JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Mark Eller, author of Traitor
(White Wolf Press)
Last Chance – a small town set on the edge of the far frontier. It is a place of gentle manners and common civility. After all, it should be since more than three-quarters of its residents are women. However times change when a Talent Master runs rampant, savages threaten war, and an illegal militia from an alternate universe plans invasion and empire.
A hero is needed. A Savior. Meet Aaron Turner, the small unassuming man who runs the Last Chance General Store. He is this town’s–this world’s–only hope. Unfortunately for the town, Aaron also happens to be a soldier and spy whose job is to prepare the ground for the Militia’s invasion.
To help him with this task, he has a cellar filled with advanced weaponry and the unique ability to teleport between the two worlds. However, after a year of living within Last Chance, Aaron is no longer sure in which direction his loyalties lie.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write “Traitor”?
Mark Eller: I love flawed characters, magic, and situations appearing too large for a person to handle. I love someone who must fail and grow and develop until he becomes almost complete but leaving him with still more room for change. These characters allow me to experiment with psychological, social, physical, and sometimes sexual conflict.
For “Traitor”, I envisioned Aaron Turner, a small man in a world of large people, as someone with a unique talent, the ability to teleport between worlds. In one world he is the crippled flunky of a militia despot. In the other he is the forefront of a militia invasion.
A simple enough concept, I thought, but in order to fill the requirements of what I love, more had to be involved. What would happen if my hero had torn emotions? What if Aaron owed everything to the militia, but had learned to love his other home? What if he became deeper and deeper involved in his new life, gaining friends, responsibilities, taking part in local events while still owing loyalty to the illegal militia?
More complex, more room for growth, but it wasn’t enough, so I threw in other factors. Magic Talents and a Talent Master intent on empire. I added savages who go to war in an effort to declare their freedom and a prophesy which claims Aaron will be both the destroyer and savior of those savages. I added the introduction of modern knowledge into a backward world. Finally, I was beginning to become satisfied.
But not quite…
All these factors were a great deal for one small man to handle, but it still wasn’t enough. I threw in questionable courage, self-doubt, and a growing dependence on wine.
Aaron was swamped…
Too swamped for a small man with a tendency to fold. Perhaps. I needed a driving force, something that would make Aaron act despite himself. Enter the concepts of personal integrity and honor. Enter the idea that Aaron might not defend himself when challenged, but wouldn’t allow harm to women and children. These attributes gave him no choice but to step forward when trouble arrived. No matter what, Aaron Turner had to do the right thing despite the any cost to himself.
And thus, after two years of mulling things over, was born “Traitor”, the first book of The Turner Chronicles. Starting on a small scale, each of the four books is placed on a larger canvas, beginning in a small frontier town and ending on an international level.
I can’t say more for fear of giving too much away except that “Traitor” is a very good read. This is evidenced by the fact that one of the editors who worked for my first publisher offered to edit the rest of the series for free. She liked the book that much. At this time book two, “Betrayed”, has been published. Book three, “Pawn“, has had three edits and is waiting for me to record it before having it published. “Crusade”, book four, is in my editor’s hands.
JP: What sets “Traitor” apart from other books in the same genre?
ME: Larrian Wills wrote “…whatever you do, get your free copy. It’s a great read. The unsuspected hero makes you want to either shake him or hug him, but either way, you want to be at his side doing what’s right.”
This comment shows part of what makes “Traitor” different. The Turner Chronicles has complex characters, an unusual premise, and an ever-increasing canvas. The series is hard to classify. It’s science fiction…but not quite. It’s fantasy…almost. The characters are real, not stereotypes created to fit accepted rolls.
The hero isn’t somebody with superior physical abilities who has unquestioned courage. He is a recovered cripple. He doubts himself. He is an awkward man living among strong women. Aaron Turner often makes mistakes which his honor insists he sets right. This inflexibility leads him to greater problems through the series, dragging him deeper into national and international affairs.
The unusual setting and characterization of The Turner Chronicles made “Traitor” a hard sell when approaching publishers. Many read it, liked it, but said it did not fit any of the present trends. Swimming Kangaroo Books eventually picked up the series, but closed their doors soon after “Traitor”‘s publication. White Wolf Press knew of “Traitor” through the Podiobook audiofiction podcast. When they approached me, I jumped on board.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to “Traitor” getting out to the public?
ME: Word-of-mouth, always, and making “Traitor” free so people can fall in love with the character and want to know more. I’ve also put “Traitor” out as a podcast on Podiobooks. If listening to books is your thing, you can find it there.
“Traitor” has been mentioned in other podcasts as well as being named a top twenty summer read by Cyrus Webb of Conversations Book Club and Conversations Live! radio. If you pick up the free copy and like it, please tell your friends and leave a review.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish “Traitor”?
ME: Each of the four books took about a year and a half to finish. The initial writing for “Traitor” was complete in only four to five months, but then came the inevitable fleshing out, greater character development, rearranging, rewriting,and rewriting again.
After this, I faced the tough part, finding a publisher, followed by the process of professional editing. I had thought “Traitor” was perfect. My editors thought different. Four of them and I looked at every line time and again. The process was grueling and fun and very educational.
Several of my editors thought me a strange duck because I enjoyed editing almost as much as I enjoyed writing. The endeavor created late nights and busy times, but I had a blast.
JP: What’s next for Mark Eller?
ME: I am presently working on getting “Betrayed”, book two, out as a Podiobook podcast. Following that will be the podcast of “Pawn“ and “Crusade”. I’m working on publishing “God Wars”, a dark fantasy series I wrote with a partner, Elizabeth Draper. I am also working on consolidating a horror novel, “Mercy Bend”, into publishable condition.
I’ve been playing with radio hosting, Convince Me, a show where guests have the chance to convince me their views are correct, be it religion, politics, or the supernatural, and I have to rewrite a fantasy novel titled “Expendable”.
A few days ago, two of my other podcasts were dropped by their host without notice. From the chatter, this happened to a large number of podcasters. This gives me the opportunity to record the shows a second time to improve the sound quality and release them again. Other than those things, my time is free.
My main website is http://www.hellholetavern.com. It’s in need of updating since things have changed over the last year. However, if someone wants to contact me personally, go ahead and write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If you like audiofiction, take a run over to I-tunes or Podiobooks and look up Traitor, by Mark Eller, Betrayed will be up before too long, followed by Pawn and Crusade.
Thanks for taking a look at me. I hope to hear from you.” ~ Mark Eller