Starving Interview: Ted Cross, Author of The Immortality Game

Hello again, folks!  It’s time to crack out the pad and pen to get the views of another literary chef.  Today’s alumni was previously featured during my Starving Review of The Immortality Game.  Welcome to the interview chamber … Ted Cross!

  1. Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!

Hey there! My name’s Ted and I’m really happy to get to be here today. I write both fantasy and science fiction. I’d love to be a full-time writer, but so far I have to keep feeding my family, so I keep food on the table working as a diplomat, and I write when I can find the time. My dream is to retire early and be able to complete at least a book a year. I have a wife and two sons, who are both getting ready to head off to college soon.

  1. Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?

Besides the work I already mentioned, I’ve also done a bit of acting. The worst movie I was in was A Good Day to Die Hard, and the best was The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I have way too many interests, which also interferes with my writing. I am a chess expert and hope to someday be a master. My tiny claims to fame are that I have played against four world champions, and I once tied for first place in the US Amateur Championships in Tucson. I also love guitar, photography, computers, gaming, travel, reading, and of course writing.

  1. What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?

I have a new book arriving on August 15. I will tell you about my older ones first and then get back to the new one. The first book I wrote was an epic fantasy called The Shard. I completed it in 2008 but only published it this past March. My inspiration for this one was my childhood love of Dungeons & Dragons. While I loved the game, I could never find any books that treated D&D with the seriousness that I craved. So The Shard is my attempt to write a D&D-style story without any gamey or cartoony feel.

While writing this first novel, I fell in love with the backstory that I created for the wizard character. That led me to write my sci-fi novel The Immortality Game, which I actually published first in November 2014. There is a long story about how the backstory for a wizard can be a cyberpunk thriller, and I hope to get around to telling that whole tale someday.

The new book, titled Lord Fish, is a set of four short stories. I’ve made it very cheap in order to try to draw in new fans who might then check out my novels. Three of the short stories relate directly to my novels, while one of them is a tale about young Vikings venturing into a dragon’s lair, a story that was originally published in the compilation called The Dragon Chronicles.

  1. What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?

Well, like I said, I wanted to read stories about Dungeons and Dragons that were told in a gritty, realistic manner, and no one was writing those, so I realized the only way it would ever happen was for me to write it myself. Writing that first novel gave me lots of other ideas, and now I have so many story ideas that I don’t know how I’ll ever get around to writing them all.

  1. Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?

My favorite genres have always been fantasy and sci-fi. I do read other genres, especially horror, historical fiction, history, thrillers, and mysteries, but so far I have only been interested in writing fantasy and sci-fi.

  1. Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?

My style is still a work in progress. I have a very simple, straightforward style that eschews a lot of description. I’d like to develop better skill with dialogue, and I really want to figure out how to add a touch more humor to the mix.

  1. Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?

Most of my life my favorites were Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin, but the writer who actually convinced me to sit down and start typing was George R.R. Martin. His style was exactly what I wished to see in D&D books, so I essentially set out to try a trimmed down version of Martin’s style when writing my own.

  1. Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?

So far I only do close 3rd person. That makes it difficult to get across certain things that I would like to impart to readers, since I am only allowed to tell what that POV character is experiencing or thinking. For example, in The Immortality Game I really wanted to tell the readers some back history of how things arrived at the date of 2138 the way they were depicted in the story, but there was no legit reason why any of the characters needed to think or talk about that history, so I really couldn’t say much about it. That’s a drawback of close 3rd, but the advantage is that you get a more intimate feel for that character’s point of view.

  1. Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?

Actually, I don’t have a preference. I love all types of styles, as long as they are really good. I can love the beautiful prose of Tolkien or Rothfuss, or the more direct stylings of Martin or Stephen King. For some reason when I write I tend to go for simpler, though.

  1. Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?

My base motivations so far all seem to deal with mortality, or to be more exact with immortality. I think the desire to live much longer or even to live forever is one of the holy grails for humanity, so when thinking of the future I tend to think about technology that works towards this goal. I loved the Takeshi Kovacs novels of Richard K. Morgan, and when I saw his ideas on digital immortality, it made me think a lot about it. In the end what I really wondered most about was what that technology must have been like in its infancy, when it was first being developed, and that is how I came to write The Immortality Game.

  1. What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?

I think I find both to be equally important. I tend to start with a few plot ideas, but those mean very little to me if I don’t have a compelling character or two to build the story around. I spend a long time working on these characters and making them feel real to me, so that they will feel real to the readers.

  1. We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?

I’m not sure this is a strength of mine. With each book so far I have had to go back and write new intro chapters, and the original first chapters have always ended up being chapter three. I’ve read so much about how the first chapter, or even the first line, have to hook the reader instantly, that I think I have rebelled against that. I don’t like being told what I must do, and most of my favorite books didn’t have such hooks, so I tend to just start building the characters and introducing the world and the plot without exactly having to put a huge hook in right away.

  1. The most important of questions: Cake or pie?

I like both equally. I don’t eat either very often, but when I can have a nice fresh pumpkin, cherry, or apple pie, I’m a happy man. The same thing for a really good cake.

  1. Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?

Patience! I think we all believe in our own talent, or we wouldn’t invest the huge amounts of time that we do in writing our stories. Yet despite what we think of ourselves, our first efforts are never quite as good as we want to believe them to be. I put aside my first novel for years and went to work on the next one, and each new story I write is clearly better than the ones that came before. I only pulled up the old story when I felt I had the skill to improve it enough to make it worthy of publishing. It’s really hard to force yourself to have the extreme patience that you have to have to allow years to go by while you improve your craft.

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