Thomas Rottinghaus became fascinated with the written word and the power of imagination at a very young age, reading virtually everything he could get his hands on by authors as diverse as Jules Verne, Louis La’Mour, JRR Tolkien and Stephen King. He went on to study literature and writing at Colorado Mesa University, formerly known as Mesa State College, before pursuing a career in agribusiness. His writing blends genres into an entertaining amalgam of fantasy, westerns, science fiction and adventure. He resides in a small town in Colorado with his wife, Lisa, a very energetic blue heeler named Jake and a herd of cats.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Graywullf: Book One of the Dragonspawn Trilogy. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?
A: Graywullf details the exploits of a group of gunslinging lawmen in a fantasy world called Norland. The lawmen, known as magii’ri Warriors, enforce the Code at the direction of the magii’ri Wizards, but the Warriors are unaware of the fact they are being used by some corrupt Wizards for their own gain. When that fact is revealed, Norland erupts in a Revolution. The Warriors enlist the aid of a dark Wizard, Lynch, who encourages them to create the Dragonspawn, a magical blend of a warrior and a Dragon.
Q: What do you think makes a good western/fantasy? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?
A: A good western/fantasy must have larger than life characters, fantasy elements that blend seamlessly with the gritty action of a western and a suitable setting.
Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?
A: I knew from the beginning what was point A and what was point B, but Graywullf took a very different path getting there than I had envisioned when I first conceived the idea of the book.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?
A: When I envisioned Lorn Graywullf, I imagined him in the same type of mold as the surly, silent characters played by Clint Eastwood in the so called spaghetti westerns.
Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?
A: The antagonist was a combination of all of the truly bad qualities embodied by political leaders worldwide. To make him realistic I simply gave him human desires as the root cause of his actions.
Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?
A: I like action, so I tried to keep the pace moving fast and keep the reader on his toes by throwing in some unexpected twists. I also tried not to let the story bog down with too much unnecessary dialogue. I let the actions of the characters carry the story forward.
Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I tried to write descriptions of the setting in a manner that transports the reader to that place.
Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?
A: I knew the general theme of Graywullf from the beginning and yes, the theme of good versus evil is recurrent in my other work.
Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?
A: Writing is a blend of craft and art from the beginning. Yes, restrictive editing can limit what a writer is trying to accomplish.
Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?
A: Obviously, the ability to transfer the contents of your imagination to paper in a coherent form is probably the most important. That element of imagination is another, and persistence is also very important.
Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?
A: I have to agree to a point. Research is homework, but the actual writing is an escape.
Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?
A: Honestly, not yet. I attended a few workshops and met with a writer’s group but I’m too much of a realist to get much from groups like that. I prefer input from readers.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?
A: The ability to write is a gift. Many people I speak with are in awe that the Dragonspawn series is over 1200 pages long, they simply can’t conceive that many words strung together. So if you can write, use it. Even if you never become famous or rich, there will always be people who appreciate that ability.