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Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World


Please welcome Gabriel Squailia to The Qwillery. Viscera, their 2nd novel, was published on October 4th by Talos.



Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World




Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World

by Gabriel Squailia

It took me ten years to figure out how to write a novel. Since I couldn’t get a groove going, I just kept building the world—and building, and building, and building. By the time I got where I was going, it was so real to me I just had to put it all on the page.

From the moment I had the idea to the last edit of the final draft, it took fourteen years to write that book. Then I sat down at the desk and realized I was about to do the whole thing again. I could see myself getting into the same twitches, the same doubts, the same false starts, and I knew I’d be lucky to get off with a five-year commitment.

So, inspired by Robert Jackson Bennett’s excellent post about working under contract, I tried something completely different. I contacted Cory Allyn at Talos Press, who had worked with me to edit Dead Boys, and pitched him some ideas. I hoped to convince him to work with me from the beginning to the end of the process this time, so I could figure out what Real Writers Do.

From a menu of four pitches, he chose the one I’d come up with two weeks before. Others had maps and sourcebooks already developed; this one had a thousand-page first draft. Pretty soon we were signing a contract, on the strength of a revised opening scene and an outline I’d made up on the spot.

It did not escape my notice that there was no world this time. Nor was there time to build one—this wanted to be a book about characters, and to honor that I built two people who could give a damn about the political machinations that were churning up the world around them. Their quests were personal, and they were trying to forget history, not delve into it.

Are you a pantser or a plotter? Does that approach extend to the world around your characters? What I learned over the course of the next six months was that I’m a bit of both.

There is a comforting solidity to a writing in a world you’ve thoroughly designed. When someone puts their foot down, I know where it’s landing, and I can tell stories about the history of the paving-stones they’ve stepped on. On the other hand, I can get lost in those stones, and I’m constantly torn between moving the plot forward and taking detours to tell you more cool things I’ve invented.

Over in the Land of Pants, there’s nothing but the living present. It’s a terrifying, invigorating space to occupy, and it demands that I tell the truth—even about my floundering. Viscera, my second novel, is a book about navigating the brutal truths that emerge when we live through the most difficult times in our lives, and working without a safety net helped me do that concept justice. It was nerve-wracking, though, and I kept wondering, Is this allowed?

From the moment I had the idea to the final edit on the last draft, Viscera took nine months. It was a far faster process than my first time out, and I imagine (with that deceptive pride common to authors before pub day and the parents of newborns) that it’s more fun to read, too. Does that mean, then, that I’ve committed to pantsing my way through my next book, too?

Yes and no. My hope is to use what I’ve learned from both of these projects, and to treat all techniques as tools in my belt. Different novels, even different chapters, call for different approaches. I’d like to keep on reinventing the wheel, with memories of the last reinventions informing my process, all the way to the end, when I’m surrounded by these wobbly contraptions—with hopefully one or two that roll smoothly along the way.

I may never know what I’m doing when I sit down at the desk with a new idea. But from here on out, I’ll act as if I did, and build a world—however detailed, however sparse—to suit my mood.

Not quite knowing, but doing it anyway: isn’t that what Real Writers Do?





Viscera
Talos, October 4, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World
The Gone-Away gods were real, once, and taller than towers.

But they’re long dead now, buried in the catacombs beneath the city of Eth, where their calcified organs radiate an eldritch power that calls out to anyone hardy enough to live in this cutthroat, war-torn land. Some survivors are human, while others are close enough, but all are struggling to carve out their lives in a world both unforgiving and wondrous.

Darkly comic and viciously original, Viscera is an unforgettable journey through swords-and-sorcery fantasy where strangeness gleams from every nook and cranny.





About Gabriel

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World
Photo by Bill Wright
Gabriel Squailia is an author and professional DJ from Rochester, New York. An alum of the Friends World Program, they studied storytelling and literature in India, Europe, and the Middle East before settling in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts with their partner and daughter. Squailia's first novel, Dead Boys, was published by Talos Press in 2015.






Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @gabrielsquailia







Also by Gabriel Squailia

Dead Boys
Talos Press, March 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World
A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.

According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.

Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.

An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.

Interviw with Gabriel Squailia, author of Dead Boys - March 4, 2015


Please welcome Gabriel Squailia to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Dead Boys was published on March 3rd by Talos Press. You may read Gabriel's Guest Blog - I, ZOMBIE - here.



Interviw with Gabriel Squailia, author of Dead Boys - March 4, 2015




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Gabriel:  I started writing comic strips with extended narratives in the fifth grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Glazeroff, found one of my drawings and gave me the back of the classroom door to play with. It became Gabe’s Gallery, and my elementary-school ripoff of Bloom County mutated into a graphic novel that ran to two or three chapters.

After that I switched to writing fiction. My first project was an epic fantasy about people with magic eyeballs. I never stopped writing after that. At least, I’d come up with an idea, plot it out a bit, write a chapter, then abandon the whole thing in anguish. This went on throughout high school, into college, and throughout my twenties. These days, I’d count all that as writing, though at the time it was clear to me that I was failing.

I started writing for the same reason I keep at it: because I have stories stuck in my head, and I want to get them out.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Gabriel:  A plotter, up to a point. I always have a rough three-act structure in mind when I begin, and a plot that consists of eight to twenty chapter headings, each of which means something very particular to me in story terms. There are some big set-pieces that I’m working toward, whether they’re big character moments or action scenes I’ve simply got to pull off, so most of my pantsing consists of getting those things to happen more or less plausibly.

Dialogue and fight scenes, two of my favorite things to write, are never planned. That’s all pants.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Gabriel:  The angle of entry. I’ve never managed to get a book off the ground without false starts, sometimes dozens of them. I used to think this was because I was doomed with an imagination that exceeded my powers of description. Now that I’ve finished a couple of books, it feels more like hands-on worldbuilding. None of that effort is wasted; I end up working all those locations, characters, and effects in somewhere. But without an opening scene that snaps everything into place, they’re just details I haven’t integrated yet.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Gabriel:  It varies by project. For Dead Boys, I was looking pretty far into the past: Don Quixote, Dante’s Inferno, classic quests like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Watership Down. I was hugely influenced by this single-volume condensed paperback version of The Mahabharata, translated by C. Rajagopalachari, which tells a library-sized story in a couple hundred pages. That density, that feeling that something astonishing and philosophically chewy is happening on every single page, was something I wanted to replicate. But I also wanted the whizz-bang-boom of manga like Naruto and animated films like Princess Mononoke.

Late in the game, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, and Suzanna Clarke were inspiring, because I realized people were actually getting away with stuff this weird.



TQ:  Describe Dead Boys in 140 characters or less.

Gabriel:  A misfit band of adolescent corpses quests across the underworld for the Living Man, coming of age long after their deaths.



TQ:  Tell us something about Dead Boys that is not in the book description.

Gabriel:  Remington, the holy fool of the gang, has a pet crow nesting in his hollowed-out skull. If the idea of a kid with a bird peeking out of the back of his head sparks your interest, this is your book.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Dead Boys? What appealed to you about writing a genre bending novel?

Gabriel:  This one came to me world-first. I got an image of an underground pub the size of a football field packed with drunken corpses who could pull off their arms as bludgeons in the middle of their bar fights. I couldn’t stop messing with the world, though it took about a decade to get any of it to make sense.

Genre-bending comes naturally from reading all over the map. I didn’t set out to do it, and I wouldn’t recommend it, as it made publishing more of an adventure than I’d anticipated. But I loved my underworld and the characters it inspired, and I couldn’t rest until I’d figured out a way to pull it off to my own satisfaction.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Dead Boys?

Gabriel:  I spent a couple of years as a late-night librarian at Simon’s Rock College of Bard, where I had unlimited access to inter-library loans. I read everything I could find about the physical processes of death and decomposition. Most of it was too gross to saddle these characters with, so I went with a comically extended entropy that lightened up that source material. I also read up on the underworlds and funerary rites of various cultures. There are all sorts of rotten Easter eggs in there.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Gabriel:  Siham, who appears late in the book, wrote like a dream. I think it was because I’d spent so much time setting her up -- I thought of the first two acts as getting the place ready for her arrival. And I really, unambiguously love her. She’s made of love.

Etienne was maddeningly difficult. It’s very tricky to plausibly introduce a character who’s been catatonic for a decade. I must have written his first scene a dozen times, with a different voice each time. It took a month to get it right, and I wasn’t sure I’d get through it.



TQ:  Which question about Dead Boys do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Gabriel:

Q: Which character are you most like?

A: All of them.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Dead Boys.

Gabriel:  A bit of scene-setting near the beginning:
The motionless corpses that floated on the river’s surface were surrounded by glittering shoals of refuse and roiling rainbows of oil. There, past the bobbing shape of a claw-footed bathtub, was the stretch of river-bend where he’d thrashed out of the mud and onto his newly lifeless feet nearly a decade ago.


TQ:  What's next?

Gabriel:  I’m working on a top-secret New Novel that makes my love for Naruto still yet more explicit, with martial arts magic and rather more grit than my debut.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Gabriel:  Thanks for having me!





Dead Boys
Talos Press, March 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interviw with Gabriel Squailia, author of Dead Boys - March 4, 2015
A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.

According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.

Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.

An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.





About Gabriel

Interviw with Gabriel Squailia, author of Dead Boys - March 4, 2015
Bill Wright Photography
Gabriel Squailia is a professional DJ from Rochester, New York. An alumnus of the Friends World Program, he studied storytelling and literature in India, Europe, and the Middle East before settling in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Dead Boys is his first novel.




Website  ~ Twitter @gabrielsquailia

Facebook  ~  Google+



Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015


Please welcome Gabriel Squailia to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Dead Boys will published on March 3rd by Talos.



Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015




I, ZOMBIE

The zombie attack, as a metaphor, can be read as a visceral confrontation with mortality. We don’t think much about death in our society, and suddenly here it is, staggering toward us with annihilating hunger. After a first near-miss, we have a moment to reflect that our lives, up until this moment, were almost entirely devoid of danger, and then we’re off and running again.

Fighting for our existence, we learn who we really are. We can’t avoid thoughts of death now: it’s breaking down our doors, tearing into our loved ones, forcing us to shoot them in the head before they turn.

Unlike other paranormal baddies, zombies get to me. In all my years of dreaming, I’ve only dispatched a single vampire, but I’ve killed hundreds, maybe thousands, of the shambling dead.

It’s not because I think about death all the time. It’s because I don’t. My avoidance of the inescapable fact that I won’t be around all that long is what gives zombies their metaphorical oomph.

It’s a thought that gets me in the guts. Enough so that I felt compelled to turn that horror inside-out.

I know what zombies mean to me, but what do they mean to themselves?

Dead Boys, my first novel, is an attempt to explore that question. It takes place in a sprawling underworld where the dead pull themselves out of the muck of the River Lethe and into eternal entropy. They’re falling apart, but slowly.

And there’s no one to take it out on, no one to destroy, no brains to eat. Just themselves, and infinite time.

I decided to leave their minds intact. I wanted them to remember what they’d been, what they’d lost.

One of the most interesting things about writing the book that resulted from these thought-experiments is how little its characters think about their lives. I tried to fit their backstories in there, but I always had to delete them.

They didn’t fit. My zombies were a vain, prideful people, and they had a near-pathological tendency to think of death as their natural environment. They’d be there forever, after all: how could they get by, from day to day, if they didn’t think of it as home?

As I filled in the details of Dead City, building out its gambling-halls and pubs, designing its time-based economy and imagining its shadowy government, I kept an eye on myself. It was easy enough to look at my friends and imagine them there, giving them names, personas, and grotesque, Tim Burton-y character builds.

But zombie me was a different story. Where did I fit in this macabre vision of the afterlife?

I wasn’t even sure how I fit into the land of the living. And that sense of dislocation, as much as anything, became the story.

It turns out that death scares me less than life without a purpose.

Now, I’m fairly certain that, in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, I’d spring to action, even if that action got me killed in the first reel. But were I the zombie, staring down at my own rotting flesh, exploring an eerily familiar necropolis, I’d have some things to come to terms with first.

Then, I hope I’d have the bravery to spend my afterlife seeking out something worthwhile to do with my time.

The characters in Dead Boys swash their share of buckles. This is a big, questing adventure, with fights, escapes, near-misses, and moments of reckoning. But at its core, it’s trying to answer a question that’s deeply, if subtly, embedded in most zombie tales: what’s the point of all this?

That query might not be right on the gory surface of such stories, but it’s in there. Outnumbered by the infectious undead, lost in a suddenly inhospitable world, watching our companions die, one by one, we have to ask ourselves, sooner or later, why it’s worth struggling.

I don’t have the answer, at least not every day. But I do love striving for it, and fiction is my favorite way to try.





Dead Boys
Talos, March 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015
A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.

According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.

Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.

An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.





About Gabriel

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015
Bill Wright Photography
Gabriel Squailia is a professional DJ from Rochester, New York. An alumnus of the Friends World Program, he studied storytelling and literature in India, Europe, and the Middle East before settling in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Dead Boys is his first novel.




Website  ~ Twitter @gabrielsquailia

Facebook  ~  Google+



2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia


2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.


Gabriel Squailia

Dead Boys
Talos, March 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia
A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.

According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.

Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.

An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your WorldInterviw with Gabriel Squailia, author of Dead Boys - March 4, 2015Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 20152015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia

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