Author Spotlight #6: David Tatum

It’s Author Spotlight time! If you want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on proudly self-published author David Tatum. You know I’m not really a fan of long introductions, so let’s jump right in.

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Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

The cover of The Merrimack EventI’m hoping my next book will be The Merrimack Event, my first novel-length foray into the military science fiction\space opera genre and the first book in the Shieldclads series. The series focuses on a hand-picked crew of students from the Earth Alliance Naval Academy who, when a real war breaks out during a war game, are the only people capable of striking back.  As you might guess from the title, this book draws parallels with the Battle of the Monitor and the CSS Virginia (aka the Monitor vs. the Merrimack), though the series is nothing even close to an allegory of the U.S. Civil War.

I’m just waiting on cover art for its release, at this point, which SHOULD be delivered either later this month or early next.  It could easily have been my first book, but it’s been in the literary equivalent of development hell for the past two and a half years.  First my intended editor vanished on me, then I couldn’t find a cover artist, then an old draft got saved over the edited copy while attempting to make a back-up (I’ve lost more manuscripts to problems making back-ups than manuscripts I’ve saved WITH back-ups), and finally — right before my intended launch at a sci-fi convention I was attending as a guest — I had to reject a piece of cover art I’d spent months working with a cover artist to get right.

Hopefully the new cover art will work out — the artist just sent me a mock-up and it looks good, so far.  I managed to find a guy who may not regularly be a cover artist, but does have a pedigree to suggest he’s capable of it; I mean, he’s worked on things like concept art for Heroes of Might and Magic, background art for Starship Troopers: Roughnecks, and this tiny little sci-fi franchise called Star Wars.  With luck, I’ll have the book out before this interview is posted.

As far as where to find information about it?  Well, I have a website just for my books, but that’s about to go through a complete overhaul and isn’t being updated at the moment (I’m overhauling it, in part, because I’ve lost the ABILITY to update it).  For the next few months, you’ll have better luck finding info about this and my other writing projects from my blog, which I update (irregularly) on Sundays.

Do you have a favorite book/story among the one’s you’ve written? Why is it so special to you?

My best-sellers are the two books in my Law of Swords series. They’ve had reasonably good success, and I’m working on the third book now; they’re my money-makers.  My favorite book, and the one I personally feel is my best to date, is The Kitsune Stratagem, the first book of what should become the Inari’s Children series.

Cover of In Treachery ForgedWhen I had completed In Treachery Forged (the first Law of Swords book), and was getting it ready to send to publishers, I went to a convention with a publisher and several editors I was interested in submitting to.  One of those editors, in a panel discussing cliché in fiction, said that if he ever saw another manuscript with Elves and Dwarves and Dragons, he felt like he would pick it up and throw it across the room.  In Treachery Forged was filled with Elves and Dwarves and Dragons, so I knew submitting it to that publisher was a no-go.  If I wanted to go with this publisher (which, in the end, I didn’t, but I didn’t know that at the time), I would have to write something else… something which had no Elves, Dwarves, or Dragons anywhere in sight.

So I started looking for substitutes for these fantasy staples, pulling mythological creatures from around the world to take their place.  I researched Kitsune from Japanese mythology, Wulvers from Shetland Island folklore, and Bunyips from aboriginal Australian folk tales…and several other creatures in less prominent roles from those and other mythologies and folklores.  I tried to make all of these creatures relatable to an audience used to Western-style fantasies while keeping them as true to those mythologies as I could.

Cover of The Kitsune StratagemI love the world that I built for The Kitsune Stratagem.  I love the history I’ve developed, the characters, the bestiary, the social structure, etc.  The plot is pretty good, too, in my humble opinion.  It hasn’t sold as well as my other books, but I am still going to be revisiting this world at some point in the future, both to write novel-length sequels and short fiction set in its history.

What genre do you wish you could write?

I have designs on writing more fantasy and science fiction, a YA Spy Thriller, and even some non-fiction, but curiously I don’t think I can write in my favorite genre to read: Historical fiction.  I love the sea-faring novels of Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forester.  I can get wholly immersed in the world of the American Revolution with the collected works of Kenneth Roberts.  I have a lot of favorites from this genre…but I worry that, to write those books RIGHT, I would need to invest far more time in research than I have.

Cover of Worlds Enough Fantastic DefendersNot that I haven’t been considering it.  Heck, I’ve been researching for an “age of fighting sail” historical novel off and on since…well…before I began my first serious attempt at a novel.  For a novella I wrote that appeared in a recent anthology (A Gun for Shalla, from Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders, published by Tannhauser Press), I built a world that might allow me to use some of that research…but, it turns out, not much.  Maybe I’ll be able to revisit that world, some day, or I could even do a full-fledged historical novel if I’m ever satisfied with my research, but I have a lot of other projects which must be completed, first.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in researching your book(s)?

Honestly, it’s mostly the mundane things that surprise me the most, which don’t usually make interesting discussions. I mean, I know that you can do just about anything in a fantasy novel, but having lemonade appear in certain types of fantasy settings can still be anachronistic if it APPEARS out of place.  Especially if the climate is such that lemons just wouldn’t exist in that area…but I was surprised to learn that lemons COULD have existed in that climate.  I didn’t wind up using it, because it would throw my readers, but they could have.

But it’s even more surprising when researching the fantastic and discovering a very mundane real-life cause.  For a short story I wrote, I wanted to touch on hard science a little (I wouldn’t call the story hard science fiction, overall, but I researched it as if it was).  I was fascinated to find that, for example, a type of engine commonly found in science fiction (ion drives) exists and has been tried in working models for over fifty years.  It’s practical for use in small, unmanned probes, providing a constant if very low rate of acceleration… but to be made practical for human flight, it would need a relatively low- mass to high-yield energy source.  Similarly, the technology exists for an “Iron Man”-like power armor suit…if sufficient man-portable power supplies existed. Etc., etc. Many sci-fi technologies I wanted to employ, that had been employed in science fiction for decades, all already existed!  But they were impractical, because we still need a relatively low-mass, scalable reactor that could provide sufficient power for them.  Or, well, we could get by with something even more mundane:  Better batteries.

Do you support the Oxford comma?

I’m a supporter of the Oxford comma, two spaces after a period, and the abolition of the Chicago Manual of Style (favoring Webster’s, Words Into Type, or even a house style over CMoS). I cite CJ Cherryh, Heraclitean River, and common sense to support my views.  I’ve been working on a “house style guide” for myself for a while, now, so that I can favor all of my favorite quirky opinions on grammatical style, but it’ll be a while before it’s done.  In software parlance, my style guide is in an “alpha” version, and I don’t have much time to spend on it, but one day I’ll get it done.

Did you have a security blanket as a child?

Yes

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

“Hey, would you like me to send you a million dollars?” would be nice.   Actually, I’m not sure if there IS one specific question I’ve always wanted to be asked.  If you avoid questions that delve too deeply into politics, religion, and other topics that tend to end friendships, that’s really all I ask.

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And there you have it. All you sci-fi readers, if you want to know more about David Tatum, make sure to check out his website. You can learn about his various books hereThe Merrimack Event, mentioned above, is now on sale.  It is currently exclusive to Amazon, and is only available as an eBook, but a print edition is forthcoming.

Have you read any of his books before? What do you think of them? Leave a comment below. If you’d like the spotlight turned on you, send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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