Interview with Michael Warden

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Gideon’s Dawn?

A: Gideon’s Dawn is a complex epic of heroic adventure set in a unique, mysterious world where two magical languages-one borne of Creation, the other of Destruction-are building toward an ultimate war for dominance.

For generations the Council Lords of Phallenar, sole keepers of the language of Destruction, have ruled the lands unopposed, having long ago destroyed all those who spoke the language of life, and suppressed the knowledge of their tongue so completely that in time it became little more than legend.

And yet one tentative hope remained. Certain prophecies from ages past continued to rail against the Council’s heartless rule. They spoke of the coming a redeemer, one who would break the Council’s power and remake the world with a magic not like theirs.

Then one day, a stranger named Gideon appeared. No one knows where he came from or how he arrived. But they know he has power. This is no ordinary sojourner, they whisper. He may be the answer to ancient prophecies of doom and deliverance. Or he may just be Gideon Dawning, a graduate student from Texas, in over his head in a world beyond time…

Q: What drove you to write fantasy fiction in the first place?

A: I’ve always been drawn by the power of fantasy and myth to shape the way we look at the world. From my earliest recollections as a child, stories of dragons and fairies and ogres and knights filled my imagination, and in their way conveyed to me certain truths about my own life, things I’m not sure I could have learned in other ways, and which I still carry with me as a man. And now that I am an adult, I find that those same stories, along with new ones I have read, have a way of challenging and enriching my understanding of the world in ways that other forms of writing cannot easily match.

As readers, we all come to a story with our own set of biases and “baggage” about the way we believe life is. For example, what it means to love someone, what it means to become a man or a woman, what we can reasonably hope for in life, and what is beyond our reach. Fantasy has a way of suspending those preconceptions, and allowing us to explore those timeless questions from a new perspective. Good fantasy, high fantasy as I would call it, not only entertains, but also forces us to question things we might never question otherwise. And through that struggle, hopefully leave us changed for the better.

Gideon’s Dawn is in part a product of my own exploration of questions like these. At its core, Gideon’s Dawn is a story of transformation, and the power of love to remake the human soul. The central question the novel asks is this: For someone as broken and messed up as Gideon, is meaningful redemption really possible? Can it really happen?

Q: What do you see as the most challenging aspects of writing a novel?

A: I think every writer would answer that question differently. For me, the most challenging struggle was in giving myself permission to go a bit insane. To write a novel, the characters have to be more than just characters. They have to become real, as real to you as your mother or father, your spouse or your best friend. For me, that was a difficult leap. If I allow a bunch of real, living people to run rampant inside my head, what does that say about my sanity? And yet, if the people in your story aren’t real to you, how can you expect them to be real to your readers?

Another challenge is the isolation that writing of this sort imposes on your life. Not everyone understands the passion to write, and it can be hard for some of the people close to you to tolerate the long months you must spend sequestered in a room with nothing but coffee and the computer. It’s a tricky balance to maintain. A writer has to recognize that he’s not the only one paying a price for the sake of the work.

Q: How much time do you devote to marketing your books and what kind of marketing do you recommend?

A: I’m still learning about this one (and think I probably will be for the rest of my life). Most writers I know (including myself) are not natural marketers, and generally have little interest in it. We’d rather be writing. But book publishers no longer “carry the load” for marketing as they once did, and so the task has fallen to authors to often carry the bulk of the responsibility for promoting their own books in the marketplace.

Because there is so much to learn, and what I need to learn is constantly changing, I could easily end up spending 80 percent of my time focused on marketing. But that, obviously, is not a good option. What I do instead is try to focus my efforts on those marketing avenues that will bring the greatest return on my time. One great resource I’d recommend is John Kremer’s book, 1001 Ways To Market Your Books. As the title suggests, the book contains far more ideas than I have time to pursue. So I skimmed through the book and selected a handful (perhaps 10 or so) ideas that I thought would bring the greatest return for my effort. For example, getting your book reviewed in the neighborhood newsletter is fine. But with the same time invested, you could possibly get your book reviewed by a national newspaper like USA Today, or a magazine with nationwide readership. Using that sort of “maximum return” filter, I’ve been able to limit my “marketing time” to about 30 minutes each day-which leaves the rest of my time free to focus on the writing itself.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: Gideon’s Dawn is the first installment of a trilogy called “The Pearlsong Refounding.” I’m currently working on Waymaker, the second book in the series, which I hope to complete by Fall of 2003. On the side, I’m also laying the foundation for a different kind of adventure thriller set in modern times, one that explores the fuzzy boundaries between E.S.P. and the spiritual realm. I’m just in the research phase for that one, however.

Q: Who are your favorite authors, and why do they inspire you?

A: I have many favorite authors, but probably the two that have influenced me most are J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. What strikes me about them as authors is not just their obvious excellence as writers and passion for myth, but also their love of language. I think they understood something of the power inherent in words. Their example has been invaluable to me.

Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?

A: The Internet has become a vital tool for me as a writer, in more ways than I can name. It is my research assistant, my training manual (especially when it comes to marketing or website creation), and my direct link to readers, agents, editors, and fellow authors. Of course, the one great gift the Internet brings to writers is empowerment, because it has broken down all sorts of obstacles that have historically prevented writers from taking control of their own success.

The flip side of that, of course, is that when success doesn’t come, there aren’t nearly as many people to blame besides yourself.

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