RYAN LIESKE author of Fiction.
The Burning Willow Press authors wish to help you celebrate the best month of the year, October. How you may ask? By giving you a different author from the ranks each day with in depth answers to questions that our staff have decided to ask them. Many will be generic, others not so much. Let’s get to know the authors of BWP! Oh, and did we forget to mention… the staff there are all authors too so they have decided to chime in with some answers of their own.
So first, when did you realize that the voices in your head were telling you to write stories or go mad with all that stuck in your head?
The voices began from an early age. Five, maybe? I’ve always had voices in my head. I didn’t really take them seriously until age fifteen.
I know many writers who jump in all different genres, so what is your favorite to write?
I guess you would call it “horror,” although I’m not big on labels. I don’t mean to sound elitist when I say that, either. I truly mean it. Labels equal limitations. And I don’t believe in limitations. I write stories and let others decide. I’m drawn to dark stories and messed up people. There’s not much “happily ever after” in my head.
Currently, there are over a million books that I want to read… and some I have in the past I wish I had written myself, do you have any that you read that you thought about and said, I wish I had written that book?
I could easily list a thousand. But some stand outs: Prototype by Brian Hodge, Bad Brains by Kathe Koja, Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and, recently, Bird Box by Josh Malerman.
What is your favorite book not written by you? See that question is not the same as the other one above… to follow up, what was your favorite book that you wrote?
My favorite book of all time is Lord of the Flies. And my favorite that I’ve written? I haven’t written it yet.
When the muse is off doing their own thing instead of pushing you to write, albeit by gunpoint at times, what is your favorite time-waster?
Reading books, watching movies. But I don’t consider that wasting time. Wasting time is when I’m doing something I don’t want to be doing. Even if I’m getting paid.
What is the one thing that you must do to get into a writing mood. For me, it is listening to 80’s hair metal.
Music, definitely. Mostly older industrial or ambient. Film scores are good, too.
Is editing your story just part of the job or does it literally kill a part of you to “kill your children” as it has been said? What about making revisions?
I actually love rewriting. In fact, I often tell people: “I don’t think I’m a very good writer. But I’m a hell of a good rewriter.”
When you read a book by another author do you ever look at it and criticize it or edit it in your head as the way you would have done it yourself?
Sure. But mostly I try to focus on the story. Sometimes the writing of others is so good it makes me dizzy. The trick is learning not to copy great writing, but learn the tricks and find a way to make them your own.
What would you like to be chiseled into your headstone?
What was your favorite candy to get at Halloween as a kid?
I’ve always been a candy addict. So anything that isn’t peanut butter, or have nuts in it, I’ll take it.
What is your favorite Halloween ritual? And if you do not do that… what is your favorite Halloween movie?
Honestly, I don’t have any. It surprises some people, but I’m really not big on Halloween. I mean, I like it, but it’s not my favorite holiday. However, every fall I try to read something by Charles L. Grant or Ray Bradbury because no one captures fall like them. Even when they’re not writing about fall it still feels like fall. Elizabeth Massie is brilliant at that, too.
I know my “To Be Read” list is never ending and grows daily… how is yours? And do you prefer paperbacks or e-books? Notice I did not ask about audio?
Mine will eventually collapse and kill me. Ebooks are fine, but I’m not too keen on them myself. I still prefer physical copies. But I finally downloaded a Kindle app and have been using it here and there. I’m cool with whatever people prefer.
If you could not be an author then what would you be?
Buddhist monk. Or one of the first colonists on Mars. Or, you know, some dude that just sits around and watches movies and whines about wanting to be a writer. Which I’ve had plenty of practice at.
What was your childhood ideal job to be as an adult?
Astronaut, archaeologist, or, failing either of those, the entertainment industry.
Cats, dogs, both, other?
More of a cat person, but I love both.
Most newbie authors are told to write emotional state in what they already know… so how did you break away from that newbie status of writing what you know in the beginning?
Haha! I don’t know that I have. Seriously, though, I never subscribed to that old adage. I think the key is empathy. Fiction writing is empathy. If you lack that, so will your work. But if you start with empathy as your foundation— and I mean real, “warts and all,” I’m not afraid to see through the eyes of anybody empathy— then you should be solid. The rest is just research and voyeurism/eavesdropping, really.
Advice in one sentence to a new author who is not published yet?
I will paraphrase Michael McDowell: “Don’t try and write for the ages; just write, and let history take care of itself.” Barring that, “trust your editor(s).”
Do your siblings or other family members support your choice to write horror? Fantasy? Erotica… if you do? SCIFI? Other genres?
Well, most do. My mom’s never been too keen on what I choose to write about, but she still supports me. She just won’t ever read anything I write. Which is fine.
Do you ever use writing as an excuse to get out of doing things with the family… especially the in-laws?
No. I have a million other, better, excuses for that.
If you had wrote a sex scene in your book, would you be embarrassed to have your mom read it?
Not embarrassed, because she’ll never read it anyway.
Beta Readers, Proofers, Editors… all are important to produce a better work of literature. So, who would you say is the most important in your team? Or do you not have those in place and are working on that?
Editors, for sure.
In your day of writing… do you push through it all day or do you take mental breaks?
Mental breaks. I’m not a “push through” kind of guy. I wish I was, but I just wasn’t built that way.
Do you ever get to travel as an author? Do conventions? What have you learned in those endeavors?
Not nearly as much as I would like.
Book signings? Necessary evil even for the introvert?
I’m always down to meet readers. I can play an extrovert very convincingly.
In the book, Misery by Stephen King, his main character celebrates the end of the Misery books series by smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch so, how do you celebrate a finished story?
I take my brain out, grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and watch the stupidest movie I can find.
Where can we stalk you at? Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, website?
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon, and Letterboxd.
Do you ever base characters on people that you know? If so, do you ever kill said characters and feel bad?
All my characters are composited of myself and people I know. And no, I don’t feel bad. I would never make a character an overt representation of one particular person.
Do you ever feel that your characters have a mind of their own and change the course of the planned storyline?
Yes, and it’s the greatest part of the writing process. Outlines be damned. Follow the characters.