To co-incide with the release of the second book in his Immortal series, Hellenic Immortal, Gene stopped by to answer some questions about his writing process, supernatural creatures, and what it’s like to get inside the head of a sixty-thousand-year-old guy.
Make sure you visit lytherus on twitter or facebook tomorrow afternoon, as we’re giving away a set of these two books for free!
1. Where did the idea for such an awesome and interesting character as Adam come from?
Adam didn’t exactly spring up fully formed, so I don’t know that there was a singular idea that arrived one day, per se. I’d been reading a lot of history, and I had been writing humor columns and blogging for a while, and somehow those elements all combined into something like an immortal blogger.
I knew almost nothing. I needed to get his voice down first, and once I had that I sort of made it up as I went along. I think I decided how the book was going to end when I was almost halfway finished with it, and that ending isn’t even the one that’s in the book—I mean Immortal—right now. I tore up the ending in an edit and pulled out a few plot points that haven’t made it back into the narrative yet, even after Hellenic Immortal. So I’m still holding onto a couple of things for a third book.
3. How much history research did you have to do to nail Adam’s knowledge? Is this something you’re naturally interested in, or was it a fun (or not-so-fun) adventure?
A fair amount of research went into Hellenic Immortal, because I didn’t know as much about Greek history as I needed to, although I knew a lot about the mythology going in. For Immortal I relied on books I had already owned and read, so that mostly meant just going back to the shelves and pulling stuff down when I needed to. What I love is a history book that gives me a glimpse of the day-to-day life of someone who is Just A Guy. Those are harder to find than you might think.
4. Though the blurbs for this book make it sound light-hearted and funny, I found the story to have way more depth, relatable struggles and personal development than I was expecting (Which I loved). Included in this is Adam’s drinking addiction and the reasons behind it. Talk to us a little bit about what it was like getting inside the head of such an ancient yet with-the-times being. What parts were more difficult to create?
I’m glad you said that because I never really thought of the humor as the (or a) point of the books so much as an inevitable byproduct of Adam’s storytelling voice. He is in many ways deadly serious and very complicated.
And it’s hard for me to think of any part of that was terribly difficult to write, at least from the perspective of Adam’s character. He doesn’t like to discuss his own emotions, and that can be tough sometimes because then I have to express those indirectly though his actions or redirected sarcasm.
Now from a nuts-and-bolts standpoint I would say I didn’t make things easy by creating a character that says what’s on his mind as soon as it’s relevant, because it tends to read like an expository dump. Which it is, which means I have to find a way to make it as organic as possible, as entertaining as possible, and as spread out across the story as possible. But these are authorial consequences that spring from the fact that I apparently have to write every novel as if I’d never read a novel before.
A lot of the time I have no idea what Adam is going to say or do until he says it or does it, which means I get to be as entertained as anyone when it happens. If you told me tomorrow, “Gene it turns out you’ve been channeling an actual 60,000 year old man” there is a part of me that might take you seriously.
6. I was pleasantly surprised when I encountered the other supernatural creatures like vampires, demons, succubae, etc. They add a nice dimension to the story without overpowering it and making it feel like every other modern fantasy out there. When you were developing the world, did you go into it intending to include these elements?
I didn’t! I was maybe one chapter into the book when I realized I needed more than just Adam an immortal man in an otherwise entirely just-like-ours world. He had to have some secret knowledge, and that manifested itself first in his greater understanding—solely from being around for so long—of the other creatures around us. But at the same time I didn’t want there to be any magic, so I compromised by making these supernatural creatures as non-supernatural as I possibly could.
7. What’s your writing day like? Give us a play-by-play!
Well in fairness I haven’t written fresh new fiction for a little while now, although that will change soon. I am a massive binge writer, by which I mean I will write impressive amounts of prose non-stop for weeks on end and then do nothing for months. The first draft of Immortal, for instance, I wrote in about three months. It was two years before it looked like it does now, but editing is a different skill set.
I absolutely cannot outline, and for a few reasons. One, I want to be as surprised as my reader about what happens next. Two, as soon as I write something down, it’s “real” and it has actually happened, which means if I can’t get my story to fit the outline I make the story worse until it does fit instead of just ignoring the outline. Third—and this is where I tell you: kids, don’t write books like I do, it’s not safe—I write from beginning to end. One of the things you can do when you outline is you can drop a spot where you’re stuck and pick up a new part of the story and start writing it instead. But I can’t do that, because I haven’t “earned” the opportunity to write a later part of the narrative yet, and I can only earn it by writing my way there. So I have no outlines, no extra scenes, no character sketches or back-stories that don’t actually make it into the book. Everything is either on the page or in my head. And this means that sometimes, while I’m writing, I’m carrying large unwritten portions of something around in my head. Which could explain the binge writing, really.
9. What’s on your reading shelf at the moment?
I’m doing research for the next Immortal book right now, so I have a history of the Byzantine empire, a collection of Celtic mythology, a history of silk road traders, and a physics book by Lisa Randall called Warped Passages that I’m about halfway through. And if you can figure out how all of those will fit into a narrative about an immortal man, we should talk. The last novel I read, purely for pleasure, was Reamde by Neal Stephenson.
10. What exciting things do you have waiting for your fans in the future?
I’m expecting to finish a third Immortal book, as I said, but I think it’s going to take a little time. But I have another novel on standby for just such an occasion. It’s called Fixer, and it’s about a guy who can see a rolling five seconds of future time. It’s in a more traditional third person, and much darker and more complicated than any of the Immortal books. It’s also my wife’s favorite book of mine, and I think that’s saying something.
Thanks Gene! Want to know more? Check Gene out on his blog at http://genedoucette.me/