Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Evan Winter?
Evan Winter is the son of Guyanese parents, Guyana being a country in South America that is often associated more closely with the Caribbean islands than its continental neighbors. My parents were an engineer/teacher and a teacher. I was born in London, England, where my father was completing his Masters in Chemical Engineering and then it was off to Zambia, in Central Africa, where I spent my youth. So, who am I: I’m an immigrant several times over who hails from one continent, was born on another, grew up in a third, and now lives on a fourth. I feel very much a person of the world and firmly believe that we are all far more alike than we are different.
Your debut novel, The Rage of Dragons, will be published by Orbit in July. It looks really cool: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
The Rage of Dragons is book 1 of 4 in a series that is commonly pitched as Game of Thrones meets Gladiator. It’s my love song to the genre I read growing up, to the books that were part of defining who I am and how I view the world. The series is my attempt to recreate the magic, wonder, and thrill I have whenever I sit down with a book that manages to whisk me away to an entirely new and different world where, somehow, I’m still able to learn a bit more about myself and the human condition. Also, with so many distractions and things that need to be done in our daily lives, my ultimate goal was to make the time you spend in my world feel like time well spent. I wanted to tell a story with propulsion. I want each page to call to the reader like the sirens of myth. When I read, I want stories that don’t let go. When I’m writing, I want to tell a story that does the same.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I draw inspiration for my writing from life, the news, history, and, particularly, from my experiences as a Black man and immigrant who never really knew the land in which my parents were born. This series is me doing what I can to better understand myself and the world today. It’s an attempt to take all the feelings and conflicts that I have within myself and to pour them out into a story that sees me for who I am and that attempts to speak to the universality in us all. It’s about belonging, estrangement, violence, obsession, place, and birthright. It’s about power and systems that seek to exclude some of us from ever having power. It’s about both the dreams and horrors of the 21st century when viewed from the perspective of a bronze-age swordsman in a secondary world.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
My mother loved to read, I’m named after a writer, and there were always books in the house. I’m not sure how fantasy became my thing but it did and it never let go. In my reading, I’ve dabbled in science fiction, in more general speculative fiction, but fantasy is the love, the passion, the desire.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I’m still very new to writing and publishing professionally, but the thing that’s been the most amazing is meeting other professionals (both writers and publishers). I’m with Orbit US and UK and everyone I’ve met has a passion for the work. Talking to them, and working with them is like being at a fantasy convention with a whole bunch of other fantasy fans. They feel like my people in so many wonderful ways and I’m fortunate to work with Brit Hvide as my US editor and Emily Byron as my UK editor. The Rage of Dragons began life as a self-published book and I signed with Orbit after speaking with Brit because I believed that she could help me be better than I could be on my own.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I outline extensively because, prior to writing full time, I worked in film for a decade and a half and come from a background of storyboarding and shot listing. As an example, my outline for book 2 is 100 pages long and I find that by outlining I never get writer’s block, which doesn’t mean the writing process is flawless. I still struggle with resistance and sometimes it’s hard to get myself to sit down and write and feeling that resistance is so strange since I love writing. But, it’s still tough to get started each day. So, my ultimate goal is to turn writing into a 7-day/week 365 day/year habit. I don’t have to write 3k words each day, but I do need to write at least 3 words each day. I want the habit. I want it to be as ingrained as brushing my teeth. I want to feel icky if I don’t do it.
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?
The first thing I can remember wanting to do was write. I know that’s cliché. I know that in many of the creative arts, people who get to do the work professionally often say that they’ve always wanted to do it, but maybe there really is something to that cause when other kids wanted to be police or firepeople, I wanted to write stories. And, as I grew up, I acted (got my union card too), became a filmmaker, and basically tried to be part of storytelling in every way I knew how except for the way I was actually meant to do it. I think it scared me to try it. I think it seemed impossible and unattainable. Then, I hit a weird place in life and ran face first into the realization that one day I would die and I didn’t want that to happen without me having written. So, I sat down and wrote The Rage of Dragons.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
It’s probably too hard for me to have any reasonable sense of where my work fits into the genre because I’m too close to it, but the genre itself feels like it’s thriving to me. We have new sub-genres, we have disgustingly talented writers creating stories that are deep, multifaceted, and a real reflection of the actual world. As a fan, I find that Fantasy is in a wonderful place.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m focused on finishing books 2, 3, and 4. I do have vague ideas of other projects and they excite me in an abstract kind of way. However, this series is very tangible. It feels like it lives in my head at all times and I’ll be driving, doing dishes, hanging out or whatever and scenes will play out in my head, lines of dialogue bubbling up, fully formed, and it’s not unusual for me to scrabble about for my phone so I can jot things down before they’re gone.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
At the moment, I’m reading Will Wight’s Underlord. It’s book 6 in his Cradle series which is a helluva lot of fun.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
This is so terribly hard… uhm… lemme see. Only one novel or book? I didn’t grow up with these books. In fact, I haven’t read the last few, but because they got my son into reading seriously, and because he wants to be a writer in no small part due to Rowling’s world and characters, I will suggest reading Harry Potter. There’s magic, wonder, and an entire world to explore. It’s a tale of friendship, humanity, decency, and the dangerous allure of evil. My 7-year old is on book 6 right now and he’s pushed himself to be able to read better and better because of the power of Rowling’s story. Yeah, read that one, I can already see that Hogwarts, Harry, Hermione, and Ron will always be a part of my son’s life and there’s power and a responsibility in that and we should all experience how that can be done successfully.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I used to be double-jointed and could, literally, skip with my arms. Like, really, I could skip with my arms in place of ropes.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I think The Rage of Dragons’s US hardcover launch date of July 16, 2019 features pretty loud and large in my life. 🙂
It will be a frozen moment in time, when I get to first touch that hard cover.
Stefan, thank you very much for the questions and for the opportunity to answer them. Thinking up the answers was helpful and grounding for me and I hope they have some value for you as well.
Author Photo by Vivian Hui