Author Interview with Gerald Costlow

My name is Gerald Costlow, and I am a writer of fantasy and science fiction. Over the past five years or so, I have had short stories published in magazines such as Shimmer and Flytrap, various webzines and anthologies still available at Amazon.com, and this year Pill Hill Press published my first novel, The Weaving 

Author Interview with Gerald Costlow

It’s rare to find an author who does nothing but write for a living. Do you have a ‘real’ job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life?

Gerald Costlow: Nothing particularly notable. I am a field engineer for a cable company. I did join the Air Force right out of High School and spent a good part of my early life kicking around the world, so I got to experience other cultures and left a lot of friends behind. That might come through in my writing. 

What compelled you to write your first book?

Gerald Costlow: As a lifelong reader and lover of science fiction and fantasy, I’d set one of my goals in life to writing my own stories and being published. I took some creative writing courses, joined some online critique groups, started with short stories, kept trying to improve my writing and eventually began to see a few short stories published. Once I thought I’d learned the craft well enough, I began tackling the novel format. My writing career is still a work in progress, of course. 

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Gerald Costlow: I’ve always wanted to entertain people. I was in the acting clubs in school and in the choir and loved being on stage. However, since as a young man I was never encouraged to make either acting or singing a career, it never occurred to me to even try. I found my mundane life got in the way of being on stage. I eventually focused on writing as an outlet for my urge to entertain. 

What compels you to write or to be a writer?

Gerald Costlow: I never grew out of playing ‘make believe.’ I love making up stories, and I love telling them. Writing is just one form of this. All children seem to have a natural desire to play ‘make believe’ and that’s all a writer does when we create a story, invite the reader to play this game with us and perhaps enjoy a brief escape from your mundane life. 

Tell us a little bit about your book/s. What are their titles; which is your favorite if you have more than one, and briefly let us know what they are about.

Gerald Costlow: Pill Hill Press has just published my first novel, titled The Weaving. The Weaving is a love story, a quest, and a battle between good and evil, set in a land of witches and wizards, gods and demons, shapeshifters and immortals. Yet, it is a tale about all too human characters caught up in extraordinary events. I tried to create a world that, for all the magic and wonder going on, the reader would find as familiar as their own. 

Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon?

Gerald Costlow: I have been experimenting with flash fiction lately (writing a story in a tight 1000 words or less), while thinking about the direction I want my next novel to take and polishing the final drafts of a couple of novellas. I have one flash fiction piece being published in “Thieves and Scoundrels” anthology by Absolute Xpress, due out end of March, and another accepted by Wicked East Press, titled “Cup of Joe” and release date yet to be announced. There are other projects out there in various stages of publication. 

Do you belong to any writing forums or organizations that have helped spur your career as a writer? If so, tell us about them and how they’ve helped you.

Gerald Costlow: I’ve been a member of several online writer’s critique groups, such as Critters and Holly Lisle writer’s forums. Critiquing other people’s efforts and reading comments about your own is the best way to learn the craft, if you approach it in the right way. Also, there are some wonderful websites out there with some good advice for beginning writers. If you understand that a great story and a well written story are not the same thing, then you’ll approach writing as a craft and not take the critiques on a personal level. 

How did you feel the day you held the copy of your first book in your hands?

Gerald Costlow: Fortunately only my wife had to watch my happy dance. People all need their dreams, but turning a dream into a goal doesn’t guarantee you’ll achieve it, in spite of what motivational speakers try to sell you. Sure, it takes hard work, but you also have to be in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, you lose the dream only if you give up. Until then, it’s just a goal you haven’t met yet. 

The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?

Gerald Costlow: I can imagine being any of them, because if I couldn’t, then they wouldn’t come to life in my stories. Even the villains in my stories have motivations I can understand, even if I don’t agree with their actions. Without that ability to embrace all of your characters equally, the villains are cardboard stock characters and the heroes are too perfect. 

Many authors have said that naming their characters is a difficult process, almost like choosing a name for their own child. How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your book/s?

Gerald Costlow: I am absolutely terrible at picking names for my characters. I end up going through lists of baby names on the internet. One author clued me in on the fact that the reader doesn’t really care what the character is named. Just make sure the character’s names are sufficiently different from each other to avoid confusion and let it go. 

Have you ever had a character take over a story and move it in a different direction than you had originally intended? How did you handle it?

Gerald Costlow: I call it good writing and go with it. Define a world, create the characters, give them a problem, and turn them loose. If the character begins arguing with you, then you’ve done your job. It’s amazing how inventive they can be in solving their problems, if you let them. 

Is there any lesson or moral you hope your story might reveal to those who read it?

Gerald Costlow: If there is any lesson in my stories, it’s that actions have consequences, and miracles can happen when intelligent people work together. 

It’s said that the editing process of publishing a novel with a publisher is can be grueling and often more difficult than actually writing the story. Do you think this is true for you? How did you feel about editing your masterpiece?

Gerald Costlow: It’s all in how you approach it and probably depends on the editor. Certainly, there are times when a writer faced with a page of deletions and comments thinks, “If my writing is so flawed, why did they accept it in the first place?” But, I actually enjoyed the editing stage with Jessy Marie Roberts of Pill Hill. I believe a good editor is necessary to tighten up the writing and point out where the sentences are a bit unclear or wordy. Jessy took my manuscript one chapter at a time, and helped me turn a great story into a well written novel. 

Now that you are a published author, does it feel differently than you had imagined?

Gerald Costlow: My goal never went beyond seeing the book published, and suddenly I find a whole world of marketing awaits. That can be disconcerting to a writer used to banging away at the keyboard alone, and I really love the writing part. It’s been a learning experience. For instance, I never considered needing to have an author’s website, imagine that!  

Anything you want your readers to know?

The best way to check out my book and other published writing is to go to the Pill Hill Press website. Not only will you find links to my blogs and author’s websites, but the publisher has made available the entire first chapter of their novels online, so you can check out the writing and perhaps be motivated to click on the link to buy the book so you can read the rest of the story. In the end, I simply wish the reader to have as much fun reading my book as I had writing it.

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