Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Adam’s giving away an eBook copy of his book Duster with this post – just comment on the post below for a chance to win!
Today, Adam Stemple – Stemple is an award-winning author, poet, and musician.
Like most authors, his life experience is broad and odd. He spent twenty years on the road with a variety of bands playing for crowds of between 2 and 20,000 people. He started, ran, and sold a poker training site. He worked in a warehouse. He picked corn. He traded options and demoed houses. He drove pizzas for nine months in 1986, which for twenty-seven years was the longest he’d ever been employed. He drank too much and has now been sober for over fifteen years. He published his first book at the age of sixteen, “The Lullaby Songbook,” which he arranged the music for. His mother is a famous children’s book author. His children are artistic. His wife is a better person than him in nearly all regards.
Thanks so much, Adam, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Adam Stemple: I am a third generation writer. I think I always knew I would end up writing. I also think it wasn’t accidental. A lot of nine-year olds write journals. Mine came back every morning corrected in red pen with a prompt for a new entry.
JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
AS: My first novel takes place largely in Edinburgh. But I had been there a bunch and didn’t take a specific trip for research. But the sequel also featured the city, and this time I felt like I needed a refresher. It had been a while since I’d been there, and I had a new POV character viewing the city for the first time so I wanted to view the city through her eyes. MY sister and I flew over and I spent six days walking the city and taking notes.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
AS: This is a great question and though it doesn’t truly apply to Galloch, I want to talk about it as it is something I think about a lot.
I am a straight, white, cis, middle-aged man. A perfect example of white middle-American normality. Not truly, as I am a neurodivergent Jew, but since I’m a blond, blue-eyed Jew with a Swiss last name and my mental issues aren’t immediately apparent, I certainly present—and gain the privilege of—a cis het white man. As a writer, this presents an interesting quandary. How do I walk the line between good representation and tokenism? How do I stay in my lane and yet provide good representation?
Here’s what I try to do:
- Understand and internalize that it’s not up to me to decide whether I’ve succeeded or not.
- Lean into my experiences own experiences as an outsider/outlier/outcast: as a Jew growing up in A Polish farming community, as a long-haired man getting rousted by the cops 20+ times, while understanding that as I could cut my hair and play myself off as goyim I still don’t get the depth of many underrepresented groups’ experience.
- Talk to my friends and family in those groups.
- Don’t be lazy. When I create a character, I try to always ask myself does this person need to be white? Straight? Male? It’s too easy to “write what you know” and populate a book with a bunch of straight white dudes because, obviously, it’s easy for me to write straight white dudes. But every time I ask myself those questions before writing a character, I end up with better, more interesting, characterizations, even if the character ends up being a straight white dude.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
AS: My first solo novel (Singer of Souls, Tor 2005) was all about addiction, a subject I know plenty about; I have been sober since 2004. I once got an email from a young man who said he read it while he was working Job Corps as part of his rehab from two years of heroin addiction. He told me that the book helped him quit the drug. Greatest feeling I’ve ever had as a writer was getting that letter.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
AS: I had a couple of goals and I think I did pretty well. In Duster, I had the stakes ratcheted up pretty high. It was going to be tough to top that. So, instead, I needed to make the stakes still big, but more personal. I started with the initial problem being Gair’s instead of Mika’s, while also making Ferran (Mika’s troubled middle son) a viewpoint character. Family and friends. Doesn’t get more personal than that. And I still managed—with the help of a big cast of villains—to take the plot worldwide. I also got the character Pit, the main character from the “The Boy from Buanfar” (a short story in the world of the Mika Bare-Hand Books), into the book.
Another goal was to write a battle scene. A big battle scene. Most of the big battles in Duster are in the back story. They’re not really lived through viscerally by the reader. In Galloch, I wanted a big set piece for the climax, a freaking battle of epic proportions. And I got it. A ten chapter battle with a handful of heroes facing down an army.
JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer?
GAIR: An honor and a pleasure working for such a talented writer.
MIKA: Is he listening? No? Help us! The man’s insane! He lopped off my arm twice!
GAIR: He’s killed me three times I think, so far. Also, I always end up naked for some reason.
MIKA: He is not ok.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
AS: According to my nine-year old journal (edited in red, of course), I wanted to be a paleontologist or a musichan (sic). I find it indicative of my peculiar intellect that of the two words I misspelled “musician.”
Though my dream of studying dinosaurs remains unfulfilled, I am an accomplished musician. I toured internationally, played for as many as 20,000 in a crowd, won two Minnesota Music Awards, and produced or played on too many albums to remember. I play only a few gigs a month these days, but I record a lot of stuff for my Patreon. (patreon.com/adamstemple)
JSC: If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose, and why?
AS: It would be the year before I got sober. I’d get sober a year earlier and avoid the bottoming out I did that year.
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
AS: I try to write completely unique characters. And then my first novel was about a self-obsessed musician with a drug problem. I thought I’d finally done it with the three POV characters in Bad Company (a thriller due out early next year) none of whom were remotely like me: a sociopathic hitman, a frustrated journalist working as a weather girl, and a nerdy scientist. It was only after finishing the novel that I realized I’d split my personality into three distinct characters.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
AS: I’m nearing the end of the third and final Mika Bare-Hand book, Threll. I’m still aiming to get it out this fall, but it’s looking more like a winter release. Mika is a grandfather, Gair is possessed, and once again, forces from the murky depths of history and legend are rising to destroy the world of man.
Bad Company, the above-mentioned thriller with the three me POVs, just needs a copyedit but I want to finish up this trilogy first.
On other fronts, I had a story come out in Clarkesworld and continue to write short stories and poetry. I have about a dozen things on submission right now. I’m working on a YA superhero novel with a coauthor that we’re going to selfpub and my agent is shopping the first book in a secondary world epic fantasy trilogy.
And now for Adam’s new book: Galloch:
When Gair is attacked, Mika doesn’t hesitate to jump in and help. But it lands him in a complicated conflict with drug syndicates and freedom fighters. Meanwhile, the Gallochs emerge from underground for the first time in centuries and wipe out the entire clan of Dusters that had adopted Mika’s wayward son, Ferran. From the back alleys of Buanfar to the walls of Castle Helskar in the south, Mika must unwind the tangled threads of conspiracy and conquest to discover from what direction danger lies. And stop it before it consumes the world.
By midday the next day, Gair hadn’t returned.
“Brom’s bursting bollocks,” I muttered.
“What is it, Mika?” Jehanna asked.
“Gair said he’d come back.”
Jehanna looked thoughtful for a second. “There’s not likely to be a good reason for that, is there?” I shook my head. She didn’t hesitate. “I’ll help you with your mail.”
“Give it a few hours. Maybe he’s sleeping one off.”
“You think that’s likely?”
“No.” Despite his current lifestyle, Gair retained a soldier’s habit
of being up with the sun no matter what shape he was in or how little he’d slept.
“The mail then.”
I accepted Jehanna’s assistance in getting my mail shirt over my head. Even with the adjustments we’d had a blacksmith make to accommodate my missing limb, it wasn’t easy to get into. Hung well on me once it was on, though. She looped a belt and sword around me, as well, and I felt the hilt of Heftraas’s etched blade. Death, revenge, and a long journey finished. Rest easy, you mad, murderous half-breed. You paid more than mawrkriss for your betrayal. I hope you’re curled up next to Brom’s giant paw even now.
There was no tingling in my fingers when I touched the sword. I was the Last Scion, the final descendant of Hagganson One-Arm, Destroyer of Gods, before my sons, but since betraying his demands to kill Alain, I had been stripped of my powers and prowess. I wouldn’t know for sure until I drew the weapon, but it seemed it would just be plain metal in my hand. I wasn’t disappointed. My legacy had brought me more pain than victories, even though the last battle had been for the fate of the world.
I would trade the entire world and everyone in it to have my sons back hale and whole.
But as no one was offering me that bargain, I kissed my wife on her forehead and left for town to see if I could find a giant bald needle in the haystack of Cairburn.