Author Spotlight: Troy Osgood

For today’s Author Spotlight, we’re talking to Troy Osgood! If you missed our last spotlight, check it out here!

M.N.: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What genres do you write in?

Troy: I played a little D&D as a kid, played with LEGO and G.I. Joe. Lots of stuff that involved having to create. I found that I enjoyed the creating more than the actual playing. I’ve always read; primarily fantasy and a little sci-fi; novels and comic books, branching out to other genres as I got older. I really enjoyed the serial and ongoing nature of comic books.

This love of creating led to trying to put it all down on paper. I was never satisfied with anything that I did. The impulse to just keep creating crept into those early attempts and the story would get lost.

Fast forward to 2016, after a period where didn’t write but still read nonstop and played games like Ultima Online and World of Warcraft, I discovered Amazon’s Kindle Worlds. This platform, which is now sadly gone, allowed author’s to write in other people’s “worlds”. One of those was G.I. joe. Now I could take those stories I had created as a kid and get them published for other people to enjoy.

I published a bunch of stuff through that and by being able to actually complete a story, that others enjoyed reading, it helped me get over the hump. I had a bunch of stuff created because that is something I never stopped doing. Notebooks and word documents filled with ideas and some half-started stories.

In March of 2016, I published my first book and been going non-stop since.

I write primarily fantasy and sci-fi with some pulp work coming. A variety of genres and subgenres. I read a bit of everything so I have ideas in a wide range. More ideas than time. Ideas never stop coming.

M.N.: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face when writing?

Troy: Two things. The first, and the thing that kept me from actually writing for the longest time, was that I don’t end up liking what I write. I don’t think it’s bad or anything like that, it’s just a “that could be better” kind of thing. The scenes write themselves in my head and when I put them to paper, it’s not as good. But I have stories that I want to tell and so I force myself to tell them.

The other thing goes back to the ideas never stop coming. I get hit with a new idea and have to develop it, flesh it out and see where it goes. Sometimes that new idea takes over and pushes the other stuff aside.

I set myself a goal of 1500 words a day, which has really been helping with my production and allowing me to keep the series I have going well adding/developing new stuff.

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M.N.: What about your books do you feel is the most special or unique?

Troy: I don’t think the author ends up deciding what makes their work special or unique, that’s on the readers. An author can try for something but if they succeed, that’s for the readers to decide.

For my work, I try to just tell fun adventures about compelling and interesting characters. I don’t do epics or end-of-the-world type stuff. There’s plenty of it out there that is excellent. But I’ve always found myself liking the secondary characters, the side quests/adventures more than the main stuff.

I love Star Wars, but I don’t like the Skywalkers. I want to see the stories about Wedge Antilles and the other rebels. I’m really looking forward to the Disney + Cassian Andor series.

The tagline I use for my Taleweaver’s Song series is “in a world of magic, adventure lies behind every hill.” Which is true. If there is this world filled with magic, why does everything focus on just a few individuals or chosen ones? There are others out there in the vast world that are having their own adventures where the world itself isn’t at risk. Those can be interesting and compelling stories. Those are the tales I want to tell.

Everything I create is designed for the long term. I don’t tell one and done stories or trilogies. Everything has threads of more stories to tell, to expand on. It goes back to my love of the comic book and the ongoing serial. I want to tell stories about the characters and how their lives evolve and change through the course of their adventures. There are no endings planned for any of my series. Even things I’m doing for a publisher, one shot short stories, there are threads that I can expand upon.

M.N.: I really enjoy stories about the smaller characters in bigger worlds. Do you have a particular favorite character that you’ve invented, or a favorite set of characters?

Troy: I do and they haven’t appeared yet. It’s kind of cheating because they’re somewhat modeled after my wife and I. Osten Niklas and Kathwen DunHowe are the main characters in The Ork Plains, the 2nd Taleweaver’s Song book. My wife is a music teacher so she became a bard. Her weapon, a staff, is based on an actual staff we have in the house. Osten has a pet that has evolved from a fox to a hound and back and forth. I think the reason I’m having some trouble with the pet is that the characters are my wife and I, but the pet is not our dog. So I think I need to redo it and replace the current version of the pet with our dog.

The other favorite has to be Kaylia in the Arek Lancer sci-fi series. A mute alien cat girl teenager. Arek was meant to be Jack Reacher in space with a touch of Malcolm Reynolds thrown in. Reacher travels the United States, just wandering, and everywhere he stops trouble seems to find him. And that’s what I envisioned for Arek. Flying across the stars and just gets into random trouble. The first book revolved around him rescueing a kidnapped alien and that alien girl ended up staying with him. So now it’s Jack Reacher plus kid in space.

M.N.: Do your stories have the equivalent of a Luke Skywalker in them who just exists in the background? Chosen one heroes who exist and shape the world, but who you don’t focus on because we’re having more fun with the side characters?

Troy: No chosen ones or larger than life heroes. Regular sized heroes are good enough. In The Skeleton Stone, Culann Hawkfall saves the village. He’s a large sized hero to those people. Their world is their village and he’s the epic hero that saved them from destruction. For Culann, he was there and couldn’t leave those people to die, he had to do something. Does that put him on par with Luke Skywalker? Yeah, probably. They’re both heroes, just the scale of what they are saving is different.

M.N.: Was there any particular book or author that made you want to write?

Troy: Not really. I read so much, books and comics, that it’s all a kind of influence. I loved the idea of Dungeons & Dragons, this kind of open world where thousands of different stories could happen. In Marvel Comics, Spider-Man is in one corner of New York having all these adventures and a couple blocks over the Avengers are fighting the Masters of Evil.

The Harpers series from Forgotten Realms (written in the 80s and 90s) helped set up how I wanted to structure things like the Taleweaver’s Song. Each book in the Harpers was about a different character, a different adventure, but were connected by the organization. I loved that series. It really played into the idea of adventures happening all the time all over the world.

M.N.: It sounds like you put a lot of effort into your world building. Do you ever find that this trips you up, where you want to tell a story about one conflict or another but your setting makes it difficult?

Troy: That’s the problem I ran into with The Ork Plains. I had the world of Merelein created. It was set up like a pen & paper D&D game setting. A world with some history and pretty open sandbox to just jump into and create. As I started writing Ork Plains, I started fleshing out some of that history and it changed pretty much everything. That created the roadblock and I had to go and figure out the new history before I could continue. Which led me down some tangents hadn’t intended to go down.

It’s all good as it makes the overall world that much stronger and unique.

The foundation is important to any world. Creating a world is the same process as in creating a building. You have to start with a solid foundation otherwise the walls will fall down. Once that foundation is in place, then you build your walls and cap it with the roof, which is the story.

M.N.: Or, on the flipside, have you ever had conflicts present themselves to you on a platter because of how you’ve set up your world? Moments where you’re writing along and discover that you have a perfect story already set up for you that just needs the words put down?

Troy: The Arek Lancer stuff does that all the time. I had a rough idea of the various stories I wanted to tell. Started writing and the first book created two points that became full stories that worked their way into the rotation. I did a short story reader magnet and that ended up tying into a story point from the first book which led to the 4th book that I’m currently working on. A character in the reader magnet popped up in the 3rd book, a history between Arek and him that I had never intended. Arek’s adventures just keep building themselves and going in a direction that I never thought I would take it which is all because of Kaylia running into Arek.

M.N.: Do you have a favorite book, or a list of favorites?

Troy: Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist is an all time favorite. Riyria Revelations (and the follow-up books) by Michael J. Sullivan. Memory, Sorrow & Thorn by Tad Williams.

The Harpers series, as mentioned above, is up there as well. No individual book in the series but just the idea of it.

M.N.: Tell me about your current Work In Progress.

Troy: Which ones? I have a lot of balls in the air and lots of stuff at various levels. My main stuff is the fantasy series Taleweaver’s Song and the Arek Lancer sci-fi series. Book two in Taleweaver’s is being worked on (and has been the hardest thing to write, this book is a constant fight). I have the next three books basically thought out and some parts of them started. Got two or three short stories in that series to finish up. The Arek Lancer sci-fi series, I’ve started book four and have a short story finishing up. Got two short stories for a pulp publisher. Finished book one in my litRPG series and editing it, cruising along on book two. Working on a developmental project where I’m fleshing out the story, developing it and creating characters.

I also have a Patreon site that will have exclusive serialized stories. Each month is a new chapter. These will be set in my established universes, in new ones and just random stories. The first story is set in The Taleweaver’s Song, unconnected to any of the books. There’s three finished works to follow that one up.

I think that’s it, but there’s a couple of other ideas moving around inside my head that want to come out and play.

I recently set myself a goal of 1500 words a day and that has been helping with the production. Before that, all my goals seemed pretty hard to reach. Now they’re all doable.

M.N.: What does your release schedule look like? Do you find that, with so many projects, you have a hard time keeping them all up to date on a timely basis, or do your word count goals keep books coming out consistently enough for your liking?

Troy: I bounce from project to project on a nightly basis. Sometimes I get in a groove and a project takes over but there are always other things to go back to when that one needs a break. I keep a spreadsheet for my word count goal and I break each day down by project. Some days there is one, some there are four.

I don’t write until my wife and kids are asleep. I give myself 30 mins to an hour to read and then it’s write for a couple hours before I go to bed. When I sit down at the computer, I think I know which project I want to work on but sometimes the stories have other ideas.

Things are always churning in my head, ideas on where to take them, new ideas, etc…

I want to have a consistent release schedule and am working hard to get there. Not at that point yet. The word count goal helps a lot as it forces me to focus on something and advance something for that day.

M.N.: What does your writing process look like? Do you outline, do you invent the plot as you go, or do things land somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?

Troy: From the middle to inventing as I go. Depends on the project. Lots of it revolves around scenes that pop into my head. I see the scene and create around it. I don’t outline, just let it freeflow as I write. Which sometimes creates blocks as I know where I want to go but can’t figure out how to get there yet.

I’ve tried outlining but it just doesn’t work for me.

M.N.: Do you have an end goal in mind when you start a story, either for the characters or for the plot?

Troy: Yes and no. Depends on project. Some projects I’ve written the ending well before it’s done. Sometimes I know the middle first. I try to let the stories take me where they will. As they develop I know where I want to end up.

Taleweavers is written where the first chapter is a point in the future, the middle of the story. So I know what point L is, which kind of points to Z so I just need to start with A and figure out how A leads to L. Which leaves a lot of ground in the middle.

Arek’s adventures, I know the start and don’t know where it’ll end up. But even with those, as I’m writing I’ll get to a scene and put that down but then the implications or path that scene leads to pops into my head and I need to write it down. It could be five chapters later but it gets written and I need to fill in the gaps to get there.

That kind of writing has its own issues. If you know point A and point G, then how do you get from E to G in a logical way that reads natural and not forced?

M.N.: When I’m reading books like Harry Potter or watching Star Wars, I always know that the heroes are going to ultimately win because, if they lose, the world will end and there won’t be any more books. Do you find that your smaller-scale characters and stories frees you from that constraint and lets you tell stories where the characters have a real possibility of losing?

Troy: Yeah. I’m trying to tell the story of someone’s life. Living in this magical world, flying through space, is the world these people inhabit. It’s a dangerous world, so death exists. People in our world die every day doing something normal like drive a car. So in a world where magic exists, the possibility is there that someone can die doing the equivalent of normal in their world.

There needs to be a threat of death for the stories to really have meaning. The death of Ned Stark shocked everyone because that entire first book (first season), he was set up to be the hero of the story. He was set up to be Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter. But then he was killed. That was awesome.

I think that’s the biggest reason The Last Jedi gets so much criticism. People expected Luke to be the hero, to step up and save the galaxy again. He didn’t. Rian Johnson pulled a Ned Stark.

M.N.: If you could go back and give yourself any piece of advice when you first started writing, what would it be?

Troy: Just do it. People will like it or they won’t. Don’t let your lack of confidence in your own work hold you back.

M.N.: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve written, or a recommended “starting point” for people looking to get into your work?

Troy: I’d start at the beginning. The Skeleton Stone (fantasy) and The Last Child (sci-fi).

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M.N.: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Troy: I set out to write the kind of stories that I wanted to see out there. I like reading everything. I like the epics, but I felt there was a space out there for serial work that wasn’t these big epic stories. Sometimes people just want to read about an adventure. That’s what I want to provide.

I don’t want to write the next book that moves people or teaches a lesson. I want to entertain and I hope my stories do that.

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