A New/Old Interview

Author’s note: this was the first interview of my entire career. Written for a comic book themed Facebook page moderated by my old friend (and fellow Dresden Files fan) Kenny Treece, it’s rather hard to find these days, and when I came across it in my files recently, I decided to reprint it here for the sake of completionism. Conducted before Credible Threats was released, some of the information is dated, but it’s still a fun insight into the earlier stage of my career and the creative process.

My former co worker and someone I love like a brother, Daniel Meyer has published his first novel, Credible Threats.  It’s out today.  Daniel, I see it’s a ‘Sam Adams Novel.’  Is this the first of a series?  Tell me a bit about Mr Adams Backstory?

Aww, thanks man, I love you too!

Yep, Credible Threats is the first book in the Sam Adams series, which I’m tentatively planning for nine books. Sam Adams is a sixteen year old wizard. He first came into his powers when he was younger, and by the time the story begins, he’s familiar with magic but doesn’t have a lot of real experience with it; he’s never had to fight any monsters or anything like that. He lives with his parents and sister in the (fictional) city of Williamsport, a city that seems normal on the surface, but underneath, there’s crime, corruption, a brutal divide between rich and poor; it’s got a very noirish vibe. When we first meet Sam, he’s trying to get on with his life after a devastating loss.

2–Ok, that’s wild!!  So, how does this story begin and what will the ‘Credible Threats’ of this novel be about?

The story begins with Sam trying to help out someone who believes their house is haunted; when he investigates, he realizes this is the first sign of something much larger that’s about to go down. The ‘credible threats’ could be a lot of things, seeing as how there’s so much mayhem and destruction throughout the book, but without going into spoiler territory, it involves a designer drug called Hex that gives its users magical powers before killing them. As you might imagine, this causes all kinds of chaos, and Williamsport turns into a powder keg. And as Sam digs deeper, he realizes it’s way, way more complicated and more dangerous that it first appears…

3–Sounds super!  How long has this book been percolating in your mind?  And how did this character and idea come to you? 

Wow…a long time. I started working on it four years ago, and came up with the idea maybe a year or so before that? I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from. I’ve always enjoyed high school as a setting for a story, and it popped into my head one day that someone should do a story about a wizard in high school. I’m sure other people have done something similar, but I couldn’t really think of any examples. I’d had some other very vague ideas about some kind of fantasy story about high schoolers, ala Buffy, and this one kind of jumped to the top of the heap. And I messed around with it for a long time; incorporating some of those other ideas into the story, deleting some others that weren’t up to par, going through various iterations of the story. I wasn’t sure at first if I should pull the trigger on it, because I was afraid that my ideas just weren’t strong enough, but what clinched it for me was Catrick Swayze, a talking cat and Sam’s Familiar. I knew I somehow had to get that obnoxious little furball onto the page. I still messed around with it for a long time; in the beginning, Sam’s powers and backstory were much more complicated, but I finally realized, just not as good. I returned to my simpler, more straightforward original idea: a wizard in high school. And though it took a lot more work, that’s when the story really started working.

4–You have to do a lot of work to get published.  Explain a little about that process.  

Yeesh. Self-publishing was very stressful, although I don’t have any regrets about choosing that path. The first thing you have to do is write and rewrite (and rewrite and rewrite) a book. If you don’t have a book, well, the publishing process doesn’t exactly work. Other than that, the most important thing you can do is to find yourself a legit editor and cover artist. I’m hesitant to give anyone any writing advice, but I really can’t stress that enough. Beware of scammers, amateurs, and other literary ne’er do wells. I found my wonderful editor, Sarah Chorn, completely by coincidence after I read a review of a book she wrote and she ended up being the perfect editor for me. I knew it was time for an editor when I was just completely exasperated and out of ideas with the book. Her insights were great; some of the changes she suggested were stuff I’d thought of before but needed a little push to fix, and others were stuff that hadn’t occurred to me at all. In the end, the changes to the book weren’t that drastic in themselves, but they drastically improved the story. My cover artist was Luke Tarzian, and I’m pretty sure I put him through the wringer, because artwork is not my forte at all. It took a lot of back and forth, bouncing ideas off each other, but ultimately, the cover art proved to be drop dead gorgeous and pitch perfect for this particular book, and it really exceeded my expectations. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Other than that, you need to get the book formatted (this is the process that makes your words look like an actual book, and something I still don’t really understand.) You gotta put the book on Amazon, which, once you get the hang of it, is a pretty quick and straightforward process. And voila, you’ve published yourself a book. Other than that, you gotta set up your socials, set up your official website (a nasty, nasty job), scout around for promotional opportunities, look for book reviewers, stuff like that. And start working on your next book!

5–You told me you are already working on the 2nd novel.  Can you give us a little preview?

Also, you know how Butcher used the back of his Dresden Files novels to ‘preview’ some of his other books?  He would print the first several pages.  Would you feel comfortable with sharing some?  And would that be ok with your publisher?  I will post it, if you can. 

Hmmm, a preview, you say… Well, I can tell you that the next book is tentatively titled “Wild Side” (I have to remember to actually work that phrase into the novel somehow.) I have to be very, very careful about what I say here, because I might slip up and spoil some of the most dramatic parts of Credible Threats. I can tell you that I set up a lot of stuff at the end of Credible Threats, and in book two, you’ll see some of that paying off in a very dramatic way. Wild Side is going to feature lots of dark revelations that set up a lot of momentous events, some of which will reverberate through the rest of the series… And though I’d love to give you a preview, I’m hesitant to do it, because the book is in such a rough and disorganized shape. So, here’s a little snippet from Credible Threats instead…

Chapter One

The deeper I walked into the South Side, the less believable it got when I assured myself I wasn’t nervous.

The streetlights were erratic, and their sullen orange glow refused to banish the shadows, letting my imagination fill in the blanks. Wandering around the South Side after dark is never a good decision; it’s nearly as dangerous as doing the same thing on the North Side.

Particularly when you’re on your way to banish a poltergeist.

My name is Sam Adams, and I’m a wizard.

Yes, I love saying it.

If you think that gives me some desire for heroism, standing between humanity and the darkness and blah blah blah, you’re very mistaken. But what can I say? Magic is cool, so I help out where I can.

Afraid of failing your test on the English Civil War? I can talk to my Familiar, who actually fought in it. Guys catcalling you on your way to school? I can whip up a fear spell that’ll make them afraid to even look in your direction. Strictly small-time stuff, within the realm of plausible deniability; I avoid attention as much as possible, and never stick my neck out too far.

Until tonight.

Thanks so much for letting me do this! I hope you and your readers have as much fun reading this book as I did writing it!