Interview with Tony Breeden

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I mostly grew up in West Virginia, but my family moved up and down the east coast a lot. I've probably been to Disney World a lot more times than any kid has a right to. I grew up amongst snow-covered mountains and warm, pristine beaches. I loved the open road and the adventure that called from the horizon. But I always thought of West Virginia as my home.

I grew up with two brothers who were my worst enemies and best friends all rolled into one. We went on noble quests to slay dragons, free planets from the evil Empire and to bring treasure back from lost cities in the jungle. Our imaginations knew no limits... at least until simple physics and minor injuries taught us better.

I grew up watching movies by Spielberg before he lost his optimism, Lucas before he started selling out and Harryhausen before his work was replaced by CGI. Special effects pioneers Harryhausen and John Dykstra were my heroes; in fact, I give them both a more than obvious nod in Luckbane. My dad and I had little in common except love for each other and our love for fantasy and science fiction, but I clearly recall watching the original Star Trek on TV and going to see Return of the Jedi and Clash of the Titans on the big screen with him. I began imagining my own movies, writing my own stories, creating my own story boards. It's little wonder that when I write, I write cinematically.

I grew up in the 80s. I played Pong, Atari and Super Nintendo. My favorite US President is still Reagan, whom I think of every time I eat a jelly bean or see Michael J Fox. I still think cassette tapes are better than CDs; just try playing a CD after you've kicked it around on the floorboard for about a week. I wanted my MTV and I absolutely do not recognize that MTV in either today's MTV or MTV2. Some of the best movies ever made came out of that decade. And some of the worst. For better or for worse, I was raised on a diet of Gremlins and Goonies, ET and Alien, Star Wars and Star Trek, Willow and Back to the Future, Big Trouble in Little China and the Dark Crystal, Blade Runner and the Running Man, the Last Dragon and the Last Starfighter. Die Hard is still my favorite Christmas movie. Yippee-ki-yay, Hans.

I grew up in church. Church is not God... and thank God for that. Children were expected to be in the sanctuary for the entire service back then. I sang hymns and listened to hellfire sermons. I endured hard pews and watched saints who's survived the Great Depression testify of the goodness and faithfulness of God. I watched televangelists rise to excess and fall from grace. I witnessed lesser known hypocrisies on the local level. I believed a science teacher who told me the Bible was a myth and I only believed what I did because my parents told me to believe it; I didn't appreciate the irony of his pitch until after a decade of decadence at which point I returned to the faith with a vengeance.

I grew up but I didn't forget... and I think my writing shows that.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
That is actually a pretty difficult question because, well, I read a lot more than I write.

My all-time favorite: The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. I pretty much devoured the entire series and then drifted off into some of Harrison's other works. I think it was the first time I'd ever ran across an anti-hero as protagonist. Harrison's work is tongue-in-cheek and a lot of fun!

Ogre, Ogre by Piers Anthony also deserved a special nod. I ended up going back and reading the first several novels in the Xanth series and then followed it for about a decade after. Maybe it's because I've always loved a good pun. I dunno.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first book in the Dragonlance saga by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, launched my obsession with that series. Irrepressible kender Tasslehoff Burrfoot will always hold a special place in my heart.

What else? Oh, have to mention Terry Pratchet's Landover series. Magic Kingdom For Sale was pure genius.

Last but never least, I've always loved the adventure, intrigue and magic of the Bible. I think people take the grand scope of its tales for granted, but there is definitely a reason they call it The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Honorable mentions include: a stand-alone book by Piers Anthony called Kill-O-Byte (As you might imagine from reading Luckbane, I found the idea of folks playing a video game on a whole different level very compelling); LOTR; Harry Potter; Narnia; Dragonriders of Pern; and, as my favorite new book, Flight of the Angels by Allan and Aaron Reini.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I chose to be an indie author because in today's reality it doesn't make much sense to pay the middle man for the honor of being in the game of bookstore roulette. Shortly before I decided to self-publish my first book, Johnny Came Home, I did a bit of research. What I found is that traditional publishing really caters to bestsellers. If you're a recognized name, you get more books printed and you get that prime eye-catching space in the front of the bookstore. If you're not, you'd better hope your last name gives you a decent eye-level spot on the alphabetized shelves. Your print run will likely be small based on your publisher's skepticism regarding your sales potential - which will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy because they gave you such a small print run, minimizing your market exposure!

I also found that traditional publishing is based on a pre-internet marketing dynamic. Internet sales, affordable print-on-demand publishing and e-books have basically undermined the traditional publishing world. They're toppling under the weight of their own out-dated methods. When I realized that I could basically sell directly to my fans without the cost, waste and hassle of traditional publishing, the decision was obvious.
What is your writing process?
I write cinematically, which basically means that I write out the movie in my head. I've even been known to storyboard my scenes to get an accurate handle on what I'm supposed to be describing.

I tend to give myself an outline and make character sheets for major characters in the story. I basically write according to that outline, changing it as necessary as the story develops.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Exploring new worlds and conveying old truths.

You find that when you truly develop a character that they begin to take on a life of their own. Oftentimes, they take your story in directions you never imagined or even intended. My characters are always tangling up my plot lines.
When did you first start writing?
I credit my late aunt Sharon with giving me the writing bug. She helped me make my very first book about dinosaurs, vigorously illustrated in crayon.

I remember writing these little space stories when I was a kid. I went through several different versions of that tale, but they were all very early Spielberg in tone. Basically, it was a sci-fi story where I was abducted by aliens who thought I was someone else. I had friends, a potential alien girlfriend, a robot that I had designed even though I didn't remember doing anything of the sort, a spaceship and a galaxy populated with all sorts of wild and weird creatures. At one point in my adventures, I ended up at the Asteroid Pizza Shop; all you have to do is imagine that the Millenium Falcon found a restaurant/hotel instead of a space worm if you want to know what that was like. I recall that there were always robots that were vaguely reminiscent of R2-D2 or the robots from Disney's The Black Hole. And there was always a spaceship whose command module separated from the rest of the ship when it was needed in a fight. I thought of that long before I ever saw Star Trek: The Next Generation; I was a little put off that someone else "beat me to the idea" as it were.

In high school, that space story became the Misadventures of Spaceman Sam, one of the several stories that made up the book I called Bantamwood Tales. I freely admit the title was derivative of Calvin & Hobbes' Spaceman Spiff. By then, my protagonist's world had been fully developed into an entire universe of creatures and characters, thanks in no small part to a worldbuilding exercise I conducted every day in 11th grade English. I was writing a travelogue of sorts. Basically, I drew some crazy looking alien and would proceed to tell you where it came from, what it ate, what kind of society it had, and all that. It was called the Book of 100 Characters and, yes, I did manage to come up with that many. I called the project Space Nitwits, or The Book of 100 Characters. What else was there to do in 11th Grade English when the class was basically 9th Grade English regurgitated?

In any case, Bantamwood Tales was basically a bunch of short stories that seemed to have nothing to do with one another. I had a wrap-around story that wove in and out of the tales: a grandfather telling his estranged grandson Charlie tales to explain the strange things he'd seen on his way to his grandfather's house in Bantamwood. There were tales of werewolves, self-aware robots, living cartoons, explosive imps, dark wizards, monsters in the basement, and a murderous sentient tornado. And of course my space story. The point of the stories was that each explained something the boy had seen on his way to his grandfather's house. The book ended a bit like the Fall of the House of Usher, but on a more city-wide scale. Even so, I began writing sequels. And making maps. I really loved the world I had created.

Tragically, I lost the entirety of that body of work in a move to another city. It got left behind and I was never able to recover it.

I was too disheartened to recreate Bantamwood, so when I began writing again I decided to develop what became the Otherworld series.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Deadknights is the prequel to Luckbane, and it tells the story of how the Dreadknights made it to Otherworld.

The original version of Dreadknights is a novelette of cut scenes from Luckbane involving a guild called the Dreadknights of Outland. Luckbane was already way too long when I made the decision to cut out the Dreadknights, but I released their choppy little story as a companion to Luckbane. Basically, Dreadknights: For the Love of the Guild was just something extra if fans were interested in more of the story. Recently, I decided that the Dreads and Ogress Bloodskull had a story that deserved a better telling, so I published a novel about how the Dreadknights battled their way through Guild Wars to get to be able to play on GameComm's terraformed alien world.

The next step is to flesh out the original novelette into a full-fledged novel, and then to write the final book of the trilogy.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on three projects at the moment.

First, breathing new life into Dreadknights: For the Love of the Guild.

Second, I'm writing a non-fiction book called Strangers & Aliens: A Christian Sci-fi Author Examines the Argument for Extraterrestrials. The project developed out of my concern that some well-meaning Christian apologetics organizations are teaching folks that the Bible says that we will never encounter intelligent alien life. In order to make their argument, some of these folks tend to demonize science fiction. This book sets out to set the record straight on science fiction and what the Bible does and does not say on the matter.

Third, I am near the end of the much-awaited sequel to Luckbane. Soulbright tells the tale of Copper Gallows, vampyre hunter and his quest to recover the shards of an artifact with the power to turn his most persistent foe mortal. The story will take us into Mot Hadrall, the City of Eternal Night where Copper must not only face the horrors of the city's Dread Quarter but his own dark heart.
Published 2016-02-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Luckbane
Series: Otherworld. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 100,730. Language: English. Published: February 15, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
In a dystopian future, online gaming is the ultimate escape... until one corporation gives a few lucky players the chance to play their favorite sword, steampunk and sorcery game live and in-person on a terraformed alien world. For one lowly janitor-turned-alchemical adventurer, the stakes are much higher. Someone wants him very, very dead and If you die in this game, there are no extra lives!
Dreadknights
Series: Otherworld. Price: Free! Words: 64,720. Language: English. Published: January 26, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(4.00)
When a teenage girl gets the chance to play her Ogress Bloodskull character for the Dreadknights in Guild Wars, she also finds that she has a shot at a real future playing the game she loves on a terraformed alien world. Through danger, betrayal and impossible odds, Christine must prove she has what it takes both in and out of the game. Shake the pillars of hades! The Dreadknights are coming!
Defending Genesis: How We Got Here & Why It Matters
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 87,790. Language: English. Published: January 18, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Religion & Science
Are we the product of a benevolent Creator who spoke the cosmos and everything else into existence over the course of six calendar days about 6,000 years ago? Or are we the product of all-natural processes consistent with those we observe today taking place over the course of millions and millions of years? Christian apologist and science fiction author Tony Breeden explores the Origins Argument.
Johnny Came Home: A John Lazarus Adventure
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 108,670. Language: English. Published: December 30, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Christian » Futuristic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy
(5.00)
Three years after the fire that took his home and his family, John Lazarus returns to the town of Midwich searching for answers to why he can do extraordinary things no one's ever seen outside of a comic book. Is he human? Alien? Something more? The answers lie within the Titan complex that overshadows Midwich. But someone else wants Titan's secrets too and will stop at nothing to own them.