Travis Daniel Bow is the author of Thane and its sequel, King’s Table. He grew up in Reno, NV (where he raised pigs for FFA), earned degrees from Oklahoma Christian University (where he broke his collarbone in a misguided Parkour attempt) and Stanford (where he and his bike were hit by a car), and now does research and development work for Nikon. He has eight published short stories, four pending patents, one wonderful son, one beautiful wife, and one loving God.
Hello Travis! Thank you for chatting with me about your B.R.A.G. Medallion Book, Thane! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG and how has your experience been in self-publishing been so far? Thanks for the opportunity, Stephanie. I discovered indieBRAG in a magazine I found in my seat-back pocket on a Southwest Airlines flight. I had just published Thane, so an article about the growth of indie fiction caught my eye. It mentioned the BRAG medallion, I applied, and I was honored to receive the award. My experience with self-publishing has been one of surprise: the whole thing is a lot less complicated than it seems. It can be a lot of work—especially if you are as much of a perfectionist as I am—but the basics are actually pretty simple.
Please tell me a little about your book. Thane is the first book in a two-part series about the intrigue, treachery and tragedy surrounding a young blacksmith’s transformation into an elite rebel spy.
I am an avid reader of the middle ages and I do like reading in the genre of medieval fantasy at times…though your story hold no historical significance, please tell me what period this story is told in and if you were to convince me to read your book, what would you say? Thane is told in an imaginary world that has swords and castles, ships and wagons, and potions and poisons, but no gunpowder, steam power, or electricity. It’s actually a bit of a genre-bender: although I classify it as fantasy, the excitement centers around espionage rather than magic, and the bad guys are people rather than monsters or dark sorcerers. If you like to escape to strange and different places, but you also enjoy the realism of historical fiction (where characters have to depend on wit, resourcefulness, and courage rather than magical powers), then you’ll enjoy Thane.
As I understand it, your teen age character Timothy is a medieval secret agent. I like that idea. What is an example of a conflict he faces? Also, please tell me about his strengths and weaknesses. One of the earliest conflicts Timothy faces occurs when he must choose whether or not to join the rebel Band as a “secret agent” or “Thane”. The struggle is an internal one: he must choose between his brother and the chance to fight for something he believes in, between his only friend and an all-out, head-first, ships-burned dive into saving his nation. This struggle, and Timothy’s response, tells a lot about his strengths and weaknesses. He is shy, awkward, and slow to make friends, which has made him dependent on his outgoing and good-looking brother. But he is also fanatical; if he decides to do something, he does it with his whole heart. It is this single-minded dedication that drives him to grow from a stuttering boy into one of the best deceivers and sword-fighters in the rebel band.
What is the relationship between Timothy and his brother Robert like? Timothy and Robert begin with the kind of intensely loyal, almost telepathically close relationship only possible among brothers. But as their decisions and chosen paths separate them, they begin to grow distant and awkward, until it’s a conscious struggle for both of them to maintain the illusion of the old familiarity and closeness they used to have.
Why medieval fantasy? Because it’s fun! When I was growing up, my brothers and I spent an inordinate amount of time having sword-fights, throwing knives against the back wall of an old shed, forging tomahawks out of old railroad spikes, and using slings to throw rocks as far as we could. I think the medieval level of technology offers a lot of room for interesting situations and conflicts that wouldn’t be possible in the modern world of guns, cars, and airplanes.
Did you have to do any research for your story? I did. Although my hobbies had already lent me some practical knowledge about medieval farming, fighting, and craftsmanship, there were always little things (like how far a person can travel by horse in a day, or how long someone usually remains unconscious after being knocked out) that required research. But since the world was imaginary, I spent a lot more time creating history than researching it.
How much time do you spend on the craft of writing and where in your home do you like to write? When I’m working on a project, I try to do at least two hours a day. I find that if I’m not writing at least two hours a day, 5-6 days a week, I tend to lose my momentum. If I push through, even on the days when I can’t think of anything to write, then I actually enjoy the whole process a lot more, quickly get unstuck, and make a lot of progress. I do this early in the morning, before the rest of the house is awake, at a nice boring computer desk.
I read that you have eight published short stories. That is fantastic! What is the premise of a few of them and where can readers get them? Thanks! Some of my favorites are Snatching Baby Delilah (In a crowded mall, a man with magical powers engages a woman in a battle of wits over the kidnapping of a young child) and The Three (A smith, a sorcerer, and a princess compete in an ancient, magical sword fight that decides the fate of the contestants.). I have links to all of my short stories—some of which are available for free on the publisher’s websites—on my website
What advice could you give to readers who want to write in this genre? People that read and write in this genre are generally very creative and good at making up fantasy lands, magical systems, etc. The two things that (in my opinion) set good fantasy/adventure apart from bad fantasy/adventure, though, are realism and characterization. Realism: there’s a real temptation in writing fantasy to minimize the importance of realism. After all, if your character can magically control light or lives in a world full of griffons, who really cares how well researched a fight scene is? It may seem like it would make your character look super epic to be able to throw knives and stick them point-first every time, or single-handedly defeat ten men in a swordfight, but I’ve found that I, at least, am much more impressed with more believable feats of valor. It’s like telling your friend about a skiing trip: telling him, “I was going like a thousand miles an hour down this hill…” will just let him know that you’re exaggerating and were probably going pretty fast, but telling him, “I must have been going forty-five miles an hour… the skis were starting to vibrate” will make him sit up and pay attention. One of the most epic descriptions of a fight I know is in The Game of Thrones, when seven knights face three of the Kingsguard and only two of the seven survive. Characterization: another temptation in fantasy is to make characters into caricatures: dwarves are always gruff and stolid, elves are always noble and touchy, heroes are always saying “why me?”, villains are always undeniably evil and hungry for power, etc. But the really great stories get deeper into the motivations of the characters. Characters don’t respond in the obvious way or have the obvious motivations, because the author has taken the time to think, “OK, the obvious response would be this, but what if…?” If you can make your even your villains understandable, sympathetic people who are doing what they’re doing because they think they have to, then you’ve got the makings of something good.
Where can readers buy your book?
Thank you, Travis!
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Travis Bow, who is the author of, Thane our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Thane, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.