Today I welcome the writer Arleigh Bison Westunlied to my blog!
I am an engineer turned author, wanting to write full-time. I am 198 cm, 95 kg and enjoy Korean food, walks with my wife and toddler, food from the garden, eclectic music, old or foreign movies and spending time at home with the family. I love that my wife, teenager and myself are all writers, it is funny sometimes when we are passing our drafts around the house for critique. I have faith my toddler son will also be a writer, when he is a tad older.
You can find me on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/Author.ArleighBison
Please tell us more about yourself, anything you like- interests, background:
I like cats. I am convinced that cats are the best possible pet one could have, especially large ones, like cute tigers! Everyone should have a tiger! I am an engineer turned author, wanting to write full-time. I find that growing up many interests of mine would have been considered a little bit dull compared to my peers, but I’m very happy to see the Geek Culture seeming to take over. I was Geek before it was cool. I learned an incredible amount of information about people through those experiences. I always enjoyed reading ancient and esoteric books, for instance I’ve always like studying religions and philosophy, even though I don’t really have a religion myself. I used to enjoy studying law until I realized that people who practice law don’t always obey the laws and that made me sad. At University I read a general sociology degree largely for these reasons, because people are weird and unique.
Please tell us more about the book or books you would like to feature today.
My first published book, Point of the Rear Guard, is a commissioned biography and was released on 4 July for eReaders, and will soon be in paperback. I’ve been working on a series of steampunk fantasy novels that I put on hold to do the biography, but am now back in full swing writing those. I think readers at large will really enjoy them! I am so excited about these novels, of which I have plans for 12 in total. I hope everyone will stay tuned and keep up with me on my author page, as I will be updating and announcing about the first of these books very soon.
What gave you the idea to write in this genre?
I was asked to do the biography, somewhat as a favour to the family of the person the biography was about, I doubt I would normally write in that genre otherwise, though I did thoroughly enjoy doing it. Regarding the steampunk books, the story is something I’ve spent quite a few years creating in my mind and although I don’t know exactly why this happened, it was because of some very negative experiences in recent years that I was able to see the entire story to be able to write it down, which is what I am doing. I am a big anime fan and the movie “Steamboy” and the series “The Last Exile” both used ideas that I had also thought of and I was happy to see that ideas that I was creating in my own head actually had some appeal to the population at large, or else those movies would not have been written.
Is there a theme or message in your work that you would like readers to connect with?
Yes, in fact there are several. In many fantasy books, there is no diabetes, or autism or other maladies that could very well affect even those in fantasy stories. Many of the stories have too broad of a message for instance, in LotR, they are triumphant over evil but strangely Sauron never actually appears in the book. So the most powerful, evil thing in all of Middle Earth is subjugated by proxy. Herbert’s Dune Universe is demonstrating transformation that good and evil are malleable qualities that both are not absolute in definition also are simply tools to be used with the actual objective of being powerful. In the series I am working on now, I would like to show a realness in the fantasy. I’m trying to demonstrate what an individual person feels, what a realistic person might experience in very unrealistic circumstances, because there is no “group”, since any group is simply a collection of individuals.
Note from Lily: I completely agree! I’ve been trying to show a realness in historical stories- people had the same problems in the past as we do in the present- relationships which go wrong, forbidden love, wanting a better life etc.
What research did you do, and how?
Or does it all come from your own imagination? I have spent weeks researching just for one chapter, and figure I probably will again. While much of the idea itself comes from my head, I still want the details to be plausible, which is where the research comes in. When writing the biography, I did very typical historical research for the time period described, including use of military and census records, interviewing family, school records and so on. When writing my steampunk series, the research became infinitely more involved. The first month I began writing, I did not write any text at all, rather I spent the entire time determining stable orbital mechanics for the planetary system in which it takes place, determining the value of the gravitational constant for that planet, developing new forms of organic chemistry for the Native life on that planet as well as trying to create functional solutions to certain discrepancies in general relativity. Having completed that, I was finally able to start writing the story!
What’s the funniest/weirdest thing you’ve done when doing research for your book?
Staying up late with my teenage son trying to determine the proper physics describing an anime show. There was a particular question about a character in one of the shows he watches and we stayed up all night doing the math to determine how that character would perform on a number of different types of planets with different gravity, atmospheric composition and pressure, and material composition of the weapon the character in question was using. We later found out that if this character actually existed, that she could throw a baseball into orbit. All of that math that we did was useful to me in building my planet.
Do you ever base your characters on people you know?
Yes! Every single character in my books is a reflection of someone I’ve actually met, good and bad. Of course the people described in my published biography were all real people. I find that basing characters on people I know is easier because I can easily insert a given personality that I have encountered, complete with eccentricities or other quirks of behaviour that are internally consistent to that character. I have less to make up!
Do you make a plan for your novels, or do you just start writing and see where it goes?
I have outlines of the stories I want to accomplish in a given book, but the chapters tend to take on a life of their own. When I was much younger, I used to DM (dungeon master) for a group of friends playing Dungeons & Dragons and I always enjoyed the storytelling aspect of that. Some of the events in my novels actually come from those games that we played years ago.
Which of your own books/ characters is your favourite and why?
I’m a real fan of Point of the Rear Guard right now because it is selling! Ha ha. In my fiction novels, there are two characters, Riff and Ruka that I would say are favourites of mine. Riff because he’s my best friend and Ruka’s just a devil of a guy, so I think they are fun characters.
What has been the most helpful piece of advice you’ve received as a writer?
I would say don’t break your wrist, but because that is exactly what I did, I’ve actually had more time to get more of my book done this month! My wife always encourages me not to stop writing. I sometimes get blue and it affects my ability to write, she is always by my side, pushing me, motivating me to continue (especially when my day job and life in general makes it difficult to carry on). So the actual best advice I’ve received was simply not to stop. (See Ozzy’s “I Don’t Want To Stop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt_Bu1r-Ovg)
What books or other projects do you have coming up in future?
I am currently working on the first book of a series of twelve of the steampunk novels I mentioned earlier. I hope to have the first book out very soon. I am also working with my wife on a New Adult fantasy-comedy and I also have an amusing interpretation of the Bible in the works. Lastly, I have a more serious work relating somewhat to the biography I have just published, in that it is from the perspective of a veteran, this time though, a vet of the Iraqi War. Unlike Point of the Rear Guard, however, this one is fiction.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
Buy my books! Go Maple Leafs!
My book is coming soon to paperback and currently available for eReaders here: