This week's author is Will Bly, who writes unusual urban fantasies, as you'll see from his short story collection entitled Creatures.
Welcome, Will! What may I get you to drink?
WILL: Ever since I researched J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings for my M.A. thesis, I’ve promoted the collaborative qualities of a local pub and a pint of beer. It’s tough here in the USA because more and more bars are going the way of loud music and more club-like vibes. The smaller and more quiet the dive the better. The more wooden furniture the better. A warm fire during the winter is a huge plus. Pubs, dives, bars, etc. have an ancient history in storytelling and oral traditions. My characters in Ravens in the Sky always find themselves in taverns for this reason. And, oh yes, my coffee comes with 2 sugars and a splash of milk. There seems to be a diminishing need for sugar with age.
Ally: Since it's a little early in the US for a pint of beer, I'll be pouring our coffee. :) Why don't you introduce yourself to readers?
Will is a library manager and instructor of English. He graduated from the University of Auckland, New Zealand with a Master of Arts in English. His extensive work on Tolkien inspires an independent writing career in dark speculative fiction. As an author he is most known for writing the dark fantasy/mystery Ravens in the Sky. He lives with his wife and dog on Long Island, New York.
Something unique that isn't in your usual bio: " I’m more of a natural poet than an author of fiction. Poetry came to me early and often -- fiction I’ve had to work at. Knowing this about me helps my readers identify the abstract shadows lurking behind my prose."
Website - www.willbly.com
Twitter - @Will_Bly
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Willbly/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13928890.Will_Bly
Amazon Author Page - https://www.amazon.com/Will-Bly/e/B01A4XT512/
Ally: With the release of Creatures, you've published both short stories and novels. Did you find the writing very different? Did you have to consciously change your writing style to fit a different format? Compare the two experiences.
WILL: I never thought I’d write short stories in the fantasy genre, and honestly it is very hard to find good short stories in fantasy. It’s the amount of world-building, characterization, rules, and fantastical concepts that are needed. Fantasy is just so epic in nature I could never wrap my head around condensing it into short stories. Like most things I’m not keen on doing, I forced myself into it. I created a laboratory of writing styles, narrative voices, and diverse creatures. Since this format was new to me, I community-sourced help from my writer and reader friends. Anyone who volunteered to beta-read or proofread these stories are plugged in the opening acknowledgments. This serves as a great model that I suggest other indie authors use -- It really helped my stories get to the point where I am unquestionably confident in their quality.
I love these stories for the same reason I have a healthy respect for YA fiction -- they are high on concept and low on fluff. Great reads for the train commute or sneaking in a bit of quiet time. You can spend 15 minutes reading one of these stories and then head back to work with a fresh line of thought to be pondered.
Ally: Creatures is described as dark, and I read the sample. I thought the beginning would appeal to horror readers. Is the atmosphere similar throughout? Is there a common dark thread that ties the stories together?
WILL: As much as I’ve tried bucking the trend, I’m a dark writer -- it’s in my nature. Every time I write something new it begins with better intentions than the final product shows. However, I strive not to be nihilistic or overly cynical because that’s taking the easy way out. Everything I write, no matter how dark and depressing, I try to embed a grain of hope for the reader (and quite honestly, for myself) to hold onto. Admittedly, sometimes I fail and we’re left with a depressing result that will likely stick with us for some time. But that’s okay, because I’m a big proponent of exercising emotions we don’t necessarily go seeking out -- feelings such as sadness, guilt, and regret. I leave it to the reader to uncover the golden nuggets of hope I hide in my work.
Ally: Okay, you've written "the end" on your manuscript. Now what? Take us through your revision/editing process until you're ready for submission.
WILL: The honor of the first proofread falls upon my wife. She goes through the manuscript and raises questions and issues I don’t address. I go through the manuscript again, then send it through a gauntlet of freelance beta readers and editors. I read it through again and tweak the finer points, and then submit. I keep a running list of anything that may slip through the cracks and submit new fixes annually. So my work keeps getting better year in, year out. None of my pieces are simply left as they are.
The big advantage of writing short stories is the ability to community-source the quality control of the material. A novel is obviously a much larger commitment on the part of the editor / proofreader / beta reader. Since these stories are 15 or so minute reads a piece, it’s asking much less out of people to read little pieces of the whole. I am able to get more people to take little nibbles out of book by reviewing a short story or two. In turn, they still enjoy full experience with less time invested (and they get credit from me for the work they do). Consequently, Creatures is the most finely-tuned product I’ve released.
Ally: What's the next writing project on your agenda?
WILL: I recently finished the first draft of Raven’s Bane, the sequel to Ravens in the Sky, so we are post-processing that. My next project is a YA fantasy novel called Codex of Threya, in which rainbows aren’t arcs but full circles, tying a fantasy world to our own through portals. It’s based on the first story I ever wrote as a child, and yes -- it has leprechauns (though not quite the leprechauns we’ve known -- they are more like naturific fairies with cloaking magic). I’m excited that it has more of a fully-formed love story to buoy my dark tendencies. There are familiar themes of loss and finding oneself, but there is also the excitement of youthful courtship. The main relationship isn’t as complicated as fans of Ravens in the Sky might expect, lol.
Ally: Let's finish up with these short answer questions:
- a. a supernatural power you'd love to have: Immortality
- b. a song on your current playlist: Lost in the Cold - Twiddle
- c. last movie you saw in a theater: Deadpool
- d. favorite Olympic sport (summer or winter games): Curling. (Weird, I know.)
- e. a dream vacation destination: A cabin in the woods. The location doesn’t matter as much as the time. I’d love to have a few months of solitude in nature to tippity type to my heart’s desire.
Ally: It's been a pleasure to chat with you, Will. I hope you'll visit again - maybe when that YA fantasy is written. :) Before you go, please tell us a little more about Creatures...
Creatures is a collection of short stories written for the suburban reader. These fantasies take place in our libraries, our backyards, our roads, our wineries, and in our minds.
Dark and whimsical, Creatures is a deeply introspective journey through suburban anxiety.
Creatures includes five urban fantasy shorts:
● “A Conversation in Darkness” is an introduction to a dragon who is hellbent on destroying humanity.
● “All the Right Things” is written from the POV of a human but features a talking raccoon with nothing left to live for.
● “The Book Goblin” follows a librarian as he defends himself from a goblin who is angry about the lack of books being read.
● “Bloody Bagel” takes place from the eyes of a seagull in a Mcdonald’s parking lot who works up the courage to face the big boss holding him down.
● “An Indignant Living” follows a woodchuck who risks everything for a bite of heaven.
I also included an extra bonus which is the first chapter of Raven’s Bane, sequel to Ravens in the Sky.
Rated-R: Although some of the urban fantasies in Creatures are completely clean, there are one or two pieces that make the whole of the book a firm rated R. One story is written from the point of view of an exasperated Long Islander. Long Islanders, uh, tend to swear a lot. Blame the narrator, not me!
Only available at Amazon: