This week I’m talking to D.A. Adams, the author of the incredible Brotherhood of the Dwarves series. I was lucky enough to help reveal the cover of the fourth book here a few weeks ago, and now I’m thrilled to find out about his process, his views on the publishing industry, his thoughts on fantasy, and a lot of other things.
SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
DAA: I do a lot of prewriting. I jot notes and ideas for the book and work up a chapter outline. I also spend a lot of time thinking about the book. I probably spend more time thinking about it than anything else. I’ll mull scenes and think about what each character should do under particular circumstances. When I start writing, however, I allow the story and characters to dictate where everything goes, and they always find ways to surprise me as the actual story unfolds. To me, this is the best part of writing, that act of discovery that occurs.
In terms of calls, I don’t write many shorter works unless commissioned, so I don’t follow trends or markets. When I first started out, I tried doing that, but to me, it felt like chasing my own tail, so I stopped. I write what is authentic to me and focus on crafting those stories. From a creative perspective, I can’t worry if it will sell or be popular because those fears lead to paralysis. All I can do is write to the best of my ability and send it into the world.
SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
DAA: I have a lot of quirks for my writing ritual, most of which are too boring to mention. I like to write at night in the dark. I listen to music and spend about half an hour focusing before I start writing. This time allows me to clear my mind of day to day realities and get into the world I’m working on. For me, this ritual staves off writer’s block and keeps me moving forward.
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
DAA: It’s a blend of both. I know the overall story and have a rough skeleton of the frame, but the muse provides the details. Personally, I don’t get ideas from dreams. For novels, the ideas just come to me. For short works, I get the seed from the editor who has approached me and allow the story to grow from that seed.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
DAA: Chapter 4 of The Fall of Dorkhun. I needed the back story for a character who had been captured and sold into slavery and used my experience of losing custody of my children through divorce to fill in the details. It took about a week to write the chapter, and that was some of the most painful writing of my career. A lot of tears were shed that week. But the act of sorting through my emotions was cathartic and healing. I’m also proud of how that chapter turned out.
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
DAA: After I finish The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, I’m planning to move into Urban Fantasy and write a trans-human piece, so for now, I’ll say that genre.
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
DAA: The single biggest frustration is the volume of people who deluge the market with unpolished manuscripts. It’s hard enough to survive in this business without having to compete against the river of crap. Because of the ease of self-publishing today, too many people are rushing to market with dreams of wealth and fame but without due diligence. Many of us who’ve been working at this for many years and have spent countless hours learning our craft have a difficult time being noticed as the river swells.
SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
DAA: Probably the next project I mentioned. It seems like a pretty cool world. I wouldn’t place anyone I love into one of my stories because those worlds tend to be dark, dangerous places. Many people I don’t like show up as villains, but I won’t name names.
SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
DAA: No, there’s no formula, just a combination of hard work and luck. The best a writer can do is write their best and hope it catches on. Quality is no guarantee. Neither are gimmicks. Some people catch on and have flashes of success. Others have long careers, and most trudge along in obscurity for years. It’s the gamble we all take, and as a writer, you accept this risk for as long as you create new works.
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
DAA: If you expect quick riches, you are setting yourself up for failure. Does it happen? Yes. Is it likely? Hardly. People like to look at the rare exceptions and believe that will be them. It’s the same reason people play the lottery. But there are far easier ways to get rich quick than writing. If you want to write because you love language and have a passion for storytelling, then it’s okay to dream of riches, but if you’re writing simply because you think it’s a fast path to instant wealth, you’re a deluded fool.
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
DAA: I don’t believe traditional fantasy needs defending. It’s rooted in ancient mythologies and as such is the oldest genre known to humanity. Anything that can survive for thousands of years doesn’t need defending by the likes of me. I’m just grateful to be allowed to publish books that are part of this genre, and I hope the quality of what I produce stands up to the standards of the masters.
SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
DAA: Realistic characters and heroism. I hope people recognize the Brotherhood series as a parable for the power of diversity and cooperation. I don’t mean diversity in a politically correct sense of inclusion, but more in a biological and economic sense. Nature and real free markets show us that diversity always triumphs over homogeny. As America becomes more and more homogenous from corporations controlling more and more market share, we are losing what made this country great, namely the ingenuity spawned through diversity of ideas and real competition. Brotherhood is meant as a statement of how those who embrace the true marketplace of ideas need to push back against the monoliths.
SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
DAA: My newest book, Between Dark and Light, is the fourth installment of the Brotherhood series. It continues the saga of Roskin and Crushaw as the Great War is about to erupt. Next up, is book five, the final act of the series
In terms of writing style, Adams exhibits an effortless narrative voice and a masterful balance between richly detailed descriptions and tightly worded minimalism. The pacing of his stories is breathtaking, with relentless action and captivating plot twists that keep readers riveted page after page. But his true talent as a writer lies in character development. Readers find themselves empathizing with, fearing for, and cheering on the characters as they overcome their personal shortcomings and grow as fully rendered individuals.
Adams is also the father of two wonderful sons and, despite his professional accomplishments, maintains that they are his greatest achievement in life. He resides in East Tennessee.