Some Thoughts with ... D.A. Smith
I’ve been writing for as long I can remember, drawing first and adding stories to them, building worlds and places for my characters to belong in, but that wasn’t enough. As an avid SFF reader, that consumes way more books than I have shelf space for, I thought it was time I turn my hand to being a novelist.
I wrote my first novel a few years ago, which has yet to see the light of day (nor ever will), and found that writing is in my blood, my passion, so I’ve stuck to it. Ever since I’ve been tinkering away with short stories and a few novels that I’m proud of, I've got a few trunked, and one seeking an agent, but I'm very proud of The Blood of Outcasts, it's my love letter to Rurouni Kenshin, the comics I read, and everything SFF.
I’m an English Linguistics and Language graduate working in journal publishing, and this would be my debut; I also review SFF novels for FanFiAddict and my short fiction has appeared in ‘Pride: The Worst Sin of All’ (Black Hare Press, 2020). I've also had work narrated live on air at Pop-up Submissions.
Welcome to a post in my favourite section of the web. Today we are accompanied by Dan Smith, author of The Bane Sword Saga, whose second book just released yesterday; and who is also an SFF reviewer.
Let's dive in!
1.- What made you decide on self-publishing?
It was very much the ability to cut my own path into the publishing world, the genre, and not have to jump through hoops or convince any gatekeepers that my work was something a reader would want to read – I’d let them find that out for themselves. There’s nothing like having complete creative control over your work and also knowing that the year you spent drafting it has been well spent.
The self-publishing industry continually puts out incredible book covers, and fantastic stories that otherwise would never be picked up because they don’t fit within trends, or won’t impress a publishing board enough to invest in them. It was all of the great self-published books that I read that gave me the courage to do it myself.
2.- What inspired
you to write The Bane Sword Saga?
I’m a huge Japanese history geek, and also a massive fan of Rurouni Kenshin, so I wanted to write a book that was a love-letter to both, while at the same time was something entirely different and also respected the culture. I poured everything I know about both into this series and blended it into something which is, at times, very different.
That isn’t to say it is historical fiction, there’s A LOT of my own world-building in there and elements that would certainly not fit within Japanese historical fiction.
I also had a need to write a complete unlikeable character and still try and make the reader want to follow them. Masako was the result of that … and I’m not entirely sure whether I succeeded!
3.- It's not a
secret that these books drink from Asian inspiration, could you tell us a
little about the investigative process to make these books accurate?
Yes, I suppose there’s no denying that (ha) especially if you’ve read the question above. I have quite a stack of Japanese history books. To be quite honest, before I even start drafting the next book in the series, I reread the ENTIRE stack from start to finish. Each time I do so, I ensure to add a new book, or two from a diverse pool of authors. There’s one called SAMURAI by Michael Wert that I’m very fond of for how concise it is. There are quite a few others much larger than it that one – the reason I do this is to stay true to the cultural theme of the book. I also read The Book of Five Rings by Musashi Miyamoto regularly. It helps me understand Masako.
Also, I rewatch all of the Rurouni Kenshin movies (maybe it is an excuse to keep rewatching them) but they perfectly capture the aesthetic I’m after in my book. This is all to keep the setting in mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this makes me an expert on the subject, and Basho (the country my book is set in) is certainly not Japan. But this allows me to wear my inspirations very heavily on my sleeve.
4.- Which part of
the writing process would you say was the most challenging for you?
The slow scenes, especially when I’ve got an ever-growing cast. When trying to keep track of all the lord-families of Basho, it can be a nightmare to bring them all together and give each person a well-rounded personality. My main character also isn’t one to do much with words – she prefers action. So, when the story does need to slow down, I find I rewrite those parts the most, and edit them most heavily.
5.- Outside of
writing, which other hobbies do you have?
These are the moments I dread, when you’re meant to try and sound much more interesting than you are! Unfortunately, I am not. I’m not sure that I have too many worth noting. I am an all-or-nothing person who fixates on one hobby. If I try to do too much, I derail the other … but, like a lot of other people, I spend way too much time playing games.
6.- Would you say
writing a second book becomes easier than the debut one?
I’d say it is harder. Or at least, I found it a lot harder. I was never one to plan the first book, but you certainly can’t write without a plan for a sequel. Inevitably, at the end of the first book, there are a lot of characters and plot threads left hanging. For each of these, you need to tie-off, continue, or give something to do.
A side character can’t just go missing (though, if I shared first drafts with you, you’d be surprised at how many of these do end up disappearing only to reappear in a third draft when you’ve had time to take a step back and realise said character existed!)
7.- What can we
expect in the future from Dan Smith?
Two more books in the Bane Sword Saga … well, if you don’t count the novella that I plan to release in Feb – March.
I’m also sitting on the first two completed novels in a completely different series. They’re part of a science fantasy series (cyberpunk fantasy) that I hope to release in the future! I’m not sure that I could juggle two series at the same time though. Other than that, there’s another book on the back-burner. I’m never short of ideas, thankfully.