Every time we release a book, we’ll post an interview with its author during the month before the book is published. Our next novel, Skate the Thief, comes out on June 2nd. Skate is a young adult high fantasy with a feisty young heroine, and we are interviewing Jeff Ayers, the man behind the magic.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
I was a reader before I was a writer; I consumed books in elementary school for the sheer size of the things, going after Doctor Dolittle and (an abridged version of) the The Three Musketeers at a young age. I’ve always loved stories. It was in middle school that I realized I wanted to write them, and it was around that time that I had my first attempt at writing a longer piece of fiction. That story might still exist on some decrepit floppy disk hidden away on a shelf in my parents’ house.
Where did you get the inspiration for Skate the Thief?
The premise for Skate sprung out of a discussion. A friend and I were discussing the concept of someone being annoyed by getting stabbed instead of — well, you know, instead of flailing around in agony. There was something about the pure indignation from the character about the whole ordeal that was too interesting to let go.
Following that discussion, I wrote out some dialogue very similar to what now appears in chapter 1, and soon I’d built a whole chapter around it, and then as the shape of the story began to come together in my head in the sticky, bothersome way a good idea will tend to do, I began to draft up the story.
What have been your main obstacles to getting published?
I’ve had several. Being a debut author certainly doesn’t help, and with the first manuscript I ever sent queries out on (not Skate), I can look back and say that I definitely did not do enough editing to the manuscript. I was so excited to have something done that I failed to make sure it was good enough.
I learned my lesson for Skate.
Who is your biggest writing inspiration?
I’ve got a lot — every writer is a doll made of stitched-together pieces of everything they’ve read — but if I had to point to one person, it would be R. A. Salvatore. I had read a lot of fantasy before I got to the Legend of Drizzt series, but picking up The Dark Elf Trilogy is what prodded me to start trying to write my own stories.
Tell us one weird, interesting tidbit about yourself.
I can clap with one hand.
What does your writing space look like?
It’s at our desktop computer in the corner of the living room. It’s kind of cramped, and there’s a stack of stuff on it. It’s a brown desk that we picked off the side of the road and spruced up. Some parts of Skate were first drafted on my phone, of all places, using the notes app. I found my writing to be really choppy whenever I did that, so I avoid that way of getting words on the page if I can.
How long have you been writing this book?
I started writing Skate’s story in October of 2017, and I think I got the first draft of it done around March or April the following year. From the spring of 2018 through November of 2019 was a series of revisions, edits, and rewrites, and I started putting it out there seriously around the first of that month. So, just over two years.
Which character in your book do you identify most with?
They all came from me, so I can find something for each one to share some common experience or feelings with. Twitch’s doubts, Belamy’s love of knowledge, Haman’s ambition — I know some of each of these to a degree. I think the one who knows me the best and whom I know in return in that sense is Skate herself, especially when it comes to making the right choices. That’s something we all have to deal with, and that struggle with first figuring out what’s good to do and then having the courage to act on it is where each of us has to live day by day. I admire her for that, and I empathize the most with her when she has to navigate through those choices.