Ian Thomas Healy is a prolific writer who dabbles in many different speculative genres, and member of the Pen and Cape Society. He is a nine-time participant and winner of NaNoWriMo where he’s tackled such diverse subjects as sentient alien farts, competitive forklift racing, a religion-powered rabbit-themed superhero, cyberpunk mercenaries, cowboy elves, and an unlikely combination of vampires with minor league hockey. He is also the creator of the Writing Better Action Through Cinematic Techniques workshop, which helps writers to improve their action scenes.
I was wondering, where you get your story ideas?
A lot of my story ideas come from real events. The Just Cause Universe is essentially our own with the addition of parahumans. The same major events have happened, like wars, technological breakthroughs, terrorist attacks, etc. The difference is that parahumans have been involved in some of them. One of the most important events in the history of the JCU, for example, was the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. In the JCU, the Just Cause team was headquartered in one of the Twin Towers, and a large number of heroes died that day, and there have been repercussions because of it.
What is the usual process for your fiction writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’ve always been an “informal” plotter, jotting down a (very) basic outline or keeping events straight in my head. More recently, I’ve made a switch to doing more in-depth outlines, which I think is helping me to tell better stories. Some people will ask “Why are you writing the story twice by outlining first?” Well, think of the outline as the first draft and the actual story as the second draft and then it makes more sense. After all, every book goes through several drafts–or should!–before reaching publication. By outlining, I’m helping myself to get the plot holes filled before cranking out the text, and I don’t have to worry so much about gray areas and not knowing what’s going to happen in any given chapter or how I’m going to get to the next part.
Once you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?
Once I get my outline set, I just write. If I have to research in the process, I do it as I’m going along.
What is your daily writing time like?
Limited. I have a full-time-plus job and three kids to take care of, so I’m lucky if I can get a couple of hours to myself any given day. And in that couple of hours, I have to squeeze in not just my writing, but the running of my publishing company, promotion, and all the stuff that writers have to do that isn’t just writing.
Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision. If you are not a full time writer…Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?
My plan is to someday be a full-time writer and publisher. My closest friend and I figure that our measure of success is to have a significant quantity of hookers and blow available to us. What that quantity is, we’re not quite sure. But that’s the goal, right?
Can you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher? (Any other publishers?) (Or your self-publishing experiences?)
I had a negative experience with my first publisher that resulted in me having to involve an attorney due to the publisher breaching our contract. It soured me on dealing with micro-publishers ever again, and I swore that I would be better at the business than they were. So far, I feel like I’ve managed to keep that promise to myself, and soon I will be keeping it to the other authors I will be publishing via Local Hero Press. My experiences as a publisher haven’t exactly been uniformly positive, but overall I feel like they’ve been something that encourages me to continue doing what I’m doing.
What is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
My most current release is a sleeper hit (because I’ve done almost no promotion of it) and isn’t actually part of the JCU at all. It’s a mainstream Young Adult/New Adult novel called Making the Cut, which is about the challenges of maintaining a friendship with a competitor. Making the Cut is a televised cooking competition, in the vein of Food Network’s Chopped or The Next Iron Chef, but for recent high school graduates, with a monetary prize and scholarship to a prestigious culinary school. The two central characters, Nicole and Midori, are from vastly different backgrounds but become friends early on in the competition, and that friendship is challenged as the other competitors are cut and the stress increases.
Can you tell us about some of your other writing (fiction or nonfiction) and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
The biggest news is that the next Just Cause Universe novel, called Champion, will be released in November. It’s a return to the story of Mustang Sally, begun in Just Cause and The Archmage. I’m very excited to have this one come out! I’m just about to start working on JCU books 7 and 8. Book 7 is called Castles and I’m outlining it right now. It’s a political/action thriller in the vein of Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum, with parahumans. Book 8 is another period piece like Day of the Destroyer was, and focuses upon the enigmatic hero Lionheart. It’s my ode to Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba movies, and it’s called The Lion and the Five Deadly Serpents.
As an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
Write every day. Learn how to edit others’ work. Apply those learnings to your own work. Learn to accept criticism of your writerly faults and how to overcome those faults. Learn to relax, to let yourself dream, to shut off the television and internet and phones. Learn that not everything is worthy of being published, and not everything published is worthy of reading. Know when to hold’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run. Oh, wait. That’s gambling. Well, it applies to writing too.
Who is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?
My favorite author is actually a collective of authors – those who’ve written the Wild Cards novels edited by George R.R. Martin. Those books inspired me more than anything else to set me along the path I’ve chosen to walk. I recommend Wild Cards 3: Jokers Wild as a great starting point. My own work Day of the Destroyer is an homage to WC3 in its structure.