Interview of Richard S. Tuttle 

in the Sporkette Gazette - Vol. 2, Issue 4 - April 2004

Interview: Richard S. Tuttle, Fantasy Novelist

Hello, Richard. Love your top hat! My husband, John, wants one, so maybe he'll get one from Santa this year. I'm pleased you agreed to do this interview and appreciate you taking time from your prolific novel writing to spare me an hour or so. Thanks. Now on to the questions:

SG: Can you please list the titles of all your fantasy series and give a one-sentence description of each? Also tell us about your current book release.

RST: Hello, Patricia. If your husband likes the top hat, just wait until he sees the new mage hat that I wore to MegaCon this month!

I have released sixteen fantasy titles so far that fall into three series. My first series was the Targa Trilogy written in 1997. Origin Scroll is the first of the trilogy. It is the story of three emerging adults in a world of dark turmoil as Sarac seeks to rule the world. Dark Quest follows as a dark sorcerer seeks to return Sarac to power. Ancient Prophecy completes the trilogy as Sarac finds the knowledge to collapse the Universes.

The Sword of Heavens series follows the Targa Trilogy after A gap of seventeen years. In Sapphire of the Fairies, five emerging adults are gathered by gypsies and told that they must restore the magical Sword of Heavens to save the world. The ancient artifact is missing seven gems from its hilt, one for each Universe. Unicorns' Opal continues the quest as everyone tries to figure out which of the five heroes are the two special ones that were prophesied about. Abuud: the One-Eyed God introduces a group of religious fanatics who hinder the restoration of the Sword of Heavens. Dwarven Ruby features the dwarven people and explores the ramifications of the collapsed Universes. Emerald of the Elves naturally features the elven people, while Dragons' Onyx sets the stage for the final showdown between the forces of good and evil. The series concludes with Amethyst of the Gods where the true nature of the gods is revealed.

The third series, Forgotten Legacy, takes place in a different world. The series begins with Young Lord of Khadora where a young clan soldier, Marak, sets out to change the nature of the society of Khadora. Star of Sakova switches to a neighboring country where Lyra, a young mage student, is thrust into leadership of a mysterious savage people. In Web of Deceit, a young man, Rejji, struggles to survive in the desolate wasteland of Fakara, another neighboring country of Khadora. In Aakuta: the Dark Mage, the series begins to tie the three young heroes and their countries together as they learn that they are ordained to fight an unimaginable evil that is coming to destroy the world they know. Island of Darkness gives us a glimpse of the coming evil and explains much of the ancient history of the world and the prophecies that are coming into play. Elvangar reveals the land of the elves, the ancient allies of a lost civilization that Marak, Lyra, and Rejji must resurrect. There is one more volume to the Forgotten Legacy that has not yet been released.

SG: What is Speculative Fiction?

RST: Speculative Fiction is generally considered to include the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror genres, but I tend to think of it as any work that defies recorded reality. The work may deal with the future, a derivation of the past, or an alternate present. It may take place in an imaginary world, or our current world with some element that makes the reader suspend his or her disbeliefs and delve into the world of 'what if?'

SG: Why do you write speculative fiction and lean toward the fantasy genre?

RST: The human imagination is a fantastical thing. It allows us to transport ourselves to alien worlds without regard to time or space. Like many readers, I started reading speculative fiction decades ago as an escape from reality. Whether it was a release after a day of hard exams, or just a yearning for excitement, science fiction and fantasy captured my imagination. It was the enjoyment of those many journeys that caused me to write in the fantasy genre. Speculative fiction frees me from the constraints of reality and allows me tell a story that I hope will bring great enjoyment to readers. I should mention, however, that being free from natural constraints does not mean writing without any constraints. My goal is to immerse the reader in an alternate reality that can be believable if the reader is willing to accept some suspension of disbelief. To accomplish this task, I put constraints on myself. Magic use is always a particular concern to me, as few people will accept magic existing in the real world. To combat that I try to place limits on the use of magic that will make it appear plausible.

SG: How do science fiction and fantasy differ from one another?

RST: That is a question for wiling away the nighttime hours with your friends! Actually, I think discussions on such dividing lines are the driving force behind the movement to use speculative fiction for all such works, but that is avoiding your question. Simplistically, I tend to think of science fiction as tales that use science and technological props to advance the stories, while fantasy utilizes the magical and mystical. The wonderful thing about imaginative writing is that no matter how the categories are defined, someone will write something to shatter the rules.

SG: How did you first break into the fantasy market?

RST: My entry into the fantasy market is a humorous one. My previous profession was of a technical nature. I used to be the president of a consulting firm that provided technical services to Fortune 500 companies. I loved the challenge of coming up with innovative solutions to complex problems.

One day in the late 90's, I had just finished reading a best-selling fantasy book that my oldest daughter had given to me. While the book had vivid descriptions of the alien world, it had no plot, and the character development was nonexistent. I was amazed that the book was categorized as best-selling. My oldest daughter and I began a discussion on the faults in the book. After a while the discussion was interrupted by my youngest daughter with what I took to be a taunt, "If you think you can do better, why don't you write your own novel?" I laughed at the taunt and moved on to other activities, never giving the comment another thought. Several days later my youngest daughter asked if I had started my novel yet. That was when it became clear to me that the question was not a taunt, but a challenge. Loving a challenge, I instantly accepted and started to think about a story. That story would end up as the Targa Trilogy.

SG: What are neologisms and do you rely on them in your fantasy writing? Please provide one neologism (from one of your novels) and its definition as an example.

RST: Neologisms are new words or expressions, and I use them freely wherever there is a need to be freed from the constraints of reality. One example from my books is the use of the word Chula. The Forgotten Legacy series revolves around events that occurred thousands of years before the story begins. It deals with populations that separated and spread across the land after a cataclysmic event. Pockets of these peoples developed differently than others. One particular group, the Chula, retreated to the thick forests and the desolate mountains. Over the centuries they developed a form of magic that revolved around felines. They communicated with the beasts and even developed the magical means to take on cat-like features. Little is known about the cat-like people when the series opens with Young Lord of Khadora, but the history and origin of the Chula is revealed as the series progresses.

SG: How did you get your first fantasy novel published? Please give the title and a brief description of the novel.

RST:  Origin Scroll was my first fantasy novel. It is the story of three emerging adults with hidden talents in a medieval land. Fate brings Alexander, Jenneva, and Oscar together to save the kingdom from an evil sorcerer.

In 1997 I wrote the Targa Trilogy, consisting of Origin Scroll, Dark Quest, and Ancient Prophecy. I excitedly sent out manuscripts and query letters with a naive expectation of instant publication. The initial rejection letters were depressing enough, but many publishers did not even bother to respond. Even though I had already laid out the next series, I shrugged off my foray into writing, happy to have least brought some enjoyment to my daughters and their friends. About a year later, I received a contract from a small publishing firm that had decided to publish Origin Scroll. I excitedly called them and explained that Origin Scroll was book one of a trilogy. They informed me that they had already reviewed Dark Quest and would be sending a contract for it as well, and that they would be reviewing Ancient Prophecy next. Filled with pride and hope, I started writing the Sword of Heavens series. I had completed Sapphire of the Fairies and had started on Unicorns' Opal before I received the devastating news; the publisher had gone bankrupt.

Not knowing the legal status of my novels, I abandoned the Sword of Heavens series, as it was a sequel to the Targa Trilogy. I started a new series, Forgotten Legacy. Once again I started sending out queries and manuscripts, and once again began receiving rejection letters. About this time I noticed ebooks and began investigating them. The more I learned, the more I became convinced that the market would be huge in the future. Determined to be one of the original writers of fantasy in the ebook world, I focused my efforts primarily on the ebook market with print as a secondary market.

SG: What are the main elements needed in a fantasy novel, and which do you deem the most important?

RST: For me, plot, character development, setting, and, of course, magic are essential to the fantasy story, and in that order. Without a decent plot, there is no story. Furthermore, a story should have multiple subplots. Life is seldom straightforward and neither should a good story be so simple.

Characters are equally important. If your characters are wooden, and do not develop throughout the story, you have wasted a good plot by losing the interest of your readers. When I write a story, I actually role-play the characters as I write them. The dialog that gets written is what springs from the mind of the character as I slip into that persona. This process has actually led to some very interesting twists in my stories. Sometimes the story turns from where I expected it to go because the character approaches the problem in a way that I had not anticipated.

Setting is less important to me, although I like to have a rich setting that pulls the reader into a new and strange land. I should note that I make a distinction between setting and descriptions. While my settings are well developed beforehand, I often go light on descriptions. I think a story is most enjoyable when the reader's mind constructs its own image from the clues given by the author. I don't want to force my image of a place or person on the reader, but rather have the reader construct the image in his or her own mind. I believe that this technique ties the reader closer to the place or character than if I created a description so complete that the reader has to accept it.

In my writing, magic is also essential to the story, but it cannot be unrestrained magic. I will not let a character wave his hands and stroll out of a dangerous situation. Magic use must be logical and adhere to limits. Without these limits, anything becomes possible, and the plot deteriorates into a wasteland.

SG: Do you believe workshops or critique groups can help the beginning fantasy writer? Please explain why.

RST: Fantasy writers can benefit immensely from workshops and critique groups, as can any writer. I can't imagine a fantasy writer who doesn't become immersed in his own writing. Unfortunately, sometimes that immersion can make us blind to our failure to communicate properly. Having others pour over your writing while you are still immersed in the work has many benefits. You will find that others will get lost in points of the story that are intuitively clear to the writer. You will discover new viewpoints that will allow you to improve the story, and you will learn how your words are affecting a potential audience. That is the type of input that can make a good story into a great one. A writer should always welcome criticism and comments with an open mind, and workshops and critique groups are excellent ways of getting that input.

SG: I notice in the novels I've read, that you have strong female characters. What type of research do you do, being a man, to make these females so believable and realistic?

RST: Well, Patricia, I have the pleasure of living with three fantastic, high-achieving women, my wife and our two daughters. I long ago realized that women think differently than men do, not better or worse, but differently. Quite often a woman's approach to a problem can be baffling to a man, even though the result is achieved satisfactorily. It is that different thought process that intrigues me. Like most writers, I am a student of human behavior. I constantly watch and analyze the behavior of others. It has gotten to the point where I can almost hear the thought processes of my family members when they are presented with a problem. I have learned a great deal by looking at things through their perspective.

SG: Well, Mr. Tuttle, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for indulging me with your novelist's knowledge. Oh, I do have one more question: I notice in several of your novels that each chapter is approximately eight pages long-do you have a specific chapter length (word count) that you adhere to when writing each chapter? If so, explain the reasoning behind the specifics.

RST: Indeed you are right, Patricia. My ideal chapter is around 4,000 words. While I will not cut a chapter short, nor unnecessarily extend it to meet this goal, I have found the length to be ideal for fantasy readers. The length ends up being eight to ten pages, depending on the format, and is ideal for a short read. I try to end my chapters with a situation that encourages the reader to continue onward, but also a breaking point that allows the reader to close the book and return to pressing needs. I never want a reader to stop reading in the middle of a chapter because the burning desire to return to the book may be lost. If you can leave the reader with a cliffhanger, yet still have some resolution of the current crisis, you can be assured that the reader will return to find out what happens next. I think this is increasingly important in a society where we have to grab small snippets of time to enjoy the finer things in life.

SG: That's it! Again, thank you. I look forward to reading more of your novels.

For those subscribers interested in fantasy, I very highly recommend Richard's books. You can visit his Web site "Richard S. Tuttle Fantasy Novels" at to learn more about the different fantasy series and to purchase his books.

Subscribe to Sporkette Gazette at Sign-up using the opt-in sign-up box.



Visit the home of fantasy author Richard S. Tuttle