Interview with M. Todd Gallowglas

Today’s blog will be a little different than normal.  I have an interview with one of the other Genre Underground authors, M. Todd Galloglas (here is a link to the first book in his Tears of Rage story which will be on sale during the Winds of Change promotion!) Let me know how you feel on interviews, and if you would like more from the other talented authors of the Genre Underground.

And now … the interview!

1)Tell us more of your background, how you started in Indie Publishing. Was there any specific events or occurrences that pushed you towards Indie Publishing?

I actually resisted the indie book thing for a couple of years. I was in a writers group, and one of the guys in the group mentioned this new online publishing thing. The dream of a “real” publishing deal had been beaten into my head by all the traditionalists, especially as I regularly attended conventions and conferences in my quest for that publication deal. This may have been in 2007/2008 – maybe earlier.

Flash forward a couple of years. I have a degree in English with a focus in Creative Writing. The plan was for me to go into teaching English while waiting for that elusive “book deal.” That plan wasn’t working out so well. The teaching thing wasn’t panning out in the current economy, and I was back to storytelling at Renaissance Faires to help pay the bills. Within a few days of each other, my wife and several friends send me links to a couple articles about some person names Amanda Hawking and how many ebooks she was selling.

One of my performer buddies had this story he’d written that he shared with me about zombies invading a Renaissance Faire. The story was pretty entertaining and funny, but the writing had some issues. We talked about fixing it up, putting it on Amazon, promoting it at our shows, and sit back and watch what happened. We sold over a hundred copies that first month. Not a lot at $.99 a copy, especially splitting it, but enough for each of us to eat a decent dinner together at a fair after the royalty check came in from Amazon.

I was hooked. I had a bunch of work sitting in my documents folder from school and before. I had a medium where I could get it out to people. With my storytelling show, I had a great platform to launch a book career. And now here I am a year later, international bestseller, forming a group of like-minded indie genre writers, and living the dream.

2) In your current series Tears of Rage you have a very dynamic pantheon. This is not a normal good vs. evil pantheon, but there are many different personalities and alliances. Tell us more about your pantheon, both influences and a few details of the key players for our readers.

I’m not a big fan of good vs. evil. Most religions aren’t like that. People aren’t like that. I had so many false starts and hiccups and such when I started Tears of Rage, that I’m not really sure where I decided that the gods would be getting involved, but once I made that choice, I realized they all had to be something more than good vs evil. If we look back on our own mythology, we see stuff like this all the time. Hera was a nasty bitch, but her husband was a cheating bastard, so it’s kind of understandable. I’d also been reading a bunch of fantasy where the bad gods were the BAD god. EVIIIIIL for the sake of being EVIIIIIIL. *yawn* How terribly uninteresting.

Anyway, I thought, what if I make my protagonists the side that’s stuck between Light and Dark. Grandfather Shadow was born. I came up with a sort of creation myth for him (Which you can read a part of that in the prologue to Once We Were Like Wolves). And the pantheon grew pretty quickly after that.

As for divine movers and shakers in the books, right now, we’ve got Grandfather Shadow who is just been freed from a thousand year prison; Yrgaeshkil, goddess of lies and mother of Daemyns, she’s also married to Old Uncle Night, the god of death; and Kahddria, the goddess of Winds.  Others pop up now and then, but these are the deities that pop up on stage most frequently so far. Four of the five greater gods are still imprisoned, but don’t count on them staying that way for long.

3) Your book flow is rather unique, having various sections with its own chapters in it rather than just a standard three act separation or all the chapters in a row.  Tell us more about how you got the idea for this, and why you prefer this setup for this series?

I’m not the only writer who does this. Steven King uses this technique in some of his books, most notably The Dark Tower series. I like the form. I’m not going to use it for everything I write, but I really enjoy it for the Tears of Rage books. I don’t use it for Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate or my upcoming books Spellpunk and Team Red Hand series. But I’m probably going to use something like this for Dead Weight. Wow, did I digress.

I’ve been sitting here thinking of how I got the idea for this and why I prefer it, and really the only thing I can come up with is: I thought it was a cool idea so I tried it. I knew I was taking a risk, especially with the opening sections of First Chosen. That’s not the way most people are used to having stories unfold. I think if I hadn’t read Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, I wouldn’t have had the guts to do this. In the original draft of Julianna’s storyline, the book opens with Grandfather Shadow being freed from his prison and the events that led up to that I planned to seed in throughout the narrative of the series. It was a strong opening, but didn’t sit right with me. I felt the reader actually needed to go through those events that take place over the course of twenty-one years; however, giving the reader those years in the tradition setup, prologue, chapter one, chapter two, etc… wasn’t going to work. Luckily, it seems to have paid off. I’d urge other writers caution before trying something this experimental. Make sure you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and be ready for it to fail miserably.

4)Are there any particular real world inspirations for the cultures in the book?  I can detect some Italian influence on some of the mortal names but I was curious if there were other inspirations?

I draw a lot from real-world cultures, and not just Italian. I’ve draw inspiration from all over the world.

The four great Houses of the Kingdom are based very loosely on cultures from Earth, and the political structure is based sort of on the Chinese Game Mah Jongg. I took the importance of numbers from Asian cultures and assigned each of the deities a sacred number, and used that to influence the great House that worshiped that particular god or goddess.

As for names… One of the greatest investments I’ve ever made as a writer was in purchasing a massive baby name book. It has over 30,000 names, categorized by culture. Any time I need a name, I go to that book and flip through it. Can’t recommend enough for other writers get something like that.

5)The language and naming of the gods, what inspired them?

Well, Grandfather Shadow’s language was first. I actually invented it before I started working on Tears of Rage. I’m a huge role-playing game nut. I used to go to this big live action role playing event (no, not the one Jim Butcher does) a couple times a year. In this, every wizard, priest, cleric, magic user, etc… had to have a spell book, with all their spells written in it. If another player got their hands on the spell book, they could steal all of your spells…IF they could read the book. I created Galad’laman, the language of Grandfather Shadow, as a way to keep my spells safe. It was a mix of Gaelic, Finnish, and Tolkienian elvish, though 99% of the elvish influence has been weeded out. I stopped going to those LARP events almost 15 years ago, but I had my notes and such on the language, so when I sat down to write Tears of rage and I was looking for something new and interesting to do with the magic, I opened my old spell book and notes.

Looking back, I wish I’d come up with something different. I have a plethora of gods, half a dozen of them at least have their own languages. The biggest pain in the but I have writing these books is translating the damn and bloody miracles out of English and into whatever language as character is using to speak Miracles. I am so dreading the massive battle at the end of book 4 The Fires of Night.

6)You are releasing the books in a format that seems tailored for ebooks, slightly shorter but in rapid releases. Was this because of the ebook medium, or are there other reasons for this?

I think it’s ironic that people think of my books as shorter. At one point, a novel was classified as any book over forty thousand words in length. First Chosen clocks in at just over 60,000 words, and Once We Were Like Wolves is just over 83,000. Arms of the Storm is currently 123,810. (It’ll be different once I get it back from my beta readers and editors.)  Thirty or forty years ago in publishing, these books would have been on the massive side of books, if publishable at all. Now days, even Arms of the Storm is tiny compared to what some people are publishing in fantasy.

So, that being said, you can thank three men for my publication schedule and the size of my books: Robert Jordan, George RR Martin, and Steven Erikson. These three gentlemen are likely the kings of the door-stopper fantasies (though Brandon Sanderson is catching up), and I’ve been following each ones’ huge fantasy epic since pretty much day one. I was a couple of books behind when I got to Ericson’s Gardens of the Moon, but I caught up quickly. When it came time to put out Tears of Rage, I had fourteen hundred pages of a manuscript I called Once We Were Like Wolves, the first chronicle of Tears of Rage. Quite a mouthful, even if just reading in. Oh, AND, I wasn’t even finished with that story. Which with my “I’m going to get a traditional publishing deal” mindset, I felt was okay. After all, those other three guys did it.

By the time I decided to go indie, I realized something: only one of those three guys is putting out books on a regular basis. The other two are taking years and years, sometime even a decade between when we see some of our favorite characters. As a reader, that really ticked me off. Erikson managed to put out all ten of his door stoppers in 11 years, 10 months, 14 days. That’s pretty impressive, considering half of them are over 350,000 words. And I’ve never heard anyone really complain, “When’s that next Steven Erikson book coming out?” At least not seriously. I wanted to be that kind of writer. The one problem is that I can’t do a Steven Erikson level of production, at least not yet. So, my readers get my Tears of Rage books in smaller doses, but they get them a little more regularly. For the Halloween Jack books, they have to wait for October to roll around again.

7)Tell us more about the Genre Underground, both what inspired you to start this, and where you see it heading.

Wow. That’s quite a doozie of a question. I’ll do my best to answer it.

I’ve been a member of several Indie writer groups. While they had some people writing fantasy and science fiction, no one in those organizations was really active in the fan community. I’ve been going to conventions and such since I was eighteen. I’ve grown up as a fan of genre literature. As I writer, I write the books I wish someone else would write so I could read them. With these other Indie writer promotion groups, while I learned a lot about marketing and such, I felt they really didn’t understand the community I’m trying to reach as a writer, mostly because they didn’t grow up in it the same way I did. I also felt they were a bit too much of “if you have a pulse, you should buy my book.” Growing up in the community, I understand that’s not how fantasy and science fiction really work. Not everyone is going to groove on my stuff. I’m okay with that. I’m not a big Terry Pratchett, China Miéville, or Robert Heilein fan, but tell that to anyone who is a fan of any of those three, and the reactions are usually awesome. On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen Terry Pratchett almost cause a riot one year at the World Science Fiction convention when he announced, “I don’t like Tolkien and think he’s overrated.” So, with all that experience under my belt, I’m building the Genre Underground, trying to keep the readers firmly in my head, because I’m a reader, I write for readers, and I really want to make those people who are allowing me the privilege of living my dream the focus of my movement.

As for where do I think the GU is going? We’ll see. I’m already blown away by the interest and support we’re getting. Once we’re on the other side of the Winds of Change promotion, I’ll have a sit down with the other guys I invited into the GU and see how the whole thing went over with the readers and where we all want to go from here. Sure, The Genre Underground is my brain child, but I also don’t want it to become the M Todd Gallowglas show. If it weren’t for A.E. Marling, Christopher Kellen, and R.C. Murphy, the Genre Underground might never have been anything but a dream in my mind. Then we brought Robert Eaton, M.D. Kenning, and Dave Meek into the fold, and we’re getting on toward escape velocity. More writers have expressed interest in joining up. If they bring the same initiative, drive, and dedication to our mission statement, anything is possible.

8)Are there any particular influences on your works in general?  Is it all fantasy fiction, or are there other inspirations at well?

I’ve read lots of Fantasy and a bit of Science Fiction, some Horror. Yes. All of that has influenced me and my writing to the point where my storytelling brain just requires some sense of the fantastic to work. Heck, I don’t even do Science Fiction well.

That being said: Read outside the genres.

I wouldn’t be the writer I am without having read: Hemmingway, Tim O’Brien, Flannery O’Conner, J.D. Salinger, Jeffry Eugenides, and many others. Everyone should read these writers and more. They should also read stuff they don’t think they’ll like. I learned my biggest lesson on keeping my world internally consistent from being forced to read Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” about a bajillion times while taking those few required lit classes while getting my BA in Creative Writing. The story has a huge gaping inconsistency in it. Took me only three reads to get it, and then I ripped it apart in every class I’ve ever had it in since.

I’ll leave with this challenge: Go read the story. If you read the story and catch the gaping inconsistency in the world Walker tries to create but fails, email me at, and I’ll give you a gift copy of Arms of the Storm book 3 in Tears of Rage before it hits Amazon.

Thanks for having me as a guest. And thanks to everyone who stopped by and who supports all the Genre Underground writers.


About mdkenning

E-book clockpunk fantasy author View all posts by mdkenning

2 responses to “Interview with M. Todd Gallowglas

  • amkenning

    Love the advice to read outside genre. I’m a huge fantasy nut, but some of the classics (Flannery O’Conner especially) are totally worth reading, especially if you’re going to write.

    I love the whole idea of Genre Underground, and I’m definitely going to check out some of the different authors during this promotion. 🙂

  • Shannondoa

    Tears of Rage sounds fascinating and I will have to pick it up during the special. Its also really nice to see some of how you created some aspects of your work. I’m also glad that something like GU group exists because it helps spread the word of various authors.

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