Check out today's Author Talks with Forest Wells!
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m from a town in the Coachella Valley small enough to let me hear coyotes actually howl sometimes. I’ve always had a passion for wild canines (wolves, foxes, coyotes, ect.), so it’s no surprise they tend to have places in my writings. I’m a gamer (mostly League of Legends these days), follower of the Chargers, the Arizona Coyotes (it started how you might expect, but the roots formed because of Shane Doan), and Counter Logic Gaming (e-sports). And yes, I’m also an assistant Girl Scout leader.
My writing thus far seems to focus on emotion. I try to make the reader feel something as they follow my characters through their journey. Be it a wolf trying to find his way back to the alpha he was born to be, a fighter crew dealing with the trials of war, a werewolf who just wants to be a farmer, or a dragon trying to hide from her scars, it’s all about the journey they take from the start of the story, to where they end up in the end. I say “seems to” because let’s face it, I’m a pure “pantser”, meaning I don’t have a plan as I write. I tried to outline once. It was utterly destroyed on the first sentence. Since then, I just let the stories do what they will, and try to nudge them in the right direction from time to time.
I’m also a writer with dysgraphia. It’s a learning disability that, among other things, makes it hard to get thoughts down on paper. The essay you took 4 hours to write, I was still fighting through the first paragraph of hours later. It’s the primary reason I can’t “just write every day”. When I try to force it like that, I end up writing worse, not better. So it’s been a challenge learning how to write around the disability, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.
What inspired you to start writing?
It started with 9/11. I woke up to the special report about the attacks before going to school that day. I didn’t know anyone at all involved, but over the next few days, it changed everything. It’s a long story, but at that time I was one bad day from suicide. Then, my muse woke up in full when a classmate read a poem of her own in class. I had always been writing stories during “journal” time in school, but the attacks and that poem turned me into an actual writer. I began with a couple poems of my own, moved on to… a documentary that… we will never, EVER, talk about again, then finally put down the first words for my novels. Ever since, I’ve just had a burning desire to write.
I also learned how fragile life is. I started to take life by the horns, and make it work for me for a change. I haven’t always managed it, but suicide hasn’t been a serious thought for years.
Basically, I ran out of traditional markets. Now ordinarily, that might suggest the story has issues, except my beta readers, or anyone who has read a sample chapter, have been unanimous in their praise of the novel. So, at the risk of sounding conceited or mean-spirited (which I’m not I promise), I think the traditional publishers couldn’t see the story through the wolves. This idea mainly comes from the fact that, several times at workshops or conferences, people have heard “wolves”, and gone straight to telling me how it’s a niche book. Yet for those that have read any of it, have all seen the story itself. It’s become clear that at this point, baring a major stroke of luck, self is the only way this thing will get to the masses. It’s hard enough for a new author to get in these days. Add in a story that editors see as “niche only”, and you begin to see why I’ve been unsuccessful.
Can you give us some self-publishing advice?
Well, this is my first time doing it, so I’m still kind of learning myself. But I can offer this;
Take it slow! I’ve seen too many people talk on Twitter and Facebook about how their efforts fall flat, and then they say things that suggest they weren’t fully ready when they launched. I made that mistake myself once, and saw my efforts fail as well. So take the time, do it all right, then once it’s all good and ready, start a 1-3 month timer during which you tease, and promote, and use all the ideas and resources you’ve collected. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s better to do it right, than to do it quickly. As my fighter pilot would say, “Impatience walks with disaster.”
What is your favorite genre to write in?
Speculative fiction seems to be my main wheel-house. Though my first book is a simple Young Adult story staring “normal” wolves, my other ideas are all sci-fi, fantasy, and a couple that mix the two. Then again, even that “simple story” has a fantasy feel to it, despite the fact there’s no magic or anything like that involved.
Really if I’m honest, I think I do better when I’m creating fictional worlds to play in. I find it easier to build a fictional universe, instead of trying to tell a story in the real one. Plus it’s fun writing my own “rules” for things like magic and technology. And when a species is so complicated they generate 26 pages (and counting) of notes just by themselves, you can imagine how deep they get, and how fun it is to work with them.
What genre would you like to try and write in?
I may try my hand at a murder mystery someday. I even have an idea for it tucked away on my idea pad. I’ve always enjoyed shows like Castle, Criminal Minds, CSI/NCIS, and it might be fun to do one of my own some time.
What is the most difficult part of writing?
For me, making it “work”. It’s easy to write a story, but making it flow well, and making the events “believable”, while still maintaining the journey I have in mind, has been a challenge. Plus the struggle of making sure I’m taking advantage of the days I CAN write, and not letting the dysgraphia fool me into thinking it’s a day where I can’t.
How do you overcome writers block?
By denying it battle. Because of my dysgraphia, there are times where the words just won’t come. Experience has shown that the best way for me to beat it, is to not fight it. I step away and do other things. Play a game, watch a game, pace a little, do lots of nothing, anything to get my head out of my world. Sometimes, I can settle my thoughts and come back later. Other times, it’ll be a day, or a few, before I can write again.
That said, when I can see cracks in the block, I’ll often go back a few pages from where I am, and try to get back into the flow of the moment. Kind of like getting a running start so I can charge through it. I also just focus on that particular scene. Not the rest of the book, or even the next scene. Just THAT scene I’m working on. It’s often a much smaller block to break through.
Also, when all else fails, I have a sounding board. Someone I talk with about the moment I’m stuck on. In my case it’s my mom, but it can be anyone. They just need to be willing to offer ideas, talk it out with you, or just listen to you ramble incoherently about the problem. Being able to vocalize it helps me think about it in a different way, which often leads to a solution.
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
There isn’t any one part. A good book is a collection of parts coming together into a coherent whole. The setting, the characters, narration, dialogue, action, conflict, the entire list matters. I can’t really say any one thing is the most important, because nothing can survive if the others are bad. Some books do some things better than others, but no one thing is the most important part.
Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
Absolutely! Selling a book is a set of steps. The cover/title combine to generate interest. This sends the reader to the blurb, which sends them to the first page, which sends them to the checkout counter. If the cover, or the title for that matter, isn’t good, the reader won’t bother to look further. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but it does need to tease the story and set the tone. When you see the cover of “Honor Harrington” books, you know based on the cover what kind of book you’re in for. Switch to “Harry Potter”, or “Narnia” and it’s the same thing. The cover generates interest, and gives you some idea of what lies within.
What are you currently working on?
Well, I guess technically three different projects.
1: The long process of self-publishing my first novel, “Luna, The Lone Wolf.” With any luck, it’ll be out some time in February.
2A: A highly complex military sci-fi, working title, “Gold 1”. This is the world that has a species with 26 pages of notes. Gives you an idea how complicated they are.
2B: A newer fantasy idea with a different take on werewolves. Only recently figured out it’s core theme. Now I gotta figure out how to implement it. No sparkling vampires though. Promise!
The “A” and “B” are because the two are fighting for muse attention. We’ll see who wins once “Luna” finishes its launch tour. The loser will have to wait until the other is done for primary attention.
Can you share an excerpt with us from one of your novels/projects?
Certainly. Mind you it’s still a draft, so it’s not as clean as it will be, but here’s a section of my upcoming novel, “Luna, the Lone Wolf.”
“I greet you fair alpha,” I said.
The alpha male didn’t even blink. “Who are you?”
I prayed he’d believe the lie, even as I hated offering it. “The last survivor of a pack killed by strange creatures. Please. I am young, but I learn well. Let me run with you. Let me add to your strength.”
“A fine tale pup, but it does not yet answer my question. Who are you? By what name were you born?”
“Luna. My name is-”
“Luna!” his mate echoed. “The pup that murdered his brother? You can't let him join us, Tona. He’ll kill our pups too.”
Tona’s ears turned forward, and my heart sank.
“Step aside pup,” Tona said. “Word of your crime has spread far. You’ll find none that will take you. You will have to live alone for all your days.”
Pain gave way to a growl. He can’t do this. Rajor can’t deny me everything! “For a crime I didn’t commit? Based on words three times repeated? What a fine member of wolf-hood you are.”
Tona gave a snarl of his own, which his pack echoed. “Watch your tongue pup.”
“Or what? If you’ll not have me, then you’ll not have these lands. This is my territory. Pups or not I will defend it. The risk you take is your own.”
Tona’s snarl shook the air, but his ears were back at his younger pups. He watched them and me, then his snarl faded. I raised my tail as Tona retreated with his pack, never turning away until they were well outside sprinting distance.
So be it. If I was to live alone, I might as well build a reputation as being a wolf to be feared. I left a marker where I stood before turning toward my den.
Right into Martol.
“I knew you’d be strong,” she said.
I nearly jumped out of my fur when she spoke right into my nose. I looked around for a scent mark I might have missed, or for the pack coming to kill me.
“Relax Luna,” she said. “This is not my territory. Nor has anyone else come with me.”
My insides weren’t convinced of that yet. My brain bounced around itself, unsure what to think or feel. Some part of me wondered if she had been the reason for Tona’s retreat, though my mind was too scattered to ponder that for long either. Once things started to slow down internally, my ears kept searching while I addressed Martol. I’d had enough surprises for one day.
“Wh. . . what are you doing out here?”
“After I heard what you did for Folar,” she said. “I had to find you. I had to talk with you, to say things I didn’t get the chance to say.”
I ruffed at her near another growl. Now she wants to talk? Yeah right. “Like what? Lone wolves can’t live anywhere near their original pack? No, I know. You’ve seen the light and are here to tell me all’s forgiven and I’m welcome to return. That it?”
Martol’s ears fell in pain I didn’t understand, or care to learn. “Luna. I don’t deserve that.”
“Don’t you? You stood by and did nothing. You let Toltan take the word of a bully over mine. Don’t deserve it? My sweet, sweet mother. You deserve far more.”
Her ears fell further. Tears began to form behind her closed eyes. “Do you think it was easy, for either of us? You didn’t say a word Luna. We had Rajor alone to speak for you.”
“And you didn’t find error in that? I’d just watched my brother die trying to kill me. What could I possibly say? Then there’s Wolfor. We invoke his name, and suddenly we can speak no lie. Rajor knew what he had to do, and he did it. You had your chance to do the right thing. You didn’t. Then you all watched as Toltan drove me from my home. Now I don’t know how easy it was, but I have to say, it sure looked like you didn’t mind it.”
The more I spoke, the tighter Martol’s eyes got, and the lower her ears went. By the time I’d finished, both were as far as they’d go. She was almost whimpering as tears snuck out at last. I wanted to say more, to be sure my point was made. I decided to stay silent. I knew she’d come out of it soon, and I wanted to hear her response more than I wanted to yell.
Her eyes opened to show a void where a wolf should be. My ears perked, wondering just what she had to say for herself.
Martol’s ears fell back as tears began to flow. “Toltan was right. I lost two pups that day. Goodbye Luna. May Wolfor care for you as I no longer can.”
She walked back to her home still sobbing.
I stood on trees where my legs should have been. I didn’t expect that. I’d expected a fight. I wanted a fight. In an odd way, I think I needed a fight. Instead I’d gotten a thorn in my chest the size of Wolfor’s claw.
I stood staring after her, trying to understand what just happened. For a moment, I considered chasing after her despite the risk. She was only walking, so I had a good chance of catching her before she got back inside her territory. When wisdom, or more lies, silenced that plan, I forced my way back to my den.
It was an odd constant, my rock pile. It gave me strength to deal with what I’d faced so far. Though it couldn’t protect me from what hit as I lay alone that night, for that was the problem. My den held just one wolf, and always would. My parents didn’t care, or didn’t try. Other packs would be “warned” of me. No female would want to risk mating with a “pup killer”. In simple terms, Rajor had succeeded in denying me anything but a life lived alone.
Worst of all, some of it was my own fault. Despite what I tried to tell myself, I’d chased away my last connection. I’d shunned Martol like an enemy before she had a chance to say what she’d come to say. If I had it to do over again, I might have said something else, or maybe said nothing at all. Whatever the case, I now wanted that second chance. I’d give anything to get it, even as I knew I never would.
Tears of my own dampened my fur, and the walls of my den echoed with the first adult sounding howl I’d ever given. A howl so deep, so longing, one would think I was the last wolf on Earth.
Before you go, is there anything else you would like to say?
Just this; nothing irks me more than someone claiming their way is the ONLY way to write. There’s isn’t ONE way to write. You wouldn’t dare tell an artist which brush strokes to use, so why tell a writer which methods to use?f
That said, I do think every writer should TRY them first. I know I can’t write every day because I know from trying that it doesn’t work. And every now and then, I try again, just to see if that’s changed. I’ve tried several other methods, and have found the combination that works for me. That same list will not work for many other writers, and that’s okay.
Ultimately, we all have to find our own way to write. It’s pretty rare that someone’s entire method works the same for another. So we have to try several, until we find the ones that work for us.