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Interview with Stephen Christiansen

He is an author who enjoys writing fantasy/fiction, sci-fi, and thrillers. He lives in Roseburg Oregon with his family, wife, and daughter. In his free time, he likes to travel, hike, and take care of his 5 acres of forested land.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I know how to juggle. I started to juggle when I was about 14. My best friend and I read the same book, Lord Valentine’s Castle, and we were both inspired to pick up juggling. Eventually, we were not only able to juggle multiple objects by ourselves, but we were able to pass items to each other while juggling.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Yes, I am currently working on a spy thriller novel called The White Death. Our FBI heroine is called in to investigate the strange deaths of the personnel of a military research station in Prudhoe, Alaska. There’s a shadow government, conspiracies, and a world threat. Think “X-Files” type. I’m going to try to make this a 4 book series. Look for a connection to the Sci-Fi “Apocalypse Series”, I think this will tie in very well.

Q.3 What inspired you to write the Orbbelgguren series?
I read the War of the Spider Queen series that was overseen by R. A. Salvatore. I highly enjoyed dark elves and thought that this series really captured the feel of the dark elves. However, the series was only 6 books long and I thought that it should have been 8 if we were reading about a Spider Queen.

I have also read some novels that I’ve been so disgusted with that I’ve thrown them across the room and said “I could write a better book than this.”

Well, with the two thoughts in mind, I put together a group of dark elves that I had running around in my mind and set off on a journey of my 8 book series. Well, the 8 books turned 12, then 15, and finally finished at 17 plus offshoots.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Sometimes when I write about women, I start with the concept of the character and let the character grow from there. It isn’t so much as “what would a woman do?” but more of “what would this character do?” I try my best not to second guess how a woman thinks, but instead, try to understand the character as a whole. However, there are times that I need to ask “how would a woman think in this situation?” 

I find that there are times when men and women approach situations differently so when that happens I try to think about the women in my life and how they might react. I think about my mom, my sisters, my wife, and my daughter. I’ve even asked female co-workers what they might do or how they might think and every time I get a different opinion than my own. I’m so glad of the women in my life that can help me out in creating strong female characters. I even have a few characters completely modeled after a few of the women in my life.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
This is an interesting question because the plots and characters just come to me. I don’t know how they come, but they just do. After the initial idea sets in, I write some of it down, just so I can remember it and come back later. I do very little “plotting” of my own, but rather let my mind wander and see what it comes back with. What I find is that my subconscious mind has been working in overdrive since some of the ideas that just come to me hook back around to something that was already written, tying plots altogether. At best, I’ll “plot out” about half of a novel and let my imagination run wild with the other half and it seems to all work out.

Q.6 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I’ve written 26 so far and am working on number 27 with concepts for at least 10 more. Of all of the books that I think are my favorite, I will have to go with Book 10 of my dark elf series, The Troll Wars. In this book, I was able to bring in two different foes from previous books and tie them together to form an unlikely team-up. However, it really brought the book together in the end. I was also able to split the heroes up into smaller groups and let each one shine a little bit on its own. Finally, I was able to show the awful realities of war

Q.7 What was the hardest part of writing this series?
I had two very hard parts in writing this series. The first was keeping every individual in mind. With the vast amount of characters that came and went, I had to make another book just to write them all down. Some of these secondary or even tertiary characters make another appearance and needed to make sure that they were all in order and remembered correctly.

The other hard part was writing the last book. There is a very emotional scene near the end of the book that was difficult to express. It got to me so much that it took a long time to get around it. Other than that, the books pretty much flowed from my mind.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Travel more. I would love to be able to travel to Scotland and England. I have traced a lot of lineage back to Scotland and England and would like to see the places of my heritage. Also, there are several castles I would love to go see. Then I would like to visit Carlsbad Caverns, and then some more Mayan and Aztec ruins.

Q.9 If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
Scarlett Johansson with her “Lucy” haircut (or something similar) would be great for Istobarra. Henry Cavill (similar to his Witcher image) would fit for Maldev. Peter Dinklage would be wonderful for Grimlock. Gina Carano would fit for Eclavarda. Florence Pugh would fit for Cavaleen. Keanu Reeves would be nice for Valas. Finally, I think Cate Blanchett would make an awesome Spider Queen.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
Yes, I think it’s very important to target a specific set of readers for my dark elf series. First, it is fantasy/fiction and then it is about dark elves. This becomes a very small niche. Although, if someone likes a very thick plot, character growth, and world-building, this may be very appealing; it’s just more of a target for those who enjoy dark elves in a fantasy fiction setting.

I’ve been trying to hit Facebook pages that talk about dark elves or focus on Fantasy Fiction art. I also do a lot of book site sales, setting up a table, and meeting the public first hand. Mostly my marketing is word of mouth within the circles of roleplaying gamers and fantasy fiction geeks like myself.

Q.11 What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
Well, if I’m allowed to say, then it would be the fantasy realm that I have created for my Orbbelgguren series. I’ve spent so many years developing it, molding it, visiting it, that now I want to walk through the lands that I have created. I want to visit the vast wasteland of the desert, travel through the frozen swamps, and meet with the good people of Dara or of Grandfolk. I want to sail aboard the Tempest or the Queen of Night or soar above the clouds in one of the flying ships. There’s so much to be done and to see in this world and I would love to see it all.

Q.12 Do you feel any competitive pressure from fantasy movies? If not, why not?
No, not really. I can’t really compete against other fantasy franchises, so I shouldn’t try. I continue to remind myself that my fan base can like my novels as well as other franchises. There’s room out there for my stories to entertain any who also like various fantasy movies.

Q.13 Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
All the time. Each time that I want to write about a monster or a mythological event, I do all of my research. For example, I wrote about Ragnarok so I had to look up the names of the fire giants, the frost giants, and the situations that would lead to the event. I’ve looked up mythical creatures, cryptozological beings, legends, and everything that I could think of to put into the dark elf series. I really enjoy doing research like that. I get to learn about different cultures and their myths while weaving them into what I love to do.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your book, who is dear to you and why?
I would have to say that the dearest to me would be Cavaleen. Cavaleen is one of the youngest members to join the group. She starts out by living on her own, cast aside by society, and left to fend for herself. She is caught up in a religious cult and when she is no longer needed she is tossed aside. 

Eventually, she finds a group that will take her in, even when she is reluctant to trust again. I can relate to Cavaleen in so many ways. There are things about her life that mirror my own and to give her a family that she needs warms my heart greatly.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select him/her?
A. Randy Smith
does my book covers and he does an amazing job. Not only do I love the cover art, but I get so many people to tell me that the artwork is wonderful and I’ve sold many books to people who are drawn to the covers.

I was on a Facebook web page advertising my books when Randy commented on my post, asking me who did my cover art. At that time I was trying to do this on my own. The covers at that time weren’t horrible, but they weren’t catchy either. After showing me what he could do, I set up a contract and worked with him directly with each book. I had each book feature one or more of the heroes, or heroines, of the books. 

By the time the last book was printed, all of the members of the heroic team had been shown. I think he did a great job in not only showing off his artwork but also in capturing the feel of each book as well as the depth and portrayal of each character. He has been one of the best investments that I’ve had in regards to my novels.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
Most of the characters in the dark elf series have a name that means something in their language. For example, Istobarra is the merger of two dark elf words. The first is Isto meaning night or dark time or rest time. The second is barra meaning shade or shadow. Thus, her name means “Nightshade”. Since Istobarra is a necromancer and an alchemist, the name fits. Sometimes a name will mean something about the character or sometimes it will mean that individual’s fate to give some form of foreshadowing. An example of the last one: I have an orc that was named “Gorp”. I’ll let the reader try to determine what happens to him.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read all of my book reviews. I want to know how people truly feel about the material that they are reading and about the plotlines. However, I really only take to heart individuals who can give constructive criticism. A person who just leaves a review of “I like it” or “I didn’t like it” is just going to be bypassed by me. However, I will read and listen to individuals who take their time to talk about what they have read and leave a comment on how I can improve.

I do have a novel that I know hasn’t been bought yet since I monitor all of my sales. Yet, I have two “1-star” reviews with no comments. I just have to remind myself that these people are just trolls and not to take it seriously.

On the other hand, I have to look at the novels from my own point of view. Did I like them? If so, then that is really my target audience. I put out something that I liked and that I would read. At the end of the day, I am the most important critic of my own work. It may not be for everyone, but it was for me and those who might get me.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I would love to meet Edgar Allen Poe. He’s my favorite author. I think that not only has he had a fascinating life, but to watch how he comes up with his stories that would later impact others would be a wonderful experience. Poe had written the first known sci-fi story and a couple of his show definite signs of influence upon the stories of Sherlock Holmes.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
My absolute favorite book is the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe. I know, that doesn’t really count as a full novel, but Poe is my favorite author. I have gone through books, kept some, and have gotten rid of others. However, the one book that I always keep is my collection of Poe’s works. His writing style reminds me that I need to write in my own style. His troubled life reminds me that I can face anything thrown at me. His inspiring artwork tells me that one day I might be inspiring to others.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
As far as being creative, my writing took off like a shot. I was turning out about four books a year. The stories kept coming and I just couldn’t write them down fast enough. I would wake up wanting to write and just couldn’t stop. It took me a while to figure out how to self-publish and even then my cover art wasn’t so great. With the new cover art and the complex storylines, I’ve started to gather a small following.

Lately, however, I’ve recently moved to Oregon and my writing has been put on hold for the most part. It’s harder to write. I hope that I’ll be able to let the inspiration flow once again and again kick out the books like I used to. There are so many in my mind, I just need to pick up again. Until then, I’ve been trying to market more and do more book fairs.

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