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Interview with Troy Young



He has been many things in his career. Shoe salesman, waiter, newspaper owner, children’s performer, actor, elected official, policy advisor, CEO, and university lecturer. Now he wants to try his hand at writing. He writes in multiple genres as he tries to find his niche. Horror has been his most successful, but he has also written fantasy, science fiction, and humor.


Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
A.
I published a few erotica stories under a pen name (no, I’m not sharing it here, and I’m not writing anymore either). This is already going to generate questions I don’t want to answer.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
A.
My third and final book in my cosmic horror trilogy (The Other) is due in September. The six individual stories in the book have been released, with the final one (In the Depths of R’lyeh) released in June 2021. All of them will be compiled and released in this collection (there are a total of 18 short stories plus 2 bonus stories ranging from 7,000 words to 24,000 words in the collection).

Q.3 When did you decide to write The Queen of Vagabond Town series?
A.
I wrote the first story in this series The Tower of the Magus as a submission for a fantasy anthology. It wasn’t selected, so I released it on its own. Later, I wrote another story The Merchant’s Hold using the same character and building off the first story and used it for a while as a reader magnet for my email list. I decided to write an intervening story linking the two Three Shards. Once I had done this, I wrote two more short stories Fortune Favours The Bold and The Theft of the Demon God.

My first introduction to fantasy (subgenre Sword and Sorcery) was reading Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. I always wanted to write something similar. His story The Tower of the Elephant inspired the first story in the series. I had also recently read Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories. I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons since I was 12, and Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D, pointed to Leiber’s work as being the catalyst for his game.

Howard and his contemporary, H.P. Lovecraft, have been the two biggest inspirations for my writing, even though stylistically I’m not like either. Setting and tone are similar but that’s where it ends. My main character in The Queen of Vagabond Town, is Bineshiwabe, an escaped slave. Set in the ancient city of Dewar, Vagabond Town is an underground part of the city, home to thieves, ruffians, and other dangerous people. Bineshiwabe sets out to make her mark and work her way up the ranks until she holds dominion over those who dwell in the shadows. She’s going to need friends fast and learn the unwritten laws of the city if she hopes to survive. Conanesque, but from the perspective of a woman who relies more on her wits and daring rather than her brute physicality.

Q.4 How do you come up with the name of your books?
A.
That’s the trick, isn’t it? Sometimes it is the name that comes first and a story evolves out of it. The first thing I published, my cosmic horror series, started using a stylistic approach. The first six all were designed around starting with the word “It” (It Came From The Sea, It Slumbers Beneath the Ice, etc.) with the “It” referring to “The Other” (the overarching title of the series; The Other gets its root from “otherworldly” and is coined by one of the protagonists as a means to identify these cosmic horrors. The Other is reminiscent of The X-Files, even though I’ve never watched even a single episode of it (I probably should). I think I was indirectly inspired by the show Stranger Things.

For my other stories, I look for something catchy and memorable that is drawn from the action within the story. In The Tower of the Magus, it is because the thieves enter the Mad Magus’ home. Three Shards comes from the three shards of a magic mirror she escapes from the tower with. Many times, you just write. You end up changing the working title many times. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A.
Start writing earlier. I think I missed the glory days of Amazon self-publishing where you could make a lot of money off of short stories. I evolved from writing novels into short stories (although I have published full novels as well) and then publishing collections of short stories. From what I understand, short fiction was very profitable via Amazon years ago, less so now based on changes to Kindle Unlimited. So I wish I’d started earlier. If I’d started earlier, I’d have more out now. It’s academic. I’d also be more polished; I continue to evolve and improve as an author, and I’d be that much further ahead if I started earlier.

Q.6 How do you select the name of your characters?
A.
I actually use a Fantasy name generator to help with some, but given my years of playing Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve had years of developing characters and their names. In my contemporary coming of age story The (Extra)ordinary Life of Jimmie Mayfield the name Jimmie came from a local park Jimmie Simpson and a football player Baker Mayfield. There was a lot of hype around Baker Mayfield before he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, so the name stuck with me. For my protagonist in my sci-fi western The Seeker of Solace I used the generator, specifically looking for a Chechen name and it provided me with Bazhaev as a last name, so Orlan Bazhaev was born.

Q.7 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
A.
I have written six full novels (published 4) and 29 short stories, of which 14 of those have been unpublished and compiled into two collections of my cosmic horror series (and another six will follow the same path).

My favorite was my first The (Extra)ordinary Life of Jimmie Mayfield but I’d hoped to find an agent for that series. As time has passed, however, I find I am less inclined to finish that series (originally intended as 5 novels) and focus on other things (my cosmic horror has been my best-selling work). I do have a soft spot for my sci-fi western The Seeker of Solace

Q.8 How long does it take you to write a book?
A.
My novels have all taken differing lengths of time, depending on how motivated I am. My fastest was completed in 12 days because I was really connected with the story. Others will take longer (one took over a year because I’d keep leaving it and coming back to it; it ended up being the first full novel I published) but I’d say the average length of time for me to write a novel in three months. But because I write so many short stories it is hard to quantify.

Q.9 Do you feel that there are specific challenges in marketing and promoting short stories compared to novels?
A.
The price point on the short stories being lower, it is difficult to justify spending money on Facebook or Amazon ads. When I first started out with my short stories, I generated most of my exposure through Facebook posts in various groups or Instagram posts. I also promote my short stories via my email list.

I’ve found novels also to be tricky, though. Especially in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, they are so packed it is hard to find traction. My cosmic horror has been the easiest, simply because there is a ready-made target audience for it.

I’ve tried marketing in India, but have had limited results. I know people in India are some of the most prolific readers on the planet and would love to make connections with readers there, which is why this blog is so intriguing to me.

Q.10 What draws people to horror novels? Why do we, as readers, like to be scared?
A.
People like to be unnerved. They like to be taken out of their safe zone. It’s escapist fiction. This is why people enjoy fantasy and sci-fi too because it is not within our daily lives. People like genre fiction too, of course, but I think the idea of being placed into these situations but done so safely (I’ll read about a zombie apocalypse, or a character threatened by demonic possession, but I don’t want to be in those situations) so we get to experience these things from a safe distance.

Q.11 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
A.
I don’t write every day like many authors do. I like to take time to ruminate on my work in between bouts of writing. When I write a chapter book, I tend to write until the chapter is done. It might take two hours, or it might take six, but once I start a chapter, I usually write until it is finished and then take a day or two off to prepare before I start the next one. And I’m a pantser, so there is not a lot of heavy planning.

The anomaly to that was The Seeker of Solace. I’d plotted that one out and wrote every day, usually writing two or more chapters in a sitting. I’m not sure why that one evolved like that, but nothing else has motivated me not even its sequel, The Denial of Deliverance.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
A.
No, because I take breaks anyway. I find most of my plotting or planning comes while on walks. Pretty much every new idea had its genesis on a walk, or any issue I felt I needed to resolve was fixed on a walk. I’m a big proponent of walks to overcome these blocks. The last thing I would recommend is trying to write through a block. I think it would frustrate me and end up producing a lot of stuff I wouldn’t want to keep. So take that break and go for a walk.

Q.13 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
A.
Probably an Elf (which is funny because I tend to avoid playing them in D&D). That long-life and magical background are intriguing. Dragons would be cool too, but there is such a wide range of dragons in published fantasy from ones who are intelligent and speak (Smaug) to ones that are barely above animals (Drogon in Game of Thrones). So while being a dragon would catch my eye for a moment, I’d go back to the elf.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
A.
I have too many really to say. I like series like Conan or Agatha Christie and other classics like Lord of the Rings and books I have read many times the Harry Potter series but I can’t think of a single book that stands out above all others. Commercial fluff like Dan Brown’s work also has its place as long as you don’t take his outlandish theories seriously as a mindless page-turner.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
A.
Generally supportive, although the genres I am writing in are nothing they would normally read.

Q.16 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
A.
I get an idea and I run with it. I usually know where I am starting from, and where I need to go, but often don’t know how I’m going to get there until I sit down to write. After I finish writing for an evening, I’m often shocked at what I put down on the page. There is no set formula.

Q.17 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
A.
Write, write, and write some more. Look to groups on Facebook (like 20bookto50K) filled with authors supporting you and your work. Read as much as you can about the entire business (writing is the easy part) and treat it as a business (if you don’t it’s nothing but a hobby; that’s fine, but that’s all it will be unless you treat it like a business). I’d also recommend Mark Dawson’s course on advertising and invest in either Grammarly or ProWritingAid to help with editing (I have the pro version of both).

Q.18 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
A.
The opposite sex isn’t just you with different parts. I think I’ve done a decent job at it, but I’m biased. But I think if you understand your characters, develop them fully, and are generally introspective you can write them well.

Q.19 Who designed your book covers?
A.
I have a designer I work with within my non-writing career. I run a non-profit organization that publishes a travel guide and I used them for some of my covers. But, I’ve also used online tools like Canva to design my own. Recently I discovered Book Brush and will probably begin using it in the future (I purchased a pro version of Canva in January, so I’ll continue to use it until the yearly subscription is over).

Ideally, you’d use professional designers and editors to help you, but in many cases, this will put you out of pocket $1,000 or more before you hit publish. That’s a lot of money to make back (some of my books have, while for others I’d be in the hole still). My advice would be to use the pros (even if I ignore my own advice).

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A.
It has been a blast. Now that the creative bug has bitten, I think I’ll always publish my stories. I need that outlet. I still haven’t turned an overall profit when I consider all the things I’ve invested in (editing, covers, courses, advertising) but I keep improving with every step. My first thing was published in April 2019, so I’ve only been at this for just over two years at this point. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I will continue to evolve and improve and will get into the black someday. I’m lucky my day job is lucrative and flexible so I have the ability to explore writing, and I have the means to invest in myself and my work without it needing to turn a profit, but I’m laying the foundation to what I hope becomes a lucrative second career (which takes me into retirement).


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