Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Troy Carrol Bucher?
Former marathon runner. Former resident of Arizona. Soon to be former Lieutenant Colonel. Served in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Your debut novel, Lies of Descent, is due to be published by DAW in August. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
It’s the first of three books in the coming-of-age story of two characters, Riam and Nola. While it begins along the lines of the typical hero’s journey, things soon spiral in very different directions for the protagonists. It’s an otherworld fantasy, in a place where the gods fell from the heavens and fought long ago. It has a bit of military flavour, since it is loosely centered around the regiments that remain from the Fallen Gods’ War. So that’s were the story begins, with Riam and Nola plucked from their homes to serve in the regiments that remain. Whether or not they ever get to serve, or if they even should… well, those are for the reader to find out.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I set out to write the kind of book I enjoy reading. But stories and characters develop a mind of their own, and as I wrote the book, rather than fight it, I let them decide where to go. It wasn’t the journey I expected. I think that’s what readers will feel — that this feels familiar at first and then doesn’t go the way expected. The inspiration comes from so many places: The high deserts and reservations of Arizona, the back streets of Ankara, Turkey, a dash of Albania, and of course my military experience.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
My love of Science Fiction and Fantasy began with my Mother. I grew up in a rural area of Arizona, so the few kids around lived a fair bit away from each other. There was, however, never a time when there wasn’t a stack of books in the house. My mother devoured them all: Bradley, Donaldson, Saberhagen, Cherryh, McCaffery, and so many others. I picked up Tolkein in the 4th grade and never stopped reading. My library at home has well over two thousand books in it. Mom’s in her 70s now and she puts me to shame. I can’t keep up with her. She goes through two or three books a week. It also didn’t hurt that I grew up next to an aspiring renaissance fair blacksmith who was into martial arts and read the same books.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love working with DAW. To be honest, it wasn’t where I thought I’d land, but I am very happy I did. My editor, Sheila Gilbert, has been like family from day one, and she’s allowed my input into what seems like every facet of the book’s creation. Plus there is getting a fabulous artist like Ryan Pancoast to paint the cover. (If you’re not familiar with him, you should be, he’s done a ton of Magic the Gathering cards.) We had a flurry of messages back and forth to get the cover as close as possible to the scene it represents. I’m in awe of his talent and ability. Years ago I was a slush reader for a small press, and I’ve done some editing with fellow DAW author Joshua Palmatier, so not all of the process was new to me.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Turn the monitor off for the first draft. Put a towel over it if you have an iMac. Whatever you need to do to banish the part of your brain that forces you to try and write perfect sentences, that tells you to go back and fix the typos and misspellings before moving on. Also, variety really is spice of life. I write in multiple locations to keep from getting stale. I typically only edit and revise in the home office.
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 always liked writing, but hated my English classes. When I was young, I spent a lot of time on my grandmother’s typewriter (I’m dating myself, but there were no home computers back then). I’d watch old movies like Sinbad or Jason and Argonauts and then try and type the story the way I thought it should’ve gone. Fast forward to the spring of 1993. I was going to Northern Arizona University and majoring in Computer Science and Engineering. I was sitting in Calculus II class, and the teacher was going over slope fields. I had a moment of clarity, a vision, an epiphany… whatever you want to call it. I wanted to write fiction, not code. I closed my book, packed my things up, and walked out. I changed my Major to English that day and never looked back. From there I took a long and winding road, but it eventually led to a Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University where they focus on genre writing and the business of writing.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I think Fantasy is getting darker. There’s a lot more of what they now call “grimdark” around these days, although it’s been around long before we had to subcategorize it. Maybe it’s a reflection of the political climate. Maybe it’s because people are more acutely aware that there isn’t always a happy ending. Maybe it’s a British influence on American Fantasy. Maybe we’ve all traded in the romantic side of sword and sorcery for a dose of realism. Look at the popularity of Game of Thrones — war, greed and sharpened steel do not make for happy endings where everyone comes away unharmed.
In truth, I expected my writing to be a little darker than it came out, but I found that while there are dark spots, there is hope for something better… for fixing what is broken. Just don’t expect the characters to come away unscathed and dance down the yellow brick road.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Besides book two of The Fallen Gods’ War? No. I’m entirely focused on that. Did you hear that DAW? Completely focused.
Okay, it looks clear. I don’t think they’re listening. Yes, I have another series on the back burner. I pull it out every now and then to keep it simmering. It’s a bit different than Lies of Descent. For one, the protagonist is a 62-year-old woman, and it’s set in a very different world that is far less focused on the nature of gods or good and evil. I’ll give you the pitch:
“One week after giving birth to an heir, High Marshal Anthea Montrel wisely agreed to abdicate her position and disappear forever. In return, the assassin sent by her husband and her advisors elected not to kill her. Twenty-eight years later she must return from the dead and wrest control from her disappointing son in order to save a people who despise her from the war she already lost.”
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
Fantasy. Peter McLean’s Priest of Lies — the follow up to Priest of Bones. He’s a fantastic writer. It’s the Sopranos of Sword and Sorcery, and I am thoroughly enjoying the motives and endeavours of one Thomas Piety and his crew. If you like Fonda Lee’s Jade City, you’ll love Pete’s work.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
Wow. That is such a hard question. Fantasy or Science Fiction? Dark or Light? Epic or Sword and Sorcery? Alternate History or Otherworld? Series or stand-alone? Okay… okay… The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. There’s a reason it’s on like its millionth printing.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I’m an extreme extrovert. I love meeting people and make lifelong friends in elevators. So if you see me at a Con, feel free to come up and chat.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I retire from the Army after 30 years of service in a couple months. Actually it will be 30 years, 6 months, and 13 days, but who’s counting, right? I’ve always said I would complete an Army career to finance the start of my writing career. It simply took a few more years, and a few more wars, than expected.
Troy Carrol Bucher’s Lies of Descent is due to be published in North America next week (20th) by DAW Books.