W. Brondt Kamffer, author of The Wars of Gods and Men, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Wars of Gods and Men?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: Wars is a novel about capricious gods and ambitious kings—you know the type: those who think they call all the shots and make things happen. Well, in this universe, the kings learn all-too-painfully that they are little more than pawns in the eternal wars of the gods. There is a lot of tension between the monarchs and the sorcerers, who are channels for the gods' power as well as priests after a sort, and everybody tends to be very self-serving—just like the rest of us.
Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't say that Wars is inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth, which is a play with no small amount of the supernatural itself.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: My characters tend to be pulled from facets of myself and others I know. Alternatively, some echo characters in classic works of literature. That said, I do make extensive notes on characters to get them just right, and I surf places like imdb.com to find pictures that I can hold in my head. In my mind I tend to think in snapshots as I'm writing: "Idonea=Lady Macbeth" or "Cenred=Prophet Isaiah," etc.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: Those who like to read about people overcoming their weaknesses or failing in the attempt—those who don't try to better themselves are not worth reading about, in my opinion. I don't pretend to write about great heroes. In fact, if one of my characters falls into the classic hero category, you can guarantee he will only have a relatively minor role. I'd like to think as well that my books challenge the reader to reexamine himself in some way or other. In short, this isn't mindless stuff, but is born out of my years of reading literary fiction.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: I began writing after seeing the first Lord of the Rings movie. From the start, I wrote fantasy, though I have dabbled in science fiction and historical fiction. I also wrote a lot of poetry (much of it longer, epic poetry) until pretty recently, which I think has had an impact on my style—such as an abundance of similes and short, concise descriptions that can be kept easily in mind by the reader (think, "fleet-footed Achilles").
I mentioned above too that I read a lot of literary fiction, and sadly I think there is too little fantasy that fits that can be described as literary, you know, a sort of "literary fantasy" like Lord of the Rings or LeGuin's Earthsea books. I want to write books that are more than just a distraction and an escape, but which have depth and meaning. The kinds of books a person wants to read once a year during her annual Christmas time off.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: I write every morning except Sundays—and Saturdays during the English Premier League season. I set myself a goal of one scene every time I write, which usually translates to something between 1,500 and 2,000 words per session. I tend to do one revision as I go, and then begin heavily revising about a week or ten days after finishing the first draft.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: Inspiration comes in all manner of guises. Tolkien just inspires me to write. His books are so good that I just want to get to the computer any time I crack one of them open. I am inspired also by the stories of writers like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling who were rejected over and over but never gave up. As I chose to self-pub, I suppose you could say I did not learn their patience, but then one can be inspired by another without necessarily aspiring to be like them. I am, frankly, not a very patient man, and I certainly couldn't wait ten years to strike gold in New York.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: Just one book? That is almost an impossible question to answer. If I had to pick only one, I think it would have to be Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It is perhaps the most entertaining book I've ever read and is one of my yearly reads.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: I have a blog, which at the moment is a rather haphazard affair, and I am working on launching a podcast, which I hope will replace the blog as a consistent source of my "brand". The folks at the kindleboards are wonderful too at helping to spread the word, and I think being active there is essential for any indie writer. I've contacted about twenty book bloggers to gain some reviews for both my books, but I started this tactic a bit late, so I'm still waiting for the first review. Oh, and social media. I am very introverted and reclusive, to the point that I even feel uncomfortable with Facebook and Twitter, but I am forcing myself to try to build some relationships that way. At the end of the day, though, the best promotion is to write more books, and I am willing to sacrifice active promotion to get more writing done.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: My dad has a saying, "Never plan your life by somebody else's efficiency." At the end of the day, traditional publishing is a slow and lumbering process that relies far too much on other people. I am the DIY type of person, and so I have no qualms about shouldering the burden of self-publishing.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
W. BRONDT KAMFFER: You know, I'm so new to this that I don't feel qualified or entitled to give advice. But if I have one thing to say it has to be this: If you don't know how to do something, find out, even if you end up outsourcing the work at the end of the day. As a self-pubbing author, you need to know as much as possible. You don't have to be proficient at html, say, but it is vital to know enough so that you know exactly what you need a professional formatter to do. If you don't even know what to look for, how else will you know if something is a bit off? Just because someone is a "professional" doesn't mean he isn't prone to making mistakes. It's your work, so take responsibility for everything.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
W. Brondt Kamffer writes, "I am South African by birth and a US immigrant (along with the rest of my family). I now reside in southern California where I lecture English composition at the California State University of Long Beach. My interests include medieval literature, epic poetry, Anglo-Saxon England, Arthurian legend, and linguistics.
"I became a writer only after I became an avid reader during my senior year of high school, right after I saw The Fellowship of the Ring film. That was my first encounter with fantasy, and I have been hooked ever since. Aside from a period of about two years when I focused on writing historical fiction, I have never wanted to write anything else. Even the poetry I wrote in creative writing classes as an undergrad was heavily influenced by my fantasy reading.
"Many people who know me are surprised to learn that I love Franco-Belgian comics. Somehow, folks think that if you read epic poems for fun (as I do), you will necessarily stay well away from graphic novels. Not so. I like comics for the same reason I used to love playing RPG video games: storytelling. God struck down my Xbox 360, though, and since then I gave up the addiction I had battled for so long.
"I am an enormous fan of Arsenal FC and of association football in general. In addition to following Arsenal, I support Tottenham Hotspurs, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Rangers, and LA Galaxy. I am also addicted to the gentlemanly game of cricket, and thanks to the internet I can now watch the sport regularly despite living in the US."
Visit his website.
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