Today I have my very first author interview — I’m incredibly excited! For those who missed the opinion poll, this is the first interview of a series I’m planning, talking to writers specifically about the research they do / have done to write their books.
Charles Yallowitz is my first guest, and we discuss his new short story, Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, as well as the diet of peacocks! I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Hi Charles, thank you so much for being on the blog today! So first tell us a little about your new short story.
My newest release is entitled Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, which is a fantasy adventure short story. The adventure focuses on Ichabod Brooks who is a man known for taking dangerous jobs to put food on the table for his family. As he says, he has to make a living and his wife doesn’t want him getting lazy in his old age. He takes a job to clear out an abandoned village that has become infested by bizarre monsters. Unfortunately, things aren’t what they seem and Ichabod finds himself working a job that he didn’t bring the best gear for.
Haha, I had to chuckle at the line about Ichabod’s wife not wanting him to get lazy! 😉 So tell me, what research did you do to write the story — could you share the most interesting fact that you discovered in your research?
With Ichabod Brooks, I did basic research on medieval weaponry and the effects of certain injuries on people. Since it’s only 27 pages and I have several longer works under my belt, I didn’t have anything really unique to delve into. At least nothing that compares to when I had to research peacocks for Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. This was the last novel that I published and I had a scene where peacocks were part of the scenery. I took an hour to research what they ate and how good they were at flying. The most surprising thing is that I found out they eat snakes, which I had to put into the scene somewhere. Being a fantasy author, a lot of my more interesting research stems from spontaneous curiosities.
I had no idea peacocks ate snakes! I had to google this a bit further, I had no idea peacocks were so badass. As it turns out not only do peacocks eat snakes but they even like eating poisonous snakes. Peacocks will actually encourage a snake to strike out until it exhausts itself, and they then home in for the kill. They’re also quite happy muching poisonous plants — I mean really why eat regular food when you can challenge yourself by ingesting venom!?
So Charles, how do you weave the research you do into the fantasy world and story you’re creating?
Since the biggest part of research for Ichabod was combat-related, I had to make sure I was having characters move naturally. No acrobatic leaps by dwarves or heavy lifting by the slender huntress. So I always had to stop and think about the motions of battle. This involved standing up to slowly move myself to see if I could even come close to bending center ways and sketching out a few stick figure storyboards on napkins. I wanted the fighting to seem believable even if it was against fictional creatures. An example of this is when a character is injured, which gets closer to spoiler territory here. Without going into details, I wanted this person to get hit in a certain spot. Something didn’t feel right and I did a little research to find out that it was highly likely that the wound would bleed the character to death. That wasn’t what I was going for, so I had to find another spot to use. That sounds a lot more meticulously malicious than I thought.
That’s awesome that you go as far as acting out certain aspects of a fight to see if they’re possible. I wonder how many other writers do that? Do you have any resources that you turn to when you need to do a little digging?
I own a baby naming book, an encyclopedia of magical creatures, and an encyclopedia of imaginary places to help with research. To be honest, I’ve yet to use that last book, but I got it for five dollars. These are what I use for a lot of the pre-writing research, but I do grab them if I need a monster or character name on the fly. For information like the peacock diet and medieval weapon usage, I look for YouTube videos and simply plug the question into a browser. Many times I start with Wikipedia, but I try to confirm what I read there because I don’t entirely trust it. Mostly because I have a few friends that used to enjoy messing around with the articles
Thanks for sharing that, the Dictionary of Imaginary Places in particular sounds quite interesting! And lastly, what’s your research process like when you start a new series or story? Do you start with the research as a way to inform the story and worldbuilding, or does the story guide the research you’ll have to do?
Story tends to guide the research since much of what I’m doing is being made up as I go along with the planning. At first, the only things I really look up are names and weapons. These two things tend to be the more defining parts of my characters when starting out. For example, Ichabod Brooks uses a bow, Luke Callindor (from big series) uses twin sabers, and Nyx (big series) has enough magic to level a small town. The physical appearance comes next and this is just picking coloration and unique markings. Research turns up again when I choose clothing because I have no real sense of fashion. This involves a lengthy on-line search or thumbing through magazines for inspiration. After all of that, I grab information from various places as I need it such as architecture, environments, animal habits, and even going back through my own notes. One of the ‘benefits’ of working with a non-Earth world is that I can make up a good amount of the information as I go along. All I have to do is keep it consistent.
That’s great. Thank you so much for taking part Charles, that was great!
For anyone interested, Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts is now out, and you can find it on Amazon, by clicking here
In a time of heroes, a man will take any job to provide for his family.
Ichabod Brooks has earned a reputation for taking the jobs most men and women fear to challenge. This reputation has brought him to the charred remains of a small village nestled within the hills and forest of Ralian. The ruins are a source of strange monsters that terrorize the countryside and repeatedly elude the local guards and hunters. The few brave souls who have entered the creatures’ lair have yet to come out alive or dead.
The chances of survival are slim, but that generous payment is too much for Ichabod to resist. After all, a man and his family have to eat.