Some Thoughts with ... Daniel Meyer
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a reader, and for almost as long, I’ve had ideas for stories of my own. I wrote my first story at the age of six, about pirates who had their treasure stolen. I never finished it, but I would keep writing stories throughout my childhood (never finishing most of those, either.) I fell away from the habit in my early teens, but all through high school, college (where writing papers helped me find my own unique voice), and my befuddled attempts at job hunting, the ideas never stopped, coming from all kinds of sources, for books, movies, TV shows, comics. On some level, I felt I should be a writer, and yet, I never seriously considered that I would actually become one.
Eventually, the ideas were coming faster and faster, and when I was twenty-five, I couldn’t resist the temptation anymore, and decided to take the plunge and actually bring those stories to life. At first I just concentrated on getting my many ideas down on paper, then spent months waffling over which one of them I should write first, until finally landing on Sam Adams.
And that brings us, more or less, to the present day. One of my main goals as a writer is to write the kinds of stories I want to read, and hopefully they’re the kinds of stories others would want to read as well. Like I said, I have more than a few ideas waiting in the wings, and I intend to bash out all of them sooner or later. I can’t wait for all of you to read them.
Welcome to a new post on my favourite section of the website. Today we are accompanied by Daniel Meyer, author of the Sam Adams series, and whose debut, Credible Threats we are reviewing.
Let's dive in!
1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
Well, there were a few things.
In the beginning, I assumed I’d go the traditional route, just because I took it for granted that’s what you were ‘supposed’ to do. As time passed, I started to change my mind.
One reason was a Reddit post by Michael J. Sullivan that said it made more financial sense for writers to self-publish rather than go trad. Another was the tale of L.J. Smith, author of The Vampire Diaries, (the books that the television series was based on,) who got fired from her own series by her publishers. A third was an offhand comment by Bernard Cornwell, who said that his publishers had veto power over his book titles. I’d always had sort of a general fear of people trying to change my stories, to have them ‘write the market’ or whatever, and I remember those things as helping to change my mind. (And I think it was a good idea. I’ve always suspected publishers would find the Sam Adams books too hard to pigeonhole and want them to fit more comfortably in a strictly young adult or adult box.) Basically, I just wanted more freedom and control over the process. It was stressful in some ways, but I have no regrets.
2.- You decided for your first book to write urban fantasy, why did you choose that genre?
It was partly creative and partly practical. Creative, in the sense that I’ve always liked urban fantasy, and practical, in the sense that of all my many ideas, Sam Adams was the one that was in the fittest state to start writing.
3.- Let’s talk more about the process of self-publishing. Your cover (and I assume the formatting) was done by Luke Tarzian, how did you decide to use his services? What made you choose him?
The formatting was done by Damonza, but the cover was done by Luke, and I’m so happy with how it turned out. I had never worked with a cover artist before, or done anything artistic at all, so it was at times laborious trying to thrash out what the cover should look like. But it turned out so good! Spooky and gorgeous and perfect for the story. I couldn’t be happier with it, so Luke turned out to be a great choice. He was suggested to me by my editor, when, completely exasperated in my hunt for a cover artist, I e-mailed her asking for advice. I remember checking out his portfolio and liking the vibrant colors. (To be honest, I think indie covers are often much cooler than those of trad books; a little more willing to do something with some originality and personality, and that’s what I wanted for my own book.)
4.- Secondly, your book is edited by Sarah Chorn. What made you choose her as your editor?
I’m afraid it was pure luck. (A whole lot of things come down to that, don’t they?) It started when I was browsing r/fantasy one morning, and came across a book that sounded like something I’d enjoy: The Shadows of Dusk by Alec Hutson. I checked out its Amazon page and read her review, where she mentioned that she was the book’s editor. This perked my ears up; I was approaching the point where I’d need an editor, but my half-hearted searches so far had never turned up anything. There were just so many options to choose from, and I was never sure which one was the right one. I checked out her website, and really liked what she had to say about building a relationship with the author, bringing out their unique voice, and things like that. So, I got in contact with her, and shortly thereafter she was editing Credible Threats.
Most of the changes she suggested weren’t that drastic, but they drastically improved the manuscript. It’s far more polished now than it would have been if it hadn’t been for her efforts, and I couldn’t have been happier working with her. Her skills as an editor, as well as her advice and encouragement, really gave me a boost, and I hope we can collaborate on many books to come…
5.- How did the idea to write the Sam Adams series appeared?
It was simple in some ways and complicated in others. Simple, in the sense that one day it popped into my head that someone should write a story about a wizard in high school, one where our teenage wizard gets to do all the cool stuff that Harry Dresden and other, adult urban fantasy heroes get to do. Someone out there may have done that already but if so, I wasn’t aware of it.
It was complicated, in the sense that I had a bunch of ideas that needed a lot of polishing. VERY early in my writerly journey, I had some ideas for some sort of fantasy series with a high school setting, none of which I’d ever taken too seriously or put much thought into. Some of them made their way into the finished product, others fell by the wayside. I was afraid that my most basic idea, a wizard in high school, was too simple or too unoriginal or whatever, and the first couple drafts were very different than the book you ended up reading. Sam’s powers and backstory were more complicated, and huge chunks of the plot went in another direction. These first attempts never quite worked, so finally, I returned to my first instinct and stripped things down to their simplest: a wizard in high school. I still had a long way to go, but when I tried the third draft, it was the same basic story that you can read today
Overall, Sam Adams is a combination of ideas I’ve had since the beginning (Alexandra Tyler, Catrick Swayze, Elise, Zack’s kidnapping, the conspiracy on the North Side, and some other stuff that hasn’t happened yet but is too spoilery to discuss) and some new and improved things that came about along the way.
6.- One of the aspects I found more intriguing in the book was the Shal’Gasa(the spirits). Could you tell us a little bit more about those?
Well, the Shal’gasa are one of the countless races of beings who live in the spirit world, and they’re among the most dangerous. They’re long-lived and famously ruthless, always plotting against and fighting with one another, with all sorts of spooky sorcery at their fingertips. As Sam Adams notes, they don’t spend much time in our reality, because our earthly goings-on are simply beneath them, raising the question of what they’re up to. They live in a basically medieval society, with noble houses making up different kingdoms in Shal’gasa’nor, a very dangerous and inhospitable realm, full of dangerous creatures.
The inspiration for the Shal’gasa started with the desire to come up with some original creatures instead of just doing the ones you typically see (though there are some of those, too.) With the Shal’gasa specifically, I remember being inspired by Thanos’ lieutenants (Ebony Maw, Cull Obsidian, etc.) in Avengers: Infinity War, sitting in the theater thinking they were really cool, which is why Eressen bears a bit of a resemblance to them. I wanted to bring in a faction that really raises the stakes, and lets Sam know that there are forces at work here much larger than what they appear. (And then I had to figure out what that faction actually wants.)
I’m glad you found them interesting! They’ll be reappearing from time to time to cause all sorts of mischief…
7.- Outside of writing, what does Daniel Meyer like to do in his free time?
Haha, what free time? I can tell you I’m currently learning High Valyrian (don’t ask me to speak it yet,) and I enjoy chilling out watching one of the many shows I’m making my way through… House of the Dragon (obviously), Locke and Key, The Umbrella Academy, Babylon 5, Psych, and many others. Eagerly awaiting new seasons of Cobra Kai, Stranger Things, The Mandalorian, Seven Kings Must Die, (the wrap-up movie for The Last Kingdom,) and no doubt many others that I’ve forgotten about.
I like to collect swords, when I can summon the courage to spend the money. And, of course, reading. I always have my eye on more books than is generally considered reasonable, and I always have to make my way through my TBR heap while impatiently waiting to get more. I’ve just started Panacea by Alex Robins, and while I’m barely underway, I’m enjoying it so far.
8.- What can expect from Daniel Meyer in the future?
Well, my current project is Sam Adams Book Two, entitled Rising Shadows. I’ve been worried about the ‘sophomore slump,’ and it’s been a grind for quite a while, but as it’s taken shape, I’ve found myself very excited about what I’ve come up with. No release date yet, but I’ve been making terrific progress.
In Credible Threats, Sam Adams opened some doors to some very dark avenues (I’ll keep it spoiler-free, but you know what I’m talking about) and in Rising Shadows, he’s going to have to go down them and discover what’s waiting there. Some dark revelations will be coming to light, and they’re going to affect Sam in ways he can’t imagine. At the same time, a whole new threat shows up in town; unlike King Death, where the plot revolves around figuring out his identity, this is a figure in the supernatural world who’s already known and feared, and they may have some connection to the secrets Sam is already trying to uncover in Williamsport. As a result, Sam is going to have to ally with the very people keeping those secrets. I don’t think it’s too spoilery to say things will explode, blood will spill, magic will be used in all sorts of creative and destructive ways, Catrick Swayze will continue to mouth off, a concrete mixer will be used as a weapon, and poor old Sam will be beset from all sides and have to save Williamsport once again.
Also, I have another project waiting in the wings, an epic fantasy called The Voice in the Mist. It’s in VERY early stages, and my schedule’s still a little fuzzy, but I want to get to it soon. I got a head start on it earlier this year during a break from Rising Shadows. It’s my salute to classic high fantasy, and it’ll have reluctant heroes, rampaging barbarians, wisecracking bards, kingdoms in chaos, necromancy, torture chambers, cauldrons, sieges, spooky cults, lurking traitors, cavalry charges down burning streets, cliff jumps… the whole works. I’m going for a vibe akin to A Song of Ice and Fire, with more overtly ‘fantastical’ elements, or something like Braveheart, Kingdom of Heaven, or Outlaw King, if those movies had magic. Book one is tentatively titled The Shattered Throne, and I can’t wait to unleash that particular beast on my readers…
Of course, I have plenty of other ideas, but those will have to wait for now…