Author Interview: Todd Newton, Part 1

My last interview was for my high school newspaper staff, so I think Todd Newton deserves major props for being my first victim guinea pig interviewee in a while. I forget how exactly we met, but Todd is a fellow writer, and we’ve become blog-buddies over the past year or so. His fantasy novel The Ninth Avatar has been on a very interesting journey, and he was kind enough to take a few moments to tell us about it.


Todd and his book

Alright, first thing’s first. Who is Todd Newton?

I’m originally from a small town in Northern California but I’ve moved around a lot over the years, eventually ending up here in Denver where I plan to stay. I’ve been an avid Fantasy reader since about age 12, and have been trying to write my own since around the same time. As for hobbies, these days I enjoy smoking cigars, playing KOEI’s Warriors games on my Playstation, and traveling as much as I possibly can. I’m married to a wonderful, beautiful lady named Micah, and we have two dogs named Leonidas (aka Leo, named after the character from 300) and Suki. Both the pups are full grown at around 18 pounds, and they’re mixed-breed rescue dogs.


Suki & Leo!

Aww, they are the perfect size to play with Riley, who is also a mixed breed rescue dog! Too bad there are no such things as online puppy play dates.

Alright, second thing’s second. What is The Ninth Avatar?

Well, don’t let the term “epic fantasy” fool you. The Ninth Avatar is very much a story about characters and how their lives intertwine and connect. The main protagonist, Starka, has a lot to deal with as an outcast priestess already, but when she receives a prophecy that seemingly has nothing to do with her religion, her simple life turns incredibly complicated.

While she’s on this journey of self-discovery to keep the prophecy from coming true, characters like Cairos (a wizard) and DaVille are seeking revenge for betrayals against them, while still other characters are seeking justice for their demolished homelands.

I think the two major themes in this work are that war is cataclysmic, and that the role of religion should focus more on bringing people together than keeping them apart. The swords and magic are fun and exciting, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a lot more going on in the story than that.

Is “9A” the first book you’ve written?

Yes, it’s the first book I started that I was able to finish. Like a lot of the writers I’ve met (through my critique group and otherwise), I had quite a few false starts over the years that turned into learning experiences.

Ooo, any lessons from those false starts that you can share with us?

The biggest things for me were to relax, don’t obsess about word count or whatever else the industry or the books you read say “you must have.” Just write the best story you can, then edit it to make it better. Find a way to take yourself and your work seriously without becoming a complete maniac about it.

(Haha, good advice for me right now…)

Along with that, think of writing a novel like building a house. You want to build a house that you’d actually live in, right? Don’t expect other people to live in it if you wouldn’t do so yourself.

I love that analogy. So, are you “building any more houses” now that 9A is done?

I’ve since completed one other book and I’m currently 2/3rds of the way through a third. For anyone who’s curious on how to finish a novel, the secret is writing a story you truly believe in, especially because finishing the writing part is not the final step. An important step, to be sure, but not nearly the end of the process.

Hmm, sounds like you know a bit about long processes. Can you tell us about 9A’s journey to publication?

Do you have a few hours? (Seriously.)

Haha, alright, let’s start at the beginning then. How did you come up with and develop the idea for 9A?

When I finished getting my BS in Computer Science, all I wanted to do was design video games. Ultimately I ended up with somewhat of a “garage” design group and I was enlisted to write the story for their game. When the project later fell apart, I figured why not turn it into a novel, so I bought half a dozen books on writing and gave it a try. As I worked more on it, my confidence about it grew, and I decided this “writing books” thing was something I really enjoyed.

Funny, I studied compsci for a while too…

Alright, folks, that’s it for today. Don’t forget to come back for Part 2 of the interview on Friday. That’s when Todd will spill the beans about 9A’s special road to publication, as well as his writing process and future plans!

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22 Comments

  1. Interesting so far. I’m looking forward to Friday’s installment!
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: In which my feelings about the dentist speak volumes about my feelings about my life =-.

  2. Good job! I think your high school newspaper editor would be proud.

    So, now I am totally dying to know where in Norcal he is from (being a NorCal girl myself).
    .-= • Recent post by Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist: Connecting the old life with the new =-.

  3. @Sonja Thanks. Love your blog, btw, especially the title.

    @Rebecca It’s a tiny town between Chico and Yuba City called Biggs. Where’s NorCal “home” for you?
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

  4. Les

    Fantasy, video games AND from Denver?! Can I be a groupie? ;) I kid, I kid. Great interview!
    .-= • Recent post by Les: DKnet giveaway! =-.

  5. ….I have to wait until Friday? It’s always so interesting to get some insight into how other writer’s start and finish their novels. How great that Ninth Avatar was the first finished book to be published. A writer friend and I were just lamenting how it seems to be a lot of writers have three or four completed novels in their drawer before publishing.
    .-= • Recent post by Sarah: Roger, Roger =-.

  6. Sarah-
    Yeah, “practice novels” I think they’re called. Of course, I’m not sure anyone knows they are practice until AFTER they are written, queried and rejected… That said, I’m trying to remind myself that 3 seems to be the average, so I’ve got 1.5 down and 1.5 to go.

  7. @Les Yes, all true. Your link didn’t say much about you, but I did like the horseshoe pillow. Is there a different site where you live?

    @Sarah I am growing to further appreciate your enthusiasm!! Let me just say that I am way, WAY too impatient to put completed novels in a drawer. If someone isn’t reading them, whether it’s for consumption, consideration, or critique, then why did I spend all that time writing it?
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

  8. Kristan, speaking of novels, is it safe to ask what’s the status of The Good Daughters?
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

  9. Haha, safe, sure. It’s in a drawer. ;P

  10. @Kristan I hope it’s a drawer with a fancy pull on it, solely devoted to storing artwork (rather than sharpies and rubber bands, where dust bunnies congregate like the locker scene in Men In Black 2). More of a “gilded cage” type thing is all I’m saying, so if it’s in a place where I can’t read it, at least it’s comfortable.
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

  11. Great interview, Kristan! Clearly, your high school newspaper experience prepared you well.

    Sounds like a great story, Todd! Who doesn’t love a good character-driven epic fantasy? :)
    .-= • Recent post by Samantha Bennett: Girl on a Hot Shed Roof =-.

  12. @Samantha Amen, and thanks. Fantasy is a surprisingly hard sell with my critique group sometimes when I submit a chapter for their opinions. Most of them are writing their memoirs, but 9 times out of 10 their critiques start with, “I don’t usually read stuff like this…” and end with “…but I liked it.” (the stuff in between, unfortunately, varies a great deal)
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

  13. @Todd Newton Thanks for clicking over to my blog and your kind words. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of Kristan’s interview with you even more. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: In which my feelings about the dentist speak volumes about my feelings about my life =-.

  14. (I’m kind of surprised no one has commented on my dogs. Leo’s giant Chihuahua eyes usually steal him the spotlight wherever he appears.)

    @Sonja Your blog actually gives me hope. I have two older sisters (and numerous family friends) who run “guess what my kid said today!?” blogs, and the formulaic nature of them has exhausted me. Your blog has your personality, a writer’s edge & wit, not to mention some seriously hilarious moments, all of which I enjoy.
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

  15. Do you two need a room? :P

    Thanks, Todd, for fielding all these comments!

  16. Really good! I liked the building a house analogy too!

  17. Jon

    I also like the idea of practice novels. You need a couple under your belt before you’re ready to write your best work (I hope!).
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Waking Sleeping Beauty and Creativity =-.

  18. @Todd All right already! I just ordered your book! It was either that or have sex with you, and I don’t think either one of our wives would appreciate that. ;)
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: In which my feelings about the dentist speak volumes about my feelings about my life =-.

  19. LOLOLOLOL SONJA!!!!!

    Jon-
    That’s my theory too. I’m not saying *every* writer needs that, but I would guess that many do.

  20. …what have I gotten myself into?? LOL

    @Sonja
    Thanks, you’ll have to let me know what you think of it! And yes, I’m sure your Plan B would redefine “rage” and “fury” from our respective wives. Not optimal, not optimal at all.

    @Kristan
    Way to egg on the controversy! You facilitator, you!

    @TatteredSpinner
    Thanks, I usually leave speaking in analogy to a good friend of mine (@GabeThexton on Twitter, he just made Genius and is a prolific writer/blogger) because he’s much better at it.

    @Jon
    Practice does make perfect, but for me a novel is too big a project. I agree with Kristan, though, that not everyone’s journey is going to be the same. Whatever you can use for a learning experience is going to be helpful.
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

  21. Great interview, this sounds really interesting! Epic fantasy is TOTALLY okay with me :)
    .-= • Recent post by Emily Jane: 80s Time Traps, McCartney & Gaga, and Weapon-Wielding Monarchs: April = AWESOME =-.

  22. @Emily Jane
    Thanks, and I’m glad to hear that!
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Interview with Kristan Hoffman, Part 1 (of 2) =-.

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