Interview with Caleb Wood
How did you become a writer?
I suppose the short version would be that I started writing, and no one told me to stop.
The longer version is a little more involved. When I was a kid, my closest friend at the time wanted to write a science fiction story about his whole friend group living double lives as secret agents. I jumped on the chance to help him write that, and we spent a lot of time talking about the plot and the world. My friend ended up writing five novels, and I eventually wrote a prequel novella. That experience helped me realize I could write as a hobby, which I kept up in one form or the other until the COVID pandemic.
When the pandemic hit, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, which I used to polish up my latest hobby novel and research the publication process. From there, I began sending out query letters to literary agents, and the rest is history.
What inspires you to write?
I should have some sort of grand philosophical vision about the value of writing, but, in the end, I’m just envious of good stories. I know how I react to a beautiful tale, and I want to spark that same reaction in others.
I’d also really like to inspire fanart at least once in my life.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
As I mull over a story idea, I tend to outline a few events or character developments that are set in stone. I’ll then write a brief outline connecting those ideas. Once I’ve got some idea of what I’m doing, I start writing, and will usually immediately abandon every idea I’d had so far.
Characters, on the other hand, tend to come from a healthy blend of creative theft and introspection. I ask the question “What would I be like if I had lived that life?” a lot. I’m also fairly convinced that some characters just decide they want to exist, and force themselves into my head.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
There are a lot of ways to say this, but it all boils down to not writing. Whether I’m not writing because my mental health is beating me up, or because I’m too busy with work or family, the challenge is always just finding the time and gumption to sit down and write.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
In my mind, I’ve got three protagonists. Publius is a sincere young man struggling under the weight of his own expectations. His father is a truly great man who just happens to be functionally immortal, and Publius wants to be a “worthy” son above all else. I can’t help but admire and envy Publius’ dogged determination to keep going, and I really wish he’d just learn to accept the love he’s surrounded by.
Arsinoe, on the other hand, has spent her life surrounded by pain instead of love. The last daughter of a family that perished in the collapse of an empire, she’s made her way through life as an assassin and mage. Her life has been fairly straightforward up until now, when she begins to question the path of vengeance she’s been on her entire life. I admire her willingness to experience and draw strength from her feelings, and I hope she’ll eventually learn to trust someone.
Mathome is a bitter, exiled military commander who despises the civilians he’s responsible for defending. He is very much trapped by his past failures, but has a strong, if twisted, paternal love for his soldiers. I very much enjoy his no-nonsense attitude towards success and failure, and wish he’d learn to process his negative feelings in less maladaptive ways.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
Typically, by stabbing someone.
What are your current/future projects?
I’m currently working on two projects: Opening Gambits, which is the twisting tale of Publius, Arsinoe, and Mathome; and Arastea, which is a more focused story about a village girl whose life is forever changed when three strangers come to town. In the future, I’d like to revisit my first attempt at epic fantasy from about twenty years ago, which has the working title The Power of Discord.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
Each month, I set my word count expectations for myself. Typically, I want to write about 5500 words a week, or 1100 words per weekday. When I sit down to write, I pull up my writing playlist and calculate the word count I need to be at by the end of the writing session in order to stay on schedule to hit my monthly goal. In an ideal world, I then write my word goal and move on with my life. More often, I write about half of my word goal and then take a break to curse myself for setting such a ridiculous goal. Then I write the other half.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
You don’t need to be good at something to do it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The most common and best advice I’ve heard is “Just write.” That’s really the only difference between an aspiring writer and a writer. One of them wants to write; the other one actually has written something. I guarantee you there’s nothing magical or special separating writers from everyone else. Just write, my friends. Your ideas are good enough, but they’ll never be more than daydreams until you write them down.
* What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
For the time being, I can best be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. In theory, I could also be reached at https://twitter.com/Vequenor1.