Frank Tuttle is the author of several books—all available in Kindle editions—and runs Frank’s Sporadic Blog with Fries. In his own words, “I rant. I rave. I spew all manner of questionable prose and suspect supposition. But maybe, just maybe, I’m right, at least some of the time. I invite you to read and judge for yourself.” Well, I read and I judged, and I found him to be right not some, but most of the time—at least from my equally opinionated perspective. Thinking him to be a rather interesting fellow, I asked that he participate in the following interview. And so we begin . . .
SLP: Tell us a bit about yourself, Frank. Where and when were you born?
I was born in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1963. Which due to a local temporal anomaly makes me much younger than my current age.
SLP: Where were you raised?
Right here in Oxford. On a cotton farm, for the most part. My younger brother and I grew up driving tractors and chopping 80 acres of cotton in the sun. But we also ran wild and fished and had dogs so it was a pretty good place for a kid to be.
SLP: Where were you educated?
Some would argue that I wasn’t educated, or at least only to a very small extent, but I attended Lafayette County High School, and Northwest Mississippi Community College.
SLP: Where do you currently reside?
FT: In Oxford. Well, actually in a tiny rural community outside Oxford called Yocona, right on the farm I mentioned earlier, though now it’s not a farm. I like to think of it all a small wildlife preserve.
SLP: Other than writing, what is your principal occupation?
FT: I am the Operations Supervisor for the University of Mississippi IT Data Center.
SLP: What genres appeal to you as both writer and reader?
FT: I write fantasy. I read fantasy, SF, detective fiction, humor, and a lot of non-fiction science stuff.
SLP: What writers have most influenced your work?
FT: Roger Zelazny. Tolkien. Chandler. Pratchett. Odd mix, isn’t it?
SLP: Have you considered other forms of writing such as screenwriting, travel writing, etc.?
FT: I’ve done some humor in my blog, and I even had a newspaper column once. But now I’ve barely got time to keep up with my Markhat novels. And what little I’ve heard about the film-making industry and the chaos therein prevents me from even daydreaming about such a thing.
SLP: Do you write primarily at home?
FT: Strictly at home. For better or worse, I have evolved into a creature of habit. I need my chair, my PC, my music, my study, my red coffee cup. And my dogs. The dogs are my writing partners.
SLP: Do you also write in public places such as coffee shops, etc.?
FT: Aside from emails and maybe something short like a blurb or a bio, nope. I’m too busy watching people and listening in on their private conversations to write.
SLP: When is your most productive writing time, morning or evening?
FT: I write after my day job. I’ve tried to get up early in the morning and write. Here’s what I write after waking up: “The.” And that’s it. I am not a morning person, in much the same way the sea is not above the sky.
SLP: Do you set aside specific times to write? If so, when?
FT: Right after supper. And on Saturdays, after house maintenance and so forth is done, and on Sunday afternoons.
SLP: Do you feel you have sufficient time to write?
FT: Nope. I need a 28 hour day so I could have a solid four extra hours each day just to write.
SLP: How many hours per day do you devote to writing?
FT: A couple, usually, with more on Saturday and if I’m lucky three or four hours on Sunday evenings.
SLP: If possible would you like to write full time, or do you have other overriding interests?
FT: I’d love to write full time. I could see myself being very happy starting at 9 and stopping at 6, five days a week. If someone out there would like to sign up as a financial sponsor, email me at once.
SLP: Do you usually enjoy the process of writing, or is it more work than fun?
FT: When it’s going well, it’s a blast. When I’m editing or stuck, it’s a horrific crawl through shards of broken, acid-covered glass. Literally. I need to sweep the study. That’s a joke, but only partly. Having a project go awry on you is a bad experience. Having one emerge triumphant is a genuine high.
SLP: Do you feel compelled to write, or is it a hobby?
FT: Writing – and by writing I mean writing with commercial ends in mind – is work. Way more work than any hobby. If I wasn’t compelled at some level I’d have stopped years ago; I’m a naturally lazy person.
SLP: When and how did your interest in writing first manifest itself?
FT: I was a kid, and I was reading something, and it dawned on me I could do just as well as the guy I was reading. Which was a mistake – at that time I couldn’t – but after years of practice, I got there.
SLP: Do you have any other creative outlets such as music, dance, or graphic arts?
FT: Dance? Oh man no. I am in fact prohibited from any attempt at dance by a little-known Federal law. But I am pretty good at building things – furniture, telescopes, you name it. I just don’t have the time for that lately.
SLP: Do you primarily write on a computer? If so, laptop or desktop?
FT: I write on a desktop PC, using Word. I’ve got a fancy keyboard (a Saitek gaming keyboard, with great-feeling keys and backlighting). I even have a gaming mouse, which comes in handy when I’m tracking down and deleting dangling participles.
SLP: Do you carry a notebook or gadget for note taking?
FT: I’ve got a netbook for email, web surfing, and entering odd notes when I’m on the go.
SLP: Are you a serious note-taker?
FT: I have a pretty good memory, so I don’t yet need to write everything down.
SLP: Do you have a daily goal as to how much you write?
FT: My goal is this – I write as much as I can. I try to do a thousand words a day. More if I can. But 1K a day will get things done – that’s only 3 months to rough out a full-blown novel. Not bad at all. Even allowing another three months to whip the rough into shape, that’s still two complete novels a year.
SLP: Do you have a specific technique for priming the pump for the next day’s writing?
FT: I do! I start with some loud, angry music – AC/DC or Billy Idol or Black Sabbath. Then I re-read what I wrote the previous day, make any corrections needed. Then I turn off the tunes and get started.
SLP: How do you deal with writer’s block?
FT: Write through it. Write crap if you have to. Crap can be deleted. Sometimes it can even be saved. Just keep writing.
SLP: How much do you read?
FT: When I’m working on a novel, I read things that are out of that field. Writing a fantasy novel? I read hard-boiled detective stuff. I don’t read nearly as much when I’m writing as I do when I’m editing.
SLP: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
FT: Zelazny, Glen Cook, Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison.
SLP: What are you currently reading?
FT: Evidence of the Afterlife by Jeffrey Long. Also Unseen Academicals, by Pratchett, depending on my mood.
SLP: What would you estimate to be the ratio of fiction to nonfiction?
FT: I’d say 3 to 1, fiction to nonfiction.
SLP: When discovering a book you’ve begun isn’t to your liking do you feel compelled to finish it?
FT: Usually. I like to see if they fix it, or try and figure out why it fell apart.
SLP: Do you prefer reading ebooks, or paper books?
FT: I love reading on my Kindle! I think it’s my favorite method.
SLP: Now, on to your Wistril Compleat anthology. Were the Wistril stories originally released individually?
FT: They were. I only put them in anthology format recently.
SLP: Do you have a personal favorite among the three?
FT: I like ‘Wistril Afloat’ best, I think, but that’s because I’ve always been fascinated with lake monsters. Too, there are some funny lines in that one.
SLP: Do you have plans for a Wistril sequel? If so, do you envision it as a novel or something shorter?
FT: I have a partially-completed novella entitled ‘Wistril Ascendant.’ In this one, Wistril single-handedly introduces powered heavier-than-air flight to his world, and he does it using absolutely no magic of any kind. I need to finish it, and after that I’d like to write a Wistril novel. I’ve had several readers email and ask for one.
SLP: Was the project a stop-and-start affair over a considerable period, or did you work on it till finished?
FT: Oh, I wrote each of the Wistril stories pretty quickly, back in the 90s. But there were long gaps between them.
SLP: Approximately how long did the book take?
FT: If you ignore the gaps between the stories, probably about a month. Maybe a year or two if you count the gaps. I was slower back then.
SLP: Were you blocked at any point while writing the stories?
FT: I had a lot of trouble in those days. It took me a long time to learn my ‘Write through writer’s block’ rule.
SLP: Which proved the most difficult?
They were all pretty easy to write. Wistril and Kern are a lot of fun to work with.
SLP: Were the stories written in the order in which they appear in the book?
FT: They were.
SLP: On the whole, do you consider your stories primarily character-driven?
FT: Oh yes. The real meat of the Wistril stories is the interaction between the grumpy wizard and his street-wise apprentice. They’re friends, despite all the blustering, and I think that shows in the stories, and touches people.
SLP: Did the characters ever seem to be taking the tales in unforeseen directions?
FT: Yes. Especially in ‘Wistril Betrothed,’ when Wistril starts taking an interest in Lady Emmerbee.
SLP: Is writing basically a linear process for you, or do you work on multiple projects at the same time?
FT: Linear. Very much so. I cannot multitask in that manner. I think if I even tried I would wind up on the floor drooling and rocking back and forth. Again.
SLP: Were there surprises when writing the stories? If so, what were they?
FT: Wistril would say things that surprised me all the time. And the gargoyles emerged as more complicated characters than I thought they ever would, especially since only Wistril can understand their language and all we readers hear is ‘hoot’ when they speak.
SLP: Did you consider different endings for “Betrothed?”
FT: I briefly considered moving the Lady in with Wistril and Kern, but decided that wasn’t really in keeping with either her or Wistril’s natures. So they’ll have a long-distance thing for the time being.
SLP: What would you guess to be the demographic make up of your readers, by which I mean age group, gender and so forth?
FT: Wow. That’s a tough one. Judging strictly from comments sent from readers, I’d guess they are either male or female, of any age. Ha ha. I have absolutely no idea. I do know that the Markhat series has a lot of female fans, which surprised me.
SLP: Before beginning the actual writing, are your stories usually fully plotted, including the ending?
FT: The Wistril stories were, yes. The Markhat series is not. Weird!
SLP: Do you work from an outline?
FT: Only very seldom. ‘Wistril Betrothed’ was done using an outline.
SLP: What do you find most difficult in writing your stories?
FT: I have on occasion written myself into a corner. That’s the biggest risk I face.
SLP: Do they come easily or do you frequently struggle with them?
FT: No, they come pretty easily. Usually at weird times, like in the grocery store or avoiding a car which has drifted into my lane.
SLP: What are your other titles and in what order were they finished?
FT: Okay, only published stuff. Let me see if I can get this right – Night Stand, The Mister Trophy, Passing the Narrows, The Powerful Bad Luck of DD Dupree, The Helpers, The Asking and the Vow, One Such Shore, The Harper At Sea, Dead Man’s Rain, Hold the Dark, The Cadaver Client.
SLP: Should they be read sequentially?
FT: Not at all. Some are dark fantasy, one has been called horror, and anyway you’d have to hunt through back issues of Weird Tales and the like to find many of them. But the Markhat books (The Mister Trophy, Dead Man’s Rain, hold the Dark, and The Cadaver Client) are all available through Amazon or my publisher, Samhain Publishing!
SLP: Do all fall within the fantasy genre?
FT: Yes. Even “Passing the Narrows,” which was called horror, is a fantasy story in my opinion. It’s set after the American Civil war, in a place where magic was used by both sides. That makes it fantasy in my book.
SLP: What’s your next writing project?
FT: The Bonny Bell, a new Markhat novel.
SLP: Is it underway?
FT: Oh yes. Working on it now.
SLP: When do you anticipate finishing it?
FT: With any luck, the end of April of this year.
SLP: Can you offer a ‘high concept’ or brief plot summary?
FT: Sure. Markhat’s new client is Darla, his fiancée. She’s hired him to find a missing groom in time to get him married to a close friend of Darla’s. Markhat is a tough-guy private eye who lives in a world where magic works, and this tale is set amid the preparations for a fancy wedding. So maybe this one IS a horror story.
SLP: What do you believe will be the short- and long-term impact of ebooks on the publishing industry?
FT: E-books and the infrastructure thereof will force changes in the industry – namely by shutting down some publishers and some brick and mortar bookstores. Which is sad. Long term? I think e-books will emerge as the norm, and paper books will still exist, but as luxury items, almost as vinyl LPs do now.
SLP: What do you think of the current publishers’ pricing structure for ebooks?
FT: I’m happy with it. I know there is great hue and cry that e-books should either be free or all cost 99 cents, but if the reading public wants books I’m afraid there are still costs to bear, even with digital editions. I think people will come to accept that.
SLP: Do you currently own an ereader?
FT: Yes I do! A Kindle 2. I love it.
SLP: That does it for the interview portion. Now here’s a sample from Wistril Compleat:
Wistril paced, hands clasped behind his back, small round mouth set in a scowl, eyes fixed firmly on the floor. Occasionally the rotund wizard would mutter to himself, or turn abruptly, as if starting for his desk or the door — but after a pace or three he would turn, ball his fists, and resume his small but determined march.
Kern leaned against the edge of his writing-desk and watched.
“Begone,” muttered Wistril, after a time.
“Master—” began Kern.
“Confound it, Apprentice, get thee hence.” Wistril halted, wiped sweat from his bald head with the sleeve of his wrinkled brown robe, and put his hands on his hips. “You allowed a wumpus arcanis felineae to escape the Castle environs — “
“The wumpus cat will be back, Master,” said Kern, quickly. “It likes the South Tower. All we need do is leave a shutter open.” Kern paused. “Anyway, maybe you should conjure up another one. The missus might like a basket of kittens.”
Wistril’s wet blue eyes narrowed. “Have a care, Apprentice.”
Kern pulled himself upright and met Wistril’s glare. “I do, Master,” he said, quietly. “And I’d be less prone to make insensitive jests if I knew what led you to hurl lightning-bolts at the furniture earlier today.”
Wistril’s scowl deepened. After a moment he reached into his robe, pulled out a folded paper, and thrust it at Kern.
“Read,” growled Wistril. He turned his eyes from the paper, as though it were a thing of horror. “Read it carefully. And apprentice — when you speak of it, as you surely will, let your words be tempered with the depth of my distress.”
Kern took the paper, unfolded it, and read. Wistril stood unmoving before him.
Done, Kern folded the letter, handed it back to Wistril, and walked to stand behind his writing desk. “Master,” he said, “I need to sit down. Won’t you do the same?”
“No,” growled Wistril, his wide face reddening. “I cannot be still. I can not rest, until I have plotted a safe course through this confounded . . .” Wistril flailed with his hands, groping for a word.
“Matrimonial maelstrom?” offered Kern. “Flurry of fiancées? Siege of suitors?”
Wistril threw up his hands, stamped to his own massive, ancient desk, and sank into his wide, worn rolling-chair. Kern shook his head.
“Master,” said Kern. “As painful as this may be, I need to make sure I understand your situation. Oomish isn’t my first tongue, or even my second. May I?”
Defeated, Wistril shrugged.
“The letter appears to be from a Lady Emmerbee Hohnserrat,” said Kern, carefully. “Furthermore, this Lady Emmerbee claims to be — and I must be misreading this part — your fiancée.”
“Correct,” said Wistril, his bald head flushing.
Kern blinked. “Fiancée,” he said, pronouncing the word carefully. “That would imply that you, Master, asked this woman — pardon me, the Lady Hohnserrat — to marry you.”
“Of course I did,” snapped Wistril. “Else why in blazes would she title herself my fiancée?”
Kern counted silently to ten.
“Then I must ask, Master, why are you surprised?” asked Kern. “You asked. She said yes. A wedding is the inevitable — some might say inescapable, but I’m far to sensitive to use such a harsh term — conclusion to the state of being affianced.”
Wistril took in a bushel of air. “All Oomish ladies are affianced,” he said, with a pained expression. “Some twenty-three are, in fact, affianced to me.”
Kern ogled. “Twenty-three?” he mouthed, silently.
Wistril closed his eyes and shook his head, his expression grim.
“Twenty-three,” repeated the wizard. “Which is by no means considered an unusually large pool of suitors,” he added. “Kauph is a lesser House of the lesser Houses — were I Strampish, or a Hool, I should require two scribes and a mathematician merely to keep my records in order.”
Kern shook his head. “How long have you been, um, betrothed?” he said.
“I was twelve, at the time,” said Wistril. “The Lady Hohnserrat was, I believe, nine. We have neither seen each other nor communicated since that day.” Wistril shuddered. “Oomish betrothals are merely a bloodless means of conquest among the Houses,” he said. “And since conquest of Kauph would, by any reasonable standards, constitute an enormous waste of time, I thought myself safe from any matrimonial . . . predations.”
Kern let the silence linger on for a few moments. Crows cawed frantically in the pines just beyond the castle walls, and Kern wondered idly if the wumpus cat was the source of the disturbance.
“So,” he said, at last, “Your fiancée — pardon, the Lady Hohnserrat — is bound for Kauph, in search, as she says, of the wedding flag.” Kern frowned. “I didn’t know we had any flags, Master,” he said. “Especially not a wedding flag. What does that look like, anyway? A frightened groom rampant, set against a field of scowling in-laws?”
Wistril glared. “The wedding flag is also a custom among Oomish families of high rank,” he said. “When a lady of noble birth comes seeking matrimony, she looks first to the ramparts of the prospective groom’s keep. By flying a white flag, the groom signals acceptance of the suit.”
“How appropriate,” said Kern. He raised his forefinger. “What if we hoist a green flag, then? Will the Lady ride on in search of new suitors?”
Wistril sighed. “Such is the custom,” said the wizard. “But we shall fly no flag of any color until first I speak to the Lady Hohnserrat.” Wistril stared up toward the heavens. “Since mindless ardor cannot be her motive in pressing this absurd suit, hope remains that I can dissuade her without resorting to rebuff and insult.”
Kern nodded sagely. “Just don’t charm her unintentionally, Master,” he said. “Be a pity if you found happiness. Think of the disruption to your reading schedule!”
SLP: Thanks to Frank for a most interesting interview and as a final reminder to our readers, Frank’s books are available for immediate download—including free samples—from Amazon’s Kindle Store.