FAITH: Proverbs 3:5,6
Michael Wisehart lives in North Georgia, surrounded by forest, farmland, and unfortunately . . . fire ants. His days are usually spent clicking away on his keyboard when he’s not stopping to watch the deer graze across his front lawn.
He graduated with a Cum Laude in Business Accounting, but instead of pursuing this field, he returned to school to study film. He spent the next several years honing his visual craft, which he put to good use as he took what he’d learned behind the camera and applied it to the written word.
On April 14, 2014, Michael opened his laptop and began typing what would become two multiple award-winning series: The Aldoran Chronicles, and Street Rats of Aramoor (both set within the same world, but twenty years apart). By the time his second book released, he had quit his day job, walking away from production altogether, to pursue his writing career.
“The Following Are Interviews I Have Given To Various Publications”
Amazon WriteOn Interview (January 2016)
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 9:48 AM.
I quite literally woke up one morning and decided I was going to write a fantasy novel series.
Now, here we are January of 2016 and I have two books completely drafted and outlining for a third, while writing the first book in an offshoot series.
What was your inspiration for The White Tower?
Believe it or not I had no inspiration for writing The White Tower, which is the first book in the The Aldoran Chronicles series. When I say I woke up and decided to start writing this saga, I literally woke up, sat down at my laptop, and started writing. To be fair, I did take ten to fifteen minutes of serious reflection, in which time I came up with two names I thought should be used as the main characters.
What is, now, chapter three are the first words I ever wrote in this book. There have obviously been quite a few revisions since then, but for the most part the majority of what I first typed is still there.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have a number of favorite authors, all of which hold places on my shelves or space on my Kindle. [The following list is not in the least wise extensive, and only in order of my chronology of reading]: Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, L. E. Modesitt Jr., and Robin Hobb.
Do you do a lot of research?
My world building for The Aldoran Chronicles has been very extensive. When I wrote the series I wanted it to have firm legs to stand on, which meant there needed to be a very believable world with a very definable past that has led to where our story begins. My original intent, and still is perhaps, was to be able to create, at the very least, three separate series from this main timeline, not including the offshoot series I’m working on now, which takes place within the same world.
Needless to say, because of this, there is quite a lot of research that I have had to do in order to make this story even remotely realistic. I have an entire folder system on my computer dedicated to research alone with over 37 individual folders holding over 500 documents on every kind of topic I can think of to use within my book – and more gets added every day.
The good thing is that its fantasy. Fantasy authors are generally given a little more leeway when it comes to realism since it is all make believe anyway. However, you’ll be surprised how many times your readers will call you out on the minutest inconsistencies like there wouldn’t be a lace collar on a woodsman’s jerkin, when at other times you could describe a flying car in a high-speed chase with a dragon rider and no one says a word. Not that I have I have flying cars in my book, or dragon riders. hmmm?
Where do you write? place? laptop? computer? phone? pen and paper?
I do all my writing from home on my laptop. The very idea of paper and pen gives me carpal tunnel just thinking about it. I typically get up when I wake up…no more alarms, which for that reason alone I would suggest working towards becoming a fulltime author. Nothing like spending the day in your pj’s to appreciate this career.
What made you actually sit down and start writing your first story?
For three years prior to the decision of writing my own fantasy series, I had been working with a business partner on filming and pitching a new reality TV show to networks which unfortunately was never able to get off the ground. Putting the stress of television aside, I decided to put my time toward another endeavor, one that would still allow me to use my creativity and imagination.
I have always been a lover of fantasy ever since I first borrowed my father’s copy of Terry Brook’s Sword of Shannara. So it was no wonder that I made the decision to write in that specific genre.
Do you aim for a certain amount of words per day, or just write when you can?
I like to get in around 3K words a day as a benchmark. Some days I hit it. Some days I don’t. Some days I go over.
Both my first two books in the Aldoran Chronicles series have come out to roughly 200K words a piece, so even at 3K a day it still takes a while to draft. I know of other authors who are able to get 6K-10K a day. Who knows, maybe that will be possible some day for me, but right now I’m more worried about the quality of the words as opposed to the quantity. As complex as my worldbuilding is, most of my time is spent in research as I write.
Do you outline your plot ahead of time, or just sit down and write and see where the words take you?
With my first book I obviously didn’t outline. I had rough benchmark goals I wanted to see happen. I knew the ending, but I had no idea how I was going to get to it. I let the characters do the talking for me. The downside to doing this, especially as a first time author, is that in my case the first draft tended to be filled with too many day-to-day details and routines that didn’t move the story forward in a timely manner.
My second book I did more outlining, but still let my characters drive the story. I knew where I wanted them to end up, and let the creative process guide the way. I believe the first draft of my second book is much more fluid than the first. You learn and hopefully apply that knowledge from one book to the next.
With the first two books in my offshoot series, I have relied on a heavier set of outlining, finding the overall arc and then breaking it down into three tiers. From there, I decide how many chapters I’ll have in each and the main story arcs.
To sum it up: I am more of a pantser than a plotter, but without at least a basic plotting, I wouldn’t be able to do either.
Do you get writers block?
I don’t think I know of many, or any, authors who have not had this problem before. Typically this comes when I am trying to figure out the next plot point. My way around this problem is to step away from the computer, walk outside, and take a stroll around a forested pond. It clears my head. And when that doesn’t work, you’ll be surprised what a hot bubble bath can do.
Tell us something interesting about you!
Wow, this is probably the toughest question of all, much like a writer being forced to create his/her own back cover blurb.
I guess one interesting thing is that my entire family are black belts and we used to own and operate our own local dojo.
Authority Magazine Interview (November 2021)
- Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what first drew you to writing over other forms of storytelling?
That’s a funny question, considering up until 2014 the thought of writing a book was about the last thing on my mind. I was not your typical author, who dreamed of putting pen to paper since I was a child, entertaining my family and friends with whimsical tales of adventure and intrigue. In fact, I hated writing. The thought of coming up with a single page essay would have had my palms sweating.
After working construction for several years beyond high school, I quickly realized the importance of getting an education, and found myself packing my bags for college. Well, I didn’t have to pack too much, since the university I attended was in the town that I lived. I eventually graduated in 2006 with a degree in accounting, but after four years in the field, I decided to give the left side of my brain a rest and begin using the right, by going back to school for film. After five years, two production companies, and several ulcers later, I decided on April 4, 2014, to take my love for cinema and merge it with the written word.
At the time, I was heavily involved in reading through several epic fantasy series, which I’m sure had something to do with my rather unexpected choice to begin writing a fantasy novel of my own. No matter the reason, I woke up that rainy, April morning and decided I was going to write an epic fantasy series. Honestly, it had more to do with me needing to find a more viable career than any overt desire I had to become an author. I’d never written anything on the scale of a novel before. A couple of screenplays was about as close as I’d come.
I’m a visually oriented person by nature, so I tend to write my books in ways that help my readers experience what I’m seeing. One of the most universal comments I receive is that my readers feel like they are actually there, in the world of my books. They feel like they are watching a movie.
Being able to portray my series through visual, cinematic writing is like having the best of both worlds. It’s wonderful!
- You are a successful author. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
That’s a tough one, mostly because there are so many traits to pick from, like: ambitious, confident, diligent, imaginative, meticulous, punctual, resourceful, and the list goes on. Most of these traits are universal to authors in general, but if I can only name three, then here they are:
One of the first arrows I believe all authors must have in their quiver is that of Creativity.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I sound like I’m preaching to the choir. Most of the time, though, we reserve this term for artists: writers, painters, sculptors, filmmakers…etc., but in reality, it’s a trait we all possess. Creativity means approaching a need, task, or idea from a different perspective.
This is the essence of being an author, even more so for those of us who write epic sagas, whether they be fantasy or sci-fi. With expansive storylines, we find the need to write from multiple perspectives, to put ourselves in others’ shoes and try to feel what they do. It can be both challenging and rewarding. Creativity is the backbone to good storytelling.
A second arrow which authors need to hone to a finer point is determination.
Authors need to be self-motivated. It’s great when you have outside encouragement from family or friends, but when you’re locked in your study for hours every day, plugging away on that keyboard with nothing but you and your thoughts to keep you company, it can be difficult, not to mention lonely.
When I first decided to write a fantasy series, my decision wasn’t exactly met with overwhelming support, especially when the chances of being able to turn that career into a livable income were so low. And here I am seven years later, and I’m still wondering if I made the right choice…No, I wouldn’t trade being an author for anything. I love it! Where else can you spend all day in your pj’s, dreaming up new worlds for a living. However, it was that determination within; that voice in the back of my mind that said, “I’ll be hanged before I let myself fail,” that kept me going long enough to get that first book written and published.
For the final arrow, and by no means the least, I would say that authors need to be Open-minded.
By this I mean: able to take constructive criticism. If you can’t handle others’ opinions, especially the negative ones, then you are in the wrong line of work.
I tell my Beta Team all the time that the negative comments can be just as useful, if not more so, than the positive ones. They help me see through the eyes of my audience, to better understand what is working and what might not be. What’s funny, and exciting, and witty to me, might not be to everyone else. And trust me, my Beta Readers will be the first to let me know if they don’t like something.
- Can you tell us a bit about the interesting or exciting projects you are working on or wish to create? What are your goals for these projects.
My number one goal at this point is to continue expanding the universe of my books. Along with that, there are several in-world product lines I would love to add to my storefront. I will at some point contract with a digital artist to begin work on a pictorial encyclopedia for the world of the Aldoran Chronicles. Commissioning some of the more noted items (such as weapons) from the book is not out of the realm of possibility. I am also discussing soundtrack ideas with a composer friend as a way to enhance the reading experience.
Lots of irons in the fire…difficult to choose which to pull out first.
- Wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define sci-fi or fantasy? How is it different from speculative fiction?
Wow, is there a definitive definition for sci-fi, fantasy, or speculative fiction? Every time I go to the bookstore, it seems they have discovered several new subgenres of each. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that everything is constantly changing.
Let’s start with speculative fiction. Speculative fiction used to be more strongly tied to science fiction, since both contained speculative elements; however, nowadays speculative fiction is more of an umbrella genre that houses anything that falls outside our known world, or can be determined to be something that can’t happen, or hasn’t happened yet. Some of the genres listed under speculative fiction would be: fantasy, sci-fi, horror, magic realism, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, and supernatural fiction, or combinations of any or all of these genres.
There is probably no one correct way to define the difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Generally, fantasy takes place in a mythical realm with mythical creatures and powers deemed as supernatural, many times using a medieval type setting, but certainly not limited to this.
Science Fiction, on the other hand, tends not to lean as much in the past but toward the future, and instead of magic systems, it is grounded in technologies that generally do not exist yet here on earth.
Both genres can be interrelated at times. James Cameron’s Avatar is a great example of where two worlds collide, literally. One race is technologically driven, the other still uses primitive bows and spears, albeit very effectively. Even though you’ll find futuristic elements and space travel, there is also strong elements of fantasy mixed in.
- It seems that despite countless changes in media and communication technologies, novels and written fiction always survive, and as the rate of change increases with technology, written sci-fi and fantasy becomes more popular. Why do you think that is?
The written word is one of the oldest forms of communication, and for good reason. It’s effective. Even though, my readers tell me all the time that they wish my books would be turned into films, I would say that 90% or more of them would continue to read the books regardless of whether they were indeed picked up by a studio or not. Most readers find that the books are more compelling than the adaptions given to them. There’s typically more detail within the pages of a book that are not able to be expressed in other forms of media.
There is something special about the human imagination . . . and this is coming from someone who loves film. For all the advances we have made in the field of film and television, the realism we have been able to create, almost to the point of not needing human actors, it still does not compare to our own inspired creativity. What I see when I write a particular scene, can be seen and felt in more ways than I can express by those who pick up my books. It doesn’t matter how much detail I add to describe something in my books, each one of my readers will picture something different.
With the written word, we are not limited to a single person’s imagining of a story. Even as wonderful as an audiobook can be, especially when you have an extremely talented narrator to bring it to life, that narration is based loosely on what the narrator is feeling when they read the text. However, when you read a book, you get to be the one who determines what these characters sound like.
As much as I love the visual arts, there is something comforting to sitting down in front of a cozy fire with a good book.
- In your opinion, what are the benefits to reading sci-fi/fantasy, and how do they compare to watching sci-fi/fantasy on film and television?
I might have just answered most of this question with my previous response. Not to sound repetitive, but as wonderful as the visual arts are, book adaptions to film or television can be limiting. You will generally find more detail in the author’s original work, than what you’ll see in a director’s vision of that work.
However, I believe the use of adapting books, especially fantasy and sci-fi, for television instead of film has given studios the ability to expand further into the authors’ worlds. It unshackles the storytelling from being limited to a single 2-3 hour production, and increased it to upwards 16-22, hour long episodes, giving the producers the ability to bring more of the book to life.
- What authors and artists, dead or alive, inspired you to write?
I was a late bloomer when it came to the wonderful world of books. I don’t believe I read my first novel until I was late high school or early college. The first book I ever read was Terry Brooks’s The Sword of Shannara. It was an older copy of my father’s, and after that, I was hooked. I started to read Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time but didn’t make it through the first couple of chapters because I couldn’t keep up with all the characters. I can’t help but laugh now, since my own series has just as many, if not more. However, when I went back to the WoT, after finishing up everything Brooks had written at the time, I was well prepared, and this time I fell in love with Jordan’s world.
Robert Jordan, above all others, is the author my works get compared to the most, which is humbling. There are so many great fantasy storytellers whom have inspired my writing, both living and not, that it would be impossible to name them all. A few of my early favorites that have helped shape my writing would be: Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss.
- If you could ask your favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy author a question, what would it be?
Only one question? That’s like sitting down to a buffet and being told I can only eat one item.
Most people would ask the obvious: Where does your inspiration come from? How did you first get into writing? Why did you choose Fantasy? For me, I’d probably like to know: Once you reached that pinnacle of becoming a household name, selling tens of millions worldwide, is there anything you would have done differently?
Personally, I learn even more from my mistakes than from success, so listening to my favorite author’s advice on what they would have done differently would prove very beneficial.
- We’d like to learn more about your writing. How would you describe yourself as an author? Can you please share a specific passage that you think exemplifies your style?
Questions like this will demonstrate why authors have such a difficult time writing their own book blurbs. Introspection does not come naturally to most of us. I’m great at creating the mythical or imaginative, but when asked to describe myself, or my writing, my mind turns to mush.
I would have to say that the best way to describe myself as an author would be: Someone who is constantly seeking to improve. As we all should be. As far as my writing, I do try to be as cinematic, or visual, as I can. I also attempt to sprinkle in touches of humor throughout. Grimdark has become more popular of late in the fantasy genre, but I tend to lean more towards a high-fantasy approach. Sure, most stories need a darkness to overcome, but I prefer being able to tell the difference between my heroes and my villains. Not saying that the villains can’t become heroes or that heroes can’t go bad. Redemption stories are always very compelling.
My writing is probably more character-driven than story-driven. Don’t get me wrong, story is extremely important, but I love having a well-defined cast of characters that my readers can fall in love with. One of the tests of an engaging book, or series, is whether, after reading it, you can go back days, weeks, months, even years later and still remember the characters’ names. I want my books to make that kind of impact.
I am also known for keeping my books clean. I get a lot of mail from parents who want to thank me for writing stories that they can let their children read as well. I leave out the language and sex that seem to be filling the pages of more and more books of late. However, because I do write more cinematically, and seeing as how my books are fixed within a medieval style setting, there are graphic battle scenes described.
You can’t have hand-to-hand combat on that kind of scale and not want your readers to at least experience a little of what that might have been like. I do try to scale down the gore as much as possible, though.
Finding a passage that exemplifies my writing style was much harder than I thought. I went so far as to reach out to my editors, and then even my readers. Many suggested their favorite lines from the books, others recommended bits from their favorite romance scenes, some chose deep emotional moments between family and friends.
In the end, I chose two. The first is one of the more vivid battle scenes depicted in The White Tower, not because of the graphic nature, but because of the emotions that it portrays:
As much as he hated war, there were times like these when Commander Tolin found a certain thrill galloping at the head of a stampede of horsemen—sword drawn, teeth bared, hair rippling in the wind. He could feel his heart racing and his mind coming into focus as they neared the wall of Cylmaran armsmen. It was terrifying. It was exhilarating. It was the rush.
The faces of the enemy came into view. They had no idea what was about to hit them. Or maybe they did. He could see the horror in the eyes of the closest. Taking a deep breath, he raised his sword in the air and roared as they tore into the Cylmaran army’s right flank.
His horse trampled those unable to get out of the way. He swung his arm with the fury of a madman, cutting, slicing, stabbing. Tolin’s heart raced. It was the rush.
A large cleaver swung in his direction. He sent it flying, along with half the owner’s arm still attached. From one side of his horse to the other, he struck, severing limb from torso. Like an artist, he painted his canvas with blood-filled strokes. Men cried out in rage, cried out in terror, cried out for mercy. But there was none to be had. It was the rush.
The second choice was on behalf of my mother, who suggested a specific character she is fond of because of his sarcastic wit during very hard times. And, let’s be honest, who’s going to say no to their mother?
The guard in front turned his head, the cut of his uniform and stripes on his arm declaring him to be a captain. “How long are you going to hold on to that sense of humor, smith?”
“As long as I can,” Ferrin said defiantly.
From the silhouette cast by the torchlight, Ferrin had to admire the captain’s rather bulbous nose. It was a snout of indescribable proportions. It was an incredible work of art. The masters would have charged double to paint such a portrayal. Nostrils sounded like a good name for the captain, he thought. He played around with the idea a moment longer before coming to an agreement. Yep, Nostrils it is.
They were climbing again. The higher they ascended, the more Ferrin’s teeth chattered. “Maybe this time I’ll get a room with a view.”
“I’m sure it’ll be a nice view of the gardens,” Nostrils said.
The captain pulled out a key and unlocked the door, pushing it open far enough that it squealed on its hinges. Ferrin didn’t even get a chance to look inside before the guards tossed him in, where he landed hard on the stone floor.
“Your meal will be along shortly. Hope you have a strong appetite. I heard the cooks are whipping up a special treat for tonight.”
“That does sound delightful,” Ferrin said with a grunt as he rolled over. “Could you do me the favor of informing the cooks that they forgot to remove the whiskers on the last one they served?”
One of the guards snickered. “Get some rest. You’ll need it for tomorrow.”
- Based on your own experience and success, what are the “Five Things You Need To Write Compelling Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Wow! One tough question after the next. Let me preface this by saying that these are solely my opinions, not to be taken as fact, or to base your life choices and career on.
Being strictly a fantasy author, I can’t speak to any personal experience when it comes to the nature of writing good science fiction, but I have to believe it is similar in many ways.
First, you need a Compelling Story. Yes, I know that sounds backwards, but it’s hard to write a compelling story if you don’t know what that story is going to be about in the first place. Often times the most difficult part of writing can be figuring out what you want to write.
When I started my author journey and began typing those first few pages of The White Tower, I didn’t have a clue as to what the story would be. Okay, settle down, I know I just finished telling you that the first step is having a compelling story, but many times, finding that story requires your tush in a seat and your fingers on a keypad. When I sat down on that fated day in April of 2014, staring rather wide-eyed at the blank page on my outdated Toshiba laptop, the only hint of a story I had available was three names: Ty, his older brother Breen, and a rather feisty redhead named Lyessa.
Little did I know how close to them, and so many others, I would become over the next seven years and counting.
But what makes a story compelling? I’m not about to try delving into all the characteristics associated with the idea of what drives a good tale. They devote entire classes to that in universities across the globe, and you certainly wouldn’t want to read me prattling on about it here. I will give you these three basic elements:
Yep, that’s all it takes. And if I were you, I would start with your characters. When you have strongly developed characters, they will help you shape the story, which leads me to my second point.
The Second item one will need to write a compelling fantasy story is Likeable Characters. If your readers cannot connect with the characters in your book, then they likely will not continue reading. Your characters not only have to be likable, but believable, to a point. They need to be able to bring out the best and worst in human traits, giving your readers a wide gambit of the human experience, and yet still be true to themselves, or how you have portrayed them.
When your characters, for all intense and purpose, begin acting out of character, and for no reason, you will lose your readers. One of my pet peeves with certain television series is when the writers become so lazy that instead of taking the time to develop new and creative storylines, they instead will suddenly twist a character into something they have not been portrayed as and have that character act completely abnormal in order to bring “drama” to a scene. When that happens, my remote comes up and the red button gets pushed, which is generally followed with a few long minutes of shouting at the TV and hoping no one heard me.
Even if you have a weak storyline, if your characters are likable, readers will stick with you, at least for a while.
The Third aspect to writing fantasy is the World Building . . . or in laymen’s terms: A really cool location with all sorts of strange and wonderful forms of life.
There is a plethora of information that goes into both fantasy and science fiction world building that the average reader never takes into account when pouring through their next big story. Of course, that also means the author is doing their job, when the readers are so engaged in the story that they are not pulled out by something unique and fanciful.
Most will never know the amount of research needed to create a whole new world with its ecosystem, geographical locations, political and sociological construct, religious institutions, and humanoid populations, along with a thousand other important items of structure. And that is not including the mythical creatures that inhabit so many of these fantasy realms. Then you have the realms themselves, which could be made up of more than just humans.
And the list goes on…
Some of the most time-consuming aspects of creating a new world is coming up with names. Something as simple as a type of flower, could take hours of research. For those of us writing fantasy, we have to be at least modestly familiar with anything from the types of hammers a smithy might use, to the names and uses of dozens of herbs and medicinal plants found in a local apothecary. All of which has to be researched and studied in order to hopefully not make a fool of ourselves by botching some important piece of information.
Trust me, your readers will let you know.
The Fourth piece of the fantasy puzzle is the creation of an inventive and yet believable Magic System. One important step needed for this to work, much like the technologies that drive a good sci-fi tale, is the need for clearly defined rules. Without rules, there’s chaos and everything falls apart. The magic needs to be defined, explained—maybe not all at once, but eventually—in order for it to make sense and become realistic in the minds of your readers. There needs to be limitations, or you end up with no stakes to overcome. One all-powerful being that cannot be harmed because of their unlimited magic, makes for a boring story.
Magic systems can be as creative and fun as you want them to be, the sky is the limit . . . Actually, with magic, that’s no longer true. With magic, the limits could be endless.
For my Fifth and final choice I’m going to go against the grain and say that I believe that one of the ingredients needed to write a compelling fantasy story is Tropes. Yes, I said it . . . tropes! You will always find the a-typical critic who likes to complain about one author or another and how their books are chocked full of tropes.
Well, guess what? You’re right! All books are full of tropes. They are in fact part of what readers are coming for. Sure, you need to try to come up with something as original as possible, but as Solomon, the wisest man that ever walked the earth, once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
He was right.
First, let’s define what a trope is: A trope in (literature), as defined by yourdictionary.com, is something recurring across a genre or type of literature. The Merriam Webster dictionary also defines it as an overused theme or device.
You’ll have authors who’ll work extremely hard to go out of their way to keep from using what they would consider a trope and end up starting a whole new trope (or trend, as I would call it) instead. As a silly example, in literature, the vampire was typically always seen as the villainous bloodsucker who needed to be vanquished, until some day, some person decided to go against the trend and create a romantic vampire. This eventually led to the Twilight years, and suddenly everyone wanted to be with a vampire, or become a vampire.
Well, maybe not everyone.
The point is that even going against the common tropes can create more tropes.
What I’ve found is that readers tend to navigate to certain recurring themes. Using fantasy as an example, we see how specific tropes can eventually lead to their own subgenres. Dragons in fantasy are deemed as cliché and now there is an entire subgenre in bookstores called Dragons and Mythical Creatures. Why? Because there a lot of readers out there who enjoy reading about dragons and mythical creatures.
One of the most common tropes is the young chosen one who will eventually become the savior of the world by taking on the dark forces that threaten to overcome it. Why is it so popular? It’s the whole David vs Goliath scenario. We love rooting for the underdog. Is it a trope? Absolutely. But it’s a trope you’ll find in probably most genres because it is something relatable.
Those were just two of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of actual tropes. The fact is, readers navigate to certain types of books, and generally for the same reasons, those books have certain characteristics (tropes) they enjoy.
As I mentioned earlier, these are just the opinions of one fantasy author, not held, I’m sure, by others. If we all had the same opinions on everything, our literature would grow very stale indeed. Take it with a grain of salt.
- We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Entertainment, Business, VC funding, and Sports read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
They always tell you not to meet your heroes because they’ll likely leave you disappointed, but as a fantasy author, I would have to say that I would enjoy sitting down with Terry Brooks, since it was his work on The Sword of Shannara that first brought me to the wonderful world of epic fantasy.
- How can our readers further follow your work online?
My books are most easily found on Amazon. Type in my name, Michael Wisehart, and they’re not hard to miss. The White Tower shortlink – getbook.at/TheWhiteTower
Hardbacks, autographed copies, and other In-World merch can be found on my storefront Aramoor Market – https://store.michaelwisehart.com/
For those who want to keep up with my writing at any given time they can hop on over to my website – www.michaelwisehart.com, where I maintain progress charts for my upcoming books. I always encourage emails. I do read them and respond.
But if you are looking for something more personal, you can follow me on Facebook, where I do all my social posting. https://www.facebook.com/MichaelWisehart.author. Shoot me a message. I’m always willing to chat.
- Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success.
Thank you so much for having me. I’ve enjoyed sharing my rambling thoughts and ideas on a topic I truly love.
Writer's Digest Interview (December 2021)
- Genre/category for book:
Epic Fantasy / Coming of Age Fantasy
- Previous titles (if any) by the author:
The White Tower (The Aldoran Chronicles #1) was my first endeavor into the world of fantasy writing.
My updated library below:
STREET RATS OF ARAMOOR
Book 1 | Banished
Book 2 | Hurricane
Book 3 | Rockslide
Book 4 | Sandstorm (Jan 2022)
Book 5 | Wildfire (April 2022)
THE ALDORAN CHRONICLES
Book 1 | The White Tower
Book 2 | Plague of Shadows
Book 3 | The Four-Part Key
- Elevator pitch for the book (1-2 sentence pitch):
Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, this award-winning epic fantasy is set in a world where magic is forbidden throughout the Five Kingdoms and wielders are forced into hiding. With war looming, the outlawed wielders might be the Five Kingdom’s only hope.
- What prompted you to write this book?
Oops, did I say that out loud?
Although, looking back . . . Probably wasn’t the wisest choice.
I wasn’t one of those authors you hear in interviews, discussing how they knew they were going to be writers since the day they were old enough to hold a pen, or how they had all these incredible stories building inside them and if they didn’t get them out, they were going to explode.
Honestly, I just needed a new career.
I had no idea if I was capable of writing a novel, let alone an entire series, let alone one as complex as this. In high school, I hated writing. The thought of a one-page essay would have had me up all night. Things changed a little in college as I began to study film, which prompted me to write a couple of screenplays. Though not the same as writing a novel, it was a great way to break the ice for future endeavors.
Realizing the need for a career change, I woke up on April 4, 2014, took a couple moments of deep reflection—followed by a shot of Mountain Dew—and began clicking away on what would eventually become the third chapter in The White Tower.
Up until this point, my credentials for becoming an author were a degree in Business Accounting, which I never used, and eight years of running a production company. Not the most promising of starts.
The one thing I did have going for me was my love of fantasy, epic fantasy to be precise. I had spent the last several years pouring through Jordan, Brooks, Goodkind, Sanderson, Rothfuss, and many more, and was determined to find a way to marry my love of the visual arts (cinema) with the written word. What better way to do that than to create my own world?
I had no idea what I was about to get myself into. Looking back . . . I wouldn’t change a thing. Okay, maybe a few things.
- How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process? (Explain.)
I started writing in April of 2014 and eventually published in November of 2016. During that two-and-half years, I completed not only The White Tower, but the first draft of the second book: Plague of Shadows. I also finished the first draft of books one and two in my Street Rats of Aramoor series, and a prequel to The White Tower, entitled Shackled, which I used as a free giveaway to entice new readers into the world of my books.
The reason it took over two years to publish was because of the number of revisions necessary to get from a very, poorly written first draft to a somewhat modestly written fourth draft. During that time, the main premise of The White Tower did not change. It did however grow and flourish with the help of my Beta Team.
When I first started working on The White Tower, I was lucky enough to have found a writer group that Amazon had established called Amazon Write On. It was built to give aspiring writers the chance to publish their works, chapter by chapter on an open platform, and get instant feedback from readers. During my time there, I managed to grow quite a large following, and from that pool of readers birthed my first Beta Team.
I believe there were over 100 members who requested to join.
To say that the first draft of my first book as a first-time author was rough is an understatement. I don’t know how I managed to pull the wool over so many readers eyes, but for some reason that initial team just kept coming back for more. Gluttons for punishment, I guess. With their help, however, I was able to see my book through three major transformations.
My first draft was around 150K words, and after they tore it apart like a pack of hungry wolfhounds, I ended up adding on to the story, expanding it. In fact, once I finished and was finally ready to hand it back to the team, the book had gone from 150k words to somewhere upwards 275K.
Yes, I basically added a whole new book to the second draft. But it was still very rough, and my Beta Team—those that had decided to stick with me for another round—gnawed on it some more.
By the time we finished, I had cut almost 100K words from the book. There are many chapters and scenes left untold, buried deep inside my folder history, never to be seen again. I even went so far as to re-write the entire ending of the book.
Through all the changes, the main heart of the story never strayed. The framework was always there, it just needed a sharp knife and a patient hand to find the image buried inside.
- Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? (Explain.)
Hold on . . . Sorry, I was laughing so hard I lost my gum.
Everything was a surprise. Everything was a learning moment.
When I first started writing, I began to research all of what I would need for publishing. I didn’t have the first clue what it would take. The only knowledge I had, came from movies, and their depiction of the struggling author who mails in his queries, only to have them get rejected, until one of them lands on the desk of some unsuspecting agent or editor, and presto…the magic happens.
Well, during my research into writing the perfect query, I stumbled across a completely new concept (at least new to me) called: Self-Publishing.
At this time (2014), there was still a stigma attached to the idea of publishing a book on your own and not going through the traditional gatekeepers (the big publishing houses). But it didn’t take me long to see all the benefits.
To Preface: I’m not saying that one way is better than the other. It all depends on what you want out of your author career. For me, with a business degree and having run my own company, I wanted to have more control over the process. Yes, that means a LOT more work, but the rewards are exponential. In fact, more and more authors are beginning to make the transition from trad to indie just for this very reason.
There’s no way I could go into all the minutia of self-publishing, nor would I try. They have entire courses set up online that you can buy for that. What I will say, is that it is certainly worth taking the time to investigate, especially if you’re one of those struggling writers with a drawer full of rejection letters.
- Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? (Explain.)
The one good thing about being a partial-pantser is that I am always being surprised by where my characters take me. It is one of the true enjoyments of writing.
As I mentioned above, The White Tower went through several major transitions, expanding the world and its characters in ways that opened the series for future growth.
My advice is to always be open to change. Don’t hold too tightly onto what you believe should happen. Sometimes you’ll be surprised how much wiser your characters are than yourself as they lead you to places you hadn’t imagined.
For example: In my latest book, The Four-Part Key, Ty took me to several new locations outside the scope of my own world and introduced me to cultures I didn’t know existed. I met new characters that will now take on major roles in all future books, and none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t loosened my grip on the reins.
Granted, you can’t let go of the reins altogether, or your characters will likely walk you into a blind alley with a cutpurse waiting to slit your throat. There is a fine line to walk, but if balanced properly it can be very rewarding.
- What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Apart from gaining a great introduction to the world, magic system, characters, and storylines within this ever-expanding saga, I want my readers to walk away with a sense of wonder. I want them to walk away feeling like they were actually there, like they had sat down with Ty for a pint at the East Inn, or suffered alongside Ferrin on the inquisitor’s rack, or danced with Ayrion’s twin blades as he fought off an oncoming horde. Escapism is the magic of epic fantasy.
There’s nothing better than to receive an email from a reader who wants to let you know how much your books meant to them, how they got them through a very difficult time in their life, how the story pulled them out of their troubles, even for a little while, and gave them a moment of happiness.
- If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
There’s really no one overall piece of advice I could give that will somehow make everything work out the way you hope. There will be good times. There will be bad. One minute you’re riding high on dragon’s wings, the next your being crushed under a mountain rockslide. Through it all, my advice is to hold on to that spark of enjoyment that pushed you to write in the first place. My initial reason might have been to find a new career path, but as soon as I finished writing those first few chapters and had readers tell me they wanted more . . . I was hooked!
If you can’t find enjoyment in what you’re doing, then you might need to rethink the path you are currently traveling.