Welcome to David A. Tatum
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I like to think I will write in a lot of different styles and genre in my career. So far, however, I have only published two fantasy novels (“In Treachery Forged” and “The Kitsune Stratagem”) and a sci-fi novelette (“To the Rink of War”), and outside of some poems and experimental fiction in one anthology I have planned those two genre look like all I’ll be writing for the next few years. By the end of this year, I expect to have launched four series. “In Treachery Forged” and “The Kitsune Stratagem” start different series, Book I of a new sci-fi series should be coming in the next couple months (assuming I can finish the editing and get the cover art done in time), and “To the Rink of War” was intended to start a series of shorter fiction as well (though that idea may be put on hold due to an apparent lack of interest). Next year I will be publishing the sequels to at least two of those series, plus that anthology I mentioned and possibly another novelette\novella. It’s going to be a busy couple of years for me.
Where do you find inspiration? Inspiration can come from many sources. “In Treachery Forged” originated with a discussion about the possibility that mythical representations of chi in martial arts legends might have been the result of the mental manipulation of bioelectromagnetic fields. “To the Rink of War” began with the mental exercise of creating a new sport (in this case, Microgravity Hockey, which has yet to appear in the series but has been mentioned). “Voices,” a short story which will be in that upcoming anthology I mentioned, was inspired by a college professor insisting that it was impossible to write in first person omniscient perspective (so, of course, I had to write a story in that perspective to prove him wrong, even if he never saw it). “The Kitsune Stratagem” partly came about because of an editor going on a total rant on the overuse of elves, dwarves, and dragons, going so far as to say he would throw the next manuscript he saw with the word “elf” in it across the room, send the author an automatic rejection, and blacklist him from ever being considered for submission by his company again. I didn’t understand his complaint about elves, dwarves, and dragons — to me, that’s like complaining swords or armor are overused, since all you’re doing by using these creatures is give your readers a short-cut to understand what physical abilities and characteristics they have — but I still decided to research other creatures that could be used as fantasy races. So, instead of elves and dwarves and dragons, “The Kitsune Stratagem” is populated by kitsune and wulvers and bunyips.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? Yes, research is important, but not necessarily in the areas I anticipated when I started taking my writing career seriously. As a reader, I’ve always been a bigger fan of historical fiction (especially with a nautical bent) than any other genre. I’m a history buff, but the standard for research in historical fiction, at least in the examples I was most familiar with (CS Forester, Patrick O’Brian, and Kenneth Roberts), was daunting. I’ve known readers of historical fiction to blacklist authors simply because they accidentally referred to a slightly anachronistic color pigment in a woman’s clothes. I correctly assumed that it was unlikely I would get slammed by a reader for my choice of fabric color in science fiction and fantasy.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s no research, or even that the research burden was that much less. When writing “To the Rink of War,” I had to calculate whether a ramming weapon was practical with a ship that could only accelerate at a maximum of six meters per second squared. When writing “In Treachery Forged,” I wanted to have my characters — who were wearing a mixture of different types of armor and clothing, both noble and peasant in origin — strip down to cross a river. I needed to know what type of underwear they might have underneath that clothing and armor in a pre-elastic society. Three hours and fourteen different styles of pre-elastic underwear later, I had it all figured out… and then scrapped the scene and had them cross on a boat. For “The Kitsune Stratagem,” studying Roman-era concrete mixing techniques led to me changing the wulvers from being a small fishing village of a few dozen people into a powerful civilization situated at the base of an active volcano… and then I needed to know what sorts of advantages and disadvantages a society would have when living at the base of a volcano.
In terms of resources, it really depends on what you’re looking for. Wikipedia is hardly the most reliable of sources, but if all you need is (for example) a list of mythological creatures you could add to your fantasy novel’s legendarium, it’s a good way to get started. If you want to create a medically accurate herbalist’s apothecary kit, however, you might want a resource like the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s “About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products” page (see http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/about-herbs-botanicals-other-products ), which will give you the latest in medical research on traditionalist “home remedy” herbal treatments.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print, audio.) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? All of my books are available in .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (Nook, Kobo, iBook, etc.) eBook formats. Novel length works are also available in print (though often will be released after the eBook). I have approached a couple of voice professionals about producing audiobooks, but so far nothing has come of it. I (or a member of my family) may wind up doing the audiobook reading ourselves, though ACX’s recent reduction of royalty rates has reduced the priority for getting an audiobook version produced.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I do a round of self-editing after letting the work “age” for a while. Then I give it to beta readers and do another round of self-editing. If I anticipate the book will earn enough to make it worthwhile, I then hire a professional editor; otherwise, I find a different batch of beta readers to read through it again. I don’t necessarily think a book suffers without a professional editor, but I think you MUST have a third party who has some understanding of both the technical issues of writing and the genre you are writing in look at the book prior to publication.
Do you read work by self-published authors? I’d be pretty hypocritical if I didn’t. I still read trade publishers more than indies, but of the hundred or so novels currently on my kindle (I just cleared it out for space concerns) I’d say about thirty or forty are self-published works.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Reviews are critical to an author, both to show the author that his work is enjoyed and to help other customers decide whether to buy the book… but I don’t think authors should read, much less respond to, any reviews. Responding is unprofessional. It almost never does the writer any good to even read them; one negative review has the potential to do more harm to the writer’s mental attitude than a hundred positive reviews.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? Yes. They are a far better tool for evaluating a potential purchase than merely rating it. That said, it’s only one tool for deciding whether to buy a book. I’d almost say a good cover (or rather, not having a bad cover) is just as valuable.
What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors? I… am uncomfortable with it, personally, but as long as no reciprocal review is asked for I don’t have a problem with other authors saying anything. That’s not to say I won’t ever write a review, myself, but only if I’m in close enough contact with them to warn them, ahead of time; I tend to pick out the negative to evaluate even on books I really like, which is great in a small group where you’re after constructive criticism but which is terrible as an endorsement in a public forum. I don’t want to accidentally hurt another author’s sales just because I want to point out a silly anachronism or mention that a portion of the book felt rushed.
Do you have a favourite movie? Actually, no. I love movies, don’t get me wrong, but to pick one single movie as my favorite? There are just too many to decide. I’d give the same answer for books, pieces of music, or even food. Even limiting it down — favorite FANTASY movie\book\etc., for example — is really too difficult. I can’t pit an old chestnut like Willow up against the Harry Potter movies up against the Lord of the Rings movies up against the Chronicles of Narnia movies up against The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and come out with an undisputed number one movie. Even if I could, I’d then have to pit the winner of that up against the winner of the battle between Star Wars, Star Trek, Serenity, Dune, and John Carter, or the winner of Master and Commander, Captain Blood, etc., etc. Well… you get the idea. Deciding on one favorite movie just isn’t possible — I love too many of them.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
In Treachery Forged: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HK1HDZC
The Kitsune Stratagem: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MAUCLI2
To the Rink of War: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KD0XO3M
Fennec Fox Press (with alternate links to the above): http://www.fennecfoxpress.com/