I want to again welcome David Estes to the blog! David has agreed to do an interview, so I submitted my burning questions to him. A few of his biggest fans also had some questions for David! We will start with some awesome fan questions first!
Where did your inspiration for Perry come from? --submitted by Kelly
Ha! Well, to be honest, Perry was inspired by a teddy bear (appropriately named “Teddy”) that my wife has had since she was very young. When we first started dating, I met Teddy, and I immediately started treating him as if he was a real, live creature (because he is), and the joke has lasted the length of our relationship. Teddy is a constant source of entertainment for us, and I consider him to be my arch nemesis. So yeah, Perry is based off of him! (Yes, I’m weird, I completely understand if you stop reading the interview at this point. But I highly suggest you check out Fire Country and give Perry a chance!)
How did you meet Adele, the love of your life?--submitted by Karen
Awww! I could talk about Adele all day. (Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic.) Boringly, we met at work! However, the story is much better than just that. A couple funny things:
First, I took a random photo with Adele at a company party only a month after I moved to Australia (July 2009). I didn’t know her or even her name, but it was the only photo I took with a female the entire night. But we didn’t get together for another 8 months…
Second, I taught her training course in November 2009, but still we didn’t really have a chance to talk as I was too nervous about teaching a class of 30 students! But fate was already working her magic…
Third, Adele tried to resign from our company in January 2010, but someone talked her out of it! Wow! I might have never met her if she quit at that time…
Finally, in February 2010 we started talking at work while working late. We both ended up attending the same housewarming party and I managed to gather up enough nerve (after talking and laughing with her for over an hour) to put my arm around her. We had our first kiss before she jumped in a taxi to go home. In two days we had our first date. Six weeks later I moved in, and six weeks after that, I proposed. Surprisingly, she said YES!
Eight months after our first date, we eloped in Malaysia. Adele is my soul mate and the biggest supporter I have. I’m lost without her. True story.
Have you ever eaten Perry, whoops, I mean prickler (not Perry) salad or ’zard soup, as the descriptions are very detailed?--submitted by Karen
HA!!!! Of course Karen would ask that. What a gruesome question, Karen! For those of you who haven’t read Fire Country, I use quite a lot of slang in the book. “Prickler” means cactus, and “’zard” means lizard. The characters eat lots of cactus salad and lizard soup, because they live in the desert. Well, I have to admit that while we were in Mexico for four months, I did eat a fair amount of prickler (cactus) salad. And it was during that time that I was writing Fire Country, so Mexico absolutely inspired my ideas for the book. I’ve never eaten lizard, however, and I hope I never do! But again, I saw A TON of lizards while in Mexico, so that certainly influenced the book.
How in the world are you able to switch from Siena’s POV to Tristan’s to Adele’s so effortlessly?--submitted by Karen
I wish I knew! Honestly, switching points of view is so difficult, and I’ve definitely struggled with it at times. The risk is that the characters start sounding similar, which is the last thing you want. This question is referring to The Earth Dwellers, which is the 7th and final book in the combined Dwellers/Country Sagas, in which I switch between three points of view for the entire novel. I think it was easy for me because it’s the 7th book and I’ve become very comfortable with the three characters at this point. Plus, it helps that Siena has an extremely strong and unique voice, which makes slipping in and out of her character relatively simple. Differentiating Adele and Tristan were harder, but their stories are so different that I’ve grown to understand them as characters.
In any case, I’m glad you felt it was effortless, Karen!
And now for my burning questions!
You have mentioned that you wanted to write a book for a long time before you actually did. What were some of your first story ideas? Did any of your published books originate from these first stories?
Great question. So this was my biggest problem, and why I didn’t start writing earlier. I always believed you had to have a BIG IDEA to be a writer. You know, something on the level of Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. I had ideas, books about humans evolving into angels, books about kids with superpowers, books about teenagers that could only use one of their senses. All kinds of crazy things. But I never thought they were good enough to spend hours and hours writing about them.
Then, between jobs, Adele told me to quit talking about writing and just write. Don’t worry about whether your idea is big enough, just pick what you think is your best idea and start. So I picked the idea about angels and demons evolving from humans. Angel Evolution was born! It’s definitely not my best book and I made a ton of mistakes, but that started it all. I also ended up writing and publishing the Children’s series about kids with superpowers (Nikki Powergloves, 4 books so far), as well as the idea about a teenager who had an unusual condition where he could only use one of his senses at a time (unpublished).
But I’ve found that the best ideas are the ones you get while in the midst of the creative process. The Moon Dwellers and Fire Country didn’t come to me until AFTER I’d started working on all my other ideas. And they’re by far my best and most successful series. So I always give aspiring authors the advice to just start somewhere and give your creativity the chance to blossom!
I know you prefer writing on the beach or by the pool as opposed to writing at a desk. Do you have any other oddities when you write?
My whole life is an oddity! Yes, I like lounging and chilling out when I’m writing. It helps me find a quiet, inspiring place to let the ideas flow. It also makes it feel much less like work!
So what other oddities? Well, I don’t work from an outline. I have a bullet list of random thoughts and ideas, and then I just start writing, occasionally referring to the list and trying to piece everything together. It’s hard, but the thought of using an outline makes me cringe and want to run away from my laptop screaming.
Also, my characters are REALLY LOUD in my head sometimes. Like scary loud. Like I hardly even have to think to let their voices spill out through my fingertips. It’s weird and cool and very funny.
I have a touch (OK a lot) of OCD and I’m obsessive when it comes to hitting my minimum daily word count. It really helps me write a lot of books, but it also stresses me out. Depending on the day, my word count goal ranges between 3,000 and 5,000 words, and I pretty much always exceed it.
Who are your favorite authors, and do you try to mimic any of their writing styles?
Dean Koontz, JRR Tolkien, and Patrick Ness. Personally, I don’t think someone’s “writing style” can be mimicked, nor do I try. Everyone has their own writing style, and no matter how much you try to change it, you always end up back in your own comfort zone. HOWEVER, you most certainly can learn writing techniques from the authors that inspire you, and I’ve learned techniques from all of these authors. Koontz has shown me that it’s OK (and awesome) to mix humor with suspense, and that’s something I love to do in my own writing. Tolkien is the master of creating worlds, and I’ve done my best to learn from him in creating my own dystopian settings. And Ness…wow, I can’t say enough about him. He has an ability to create realistic, complex characters that is unrivaled. I’m still trying to learn from him to do the same thing.
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest?
The hardest thing for me is keeping everything straight in terms of the consistency of the story, order of events, and character development. As I mentioned earlier, I hate outlining and taking notes, so many times I have to go back and reread large sections to ensure I’m not straying from the direction I’ve started in. One day maybe I’ll learn, but for now I’ll keep writing off the cuff and without an outline!
The easiest thing is hearing my character’s voices in my head. I really try to become the characters, almost like I’m an actor in a movie, and just let their voice flow through me. This is one of my favorite things about writing, too.
If you could pick one of your books to live in, which one would you pick and why?
Wow. Now that’s a tough one because my worlds aren’t exactly friendly places to live. Fire Country is boiling hot all year round, and food is scarce. Ice Country is freezing cold, and as most people know, I’m more of a sun-worshipper than a snow-lover. Water & Storm Country has to face terrible thunder and lightning storms as well as constant battles for power. The Moon and Star Dwellers live in pretty terrible conditions, too, with very little light and a high level of poverty. The Sun Dwellers have it the best, so that might not be a bad place to live, although you’d be hated by the Moon and Star Dwellers. Hmmm, I guess I’d go with Fire Country, because although the people there live a simple life, it’s one based on family. They work together to build a better life for their people, and I wouldn’t mind being a part of that.
A couple of the themes I’ve noticed throughout your books are family and friendship. How much of your life experience has influenced these themes? Do you feel you’ve mastered these lessons or are you still working on it?
Thank you for noticing! Those are absolutely the main themes of my books. I’ve got an awesome family that is very willing to help each other. And I have some amazing friends who I consider to be a part of my family. The lessons I try to show in my books are that no matter what the odds, no matter how horrible life can be, that family and friends are eternal, and are a source of constant hope. And saving and protecting one’s family is the most important thing in the world.
I wouldn’t say I’ve “mastered” these lessons in my own life. Most of the time I feel like I get way more from my family than I give, but I hope to one day pay it all back. I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else.
Which of your books is your favorite? Which is your lease favorite?
Awesome question! For me it’s usually my latest book, because I work really hard at my craft and truly believe I get better with each novel. In this case it’s my latest novel, The Earth Dwellers, which just came out on September 5th. I’m really proud of what I achieved with this book, as I combined two series (the Dwellers and Country Sagas), and brought the characters, plot lines and settings of each into one book. It was a very difficult challenge, but I think I did both series justice! Although a close second favorite would be the first book in the Country Saga, Fire Country, because the main character, Siena, REALLY spoke to me and came alive in my mind.
My least favorite? Unfortunately it has to be my debut novel, Angel Evolution. Although I’m proud of what I achieved in my first novel, I’ve come so far as a writer, which my readers tend to point out time and time again. So that makes my first novel my worst one! I think readers will still see my creativity in Angel Evolution, but will realize that the writing is pretty rough and early stage. Since then, I’ve written more than 1.1 million other words, and have improved significantly.
Which book gave you the biggest challenge to write?
The Earth Dwellers! As I alluded to earlier, I brought two trilogies together into this 7th and final book in the combined Dwellers/Country Saga, which was a MAJOR CHALLENGE. I was so scared before I started the book, because I didn’t want to let fans of either series down. But once I settled into the characters and the plot, everything really came together and I stopped worrying and started getting excited about what I was doing and what I might accomplish. I hope my readers agree!
How do you feel about killing off characters? And why do you do it?
I freaking hate it. I create characters that I hope my readers will love and appreciate, who I also love and appreciate, and then sometimes I have to kill them, which sucks. Even killing the villains is hard, because I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making them who they are.
I don’t do it just for the sake of killing characters. Anytime I kill a character there’s a reason, one I feel very strongly about, which, unfortunately, my readers will continue to discover in The Earth Dwellers. The dystopian worlds I create are hard places to live in, full of evil and tragedy. Although there’s always hope, sometime the hopelessness needs to come first, usually involving death. If everyone survived and lived happily ever after, it just wouldn’t be realistic. And I’m not afraid to kill off the fan-favorite characters, because in real life good people die too. Sadly, that’s sometimes what makes us all stronger.
If you could pick one character in your books that could come to life and you could meet in person, who would you pick and why?
Siena from Fire Country! No surprise there. She already feels alive in my head, and I’d love to speak to her for real, to see if she really sounds the way I think she does. Also, I personally think she’s a complete crack up, and I know she’d make me laugh, which is one of my favorite things to do.
What is one thing that you want your readers to take away from your books?
Enjoyment! That’s the most important thing. People should enjoy reading. They should come away feeling satisfied, that their time has been well spent. Ideally, they’d be feeling strong emotions at the end of my books, a mix of happiness and sadness and relief and a whole lot of other powerful feelings.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself so far?
Wow, deep question. Well…(sorry, I had to slip that in)…I’ve learned that writing is a part of who I am, not just a hobby or a career or a thing I enjoy doing. It’s in me, deep inside me, untouchable. I will always be a writer, even if I’m not writing. When I’m walking down the street, observing life flash by, I continue to see the words in my head, on the page, on the screen. I see the world in words, and that’ll never change.
Thanks so much for having me on your amazing blog, Jenny, it’s been a true pleasure!! And thank you for honoring me by spotlighting me this month, it means the world to me. I truly hope your readers enjoy my books! I love getting questions and comments from readers, so here are the places I love to hang out!
Make sure you check out David and his amazing books! And thanks again, David!