An Interview With
Austin Worley writes everything from heroic fantasy to haiku. A native of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, he fills his downtime with reading, music, and stargazing. His short stories and novelettes have appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Broadswords and Blasters #8, Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection, and Fifty Flashes. More of his short stories and poetry can be found on his DeviantArt profile, Legio-X.
Check out his work before you get to know the man?
Often it is in our childhood days that we realize what we’d like to do when we grow up. Stories are now an essential part of your life. When was the first time you fell in awe with a story, and consequently, the art of storytelling?
If I had to pinpoint when exactly I became interested in storytelling, I’d probably say somewhere around 4th Grade. That’s when I first saw Star Wars and decided I wanted to make up similar stories.
For some reason I just can’t watch retro sci-fi. Maybe it’s a generation thing. But I’m glad it inspired you. I recently watched The Expanse and totally fell in love!
Can you recall the very first story you wrote? When was this? What was it about?
The first story I can remember is from 2nd Grade. We did stories for our rainforest unit, and I wrote one about a jaguar cub who became separated from his mother and had to learn how to hunt on his own, complete with crayon illustrations.
That’s some serious dedication for a 2nd grader. Your teacher must have been very proud.
What inspires you to write?
Everything. Obscure succession laws, historical anecdotes, moral quandaries, current affairs, and more have all given birth to story ideas, and once an idea grabs me it rarely lets go until I turn it into a finished story.
You’re a creator of many different beautiful stories. For an author, stories are like kids, and it’s impossible to pick a favorite. But will you still try?
Oh, it’s easy to pick a favorite: “Law, Love, and the Whippoorwill”, a superhero romance which just released as part of Under the Cape, an anthology from Riverdale Avenue Books. I think it features my highest quality prose, and I’m very happy with the way its character interactions, fight scenes, and intimate moments turned out.
Which authors do you look up to? Whose works do you enjoy the most? Your favourite quote?
I don’t know how any writer could not look up to Brandon Sanderson; the man churns out novel after novel at a ridiculous pace and teaches classes at BYU at the same time. If I could produce similar quality work at even half his rate, I’d be a very happy writer.
In terms of whose work I enjoy, I’ll start out by pointing to Sanderson again. He brings so much creativity to his magic systems. Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories and Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series are among my favorites, and the philosophical approach they take to sword and sorcery/heroic fantasy has been a big influence on my own work in the subgenre. Finally, although he’s not a prose writer, I really love Tom King’s comics. Especially his run on Batman. I find the character-focused approach he takes refreshing, as it’s not something I see very often in the medium.
My favorite quote is from Sinclair Lewis’s political novel It Can’t Happen Here: “By God, sir, men’s souls and blood are not eggshells for tyrants to break!” It perfectly sums up my feelings when someone says “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” in an attempt to justify atrocities.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you come up with ideas spontaneously or you lay some groundwork before you actually start writing?
For the most part, I’m a plotter. Especially when it comes to longer works. I don’t always write down an outline, but I always have a plan. Sometimes that plan doesn’t work, and I have to improvise, but in those cases I’ll do my best to stick with the spirit of the original plan.
What are the steps in your creative process? How many drafts do you go through until you’re satisfied with the end result?
Like I mentioned earlier, I always start out with some pre-writing. A few character profiles, an outline, world-building notes if it’s a new setting.
Once that’s finished, I start crafting the prose. Drafts have never worked for me; I always revise and edit as I work. This usually leaves me with a pretty solid story. After whatever minor revisions, edits, and polish are needed, I start working on finding the story a home.
That’s an excellent approach. Though it may take more time and maybe isn’t as smooth, I also edit as I go.
Do you have any writing rituals?
For the most part, no. The closest thing I have to a “ritual” is putting on music—usually a soundtrack without lyrics—to drown out background noise.
In a week, how many hours do you usually write? What’s your secret to keep writing regularly? Do you prefer writing in the wee hours of morning, or after midnight?
It really depends on the week. If I’ve recently finished a project, I may not write at all. If I’m racing to finish a story before my target publisher’s submission window closes, I may write twelve hours a day until it’s done.
Writing regularly is all about establishing a routine and sticking to it. Once that’s done, it’s easy.
I prefer to write during the day, or occasionally late at night. I’ve never been a morning person.
12 hours a day? Whoa! And you say you don’t have any writing rituals XD
How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies? Do you watch TV shows or listen to music?
My biggest hobby is amateur astronomy. Telescopes are expensive and light pollution drowns out much of the night sky around here, but you can still see some wonderful things with a small refractor in the city.
Other than reading, video games are my biggest form of entertainment. Mostly single-player narrative or roleplaying games. Reading or watching an amazing story is one thing, but the ability to interact with it is so much more immersive.
I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I’ve really enjoyed Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix.
My tastes in music are pretty broad: classic country like Johnny Cash, Grandpa Jones, or Hank Williams Sr., Irish folk groups like Celtic Woman or The High Kings, indie like Miracle of Sound, and more modern country artists like George Strait and Alan Jackson.
Is there anything about you—strange likings or personality quirks—that no one knows yet? Would you like to share them?
Well, I happen to have central heterochromia. My eyes are mostly blue, but there’s a band of hazel around my pupils.
That’s so cool!
What are your proudest and most embarrassing moments? Be honest : )
My proudest moments are related to my writing: selling my first story, earning an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future Contest, and finishing a novel manuscript.
My most embarrassing moment is probably attaching the wrong file (an earlier version of the same story) on a submission email.
Really, that’s the most embarrassing moment? I think it happens with everyone.
What are your big writing goals?
My biggest writing goal is to eventually earn enough from writing to make a career out of it, but publishing a novel is my immediate focus.
You’re a terrific writer. What writing tips would you like to give to upcoming writers? What is the most important rule of fiction? What makes a story brilliant?
My biggest tip for new writers is perseverance. It took almost two years and about a dozen rejections before I made my first sale. Giving up would’ve been easy. Incredibly easy. But if I had, I never would’ve seen my work in print, earned that honorable mention, or finished writing a novel. These things make all the rejections worth it. The only way to find any kind of success in this industry is to keep writing and submitting.
In my opinion, the most important rule of fiction is consistency. If characters, plots, or worldbuilding are not internally consistent, your audience’s suspension of disbelief shatters. This is especially true with speculative fiction. The audience depends on the author to help them understand how a created world works. If you’re breaking rules you’ve already established, there needs to be a reason that makes sense in-universe.
As for what makes a story brilliant, I’d say it all comes down to characters. You can have an amazing, creative setting and a plot full of twists and turns, but if your cast is bland and shallow the whole work will fall flat on its face. It’s always a good idea to start by creating complex characters, then build a plot driven by their wants and needs.
All good points! Characters are like a skeleton. If they’re not strong (as in well-written) enough, everything breaks.
Every writer is a thinker. What are your ideas about the current picture of the world?
Right now, I think the world stands in a very precarious place. All too many people deny the issues we’re facing even exist, while others demand simple solutions to complex problems. We need to listen to people with relevant experience and resist being drawn in by smooth-talkers who attempt to lay all the blame for our problems at the foot of some scapegoat.
Let’s now talk about your Unreal story. Tell us what it’s about. How did the idea come to you?
At its core, “The Gale at Quiet Cove” is all about the value in helping others even if it seems pointless. Knight-Lieutenant Arlise Dun fears her service with the Order of Watchers—years spent safeguarding the public from magic and monsters—has been meaningless, and that by extension she hasn’t even begun to atone for the sins of her past. But as she delves deeper into the mystery behind the arcane storm plaguing the selkies of Quiet Cove, Arlise begins to realize how misplaced those fears are.
The idea for “The Gale at Quiet Cove” came to me back in 2017, from a call for submissions to a themed anthology. They wanted hopeful fantasy stories built around the theme of ‘still waters’. This is where the external conflict comes in: Arlise and her comrades need to bring literal still waters back to Quiet Cove. I wove in a metaphorical take on this theme as part of her internal conflict, and “The Gale at Quiet Cove” was born.
Yeah, I think that made the story more original.
Tell us about your upcoming projects!
Like I mentioned earlier, my superhero romance “Law, Love, and the Whippoorwill” just released as part of Under the Cape. Ex-girlfriends Madison Harper—the District Attorney of Oklahoma County—and Topsannah Price—better known as the vigilante Whippoorwill—are drawn back together when crooked cops place a five-million-dollar contract on Madi’s life, and things heat up from there.
Otherwise, I’m currently preparing for a complete rewrite of “The Silver Shrike”—my superhero novel set in an Italian Renaissance-inspired fantasy world—to build a more solid foundation for my first novel series, which should occupy me for quite some time.
That was a terrific interview. Thank you so much for your time, Austin. All the best for your upcoming projects!