first book in The Turesia Untamed series. How many books are you
planning to write in this series?


DTL: Two. Book 2 is 100% plotted out, and about 35%
written.

 

Q] In closing, do you have any
parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?


DTL: I do. This book isn’t for everyone. There is
brutality and course language. I am sorry if this alienates you as a reader,
but I understand. I didn’t expect the book to end up this way. But I didn’t
plan to end up this way either. Turesia Untamed is my attempt to payback a
cruel world. To spit in its fucking face before it kills me too.


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