Let’s start with an introduction: Who is W.L. Goodwater?
I’m a writer, software engineer, fencing coach, husband, and dad. I live near the ocean in California and love watching the fog roll in through our eucalyptus trees. We share our lives with a crazy cute toddler, two cats, and piles of books that have long overgrown our bookshelves.
Your debut novel, Breach, will be published by Ace Books in November. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
Breach is half Cold War spy thriller, half fantasy novel, set in divided Germany where the Berlin Wall is made out of magic. The story picks up as the CIA discovers a growing breach in the wall and sends for a magical researcher to help them stop WWIII. It is the first book in the Cold War Magic series and introduces our hero: Karen O’Neil, a young and talented magician working at the Office of Magical Research and Deployment, who has to navigate existential magical threats and the prejudice of her male coworkers.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I love great storytelling in any format and am often inspired when reading, watching a movie, or playing a video game. For Breach, the inspiration mostly came from reading John le Carré and watching Agent Carter on TV.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
My fourth grade teacher read The Hobbit to our class and I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next as he read it, so I checked it out from the library and raced ahead. I think I read it five times that year. A little bit later, another teacher brought in a paper bag full of fantasy novels her son had before he left for college. I remember grabbing Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman and loving it (even though it was the second book in the series and I was really confused about what was going on).
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I’ve had a wonderful first experience with the industry. It can be tough, coming in as an inexperienced amateur into the professional world of publishing, but the team at Ace and Penguin Random House have been great, leading me patiently through the process of edits, book cover design, marketing copy, speaking and signing at San Diego Comic Con and WorldCon, and doing interviews like this one! Once you sign the book deal, the book goes from something you alone have created to a team effort, and I’ve got a really great team.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I am a firm believer in writing outlines. The story usually comes to me in bits and pieces, maybe a scene I know I want to include, or a character I really like. But turning those fragments into a book is hard enough to do without also having to write well, so I like to break that process up. First write an outline that no one else will see, then use that as the roadmap for the actual novel.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I’ve had this crazy ambition for a long time. In the first grade, I remember starting a detective story. I didn’t know what the mystery was my private investigator had to solve, but I knew he had a cool hat. Sadly that work of art hasn’t survived the intervening years, but I’d still love to write a noir detective novel someday.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
There are so many great writers doing amazing things in fantasy right now that it is hard to keep up with all the books I want to read. The pool of authors in the genre has become so wonderfully diverse and the stories we get to read have become so much better for it. It is a joy to read books like N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy or Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba series. As a writer joining the genre at this stage, I want to make sure my stories and my characters continue to move the conversation about diversity, inclusiveness, and representation forward.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Right now I am working on the sequel to Breach, which will come out next year. If the series proves popular, I can see many more magical Cold War adventures in the future.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’m lucky enough to have an advance copy of Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago (comes out May 2019) which is just stunning, as most of his books are. I’m also listening to the audiobook of David Mack’s The Midnight Front and working through Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana for research.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It is a bleak book – too bleak for many people, I’m sure – but he is just a master of prose style. No elegant descriptions could evoke the ruined world of this story as well as does McCarthy’s stark, clipped sentences and muted dialogue. The relationship between the man and his son, the novel’s main – and often only – characters, still haunts me years after reading it.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
It seems like blasphemy to admit this as a fantasy writer, but I’ve never read Harry Potter. Maybe when my son is a little older we can read them together.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
It is scary at the same time, but I’m really looking forward to hearing how readers react to Breach and the sequel I’m currently working on.