Today I'd like to welcome Josh Vogt to the blog. His latest novel, The Maids of Wrath, comes out on April 11th. Read on to find out why he writes about janitors and maids, how outlining works for him, and which author he'd like to have dinner with.
You've written books featuring dwarves, janitors, and maids. What draws you to 'every day' characters as opposed to larger-than-life characters?
I like taking what we might think of a “ordinary” or mundane people and either stick them in strange situations or shift something about them to make ordinary situations somehow weird or twisted out of true. Partially, it’s just how my mind works. When I see normal people and scenarios, I tend to imagine how things might not be exactly how they seem. Also, it’s just fun to throw a wrench in the reality we’re familiar with and see exactly how much it smokes and sparks.
With the Cleaners, in particular, I enjoy how much their supernatural sanitation company actually fits with modern society. In urban fantasy, a big question is “If there’s magic or mythical creatures in modern day, how do they go unnoticed?” This is my answer, that they conceal themselves in roles few people pay much attention to out in the real world. They’re everywhere, and everyone accepts they have a right to be.
How do you manage your freelance work with fiction writing and other activities? Are there any time management skills you'd like to share?
Actually, I’ve moved back to a full-time job as an editor for Paizo, which publishes the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (and one of my debut novels, Forge of Ashes). I still do a little game freelancing, but otherwise I’m now re-learning how to manage my personal writing around a day job. The structure of it actually help, because I know exactly when my free time is, morning and evening. So if I’m working on a novel, I can set a word count goal for the final draft, a deadline for finishing it, and then I can determine how many words, minimum, I’d need to write in a week or per day. Having deadlines and concrete goals definitely help me.
Plus, having at least an hour or two a day committed to nothing but writing helps me keep that blocked out. I also use programs like Freedom and Anti-Social to turn off levels of internet connectivity if I find myself getting too distracted.
On your website you said you've used The Snowflake Method for virtually every novel you've written. How do you keep your WIP fresh and exciting after outlining it in detail? What do you think is the biggest benefit from outlining, and what do you think is the biggest pitfall?
When I outline, yes, I know the intended plot from A to Z, with all major and a few minor characters sketched out. However, when I get into actually writing it, I may come to a scene on the outline that says “Character A argues with Character B, which gets them captured.” I won’t necessarily know what they’re arguing about or how they get captured, so there’s plenty of discovery and wiggle room left in the process that keeps it fun. I still give myself the ability to go off-track a certain amount, shift scenes around, introduce unplanned characters, and the like. But the biggest benefit of outlining, for me, is focus. I know where I’m aiming to reach next in the story.
As far as the biggest pitfall? I’d say inflexibility. Not giving yourself enough breathing space to adapt on the way. To me, an outline is a general map, but it’s not chiseled in stone.
You can have dinner with any author, living or deceased. Who would it be, and why?
Tough one. It’d have to be Ray Bradbury or Terry Pratchett. Bradbury inspired me with his themes of hope, joy, and dreams, with characters who felt so incredibly real and raw. Pratchett, on the other hand, is the only author who has ever made me weep from laughter. He inspired my love of writing humor, which I now bring into a lot of my stories. At the same time, he wrestled with very real issues, making people laugh while see things from new perspectives at the same time.
You can go back in time to when you first started writing. What advice would you give to your past self?
Don’t let your first three novel manuscripts be a trilogy. Don’t invest in a series until the first one is under contract, and even then, try to make it as standalone as possible. Back then, I figured since most fantasy books were becoming trilogies, I should see if I could actually write a full one. But that’s two whole extra books written for something that never actually got published (and, yes, for good reason). I could’ve moved on and played with unique ideas in that time. Nowadays, unless you’re planning to self- or indie-pub your own series, never assume the first book selling is a sure thing.
Author and editor Josh Vogt’s work covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes, published alongside his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. He’s an editor at Paizo, a Scribe Award finalist, and a member of both SFWA and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt.