To celebrate the release of his debut book, Wondrous, I am hosting an interview from Travis M. Riddle. You can check out his book on Amazon at this link: Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle
Welcome! Please tell us your name and a little bit about yourself.
My name’s Travis M. Riddle. I currently live in Austin; I went to college here and now I’m working while I do some writing on the side (though if that became my main job I certainly wouldn’t complain).
What motivates you to write?
Just wanting to tell a story, really. I get excited thinking about weird worlds or characters, coming up with little twists and planning out how to drop some foreshadowing or hints into the story, stuff like that. The act of storytelling is just really cool, and I enjoy doing it.
What is the title of your most recent book? Give us a brief overview on what the book is about.
My debut novel is called Wondrous, and it’s admittedly kind of hard to talk about without spoiling a lot of what the book is about. But to put it simply, it follows a boy named Miles who goes to sleep tucked tightly in his bed in Texas and wakes up in a fantasy kingdom that is in the middle of a civil war. The book is about Miles grappling with this new world and trying to find a way to open up a portal to take him back to Austin, all while contending with the strange monsters and people he meets there. The full synopsis can be found on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32578571-wondrous).
What makes it unique from the other books out there?
What makes Wondrous unique is its blend of the fantastical and the real. Even though it’s billed as a fantasy novel, around a quarter of it (maybe a little less) takes place in Austin, with scenes from Miles’ life back home interspersed throughout his adventure. It’s also a story with (what I hope to be) a surprising emotional core that goes to unexpected places and tackles issues that aren’t normally seen in a novel like this. But that’s getting into spoiler territory again!
What is the title of your current work-in-progress or the most recent manuscript you’ve completed apart from your most recent book? Would you mind sharing what it is about?
I’ve got two things sort of in the pipeline at the moment. One is a fantasy novel with a storyline that has already gone through a couple iterations despite my only having written two chapters of it, so I’m hesitant to say much about it yet. But the basic idea is this story following three main characters, taking place in one town, where some bad stuff is going down. I want it to have a similar feel and tone as the video game Final Fantasy IX, which is a big influence on its characters, creatures, world, and generally the entire aesthetic.
The other novel is more of a literary fiction piece that is as of yet untitled but I’ve been referring to it as “Mascot” for now because that’s less of a mouthful than “Untitled Book About The Guy Who Wants to Be a Mascot and Other Such Stuff.” It’s about, as you can probably guess, a recent college graduate who’s trying to become a national sports team mascot. There’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the underlying premise.
What are some of your other non-book influences besides Final Fantasy IX?
I watch a lot of movies and TV–probably an unhealthy amount, if you were to ask any of my friends or look at my blu-ray collection–so I think my writing is probably more influenced by that than by other writers. With Wondrous in particular, I think it has a lot in common with the films created by Studio Ghibli, especially with Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro wherein Miyazaki so perfectly blended the fantastical with the real world and crafted stories that can be appreciated by a younger audience but deliver on deeper themes and emotions for adults. That was really my aim with this book, to create something that can be enjoyed on different levels by anyone, no matter their age.
How often do you write?
Not as often as I’d like, but whenever inspiration strikes I tend to find some time to do it. Unfortunately I do go through spurts where I’m just not feeling it and go without writing for several weeks, but then the opposite happens and I write a chapter a day for a while. It just depends on how busy I am and how I’m feeling, I suppose.
What famous author would you compare your own writing style with?
Wow, I have no idea who I’d compare myself to. Though when I was in early high school and just starting to really write my own novels, I was pretty much a Chuck Palahniuk copycat as far as style goes. I am very glad those drafts are nowhere to be found.
Who are five of your favorite authors?
It’s a pretty eclectic list, but my favorite working authors are probably Max Barry, Stephen King, Daniel Abraham, James S.A. Corey (which is half Abraham but I’m counting it as another person), and Mark Z. Danielewski.
Barry is someone who hasn’t written a book I’ve disliked and I’m always anxious to see what idea he comes up with next; no two books of his are the same. King is someone I’ve actually only gotten into in the past year, but in that year I’ve become obsessed and read nearly 20 of his books. I’ve been going through the Dark Tower series and its related novels and it’s been so fun and awesome. Abraham/Corey just write super solid fantasy and sci-fi with amazing worlds and interesting characters (plus the TV show based on their Expanse series is pretty good too). And Danielewski is always doing something weird and experimental with print, which I’m always excited about; his new series The Familiar is really cool and I suggest you check it out if you get the chance. It’s not very accessible, I admit, but it’s been pretty neat so far and I’m excited to see where this epic tale is going.
What are you currently reading?
As I mentioned before, I’m chugging along through the Dark Tower series and its related books (it’s crazy how Stephen King tied so much of his bibliography into this one story), trying to finish before the movie comes out next year since I know it takes elements from several of the books so I don’t want to be spoiled.
But I’m also looking forward to finally diving into the new Jonathan Safran-Foer book Here I Am, the latest book in the Expanse series (Babylon’s Ashes), and the next Familiar book, entitled Hades, in February.
Time for some quick questions:
- Favorite Quote? I’m not sure what the policy for foul language is here, but what comes to mind is that Kurt Vonnegut quote about the horse. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should look the story up.
If you could be one character from your own writing, who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one. Maybe Mortimer from “Wondrous,” because he’s so optimistic and good-hearted and always tracks down the best meals. Food is maybe the best thing there is in the world besides dogs, so I want to eat the best.
Finally, what advice would you give to other writers?
At some point while writing “Wondrous,” I found out that there was a book with a slightly similar premise, and I was pretty devastated. I figured that was the end, time to scrap it and think of a new idea, despite the fact I’d already written half the book. But then I realized…there are so many books and movies and shows and songs and everything else that are similar to each other, just executed in their own different ways.
If you have an idea that you’re really passionate about, a story that you really connect with, don’t stop writing it just because you find out it’s not the first time anyone in the world has had that same general thought as you. You’re still going to write it differently. Your world is different, your characters are unique, and that other author does not have your viewpoint. The story will still be yours, so don’t be afraid to just write it.