Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Steve C. Eston always had a conflicting love for the fantastical and the scientific, which led him to write both fantasy and science-fiction. An IT manager by day, a writer by night, he is the author of three published books: Deficiency (2020), The Conclave (2018) and The Burden of the Protector (2016). He was born in the Péninsule Acadienne in Eastern Canada, and now lives in Fredericton with his wife and children.
You can chat with Steve on Twitter (@sceston) or visit him on his website at http://www.sceston.ca.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Although I did a significant amount of research and reading prior to the publication of my first book, the process remained chaotic. There were many unknowns and I learned a lot as I proceeded through the different steps of writing, editing and publishing the story. I used the experience to develop a more complete writing process with the intent of using it for my subsequent books.
What I quickly discovered, though, was that the approach I had so carefully put together did not work! Or at least, it didn’t without some adjustments. As I tried it out on different stories, I realized that although the basics remained the same, many of the steps differed from story to story. For example, my first book required little plotting while my second demanded that I create a detailed timeline covering both the current events and the backstory.
That said, the most important thing I got from the publication of my first book was the confidence that it could be done. Every book has it challenges, but after having done it once, it’s easier to see the finish line and figure out what it takes to get there.
How often do you read?
One of the first and best pieces of advice I learned about writing was by Stephen King, who said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” This is something I try to adhere to as much as I can, which is to say, I always have one or more books on my night table, desk, in my car, etc.
I started reading when I was a teenager, mostly fantasy. Back then, my favorite authors were Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman and I especially enjoyed their Dragonlance and Death Gate Cycle series (I still do!). Over the years, I branched out and included a wide array of genres to my reading. I love discovering new authors, well-established or self-published. Reading will always be something I enjoy greatly, but as a writer, each book is not only a great escape, but also a learning tool.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
This is a question I continuously ponder with each story I write. The best answer I can give is that I try to do a bit of both. I make a conscious attempt to be as original or unique as I can, while writing stories that I would enjoy as a reader. I take known concepts and twist them or push them in a direction that I haven’t seen explored before. One of the things that I enjoy the most about writing is the sense of wonder that comes while discovering, with the characters, where the story goes. This is never more true then when the story takes an unexpected turn, one that I had not planned or one that takes me somewhere I have never read about before.
In the end, though, most ideas have already been explored (some of them extensively). It happened a few times that I incorporated an idea or a concept which seemed original at the time, only to find out later, while watching a new movie or reading a new book, that it had already been presented by someone else. I’m always baffled when this happens. Still, we have to remember that every writer has a unique voice, and that even if a concept has already been visited, it can still be original when done by a different author.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I spend a lot of time on selecting character names. I usually look at the spelling and the pronunciation, at how it reads on the page, and sometimes, at the meaning behind the name. I don’t usually have a clear plan for names, except that they have to click, somehow. They need to fit with the story, the world and location where the story is set, and the other characters. Often, I’ll use a name I have heard in a movie or a video game and tweak it by changing one or several letters, until it is something I haven’t seen before.
I remember hearing that J. R. R. Tolkien meticulously chose each of the names of his characters for The Lord of the Rings and that each name has a clear meaning attached to it. I don’t go that far, but it is a common occurrence of mine to change a character’s name several times before I’m done with a story, especially with secondary characters. As for the main characters, I usually need a good name before I’m able to make significant progress on a story. I’ll sometimes write a scene and have a feeling that something is wrong… until I change a name. After all, it all begins with the characters.
Tell us more about your most recent book, “Deficiency”.
Deficiency is my first full-length novel, which came as a surprise since the first draft was written for a short story contest. I tried to shorten the initial draft so it would fit within the parameters of the contest, but it didn’t work. Some stories are simply not meant to be told in the short form and Deficiency is one of them.
Deficiency brought me into many uncharted territories. It is a science fiction thriller. Until this point, I had mainly written fantasy. The story is both thematic and suspenseful. It explores many concepts, including the dangers of technologies and the greed of unchecked corporations, but also incorporates subjects like love and family, friendship and loyalty, as well as how far someone is willing to go to make their dreams come true. In some ways, Deficiency is also an homage to my favorite science fiction books and movies. It includes a little bit of everything, from a wide cast of characters to a far-away and futuristic world, touching on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robots and cyborg, advanced software and a few other neat technologies.
At its core, though, Deficiency is grounded in its two protagonists, a wife and husband who dream of building a family and find themselves on the run, with nowhere to go. Everything stems from their desire to live a happy life of their choosing. This may seem simple, but in the society they live in, many choices are taken away from them (which mirror our world in some aspects).
Deficiency was a lot of fun to write and I can only hope that readers will enjoy it as much as I did.
What’s next for you?
I’m always working on several stories in parallel, some short, some long.
Lately, I’ve been concentrating on the first instalment of a new epic fantasy series called The Lost Tyronian Archives. It is an ambitious project that will span over several books. The first book, The Stranger of Ul Darak, is progressing well and should be available sometime in 2022. The events in this series are connected to my first published novella, The Burden of the Protector (published in 2016). The Stranger of Ul Darak is set into a fictional and imaginary dystopian world known as Tyronia. It explores acceptance and prejudices, fears and superstitions, as well as the responsibility of privileges.
I’ve also been working on a dark fantasy series titled The Baneseeker Chronicles. They follow the adventures of a lone woman, Lyna Di’Stavan, as she struggles with the ability of manipulating time, while investigating cursed objects known as bane cores. The events in this series are set in Arvelas, the same world as my second published book, The Conclave. This is one of my favorite settings to write in because I’ve been expanding on it for more than twenty years. The first story should be available late 2022 or early 2023.
Over the past several months, I had the chance to work with an amazing group of nine authors on an upcoming anthology titled Autumn Paths. I have never before worked this closely with authors on putting together a collection of stories. It was both a lot of fun and an enriching experience. The book will be available later this fall.
I also have many other stories at different stages of development. I try to post regular updates of my progress on my website at sceston.com. If interested, readers can also subscribe to my newsletter there, which I send two or three times a year.
Categories: BookView Review Interview