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Guest Post: How Far Do You Stretch It? by Raymond Bolton

Fantasy Ship

Raymond Bolton is an up and coming Fantasy Writer who has been gracious enough to grant No Wasted Ink an interview about his new book Awakenings. I’ve asked Raymond to return and give us his thoughts on writing in the fantasy genre.

One of the more important tasks of writing fantasy is that of world building, in other words, helping the reader see those elements of the story’s setting that have heretofore existed only in the author’s imagination. Dropping the reader into this world, if properly executed, becomes an immersion process and the reader soon finds himself at home in an unfamiliar universe. When the author fails at this—and there are many ways to fall short—she leaves the reader hovering outside the story, viewing everything as a spectator rather than as a participant.

Recently, I was talking to two individuals who were considering a maiden fantasy project. They were debating about how bizarre they should make their world. They wanted to create fantastic creatures doing unsettling things and speaking in an unearthly manner to the point nothing would remain recognizable. I disagreed with their intended approach.

Clearly, the point of fantasy is to remove the reader from his every day world and transport him to a place he’s never been. Whether the intent of the author is merely to provide an adventure into places unknown, or to provoke questions about the “reality” the reader confronts daily via contrast with this super normal world, the story’s other-worldly setting provides a dreamscape on which to hang the content. And while dreams are part of our everyday existence—the flip side of our waking life—I cautioned against crafting a world so far removed from what the reader is accustomed unless they possessed the story telling mastery of, say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

They complained that I was suggesting they stifle the creative process and one of them cited an obscure work where he felt this had been done successfully. In turn, I argued it was probably one of the reasons the work he cited was obscure and suggested they consider how masters of the genre deal with this issue.
Anne McCafferey’s Dragonriders of Pern is a story of knights errant, familiar in most regards except for the fact that her knights ride dragons instead of horses. While J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gollum is far from human, the creature is the embodiment of all human failings and the world he inhabits, while very alien to the one we in which we abide, is nonetheless a land where men go to war and gather in inns to escape the night’s perils. When Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan emerge from the wardrobe into C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, they do step into a land dominated by animals and monsters, but the conflicts are nonetheless familiar. Even when Lewis Carol drops Alice through a rabbit hole into a world so surreal it is best depicted visually in a Disney cartoon, the royalty and other institutions he parodied are at once recognizable.

The question then becomes, for whom do you write? If it is only yourself or perhaps a few others, then discard convention to your heart’s content. If, on the other hand, you want to entice as many as possible into the world you create, then you will have to draw a balance between the unworldly and the familiar.
I am of the opinion that depicting the surreal is best handled by placing it in a recognizable context. The contrast thus created amplifies the difference. Paint the sky green and hang two suns in it, if you will—I do—but rather than labor to point out the incredible, handling the unbelievable as if it were to be expected is subtler and won’t alienate the audience. In fact, if the writer’s primary purpose is to entertain, he should endeavor to make the read as effortless as possible. Many readers balk when they have to work too hard to understand what the author has created.

The masters achieve their goal by relating the other-worldly as an everyday experience. Let the protagonist, rather than the reader, protest any departure from reality, as Richard Mayhew does, in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, when he demands to have his life back, or as Alice does when she argues with the Mad Hatter. After all, the fantastic is less the point of the tale than the context in which the underlying story is set.

Author Raymond BoltonRaymond’s goal is to craft gripping stories about the human condition, whether they are set here or another world. He has written award-winning poetry and four novels. Two are explorations in fantasy: Awakening, an epic, released in January, 2014, and Thought Gazer, an adventure and first volume of a prequel trilogy, which will be released on January 1, 2015. Under its working title, Renunciation, Awakening was one of eight finalists among 950 entries from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Europe and Australia in the Pacific Northwest Writers Associations Literary Contest. Hailed on BookViral.com as “a grand debut… [that] breathes originality into the genre”, Awakening has received almost all five star reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.

Awakening 4x6-seal-Amazon ThoughtGazer 4x6

Author Interview: Raymond Bolton

Raymond claims that whether set here, or on another world, he tries to craft gripping stories about the human condition. This industrious author certainly is a man of all trades and brings much life experience to his worlds of fantasy. Please welcome Raymond Bolton to No Wasted Ink.

Author Raymond BoltonBy way of introduction, I am Raymond Bolton. Until my books take off enough to support me, I work as a hairdresser, spending part of every week in both Santa Fe, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon. I am on a plane every Wednesday. I’ve written some poetry, for which I’ve received some recognition, and four novels.

In 2010, having written only nineteen poems ever, I garnered third place in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual literary competition among over 1,200 entries. More recently, my novels have begun winning significant recognition. In 2013, under its working title, Renunciation, my debut novel, Awakening, was one of eight finalists among 950 entries from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Europe and Australia in the Pacific Northwest Writers Associations Literary Contest. Hailed on BookViral.com as “a grand debut. An ambitious and well considered SF crossover… [that] breathes originality into the genre”, Awakening has received almost all five star reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.

I am of the persuasion life is too short to squander. I enjoy fine food, so I have learned to cook. I am endlessly curious about the world around me, so I read and I travel. I like people—who else is there?—so I talk and listen and try to understand what I hear. Over the years I’ve driven trucks, been an FM disk jockey, produced concerts, served as a mainsail trimmer on racing yachts, piloted gliders, written software, worked as a hair stylist and owned and operated my own business—all with varying degrees of success. All have imparted a wealth of experience and taught great lessons. In the course of these doings I have had the privilege of meeting very accomplished individuals in the areas of music, movies, sports, technology, industry, finance and politics. Ultimately, all of this background comes together, struggles to find coherence and emerge in my writing.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have been writing ever since I can remember. It’s something I am compelled to do. If I could say why, I could explain the meaning of life.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In the truest sense, I can say my work transitioned from a hobby—a way to occupy idle time—into something more serious in the early 2000s. A friend of mine, best-selling romance author, Brenda Joyce, said one was truly a writer when the story inside burned to come out. I realized they did. Many stories. Since then, I have been studying the craft, attending conferences and entering literary competitions. I am still becoming the writer I wish to be. It’s an ongoing process.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I am working hard to complete Thought Gazer, the first volume of the prequel trilogy to my debut novel, Awakening (Regilius Publishing, 01/01/14). People call it a sci-fi/fantasy crossover because it treads the ground between the two genres while eschewing the traditions of each. While set on a world with two suns, there is nothing by way of science, nothing by way of magic. Instead, telepaths, or those with unique psychic abilities tip the course of events.

The warlord, Hath Kael, kidnaps Darva, an opposing lord’s sister, to force her brother’s capitulation. When Bedistai, from a tribe of hunters, foils the abduction and undertakes Darva’s return, an ally of Kael recruits Peniff, a telepath, to find the two. Instead, Peniff comes to the couple’s aid, then attempts to rescue his family—held hostage to insure his cooperation—before his betrayal comes to light. This is the story of a man, in all other ways ordinary, rising above his fears to do what he must.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was working on my debut novel and had created a character I found fascinating. Awakening, however, already had more characters than a Russian novel and I knew I had to can him. I really liked him, though, and in time I came to realize he could become the core that drove a prequel.

Do you have a specific writing style?

The language I use has been described as formal. It seems to suit my subject and their almost medieval setting better than the casual language of our day-to-day lives.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

My protagonist reads minds and the title seemed to fit. Like my stories, it told me what I should call it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Overcome your fears. Do what you must. No challenge is so horrible or so great you cannot surmount it. Doing what is right, rather than what is easy, is one of the most difficult tasks for all of us. Still, when all is said and done, the outcome of having acted from one’s heart—even if it was not what one expected—is the easiest to live with, the best place from which to carry on.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Hah! Hardly. The people I know are truly diverse, but there’s not one mind reader among them. One reads the tarot, another translated the Popol Vuh, the creation story of the Maya, while yet another’s husband is the world’s foremost translator of the I Ching into English, but that’s as esoteric as it gets.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

John Steinbeck first introduced me to how powerful a story one could craft with only words. J. R. R. Tolkien was the man who introduced me to fantasy. Dean Koontz delighted me with the way he turns a phrase. I envy Donna Tartt’s richly descriptive scenes, and sometimes begin to approach them—emphasis on begin. Martin Cruz Smith is a master of combining tension with realism.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

These days, I have to say it is the unparalleled George R. R. Martin. Every page he writes contains a lesson, whether it be dialogue, scenic description, examples of Show, Don’t Tell…the examples are endless.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I am blessed to have discovered Natasha Brown. Her sense of color and form are at once unique and magical—so I guess there is really some magic in my books after all. Some people liken my covers to movie posters.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write from the heart. Write what appeals to you. Don’t dumb down your work in an effort to appeal to the broadest market possible. If your work has depth, if it resonates as something real, something important, something believable on a gut level, your readers will find you.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Please support your favorite authors. They have labored for months, or even years, to give you those hours of pleasure you find between their covers. If you enjoyed the experience, take a few minutes out of your life to post a review, whether it be on Amazon or Goodreads, on Facebook or Twitter, even in the blog you use to journal to your friends.

Awakening Book CoverRaymond Bolton
Santa Fe, New Mexico AND Portland, Oregon


Cover Artist: Natasha Brown
Publisher: Regilius Publishing