Meet my fellow Black Rose Writing Author sporting his cool chain mail.
Daniel Pertierra was born and raised in Upstate New York, graduating with a Fine Arts and Creative Studies degree from Sage College of Albany. His cats and the fairies living in his tomato garden keep him company, and his interest in things fantastic and historical led to the beginning of his writing career.
- Tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been telling stories for about as long as I can remember, but it’s only in recent years that I’ve seriously worked on original stories. My previous experiences came from taking part in forum-based roleplaying, fan fiction stories (if you ever read one of mine back in the day, you have my sincere apologies), and tabletop RPGs where I most often acted as the Game Master. Working in those fields for so long… well, eventually, you start telling yourself, “I think that I can make a book about this.”
And I did.
A lot of ideas that I’d come up with over the years got recycled and mixed together, and now I’m working on novels and making a career out of this. Everything that I did before now has been practice, and I like to think that I’ve improved tremendously in the process. Now that I’ve gotten published, it feels like a dream come true: success is possible, and it’s emboldening.
- Tell us something about how you write? i.e. are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have any weird or necessary writing habits or rituals?
I am definitely a plotter. Before I write anything, I make an outline for the entire book: each chapter gets its own bullet point that contains everything that has to happen from full scenes to important plot points to specific lines of dialogue. I generally stay close to the outline, but I’ve been known to diverge and make alterations as I go. Sometimes, what I thought was going to be a short chapter mushrooms out into a monster, and I have to split it into two chapters, or I find that something’s lacking and I insert another chapter after the fact. Other times, the characters surprise me and change the direction of the story. (Jamie’s note: those pesky characters often have minds of their own.)
Starting out, though, I need that structure: I find it a lot easier to modify a story after I started than I do to write in the first place. My outlines are essential to keeping me headed forward, and they reduce the chance of something important (like Bob handing Clark the sword needed to slay the evil overlord) getting left out.
- Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book?
One of the things that I’ve always wondered, reading a lot of books, is who a 1st Person Narrator is talking to. Sometimes, it’s explained as a series of journal entries (like Dracula, or much of Lovecraft), but it’s often unexplained. I decided early on to address the question and make the narrator an actual character in the story, and to give him a significant role: this is how Odin, the king of the Norse gods, became my viewpoint character. This gave the story a unique feel, and it’s one that I liked playing with. As for that story…
It’s fantasy, and you can see that in the trolls assaulting kingdoms and the dragons stomping through villages in search of gold. In a setting where the hero is an 8-foot-tall, heavily-armed woman and all earthquakes are caused by a thrashing god deep underground, it’s hard not to indulge in the outstanding story elements. However, I did what I could to balance it out with reality. “The Dragonslaying Maiden” takes place in a real time and place (Scandinavia, around the 7th century), and I wanted to reflect that in how the people act and look. Despite having thousands of Norsemen running around fighting, they use tactics and garb that historians ascribe to them. You won’t find many horned helmets, ladies don’t go to battle in metal bikinis, and the weapon of the day is the humble spear. If you walk away from the book both entertained and educated, then I’ve done my job well.
- What gives you inspiration for your book?
Two things really came together for The Dragonslaying Maiden: Dungeons & Dragons and historical research.
The character of Dana has her origin in a game of Dungeons & Dragons. She began as my half-giant warrior who wanted to do good. Unfortunately, the party was filled with wandering murder-hobos (otherwise known as heroes) with dubious morals and ethics. The dynamics of the group were pretty unhealthy, she was repeatedly backstabbed by her allies, and tempers flared in-character and out. I eventually had to retire her because she didn’t mesh well with the rest of the group, but I realized that her story had potential. I made a number of changes to make the events of the game suitable as a novel, and Dana the Strong, Dragonslayer of Frost’s End, was born.
In the middle of the conversion process, I realized that I’d drawn on Norse mythology a lot. That revelation gave me a purpose and some direction, and I decided to switch the setting from the faraway and nebulous lands of fairy tales to something closer to reality. I pulled out several books on Norse culture, myth, and history and did what I could to ground the story in facts. I found out how the Scandinavians made their clothes and buildings, how their legal system worked, what their warfare really looked like… the whole works. Rather than throw some terminology over a sword-and-sorcery novel like a Viking tablecloth, the setting demanded changes to the very substance of the story. This wasn’t an inconvenience: it gave me tools to play with. Subplots and dynamics grew like flowers in the fertile earth of history. I honestly think that the story is better for it now and certainly a good deal longer!
- If you could have dinner (and dessert) with any fictional character who would it be and why?
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It doesn’t say a word, and it’s both ominous and obvious as the Grim Reaper, but it’s possibly the kindest figure in English literature. It never mocks, and it does everything in its power to force you into changing your life for the better. As inscrutable and merciless as it may be, the Ghost has your best interests at heart and performs its thankless task every time you open the book. I think that this humble admirer can afford to pay for its dinner (deep dish pizza, for what it matters) and dessert (a nice cannoli). Maybe it would even open up and say a few things about life.
- What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
Start at the beginning, and work straight through to the end. When I was younger, I made the mistake of writing all of the “interesting” scenes first and leaving the “boring” parts for later. I didn’t want to write about Bob comforting Alice as she had her nervous breakdown, nor did I want to describe the part in Chapter 2 where Bob went out grocery shopping and stumbled upon the character who’d be revealed as the villain in Chapter 14: I wanted to write the fight scene where a changeling went on a rampage! This inevitably meant that I had no motivation to go back and write those boring scenes, as I’d saved what I thought was the worst for last… what an incentive, huh? Writing from the beginning solves two problems.
The first is that it forces you to develop those “boring” scenes, and you give yourself something exciting to look forward to later on. The awesome showcase action scenes that have been in your head for all this time are your reward for getting through the slow parts filled with exposition. When you’re disciplined like that, you can get through the most tedious chapters.
The second is that far from being boring, the slow parts are where all of the real developments emerge: characters come alive and change into new people. The person who you thought was going to be the villain turns out to have a sympathetic backstory that turns the story on its head. An entire subplot can come out of an offhanded reference that a character makes over dinner conversation. You can completely change the outcome of the story based on these revelations, and you may have to rewrite whole chapters if you skipped ahead and only made those developments afterward.
- Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Do you have any other books in the works?
I have stories in mind for multiple genres, but my immediate plan is to work on an urban fantasy/horror series that occasionally crosses over with high fantasy. The protagonist and general plot has been in my head for thirteen years, and I’ve slowly expanded the setting and details ever since. Some of the figures were protagonists of their own stories, and some were random background characters in yet others. One was even a major antagonist in a weekly Pathfinder RPG that I’m currently running. The settings and concepts accompanying those characters filtered back and, little by little, built up what’s possibly my oldest serious idea for a novel into something worth telling.
The story is that of a young girl named Nicole, who was orphaned early on and whose origin nobody can track down. However, she’s the only person on Earth who can see Death – a dark and silent skeleton holding a grim lantern – performing his work and taking away the souls of the departed. She originally thought that he was an imaginary friend and, later, a figment of her imagination. However, when Death starts impacting Nicole’s life in various ways, she realizes that he’s indeed real, and she opens up to the other supernatural truths hiding under her nose after all these years. With fairies, werewolves, magical mirrors, medieval warfare and modern life accompanying her from childhood to adulthood, the stage is set for Nicole to grow into a sorceress and major player in the world of magic. All of this is told from Death’s vantage point, which offers what’s undoubtedly an interesting vantage point on Life in general and Nicole’s life in particular.
Where can we find you online?
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dragonslaying-maiden-daniel-pertierra/1125796753
The Dragon Slaying Maiden
When the Norse god Odin looks over his hall and sees an ancient sword, he’s stunned to learn that no-one remembers the giantess who wielded it so long ago. Read on as Odin, compelled by an ancient memory, recounts the violent tale of Dana the Strong, a little girl who outgrew home in a big way and shaped the course of history. Journey back to the mythological past of Scandinavia, where swords, armies, magic, and monsters still held sway. This is the home of the Dragonslaying Maiden, who overcame betrayal and prejudice in an age when monsters still roamed the Earth.
. . . Yet you don’t remember the warrior who held evil at bay in Europe’s darkest era! Unthinkable! How can a tale like that die so meekly that only a small number of the dead even remember it? Worse, how can I have gone so long without speaking of her? She’s not within my hall, but she deserves better!
The hour grew late. The feasting didn’t stop. It never really does. Not until the war-horns sound and the warriors take up their arms to fight another battle on the field. I didn’t tarry in the hall. I left that place, confident that I wouldn’t be missed until morning. I bade farewell to the heroes and Valkyries and the sooty chef and his miraculous boar, and I returned to my personal hall to muse for a time. I scratched the ears of the big wolves at my feet and thought of old times and older friends.
“Good evening, master!” a raven named Desire croaked as he entered. I held out my hand and let him perch there. “I have much news, and only a night to tell you of it! I’d like to get it out of the way before Thought comes and distracts you.”
“We wouldn’t want that,” I told the raven, meaning none of it. I looked him in the eye and asked, “Tell me, do you remember Linda of Thane’s Vale?”
Desire hooted in amusement. “I remember everything! For such small brains, I can cram a whole lot in there.”
“For such a big world, there’s so little memory of her,” I told the raven. “I asked nine centuries of Einherjar, and none of them remembered! I can’t imagine how the many-thousand trolls at the far end of the table took that. When was the last time that you heard anyone on Midgard, the Earth below, speaking of her?”
Desire whistled in that way that only birds can. “Centuries! It’s a pity, really… now, about the Venezuelan situation…”
“You owed her your life,” I told Desire. “Don’t brush this off so lightly.”
“The debt was repaid,” Desire said. “The world’s so full of people that, sometimes, you have to let go of the past and deal with the ones who’re doing things now. Speaking of which, Venezuela…”
Desire droned on about Venezuela, and then moved on to the happenings in Ukraine and Tonga. His brother Thought came in shortly thereafter and added to the ramblings. I listened, as my duty often forces me to, but I gave the earlier topic some consideration anyway.
Imagine my surprise when the hours passed and I found a pen in my hand! That was a few minutes ago, and here I am at this very sentence, unsure of where to go from here. So much happened over so much time, and it’s so difficult to determine a starting place. How much background information do you need? Who really initiated the story, and when should I talk about my contributions? I’m so used to hearing stories that I’ve gotten a bit rusty at telling them.
Please forgive me. I’ll do the best I can, and I’m sure the story will write itself after a while. I suppose that I should start with the land where Dana came from…
I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below. Do you like novels based on Norse mythology? What’s your favorite kind of fantasy?