Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Author Interview: A.M. Rycroft, Author of The Taming

A.M. Rycroft is a dark fantasy and horror writer, and blogger. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pittsburgh.
She has been writing since a young age, and though she attended art school for a time, she found her way back to writing again after art school. Her first dark fantasy/horror novel Into the Darkness was written while she attended the University of Pittsburgh. Her writing has been compared to the works of David Eddings and Stephen King.

When she is not writing, Rycroft is a writing coach and a periodic cartoonist. She enjoys keeping fit with weight training and walks through her local parks. During the summer, A.M. is frequently seen riding the roller coasters at the Kennywood amusement park.

The Taming

Imps, ale, and intrigue… This dark fantasy tale follows the brash Thystle Moran, sword for hire. Only one job has ever bothered her, one that promised to be easy money, but ended in the death of her friend. Now, an imp with questionable motives says her friend's death was no accident. Thystle seeks retribution as her world spirals out of control. She faces off against her dark past, a betrayal, feelings for a young woman, and the interests of a shadowy group known only as the Immortals. Can she ever catch a break?

Who are your influences?
Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joe Hill are my biggest influences, and to a smaller degree George R.R. Martin.

When did you begin writing?
I've been writing since I was very young. I didn't really decide on writing as a career path until after high school and a brief stint at art school. When I went back to school at Pitt, that's when I really started to focus on my writing.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
I get my story ideas from a variety of places - dreams, a piece of a song, something I overhear in passing - but it usually starts with a character with a story to tell, rather than just a plot.

My characters speak to me in a variety of ways, usually in the form of a dialog snippet or a series of scenes. If a new character doesn't tell me their name, I either just make up a name, or I might go through a baby name book to get an idea.

As for POV, I rarely stray outside of the close 3rd person, simply because I like to maintain that observer status. I do have a couple of very short pieces (unpublished) from the 1st person POV, though.

Do you work from an outline?
I never outline. I might make notes about an upcoming scene if I don't have the time to write the scene when it comes to me, but I am 100% a let-it-flow writer. I know outlining works well for some, but I just find it restraining.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
That's a hard thing to choose! I would have to say that my favorite scene in The Taming has to be the final fight scene, because it's a little off the wall, has some humor, and is 100% Thystle from beginning to end. She's such a fun character to write.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
Listen to the characters. They, like people in real life, have a story they want to tell. I stay true to that story, without adding my own influences, even when I don't necessarily like how they react to something or the path I take. When I do that, my characters take me to fantastic places that really resonate with my readers, so I always hold onto the philosophy that the character is king.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I have written fantasy, horror, sci-fi, weird fiction, and some thriller-type stories. Fantasy and horror are my main focus, but no genre is really closed off to me in my mind, except perhaps for romance. Even though I might add romantic elements to my stories, writing a straight-up romance just isn't my thing.

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share? 
Sure. I met Joe Hill in Massachusetts at a horror book fest kind of a thing last year. It was at a point where I was feeling a little low about my writing, because my first book hadn't seen much traction with readers. I took the plunge and asked for his advice. He thought about it and then said, "Look, it took me 10 years to get where I am now. Success in writing is a long term thing." He told me that given enough time, one of my books will catch fire and that in the meantime, I should just keep writing for the love of writing. I was really touched with the way he told me to hang on, you'll get there. Now, I don't worry as much about whether what I'm writing is the next "hit" or not. I'm writing, because that's what I love to do.

The wind felt colder now. She glanced around the dirty, refuse-littered alley. A bad feeling wormed its way into her gut and warned Thystle that she had missed the signs that she was walking into a trap.
“Perhaps you should tell me exactly what I’m doing here, imp, before I spread your insides across this dank alley,” she replied in a careful tone.
Jalus shook his head at her. “Consider that a bad idea, my dear. My employers know where I am, and there is a dwarf with a short temper inside the shop behind me who might take my death personally.”
Thystle opened her mouth to respond to this, but Jalus held up a hand to forestall further threats. “I will not waste your time. I brought you here because there is a man recently returned to Haven who presents a threat to the nonhumans in this town. He means to do away with the likes of you first, and there is little doubt in my employers’ minds that this reckoning will not stop with vampyres. He also happens to be responsible for the death of your friend Jonathan Revner, the younger Revner.”
His note misled her indeed. The information Jalus possessed was nothing like the information she thought he would bring her, or even about whom she thought. Thystle shook her head, trying to understand what he told her, and thought back to a morning a year ago that still haunted her dreams. She wondered how someone could be responsible for what had happened.
“What are you saying to me?” Thystle questioned Jalus, her voice low.
The imp laughed at her. “Surely, you did not think your friend got that way on his own, did you? You thought how you found him was an accident?”

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