Interview with Steven Dutch and Chris Masterton

Steven Dutch and Chris Masterton

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Focus (FSF): Hey Chris and Steve! How are you guys doing? How has this last year of insanity been treating you?

Chris Masterton (CM): Hey Michael, I’m doing well. The last twelve months have been crazy. Been quiet on work during lockdown, but it’s given us the opportunity to rewrite and release our first book in our History of Sol series, which has been really productive.

Steven Dutch (SD): Hi Michael! Thanks for your time today. The last 12 months have been rough! But overall has been a good time to get some writing done. So its been good and bad for me personally. But I’m still alive and kicking, so thats what counts!

FSF: It’s been different for everyone. I guess it’s really important to find silver linings. I’ve gotten to spend way more time with my family, and I’ve become a writer and co-written some books so that’s a good thing.

So Chris, why don’t you talk a bit about when you knew you wanted to be a writer, how you guys began collaborating, and a bit of the journey that lead to the publication of the first book in The History of Sol series.

CM: Steve and I met in high school, where we discovered we had a common interest in sci-fi and the same weird sense of humour. One day we started making a Futurama/Red Dwarf inspired film in my garage with a bunch of friends. We made a dodgy set and everything. After about a day of filming and two and a half minutes of footage, the filming ceased but the writing continued. Then it kind of evolved into this massive story and changed from a TV series into novellas. We took some story and writing courses and reworked our stories until we had something we wanted to share with the world.

FSF: Cool. So now we’re mere days away from launch day. Steve why don’t you tell our audience about the series, and specifically, Ouroboros, your first book and let them know why it needs to be their next must read click.

SD: The series is set in the distant future. The homeworld (earth) was destroyed and lost to history. Humans have colonised the rest of the solar system and live in an Authoritarian society called ‘The Colonies’, made up of five different factions which fight among themselves. The story begins when the crew of a cargo ship is sent on a high priority delivery and given some mysterious cargo; then everything starts to go wrong from there. Ultimately it’s about the crew trying to find out about the origins and purpose of the cargo, the nature of their reality and their place in existence. If you like thinking about what humanity might look like in the future and how society might be shaped then I think you will like this book. There are also some secrets and twists hidden inside for good measure. If you want to know the history of the future, buy this book now! 

FSF: It sounds like a ride! Now as a co-writer myself, I’m very interested in the different collaboration processes co-author teams have. I’d love to know how it worked for you guys. What was the divide etc and how did you set out to create a blended narrative.

CM: We start off with the high-level storyline and each of the episode story arcs. We both write the first draft together in a Google Doc during a video call and then spend a lot of time going over the story together.

SD: Usually, one of us will write a chapter while the other watches and provides feedback, then the other person will go over it with a fine-toothed comb and does rewrites or builds on/fleshes out certain points. But really the whole process is very driven by the both of us.

FSF: That’s cool, and quite different than my process.

Chris, When you guys started writing the series did you have an audience or market in mind, or did you basically write for yourselves and hope that people would come along for the ride?

CM: We definitely write for ourselves. We’ve been doing this for over ten years and I think the key to our longevity is that we both just have a lot of fun and try not to take ourselves too seriously. It’s a great ride. Everyone should come along!

FSF: many writers use their own personal archetype for their characterization along with those of people in their personal lives. Do you guys implement this tactic in your writing?

SD: Bits and pieces from people around us, but usually don’t base a character off someone totally, will be an amalgamation of personality pieces. Sometimes we use our own characteristics, but we try and take from the world around us sparingly.

CM: Our characters are real. They live in our heads.

FSF: Let’s talk about influences. Tell me some of the work that inspires your writing. You can draw from not only authors and books, but other media sources like film, television and music.

CM: For the most part, we are both inspired by science fiction in general. Movies and television series are what drew us into the genre and constantly push us to want to tell interesting and thought-provoking stories. But we also have a range of other sources, such as music and coffee. I’ve always been a massive Trekkie. One of my biggest influences is technology. I love reading tech blogs and learning about new developments and thinking about how they might shape our society in the next decade. In terms of writing influences, I’d have to say my favourite authors are James S.A. Corey because of their space opera novel series ‘The Expanse’; Isaac Asimov, because his vision of the future was both ground breaking and inspired. Way ahead of its time; Also, I can’t go past Robin Hobb, whose incredible works about Fitz-Chivalry Farseer in the Realm of the Elderlings is one of the main reasons I started reading books in the first place.

SD: I am a huge fan of TV and film such as The Matrix, Dollhouse, Futurama, Red Dwarf, Rick and Morty and many others. Ironically, most of my favourite book authors are outside of our genre. And oftentimes, outside of our medium. Although ideas are conveyed differently between the visual medium and books, there are a lot of similarities. One of my all time favourite authors is Robin Hobb because her fantasy is full of feeling and substance. I love her epic trilogies, but especially the Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man Trilogy. The character development is phenomenal, the story is sad, uplifting, exciting and satisfying. The use of ‘Skill’ and ‘Wit’ instead of conventional ‘Magic’ is inspired.

FSF: I’ve always loved Robin Hobb as well, for her stunning prose.

SD: That’s good to hear! She’s great!

CM: I actually met her once and gave her a copy of our book. I always wonder if she ever read it.

FSF: How important is reader interaction to you as Indie authors, and how do you most enjoy hearing from readers?

SD: Reader interaction is very important to us, although we write for ourselves, we want our audience to enjoy it as much as we would if we were reading it rather than writing. It is important to us to figure out what hits our readers in emotional spots, so that we are able to write better and know what story arcs to use and when.

CM: I really love it when people remember us at cons. When they come back and tell us they loved reading the first book and want to get more.

SD: Seconded!

FSF: You’ve chosen to self publish your novel, and obviously with the release still looming there’s a great deal of the self publishing process you’ve yet to experience, but so far what have you found you’ve liked about self publishing and what have been your biggest obstacles?

CM: I like the freedom of being able to do whatever we want (within reason). The biggest challenge for me has been promoting the book and trying to stand out in a vast sea of other authors.

SD: I agree, the biggest challenge has been promotion and marketing. But I love not having to answer to anyone for our writing (no one but ourselves, and our editor, haha).

FSF: What takes up both of your time when you’re not writing?

SD: I work as a Service Delivery Manager for a Cyber Security company and in my spare time I enjoy spending with my Fiancé, Arianne. I listen to music – love Dream Theater, Starset, Celldweller, Tool, Porcupine Tree, Breaking Benjamin and Architects – too many to name individually. A lot of my time I watch TV shows and Movies – again too many to name individually. I play computer games, including Cyberpunk 2077 and Command and Conquer. But really, you could say that all these things are just ‘research’ for writing 

CM: I work in the SAAS industry during the week, which is a lot of fun. I’m passionate about doing volunteer work at the local free meal service. I’ve also got a family with two young boys whom I love spending time with and playing Xbox – especially Minecraft 

FSF: Steve, you and I have connected on Dream Theater before. I’ve actually started listening to Steven Wilson’s work as well by recommendation, and Chris I have two young Minecraft, and Roblox obsessed kids myself so I can relate.

SD: Oh awesome! James Labrie is an awesome Canadian singer. Glad you are enjoying Steve Wilsons work.

FSF: So I know it’s early, but what’s next for you in terms of output? When can readers expect the next instalment?

CM: We’ve actually already written the second, third and finishing off the fourth. Books two and three should be ready to be re-released later in the year.

FSF: Awesome so we won’t have to wait long.

Can you guys recommend some indie Sci- Fi or fantasy that you’ve read recently to our community?

CM: A great indie book I read recently was by a guy named Kynan Waterford, who I met at Supanova a couple of years ago. The book was Jupiter: Illusions of Faith.

SD: We also highly recommend A.A.Warne’s Reluctant Wizard and Marie Gin’s The Last Regret.

FSF: Steve I’ve read both of those and I agree they are excellent. I like to end all my interviews with this question. What one piece of advice can you offer to new and aspiring authors ?

CM: Start Writing. Keep Writing. Get a really good editor! Never give up.

SD: Write for yourself; what you enjoy and want to read. If you aren’t having fun, your audience won’t either!

CM: I completely agree with Steve’s comment, too.

FSF: Thanks so much guys. It was great talking to you, and best of luck.

SD: Thanks for your time today Michael! All the best

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