It’s December, and I can’t believe I have been doing these interviews for a whole year already! This month we catch up with David Combs, a fantastic author who I connected with through the World Indie Warriors members group. His Witches of Pioneer Vale series sounds epic and will definitely be making its way onto my tbr pile!
I have known since I was 8 years old that I wanted to be a novelist and began writing fantasy short stories, some of which have resurfaced 40 years later. I became an avid reader at an early age and grabbed every fantasy series I could find as a kid. Classics soon joined into the mix and I earned a B.A. in English Literature. My writing dreams stalled out post college when I needed to make a living, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized my dreams had been sidelined long enough. I now have 3 published books to my credit with many more to come. I currently live in North Carolina with my two children.
Getting to Know You
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The short answer is impatience. My writing journey was a very slow start. I knew at age 8 that I wanted to be a writer and had actually written the manuscript for my first novel, Thieves’ Honor, in college. I tried to get an agent and got the customary deluge of rejection letters. Life came along and my novel sat in a box in the garage for over 20 years. When I finally found it again, I re-read it and realized that it deserved every rejection letter that it had received. I spent about the next year revising and rewriting the story. When I finally decided that the story was as good as it was going to be, I didn’t want to wait any longer. Self publishing was the right move for me. I had always told myself that what was important to me was being able to go to a shelf in my home and see my name on the spine of a book, even if that was the only copy that ever existed. Thankfully, that is not the case.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have several hobbies that are all creative outlets. I enjoy playing guitar, mainly blues and classic rock. The thing is that I know very few actual songs, but I know scales and chord progressions. So basically I can pick up a guitar and play something that sounds pretty, but I draw a blank when asked to play a specific song. I also like to do comic book style pencil sketches. I grew up reading a lot of comics and loved the stories and artwork. I was never very good in art classes but a few years back I really started studying and practicing. I have reached a point now where my artwork, mainly character concept art, is good enough to include in the front of my novels. I also spend far too much time playing video games, although in my defense, they have been inspirational at times.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love it when I have what I refer to as “A-ha” moments when writing. These are usually plot twists that I didn’t see coming myself. I often get so excited after one of these instances that I have to go off and tell my family about what I came up with. I am a big believer that if the story doesn’t excite the person writing it, then it isn’t going to interest anyone else reading it. A good story should stir up the readers’ emotions.
The Writing Process
What is your writing process?
I typically start with a few key scenes handwritten in a notebook. I am very visual when I write in that I see the scenes in my head as if this was my movie trailer. The margins of the notebooks begin to fill with notes, quotes, and other possibilities that could result at this point. Once I get these scenes down on paper, then I start weaving in ways to connect the dots. At this point, I transfer what I have over to Google docs and start letting the rest of the plot develop. The Witches of Pioneer Vale books are actually told across two different time periods so jumping around is somewhat inescapable for me. However, this also allows me to work up parallels between the time frames and even drop in a few Easter eggs for the readers.
How do you get inspired to write?
Usually it just comes down to getting started. I am more of a pantser than plotter, so once I sit down and lose myself in the scene in front of me, things just start to happen. Doesn’t mean that everything I put down is going to make the final cut, by any means! Sometimes, if I find myself getting stuck, I will jump to another part of the story and see if it flows any better. Usually this will do the trick and get me back on track.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
My best advice isn’t original, but it is simple truth. If you would be a writer, then sit yourself in a chair and get something down on paper. Just start writing whether it is a clear and concise scene that you have had playing in your head for weeks or something that seems like a monkey banging on a keyboard turned it out. Your first draft isn’t about getting it right. It’s about getting it written. The time will come later to fix it all up, but you can’t edit a blank page.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
- Darkwalker on Moonshae by Doug Niles introduced me to the idea of having a diverse and dynamic fantasy world.
- The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman for showing me that sometimes the heroes don’t see the happy ending.
- The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore for showing me that great stories are about the characters rather than the circumstances that they find themselves in. I am still reading about his same heroes 36 (ish) books and almost 4 decades since their introduction.
- The Farseer series by Robin Hobb again for the incredible character of FitzChivalry Farseer. One of the most honorable yet tragic characters I have ever read. This one is a true lesson in how to run your reader through all of their emotions.
- The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for masterful storytelling. Also, it was his sentiment to “Make them laugh, make them cry, and make them come back for more” (paraphrasing).
How do you discover the books you read?
I used to just spend time roaming the fantasy section of my local bookstore. Picking up books with interesting covers, reading countless blurbs, or just spotting an author that maybe I had heard of but never read before. Now that I am an indie author, I pay a lot of attention to what others are releasing. My TBR list is growing faster than I can keep up with which is a testament to how wonderful an opportunity it is now that people with a story to tell have an outlet to share their work.
What books are on your reading list this year?
Wow, how much space do I have left? Relentless by R.A. Salvatore, Omega Rising by Doug Pierce, Arise To Fall by Jason Hein, Death’s Legacy by Dennis Crosby, The Dragon Game by Xander Cross, and Awakening by Brett Humphrey just to name a few. There are several others.
Ascension: The Witches of Pioneer Vale
Angelica Brighton is a typical 21st Century High School senior – a diligent student, a track star, and surrounded by good friends. Life on her family’s farm is tranquil, happy, and prosperous. The arrival of a mysterious letter turns her world upside down, unveiling a destiny that leads her into the ancient heart of the nearby forest and face to face with the local urban legend of her sleepy New England town.
Anne-Marie Carmichael is a compassionate and hard working wife and mother from the late 17th Century. Determined to save her family’s struggling farm from financial ruin, she enters into a hasty bargain that unwittingly turns her into a soldier in a war that has lasted for millennia. Imbued with the primordial magic that extends her life and grants her earth shattering power, the fiery natured farmwife must recruit the children of her family for generations to come to stand against the demonic Shade, Father of Nightmares.
As the barriers between our world and the Realm of the Demonkin falter, Anne-Marie must awaken in Angelica the might that lies dormant in the Blood of the Firstborn and shape her into the weapon that fate has called for her to become. For only the Witches of Pioneer Vale can hope to win the battle that threatens to destroy not just the pastoral community that Angelica has known her whole life, but existence itself.Ascension – David Combs
What inspired you to write Ascension?
Ascension, or rather Anne-Marie Carmichael – THE Witch of Pioneer Vale – began as a character in a video game, actually. My family are big fans of the Sims video game franchise, and in one of my games, I created a rural family (role played it as the late 1600’s colonial America) whose teenage daughter became introduced to the ways of witchcraft. The game has a way to keep your characters young and rejuvenated and the idea struck me to have this young witch watching over her family for generations, remaining basically immortal while her descendants continued running the family farm. Although she lived nearby in her home nestled in the woods, she had become an urban legend. From there, I needed to give her a purpose though. WHY was she still watching over her family? What was threatening them, and did they know they were even in danger? With these thoughts in mind, Shade, the Demonic Father of Nightmares was born. A demon spawned from blood and war at the dawn of time who sought to breach the curtain between his world and ours to enslave humanity and feed on our fears. The first child of each generation would be taken away by Anne-Marie in hopes that the power inherent in the Blood of the Firstborn would allow the Witches of Pioneer Vale to end Shade’s threat once and for all. Angelica Brighton is the 10th Great-Granddaughter to Anne-Marie and the latest descendant to be called to join the battle.
Is there going to be a follow up to Ascension?
Oh yes, at least 4 more books in the series. Guardian is the second book of the Witches of Pioneer Vale series which releases on December 11th. The series started out as a trilogy, but I realized that there was a room for a second trilogy that will explore the larger, more global, mythology behind the war between the Guardians and Demonkin, and the timeless beings who started the whole fight in the first place!