Welcome to the forty fifth edition of 10 Questions With…
Today our guest is:
I’ve been a diplomat since 1993, though I had a four year break to do IT consulting in the late nineties. It has been interesting, that’s for sure, with lots of travel, and I’ve lived in Russia (where I met my wife twenty years ago), Croatia, China, Iceland, Azerbaijan (twice!), and Hungary. My family is headed for the Bahamas next summer, so wish us luck!
I came to novel writing late. I had always had story ideas tumbling around in my head, but I figured writing was too hard, so I always put it off as a pipe dream. But the ideas wouldn’t go away, so in 2006 I typed out my first ever chapter just to see what it was like, and getting past that first one broke the dam and I’ve been writing ever since.
1.) What is something that many people might not know about you?
I hold a master title in correspondence chess, tied for 1st place in the 2001 US Amateur Chess Championship in Tucson, and I’ve competed against many grandmasters, including four world champions. Oh, and if you know where to look, you can spot me in various places in two movies—A Good Day to Die Hard and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. The latter one is really good.
2.) What inspired you to write your first book?
The characters and story in my first book had been banging around in my head since my D&D days as a teen. What inspired me to actually start typing that first chapter was reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. It was seeing the way he wrote his story, with POV characters each having their own chapters, along with the style in which he approached the story that made me understand that this was the manner in which I wanted to try writing. I’m nowhere close to as good as he is, of course, but I aspire to be that good.
3.) Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite authors are Tolkien, Martin, Stephen King, Ursula Le Guin, Colleen McCullough, and various new ones like Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch. There are a ton of them that are right up there as well from John Scalzi to James Corey (who is actually two authors, but I love what they are doing with The Expanse). I just love fantasy and science fiction stories told in a gripping, realistic manner by highly competent story spinners. There’s nothing fancy about what makes me love these folks.
4.) If you could have dinner with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
In Beijing I was offered the chance to have dinner once with an author I really enjoyed, named Lawrence Watt-Evans, but I chickened out, mainly because it had been a few years since I had read his books and I couldn’t recall enough fine details to feel like I could converse knowledgeably about them. If I wanted a down-to-earth dinner and conversation with a nice guy I think I’d pick Dennis McKiernan (author of the Mithgar books), because he just seems so genuinely nice, but if I wanted more of a challenge I’d go with King or Martin or Le Guin. They are the masters.
5.) What book are you reading now?
I’m reading three books currently: Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton, The Death Factory by Greg Iles, and Bran Mak Morn: The Last King by Robert E. Howard. I’ve been rereading all the old Robert Howard stuff because I just admire his work so much and have so much to learn from it. I’m planning on doing the same thing with other favorites, like Le Guin’s Earthsea books and McCullough Rome series.
6.) Are there any new authors that have captured your interest?
Not so new, but I rarely see anyone mention the Succession Series by Scott Westerfeld, when it is wonderful, and I love the Takeshi Kocacs novels by Richard K. Morgan. On the indie side I’ve been enjoying the work of Anthony Vicino, Michael Patrick Hicks, and Lucas Bale.
7.) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in any of your books?
Sure. I get better with each book that I write, so I’d love to have the patience to go over my first books again and make them even better than they are. Dialogue is my biggest weakness, I think, so I’m trying hard to improve in that area. The problem is that it becomes a never ending cycle, and I also have too many ideas that I want to pursue. I have four different novels outlined and ready to write, so I can’t go back and tinker with my old ones now.
8.) Can you share a little of your current work with us?
All of my books take place within the same ‘universe’. That can seem odd when you see both epic fantasy and cyberpunk thrillers, but there is a good explanation. Readers either need to read all my old blog posts or pay close attention throughout my books, because I never ‘tell’ you within the books why it is the way it is, but I drip in the explanations in bits and pieces.
My current work is set much further into the future than my other stories, about seven centuries in fact. It is set on a habitable planet where the colonists crash landed a generation ship and built a small colony that has now lasted a little more than a century. It’s meant to seem like a utopia but naturally there are various levels of discontent. But the two catalyzing incidents take place when one of the elders takes a young girl out as a birthday present to visit the site of the wrecked generation ship, and they find signs that someone has been living out there, which shouldn’t be possible given that all people are accounted for back in the colony. And on the way back home, while camping, they see two lights in the night sky that shouldn’t be there. Lots of fun things will happen next, and I have some interesting technological ideas that I haven’t seen anyone use before.
9.) What song best describes you and why?
I don’t know any songs that describe me. I do love music very much, though. Depending on my mood I’ll listen to the metal of Tool or Soundgarden all the way down to the easy listening of Cat Stevens or Simon and Garfunkel or even Enya (The Council of Elrond is gorgeous!). I’m especially fond of old classic rock from The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Who. The song I’ve been listening to the most lately is called Passenger, by the Deftones, though sung by Tool’s lead singer. And if you haven’t ever listened to it, I highly recommend the soundtrack to the movie Blade Runner by Vangelis. Memories of Green is my favorite from that one, but there are tons of great songs on there.
10.) A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
Well I’d assume that age had finally caught up to me and I’ve lost my mind, so hopefully he’s there to haul me off to some nice institution. I’m a highly pragmatic person, which hurts my writing in some ways, because though I have a vivid imagination, I don’t do as well with the elements of writing that benefit from having a touch of madness. I admire writers like Anthony Vicino because he has that in spades. My prose is too straightforward, while Anthony brings his to life and drips in lots of wit and comedy. I really miss being able to add genuinely funny elements to my work.
Go ahead, pimp whatever book you want:
The Immortality Game is a technothriller set in Moscow in 2138. It’s about a normal young Russian girl whose brother foists a mysterious package off on her just before he is murdered, and then she finds herself on the run from mobsters who wish to retrieve the contents of the package. Inside are two data cards, one that is a prototype military combat card that allows the young woman to fight back against her pursuers, and the other holds the key to immortality.
The Shard is an epic fantasy novel that takes the tired old tropes of Tolkien-style elves and dwarves but does them in the way that I always wanted to read and never once found any book that would do it right. Basically, I wanted a D&D type world that was treated dead seriously (as opposed to the more comic bookish real D&D books that never appealed to me). I had to get that out of my system before I could move on to new books, but I am still proud of it. When my sons will reread a book over and over again, I know there is something right about it.
Finally there is Lord Fish, which is a collection of four short stories. Two of them tell background tales of the main character from The Shard. One tells a tale of Viking youths daring to explore a dragon’s lair. And the last one is a bridge story, giving the link between The Immortality Game and The Shard.
GIVEAWAY: Ted Cross would like to giveaway an ebook copy of Lord Fish to anyone who wants it. If you would like an ebook copy please comment below in the comment section. You have until Friday, December 4th, 2015 to claim your free book.
I would like to thank Ted Cross for joining us today for 10 Questions With…
I hope you enjoyed learning about him as much as I did.
If you would like to learn more about Cross or his books you can visit his website here.
You can also follow him on Facebook.