Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Critical Success - An interview with Robert Bevan

Today's guest is Robert Bevan, author of the Caverns and Creatures series.

How did you hook up with DeadPixel Publications?
The founder, Robert Brumm, emailed me out of the blue one day. As it says on our website, www.deadpixelpublications.com, we're just a bunch of people with day jobs, trying to make a go at this writing thing.

What made you want to write Critical Failures?
I was writing another book at the time... a different sort of story altogether. I was getting near the end of it, and I had lost a lot of my motivation, because it sucked. The premise behind Critical Failures just popped into my head one day, and I knew it had a lot more potential than what I was currently working on. So I hurried through to the end of the shitty book I was writing, even though I knew I wasn't going to publish it, and got to work on Critical Failures. I think it's good for an aspiring writer to bash out one steaming pile of crap novel before they write something they intend to publish. You learn from your mistakes, and there's some discipline involved as well. A whole lot of work for seemingly zero reward. That's a feeling all aspiring novelists should come to terms with.

How many stories are in the Caverns and Creatures series so far?
As of this interview, there are two novels and twelve short stories. After I wrote Critical Failures, I wrote Cave of the Kobolds just for fun. Writing a full-length novel is exhausting, so before delving into CF2, I thought a little mini-adventure might be fun to write. And I could price it cheaply. Maybe someone who wasn't willing to shell out five bucks for a novel by an unknown author might be willing to risk a dollar to see what the guy can do. Or I could give it away for free.

That turned out to be an effective strategy. Sales of both books went up considerably. So I wrote another short story, and another, and so on. I stopped myself at six, so that I could put them together in a bundle for the savvy shopper. After writing Critical Failures II, I wrote six more shorts. My plan is to stick to this 1:6 ratio throughout the entire series. It's great for marketing. More titles = more exposure. And the shorts are really fun to write.

Are the characters based on people you know?
Maybe Julian, though I wasn't conscious of it when I first wrote him. But in the group I used to play with when I started the C&C series, there was a guy who had never played before. His name also started with "J", and he's Jewish. I'd say there's a lot of me in Tim and Cooper. Dave was added because the party needed a cleric and the author needed a punching bag.

Who would you cast in a Critical Failures movie?
Ha! You've interviewed a lot of authors, so it probably comes as no surprise that I've actually put a bit of thought into this already. Cooper's easy. Danny McBride. Tim? Maybe Jason Bateman. Julian... I don't know. Someone a bit younger. Off the top of my head, Michael Cera. Jonah Hill might make a nice Dave.

Is there a Critical Failures III in the works?
You bet your ass there is! I'm currently 26,000 words in, and this might be the best one of the bunch.

Are you currently a D&D player?
I haven't played in about a year. I live in South Korea. It's difficult to get a group together. Plus, I've got that pesky day job, and a family. Between that and actually getting some writing done, it's hard to make time for anything else.

Favorite D&D campaign setting?
No group I've ever played in has actually used any of the campaign settings. We've always just made up our own as we went along.

Favorite D&D magic item?
For practical purposes, I'd have to go with the Bag of Holding. It's great for a disorganized person like myself. It's better than a quiver when you've got to shoot a shitload of arrows, or you could smuggle your undead army into a city if you like.

For a game-wrecker, my choice would have to be the Deck of Many Things. If your group ever gets bored with a campaign and wants to start from scratch, I recommend wrapping it up with a Deck of Many Things. Some players are just going to flat out die. Others are going to become stupidly powerful, and then die. But, depending on what you're all drinking, it's going to be a hilarious final night of the campaign.

Who is your favorite author?
Douglas Adams. He turned me on to comedy, and really got me into reading.

What is your favorite book of all time?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The whole series really. No other book has ever made me laugh to the point of not being able to breathe before.

What are you reading now?
I'm reading through a list of some of my fellow DeadPixel authors' work.

Is there a book that made you want to be a writer?
Not really. I just started writing one day because I had an idea that I thought would make a good story. As it turned out, that idea turned into my aforementioned shitty first novel, which I didn't publish. And then inspiration struck for Critical Failures.

So I guess that if I wanted to sound like a total douchebag, I could say that Critical Failures made me want to be a writer.

What do you have coming down the pipeline?
I ate some fish last night that might have been a little off.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
It's the same generic advice that any author worth their salt will give you. Read a lot. Write a lot. Seriously, just hammer out some words. Finish what you start, even if it's crap. If you're just starting out, don't worry that you're writing crap. Just finish it. The psychological victory of completing a novel-length work, even if it's a lousy one, lets you know that you're capable of such a feat.

Also, don't publish crap because you feel entitled to some recognition for all the hard work you put in. Put that shit in a drawer and get to work on the next book. Like any skill, you become better through practice.

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