David J. Pedersen - Fantasy, a Mid-Life Crisis and a Hero Story
David J. Pedersen grew up reading coming of age stories about young men and women who had great powers and no direction until they receive a quest to become a hero. His 40-year old protagonist got passed up on all of that - he's going through a midlife crisis and knows that the only thing that will make him happy is to become the knight in shining armor. As our Author of the Day, Pedersen tells us more about his Angst novels and reveals why his wife says the first book is an autobiography.
Please give us a short introduction to what Angst is about.
Most of the books I read growing up were coming of age stories about young men and women who had great powers and no direction. They would meet an old wise person who would send them on a quest to become a hero. Angst was the guy who got passed up for all of that. Now he's 40-years-old, he's going through a midlife crisis, and he knows the only thing that will make him happy is to be a hero, like a knight in shining armor. It's a "Be careful what you wish for" tale, since the grass isn't always greener.
What inspired you to write this book?
My wife says that Angst is an autobiography. I disagree since I don't have a giant, magical sword. At the time I started my first Angst novel, I wasn't a fan of my job and had personal struggles of my own. So maybe not so much an autobiography as a reflection of what I was feeling. I think I struck a chord, because I've had many others my age tell me how much they relate to this character, and that it may hit a little too close to home at times.
Why did you make your protagonist a 40-year old royal bureaucrat with magical abilities and a mid-life crisis?
They say write what you know... Also, there is a lack of hero stories about middle-aged men and women. I wanted to write about someone readers my age can relate to. I've found that all ages enjoy it more than I expected. I think many people feel they are meant for something else, or something better.
Why did you name him "Angst"?
That's a great question. I think it was inspired by rum, and a bad day at work. It's also fitting. Angst struggles a lot with who he has become, where his life has led him, and who he wants to be. He wants to be an optimist despite everything working against him, and everything does work against him. Often, Angst lives up to his name.
Totally by accident, it's also worked out for some fun book titles.
Readers report that this is a fun read - a book that doesn't take the fantasy genre too seriously. Why did you take this approach?
Modern day fantasy, science fiction, superhero stories, heck, even paranormal fiction has gotten pretty dark. A great example is the last Superman movie in 2013, Man of Steel. Who knew we needed a dark and brooding Superman story? In my opinion, we didn't. I look to reading, and all media for that matter, for escapism. I don't always want to be reminded about how bad my day, or week, (or year) is. I want an adventure that makes me laugh. I'm not talking silly, though. Angst is still a hero story, he has to overcome challenges, but that doesn't mean he can't face it with some humor. I was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. I have every right to look at the world through dark glasses. Instead, I choose to remain positive and make tremor jokes. Angst and his friends have a similar perspective. (By the way, all of my martinis are now shaken, and not stirred.)
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm really not good at anything. I've been a systems administrator, salesman, technical consultant, it's a list long enough to make you wonder if I'll ever make up my mind as to what I want to do when I grow up. I enjoy playing video games, especially first person shooters, but the Parkinson's doesn't exactly help make me twitchy in the right way. I guess my best talent is people, which is why I was good at sales. I like other people, as long as they aren't driving, because other drivers are awful!
How were you able to incorporate your personality into this book?
A good friend from High School said, "Reading Angst felt like spending an evening talking with you." I've had other friends say they hear my voice when reading my books. (Sorry about that!) I didn't do this on purpose. I think incorporating your personality comes naturally for many writers, since writing is often a reflection of you, your ideas, and your life experiences.
Angst is the first of a series. Did you plan for it to become a series from the start?
One of the reasons I self-published is because I didn't want a publisher saying they only wanted the first book and I couldn't continue the series. I always knew what I would do with the remaining books if enough people enjoyed the first one. I actually knew how each one would begin and end. The first novel, Angst, can stand alone. There are some small teasers that lead into the second novel, Buried in Angst, but it also ends in a place where a reader can walk away after the first book. Fortunately, readers liked the first book, so I kept going.
Where do you get your best ideas?
I'm a proponent of Earnest Hemingway's quote, "Write drunk, edit sober." That said, I don't actually drink every time I write, that wouldn't be very healthy. I've come up with some solid ideas, and some terrible ones, under the influence. It doesn't always work out for the best, and my wife says I need a breathalyser on my computer, especially when it comes to Amazon, Facebook and Twitter. (I drunk-tweeted Lindsey Stirling once, and was pretty surprised the next morning that she had replied.)
I actually think my best ideas come when I go for a walk. Sometimes I'll listen to movie soundtracks to drown out other noises, and that combination works well for me.
Among the wealth of characters in Angst, who was the most difficult to create?
So far, the most challenging characters to me have been writing living embodiment of elements. In the background of Angst's hero journey, there is an element war brewing that happens every 2,000 years. They're not human, looking at living beings like insects, but have their own personalities.
Do you have any interesting writing habits, what's your average writing day like?
Between my day job, spending time with my wife, kids and friends, and the dumb Parkinson's thing, it's a challenge to find time to write. As much as I would like to write every day, it doesn't always work out. On the good days, I'll take a break at work and go for a walk, focusing on a chapter or a plot point. I take notes using Evernote on my phone since it is a cross-platform application. I'll then head to a bookstore or coffee shop after work (which I realize is stereotypical, but I don't care. I like the energy level of being around other people and listen to music so I don't have to hear them) and I'll vomit out words until I'm done. I'll then go back and clean it up a week later.
If I'm tight on time, it's not unusual for me to have late night writing sessions in my man cave that last to 1am or later.
What genre of books do you like to read? Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?
I do, mostly, read fantasy. Most recently I've been enjoying Jim Butcher's Dresden series and Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. That said, I don't spend a lot of time reading, and I sometimes find it frustrating. I'll read Butcher's work and say to myself "I would have written that line!" which means now I can't. I also read comic books, and I like Tom Wolfe's writing style.
What are you working on right now?
I just completed a Young Adult fantasy novella that is outside of the Angst universe. It's a story about being different, and getting bullied, and how to deal with it. “Clod Makes A Friend” will be published first quarter of next year. I'm also 50,000 words into the fifth Angst novel and will hopefully publish that in 2018 as well.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love to hear from people, so don't ever hesitate to say hi! I'm all over social media with the handle got_angst. I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr and even YouTube. Readers can sign up for my not-spammy newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/Dg_W9 I also keep a somewhat active blog on my web site, www.gotangst.com.