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Coal Corby ~ Author Interview

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Creator of the fantastic, author Coal Corby opens a window and allows us a peek into his creative process.  Where do his characters come from?  When does he find time to write?  What inspires him to write such detailed stories with intricate plots?  Well, grab a cup of your favorite java, kick back, and read on as we sit down with Coal and he answers a few questions...

I always ask, but what inspired you to write in this genre?

It was the hope that drew me to fantasy. The way I see it, no matter how hard it gets for the characters, in the realms of fantasy they are often able to overcome adversity through their own resources or magical aid. I feel that in many ways fantasy is the most optimistic of genres. It is my pleasure to bring such a positive message back into this world, which seems to need it.

When did you discover your talent?

I was nine years old when I was asked as part of my homework to read a poem.. The choice was between the poets we studied in class or our own. Everybody else went for the boring poet who somehow managed to combine in his images skies and cows. I tried to follow that way, but felt suffocated at the very idea. So out of despair I thought about what I could do. Then it came to me. A silly little poem about the greater Greek gods, the Olympians.

It lacked in depth so badly that even the abundance of rhyme could not compensate for it. But I was proud on two accounts. First, I escaped execution by boredom. Second, I was able to see in my mind's eye what the various divinities were doing. And I was even able to translate the visual images into words passably well. Ever since the writing bug kept nagging at me until I obediently succumbed to its will.

Does the story plot come first, or do your characters?

I have worked both ways. My very first story was driven by an irresistibly powerful message. It drove me to write so intensely that I forgot all about style, punctuation and clarity. I just needed badly to get it into the open. Then the characters somehow found me as well as their way into the plot. They appeared to be the most suitable for the job and had no qualms with the goal I had in mind.

Conversely, several times I was pulled towards interesting characters. Their attributes and personality pretty much begged to be written into a story. In such cases I often had to wait until a suitable plot suggested itself through their mediumship, as it were.

I think both ways have their advantages at different times. Working with characters probably requires a bit more patience for me but turns out to be worth the waiting at the end.

Where do your characters emerge from?

In a strange sort of way, the characters come out of my memory. There is a feeling going through me when I write them, as if I already know them and their adventures from before. I simply have to remember how the different episodes in their lives went, because they already told me everything I needed to know.

What inspires your writing and what inspires you to write?

The old myths have always been my favorite. They have a plethora of imaginative settings, events, and characters. When I read them, I am put into a certain mind set conducive to the writing of fantasy.

Other than that I draw inspiration from the strangest of sources. I collect action figures that trigger various creative impulses in me. I look at pictures and on some sort of an abstract level I am reminded more and more of a setting I couldn't remember previously.

Then there is also my favorite online spammer, the only one I keep in my inbox. He offers me health and wealth through talismans but the history of the various accouterments reminds me often of unfinished plots I have been toying with and am motivated to pursue.

I have come to the conclusion that inspiration is always knocking on our door in one form or another. All we need is the right key to unlock it. 

Do you write in solitude?

My mood frequently dictates how I choose to write. One time I was inspired to jot a few ideas while surrounded by an auditorium full of math students.

Most often though, I prefer solitude. For me writing is a very emotionally charged process. Any sort of distraction usually interrupts the creative flow as I am so deeply entwined with what I write. When mundane occurrences pull me out of this inner oriented work, I lose the thread of my idea, as if writing itself is similar in nature to trance.

This description applies mainly to writing by myself. When I co-write, it is fully acceptable for me to share the company of a colleague who understands how I work. 
How often do you write?

I don't have a steady schedule, really. When I have in my mind a vision of a certain outcome that is going to pass, I could write the whole day if necessary to make it so. Then another day I might run out of creative juices and will recharge myself through a research for other stories. I found it good sometimes to let the plot stew for a few days until my mind absorbs and processes all the nuances.
How much do you edit?

I don't often edit for the sake of grammar but I am very demanding about the plot holes I find in my stories. I will not consider it finished until I can understand everything that is being said and how the various themes connect to each other. Fortunately for me, when I lose patience with myself and decide to abandon a story for some hypothetical time in the future, my knight with a shining ink jar, Ciaran Corby comes to the rescue and edits some more for me, even when I write strictly by myself. After that I declare the process finished and send the manuscript on its way.
Do you feel ebook publishing allows you more freedom and control over what gets published? Does it allow you to be a more prolific writer?

Ebooks definitely allow me more options. As opposed to tedious long term contracts and forceful house editors, ebook publishers are more liberal in their dealings with us, and let our opinion about the final product count. I greatly appreciate it as well as the fact that I can submit to an ebook company as many works as I would like.

I always feel like there is a load off my shoulders every time I send another work that gets accepted. I am at liberty to constantly look ahead, towards another fascinating project. Working with ebook industry enables me to concentrate more on the creative aspect without stressing promotion of my books quite as much. Yes, I am very pleased with ebooks.
What do you want to convey in your writing?

There are many messages that I would like to convey but sometimes they are so complex it takes a whole book to explain it. My characters are luckier than me in that respect. They can express themselves through action without sounding preachy or corny in the least. Still, I will give it a try.

If I had to choose one central message I would concentrate on this main idea. There are many things we can tolerate, suffer or give up. The most important thing for me is to never lose track of that elusive entity known as the Self.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

There will also be incredibly good reasons, from within as well as from without, why you should stop writing. Ignore them, and keep writing anyway. If you are an inspiring writer in earnest, you have that little spark in you that will be easily vanquished but that shouldn't be allowed. If you give it up, it's like giving up a part of your soul.
What does the future hold for Coal Corby?

Ciaran and I are at the last stages of finishing some of our biggest works yet. Hence I see in my future many more publications.
Do you have any other projects planned with Ciaran?
Oh yes. Ciaran and I have many projects that require our mutual attention. Ciaran kindly asserts that I helped him a lot with The Dark Mage (which now came out in print) and seeks my cooperation with the forthcoming works in The Dark Mage trilogy. We likewise plan to write a few sequels to A Dragon's Valentine. Then there is also a short fantasy story we are working on for an anthology.

Where can we find your work?

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