Interview of Richard S. Tuttle
in the Sporkette Gazette - Vol. 2, Issue 4 - April 2004
Interview: Richard S. Tuttle, Fantasy Novelist
Hello, Richard. Love your top hat! My husband, John, wants one, so maybe he'll
get one from Santa this year. I'm pleased you agreed to do this interview and
appreciate you taking time from your prolific novel writing to spare me an hour
or so. Thanks. Now on to the questions:
SG: Can you please list the titles of all your fantasy series and give a
one-sentence description of each? Also tell us about your current book release.
RST: Hello, Patricia. If your husband likes the top hat, just wait until he sees
the new mage hat that I wore to MegaCon this month!
I have released sixteen fantasy titles so far that fall into three series. My
first series was the Targa Trilogy written in 1997. Origin Scroll is the first
of the trilogy. It is the story of three emerging adults in a world of dark
turmoil as Sarac seeks to rule the world. Dark Quest follows as a dark sorcerer
seeks to return Sarac to power. Ancient Prophecy completes the trilogy as Sarac
finds the knowledge to collapse the Universes.
The Sword of Heavens series follows the Targa Trilogy after A gap of seventeen
years. In Sapphire of the Fairies, five emerging adults are gathered by gypsies
and told that they must restore the magical Sword of Heavens to save the world.
The ancient artifact is missing seven gems from its hilt, one for each Universe.
Unicorns' Opal continues the quest as everyone tries to figure out which of the
five heroes are the two special ones that were prophesied about. Abuud: the
One-Eyed God introduces a group of religious fanatics who hinder the restoration
of the Sword of Heavens. Dwarven Ruby features the dwarven people and explores
the ramifications of the collapsed Universes. Emerald of the Elves naturally
features the elven people, while Dragons' Onyx sets the stage for the final
showdown between the forces of good and evil. The series concludes with Amethyst
of the Gods where the true nature of the gods is revealed.
The third series, Forgotten Legacy, takes place in a different world. The series
begins with Young Lord of Khadora where a young clan soldier, Marak, sets out to
change the nature of the society of Khadora. Star of Sakova switches to a
neighboring country where Lyra, a young mage student, is thrust into leadership
of a mysterious savage people. In Web of Deceit, a young man, Rejji, struggles
to survive in the desolate wasteland of Fakara, another neighboring country of
Khadora. In Aakuta: the Dark Mage, the series begins to tie the three young
heroes and their countries together as they learn that they are ordained to
fight an unimaginable evil that is coming to destroy the world they know. Island
of Darkness gives us a glimpse of the coming evil and explains much of the
ancient history of the world and the prophecies that are coming into play.
Elvangar reveals the land of the elves, the ancient allies of a lost
civilization that Marak, Lyra, and Rejji must resurrect. There is one more
volume to the Forgotten Legacy that has not yet been released.
SG: What is Speculative Fiction?
RST: Speculative Fiction is generally considered to include the Science Fiction,
Fantasy, and Horror genres, but I tend to think of it as any work that defies
recorded reality. The work may deal with the future, a derivation of the past,
or an alternate present. It may take place in an imaginary world, or our current
world with some element that makes the reader suspend his or her disbeliefs and
delve into the world of 'what if?'
SG: Why do you write speculative fiction and lean toward the fantasy genre?
RST: The human imagination is a fantastical thing. It allows us to transport
ourselves to alien worlds without regard to time or space. Like many readers, I
started reading speculative fiction decades ago as an escape from reality.
Whether it was a release after a day of hard exams, or just a yearning for
excitement, science fiction and fantasy captured my imagination. It was the
enjoyment of those many journeys that caused me to write in the fantasy genre.
Speculative fiction frees me from the constraints of reality and allows me tell
a story that I hope will bring great enjoyment to readers. I should mention,
however, that being free from natural constraints does not mean writing without
any constraints. My goal is to immerse the reader in an alternate reality that
can be believable if the reader is willing to accept some suspension of
disbelief. To accomplish this task, I put constraints on myself. Magic use is
always a particular concern to me, as few people will accept magic existing in
the real world. To combat that I try to place limits on the use of magic that
will make it appear plausible.
SG: How do science fiction and fantasy differ from one another?
RST: That is a question for wiling away the nighttime hours with your friends!
Actually, I think discussions on such dividing lines are the driving force
behind the movement to use speculative fiction for all such works, but that is
avoiding your question. Simplistically, I tend to think of science fiction as
tales that use science and technological props to advance the stories, while
fantasy utilizes the magical and mystical. The wonderful thing about imaginative
writing is that no matter how the categories are defined, someone will write
something to shatter the rules.
SG: How did you first break into the fantasy market?
RST: My entry into the fantasy market is a humorous one. My previous profession
was of a technical nature. I used to be the president of a consulting firm that
provided technical services to Fortune 500 companies. I loved the challenge of
coming up with innovative solutions to complex problems.
One day in the late 90's, I had just finished reading a best-selling fantasy
book that my oldest daughter had given to me. While the book had vivid
descriptions of the alien world, it had no plot, and the character development
was nonexistent. I was amazed that the book was categorized as best-selling. My
oldest daughter and I began a discussion on the faults in the book. After a
while the discussion was interrupted by my youngest daughter with what I took to
be a taunt, "If you think you can do better, why don't you write your own
novel?" I laughed at the taunt and moved on to other activities, never
giving the comment another thought. Several days later my youngest daughter
asked if I had started my novel yet. That was when it became clear to me that
the question was not a taunt, but a challenge. Loving a challenge, I instantly
accepted and started to think about a story. That story would end up as the
SG: What are neologisms and do you rely on them in your fantasy writing? Please
provide one neologism (from one of your novels) and its definition as an
RST: Neologisms are new words or expressions, and I use them freely wherever
there is a need to be freed from the constraints of reality. One example from my
books is the use of the word Chula. The Forgotten Legacy series revolves around
events that occurred thousands of years before the story begins. It deals with
populations that separated and spread across the land after a cataclysmic event.
Pockets of these peoples developed differently than others. One particular
group, the Chula, retreated to the thick forests and the desolate mountains.
Over the centuries they developed a form of magic that revolved around felines.
They communicated with the beasts and even developed the magical means to take
on cat-like features. Little is known about the cat-like people when the series
opens with Young Lord of Khadora, but the history and origin of the Chula is
revealed as the series progresses.
SG: How did you get your first fantasy novel published? Please give the title
and a brief description of the novel.
RST: Origin Scroll was my first fantasy novel. It is the story of three
emerging adults with hidden talents in a medieval land. Fate brings Alexander,
Jenneva, and Oscar together to save the kingdom from an evil sorcerer.
In 1997 I wrote the Targa Trilogy, consisting of Origin Scroll, Dark Quest, and
Ancient Prophecy. I excitedly sent out manuscripts and query letters with a
naive expectation of instant publication. The initial rejection letters were
depressing enough, but many publishers did not even bother to respond. Even
though I had already laid out the next series, I shrugged off my foray into
writing, happy to have least brought some enjoyment to my daughters and their
friends. About a year later, I received a contract from a small publishing firm
that had decided to publish Origin Scroll. I excitedly called them and explained
that Origin Scroll was book one of a trilogy. They informed me that they had
already reviewed Dark Quest and would be sending a contract for it as well, and
that they would be reviewing Ancient Prophecy next. Filled with pride and hope,
I started writing the Sword of Heavens series. I had completed Sapphire of the
Fairies and had started on Unicorns' Opal before I received the devastating
news; the publisher had gone bankrupt.
Not knowing the legal status of my novels, I abandoned the Sword of Heavens
series, as it was a sequel to the Targa Trilogy. I started a new series,
Forgotten Legacy. Once again I started sending out queries and manuscripts, and
once again began receiving rejection letters. About this time I noticed ebooks
and began investigating them. The more I learned, the more I became convinced
that the market would be huge in the future. Determined to be one of the
original writers of fantasy in the ebook world, I focused my efforts primarily
on the ebook market with print as a secondary market.
SG: What are the main elements needed in a fantasy novel, and which do you deem
the most important?
RST: For me, plot, character development, setting, and, of course, magic are
essential to the fantasy story, and in that order. Without a decent plot, there
is no story. Furthermore, a story should have multiple subplots. Life is seldom
straightforward and neither should a good story be so simple.
Characters are equally important. If your characters are wooden, and do not
develop throughout the story, you have wasted a good plot by losing the interest
of your readers. When I write a story, I actually role-play the characters as I
write them. The dialog that gets written is what springs from the mind of the
character as I slip into that persona. This process has actually led to some
very interesting twists in my stories. Sometimes the story turns from where I
expected it to go because the character approaches the problem in a way that I
had not anticipated.
Setting is less important to me, although I like to have a rich setting that
pulls the reader into a new and strange land. I should note that I make a
distinction between setting and descriptions. While my settings are well
developed beforehand, I often go light on descriptions. I think a story is most
enjoyable when the reader's mind constructs its own image from the clues given
by the author. I don't want to force my image of a place or person on the
reader, but rather have the reader construct the image in his or her own mind. I
believe that this technique ties the reader closer to the place or character
than if I created a description so complete that the reader has to accept it.
In my writing, magic is also essential to the story, but it cannot be
unrestrained magic. I will not let a character wave his hands and stroll out of
a dangerous situation. Magic use must be logical and adhere to limits. Without
these limits, anything becomes possible, and the plot deteriorates into a
SG: Do you believe workshops or critique groups can help the beginning fantasy
writer? Please explain why.
RST: Fantasy writers can benefit immensely from workshops and critique groups,
as can any writer. I can't imagine a fantasy writer who doesn't become immersed
in his own writing. Unfortunately, sometimes that immersion can make us blind to
our failure to communicate properly. Having others pour over your writing while
you are still immersed in the work has many benefits. You will find that others
will get lost in points of the story that are intuitively clear to the writer.
You will discover new viewpoints that will allow you to improve the story, and
you will learn how your words are affecting a potential audience. That is the
type of input that can make a good story into a great one. A writer should
always welcome criticism and comments with an open mind, and workshops and
critique groups are excellent ways of getting that input.
SG: I notice in the novels I've read, that you have strong female characters.
What type of research do you do, being a man, to make these females so
believable and realistic?
RST: Well, Patricia, I have the pleasure of living with three fantastic,
high-achieving women, my wife and our two daughters. I long ago realized that
women think differently than men do, not better or worse, but differently. Quite
often a woman's approach to a problem can be baffling to a man, even though the
result is achieved satisfactorily. It is that different thought process that
intrigues me. Like most writers, I am a student of human behavior. I constantly
watch and analyze the behavior of others. It has gotten to the point where I can
almost hear the thought processes of my family members when they are presented
with a problem. I have learned a great deal by looking at things through their
SG: Well, Mr. Tuttle, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for indulging me with
your novelist's knowledge. Oh, I do have one more question: I notice in several
of your novels that each chapter is approximately eight pages long-do you have a
specific chapter length (word count) that you adhere to when writing each
chapter? If so, explain the reasoning behind the specifics.
RST: Indeed you are right, Patricia. My ideal chapter is around 4,000 words.
While I will not cut a chapter short, nor unnecessarily extend it to meet this
goal, I have found the length to be ideal for fantasy readers. The length ends
up being eight to ten pages, depending on the format, and is ideal for a short
read. I try to end my chapters with a situation that encourages the reader to
continue onward, but also a breaking point that allows the reader to close the
book and return to pressing needs. I never want a reader to stop reading in the
middle of a chapter because the burning desire to return to the book may be
lost. If you can leave the reader with a cliffhanger, yet still have some
resolution of the current crisis, you can be assured that the reader will return
to find out what happens next. I think this is increasingly important in a
society where we have to grab small snippets of time to enjoy the finer things
SG: That's it! Again, thank you. I look forward to reading more of your novels.
For those subscribers interested in fantasy, I very highly recommend Richard's
books. You can visit his Web site "Richard S. Tuttle Fantasy Novels"
to learn more about the different fantasy series and to purchase his books.
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