January’s FEATURED AUTHOR: Bishop O’Connell!

I have a new Featured Author to go with the new year! Please welcome Bishop O’Connell, who’s here to get grilled answer some questions!

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drey: Hello Bishop! Welcome to drey’s library!

Bishop: Hi, Drey, thanks so much for having me!

drey: Tell us about yourself, in about ten sentences or so.

Bishop: I’m a brilliant, charming, witty, handsome, graceful, talented, and most importantly, humble man, which is no small feat when you’re as utterly magnificent as I am.

Oh yes, I’m also a fan of sarcasm.

drey: We’ll get along just fine then. 🙂

Bishop: Seriously though, I’ll just give you some random tidbits about me. In college, I first majored in theater, then switched to philosophy, which probably says a lot. I wrote my first computer program when I was eight, and it was on a Commodore Vic-20. Yeah, I put the old in old school. I’m very proud of my Irish heritage. I love good beer, I collect swords, wear kilts (mostly Utilikilts), and am basically an oddball. Oh, I’m also a huge geek, both figuratively and literally (I’m 6’3”).

drey: When did you know you were meant to be a writer? What was your first story? What happened to it? (Ok, so that was 3 questions… Patience isn’t anywhere near a virtue of mine…)

Bishop: I’ve always been a storyteller. I wrote my first stories in first grade, where my teacher, Mrs. Bugg (her real name), would read them to the class. That’s when I got my first taste of artistic recognition, and my first kiss from a girl (not Mrs. Bugg). As I grew older, I continued to write stories, and enjoyed using them to create new worlds and adventures in Dungeons & Dragons. I went through a period where I wrote poetry in high school and college, some of which wasn’t bad. In college I got back into writing fiction more seriously. Long story shorter, I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller, but it wasn’t until college or just after that I decided I wanted my stories to be written in novel form.

drey: How did you celebrate getting published?

Bishop: I squeed like a little kid on Christmas who didn’t just get the Millennium Falcon toy but the actual starship, did a happy dance, then went back to work. Though in the spirit of full disclosure, I did squee a few more times during the day. That night, I enjoyed Guinness and shots with co-workers. Honestly, it’s still a bit unreal, but I’m loving it!

drey: How do you rejuvenate your writing mojo?

Bishop: I never really struggle with writer’s block. My problem is that I work long hours and often just don’t feel up to writing at the end of the day. So, I either put on some music, which always inspires me, I make myself sit at the computer, and read the last half-dozen pages I’ve written, or the characters in my head become so restless I have to let them out to play.

drey: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Bishop: I try so hard to be a plotter, but my characters don’t let me. Every book I’ve finished (four so far) at one point or another had an outline, which in a matter of a few chapters was utterly useless. I always have a very basic structure of the story line, what I want to happen, but not how to get there. Even if I route a nice path, my characters tend to drive the car off the road without asking. I’ve since come to terms with my stories growing as I write and that’s just how I am. My name is Bishop, and I’m a panster…except I wear kilts. Does that make me a kiltster?

drey: Um, I guess so? *heads back to the list of interview questions*

What was the most insightful advice you’ve been given (in regards to writing)?

Bishop: The best direct advice I was given was from the first freelance editor I hired. In the first version of The Stolen, my fae mythology was an amalgamation of existing mythologies: Shakespeare, Tolkien, and various fantasy tropes. The editor latched onto my elves using cellphones and told me that I clearly had a great imagination and I needed to trust myself enough to come up with my own mythology. So I rewrote and this time made it my own. That’s important advice for any writer and something hard to do, but you have to trust yourself.

The best indirect advice I learned is from the books I love that struggled to get published. That advice is simply that others might get to decide if you’ve succeeded, but you’re the only one who gets to decide if you’ve failed, and that’s when you give up. Until then, you just haven’t succeeded yet.

drey: What “reality check” advice would you share with aspiring authors?

Bishop: Save up and have an editor look over your work. Friends and beta readers are useful, but a professional editor is vital for first time writers. I’ve always thought of myself as a good storyteller, but the act of writing is something different. My first editor ripped my story apart. It was a huge ego check and something I needed. There are so many things you’ll never see in your own writing, unless you’re very gifted, and you need to see them. Be prepared, thicken your skin, and learn to take criticism without taking it personally. It’s also helpful when you get negative reviews.

drey: Would the fish tacos in San Diego be Wahoo’s?

Bishop: Sacrilege! Rubio’s! The original, and I think the best, fish taco. Other people are entitled to their opinions of course, even if they’re wrong.

drey: Hmm, I’m not so sure we’re going to get along anymore now… Just kidding! We’ll finish up with a Proust-lite:

  • What is your idea of earthly happiness?
    Good friends, good conversation, good food, good beer, and making a living at something I love (read: writing). Everything else is just details, and having the above helps with any other problems.
  • What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
    I’ve actually struggled with depression; it was really bad in high school and college. Misery, to me, is being lost in the dark without any sign of, or even hope of, light to be found. It took me a long time to learn to find the good in every situation, and I’m still not always able to do it right away, but there is gold in the darkness if you look long enough. What really helped me was the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. He spent time at four different concentration camps during WWII, and survived. His wife (who was pregnant), his parents, and his brother all perished. His story moved me and taught me that no matter how dark my life might seem at the time, it could be worse, and to a level beyond imagining. He gave me something vital, perspective.
  • Who is your favorite hero/heroine in fiction?
    This is tough. If I had to pick one, I’d go with the first name to pop into my head: Harry Dresden, from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. He’s a genuinely good guy who does what’s right, even when it isn’t easy or pleasant or leads to him getting his ass kicked up around his ears. He keeps fighting even if it looks hopeless because that’s when you’re supposed to fight hardest. I respect that. Not to mention I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, and Harry certainly qualifies.
  • Who is your favorite hero/heroine in real life?
    Someone your readers have probably never heard of, unless they went to Mira Mesa High School: Dennis Morgan. He was a history/drama/psychology teacher at my high school. He and his wife never had kids of their own, but he was there when I most needed a father figure. As I said, I was in a dark place in high school, and without him I’m not sure I would’ve survived it. He taught me to be a good person, a good man, and to believe in myself.
  • What sound do you love?
    Genuine laughter. Anyone’s laughter, though it’s especially magical when it’s a little kid.
  • What sound do you hate?
    The silence of someone who is too brokenhearted to cry.
  • What is the quality you admire most in a man?
    I don’t tend to associate qualities with gender, but in this regard I’d say I admire men who can stand up for others without doing it in a condescending way; standing with someone without feeling the need to be the hero or “white knighting.”
  • What is the quality you admire most in a woman?
    Like above, I tend to find qualities admirable regardless of gender. But for this question, I’ll say the ability to deal with men who are complete jack-holes. I see some of the things women have to deal with in terms of work, life, and even hobbies (geekdom) and I’m truly astounded by the strength and patience shown. As a Bishop, I’d like to nominate them for sainthood, but Francis isn’t taking my calls. Make no mistake, women can excel in the field of jack-holery, but as a gender, we (men) tend to be a special kind of jack-hole (clueless and egotistical).
  • If not a writer, you would be a __________
    Almost certainly a teacher. Probably a college professor so I could have the students when they wanted to be there, or at least didn’t not want to be there. I’ve always loved the idea of teaching, and in a way, I think I do that with my writing, just in an entertaining way, and at a significantly lower cost.
  • What is your favorite swear word?
    I’ve always liked bollocks, not just because it’s unusual (for Americans anyway). But, for sheer utility, it’s hard to beat a good f-bomb. It’s a noun, a verb, and an adjective. The hard part is using it correctly so it doesn’t lose its impact. I mean, what’s the point in swearing if you use it every other fucking word?

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Thank you so much for “sitting down” with me, Bishop!

Come back next week for my thoughts on The Stolen and a giveaway!

About Bishop O’Connell

Bishop O’Connell is a consultant, writer, poet, blogger, and member of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project. Born in Naples Italy while his father was stationed in Sardinia, Bishop grew up in San Diego, CA where he fell in love with the ocean and fish tacos. While wandering the country for work and school, he experienced autumn in New England. Soon after, he settled in Manchester, NH, where he collects swords and kilts. But he only dons one of those two in public. His urban fantasy book, THE STOLEN, and its sequel, THE FORGOTTEN are being published by Harper Voyager. He can also be found online at A Quiet Pint, where he muses philosophical on the various aspects of writing and the road to getting published.