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EaTD

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Author interview with Ted Cross


Q.  Welcome Ted, and thanks for taking the time to interview, I know you have a busy schedule. By way of introduction, can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

A.  I really appreciate you having me here, Sam. As you can see from the picture with my two sons, I grew up in Arizona. I split time living in Tucson and Phoenix. I always had a love for history, which gave me the travel bug since I wanted to experience some of the places I read about in history books, so that led to me joining the Foreign Service and spending most of the past 22 years overseas. I miss America, but I'm glad to get to see so much of the world. So far I've lived in Russia, Croatia, China, Iceland, Hungary, and Azerbaijan, and I would like to add a few more to that list before I retire. 

In Russia I met my wife, and we've been married for twenty years now. Our two sons are teens, so we're in that stage of worrying about them heading off to college. The younger one shares my enjoyment of writing, while both of them are talented musically, which is something I only found out about myself quite late. Besides writing and music, I'm really into playing chess, so I have always chosen to be stationed in countries with strong chess traditions. 


Q.  So how did you get involved with writing? Were you one of those who had a story nagging in the back of your mind for years on end, or are you a prolific daydreamer with several ideas on hand at any given moment?

A.  Both! I never thought I would actually write novels, even though I liked the thought of doing it. It seemed so hard! And it is. But the stories just wouldn't go away. Like you said, they kept nagging at my mind and the details kept expanding, until it reached a point where I felt I had no choice and I started typing one out. At first it was just the one story (which became The Shard, my second release), but now the ideas just keep coming, and I struggle to figure out which one to write next simply because there are so many exciting ideas I want to work on.


Q.  Tell me about your books. Last year you released The Immortality Game, a sci-fi thriller that has received some great reviews. How did you decide to set the story in 22nd century Moscow?

A.  Since living for four years in Moscow in the 1990's, I had really wanted to write a mafia thriller set there, because the Russian mafia was an everyday part of life at that time. But an actual story never quite came together for me. Later when I had some intriguing sci-fi ideas, I realized I could write my mafia story if I moved it into the future. The technology level of my sci-fi ideas was relatively near future, but I wanted to show a societal collapse that took decades to overcome, so I chose 2138  as a date that gave me enough time for society to be piecing itself back together again after the collapse.


Q.  Your newest release, The Shard, is high fantasy through and through. If I am not mistaken, you refer to it as kind of a throwback to D&D, but with a grittier feel. What does this novel bring to the table for fantasy readers?

A.  I think superficially many readers will think it doesn't offer anything new, as they will see the obvious features of elves, dwarves, wizards and dragons and roll their eyes and say it's just another Tolkien clone. And if that's their take, then so be it, the book isn't really meant for them. To me there really is a new element to my story. I grew up during the huge Dungeons & Dragons craze of the 1980's (at least that was when it hit hard in Tucson). I loved the setting and wanted to explore it in every detail. However, the reading side of D&D never satisfied me. I know a lot of readers love the official D&D books, but for me they were sort of superficial, treating D&D like a game and giving us protagonists who were more like superheroes than actual people. What I wanted was to read D&D books that treated the subject seriously, as if someone like George RR Martin were writing them. But no one ever did.

Now writing a first novel is always a learning experience, as I'm sure you know, so I'll never claim that my first novel The Shard is an important work within the genre. It's a first novel and I learned a lot from writing it. I still enjoy the story after all these years (I finished writing it in 2009), and my younger son has read it four times, so it accomplished what I set out to do, which was to finally see at least one story written in a D&D-type setting that treats it like real life.


Q.  Since we mentioned the subject of D&D. Would you be willing to name your all-time favorite race or class to play as?

A.  I always preferred to play humans. And I think that speaks to novels in general, where we can write about other races like elves and dwarves, but generally you will still see the protagonists be human (whith notable exceptions like Drizzt). It's because readers need to identify with the protagonists, and it's much easier for them to do so when they can closely relate to them.


Q.  Let's discuss your future projects. Are you planning to write sequels to The Shard? Do you have more fantasy novels in the works? Do you envision yourself sticking with fantasy and sci-fi, or will you ever step away from those genres?

A.  As I said earlier, I'm torn between a number of book ideas. Right now I have two fully fleshed outlines, one for a far-future sci-fi that I feel has the potential to be a real hit, and another that is a prequel to The Shard. I also have several sketchier outlines for sequels to The Shard. I never wanted to write a traditional series. I always wanted to write stand alone novels, but also have them be within the same universe so there could be some continuity. In the end I imagine I'll have two to three more books set in the Known Lands of The Shard, and at least a couple more sci-fi novels. Given how each novel I've written has bred more ideas, I'm sure that I'll never lack for inspiration.

I doubt I'll write outside of science fiction and fantasy. I do have a great idea for a historical fiction novel, but in today's world I think it would be dangerous to write a story that plays with religious themes in a controversial way, so I don't think I'll ever actually write that one.


Q.  Thanks again for sharing some of your time. I know I already have a copy of The Shard, and I encourage others to go out and grab it as well. For those who would like to know more about you and your books, where can they go?

A.  I keep a blog ( http://tedacross.blogspot.com/) and I'm on Facebook (Ted.Cross.Author) and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9846871.Ted_Cross). Thanks again for the interview!