Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter T. Cormack the author of the Steel Souls series.
Tell me about yourself.
I learned to read when I was three years old, and haven't stopped since. I was raised in a very small town called Lake Isabella, nestled in the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Like many of the young people in that area, I chafed under the perceived boredom of the extremely rural setting. While others turned to television, I found my solace in reading fiction. Eventually, in 2001, I escaped to the University of California, Irvine. After graduating in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, I worked for Blizzard Entertainment as a World of Warcraft Game Master. I was eventually promoted to Quality Assurance Analyst (game tester), but quickly realized that was not my style. So, I tried something completely different. I went back to school, learned a little about teaching English as a second language, and found a job as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan. That was interesting, but only lasted three months, after which I moved to Columbus Ohio, where I worked as a Geek Squad Agent (computer repair). That’s when I was introduced to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and realized I could write as well as read. Sadly, things didn’t work out in Columbus, so I ended up returning home, finding an amazing relationship with Jesus, the best wife in the world (Love you Shelly!), and a boring job as the “IT guy” for a local healthcare clinic. Due to a confusing set of circumstances where I thought we’d be moving again, but didn’t end up doing so, I find myself without a job, and two full-length novels. What else is a guy to do but jump in and become a full-time author? I’m really enjoying it so far, but it’s by far the most difficult job I’ve ever had - and that’s saying something!
When did you know you wanted to become an author?
Although I've been reading my entire life, and it is pretty much my favorite thing to do, I didn't seriously consider becoming an author until 2010. That year, I was talked into participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a self-competition which challenges people to write 50,000 words about anything they like. I'd had a story idea bouncing around in my head for a while, so I decided to go for it. I completed the challenge, and that was the first time I realized that being an author was a possibility for me. It wasn't until this year that I decided to really take the plunge, though.
Is there a central theme to your books?
Although I wouldn't say I have a cohesive "theme" throughout my work, there are elements that I enjoy seeing in other books, so I try to put those in my novels as well. Technology is definitely my favorite of these themes. I'm fascinated by almost all areas of science, and I love to imagine how today's technologies can be pushed to even more amazing lengths. In fact, I write a weekly column all about the technologies I use in my books, and where they come from. It's called Monday Musings, and you can check it out every Monday at my blog! I also really enjoy what I like to call the "extra physical" factor. Some people would say "spiritual," others "metaphysical," but I simply think of it as anything that can't easily be explained by traditional scientific understanding. The Force in Star Wars, magic in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, and the science of souls in my Steel Souls series are all examples of this. My current work, the Chronicles of Threa (to be released later this month), doesn't have as much of this aspect as usual, but my next novel (which I will be writing in November) is chock-full of it, so look forward to that! Finally, I think every story needs to have intense action. Although I do sometimes enjoy the more philosophical works, there's nothing like a good battle scene to move things along and draw the reader into your world.
What books have inspired you the most in your life?
Wow, that's a really difficult question, since I've probably read thousands of books over the course of my thirty years. Also, I read books purely for pleasure and entertainment, so I don't really look to them for inspiration, as such. However, there have been a few novels which have sucked me in more than the others, and that’s pretty inspiring to me as an author. Battlefield Earth is one of those. I'm not a big fan of L. Ron Hubbard's other work, but that one book really captured my attention from the first page and, over 1000 pages later, I didn't want it to end. Another body of work - a series really - has captured my interest lately. The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher has amazing action, great characters, and so much of the "extra physical" it's insane. As far as being an author goes, Jim Butcher has definitely been a huge inspiration for me.
What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?
I write at home most of the time, so my actual “work” time actually involves me sitting on the couch in my pajamas, with the television on in the background, tapping away at my laptop. However, since I am the “stay-at-home” half of my marriage, I’m also responsible for the day-to-day chores, so I take breaks to do dishes, take out trash, empty litter boxes, etc. Pretty exciting, huh?
What is it that you do to relax?
My biggest relaxer is still to kick back with an awesome book, though I also enjoy hanging out with my beautiful wife Shelly, especially when we play computer games together.
Do you use an outline or do you write organically?
Although I really like how outlines can help guide my writing, I don’t usually have a solid enough idea of the overall plot to use them. So, I’m mostly an organic writer. That being said, I am working to be more purposeful with my planning so that I have a better idea of how my characters should act, my plot can be more intricate, things like that.
Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it.
I get writers’ block all the time. It’s very frustrating. I’ve tried all sorts of different things. Taking a break, reading another book for inspiration, watching television, isolation, taking a walk, and so many more. However, the best cure I’ve found for it is to just write something. Usually, I’ll have a vague idea of what I want to say, but don’t know how to say it. So, I just start putting words on the page that maybe describe what I’m thinking, and don’t worry about whether they sound good, or even whether they make sense. Just keep writing!
Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?
I’m really not a morning person, so I don’t really get “started” until nine or ten in the morning. Beyond that, I haven’t found any particular time of day that gets my creative juices flowing more than any other.
How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like.
It really depends on how much I can afford, and how much time I have. My currently published book was really a work of love, rather than money. I was able to hire an editor for a brief coaching session, but didn’t have enough money for her to look at the rest of the book. So, I did my best on my own. I read the book over myself, catching a lot of problems in the process. I also read it out loud to my wife, and caught a lot more problems that way. Finally, I went through the entire thing one more time, after the session with the editor, which helped refine it even more. It’s not perfect, and a couple more revisions might have helped, but at some point you just have to pull the trigger, so I did.
What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?
I’m actually really excited. As few as five years ago, I wouldn’t have had a decent chance to publish my work. As much as I believe in what I do, I don’t think my manuscripts would have made it past the slush piles of the publishers. The way things are now, getting “published” is the easy part. Now comes the hard part: reaching out to readers, letting them know I exist, and that my book is worth reading. I realize that these changes mean that “sub-standard” work has more chance to get on the market, but with the way Amazon works, I’m confident that more readers will be able to find more work they like, by more authors than ever before. Amazon recommends books in the categories that readers like, and the excerpts are an excellent way to quickly tell whether the writing is the style you want or not. The upshot of this all is that we authors are no longer writing to impress publisher gatekeepers, but to impress readers. On the other side of the coin, readers can now make their own decisions about what is worth reading, and what is not. Win-win, as far as I can see.
Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?
All three of the books in the pipeline are very different, and I like all of them for different reasons. Steel Souls was my first effort, and I love the concept. Chronicles of Threa reminds me of one of my favorite series ever - Redwall by Brian Jaques. And my third novel is still in that wonderful phase where it’s all in my head, and so is totally perfect.
What are you working on now?
At this particular moment, I’m working really hard at making my currently published novel visible. However, I’m also in the middle of editing my next novel, which I hope to publish later this month. At the same time, I’m planning my third novel, and I hope to write it in November. Busy stuff around here; keep an eye on my website to keep up with the latest!
Where can we buy your books?
All of my work can be found on Amazon. I currently only have one book published - Steel Souls, Book 1: Life in the Machine, but I'll be publishing more, so keep an eye on my Author Page! At the moment, the novel is only available as an e-book, but I’m hoping to put it out in paperback - through Amazon’s Create Space - at some point in the near future.
Thank you again for giving me this opportunity.