Interview With Author Allan Batchelder

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Allan Batchelder, and I’m the author of the Immortal Treachery series of grimdark novels. It’s a five-book series that is, by turns, morally ambiguous, gritty, violent, funny, tragic and absolutely epic.

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Well, I’ve been into role-playing games since 1978, when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons (in its second year!). You’d be surprised how many authors are current and former gamers. Anyway, I decided I wanted to try to create my own world and characters, inspired by the stories that inspired me growing up. So, although it may be subtle at times, my books have elements of Bruce Lee’s films, Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, Kurosawa’s Yojimbo films, along with a hint of Conan, Elric, John Carter of Mars, and more. Oh, and also Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which I performed in once. There are also tons of Easter Eggs, referencing Poe, Lewis Carrol, and others, and above all, Shakespeare. I’m a professionally trained Shakespearean actor, so my work is deeply inspired by some of the bard’s plots, dialogue, and more.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

That’s hard to say. I just have a constant need to create, in whatever form or way I can. I do know that my parents were very supportive when I was young, buying me a drafting table and all the drawing materials and books a boy could want. They also took my siblings and me to the theater every chance they got, along with less-frequent trips to the ballet, the opera, and so forth.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I don’t get it, really. I get motivational slumps, but that’s not the same thing. If anything, I have too many ideas, more than I can ever see to fruition in this lifetime.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Letting your fear of failure dictate what you write. The thing is, you CAN’T fail if you’re writing for yourself (at first, anyway). Once you’ve found your voice and your audience — and, in a world of 8 billion people, you WILL find an audience — that fear will subside and you’ll be free to tell whatever story you like.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I was a little slow on the uptake where titles are concerned. I named by books after lines of dialogue within them, not really considering the marketing impact of titles. But I am happy and make no apologies. That said, I am approaching things differently with my current work. As for covers, get the very best artist you can afford, because people DO judge books by their covers.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I’ve been a professional actor for over thirty years. I was a stand up comedian for nine. And I’ve been a middle school teacher for 30, too. I’ve heard it all and developed a very thick skin. I don’t ignore negative feedback, but I take what’s useful to me and ignore the rest. After all, anyone can criticize; it’s a lot harder to create and complete a book, a painting, a concerto, a film.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

I’ve become much more disciplined about setting the time aside and using it, giving myself a daily goal, etc.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

I was surprised at how much time and energy marketing takes. It’s exhausting, but necessary. I was delighted to find other authors who were thoroughly supportive.

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

First and foremost, I want to write something I enjoy. Then, if others enjoy it, too, I begin to feel an obligation to meet some of their expectations or to reward their loyalty. My readers become like family, and I want them to be happy, too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean always giving them what they think they want. Sometimes, you have to kill a character they love in order to tell a bigger, more powerful story.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

They’re everything. I’m constantly acting out the dialogue of my books at every stage of the writing process, trying to get the wording just right to match what I’m feeling. If you’re not feeling anything when you write, why are you writing?

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

I think writers should expose themselves to as many other forms of creativity as possible — at museums, the theater, comedy shows, concerts. And join discussion groups. Spark with other people. Finally, think about Stanislavsky’s Magic If, which, in this case, I repurpose to mean “What if…?” That’s where all great stories begin. Another thing you can do, a specific exercise, is write down a list of things your character wouldn’t do or the that wouldn’t happen in your story and then MAKE THEM DO IT OR HAPPEN. Try to justify or understand why that thing that wouldn’t happen ends up happening anyway. See what you learn from that.

# What are your plans for future books?

I am working on a piece right now about Shakespeare. It’s historical fiction, but with a definite fantasy/horror element to it. After that, I’m doing a steampunk with my son, and then I’m on to a full-blown horror novel. Following that, I have several more fantasy books in mind.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

Well, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m a man. But I was a Girl Scout for a while in my youth. Long story. Also, I speak French, but I’m not as fluent as I once was. Locally, I’m most known for portraying the Adult Tooth Fairy in a series of commercials. I would love to open a restaurant featuring spicy foods from all over the world, called The Fire House. I once kissed an orca on the lips — no tongue, though. I have standards for a first date.