Stephen Roark, author of Call of Carrethen, is an avid gamer and lover of fantasy novels. He’s always been writing, ever since he was little and dictating his stories to his mom. He started writing Call of Carrethen and the Wellspring series as a way of immortalizing his experiences in those early days of the MMORPGs and all the friends he made and experiences he had.
When did you first start writing fiction?
I’ve always been writing! Ever since I was a kid and I’d scribble in my notebooks, writing stories about my friends and me, my stuffed animals going on adventures with me, or just creating other worlds that I’d think about when I sleep. But it was only recently that I actually started publishing my work when I learned about Kindle and self-publishing. Honestly, it’s been a huge learning experience in terms of all the things you have to do to get your book out there, but it’s letting me get up every day and write, and that’s awesome!
What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Paper or eBook?
I’m a paperback guy. I still love walking into a bookstore and smelling that book smell. I love browsing the shelves, picking up books whose covers caught my eye, grabbing a chair in the corner and flipping through it. I always end up buying something, no matter how hard I try to resist.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Under-appreciated…Is anything by William Gibson under-appreciated? I’m a huge fan of his book Pattern Recognition. His prose are just insane, as are his concepts. Most people know him for his cyberpunk, but I’m pretty sure he could write a cookbook and I’d buy it (and enjoy it)!
Of your books, which is your personal favorite? Why?
Well, I only have two books out right, but I have to say I had a more enjoyable time writing Book 2, Lord of the Flame, as I was able to really expand the world, introduce a ton of new and interesting characters and not worry about wrapping up every single plot line. When I wrote Book 1, I wasn’t sure if people would respond to it, allowing me to write more, or if they’d be angry at me for leaving the ending as a cliffhanger, so I made sure to make it a standalone. This time, I’m able to really delve deeper into things, and I really enjoyed that–and the new mechanics that take place.
You can make one LitRPG book (not your own) a movie. Which is it and why?
Probably Eden’s Gate by Edward Brody. I really like the themes he’s dealing with there and I think they’re very timely.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes and no. I think writer’s block can sometimes be a symptom of just not sitting down and writing something–anything–even if it’s terrible, it might lead you somewhere! For me, other art really inspires me as well, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with LitRPG. Sometimes just a feeling or a tone or an art style might give me an idea. “What if my characters ended up in a situation or a place like that?” That can lead to some great ideas. I’ve had ideas for my books while playing an unrelated game on PS4 and just staring out at a vista and taking the feeling I get from that moment and incorporating it into my work in a completely different way. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so I try to consume as much artwork as I can in a day.
Are you an outliner or pantser?
Both. I need an outline to get started, so I generally have at least the first 5-10 chapters mapped out generally, but then I’ll end up flying by the seat of my pants for a few chapters, but then I sort of go back and fill in my outline with what I’ve done, and if more ideas hit me for the outline, I’ll write them down as well. Obviously with LitRPG, you need to keep track of your character’s levels as well, so that can be something important to outline and keep track of.
What is your writing process like?
Generally, I start mid-day or so, as I cannot write in the morning. I get all my maintenance stuff done first: check facebook, update my site, respond to e-mails, check my sales and forums, then I get going. I usually leave myself off right in the middle of things (an old piece of advice given by a famous author I no longer remember) and that allows me to read the last paragraph or so and just start cruising. Then I generally write for 3-4 hours straight, and depending on my mood, maybe do more in the evening. A bad day for me is 2k words. A good day is 5k+
How many hours a day do you write?
Share a photo of your workspace and tell us about it?
I would if I had one! Honestly, being stuck somewhere writing destroys my creativity. Everyday I grab my laptop and go to a coffee shop or a park or somewhere outside, setup there and write. I need to be around people, even if I’m not interacting with them, to keep my juices flowing.
Who are some of your favorite authors of all time?
William Gibson is probably my favorite. I’ve read Neuromancer so many times my copy is falling apart. His prose are so completely unique. Brian Jacques and the Redwall series were a huge part of my childhood–so was the Otherworld series by Tad Williams.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere! Call of Carrethen was heavily influenced by my time in Asheron’s Call back in 1999-2001, including homages to tons of players back then who played on Darktide with me. Other games of course, artwork inspires me heavily–really I get them everywhere.
What are your thoughts on how VR will affect the future of humanity?
Oh, God. Honestly, I think that it won’t change things that much. Humans have a need to be humans, and when everyone predicted we’d all be stuck in our rooms playing games, it didn’t happen. Sure, some of us do, but we all have the need for reality, to get out and interact with one another, accomplish something, have meaning in our lives. And REAL VR is a long, long ways away.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Not sure I do any real research. Of course before I put out this book I checked out as many forums as I could, facebook groups and such, but I don’t really do “research” for my own books.
First video game memory?
Probably the first Zelda with my friend, Sonic for Sega Genesis, playing Doom with my buddy over serial cable and of course Mario 64 and Waverace.
Actually, no! Playing King’s Quest and all those incredible Sierra games on my mom’s old computer.
What can fans expect from you next?
More Call of Carrethen! Book 3 has already started, and I can’t wait to keep up the series.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’d just like to thank Paul Bellow and Nicolas Lagrand and everyone else who’s supported me along the way. I hope you guys enjoy my work and keep reading! Thanks!