Welcome to the (better?) half of last weeks guest — Nathan Squires! 🙂
Nathan Squiers (The Literary Dark Emperor and the author formally known as “Prince”) is a resident of Upstate New York. Living with his loving fiancé/fellow author, Megan J. Parker, and two incredibly demanding and out-of-control demon-cats, Nathan lives day-by-day on a steady diet of potentially lethal doses of caffeine. When he isn’t immersed in his writing, he often escapes reality through horror and/or action movie marathons, comic books & graphic novels, Japanese anime & manga, and gnarly tunes. While out-and-about, The Literary Dark Emperor can be found in the chair of a piercing studio/tattoo parlor or simply loving life with friends & loved ones.
When did you start writing and why?
I’ve been writing to some degree or another since I first learned how to write. At that time, however—due to a limited vocabulary (or so I tell myself now)—my writing frequently flowed seamlessly between words and pictures. At that time, and throughout the years to the present, I felt driven to share the stories in my mind with whoever was daring enough to lend me their interest. There’s a lot of “why” behind my motives, but the most relevant being that I’ve always thrived off of the entertainment of others.
Since then, my affinity for writing has grown to what the public now knows me for (my drawing skills, however, are not much better than they were when I was seven…)
If you are a parent how does being a parent affect your writing and writing habits? Or does it?
There has yet to be the pitter-patter of Literary Dark younglings in the lair, but I have to imagine that, once that day is upon me, my writing will grow evermore visceral and grim lol
Who is your favorite author and why?
While there’s a slew of literary minds that I’m fond of, my most common response to this question has been Rob Thurman. Rob (short for Robyn; yes, she is a she—I found this out, ironically enough, after consulting her via email in my teen years from one of her future titles’ About the Author) is the author of the “Nightlife” series—a gnarly reimagining & hybrid of mythology and fairy tale lore combined into something far more terror-inducing and set in the modern-day world. Aside from the freshness of her technique (which inspired me to create my own mythology for my own writing), Rob Thurman brings a variety of voice and tone to a cast of deep and compelling characters. Aside from her writing style, she is an incredibly down-to-Earth and personable person who genuinely understands and caters to her readers.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
Total and complete world domination.
Just kidding (or am I?)
Actually, when you boil away a lot of the personal payoff that venting my innermost thoughts and ideas it really becomes a matter of entertaining and enlightening. Every author—hell, every artist—has the drive to accomplish one (if not both) of these. Sure, recognition is gnarly, and earning enough coin to live off of is ideal, but if high school taught me anything it’s that popularity and wealth very rarely add up to a person driven to make people happy.
Truthfully, I just hope to entertain people. And, if amidst the literary journey, they stumble across a nugget of wisdom that they decide to take away with them, then I get the pleasure of knowing that I’ve passed something meaningful on to them.
Traditional or Self publishing? Why?
*shrug* Two sides of one coin, really. Traditional publishing seems to represent some grand goal to every aspiring writer—dreams of cracking open the acceptance to Penguin bouncing about their noggins as they plot their tales—but, when push comes to shove, a reader isn’t going to be any more entertained by a piece put out by a well-funded company than they would a well-written self-published piece. The only difference between the two (in the total scheme of things) is the funding that drives it.
Traditional publishing, however, makes its money by following two powerful concepts: (1) only accept what they know will be marketable, and (2) make the owners of the wallets they’re borrowing from happy.
Now, the first rule makes sense (after all, what’s the point in putting out something if everyone involved isn’t in agreement that people will LIKE it), but that second one has a tendency to trip up hopeful writers. The name of the game is commercialism, and if the people paying for the book to be published want to see a change, then changes can—and will—be made. I’ve heard of entire manuscripts being accepted on the grounds that a character be created and worked throughout the piece simply to appeal to a target demographic (yes, they will ask an author to COMPLETELY rewrite a piece to include a new character on the hope that it will appeal more to another group of potential readers) or they would walk from the piece entirely. The same has been done with content and themes and messages.
In the end the question is this: is such a sacrifice worth it?
There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to the question; it’s all a matter of who’s holding the contract and what they feel is right for them and their work.
For me, it’s just a matter of content. A great deal of my work is driven by visceral, vulgar, or otherwise upsetting subject material that some might want removed/altered just to make share-holders happy, but all of these elements (while, yes, shocking and gut-wrenching) exist as more than just shock value; they are, in fact, integral and plot-driving points that would destroy the story if removed.
I just care too much about my work to allow somebody to have the option to change it, but I won’t stand over others and dictate that my way is the way.
Talk about your journey into the wide world of publishing
Moral of the story: behind every successful man is a woman with a pitchfork aimed at his butt refusing to let him back down.
That’s probably not entirely accurate, but bear with me as I backtrack:
I started writing the piece that would become “Noir”—book #1 of the Crimson Shadow series—when I was in my mid-teens. While writing that, I often side-tracked and wrote short stories, poetry, comic book scripts, and whatever else struck me as a worthwhile project to bridge the lazy gaps between the last emotional breakdown I’d suffered in writing the book (LOTS of personal elements went into that piece that were difficult to relive) and being ready to tackle the manuscript yet again. When I finished “Noir”, I went on to book #2, “Sins of the Father”, and, when that was done, on to book #3, “Love you to Death”. When I hit a snag with the plotline of book #4 of the Crimson Shadow series, I set it aside, not allowing a case of writers block to cripple the process of writing, and began a new project I’d been playing with: “Death Metal” (what would later become “Curtain Call: A Death Metal Novel” when a death threat from a reader pending a sequel motivated me to reconsider the piece as simply a one-shot book; you don’t get much more metal than being threatened by a member of your audience).
Right about now I imagine that anybody reading this is grumbling to themselves, “This is all lovely, but what does it have to do with the publishing process?”
My response: Nothing.
In the nearly ten years that I’d been writing/accumulating vast numbers of pieces—pieces, mind you, that were not only finished, but meticulously edited and polished to submission level—I didn’t wholeheartedly pursue publication.
I was too scared.
Hell, I was outright terrified of what the world would have to say when I slapped down my thoughts and offered them up to the masses.
So for nearly ten years I published nothing, but I convinced myself that hours-upon-hours of tedious research into the industry would better equip me to “someday” take that step.
Enter the moral of the story (see, there was a point to all this).
Fed up with my nervousness, my fiancé presented me with an ultimatum: either get my butt in gear and publish something or retire my proverbial quill pen (the logic being that I couldn’t aspire to entertain an audience that I was never going to reach).
Less than a week later, I self-published “Death Metal”.
And, despite all my fears and concerns, people actually liked it!
Confidence, as is usually the case, was what was needed to get me into the game. A few more queries later—now boasting the popularity of “Death Metal” and the (pardon the term) “aura” of confidence that was no-doubt swirling about the submissions and demanding attention—and I started seeing responses and, eventually, acceptance.
What my fiancé (who is also an established author now; Megan J. Parker – look her up and love her) did for me was strip away the GREATEST handicap that any aspiring writer has to face: themselves.
Tell us about your book(s)
For starters, I’d like to say that ALL of my work thus far—as well as Megan J. Parker’s work—takes place in the same world. Over the years, she and I collaborated on a custom-built mythology that’s set in a modern-day, real world setting, and by the time we were satisfied with the world we’d created (what we call the “mythos universe”) there was no way to discern who was responsible for what aspect. It just exists as our mutual creation and use it as a level playing field for our individual stories to play out (though, to be honest, the characters from one’s work can—and will—cross paths with those from another’s).For my work, however, I’ll actually start with the most recently written/“lightest” piece first for simplicity’s sake:
“Curtain Call: A Death Metal Novel” is about an up-and-coming heavy metal band, Bloodtones—which is comprised of a group that isn’t all human; sporting a werewolf-like being (called a “therion”) on lead guitar, a wizard/sorcerer/“magic man” on bass, and a very vulgar vampire drummer—that faces an otherworldly crisis when their lead singer, Bekka, is, for lack of a better word, “possessed”. While the initial possession isn’t harmful (in fact, it makes for some pretty gnarly new abilities) it has motivated the source of the entities to try to get them back. However, as the band finds out early on, separating Bekka from the entities would be fatal, so the goal of finding an alternative while being perpetually targeted by other “possessed” bystanders who now operate as assassins for the other side. Obviously this is all a great deal of stress to put on a group, and, with the growing threat to both their music and their lives, the threat of them no longer operating as a unit grows, as well. A great deal of the motivation behind DM was my love of music and, moreover, my fascination with the concept of individual efforts—a rhythmic drum beat or simple bass line or basic guitar riff—could add up to something that is so much more. I wanted to take the concept of the band and disassemble it to its core parts and illustrate just how much each element—each member—impacts the whole.
The Crimson Shadow series (what will amount to a seven book saga with dozens of short stories further delving into the “big picture”) is about Xander Stryker, a young “man” who, after witnessing the assault and murder of his mother by his abusive stepfather, has grown suicidal. Nearing his 18th birthday, however, truths about his long-since murdered father surface and he finds out that he is, in fact, part auric vampire (a species that feeds from psychic and emotional energy)—though, strangely enough, is unable to fully tap into his auric potential (plot device)—and, because of his bizarre limitations despite his lineage, is offered the chance to be turned into a “sangsuiga” (another breed of vampire that, like the traditional Western lore, feeds off of blood) so that he can live the legacy he was always meant to. Being a self-loathing and bitter-to-his-own-race young man, he eagerly accepts and is instantly reborn into even more tragedy. As the series unfolds, Xander suffers further loss, finds love, and begins to shape what will ultimately become a legacy that will change the world forever. While, on the surface, the Crimson Shadow series has a very comic book/Japanese anime feel with the butt-kicking, monster hunter gnarliness that have made movies like Blade and Underworld so popular, it is also a coming-of-age story that forces a tortured mind to rise above past tragedies to make something great of itself. Though book #1, “Noir”, isn’t necessarily romantic, it serves as a stepping stone to allow for the romance introduced in book #2, “Sins of the Father”, to blossom with the strength that I’d always intended for the couple (I believe strongly that one cannot fully love another until they can learn to love themselves, and Xander being self-destructive wasn’t a burden that I—or he, for that matter—would want to burden somebody with). When I’d first sat down to write the piece, I was initially planning to write a “creative” suicide letter about another young man (I hated myself enough to not even want to write about myself *rolls eyes*) who wanted to die because of his own painful past. However, as the story grew more complex, I became more and more enthralled with telling Xander’s story (if for no other benefit than my own), and decided to write his story as one of success; one where he achieved what I felt I never could. In the process of writing a character who found the strength to live, however, I was forced to adopt the same mindset, and by the time I had finished that book he’d saved not only himself, but me. It was this level of personal commitment to the Crimson Shadow series that was the initial hurdle in the submitting process, because, while it wasn’t me on the pages, it was my pain, and that represented a very personal (and very vulnerable) piece of myself to reveal to the masses.
What inspired you to write these books (or in this genre)?
As I’ve inadvertently answered the first half of this question in the previous one, I’ll jump straight to the second. My genre(s) are a hybrid of dark urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and occult horror that utilize a technique that many refer to as “cinematic literacy” (basically a process of using both pacing and description to create a scene that the reader can visualize; making the reading process almost seem like they’re watching a movie). The motivation behind this style, I suppose, is rooted to a childhood that was spent immersed in comic books and action/horror movies. Because so much of what entertains me is tied to comics/manga, movies, and anime (all of which add up to a combination of exaggerated, visually-stunning, and over-the-top visuals of choreographed fights and mayhem), I was inclined to funnel these attributes onto the pages of my writing. Factor in my love of philosophy and an obsession with psychology, and you have the ingredients for The Literary Dark Emperor’s genre.
Tell us why we should love or hate your main character?
I think that Xander Stryker represents a concept that, deep down, everybody can connect to. While I won’t say that this is a good thing, I’m confident that everybody has fear and doubt and moments of self-loathing and animosity towards the world, and that part of us is something that we love to hate and hate to love. We love that it compels us to push forward and strive for change, but, at the same time, we hate how crippled we feel under the weight of what we perceive as failure. I think that Xander, despite being a vampire and having all of the strengths and powers that their kind have, has a great deal of humanity that allows a reader to not only relate to, but also ascend into a place where they can feel stronger and more powerful. Beyond all of the metaphorical mumbo-jumbo, I feel that ladies will love Xander’s tough-yet-tortured character (something that allows them to feel both protected AND able to nurture), and I think that men will enjoy that, when the time comes to kick some ass, Xander does so with a bestial ferocity and blood-drenched intensity that reminds them to their favorite action/horror flicks.
Do(es) your book(s) have a soundtrack?
All of my books have an ever-growing list of songs that mirror the tone and theme of the piece. However, rather than listing off bands and tracks, I’d like to invite readers to visit my website at nathansquiers.com, where—upon the re-releases of previously published pieces and the releases of new ones—the tracks for the playlists for each book will be provided and, technology granting, playable.