This Week’s Featured Author Interview
is with Ellis Knox
Hi, Ellis Knox, welcome to the Indie Publishing Group website. Introduce yourself to us. Tell everyone who you are, where you’re from, what do you enjoy doing, hobbies and interests.
I was born in Richland, Washington. My dad was a night club musician, so I grew up all over the Pacific Northwest—I attended twenty-eight different public schools, often staying in one place only for a two-week gig.
As a young man I wanted to be an astronomer, but a strong dose of calculus and physics cured me of that. At nearly the same time I took my first history course and that was that. I was and remain a historian, even though I’m now retired from it as a profession.
What I enjoy doing is mainly what I do: I write. There was a stretch in the late nineties and early aughts when I did a fair amount of electronic music (cheers for mp3.com). I had always played keyboard and guitar, and when home studios became economically feasible, I went bonkers for it. Made seven CDs. But I found myself turning increasingly to writing (see below). This, along with the business of self-publishing, takes up all my free time.
When did you start writing and why?
I started writing science fiction when I was a teenager, having fallen in love with the genre. I thought I might become a writer but instead became a historian, which involves a good deal of writing in itself. As the decades passed, I slowly moved from science fiction to fantasy, but it was always erratic, on the side, more notes than stories.
One day, about fifteen years ago, my wife put on my desk a rejection letter. It was to Galaxy Magazine, a story I had submitted in the early 1970s, hand-written by the editor, in which he said the usual: not quite for us, but do keep trying. She had saved that letter all those years.
The moment clicked. From that point on, I made up my mind not merely to write, but to become an author.
Which is your favorite book you have written and what gave you the idea for it?
Oh, I love all my darlings equally. <snort> Once written, though, mostly I see the places where each could have been better. I rarely look back at what I have written. My favorite book is always the one I’m working on right now.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Nothing terrible clever here. Mad House could have been Madhouse, but I liked the added layers of meaning gained by separating the words. Goblins at the Gates was an easy choice, being a variant of “barbarians at the gates”–a rather old-fashioned phrase describing the invasions of the late Roman Empire. I honestly thought it was too on-the-nose, but everyone else seems to like it. Never argue with the audience, especially when you can’t come up with anything better.
Who helped you with the cover? Or did you design it yourself? What was your inspiration for your cover design?
I designed my first cover myself. It shows. I hired Deranged Doctor for Mad House, which reinforced that I am not an artist. Fiona Jayde did the cover for Goblins at the Gates.
What are some of the themes of your story?
I know what I think the themes of each are, but I only stumbled over them after the books were written, so I’m going to let readers decide for themselves. It’s nothing especially deep, but since I did not set out with a theme in mind, maybe I got it wrong, and perhaps readers will find something I did not.
What’s your process when you sit down and decide to start writing a book? What is your process, and do you have a system?
I had no system. I keep trying to adopt this approach or that, but I wander away from each quicker than a kid in chem class. It’s a major reason why Goblins took so long to write. I’m a big advocate of having a process, but I seem unable to have one of my own. Maybe I can adopt.
Who are some of your favorite characters and why?
As with my stories, I like all my characters, but I’ll call out a few. I like Petra because she’s a little girl alone in the middle of a catastrophe. Except for her Roman war dog. I like Avitus because I’ve always liked the mouthy slave from Greek comedy. And I like Quinn-the-Sprite and his friend John Golly, the philosophical ogre.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, Graham Greene, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ray Bradbury, Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, Robert Sheckley, T.H. White. And special mention of historians: Marc Bloch, Sir Steven Runciman, Lucien Febvre, and Henri Pirenne.
Have you got anything you’re working on now?
The title of the book is A Child of Great Promise. It’s the story of a young girl, half-elf and half-human, who finds out she is neither. She has to find the wizard who created her, helped by a gnome, a human troubador, and an elf chevalier. Everything I write is set in Altearth.
If you could have any superpowers what would they be?
The ability to write a publishable first draft!
If you could travel to any location in the world where would you go?
The Adriatic coast. The Pyrenees. Scotland. Wales. Southern Poland.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years’ time?
Around. I’m sixty-six years old, so hoping to still be around keeps getting higher on my priority list.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do an author interview, Ellis Knox! Take a minute and check Ellis Knox out on the links below. Ellis Knox’s book, Goblins At The Gate, is available now on Amazon!
Ellis Knox Author Website
Ellis Knox Author Twitter
Ellis Knox Author Facebook
Ellis Knox Author Goodreads