Good day to you all! Today, we have Ashton Saylor, who, apart from writing lots of Windhammer gold, other wonderful gamebooks and a great series on how to write a gamebook. He's been a bit quiet recently, but that's because he's been hard at work.
Here he is...
What have you been doing since your last interview in 2012?
Thanks for asking. I wish I had more updates since then, but at the same time that my writing opportunities started to really take off, I also wound up facing some big changes in my own life, so it's been a slow couple years. I've had a complete career shift, into becoming a high school teacher, and the combination of grad school and new career have taken a lot of my time. That said, the dust is settling, and the last couple months have been some of the most productive in recent memory. At this point, I'm hoping to have one or two of my projects out by this summer.
Writing is a big part of your life. How did it begin?
I've always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a writer, but it took me a long time to get to the point where I was comfortable with actually writing. I read some terrible advice when I was younger, which was not to even try until you have a Master's degree. It was from one of my favorite authors, too, so that was really demoralizing. Anyway, by the time I started reaching late twenties, early thirties, I felt like I'd crossed some sort of invisible boundary, and was able to start writing in earnest. It's satisfying to see results coming my way.
How does writing affect your life?
It's a big investment for me; sometimes it feels like a second job. But at the same time, it's something I love and enjoy, so it's worth it. More than worth it. A lot of time I find myself framing my schedule in terms of, "where can I find time for writing?" I get really excited when a block of time becomes available.
What do you think improves your writing?
Reading, definitely. Also roleplaying. I'm a big gamer, and sometimes expressing my ideas through roleplaying helps me realize them in writing, where it's a much more solo activity. Oh--the other thing that really helps my writing is to do it in passes, not all at once. I've worked out that I've got about four stages... first is the core idea, then outlining each plot/subplot and the overall flow, then working out specifically scene by scene what happens, and only then going back over one more time and doing the wordsmithing.
Is there anything that every writer should read/do?
Dream. Be inspired. Live life to the fullest. Get out there and enjoy yourself. Because it's that joy from shared experiences that's going to feed back into your private writing world and fuel your imagination.
What advice would you have to anyone who wants to write anything?
Do it. No fear. Writing comes out best when you are unafraid. Of course, it also benefits from an honest, critical appraisal, and balancing those two very different mental stances is the juggling act all writers go through.
I'm pretty excited about Dwarf King, or Dwarf Kingdom, as we've also been calling it. Michael and I have been working on this for years now. Progress is slow because we both have full professional lives and are also working on other projects with what creative time we have, but I think we're finally nearing the point where we'll be able to release Part 1. We've decided we're going to release it in parts, rather than all at once, which I think makes a lot of sense, both for business reasons, and because it gives us an immediate and achievable goal. I'm very excited about getting something ready for you guys come summer.
The Good, the Bad and the Undead was originally based on an idea by Jamie Thompson, about a traditional Western gunslinger type hero facing off against a bunch of zombie-like vampires. I like to describe it as Clint Eastwood meets Night of the Living Dead. Jamie ended up leaving the idea on the table as he moved on to higher priorities. I wound up coming on board to pick up the project, based on his original notes, and we've been collaborating since. It's taken a while, but I feel we're in the final legs of the project. We're planning a Kickstarter this summer to fund the costs of publishing, and by this time next year I hope to have it on my shelf.
I've had to pick and choose which projects to prioritize as my free time slimmed down and my projects stacked up, and it's been tough. I have a lot of other ideas, many of which I've put substantial hours into. Some of these are just notes, others have been shelved in various states of partially-complete. It hurts me to see unfinished projects languishing, but if I'm going to get anything done, I need to pick my battles. For now, the two above are my priority. After that, we'll see what comes next.