David Estes, author of The Fatemarked Epic, The Dwellers Saga and The Country Saga, answered my questions about his fantasy books and his writing life.
What do you most like about the writing process and which parts do you like the least?
Creation! One of the coolest and most satisfying things about writing is the power to create something from nothing. Worlds, characters, battles, suspense…it’s extremely rewarding. There are times when I look back and think, “How did I do that?” Even I don’t know sometimes.
If I think too hard about the fact that my stories and characters and world wouldn’t have existed if I hadn’t sat down day after day, month after month, year after year and taken the time to pour my emotions and ideas into my writing…well, I go a little crazy. If anything, the ability to create something only motivates me more. I think that motivation is best highlighted by my bestselling epic fantasy series, The Fatemarked Epic.
Which books have had the greatest impact on your writing?
So many! On the epic fantasy side, my favorite authors are Tolkien, Sanderson, and George R. R. Martin. Tolkien’s worldbuilding had a huge influence on me. As a kid, I read The Lord of the Rings more than a dozen times, until the cover was falling off of my books. In fact, one of the reasons I wrote more than twenty books before I attempted to write an epic fantasy was because I didn’t think I could live up to the high standards set by Tolkien. When I finally finished The Fatemarked Epic, I was surprised to find myself feeling worthy. I would be proud to share it with Tolkien were he still alive.
Sanderson’s creativity motivates me to be MORE. More everything. More creative, more focused on creating complex characters. Just more.
And Martin, well, his books have shown me that it’s okay to be EPIC. That’s one reason why The Fatemarked Epic is nearly a million words spread across five books. I had a lot of stories to tell, and I didn’t want to skimp on any of them.
Do you plot your books in detail or develop the story as you are writing?
I’m more a pantser than a plotter, because I like being surprised by the direction my books go in. Also, I’m a firm believer in creativity breeds creativity. So the more I write, the more the ideas flow, which allows me to formulate the story as I go.
That being said, for a massive undertaking like The Fatemarked Epic, I had to do some planning. Before I started writing, I drew a map, mapped out the royal family trees for three generations, created my magic system, and wrote a summarized 500 years of history that I could sprinkle throughout the series. Then I started writing!
Which of your characters is the easiest for you to write, and which is the most challenging? Why?
For me, the easiest characters to write are those that are three-dimensional. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether they are good or evil or something in between, as long as they have depth. That tends to make the words flow onto the page.
A good example is Rhea Loren from Fatemarked. She is quickly becoming the most hated/loved character in any of my 30+ novels. It’s her inner conflict that makes her so polarizing. We all go through hard times, and she is no exception. How we react to the crap the world throws at us is what defines us. Rhea reacts in a lot of different ways as she learns who she is and who she wants to be.
The hardest characters to write are those I can’t become in my mind. Usually they don’t have enough depth and I’m forced to rewrite them or scrap them altogether. I refuse to write a character that doesn’t come alive in my mind. It’s not fair to me or to the reader.
The Fatemarked Epic has been compared to The Lord of the Rings and Throne of Glass. What are the similarities, and what sets your series apart from these works?
It’s an honor to be compared to other epic series. The Lord of the Rings in particular gave me warm fuzzies, for reasons I explained earlier. Honestly, Fatemarked has little in common with either series, except for the epic nature, dragons, and magic.
I think it gets compared to LOTR because of the epic battles between good and evil, and compared to Throne of Glass because of the huge cast and extent of worldbuilding. But everything else is different, from the magic system, to the types of characters, to the plotlines. Regardless, it’s an honor!
Which fantasy books written in the last few years would you recommend to fans of fantasy fiction?
So many! Anything by Brandon Sanderson, his writing is flawless. If you haven’t read LOTR, read it!
Also, I recently read Battle Mage by Peter Flannery and was so impressed with the quality of his writing and worldbuilding. And it’s standalone book at around 800 pages! Happy reading!
When and where do you do most of your writing?
In the morning between 6am and 8am. Sometimes in bed, sometimes at a desk. I write almost every day.
If you could have written any book in history, which would it be and why?
I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I wish I’d written The Lord of the Rings. It sets the standard for all things epic fantasy. And those movies! SO GOOD.
** This interview was conducted in late 2017, and it was originally published on The Book Base website **