Got a question for Timothy Baril? Ask me anything on the contact page. Your question might be included on the list below.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing in high school. I got in this writing mood and cranked out most of a fantasy book in only 2 weeks. No planning or anything, just threw myself into it. Never finished it though. Years went by and it would be a long time before I got back into it. In the next phase, I started sitting down and writing seriously, and had this big series of pirate novels planned. But then I realized that all I was writing was action. There was no deeper meaning to the books. I suppose that’s true of a great many books and tv shows and films, but I wanted more. So writing once more got put on hold while I studied life. Then, years later, I got into writing once more. This time, I tried to go professional, and here I am.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends entirely on the book. The more the author wants to put into the story, theme, symbolism, and messages for the reader, the longer it takes to plan that out and to do it properly. Same with writing style. If you want every single sentence to be gold, it takes longer. But if you just want to whip out a quick story for fun, you can do that in a month.
I’m redoing Dracula. Originally, I was only going to redo it as a single book. Then I started planning and things got complicated and it turned into at least 5 books. So that obviously made the process longer. Same with the Heartstone series. That was only going to be a single novel. I didn’t mind because I like thick novels. But people would rather split a big novel into smaller parts for some odd reason, despite the fact that it’s the same number of words. So one novel became multiple, then each part grew in size because of it. All that makes the writing process take longer.
The process gets infinitely longer when you have to work a second job and fit in friends and family and so forth as well.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
That’s a work in progress. Ultimately, an author needs to write just about every day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I type one-handed on my phone while riding a unicorn through the mountains, chased by ghosts. The ghosts are my first critics and beta-readers. The unicorn is my editor.
Ok, I can’t actually think of anything quirky. Maybe I’m boring! (gasp!) I guess I’ll work on being quirkier. How about using an old-fashioned type writer while sitting naked in a little pool filled with jello and cheered on by beautiful women in bikinis? No? Too quirky? Ok, I’ll find some middle ground somewhere.
How do your books get published?
I never thought I’d ever get picked up by a big publishing house. There’s just too much competition; it’s like winning the lottery. Except that it’s also not because I’ve heard too many stories of how little money authors make even when the Big 5 print their book. Authors get maybe 10% of a print book’s cover price. And publishing houses don’t really go to a lot of effort to promote and sell. Neither do bookstores, for that matter. When is the last time you saw a book add on tv?
Because of all that, I decided to self publish. Unfortuntely, that means working all on your own. No editors or artists and no-one cheering you on or making you feel like a professional. And, you don’t get even the bare minimum press that publishing houses do. It all has to be done alone. That marketing takes you away from your writing. And getting started is a huge pain because so few people are willing to take a chance reading a new author. Establishing a fan base and getting reviews as a new author is very challenging.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
My fantasy novels are derived from ideas from all over. Because Heartstone is somewhat pun-based, it’s a matter of finding puns and then building them into the story. There are also a lot of cultural references worked into the world. For the Monster novels, I draw from my passion for Halloween and the whole mythos of that sort of thing.
Other books and authors are also a big inspiration and every time I read a book I wonder how I would write it and what I would do to the plot.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first completed story was Carmilla, a re-working of a story by a 19th century author. I finished that in 2013 at the age of 33.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I play a lot of sports, primarily soccer and volleyball. I love the outdoors; hiking, fishing, canoeing, mountain climbing, camping. I read a lot. I study a bit, whatever random subject I find myself interested in, crawling through books and articles on anything from genes to philosophy to history. And, when I’m dating, I tend to shower my girlfriend with love and attention, spoiling her like crazy. That takes up a lot of time.
What does your family think of your writing?
My mother has been very supportive. She put me up while my writing career got started, allowing me to dedicate myself full time to my writing. Hopefully, the rest of my family will show an interest later on too.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
A lot of books are rather empty of meaning. They’re just action and manipulation. People only care about creating cliffhangers and twists and drama for the sake of tittilating the emotions of the audience. The more excited you make them, the more money you make. Few writers seem to be trying to put a message or morality into the work.
My goal has always been to include some kind of moral message or life lesson in my writing. I want my readers to become better people and make the world a better place. But that’s surprisingly difficult to do, which is one of the reasons it doesn’t happen more often. I am still struggling to create the kinds of stories I want and I hope that I will be better at it in the future.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
So far I’ve written two Heartstone fantasy novels and redone two monster stories. The fantasy ones are very much me and my humour and my style, so I think I’m more passionate about those. I giggle at my own jokes when I write them and pat myself on the back a lot for coming up with brilliant silliness.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Learn to finish stories. Starting an idea is easy, finishing is very difficult.
Make writing a habit. Every day, this much time or this many pages. If it’s not a habit, it won’t get done.
Network. The only way to establish yourself is to get in front of people. No-one is going to market for you. Build social media, make a ton of friends, and then tap into that pool for reviews and help spreading the word about your books. It takes a lot of time and effort.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I’ve heard from a few fans. Luckily, they’ve been positive comments. I am not looking forward to hate mail from trolls and losers. But fans who talk about their favourite characters and events are wonderful. It helps build my confidence as an author and helps me focus on what to create in the future.
Do you like to create books for adults?
I would like to make a children’s book or two at some point, but I prefer the adult market.
What do you think makes a good story?
The only stories that really matter are ones with characters we care about undergoing positive internal change. These are the stories that teach us values and better behaviour. People enjoy action, but what they remember most and what isnpures us all is character growth and relationships.
Think of Harry Potter. Why was he so popular with readers? Because people really empathized with him and were drawn to the character and his journey. The setting and magic of it all was a great bonus, but if Harry hadn’t been so compelling, the series would have fallen flat.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Professional skiier. Pirate. Adventurer. Porn star. Pro-baseball player. The best romantic partner ever. Disney Imagineer.
What book do you wish you’d written?
I wish I was good enough to write Taipan or Shogun by James Clavell, or something as emotionally moving as Watership Down.
What is the purpose of writing?
To make the world a better place. Stories are education and are a vital part of our culture. Each time we consume a book or tv show or movie, even a song, we are being shaped by it. It shapes the way we feel about things, think about things, and act. Therefore, it is imperative that we take more care in all of the stories and music that we create so that we help shape a better world through art.
What changes does writing bring to your life?
Personal creativity, which turns out to be good for the soul. I find that the healthiest lifestyle is one in which we engage in a variety of behaviours and finding some way to be creative, whether it’s writing or finger-painting is very important to all of us. Though some of us don’t realize that.
Could you imagine never writing again?
Yes, but I’d like to stay in story creation. One day, I’d like to be the head of the next Disney empire, creating all kinds of stories and shaping culture around the world, trying to make the world a better place. Maybe even trying to save it. That said, I have so many story ideas that I’d really like to get on paper some day.
If you had a dinner party, which of your own two characters would you invite?
I’d probably invite Orchid, the Dark Enchantress, and Melina, the fairy, both from Heartstone and have a wild and sexy time together. Or may Arwin and Yaz, also from Heartstone, because we’d have a hilariously good time joking with puns and talking about girls, and after dinner we’d probably end up on some silly adventure wandering around town. And how cool would it be to be able to hang out with an actual animated skeleton, right?
Do you listen to music as you write?
Sometimes. No particular genre, just whatever the mood fits. Often it’s either happy, uplifting music or epic stuff. I listen with headphones so that it blocks the world out. Then I actually end up blocking the music out too as i mentally focus on the writing and enter another world. It’s a really useful tool.
How much of the writing process involves pen & ink versus using a computer?
I constantly write notes with a pen. I’ll plot plots and map maps. I have a stack of notes like you wouldn’t believe. I’d actually like to be able to write the books themselves by hand, but it just takes way too long. I can type several times faster, so it’s way more productive. That said, the slower way of writing with a pen does allow for more thinking time. Which would probably improve word quality and maybe even the imaginative process. Maybe creating a book more slowly would lend itself to higher quality. But when you’re scrambling to make a living, time is a luxury we don’t have.
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