November 6, 2015

Interview with Author Philip Overby

Recently I've had the great pleasure of reading some works by an extremely talented Fantasy writer named Philip Overby. His works take place in the intensely weird and wonderful world of Splatter Elf. The first piece in the series is The Unicorn Eater which tells the tale of the foul mouthed half-elf Katzia who happens to be a bounty hunter teaming up with the mystical starseer Bathbrady in search of the monster that's been brutally slaying unicorns. The Unicorn Eater perfectly balances drama, violence, and comedy. In fact, this whole series is a fresh take on Fantasy which took me completely by surprise.

The second piece in the series is River of Blades, which once again centers around Katzia and her quests. She's accompanied by a new companion whose masochism and constant self deprecation were far more entertaining than I thought possible. I stayed up all night to read The Unicorn Eater so I thought I was being clever by choosing to read the next piece on a beautiful afternoon with my butt glued to a park bench. River of Blades had me literally laughing out loud and resulted in MANY people staring. I live in a pretty small town so I usually try not to look like a complete idiot in public but I was so absorbed by the story I really didn't care.   

The third installation was recently released. The Bog Wyvern follows the lovable Bathbrady once more. The fourth piece is currently underway. The Weird Tales of Splatter Elf are unlike any other Fantasy I've ever read. Overby has a created a wildly unique world that I found to be thoroughly engaging so I thought it would be fitting to ask him a few things about it. Here's what he had to say.

Where did you get the inspiration for the Splatter Elf world?
I think I had my "Fuck it" moment in 2013. I had a pretty awful year in general and my writing was treading water as it had been for a while. I was getting stuff written, but it just didn't seem right for whatever reason. I wanted to write the kind of fiction that embraced the chaotic craziness I love in some of the more adult cartoons out there--South Park, Metalocalypse, Korgoth of Barbaria, Fist of the North Star. I also wanted it to have that playfulness and splattery gore that came with many of my Dungeons and Dragons sessions I've had throughout the years. Combine that with my affinity for the weird, surreal, and even absurd and it made the perfect stew of insanity. The name "Splatter Elf" originated from  a joke blog post I did, but the more I thought about this idea of a dark weird fantasy comedy stuck with me. So I said, "Fuck it," I want to write this off-the-wall fantasy. I was inspired by indie writer Robert Bevan, author of the Caverns and Creatures series, to put my work up on Amazon so I gave it the old college try. Now I'm releasing titles once a month or every other month. 
Other influences have been Monty Python, Mel Brooks, the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and other weird and funny shit. 
I also decided last year I don't want to write epic fantasy anymore. Splatter Elf is as close to that as I'll get. I'm shifting more towards urban fantasy or just doing the kind of weird fantasy I enjoy. I don't feel like I can write "serious fantasy" if that makes sense. I have a lot more fun with the Splatter Elf stuff.
Without giving too much away, what are your plans for your next project? Have I heard correctly that it might feature cats?
Well, a cat, but yes. For Wattpad I'm releasing a free episodic serial called Gutslinger the Grim Cat. To me it's kind of like Splatter Elf's version of Courage the Cowardly Dog. This cat has been blessed by a sword goddess and can summon a giant ass sword once a day. He protects his master, Malwick, a retired mercenary who can't seem to keep her weapons stashed away forever. So they live on this fucked-up farm and have to deal with all sorts of crazy shit. In the first couple of episodes, they're dealing with a corn dragon. So yeah, some dumb shit like that with the usual Splatter Elf bloody charm. 
The next couple of main projects I'm doing are Witch Pickle, a collection of witch and witch hunter stories I've been wanting to do for ages, which will then lead in to my first Splatter Elf novella, Feast of the Pyromancer. I imagine it like Clue, Battle Royale, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre had an insane baby. 
Then later comes my super hush-hush first Splatter Elf novel that I've only briefly mentioned to some people: Berserker Maid. A maid that goes berserk, kills people, and then cleans up their body parts after. It's still a while off, so I'm not talking about it much, but I'm sure it will be the usual splattery fun insanity.

If I had to describe your writing style to others, I would say it has a unique voice that is Joss Whedon meets Chuck Wendig, is this a far assessment?
That's a flattering comparison so I'll take it. I think both Whedon and Wendig are known for having witty banter, sharp dialogue and the like, so I like to think that is what keeps people reading the Splatter Elf series. I don't feel like it's traditional fantasy in any facet. It has some of the trappings, sure, but if I feel like putting giant mechs in my stories, I do. If I feel like having ten thousand random gods and goddesses, I do. I don't ascribe to this idea that fantasy has to be this way or that way. I always go on and on about how fantasy should take cues from erotica. I saw that in that erotica writers give zero fucks. They write whatever they want. Fantasy should be outdoing every other genre in that there is so much that can be done. "Cracking the genre open" is a phrase I use a lot. I think there are a lot of writers doing that these days as well: China Mieville, Chuck Wendig, Kameron Hurley, Robert Jackson Bennett, Peter Newman, etc. etc. I hope to see more and more of these kind of writers emerging.

What are the easiest and hardest parts of writing? 
The easiest part is writing dialogue for me. I just naturally enjoy projecting characters that way. I can just start writing a bit of dialogue and go for a while. Now that I've gotten in the habit of writing at least something every day (planning, drafting, editing) I find the "sit your ass in a chair" part to be easy. I know that's hard for a lot of writers, especially when first starting out. I've figured out what works for me and I don't want to fuck it up.
The hardest part for me is always editing. I find editing to be a slough sometimes, especially when I'm tinkering and trying to get everything just right. However, I've become a lot less critical of myself. That's one reason I think I'm able to release my work now and not feel like I'm putting shit out in the world. I've had some awesome people help with feedback and cleaning up my writing as well, so they've helped a ton. I believe writers should turn down their "Give a Fuck Meter" now and again. Balance it out anyway. You're only so good a writer as you currently are. I've become less and less interested in "hiding my art until it's ready." I'm more interested in "write until you're pretty good, publish, write and get better, publish, write and get better, publish" rinse and repeat. I was told recently that "The Bog Wyvern" was the best of the three I've released so far, so that's a good feeling to know the stories are getting better in readers' minds. I got the same feedback for "River of Blades" after it was released. I'll take anything I can get!

How long was the process of producing each piece (including betas, proofing, cover art etc.)?
I'd say from inception to completion the process for each piece has taken a little over a month. "The Unicorn-Eater," the first story I released, probably took the longest because I was figuring out formatting and all that happy shit we all have to do. Depending on critiques and such, some pieces take longer than others. My latest, "The Bog Wyvern," was my longest so far, so it took a bit more time to hammer down.

The cover art is done by the lead singer of the band I'm in. He usually does each piece over the course of a month. We used to do manga together a while back and I always liked his art style. He brings the kind of weird, almost cute, almost trashy look I enjoy. I know having cover art that stands out is a big deal and I believe my stands out for sure. I know it's not stock art with some dude holding a sword or some sweaty torso, but I dig it for sure.

What are your favorite books? (Why?)
There's a shitload of them. I'm a huge fan of Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, best known for writing the Witcher series. The Last Wish, his first short story collection, is one of my favorite books ever. He takes a pretty standard fantasy world but just makes it still feel so different by making it darker, even more modern in some aspects. I can't think of any other writer out there that takes the risks he does. Joe Abercrombie's another big one for me and of course Papa George (GRRM) with his A Song of Ice and Fire. Others I've loved recently are Richard K. Morgan, R. Scott Bakker, Kameron Hurley, Anthony Ryan, China Mieville, Michael R. Fletcher, and Steven Erikson.

When I was younger, R.A. Salvatore, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman really kickstarted my love of fantasy via Dungeons and Dragons worlds, so I owe a lot to them.

Where can we learn more about your Fantasy world and writing?
The big places are my blog Philip Overby's Fantasy Free-for-All and my Splatter Elf Facebook page. I update pretty regularly on the Facebook page and I share links to the blog, art concepts, random fantasy shit, and progress reports on what I'm working on. I always have something going on with the Facebook page. My blog tends to focus more on aesthetics I enjoy and getting to know me more as a person and my tastes. Of course I add Splatter Elf stuff there as well when I can. I had a plan to publish exclusive flash fiction there, but haven't gotten around to it much. 

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