An Interview with W.D. Kilpack III, Science Fiction and Fantasy Author
For months, I was having a recurring dream that would have me in tears when I woke. It persisted for months, and I finally realized that I needed to write it. Pretty quickly, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the same level of emotional impact in one book, so I thought I would write a trilogy. However, even then, in building to the point in the dream, creating the gravitas that would really give it some punch, I hadn’t even gotten to the dream in those three books, so I thought it would be six. As I continued writing, it became an eight-book saga. - W.D. Kilpack III, award-winning author of the New Blood Series.
I met Bill Kilpack (W.D. Kilpack III) through social media - we connected on LinkedIn and proceeded to subscribe to each other's newsletters, then we agreed to go for an interview exchange.
While I was thinking up some insightful questions to ask him (I was looking for, maybe, about 6 or 7 questions), he sent me his questions.
There were over 30 of them.
"Do you want me to answer all the questions?" I said, somewhat dizzy. Then something occurred to me: "Your questions are so good, could I use them on you as well? Would that be a lazy thing to do?"
"I was planning for answers to all of them," he replied. "I could answer the same questions for you to use. That’s not too lazy. That’s making good use of resources."
Excited but a little overwhelmed by the task ahead, I started coming up with possible answers to his thought-triggering questions. I was convinced it was going to be an interesting, even possibly transformative experience. (This current post is about him primarily, but you can still read the bulk of my answers to his awe-inducing questionnaire, as W.D. Kilpack III published his interview of me on his website.)
Just as I was realizing how this was going to use up the best part of my writing week, W.D Kilpack III sent me his answers.
I wondered how he'd done it so fast. Maybe he was used to doing interviews, and so he had most of the answers at the ready. Or maybe, he was a writing machine. Maybe it was a combination of both. I'll leave you to see which, but I believe the answer will become clear as you read the interview. W.D. Kilpack III is a fascinating writer, and he has quite an impressive track record of producing a lot of high quality work in a very short time.
Following is my interview with W.D. Kilpack III. I dare you not to want to read his books after reading it.
Interview with W.D. Kilpack III
W.D. Kilpack III, tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
I am a communication professor and a nationally recognized wrestling coach, aside from being an internationally published and awarded author. I am happily married to my high-school sweetheart and father to five children, as well as helping to raise five stepchildren. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up in West Jordan, Utah, where I continue to live, coach and teach.
I’m a pretty good cook and have two claims that few can match: cooking nearly every type of food on a grill; and nearly being knocked flat when my grill exploded.
I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Westminster College of Salt Lake City. As an undergrad, I double-majored in communication and philosophy, while completing the Honors Program. As a graduate student, I earned a master of professional communication with a writing emphasis. I was also a high-performing athlete, qualifying for international competition in Greco-Roman wrestling.
I received my first publication credit at the age of nine, when I wrote an award-winning poem. As an adult, I have received special recognition from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest and Crown Prince, book one of the New Blood Saga, recently won the Firebird Book Award and was runner-up in OnlineBookClub.org’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Year competition in 2020. This past April, the podcast Sinister Soup named me Author of the Month for my work on Crown Prince.
I was first hired as a professional writer for a sports publication when I was 15. Since then, I have been editor and/or publisher of nineteen news and literary publications, both online and in print, with circulations as high as 770,000.
What first got you into writing?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a writing and telling stories. Before I learned how to write, I would draw pictures of spaceships, then act out the battles, drawing in the laser blasts and explosions after erasing parts of the ships that were blown away by enemies. I’ve blown up the U.S.S. Enterprise 10,000 times. I originally wanted to be a cartoonist and start my own line of comic books. I loved superheroes (and still do!) and would draw the comics, as well as write the stories. My first comic-book character was Super Mouse, created when I was 6. He was pretty much Superman, but a mouse, and he beat up cats. It was very serious stuff, not Tom and Jerry. That was my dream until I wrote my first book, when I was 12. Since then, I always had pencil and paper with me, so I could jot down a few ideas when the need hit me. Since publishing a couple novels, it’s amazing how many people I grew up with mentioned my red, three-ring binder I carried around with me, loaded with lined paper, so I could write down my thoughts as they came to me. That compulsion persists to this day, although I’ve since updated for the computer age.
I know you write fiction, have you ever thought about writing a nonfiction book? Why or why not?
With my journalism background, most of my publication credits are news, but that’s not where my real passion lies.
My dad has told me many times that I should write an autobiography, and I’ve started it many times. The problem is that I get bored. My life didn’t include swords or light sabers, as much as I would have liked it to.
What are your writing goals?
To sit at home and make a living doing the thing I love most: writing. I’m not asking to be wealthy, just to be comfortable and happy. My next goal is to show those who saw my potential and went the extra mile for me that their efforts were not in vain. I want to make them proud of the results of their efforts.
What is one of the things you are most thankful for as a writer?
I’ve been surrounded by people who have been supportive and contributed to me developing my skills. My first publication credit came when I was 9 years old, when my teacher, Ms. Adams, submitted a poem I wrote to a contest. I didn’t even know she did it. Then the poem won first place and was published.
In sixth grade, Mrs. Ferrin, who taught my Language Arts and Gifted & Talented classes, let me write a new chapter of a novel for every writing assignment in those two classes over the year, regardless of the actual assignment. As a result, by the end of the year, I wrote my first novel. From that moment on, my career goal changed to novelist. In eighth grade, Mrs. Demond, who was my Computer Science teacher, read my handwritten manuscripts for a sci-fi trilogy I had written, and pulled strings for me to be her student aide, but my time was to be spent typing up my books, since I didn’t have a computer at home. In ninth grade, my Honors English teacher, Mrs. McKinnon, was extremely supportive, reading my stories to the class and persuaded the school to laminate a bunch of maps I had been drawing when creating the setting for that first novel I wrote when I was 12. In tenth grade, Mrs. Sawaya, who taught my Journalism class and was the newspaper and literary-magazine advisor, really pushed me to write. She read my work, got me to take part in newspaper staff as a writer and cartoonist, until I was editor-in-chief my senior year. For literary magazine, she selected a lot of my writing and art, and I eventually served as editor for two terms.
In college, Dr. Fogo, who taught most of my communication classes and was the newspaper advisor, really helped me raise my level of writing to a higher level. That mentorship continued when I was getting my masters with Dr. Hodgson.
My creativity has been encouraged throughout my life, dating back to when I wasn’t even school age. I used to go to my mom and ask her to feel my head because I was pretty sure that I was growing horns. She felt my head with both hands and said, “Yep, I can feel them!” When I went back again, she said she was sure they were bigger than the last time, and so on.
What’s the most interesting books you’ve ever read?
Aside from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey just being great stories, that they were written so incredibly long ago just makes them that much more amazing. Tolkien, of course, took the genre to a new level, showing us all how the Homeric quest story can be repackaged. Martin has championed my favorite type of fantasy, which is very realistic, where the people have real-life issues they are dealing with, and magic is more subtle.
What book are you currently reading?
I am rereading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy for the sixth or seventh time.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love science fiction and fantasy. My influences include Homer, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Piers Anthony, Robert Holdstock, Robert Adams, John Norman, Melanie Rawn, Shakespeare, Aristotle and Robert Frost. The most inspirational writers would be Homer, Tolkien, Martin and Aristotle.
What would your 8-year-old self think and say about you today?
My 8-year-old self was already in love with science fiction, thanks in large part to Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. Around that time, I read The Hobbit for the first time and had already read every book about mythology of the world in the library at my elementary school. He would probably look at my personal library and think, “Wow … cool!” He might be surprised that Kilpack Comics is not a household name but would love that I own swords and I still tell my stories. He would love that I played Dungeons and Dragons and Marvel Super Heroes RPGs with my kids. When I was 8, science fiction and especially fantasy were not popular; people actually made fun of me for loving that stuff. So, when he saw that I’m still loving fantasy and science fiction, I would probably get a response from him like, “I knew it! I knew I wouldn’t change what I love for anybody!”
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I have been coaching freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling since 1999 with good success. I also do all the cooking in my house. I’m a pretty good. My newest cooking toy is a smoker and I enjoy seeing just how many things will taste better after being smoked, like smoked apple crisp.
Where can we learn more about you?
The best thing is my website, www.Kilpack.net, which has turned into the communication hub of my hopes and dreams. It has information about the books and links to purchase them directly on Amazon, for NOOK or on Kobo. The site also has information about me (if anyone cares); links to interviews; photos sent to me by readers holding my books; videos of people who joined the Knights of Ril (which you can also do on the site), then videoed themselves reciting the vows of a Knight of Ril and sent them to me; links to my author pages on Amazon and Goodreads, and other information. It’s been pretty amazing, and certainly unanticipated, to have people sending me those kinds of responses.
Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?
My most recent novel is Order of Light, book two of the New Blood Saga. It continues the story of Natharr, who is Guardian of Maarihk, one of a long line of protectors dating back to the Firstborn Age, before the Aa Conquest. Natharr's is an ancient role, rooted in his Firstblood, giving him Sight to see what is yet to be, adhering to his sacred duties even in the centuries since the Firstborn were forced to the brink of extinction by the Aa.
Natharr still stands guard over all men, Aa or Firstborn, Seeing what will come to pass, deciding what is unavoidable and what is not. Spending decades planning, even for saving the life of the newborn Crown Prince Vikari so he may one day reclaim the throne in the land where Mankind was created.
In Order of Light, the role of Guardian of Maarihk has been condemned as anathema, and Natharr’s very existence has been relegated to legend. Nonetheless, he resumes his ancient responsibilities as Mankind's protector. He joins with a mysterious Firstborn companion, Ellis the Elder, to journey into the snowy reaches of Biraald, where his Sight promises he will find those who secretly adhere to the ways of the Olde Gods.
Although Biraaldi bloodlines show their Firstborn heritage more clearly than even in Maarihk itself, the two nations have never enjoyed peace. It has been far worse since the rise of Brandt the Usurper to Maarihk’s throne. Natharr and Ellis must navigate threats not only against the Firstborn, but the Maarihkish, as they seek out the sympathizers he Saw who are brave enough to resist Maarihk's tyranny. Only then can the damage be repaired from when Natharr chose personal happiness with Darshelle and the young crown prince (in book one, Crown Prince) over his weighty responsibilities as Guardian of Maarihk.
As far as what readers might take away from it, one of the greatest lessons in life is that no one is perfect and neither is life. You can have all the best intentions, but things happen. That doesn’t mean that you roll over and give up. What I hope readers find in the New Blood Saga is that, regardless of what life throws at you, you keep fighting.
Who is the perfect reader for your books? (Please do not say “everyone.”)
When I tell people I wrote a fantasy novel, almost every single person has one of two responses. One is, “Oh, like Harry Potter?” The other is, “Oh, like Game of Thrones?” It’s about 50-50. My work is more like Game of Thrones. My characters are realistic, complete with flaws and doubts, they make mistakes, they die, they fall in love, they fall out of love, they manipulate, the villains do truly horrible things, the heroes cannot make the best decisions because circumstances don’t allow, etc. I call my style of writing “realistic epic fantasy,” because magic is more subtle. It’s not like fireworks and does not eclipse the characters. Case in point, in the New Blood Saga, not once does a character or the narrative voice say the word “magic.”
What inspired the idea for the story?
For months, I was having a recurring dream that would have me in tears when I woke. It persisted for months, and I finally realized that I needed to write it. Pretty quickly, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the same level of emotional impact in one book, so I thought I would write a trilogy. However, even then, in building to the point in the dream, creating the gravitas that would really give it some punch, I hadn’t even gotten to the dream in those three books, so I thought it would be six. As I continued writing, it became an eight-book saga.
How did you come up with the title for your books?
I don’t know if I would say that I have a process for choosing titles for my books. I like short titles, although I’m not afraid to use subtitles. I choose book titles like I choose the names of chapters: what is the central element in the chapter and name the chapter for it. I sometimes do the same with book titles. I try to nail down the core of the story for the particular volume and name the book for it. So book one, Crown Prince, certainly revolves around Vikari, who is the newborn crown prince. Order of Light revolves around the Knights of Ril (called the Order of Light, because the Knights of Ril were declared illegal). It’s the same process that I use when naming chapters. I try to keep the names of my books short. Order of Light is three words, the longest of the eight books. The name of the book typically comes to me and there’s not a lot of revising, unless I end up adding more books to the series.
On the other hand, I have named books for less-analytical reasons. For example, one book I wrote (not yet published) is named for something that the main character says several times throughout the book. He doesn’t like his actual name, so he instructs people to call him by a nickname. That became the title of the book.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
The kernel of the idea for Natharr came to me years ago. When I was an undergrad studying philosophy, I was fascinated by Socrates, who would go into a trancelike state, then emerge with new answers to questions. He called it being seized by the Daemon of Philosophy. Natharr has something similar in his makeup, when he is seized by the Daemon of Sight.
If your books were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?
Natharr Sam Heughan
Karl Henry Cavill
Niels Charlie Hunnam
Darshelle Priyanka Chopra
Valane Jake Gyllenhall
Lanihn Alexander Skarsgard
Ulla Chloe Grace Moretz
Talika Gina Carano
Quiet One Dave Bautista
Ellis Chris Hemsworth
Martell Chris Pratt
Martice Jessica Chastain
Kimball Eric Dane
Tavish Matthew Fox
Harris Matt Damon
Kyson Chris Pine
Vizier Jude Law
Nathan/Vikari (Older) Ty Simpkins
Bu Margot Robbie
What is the most important thing that people do not know about your subject/genre that they need to know?
Too many people think that science fiction and fantasy are all about escapism. Science fiction and fantasy make great use of distortion to make certain aspects of the story or character easier to recognize and address. I think that the best fantasy and science fiction, especially now, is about the human condition, not just escapism.
Please share a short excerpt from your books. (Not the cover description; 10-20 paragraphs.)
Sample: Crown Prince
“You!” Neils gasped, incredulous, his voice breaking. “Anyone but you!”
“Your disappointment will not last long.” Natharr struck, sword starting high, then altering course to slash almost straight down, each motion mechanical, automatic from years of training. Neils made to parry the high stroke, then followed the downstroke, partially blocking it. Natharr’s point sliced through the edge of the captain’s thigh, pushing down the metal plate that had been intended to protect it, spilling bright red on the hardwood floor. The captain’s eyes widened as his leg sagged, no longer able to support his weight. Natharr’s sword whipped back up, then stabbed straight toward the other’s throat, efficient as a striking adder. Neils twisted at the shoulders and snatched at the blade with his free hand while he fell, his leg buckling under him. His grip on Natharr’s sword blade held, his arm trembling while his skin paled. Red ran in a thick rivulet from his hand down the blood gutters on either side of the blade.
“Why …?” Neils scarcely whispered, staring up at Natharr. A tendril of bloody blond hair peeled away from his brow and fell away. “Gods have mercy on you, Guardian. Your Sight is true — I hope you have read it rightly.”
Natharr did not so much as blink as he yanked back on his sword, and two of the blond man’s fingers fell to the floor, blood spurting into the air. At the same moment, Neils lunged forward, yelling, “Valane!” Natharr twisted at the waist, evading the stab meant for his heart, and sunk his own sword point into the side of the captain’s neck. There was a pained cry — a woman’s voice — from behind him. Neils toppled toward the ground, sword clanging as his dead fingers released it. The fresh corpse's weight pulled at the Guardian's sword until he lifted the pommel and the body thumped heavily to the hardwood.
Natharr lifted his newly bloodied blade, face neutral, then he blinked, cold expression melting away as he turned. Darshelle was there, back bowed forward and arms clenched protectively over the baby. A wide slash across her back ran from one shoulder blade to the other. Red already rolled down from the cut in thick rivulets, brightly soaking her white shirt. Had she not turned to the side to cover the baby with her body, she and Vikari both probably would have been run through.
“Natharr …” she said, voice weak, and stumbled forward a step. “Natharr …?”
Voices rose all around them. He was not sure if all had gone silent to watch the Guardian of Maarihk fight the captain of the guard to the death, or if he simply had not heard them when enveloped in the melee. “Demons of Chaos!” he roared, catching her elbow and dragging her forward. “Stupid woman! I told you to go!”
“I — I tried —”
“You did not try!” he yelled, kicking the door to the kitchens so hard that it came free of its hinges — then he understood. Two bearded men were there with bloodied axes. Two of Valane’s soldiers were there, as well, on their knees. Their bowed heads rose as Natharr entered and the axemen lifted their weapons.
“Lord Natharr!” the two men gasped, seeing the blood on his sword. The relief in their voices was a physical blow.
“I tried,” Darshelle repeated, but her voice was weak.
Natharr glanced at her. Her skin, normally dusky to the point of being the color of copper, was much more pale. His emerald gaze returned to the men he had surprised. The axemen were afraid, both stepping backward.
Valane’s men were smiling, despite blood soaking one's sleeve and smearing half the other's face.
Natharr crossed the kitchen in two steps, dragging Darshelle with him, threw open the door to the cellar and was through. He bolted the door and headed down the stairs before anyone even raised a cry of alarm. He wanted to take the steps two or three at a time, but Darshelle was fighting him, both because she could not see, and because she was weakening. He could tell by the way her resistance declined with each step.
“You killed him — her — them both!” she finally managed, then lost her footing. She screamed, but Natharr kept her on her feet with his free hand.
As if in response, he heard a cry of pain above and a wild voice crying, “Nathaaaaar!”
Sample: Order of Light
Natharr leapt up and forward, arching his back, and the blade of a short sword sliced the air only a whisper away from his shoulder blade. He whirled immediately, slashing at the men at his back, but had to turn the attack into a defending stroke, and chopped down into one attacker’s blade, then reversed the motion to feint at the body before striking at the sword in a disarming attack. Their blades threw sparks and the soldier's eyes bulged, big and brown, as his short sword twisted in his grip and flew to the ground, vanishing in the snow. Normally, Natharr would have pressed the advantage, at least bloodying the unarmed man to make him less of a threat when he retrieved his weapon, but the others were already surging forward to give their companion the necessary cover to rearm himself. Once again, Natharr was impressed with the training of these garrison line troops.
Natharr whirled away and leapt over the top of the snow, throwing a new cloud of white, and he saw Martice and Ellis. They stood, rooted in the knee-deep snow as if they were frozen. The old man's face was hidden in the shadows of his hood, but the expression on Martice’s face was clear enough. Her eyes bulged and her mouth was open, a look of horror that took a strong woman and transformed her into any maid caught in a difficult situation. He was having a hard enough time fighting so many men in the deep snow, he did not need the distraction of the two of them acting like idiots waiting to be told what to do.
“The trap door!” he yelled, leaping over the top of the snow. “Get through it!”
They did not move.
Natharr turned hard to the right and the soldiers followed. He hoped he could keep their attention on him, rather than turning back toward the Elder and the woman, but that was not certain, particularly when he had just yelled instructions. Swords flew at him in rapid succession. By turning so sharply, he had closed the gap between himself and his pursuers, allowing three to get ahead of him, limiting his paths of escape, all of them back toward Ellis and Martice. His sword arm was heavy, his shoulder and wrist burning; his legs were becoming leaden from fighting through the crusty snow both as he raised each foot and as it came back down. He had to even the odds and he had to do it immediately. There was no telling how much longer he could keep this up. He was only a man and he could do only so much for so long, despite his Sight helping him ward off the worst of their sword strokes.
The three that had cut him off cried out, eyes bulging, as Natharr took his long sword in both hands to rain a barrage of strokes at their heads and shoulders. They stumbled backward through the snow, then one backed into the stiff branches of a pine. His eyes flicked upward for the briefest instant, but it was all the distraction Natharr needed. He swung his sword in a wide arc that ended with a wrist-wrenching impact as his blade bit into the man’s arm at the base of the shoulder. The soldier cursed and dropped to his knees, bright red spraying across the snow as he clutched at the wound. The bone had stopped Natharr’s edge from severing the limb, but the Guardian knew the man would not wield a sword for the garrison again.
It was blind luck that the second of the man’s two fellows ran headlong into him, flipping right over the top of him, upended as they both cried out. Natharr hacked at the man who fell atop his fellow, and his sword point sliced through the man's fleshy backside, then the Guardian was off again, leaping over the top of the snow. The icy crust seemed thicker, or maybe it was just fatigue beginning to weigh him down, his knee throbbing as if aflame as his ankles started to ache, the repeated impact of the tops of his feet against the underside of the crust taking its toll.
“You heard him!” he heard Ellis yell. “Go through!”
Natharr cursed under his breath. It would be just like Martice to refuse to flee. He glanced toward her and saw that the old man held her aloft, arms locked around her chest. To the Guardian’s surprise, she did not resist. She simply dangled there, staring at Natharr as if stricken. It was that glance that turned Natharr’s head enough to see that Tavish was running through the snow toward him, throwing up his own wake of white, sword also clutched in both hands. The lieutenant sought to cut off Natharr’s path of escape. Tavish’s face was a mask of rage, cheeks red, and he was roaring like a Great Beast. Teeth gritted, Natharr planted his heels to stop and change direction, but his boot soles found no purchase and shot out from under him. The Guardian belched out an inarticulate sound as he fell backward, arms windmilling, despite the length of deadly, blood-wet steel in his hand. Tavish came in at him, unrelenting, sword raised over his head in both hands —
What role does research play in your writing? Do you have any research resources you recommend?
Research plays a huge role in my writing.
In my fantasy writing, I do a lot of research into specific cultures, technology that was available in medieval times, even word usage. I find that it helps make the world more real, aside from giving me great material to use. As a result, I have people ask, “How did you come up with that?” My answer is something like, “I didn’t. It was still in practice in England till the 1880s.”
For my science fiction, research plays an even bigger role, researching technology, as well as the latest discoveries in space exploration. I’ve always been a space buff, so I have a pretty significant library. I never took a physics class, but I’ve read some of the most influential books at the time in quantum physics.
Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day? Do you write every day, five days a week …?
If I don’t have other things to drag me away — and I do mean “drag” — I can sit and write for eight to 12 hours straight. When I really get into it, I lose contact with the world and just sink into the world I’m building or experiencing. As far as a schedule, I write at least an hour a day, but it’s rarely that little. I haven’t really tracked how many pages I can write in a day, but I am the most prolific writer I know.
For example, I worked at a company as the technical writer, and the marketing manager heard that I had a journalism background, so he asked me if I could help him meet a deadline for a press release. He told me what he needed, I left, then came back about 15 minutes later. He looked up and asked, “Do you have more questions?” I said, “No,” and handed him the press release. He was in awe. Then he asked me if I could help with other projects. By the time I left that company, I was writing about 95% of everything that was produced, regardless of the department or the audience.
Do you have an area set aside for writing?
I have an office that I share with my wife, Alison. Of course, I have a laptop, so I can write anywhere at any time (which I do). My wife and I have discussed building a little something in the yard for me to write in but decided against it. She didn’t say it, but I think she was afraid that she would never see me again if I had a writing shed.
What does your writing process look like? Do you outline and plan your story or do you just sit down and write? Why?
I do not outline my books. I know there are some out there who would say that I’m not a real writer because of that, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have an idea of where the stories are going. There are times when I have to sit and write; I really don’t have any choice. So I write at least a paragraph to nail down the idea, although that usually goes from one paragraph to two, then three, then often into twenty pages.
Another reason why I don’t outline my books is this: when I’m putting in concentrated work into a novel, when I surprise myself, then I know it will surprise others. So, if I sit back and say, “Whoa, didn’t see that coming …!” I’m positive others will have the same response, and that’s my goal. I want people to be surprised, to have an emotional response.
I don’t have a set number of drafts before a book is “ready.” I always try to knock out a first draft while things are flowing. However, on Crown Prince, I decided to try something new. Each time I sat down to write, I would go back about 10 pages and revise them, then go right into writing fresh copy from there. It made for a much cleaner “first” draft. With Crown Prince, I also started reading my books to my wife at night; she called them her “bedtime” stories. That allowed me to get a wave of editing in by reading them out loud. Incidentally, I think reading your work out loud is the most effective way to edit your own work.
All that being said, with the New Blood Saga, because it was flowing so well, I planned on future waves of edits while writing the first wave. I knew that something would need more fleshing out, so I would give it a quick, not-as-specific pass, then I might further develop that same concept in, say, book four, and come back to flesh it out. So, in essence, I was (and still am) writing and revising all eight books concurrently.
I am also still tweaking here and there. For example, with Crown Prince, I need to make an edit because I just learned that, in Medieval times, they didn’t say that hair was “braided.” They said it was “plaited.” So I need to go back and tweak that.
What comes first, plot or characters? Why?
Both. I have written around a single character and I have also written around an event. In each case, I refer to them as the kernel around which everything else was built. Sometimes, I come up with an idea for a character, so I’ll write a few paragraphs, or a few pages, to nail down that character for future reference. Other times, I have an idea for an event or series of events, so I’ll go through the same process. Often, different elements like that are put together for a single project. The New Blood Saga was like that. Natharr was inspired by Socrates, then I had a recurring dream that would leave me in tears when I woke up in the morning. Then I was experimenting with some graphics software to draw maps digitally, rather than by hand, and created a map of a world where there was a race of people called the Aa, so a lot of the place-names have double-As in them. All three were thrown into the pot that became the eight books of the New Blood Saga.
What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if this qualifies as a “quirk,” but I often surprise myself when I’m writing. That’s an amazing feeling. I also love finding out that I’m wrong about something. For one thing, I love to learn, but there’s nothing quite like writing something where my goal is to prove a certain point, then realize that I was up in the night.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name-choosing resources you recommend?
What software do you use to write? Or do you prefer to write longhand or dictate your work? Why?
I never had a home computer until after I finished my undergrad and got married. So all my books were handwritten up until that point, unless I had time to type them in classes that had computers or I could make special arrangements with teachers or, in college, in the computer lab. One exception was when I entered the Avon-Flair Novel Competition for Young Writers. So I could meet the deadline, my dad paid a secretary at his work to type my book for me. It was worth the investment, because I received Honorable Mention, which made me feel validated that I really could be a writer. It also taught me that I didn’t want anyone to do that for me again. When I was typing up my handwritten manuscripts, I would make a revision pass at the same time. I wasn’t able to do that when the woman my dad hired was doing the typing.
As far as software, I use WordPerfect. I think it’s the best word processor out there. It has some features that I have always loved and does not try to make decisions for me without my consent, like other programs do.
How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?
It depends on what else is going on in my life.
I once did an experiment after I was laid off and treated writing as my full-time job. I hand wrote a draft of a novel in three weeks. That’s the fastest I’ve ever done that.
However, for the New Blood Saga, the first book was published eight years after I started it. However, a pretty polished draft of all eight books were completed by that time, as well.
How do you celebrate when you finished writing a book?
I don’t really celebrate when I finish writing a book. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, true, but then I say something to the effect of, “Now I can write the next in the series” or “Now I can start this other story idea that’s been stewing for a while.”
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
Joy. You have to love what you’re writing, particularly in fiction, or it will come through to the reader. Being successful is not about money. I’ve had some very high-paying jobs where, in doing my job, I helped unscrupulous people sell products that I did not agree with in the first place. I was doing my job. But getting that big paycheck wasn’t worth it, even to the point where those jobs caused some health issues. So I think that sums it up, not just as a writer, but as a person. Whatever you do for a living, it must bring you joy. Writing science fiction and fantasy absolutely does that for me.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing?
The best advice I have is write, write, write. You see a movie and a line of dialogue has you going down another path, write it down. You hear a song and a lyric strikes you, write it down. The best advice for someone wanting to be a writer is just that: start.
What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?
Without question, my favorite part is seeing my work in print, being able to hold it and see it and smell it. Just as significant is having readers reach out to me and tell me how much they enjoyed my work, particularly if they get into specifics. I’ve had readers bring me to tears doing those things. It’s amazingly humbling.
My least-favorite part is the randomness of the industry. I’ve had publishers tell me that they want to publish my work but, at the time, they were backlogged. Then other seemingly random events prevented it from happening. I’ve had work accepted for publication, then the publisher went out of business. I’ve had work accepted for publication, then the editor who selected it was fired and actually fled the country. (I have no idea what happened, but that was interesting.) I’ve had work accepted for publication, then the publisher was caught up in a lawsuit with a Hollywood big player and was put out of business. It’s a cliché that you need to be in the right place at the right time, and those windows of opportunity can be fleeting.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about publishing?
I think that a lot of mainstream publishers are looking at independent publications or self-published works for new material. Particularly if the authors do a good job promoting their own work, it makes it that much easier for the mainstream publisher to pick it up and hit the ground running. So my point is not to be afraid to do self-publish, especially with some of the options now that have really democratized the publishing industry.
How do you market or promote your books (e.g. social media, e-mail, blog tours, etc.)?
I have used Facebook quite a bit but, surprisingly, what has had the biggest impact recently is LinkedIn. I had a LinkedIn account that I hadn’t done much with for years, then decided to try seeing what happens if I put more focus there. Through LinkedIn, I’ve made contacts for podcast interviews, blogs, and even critics. One of the bigger book critics in India gave my book five stars, and now I’ve got hundreds of connections with people in India. I never saw that coming!
What is your best marketing tip?
Be prepared to promote your work at the drop of a hat. Have materials with you and be ready to talk it up. It might even be on camera or recorded for a podcast that had a last-minute cancellation. Be ready to pull the trigger with four seconds notice.
About W.D. Kilpack III
W.D. Kilpack III is an award-winning and critically acclaimed internationally published writer, with works appearing in print, online, radio and television, starting with his first publication credit at the age of nine, when he wrote an award-winning poem. As an adult, he received special recognition from L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest. He has been editor and/or publisher of nineteen news and literary publications, both online and in print, with circulations as high as 770,000. He is an accomplished cook and has two claims he thinks few can match: cooking nearly every type of food on a grill; and nearly being knocked flat when his grill exploded.
He received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Westminster College of Salt Lake City. As an undergrad, he double-majored in communication and philosophy, while completing the Honors Program. As a graduate student, he earned a master of professional communication with a writing emphasis. He was also a high-performing athlete, qualifying for international competition in Greco-Roman wrestling.
He is a communication professor and a nationally recognized wrestling coach. He is happily married to his high-school sweetheart and is father to five children, as well as helping to raise five step-children. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he continues to live, coach and teach.
Kilpack wrote his first novel at 12 years old .....
Honors and Awards
2021 Winner Firebird Book Award
Author of the Month: Sinister Soup Podcast, April 2021
2020 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Year Runner-Up: OnlineBookClub.org
Honorable Mention: L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future
Quarter Finalist: Screencraft Cinematic Book Writing Competition
Editor's Choice x5: North American Open Poetry Competition, National Library of Poetry
3rd Place: North American Open Poetry Competition, National Library of Poetry
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W.D. Kilpack III - Official website: http://www.kilpack.net/
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