Todd Herzman wrote A Dark Inheritance and entered it into SPFBO6. It’s the tale of three siblings, separated when a blood mage comes to town and captures the eldest. Their parents are dead. The middle child, Ella, soon goes looking for him and finds herself entangled with a group of people with aligned interests. The youngest child, Marius, hooks up with a Tahali monk. Their stories intertwine and finally come together in a satisfying set up for the next book. The book is very well written and has been chosen as a semi-finalist. It’s easy to see why. If you enjoy tales of dark magic and adventure, you will love this book. I fully recommend giving it a read.
Todd was kind enough to grant me an interview. Read it below.
Todd Herzman writes fantasy, science fiction, and anything else that catches his fancy. He has a Bachelor of Writing degree from the University of Canberra which hangs above his desk to–in theory–give him confidence when he writes. It’s yet to work because usually his writing only gets done at coffee shops on his lunch break.
Welcome to my lair, Todd Herzman. Tell me about a great book you’ve read recently!
I’ve read so many books this year, it’s hard to choose! One of the most recent great books I read was Empire Games by Charles Stross. It was my first time reading Charles Stross, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s about alternate worlds and has people who can world-hop between them. I’ve been a sucker for parallel worlds since I watched the show Sliders as a kid, so I couldn’t walk past giving this book a try. (The Long Earth is also a great series in this genre.)
What’s your favorite song?
The second question already has me stumped. I don’t have a favourite song!
Tsk. Tsk. Well that’s okay. Now, time to escalate things: you get to travel to any book’s setting and world but you have to choose only one. Where do you go?
Most of the books I read have pretty dangerous worlds… but since the age of ten I’ve always wanted to visit Hogwarts.
How do you like to work? (In silence, with music? Do you prefer to type or to handwrite? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or underwater in scuba gear? Tell me about your writing method!
I listen to rain while writing. I’ve conditioned myself to get into the flow while listening to it, and there are no distracting lyrics or highs and lows—just a nice consistent sound, like white noise between me and the world.
I’m a discovery writer (gardener)! I don’t start with no knowledge, but I definitely don’t have a solid plan (or even a liquid plan—it’s more… foggy). Usually I have a few events in mind. For book two in the Hollow Fate series, I knew the midpoint, and (very) roughly the end climax, but I didn’t know how any of it happened, or how the characters would get there. Writing it out is how it all comes together.
While writing the first draft, I listen to the previous day’s writing using a text-to-speech program while making my coffee and eating my breakfast (or while commuting, in pre-COVID days) to keep the story fresh in my mind, then I… sit down and write. Butt in chair. At the same times every day, from start to finish, until I get to the end. Then its draft two, where I plug any holes, fix inconsistencies, tweak and add descriptions, polish prose.
Then it’s off to betas.
Draft three is another full pass, addressing any of my betas’ concerns, big or small, and deciding which to ignore.
Draft four (which I’m doing for A Darkness Beckons right now) is mostly a proofread—catching any lingering issues and typos, so it goes quite quickly.
What/Who are your most significant fantasy influences?
I’ve learnt a lot from Brandon Sanderson. When I first started writing, I discovered his lectures on Youtube before I’d ever read any of his books. Rothfuss is a big influence as well, simply because he’s my favourite author. Other than reading their books, I’ve listened to countless interviews with the both of them.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The same piece of advice is both incredibly helpful and unyieldingly true, but also lacks any extra explanation so can be unhelpful when you’ve no idea what you’re doing. That advice boils down to two words (and I’d offer these words to any new writer):
Can you tell me a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’m working on A Darkness Beckons, book two in the Hollow Fate series. And… Hmm. What can I say that isn’t a spoiler? Okay, I thought of something: It’s got two more perspectives than the first book, and it’s been a joy writing from a villain’s perspective.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
If I’m sick, I let myself off the hook. Otherwise, I just write. I’ve made writing so it’s a habit. I do it at the same time every day, no matter if I’m tired, no matter if I don’t know what happens next, no matter if I end up writing half as much as my quota. I just sit down, and write.
That took a lot of practice.
Who are your favourite characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
You know, I struggle with naming ‘favourites’ in anything. That’s a poor answer, but it’s the truth. I have a favourite book (The Name of the Wind), but I don’t have a favourite character in that book. I enjoyed the characters, but favourites… favourites have always been hard for me.
I’ll throw out a few names from TV shows I enjoy though: Castle from Castle. Daniel Jackson from Stargate SG-1. Almost every character in Firely…
I’m not sure what characters I enjoy writing the most. I’ve really enjoyed writing from a villain’s perspective in my current project, but I couldn’t write from only their perspective. Perhaps that’s why I write multi-POV books—I’m not satisfied with just one character.
Tell me about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
One of my most recent reads was Voice of War by Zack Argyle, a fellow SPFBO entrant. It’s a wonderfully written epic fantasy reminiscent of Sanderson’s work.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle me with an elevator pitch?
Do you like swords forged from fallen stars? Blood magic? Big evil bad guys? Pacifistic, telekinetic monks? Lightning shooting from people’s hands? Creating fire with a thought? People forced into an adventure they are so not ready for? A Dark Inheritance has all of that and more.
Why should readers check out your work?
Because, swords forged from fallen stars!
But seriously, you should try my work if you like epic fantasy and want to check out a new author who will be writing for a long, long time. If you read a sample of A Dark Inheritance on Amazon and don’t want to read on, I’ll… I’ll understand. But give it a go!
Read the book here.