Today’s featured author is Charles Yallowitz. Charles is a very active blogger and, like me, a native New Yorker who found himself in Florida. Unlike me, however, Charles moved back to New York. He is going to be on the hot seat today to answer my set of 20 questions which will help us learn more about him and his work. Please enjoy today’s edition of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always liked telling stories, but being a career author came about in 10th grade. I had read ‘The Books of Lost Swords by Fred Saberhagen’ and it made me want to create a fantasy world to share. The rest rolled from there as I used my free time to write down various characters, monsters, and smaller stories to use for English courses.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
I would say getting through the first draft takes about 2-3 months. This includes the character designing and outlines I do beforehand. Editing takes another 1-2 months depending on if I get some help or not. The reason for the short time is because I spent 10 years blurbing and outlining every idea that came into my head. So I have about 32 book/series ideas already on paper. I look over them every few weeks to keep them fresh and jot down any notes that come to mind.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I’m actually the stay-at-home parent, which means my schedule changes every day. Some days have plenty of writing time while others are filled with errands and cleaning. My son is 6 and high functioning autistic, so him being home tends to put everything up in the air.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write in Present Tense Third Person, which is not a common style. This works to my use of action and dialogue to paint the world instead of flashbacks and narrative info dumps. It was by accident too. In high school, I used to switch tenses all the time and a teacher told me to simply pick one. I went with present tense and nobody told me this was odd until I published my first book on Amazon in 2013.
Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
All of my books are independently published on Amazon. Though my first book, Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero, is currently free on Amazon and Smashwords.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
A lot of my early fantasy ideas came from Dungeons & Dragons games that I played in high school and college. The current series is the big college game and I used others to test out potential characters. A lot of the post-college ideas simply popped into my head when I was reading, watching TV, watching a movie, playing a videogame, or daydreaming. For example, Crossing Bedlam came to me when I was biking and it started simply as the female lead needing to get across the country. The rest flowed afterwards.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
Here is the embarrassing part. I wrote a book before Legends of Windemere when I was 15 and published before graduating college. I went through a Print-On-Demand Publisher and sold nothing. It’s still available too. Called Immortal Wars: The Summoning and really shows how much I’ve changed.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
That’s usually when I’m sleeping. Seriously, I’m usually doing stuff with my son if I’m not working on a writing project. Figure he’ll only want to spend time with me for so long, so I should enjoy the early years.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Honestly, I don’t have one. There are so many that I like and it’s hard to pick one above the others. Yeah, it’s a cop out, but I just spent several minutes staring at my library and getting nowhere.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
Hard to tell at times. Many are supportive, especially the friends I’ve made during my journey as an author. Those who knew me before this stage of my life are difficult to read. I get the feeling that some of them still consider this a hobby and are waiting for me to grow up and get a ‘real job’. I’m the dreamer of the family, so I don’t think everyone understands what I’m doing.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That characters don’t always do what I expect. Once I get into the actual writing, the outline doesn’t always go as planned. Scenes are added, dropped, merged, and rewritten nearly every morning. The reason is because I see the characters as one way, but I might miss a quirk that emerges when the scene is in progress.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
This is where I’m supposed to say editing, right? That does get tedious, but the part I hate is when I finish I project. I always feel lost and confused for a few days.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have 14 works published with 9 of them being part of Legends of Windemere. Most of my fantasy series is written up to at least first draft too. My favorite is Prodigy of Rainbow Tower because I got to introduce Nyx and have the characters travel around Windemere. This allowed me to flex my world creating muscles more than the first book.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
The biggest suggestion I can give to other authors for improving is to have fun with what you’re doing. If you enjoy the story then that will come through to the reader. Once you’re not having any fun, your writing will suffer and lack a spark.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I get some feedback, but not as much these days. Early on, I had a lot of people telling me how to make my series more like Game of Thrones. Others request specific characters to get their own books or more spotlight time. It is amazing how many people will contact an author and ask for the stories to get changed. That was something I didn’t expect.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I never really figured that out. My goal is to draw a reader into my world and give them a brief escape from anything that is stressing them. Not sure the tired and stressed count as a target audience. I’d say YA, but the books get rather dark later on and once you go YA, people get hypercritical of anything you write.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
Personally, I think deep and relatable characters make a good story. The world and plot are important, but the characters are who bring things to life. A vivid world of magic is rather useless if you only have cardboard figures existing in it. Most importantly, characters have to grow even if it’s in a ‘wrong’ direction or they get knocked down once or twice. If you end a story and your hero is the same as they were at the beginning then, at least I think, something went wrong.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a zoologist because I loved animals. Most of the little books I made back then were animal fact books. This dream lasted a while until I figured out that blood could be involved and I really don’t like blood.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
All of my books are on Amazon, so here is my author page that lists them:
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
This is a brief excerpt from my upcoming release Legends of Windemere: Tribe of the Snow Tiger:
Holding her breath, Sari slowly moves off Delvin and stands with her entire body locked in place. The warrior puts his shield on his forearm and sheathes his blade before taking a seat on the rear bench. With the waterfall behind him, he takes in the view of the bush-fringed lagoon and the distant river that may lead them to safety. There are only three other boats on the water, the prisoners struggling to remain still. One group has managed to remove their bells, the metal orbs in the steady hands of the riders. Delvin wonders if they should do the same, but freezes when the shimmering silence spell fades away. Feeling exposed and vulnerable, a wave of fear washes over him until he sees that the water around the boat remains calm. The gentle motions caused by the waterfall and the creatures beneath the surface are deflected by a circle of magical serenity.
Delvin is about to speak when a colorful bird bursts from the canopy and flies high over the lagoon. The young animal sings to the rest of the flock, which is sitting in the trees on the other shore. Sari squeezes her eyes shut as she feels the churning movements of the hungry predators lurking beneath them. With the echoing bellow that Delvin heard soon after waking up, one of the Judges erupts from the lagoon. The serpentine body is at least twenty feet long and thicker than an old oak tree. It is covered in dark blue scales that ooze a gray slime, which helps it blend into the constantly roiling water. Squirming tentacles hang from the neck and blindly slap at the empty air, their suction cups opening and closing like gasping mouths. A blossom-like head opens to reveal several teeth-lined jaws and a telescoping tongue that ends in a hooked barb. The bird barely avoids being eaten as it darts higher at the last moment and hides in the canopy.
A gurgling hiss rolls from the creature as it crashes back into the water, the wave rocking one of the remaining boats. The bells ring and the four prisoners immediately dive out of the vessel, which is destroyed by another Judge. Two of the panicking people are devoured after swimming to each other, the attacking beast catching them on its way down. One of the other prisoners floats on his back while his companion desperately flails before going under. The drowning man returns clinging to the head of a Judge that tears him apart with its tentacles and stuffs every morsel into its maw. At the mercy of the current and unable to move, the survivor can only drift until he begins to sink. Refusing to make a noise, the man lets himself disappear beneath the surface and silently drowns among the blind predators.
About Charles Yallowitz
Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. ‘Legends of Windemere’ is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.