Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords . His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.
I’d like to talk about what I hope readers will take away from my writings, and tied in with that, what I hope to accomplish with my writing.
First, as a writer, I have to come to some conclusions as to what interests readers, what draws them in, what makes readers generally approve of a novel or short story. Looking at it from strictly a business angle, a writer can study the markets and various online surveys, the bestseller lists, etc. Practical, yes, but somewhat cold. Another way to try to find out what interests readers is for the writer to look inward, to decide upon what he or she likes as a reader, because writers are readers, too, or at least they should be.
In my case, I vary in my literary interests, but I also tend to be drawn to particular genres more than others. I enjoy epic fantasy literature as well as horror. When a particular mood hits me, I enjoy classics and literary works. Historical fiction can also draw me in, if it is fairly accurate.
But beyond genre, what do I look for in my fiction reading. When I sit and ponder it, I find I enjoy a little action and adventure, as well as some intrigue. In darker tales, I often like the building of tension. In literary works, I prefer less escapism and more exploration. Exploration of what? Of the outside world as well as our inner worlds, of our thoughts and hopes and dreams but also our philosophies.
A mixture of all the elements I enjoy in fiction are what I try to bring to my own writing. I shoot for some action and adventure, with a touch of intrigue. I work to build tension, especially in my darker stories. And I try to give a brief look into our humanity, all elements of our humanity, though I hope not to be too heavy with this.
A reader might look at much of my epic fantasy works and ask, “Uh, where is this ‘look into our humanity’ you were talking about?” It’s there, though you might have to go searching for it. I use my characters to explore and discover different ways of thinking, different ways of looking at the world. I don’t mean anything snobby by this, just that it’s something I enjoy in my writing.
To go a little deeper, I tend to follow the views of late author John Gardner concerning heroes. In Gardner’s opinion, heroes were meant to be moral examples to humanity. That viewpoint might seem overly simplistic to some of today’s readers, but as a writer I find it a good starting point. I find interest in taking Gardner’s basic idea of a moral hero and twisting it some here and there. I’m not necessarily trying for an anti-hero, nor am I seeking to make a villain into a heroic figure, but I do find possibilities in walking the razor’s edge between what is heroic and what crosses the line. All of this is one of the reasons my heroes are sometimes brutal while some of my villains can have positive aspects in their character.
My horror writing takes a very different path. Usually when I’m writing horror, I am trying to build a particular mood, this mood allowing me to study the darker elements of humanity in all its forms. Also, often I’m just trying to make myself giggle in the middle of the night while writing alone in a darkened room. When I write horror, I don’t usually go for the gore factor, but I do find humor sometimes in the devilishly vile.
So, serious and silly alike, those are some of the elements I try to bring to my fiction writing. Do I sometimes fail? Yes, I’m sure I do. Often I know when I’ve failed, and I try to make sure readers never see such material, at least until I can repair it. Other times? Well, if I fail, it is up for the reader to decide, and I only blame myself. On the other hand, a writer can not always please every reader, and it would be impossible to try and do so. I try to write what interests me, and I hope it will interest others, because it is the readers who are truly important at the end of the day.