Interview with Jeffrey Getzin

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing is when I make a connection with a reader. It often happens in unexpected ways.

For instance, one woman wrote me to tell me that her husband was a soldier with PTSD, and that "Prince of Bryanae" really resonated with the two of them. That really made my day, week, ... year. Another reader told me that Willow's brutal past reminded her of her own terrible experiences and that she found the book moving.

Then there are the ladies out there who tell me they've fallen in love with D'Arbignal! Can you think of a greater compliment?
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend a lot of my life at work at Google, writing software. Then there's the home life with my girlfriend Kate and my 32,352 cats. Any remaining free time is spent training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The sure and certain knowledge that if I don't go to work and earn enough money to pay the mortgage, I'll be out on the street with a cup and a sign reading, "Will write exciting fantasy novels for food."
What do you read for pleasure?
You know, it's funny: I don't read much Fantasy even though that's my genre. I tend to read Mysteries and Thrillers, which I suppose is why my novels have a different feel from most other Fantasy novels.

As you might expect, however, I'm a big fan of character-driven novels. For instance, I absolutely adore Steve Hamilton's Alex McKnight series of mystery novels. Hamilton is amazing at painting a vivid and believable picture of places and events, and how they related to the characters in his books.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Shogun: Terrific example of a sweeping epic story told from a character-based viewpoint. Amazing characters, amazing writing!

Fletch: crackling, witty dialog. Nobody writes dialog better than Mcdonald; it's a masterclass! Also, my favorite ending of all time.

A Cold Day in Paradise: Nobody writes better prose than Steve Hamilton. Nobody. His writing is so good that you get immersed into the story within a single sentence. There's no trace of the author's voice; you're just THERE, in the story.

The Chronicles of Amber (not a single book, I know): Again, an epic tale with a character-based viewpoint. Zelazny excels at this, and he was at his peak with the first Chronicles.

The Dresden Files (not a single book, I know): Witty, warm, and exciting. A brilliant and daring mixture of genres, with terrific inventiveness.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I generally read books on the Kindle app for the iPad.
What is your writing process?
I start by thinking of a basic scenario. For example, with "A Lesson for the Cyclops", I started with the basic question: we know that D'Arbignal had spent some time in a circus; what was that experience like? Then I thought, whom should be my viewpoint character? That led me to ask, what sort of people can you find in a circus? That in turn led me to a circus feak, which in turn led me to her history and role in the story.

Once I have the scenario, I usually play around with it in my head for days, weeks, sometimes months before I even write a single sentence. I do this a lot as I'm drifting off to sleep; I play around with this scene or that, this piece of dialog or that, until I feel I have something worth writing.

Once I start writing, I just try to get the story onto the page as quickly as possible, regardless of writing quality. The quality comes in the editing and the rewriting, which for me, takes easily three times as long as it takes me to write the first draft. For example, "Prince of Bryanae" took me about a year to write and about three years to edit!

After I've written the (crappy) first draft, I usually print out a physical copy and read it with my "you suck!" voice fully enabled. I mark up my prose, writing "AWK[ward]" or "SDT" (show-don't-tell), or scribbling corrections into the margins.

When I've completed that mark-up, I then enter all that marked up data into the document. Yes, it would have been simpler just to read and mark up the document itself, but I "see errors" better on the printed page.

Next, I go through the changes and try to address as many as I can before I think I have something adequate enough to send to my editor. Then she goes through it and finds all the weak stuff and plot holes that I missed. I fix those problems. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Once I have something I'm reasonably proud of, I send it out to beta readers for their feedback. This is where I catch my last set of errors, plus pick up some preliminary reviews.

Then it's off for a tuning, where I make the final tweaks/corrections, and at last, I'm done!
How do you approach cover design?
I'm fortunate in that I have an extremely talented cover artist, Carol Phillips. She is a dream to work with and our collaborative process works beautifully.

Usually, it starts with a scene from the book ("Prince of Bryanae", "The Return of the King") or a character portrait ("Shara and the Haunted Village", "A Lesson for the Cyclops"). We start with rough sketches for character placement, progress to more detailed character sketches, coloring, and then the painting.,

You can see the development of my various covers on my website:

Prince of Bryanae: http://jeffreygetzin.com/Pages/POBCover.aspx
Shara and the Haunted Village: http://jeffreygetzin.com/Pages/SharaCover.aspx
A Lesson for the Cyclops: http://jeffreygetzin.com/Pages/CircusCover.aspx
The Return of the King: http://jeffreygetzin.com/Pages/ROTKCover.aspx

For my upcoming novel "The Return of the King", we have cover that features an exciting fencing battle. The only problem was that neither Carol nor I fence! :D

Fortunately, there are a lot of eclectic people working at Google, and it turned out that one of my co-workers and his wife (who also works at Google) fence. So we went down to the game room and they each picked up a pool cue and simulated some plausible fencing scenes.

I sent the photos to Carol, who created sketches from some of the more interesting ones. The we applied a little artistic license. (The pose on the cover is not a particularly good fencing scene per se, but it's a more exciting ACTION shot.)
What's the story behind your latest book?
This book is the one to which I've been building for years! We know from "Prince of Bryanae", that the famous stoic elven soldier Willow knew D'Arbignal, the loveable rogue from my two novellas. This is the first of two books that bridge the gap between the novellas and "Prince of Bryanae"; this is the book where Willow and D'Arbignal meet!

Take a driven, no-nonsense death machine like Willow and pair her with the irrepressible, impulsive D'Arbignal, and you're looking at an epic clash of styles. Man, oh man, wait until you read this one!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'll let you know as soon as I find a good way to market my books.
Published 2014-01-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.