We recently announced that we’ll be publishing D. Thourson Palmer’s debut novel, Ours Is the Storm. We had a chat with Palmer about his creative process, and finding inspiration when writing. Get some insight into this Boyle & Dalton author here, and look for Ours Is the Storm on January 14, 2015.
Interested in becoming a Boyle & Dalton author? Submit your manuscript here.
B&D: Ours Is the Storm is your first novel. Have you always been a writer? What inspired you to take the leap and write a 350+ page book?
Palmer: Even when I was young I loved books. I remember my parents reading these great, weird Uncle Wiggily stories to me, and my mom always made sure I had a book near at hand. I found a massive box of old books in the garage once, including a set of the 1960s editions of Lord of the Rings. They were in terrible shape and I put them back together with scotch tape, and they’re still on my shelf. From the time I could hold a pencil I used to write and illustrate little stories – even before I could write. They were just marks that were as close as I could get to words, filling pages of notebooks I kept around. I started longer stories and novels time and again throughout school, but it wasn’t until college and after that I started finishing stories in between classes. Ours Is the Storm somehow just kept getting longer until it was done.
B&D: What’s the writing process like for you? Do you find it easy to write, or are you forcing hands to keyboard like most of us?
Palmer: I wouldn’t say easy, but one thing that does come to me is the freedom to be crappy. Just to write, and write poorly, and fix it later. That may have come from OITS too, as when I started on it I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I didn’t start with much of an expectation or plan for it. Something else that helps is writing longhand. I write everything in pen on paper first, because it’s too much work to go backwards and edit. My work rate plummets when I’m typing. I spend way too much time fixing and adjusting individual words or agonizing (futilely) over phrasing. When I’ve got an empty notebook and a pen, though, there’s nowhere to go but forward.
B&D: What was your inspiration for OITS? I know you’ve done some traveling–did you channel any of those experiences into your writing?
Palmer: Definitely. At the time I started OITS, I was assistant-teaching English at a high school in Japan. Being pretty far out of my element, being unable to speak to most people, that was something that made it into the book. Learning about other people, other places, and comparing those things to what I always thought I knew but didn’t. Feeling lost. Actually getting lost. I got stuck on a mountain climb once while the sun was coming down, a good couple hours from anything, again in a place where I could barely speak to anyone. This was also around the time it began to occur to me that a lot of my life wasn’t going to be what I had long thought it would, but that didn’t mean it was going to be bad. Just different than expected.
B&D: Which character was the most fun to write?
Palmer: I think Tak’la ends up a lot of people’s favorite, and he’s hopeful and good and all the best things. He’s a stupendous fighter, and I like writing kick-ass fights. I liked some of the side characters the most, characters that aren’t always in the fore. Draden was fun, oddly enough. The Rider was fun to write. Rahi’sta surprised me, I started her in as an aside and she just kept coming back or poking herself in where she hadn’t been before.
B&D: Why did you decide to go with a hybrid publisher like Boyle & Dalton instead of seeking a traditional publisher?
Palmer: I like the idea of working in the community. I’ve been a lot of places but I love Columbus, and I want to see good things come from this city. Collaborating with individuals, instead of some conglomerate or committee or whatever, that’s awesome. I like being able to get away from dollar signs and tell the stories I want, the way I want, and indie and hybrid publishers like Boyle & Dalton are part of that ability. Ursula K. Le Guin spoke at the National Book Awards recently (also, go read The Left Hand of Darkness, I command it), and she said we need “writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.” I don’t know if can put myself in the latter camp, but I want to.
B&D: Do you have any advice for first-time authors who have just completed a manuscript?
Palmer: Don’t stop now. Do it again.
B&D: What are you working on next?
Palmer: I tried to overturn or examine some fantasy tropes in OITS while still staying in the genre, and that was fun, so I’m working on a tragic, heroic family saga, set in Feriven, like OITS. The next book follows three generations of the heroic Warden family, and mostly it’s them doing their best and everything going awfully wrong. It’s about watching these heroes and really getting into the insanity that would be part of their lives. All the violence, the loss, the expectations – there’s a little bit of work out there where the heroes have to deal with that stuff, but not a lot.