Welcome to our Writers Wednesday Spotlight! Each week we will be highlighting a different geeky writer we think you might like to check out. For this week’s spotlight, we are excited to introduce you to Dylan Birtolo!
His book “Shapes in the Smoke ” will be released this week on July 5, 2018 from Falstaff Books!
You can purchase “Shapes in the Smoke” here: “Shapes in the Smoke “
About Dylan Birtolo
(in his own words)
I have been telling stories for as long as I can remember, in any format that I can. I’ve performed on stage, told stories off the top of my head to entertain my friends, run RPG campaigns in multiple systems, and of course have been writing for most of that time as well. Storytelling has been one of the constants in my life over the years, that along with a strong passion for gaming. I’ve been playing board and video games since the old Apple IIe days and back when I could barely manage to roll dice and count the number of steps to move.
Outside of writing and gaming, I am a bit of a science and computer geek. That’s probably not terribly surprising. I graduated from MIT in 2000 with two degrees: one in Computer Science and one in Biology. I’ve been fortunate in that my degrees have opened some amazing doors, including spending time working at Microsoft and contributing to the development of the Xbox One. Talk about a dream for a gamer!
I have studied martial arts and continue to do so. These days I study stage combat with the Seattle Knights and practice Systema with North Sound Systema. I can truly say that stage combat, if done well, is at least as hard and requires at least as much skill as dojo training. I have been performing with them for several years now and have learned how to joust. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, come to a show! As for Systema, it is an amazing martial art that I just can’t get enough of and has started to bleed into my daily life and ways of doing things.
About “Shapes in the Smoke “…
Ichirin woke up in smoke. Then her day got weird.
It’s not that she was in a fire. No, she was made of smoke. That’s how she knew there was a new monster in Seattle, and she was going to have to deal with it.
You see, Ichirin is a Hunter, blessed (or cursed) with an amulet containing an ancient kami bound to assist her in her task of protecting the people of the Pacific Northwest from supernatural dangers. Only, sometimes the kami isn’t all that forthcoming with the details, which leads Ichirin, along with her best friends Hemingway and Corey, on a new quest to find out what exactly is smothering Seattle residents with smoke, and how to stop it.
Along the way there are embarrassing clothing incidents, thrilling chases, spectacular building fire battles, and a lot of exploration of her powers, her duty to her city and her friends, and her place in the world(s), both spirit and corporeal.
5 Questions with . . . Dylan
- When did you first realize you were interested in becoming an author? What drives you to write?
I owe becoming an author to two primary things in my youth. The first is that I was raised in a household that was very pro-reading, and I have always enjoyed immersing myself in books, something that both of my parents encouraged. They also encouraged playing games, and I can remember when I was young, going into the basement to learn how to play a new game and stumbling across a Dungeons and Dragons box set. That got me started because I realized how much I loved telling stories and creating worlds for people to explore. Over the years, I continued to explore that in several different mediums, from roleplaying games to acting and of course writing. It probably also helped that my mother has been a writer for a living, so she helped to encourage me down this road. But the root of it is, I love to tell stories.
As far as what drives me to write – I just have a need to tell stories. I have all of these crazy ideas in my head and I feel like I need to get them down on paper or else I will go a little bit mad keeping them all in there. Now, I love sharing them with people and I’ve learned that if I put them down in the write way, I can share that story with others. There’s nothing quite like sharing your ideas with people and seeing them light up when they read or talk about something you’ve created. Those moments are worth all of the hours it takes pounding on the keyboard and keeps me doing this professionally. But even if I wasn’t publishing works, I would still tell stories because I need to get them out of my head.
- How would you describe your style or genre of writing to a potential fan?
Extremely action-oriented. There is an old adage to write what you know. While I don’t completely agree with that statement across the board, there is something to be said with writing about the things that you both enjoy and are familiar with. I have over 20 years of martial arts experience and have fought both competitively and in stage combat over that time. It is safe to say that I find martial arts and what people are capable of fascinating. Plus, I tend to love the action as a reader. It keeps me on the edge of my seat. So I put a lot of action and a lot of fighting into my stories because I know it is what I write well and what I enjoy seeing. The more you enjoy what you are writing, the more likely other people will enjoy it as well. Granted, it may need more of a polish at the end if you are tearing through the pages, but that passion is palatable and transfers to the page.
In addition to action, I like to make my characters real and have deep characters rather than just cardboard cutouts. I think they are more fascinating and nuanced and always enrich a story. How successful I am at that is up to my readers, but it is something I strive for.
I also like to make magic and worlds that make sense. Nothing turns me off more as a reader than when the author breaks their own rules or has exceptions that the reader wasn’t expecting. I want things to be logical and follow from one thing to the next. I think it makes the world richer and more enjoyable to immerse myself in, and I want that level of immersion.
So in summary, fantasy stories with a lot of action, deep characters, and a world you can believe in.
- What are you currently working on? What are you working on next?
Currently I am finishing up my four-book series with Falstaff Books about a Japanese woman in the modern day Pacific NW who hunts down creatures from Japanese mythology. She believes she is chosen for this because when the monsters show up, she inherits some of their powers. The first book in the series is about to come out or just released (depending on when this gets posted).
I’m also working on a series of BattleTech novellas for Catalyst Game Labs that should be published at the end of the year or next year, dealing with events in the world that I can’t talk about until the books come out.
I’ve just wrapped up a choose-your-own-adventure style story that will be releasing for Wanderword when it comes out later this year. They have a unique way of telling a story, and I’m excited to be one of their pilot authors and can’t wait to see the public’s reaction. This isn’t just another book but is actually a platform that combines books and gaming, something else that I am very passionate about.
For personal projects, I’m also maintaining my Patreon with new stories for my backers as well as working on a new Sci-Fi book set in a world of my own creation that looks at what happens when an intergalactic colony loses contact with Earth.
- What existing book do you wish you had written and why?
This is a tough one, because there are so many out there. But while I have a lot of books that I think are absolutely amazing, most of them I don’t wish I had written, because I know they are not my style of writing. However, the one that I am an absolute fan of that I wish I had thought of and written is Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. That entire trilogy is amazing, first of all. It also has a system that makes sense and asks a huge what if that I find fascinating – what if everyone who got super powers turned evil? I love how he told that story and it is something that I wish I had thought of because it is such a cool concept and has an incredibly designed system that makes sense when he pulls back the curtain. Definitely worth reading if you haven’t already.
- What is one piece of advice you would give to a budding writer?
The biggest thing that I would say is to complete your work. I know that might sound silly and superficial, but it is amazing how many people don’t finish what they start. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to give up on a project because it is in a rough spot and something new and shiny comes along and I want to jump to it. I have to make myself stick with my current project and finish it, before jumping to the next one. Sometimes you just need to power through.
It is more than just finishing a piece to show your commitment. It is also because you learn so much when you finish an entire story. I learned so much more about writing when I switched to writing short stories for a while instead of novels. I am convinced that part of this is because of how much less time it takes to see a short story to completion, but you also still have a beginning, a middle, and end, and a nice arc in a good story. There are things you can only learn by making it to the end and going back and revising. By working on short stories, I was able to complete that cycle more often in the same amount of time, which meant I learned lessons faster; lessons which very much carried over to novel writing.
So take some time and finish the entire process. You might be surprised what you will learn. I certainly was.
If you’re looking for just a quick “final thought” piece of advice, I’d close with saying that remember that even if you feel like your story has been told, it hasn’t been told by you, and your voice will make it different and unique.