Tim Kaiver is an old-school gamer who writes Sci-Fi/Fantasy LitRPG. His Cipher’s Quest novel is RealRPG inspired by Final Fantasy VI’s mix of magic and low-tech society, Stargate’s exploration of myth and galactic consequences, and grows into what he loved about the world of Dragonlance and the first Warcraft games where it was fun to chop wood and build your army. The Ciphercraft series could easily top seven books and spin off into LitRPG adventures on numerous other worlds. Three books have been written so far, with plans to release every couple months.
When did you first start writing fiction?
I had a TMNT comic book in first grade. Then in high school my first novel attempt was about skateboarding mice in a mansion at war with a fat cat. I took creative writing courses as part of my English major in college, and fulfilled obligations but didn’t get past those first few chapters. Podcasts such as Adventures in Scifi Publishing, the Dead Robots’ Society, and Michael Stackpole’s writing podcasts helped inspire and educate me on how to actually finish a novel. That first novel was finished in 2008. If you count rewrites I’ve probably written fifteen novels since then. I didn’t publish until 2015, and for a number of reasons, decided to make my first LitRPG book under a pen name. The last name is a combination of my two children’s names, so it is special to me. I’ve written scifi, fantasy and post-apocalyptic, and usually have monsters of some kind to keep things spicy.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Paper or eBook?
I’m breaking your mold, Paul. I prefer audiobooks. Because I work full time, have a young family and volunteer in ministry, I struggle to balance writing time with reading. This means I read while exercising or driving.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated LitRPG novel?
Sean Oswald’s Watcher’s Test book did very well in sales, but I still rarely see his name recommended when people ask for epic LitRPG like The Land. The characters in his book are far more engaging and the creativity of his worldbuilding and game mechanics is also equally impressive. Sean should be the next huge author, and so while he’s not quite there yet, I’m rooting that he will be–not because I want that stress for him, but because the LitRPG fan base deserves quality work like that, and it will be exciting to see his series explode with awesome.
Of your books, which is your personal favorite? Why?
Cipher’s Quest is my debut, but the third book in this series, Resurrection City is my most fun so far because I’m finally into the balance of town building and character class crafting that I envisioned when I started this LitRPG series. I’m nearly done with the first draft on this, so it’s my main joy right now. I love that Cipher’s Quest is being released, though, since I’ve rewritten it like seven or eight times and spent about five years getting it to this point. It is my personal favorite to get it the heck out of my to do pile ;).
You can make one LitRPG book (not your own) a movie. Which is it and why?
Dakota Krout’s Ritualist would be a great LitRPG to introduce our genre to major motion pictures. It represents the enter a VR realm with class gains and humor that would work well for the transition from mainstream cyberpunk to LitRPG. Can you imagine the hilarity when Rexus is on the big screen? I’m rooting for that.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Oh yeah, but I’m not afraid of it. There are plenty of tricks to getting around when you’re stuck in a story, from going back and re-reading or rewriting a few chapters prior, to giving yourself time away from the keyboard, either to brainstorm in a notebook or go for a jog. Time in chair will prevail over writer’s block, you just have to do it.
Are you an outliner or pantser?
Pantser. I research only as much as I need to write the next sentence. Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k is my favorite plotting book of late, but even that was too much preparation for me. Once I know the opening scene, I’m pretty much too eager to get going to wait around and plot for days. I slow down sometimes to take notes on what a scene will do, and how to weave threads of the story, but those are minimal time spends compared to just writing.
What is your writing process like?
I use Scrivener for my first drafts and build an excel for my LitRPG stats. I don’t have much of a formula aside from just intuition on what I want from a story. I’ve spent years studying the craft and practicing, so my basic process is butt in chair and start.
How many hours a day do you write?
I set my alarm for 4:30 M-F, and try to get a couple hours before work every day, then more on Saturdays. I am a slow writer, but I’m stubborn, so I get a fair amount of words each week.
Share a photo of your workspace?
Who are some of your favorite authors of all time?
Stephen King, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Matthew Reilly, Hugh Howey, T. C. McCarthy, Jeff Salyards, Michael Fletcher, and then in LitRPG, Sean Oswald, Dakota Krout, TJ Reynolds, and Troy Osgood, to name a few.
Where do you get your ideas?
I don’t get a lot of time to play video games, so I put a lot of my love of retro RPG’s like Final Fantasy VI and Age of Empires into my fiction. It’s an amazing challenge to build game systems that feel like playing those games, and then to put them into space opera and jungle, or low-tech societies similar to what I love about the Stargate television series and the epic scope it gave us for adventures in new worlds. I want to recreate the media and games I have loved, but with my own vision.
What are your thoughts on how VR will affect the future of humanity?
Do you think Covid will continue to shape our world into a stay at home culture, and if so, will people seek VR for interaction more than in person? It’s actually frightening to think of that, but it could be the direction we’re heading. I wouldn’t mind VR to play my own Final Fantasy adventure, but I don’t want it to replace face to face, actual human interaction. Sometimes it’s good to just disconnect and go see friends.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I research only as much as I need to write the next line. Sometimes this slows me down, but it’s always driven by making the current scene better, so to me that feels most efficient. I’ve spent months on courses for world building and plotting, and those books never made it as far as the ones I pantsed my way into the seventh or eighth draft.
First video game memory?
I have an older brother who made me a basketball game in the mid 80’s. I was bummed because it was just text, and I wonder if the broken heart I gave him will ever mend. I also remember when a friend brought Final Fantasy VI (III on SNES) and we played up through finding Sabin. I was immediately hooked and my life was changed from then on to love that franchise and embrace RPGs.
What can fans expect from you next?
Cipher’s Quest releases July 21. I’m having back surgery a few weeks after that, but the second book, Windwalker, will start edits and hopefully get finished before surgery, so a 60 day release schedule for the first three books is conceivable. Cipher’s Quest is a bit of a cyber punk LitRPG/RealRPG race through a jungle of lunatic telepaths, but the next two books are more fantasy and medeival as they enter a portal into the Spirit Realm. The larger scope is space opera, but Ciphercraft will have a mix of genres in between.
Anything else you would like to add?
Check out our Facebook page, the LitRPG Guildmasters, our private reader group at the LitRPG Adventurers Guild, and my website www.timkaiver.com for reviews, interviews, and links to follow me and support me through Patreon.