Interview with JC De La Torre

JC De La Torre is the writer of the novel Ancient Rising, which has just been reviewed by sffworld.com here. Mr De La Torre was kind enough to take some time out from writing the sequel, Ancient Destruction, to answer some interview questions:

1.) When and why did you start writing?

JC: I started writing when I was fifteen years old. That was over seventeen years ago…man, has it been that long? As for why, we really didn’t have much money when I was young. I’d have to hang out at my friends’ house to play Super Tecmo Bowl on Super Nintendo. We had TV but I wasn’t much of a TV watcher back then (other than watching the syndicated Original Star Trek series). Anyway, since I didn’t have any other diversions I picked up a pen and began to write stories. I had journals and journals of stuff. I admit not much of it was good but it was a great training ground for my mind. I learned how to construct a story, cultivate it, and bring it to fruition. As the years went by, I started to get better and better. I began reading more and seeing how other authors used their gifts. It helped me develop a solid foundation to build upon.

2.) Was getting published a natural extension?

JC: I don’t know if I’d say that. For years I just wrote for myself because I enjoyed the art. I enjoyed constructing a tale, piecing it together, and seeing how it ended. I’d let my close friends and loved ones take peeks at my work and always got positive vibes. I didn’t take it serious though because I knew the family would tell me how great it was even if it was total dog crap.
As the internet became more prevalent, I began to write fan fiction for Highlander and a few other TV shows. They were all published by Highlander sites and I started to get a little confidence that I was good enough to write professionally. Still, I was reluctant to put my own stories out there. Its one thing to take an established world and spin your own tale about existing characters, its another to create a new, original story yourself and expose yourself to the public’s critical eye.
As the years dragged on, life began to pull me away from writing. I didn’t have time and when I’d get home I didn’t feel like doing anything but vegging out in front of the TV. It would be my wife who finally got me up off my backside and told me to do what I’ve always wanted to do – write a novel. Up to this point I had never written a novel before, only short stories. I didn’t think I had the discipline to finish.
But I did and honestly, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Then I went out there to find a publisher that would suit my needs. I’m no prima donna by any stretch of the imagination, in fact I’m probably one of the most humble folks around, but there was a degree of control over my work that I wanted to have and I found a publisher would allow me that control.

3.) What writers have influenced you the most?

JC: My work has been compared by some to Clive Cussler and Dan Brown. It’s a great honor to be named in the same breath as two best selling authors but to be honest, it puzzles me a little. I may be the only person in America to have never read the Da Vinci Code. I’ve never read any of Clive’s books either. Not that I have anything against either author or their books – I’m sure their great. However, I’m more into fanciful stories. Things that go beyond the day to day. Alternate realities. I’ve always enjoyed Anne Rice, Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, CS Lewis, Bradbury, HG Wells, Clive Barker.
I tried to pattern my style after Anne and Stephen so those two would probably be the writers who influenced me the most.

4.) Define, if you can, your writing style. Essentially what do you write and why?

JC: I’m freestyle. What I mean is my style is constantly changing, evolving. There are some stories that I want to tell from a first-person perspective. Others from a more general third person. I also like to invest in personas. Sometimes I’ll “write with twang” and use some terms that aren’t going to be considered “literary”. Other times I can be very wordy. So that’s the good thing with my books. You’ll never read one of my books and figure, well hell, that was identical to the last one. There’s good and bad to that, I suppose.

5.) Why choose Atlantis for your subject?

JC: It’s been said that all the stories that could be told about Atlantis have been told. I took on Atlantis because I’ve been fascinated by the subject since I was a kid. I watched so many documentaries on Atlantis that I probably know most of the believed locations by heart. Yes, there are over a hundred books that have to do with Atlantis. Hundreds more that have a character from Atlantis or some thing from Atlantis.
With that said, if you believe in a story enough, it shouldn’t matter that others have told similar stories. Heck, there’s thousands of books relating to UFOs – should authors stop writing about the subject?
The key is to come up with something different. Original. I think I’ve created a story that is different from any other story written about Atlantis. For me, Atlantis wasn’t the goal – it was a set. A stage for my characters to play their roles, just like Egypt or Spain or any of the other countries the book visits.

6.) Did you use current research positions and places related to Atlantis?

JC: Yes, without a doubt. I did extensive research on the subject. In fact, in my preparation, that’s probably what took the longest because of the volumes of conflicting information. Some believe Akrotiri is Atlantis. Others believe it to be just outside the Straits of Gibraltar. Others believe it lies in the Bahamas (citing the “Biminy road” as truth). In the end, I threw out all of those believable locations – simply because to someone I’ll be wrong. If I choose Biminy, than those who believed Akrotiri is the site will say, “Well, there you go. Another uninformed author picking the wrong location.” You couldn’t win. So I picked my own location. What would be the most logical location for Atlantis if not in the ones already mentioned?
Further, I researched those who research Atlantis. What are these people like? Why do they believe what they believe? Why do they risk their reputations for something that may be nothing but legend? I found it fascinating. I hope I captured some of these dedicated people’s desire in my story.

7.) There seem to be several influences in Ancient Rising – the ending is very reminiscent of the beginning to Stargate Atlantis for example – how much attention did you pay to other material on Atlantis?

JC: I love Stargate:Atlantis. What a fantastic show! I rank it right up there with Firefly,Rome and 24 as my personal favorites (although I’ve now become LOST as well). I’ve always been a big Stargate fan and I can see how the correlation could be made between the two. The major difference though is the Goa’uld were an advanced race who posed as Gods and used their advanced technology to oppress less advanced worlds into slavery.
The Gods in Ancient Rising are powerful, spiritual beings. As Hermes said at one point, what makes you a God? The power to create life? The ability to effect weather conditions and change global climates? Have powers of telekinesis and energy? Even though they are no more real Gods than the Goa’uld, they possess these powers. What they are will better explained in the next novel but as a hint I’d say they are closer to being Gods than anything the Goa’uld could be. In fact, they’re probably more like Anubis and the Ancients.
With that said, I’d have to say no. I don’t think previous Atlantis works influenced me much. Everyone has their different takes on Atlantis, to flying vehicles and nuclear weapons, to people with gills. For me, none of that applied to my vision of what Atlantis is and should be.

8.) What response have you had from Ancient Rising so far?

JC: Excellent! I am thrilled with the response. I love to interact with my readers and those who cared to send me an email or post on my message boards have been very positive. I’m thrilled to say I haven’t received one negative response yet.
Sales have been very encouraging and things look very good for the continuation of the series.
The reviews have been great! Even here on sffworld.com, the book has been described as a fast paced, exciting page turner.
To someone who is on the fence on whether this book is worth it, let me ask you – when was the last time you had an exciting adventure in your hands? One that didn’t bore you with slow points that bogged down the story and just kept your heart pumping from start to finish? That’s what Ancient Rising is. It’s a heart thumper with a fantasy kick. You’ll have laughs, you’ll have cries, you’ll have scares, you’ll have jolts, and you’ll even have a little hanky panky. In the very least, you’ll have lots of fun and isn’t that what we really want from stories? Isn’t that why we read Sci-Fi and Fantasy? We want to escape our realities and get lost in something that excites us, terrifies us, envelops us, sucks us into the story and the characters, makes us wonder what’s real and what’s not and I believe this book accomplishes all of these things.
Geez, I feel like Maximus in Gladiator when he barked out, “Are you not entertained?”

9.) So where now for the series?

JC: The second book, Ancient Destruction is scheduled for a 2006 Fall release. It will have two story tracks – a flashback track to life on Atlantis before the cataclysm and under the rule of the Gods. The other track will be the continuing saga of Dan Ryan’s crew as they try to handle the fury of Poseidon while trying to reach a mystical place that could hold the key to ending the Gods reign on Earth. The third book will simply be the culmination of the series – the final Epic battle – if you will.

10.) Finally, what are your opinions on POD (publish on demand)?

JC:I believe POD is the wave of the future. Less face it, there’s only so many trees out there. Do you know how much of our forests were wiped out for the latest installment of Harry Potter? Nearly 40,000 trees met there end for Harry’s latest adventure – and that was only in the first print run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no environmentalist nut – but even I see how that could be causing us issues down the line.
POD is better for the environment, it saves trees, it saves space for warehouses – brick and mortar stores like Barnes and Nobles don’t have to give up valuable space to house books that may never sell. It’s good for everyone, I think.
Now, as for the quality of the work. Lets face it – not everyone who gets their book made either through a small publisher or by vanity publishing deserves to have their work out there. There’s a lot of bad POD books. There’s also many, many good ones, Jeremy Robinson’s Didymus Contingency, comes to mind. I really think when it comes to POD, you SHOULD judge a book by its cover. If the author cares enough about his book to have a professionally made cover, than he likely made the expense to have it professionally edited and typefit so it is indistinguishable from a book submitted by a major New York house. The quality of the book is then less important and the quality of the writing either makes or breaks it.

POD doesn’t stand for Piece Of Dog crap. I hope that with more successful books that get released, the stereotype will go away.

Sffworld thanks JC De La Torre for his time and wishes him well for future publications.

Sffworld © 2005, Owen Jones

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