Today we’re joined by Luke Tarzian, author of the Shadow Twins series, including Vultures and The World Maker Parable. Keep scrolling to read more about his inspirations, his thoughts on self-publishing, and his writing process. Also be sure to enter the giveaway to win yourself a copy of Vultures!
About the Author
Luke Tarzian was born in Bucharest, Romania until his parents made the extremely poor choice of adopting him less than six months into his life. As such, he’s resided primarily in the United States and currently lives in California with his wife and their infant daughters. Fascinated by psychology and the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and inspired by his own anxieties, his character-driven fiction functions as a meditation on emotion, most commonly grief. His debut novel, Vultures, introduced a surreal, demon-ridden world where dreams are sometimes more than dreams and magic, memories, and misery are heavily entwined. Vultures is the first book in the Shadow Twins trilogy with a prequel novella entitled The World Maker Parable.
We already have your official bio, now we want to challenge you to describe yourself in ten words or less…Go!
Scotch-loving drinker of dogs and petter of babies. Wait…fuck.
Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to writing? Is it a particular author or authors, art, history, culture, current events, something else? How have they influenced your work?
I kind of grab from everywhere. As far as authors go, Edgar Allan Poe is probably my biggest influence tonally. I’m all about making my stories as atmospheric as possible—the darker the better. Anyone who’s read my work knows I’m big on destigmatizing mental health; a lot of my character work is done by examining my own anxieties, my own frustrations and depressions, my own grief inner turmoil. In some ways my personal life is a vague roadmap for what I write.
What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?
LOVE the creative control, especially as someone who works dually as an author and artist. I get to visually represent my books with covers I create and, man…seeing my own art in print is still pretty surreal, especially as I improve.
LOATHE marketing. I’ve gotten better, but not to the point I’d like to be.
The self-deprecating and probably-not-true answer is I excel at writing fantasy so mindfuckingly weird it scares potential readers away. My actual answer? I like to think I’m a pretty welcoming person. Self-publishing is downright terrifying and I like to help new authors—or anyone, really—feel comfortable in the community (seriously, my DMs are always open).
I think I probably struggle the most with feeling like a small fish in a big sea. I’ve gotten better at coping with it, but it’s definitely tough starting out as a new self-published author trying to get your book reviewed. At the end of the day, though, it’s all subjective and you shouldn’t take it personally.
What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone? How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!
My process basically consists of grabbing time where I can. Working full-time and having 5-and-a-half-month-old twin girls means usually eeking out a few hundred words between their naps, then really hunkering down for a few hours every night once the kids and my wife are asleep. I don’t really aim for a word count (that’s a lie—1k is usually a solid day for me) at this point—I go for time spent writing. I feel like it’s a better indicator for my progress. But as with anything, my general process fluctuates pretty frequently.
What do you think makes a good story?
Good characters, one hundred percent. If the characters are engaging and sympathetic, I’m definitely more likely to stick around as a reader, even if the plot is pretty generic. To take it one step further—antagonists that aren’t evil for the sake of being evil. Give them a personality, make them sympathetic! MAKE ME WANT TO LOVE AND CRY FOR THEM.
Is there one particular platform you find is most beneficial as a self-published author?
Name an under-appreciated novel that you love. Let us know why we should check it out.
I don’t know if I’d call it underappreciated, but Shutter Island is one hell of a psychological experience. I’d say some parts of it definitely border on oppressive horror. I’m a huge fan of unreliable narrators (re: Poe), and psychological fiction in general, so it makes sense this would be up my alley. But, since the point of this question is to actually draw attention to under-appreciated works of fiction, please, for the absolute love of GOD, go read The Obsidian Psalm by Clayton Snyder. It’s an atmospheric grimdark fantasy that makes you feel the ugliness of perpetual war. Clayton’s prose is smooth and lyrical. His characters are hardened products of endless conflict, each boasting emotional depth. Coming in between 70 and 80k words, The Obsidian Psalm evokes the emotional response many novels fail to in twice the length. This novel is quick-paced and brutal in a necromantic setting as layered and as interesting as the characters themselves. If you’re a fan of Michael Fletcher and Anna Smith Spark then I cannot recommend this enough.
What comes first, the characters or the plot?
Kind of differs from project to project, but I’d say for me it’s most often character.
Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?
I’ve always seen myself as a go-getter, and I think really leaning into the self-publishing venture has reinforced that. It’s definitely pushed my outside my comfort zone at times, but I think it’s really helped me become more confident as a writer, artist, and human being.
What do the words “literary success” mean to you?
I don’t know, man. It’s a question with myriad answers. In the present, I consider it a literary success that people have actually a) read my books and b) ENJOYED THEM. As for the future? If people continue to read and enjoy my work decades from now, I’d consider that a success as well. The money matters, but at the same time it doesn’t. I think as long as my books continue to have an audience, and I have readers with whom I can talk about my work enthusiastically, I consider myself a literary success.
Enter to win a physical copy of Vultures by Luke Tarzian!
(Your choice of first edition or second edition)
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