Ep 371 Meet Nathan Makaryk, author of ‘Lionhearts’.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on print

In Episode 371 of So You Want To Be A Writer: Meet Nathan Makaryk, author of Lionhearts. Discover the 7 tips you need to know about writing historical fiction and last-minute gift ideas for the writers in your life. Plus, we are giving away a massive 10-book pack to one lucky winner.

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Show Notes

7 tips to writing authentic historical fiction

Gift vouchers

Writer in Residence

Nathan Makaryk

Nathan's debut novel Nottingham was released in August 2019 by Tor/Forge (US) and Bantam (AUS), and its sequel Lionhearts followed in September 2020.

Nathan is a theater owner, playwright, director, actor and improv comedian, living in southern California. None of these pay very well, so he also has a real job teaching audio systems networking software to people who have no idea.

He's also a novelist and theater guy.

Follow Nathan on Twitter

Follow Penguin Books Australia on Twitter

(If you click the link above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

Competition

WIN: 10-book pack

This podcast is brought to you by the Australian Writers' Centre

Find out more about your hosts here:

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo

Or get social with them here:

Twitter:

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Instagram:

@allisontaitwriter

@valeriekhoo

Connect with Valerie, Allison and listeners in the podcast community on Facebook

So you want to be a writer Facebook group

Share the love!

Interview Transcript

Valerie Khoo

Welcome all the way from California to Nathan Makaryk.

 

Nathan Makaryk

Hello, thanks for having me.

 

Valerie Khoo

Congratulations on your latest book, Lionhearts. Now, just in case there are some readers who haven't read the book yet or got their hands on a copy, can you tell us what it's about?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Certainly. So Lionhearts is a sequel to my first book, Nottingham, which came out just about a year ago. And both are a retelling of Robin Hood in somewhat more of a realistic and morally grey manner. It takes Robin Hood and it takes the Sheriff of Nottingham and we kind of follow both sides of the story. So that we get to see a more humanized Sheriff rather than, you know, the typically nefarious version of him. We see life kind of from his perspective and from inside of Nottingham City, as well as what you would normally get from the, you know, the merry men and that side of things.

 

So both sides are presented in somewhat different lights than you would typically get. So the good guys aren't necessarily incredibly good, and the bad guys are not incredibly bad.

 

And so then in Lionhearts specifically, it continues the story from where Nottingham left off. And one of the larger sort of Robin Hood tropes that Lionhearts attacks, if you can assume from the title, is that of Richard Lionheart, the King of England, who returns after the Third Crusade. And you know, historically we always get Richard's return as this sort of final act moment where he comes back into town and, and he sweeps his hand and everything is better again. And that's just that's not really historically what happened. Historically there was a big battle when he got back in town and he's not nearly as wonderful a king as the title Lionhearts would assume.

 

So that's what happens in the sequel is we get to see sort of an alternative and hopefully more realistic version of that famous moment that we see in a lot of Robin Hood retellings.

 

Valerie Khoo

Now this is, Lionhearts is the sequel and Nottingham was your first novel. And if readers haven't had a chance to read Nottingham, you've done this great thing where you've basically done a, you know, acknowledged that at the front and said, “if you haven't read it, here's what you need to know,” which is really handy.

 

What captured your imagination about this story? Why did you want to do this retelling?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Oh! Well, so this is, I mean, this is a great story. So I am a theatre owner here in Southern California. I direct shows, I produce shows, I act when I get the chance to and I do combat choreography. And so me and my…

 

Valerie Khoo

Did you just say combat choreography?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Combat choreographer, yes, stage combat choreography.

 

Valerie Khoo

Oh, cool!

 

Nathan Makaryk

So directing of… I like to put swords in people's hands and then make them fight on stage. It's one of my favourite things.

 

Valerie Khoo

Okay, great.

 

Nathan Makaryk

And so and so because of that, I have typically directed a lot of shows that get to have a lot of stage combat. So things like Treasure Island where you get a lot of pirates fighting. I've done a production of The Hobbit with lots of goblins and trolls.

 

And so back in 2011, my theatrical partner, he was asking and sort of promoting different ideas of what I could direct the next year. And he mentioned Robin Hood, you know, not necessarily a specific script in mind, but just probably there was a Robin Hood script. I'm sure there is. And my reaction to him was no. I said, “No, I hate Robin Hood.” Which is not true. Like, like, I love everything about Robin Hood. Like I love, I love obviously I love fights and I love the time period. The thing that I don't like about Robin Hood is what I just referenced a little bit ago, is the idea that the good guys are always too good and the bad guys are always too bad. I've just always had this problem with the super black and white line between good guys and bad guys because it's, you know, there's very few people in the world who are genuinely evil. And yet we always get, you know, it's always okay to just kill guards by the dozens in these kinds of stories where they all have helmets on and we don't really think twice about the fact that Robin Hood just killed someone's husband, someone's father, you know.

 

So I wanted to tell a version of the story that was, you know, that was a little more respectful to both sides. And so I wrote that version for the stage. And it went very well. We had a sold out run. Everyone kind of reacted and said, “Wow, that was a really good story.” A lot of people didn't know what to expect. They just thought, oh, Robin Hood on stage, that'll be fun. And then they ended up getting something a little more intellectual and kind of meaty.

 

And so when people asked what I was going to do with it next, I realized that, although the stage was a really great experience, the full version of what I wanted to do with that story needed more time. It needed more than two hours on stage. So I decided to novelise it.

 

So yeah, I never necessarily set out to write the book. I ended up writing the book because it was the best version of this story that I wanted to get out.

 

Valerie Khoo

Wow. So it starts off as a stage production, you think, “I'm gonna write a novel now of Nottingham.” At that point, did you know there was gonna be a second book?

 

Nathan Makaryk

No. When I wrote the first book, I definitely assumed it would be a one off. But that being said, you know, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, “Well, you know, what is the actual future of this, if this does get picked up?” Clearly, that's a pretty common theme. Right now, having book series with lots and lots of entries is pretty popular, especially in these genres. So I did have that in the back of my mind, that, you know… And I kind of kept some outlines, some loose outlines of where would I want this to go? What's, you know, if I get, you know, let's say there was a three book deal, let's say there was a five book deal, what would be sort of the overarching stories that I would want to make sure I plant the seeds for early. Because the last thing I want to do would be to have future books feel like they were unjustified. You know, when you see a movie, and then all of a sudden, there's another sequel, and it feels like it's tagged on? I didn't want that. I wanted to be able to, without feeling like it was just an empty cliffhanger, I wanted it to feel like we had stories built in along the way.

 

And because of that, I actually started writing Lionhearts well before I had a book deal at all for Nottingham. I had about half of it done when I did finally get signed to do the first book.

 

So for me, it never really necessarily felt almost like a sequel, it really just felt like I was still writing more story. Because I didn't, I wasn't really in the world of being a published author yet. But again, the nice thing was that I was able to seed those in, you know, lots of elements along the way.

 

Valerie Khoo

So take me back to when you decided to novelise the stage production. How did you approach that? Were you basically telling the story that was in the stage production, but it was, you know, fleshed out with a lot more detail? And what was your process in terms of… Because you do other things, like you work, you put on stage productions. How did you fit it into your life?

 

Nathan Makaryk

So at the time, I did not have a child. That made it a lot easier to write. And also, at the time, my then girlfriend, now wife, she was actually studying to get her CPA license. And that, and that was going to require like a year of her life to study for it. And so the fact that she knew that she was going to be busy, like three hours every night, kind of said, “Okay, well, let me find a project that I will also keep me busy for three hours every night so that we can both sort of work, you know, side by side on our own projects.” And we would, you know, set up kind of artificial goalposts, you know, where she would say, “Okay, well, I got through 2% of my studying today, did you get, did you finish 2% of your, you know, your total word count?” Things like that. So that helped a lot.

 

As far as beginning that process of taking the stage material and getting it into the novel, in the end, yes, I would say about a third of the novel is kind of what you called, you know, a straight narrative translation of what happened on stage. But the other two thirds is all material that I was able to add, because it was now in a novel form. So for instance, in the, you know, in the original play, we didn't get to see nearly as much of what was happening from the other perspective. Most of the stories still took place from Robin Hood's crew. Whereas, you know, now that I'm able to really change points of view in a novel whereas I'm more limited by the number of scenes that I can put on the stage at once, and the number of actors that I can bring in. Now I was really able to flesh out the crew of the Nottingham guard and get to know them as well as we got to know Marian's men.

 

So that was, so that's, you know, that takes up probably a good chunk of the extra bonus material, if you want to call it that way. And then also just the ability to add more story points before the play began. And also filling in the dots between the scenes. So there, you know, in the stage play there were a lot of kind of big tentpole events that we go from here, we go from here, we go from here. Whereas in the novel, I'm able to kind of slow those down and look at more the politics of what really required this person to make that decision which made this happen, which made that happen. So some of it's drawing it out, some of it's filling in from the other side.

 

Valerie Khoo

So I love that your success is due to your girlfriend's CPA qualification.

 

Nathan Makaryk

That's right. I never would have had the time otherwise.

 

Valerie Khoo

In America, that's an accounting qualification. Right?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Correct. Yes.

 

Valerie Khoo

So, okay. Can you give me a bit of a timeline so that we know, Okay, well, that took me four months or 18 months or whatever? Your first draft.

 

Nathan Makaryk

The first draft took me that full year. So I think, I want to say it was all of 2013. I think I started it probably about in January, and I finished the first draft around December. And that was, that was a lot of writing. Like the first draft was actually much longer than the book ended up being. The first draft was 300,000 words long.

 

Valerie Khoo

Oh my god!

 

Nathan Makaryk

Which was really dumb of me, by the way. As far as decisions I made on the path to become a writer, that was that was the worst one. I did a really bad job of, I had sort of decided not to research the writing industry before I decided to write the book. In my mind, I just assumed, “oh, well, clearly, I have to have a book before I can get published. So I better write the book first, and then I'll figure out how to do it later.” That was not a good choice. Because if I, I mean, you're laughing, you know why. If I had done any research, I would have known that 300,000 words is an exorbitantly obscene number of words for a debut author to attempt to get published. So that was a just a massive mistake.

 

And so then it probably was another year of revising, editing.

 

Valerie Khoo

Cutting.

 

Nathan Makaryk

Yeah, cutting. Although again, I didn't cut nearly as much as I should have. It was another year of revising before I was really querying. Querying took me another year and a half before I got my agents.

 

Valerie Khoo

Wow.

 

Nathan Makaryk

And again, that was largely because everyone said, “your book is too long, what's wrong with you?” And you know, and again, I just sort of had this mindset, “well, well, it only takes one person to say yes.” Which sounds like good advice when you see it on an inspirational poster, but isn't actually the best advice. Because when you're getting all the same feedback of people saying, “Hey, you know, that's too long,” I needed to listen to that.

 

So eventually, I figured that out that I did, that I had made some huge mistakes, went back, I spent another, I think, six months, significantly cutting. And now once it was cut down, it was still too long, it was still 200,000 words, but you know, but that's a third of the book was gone, at least it was in a better version. But I was then able to query one of my original agents that I had pitched to, one of the ones that I'd really liked. And he had actually he had taken it in and he said, “Hey, I like the writing. But I don't think I can promote it because it's, you know, you've got these hurdles that you've set for yourself in making it so long.”

 

And so I pitched him again and said, “hey, it's still long, but you said you liked it. You know, I'm querying again. It would be dumb of me if I didn't at least mention it to you.” And then this time, he said yes. So it was a long fight to get to that agent.

 

I think I ended up having about 250 rejections.

 

Valerie Khoo

Oh my god!

 

Nathan Makaryk

I pinned them all to the wall of my office. They were like my trophy room, because I felt if I had accomplished nothing else, at least I accomplished this. At least I have a wall of failures. The end result is that the failure was in my own thinking in how to approach things.

 

Valerie Khoo

Yeah. So 250 rejections that you can actually see on your wall, what keeps you going? How did you not get down?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Oh, I got down. What makes you think I wasn't down?

 

Valerie Khoo

Well, what made you not give up? I'll rephrase that.

 

Nathan Makaryk

I mean, it was that same sort of just idea that, you know, that it only takes one. And I had had, you know, along the way I had, I kept getting a steady trickle of people who wanted to read, you know, chapters who would respond saying, “Hey, this is good, but…” So it was really those that kept me going, the fact that I had enough people saying “yes, but…” It wasn't just straight noes. If no one even wanted to read pages, then I think I would have figured it out faster.

 

But the idea that a dozen, probably about 15 or 20 times along that year and a half of submitting, there was always some agent who had it in their hand that was considering it. And so it just was a matter of one of them has to say yes, right. One of them is gonna say yes. And then obviously, the correct answer was, “Well, hey, if the writing is good, maybe I should actually adapt it in such a way that is publishable.”

 

Because I had just, you know, like I said, I just wrote the kind of book that I like to read. I like to read those big giant Game of Thrones tomes. And I didn't know that that's not a thing that you should do as a first-time author. And not to toot my own horn, but the fact that I still was able to get both an agent and a deal with a book that is so significantly long, hopefully speaks to its quality. I'll put that in quotes. The fact that we found both an agent and one of the big five publishing houses was willing to take a chance on it, I'm very, very thankful for.

 

Valerie Khoo

So how long after you the agent said yes did you get the book deal?

 

Nathan Makaryk

That was another almost two years.

 

Valerie Khoo

Oh, wow, you have really kept the faith.

 

Nathan Makaryk

It was a long, yeah, that was a long haul. And, you know, and for all the same reasons. It was exactly what, it was the same reasons it took so long to get the agents and he knew that it was gonna be probably a long haul too. And he said, “Either we're gonna get a bunch of bites in the beginning, or this might be a long, a long battle.”

 

And in the end, you know, eventually, we got, you know, we got a good bite. And he said, “Well, you know…” Because Tor Forge was the first one in America to say yes. And then that went to Penguin Random House, Australia for the rights where you are. But Tor said, “Hey, we're interested. But you know, there's still some edits we'd like to make. Are you interested in that?” And my agent was like, “You tell me.” And I was like, “Yes, of course! What's wrong with you? Yes. Do they want a unicorn? I'll write some unicorns in there. I don't care. You tell me what they want!” You know, I was just happy to have a deal.

 

Valerie Khoo

Of course.

 

Nathan Makaryk

And obviously, the edits, you know, they were significant, but they weren't, they were nothing that I objected to in any capacity.

 

Valerie Khoo

All right. So the thing is, you live in California, this is in Nottingham. What kind of research – and not only Nottingham, but Nottingham in another era – what kind of research did you do or did you feel that you had to do in order to make it, you know, really authentic and come to life?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Well, I travelled to Nottingham was the right answer.

 

Valerie Khoo

Cool! You mean while you were writing?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Yes.

 

Valerie Khoo

That's committed.

 

Nathan Makaryk

So I didn't get to go there while I was writing the play. And also the play, it's a lot easier to hide your lack of research because you're only listening to dialogue, right? So you're not reading any stuff in between where you have to get the details right. But, you know, in the book, obviously, I had to make sure I was a little bit closer to reality.

 

So I am very lucky, I happen to have a day job that occasionally gets me to travel either around the States and sometimes around the world. So both times that I got to travel to London during the period where I was writing the books, I made sure to tag on an extra week to my travel itinerary and went up to Nottingham and spent as much time as I could both in the city and in the castle. And that was… It was the best. I love the city so much. Maybe, I mean, clearly I'm biased but getting to spend my time there, getting to learn the streets and get a feel for the size of it and, you know, just knowing how long it would take to run from this important monument to that important monument, things like that are just invaluable as far as, you know, when you're writing it.

 

And then, you know, I spent a lot of time talking with tour guides. After they were done with their tours, I would kind of say, “Hey, you got an extra half hour? Can I chat with you about this?” Because they have the kind of information that you just can't Google, you know?

 

Valerie Khoo

Yeah.

 

Nathan Makaryk

It's hard to Google little facts that are bugging you. Not to say that I got it all right. I definitely still made, got some errors along the way. And every now and then someone pops up on Goodreads and says, “Well, you use this word.” And I was like, “I know, I know! I realized that too late.”

 

But again, to be fair, I'm writing about Robin Hood, Robin Hood is not a historically accurate story in the first place. I knew that, you know, this is both folklore and history. And I did my best to be respectful of both but not strictly adhere to both. And you know, and there were some places that I definitely chose to be inaccurate, particularly in the way my characters speak. I like them to have a bit of a more modern sense of humour. And certainly they use modern vulgarity as well, which I know is not, I know it's anachronistic. But it just, it just feels right to have that level of curse in a story that we're reading about, like, in order for it to feel more pertinent to today's life, I just want my characters to feel like you know them, and can get a sense of them talking better. So I broke some rules in that capacity.

 

Valerie Khoo

So you are dealing with a story that does have conventional, you know, historical foundation. People know who Robin Hood is, or know the Robin Hood story. And he is from an era in history that is real. When you are doing your retelling, there is obviously the risk that you can go too far. And readers just go, “ahhh, I can't deal with this.” How do you know where that line is? How do you know when… Or did you not care? Did you just go, “I'm just gonna go for it.”

 

Nathan Makaryk

Well, for me, actually, there was a lot of, especially in the first book, I did want to make sure I hit those major Robin Hood events that you expect from a Robin Hood story. Like there are, you're reading Robin Hood, you want to see Robin Hood and Little John fighting with staves over a river. You just expect that to happen. And so when you start the story, you're kind of mentally pacing yourself. Okay, I know that that that has to happen before these other things can happen. You know, especially modern audiences, we're expecting Maid Marian to get captured by the Sheriff near the end of final acts in order to be married against her will. We sort of expect these things to happen. And so, I did want to include those, and I do include those, specifically because we expect them and using the readers expectations of how those events should go, gives me a leg up on then kind of pulling the curtain away and saying, “Hey, this is what's actually going on in this moment. Why did you always want to see this moment, when the reality doesn't make sense? Let's look at this from another angle and see why with a version of it that you learned, it probably, you know, has far more different foundations than you expected.”

 

So for me, it was really advantageous to rewrite a story that is so well known, because I got to use the reader's expectations against them.

 

Valerie Khoo

So when you were writing either of your novels, I'm curious to know, when you start, do you know what's going to happen? Have you plotted it all out? You know, you've obviously written plays before, you know, you're used to a three-act structure. But some authors don't plot it all out, they just start writing and see what happens. Where do you fall?

 

Nathan Makaryk

The infamous plotter versus pantser debate. I am very much a plotter. I outline everything ahead of time. Before I jump into any given chapter, I know where all the plot lines go. I know what each big event is, I map out how they have to get from point A to point B to point C, which helps me figure out which characters should be the point of view to see each event happen if that's the kind of limitations I've got in front of me. And then usually, if I'm going to sit down and write on a chapter specifically, I've got a bunch of notes on here's the things that has to happen. We have to see this moment, we have to have a conversation about this theme, we have to, you know, make sure that this happens before it's over. As I'm going in to a chapter I've got these points that I know I have to hit.

 

I would be lost if I didn't have that. I think that I just really respect the long game. And I like a story, that when you're done with it, you can feel all those threads properly coming into play. And so, you know, anytime you see a movie, and you have something like an alternate ending, it always makes me so mad. I'm like, “What do you mean, an alternate ending?” There shouldn't be an alternate ending. The point of telling a story is to get to the ending and have all of the themes and the characters tie perfectly into whatever the ending is. How could you have another version? That kind of irked me, but it's not the way that I like to approach a story.

 

Valerie Khoo

So when you say that you go into it having it all outlined, how long does it take you to outline the entire story before you actually start writing?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Months…

 

Valerie Khoo

Yeah.

 

Nathan Makaryk

Usually I'm sort of tinkering with a story before I'm really deciding to write it.

 

Valerie Khoo

Yeah.

 

Nathan Makaryk

So you know it like it's percolating in the back of your head. And then you kind of keep a Word doc open that every now and then you come back to and you just vomit out all the ideas that's been sitting in your head. And eventually that starts to collate into events that have to happen. And you kind of come back to it every week or so, or whenever you had another moment come into your mind, you wake up or you get out of the shower, and you have that perfect conversation. And you got to make sure you capture that dialogue while it's still in your shower head. You run over there and you digest it.

 

And then that document eventually distils into something that looks like an outline. And the early chapters, you know, start to get more details than the later chapters do. But yeah, it's usually a couple months of that before I feel like okay, I think I've got enough information here where I can actually start hacking out and writing some of those, writing the beginning chapters.

 

I do definitely write from the beginning to the end. I don't write chapter 30 because it's exciting. I write from the very first word all the way through to the end.

 

Valerie Khoo

So when you say you vomit it out into a Word document, is that actually what you use? Because you say you have outlined every chapter, do you use index cards or any other form?

 

Nathan Makaryk

I am 100% Microsoft Word. I don't take hand scribbles on anything. Sometimes I'll email myself. And then I'll copy and paste those into my Word documents.

 

Yeah, I know, there's a lot of good software programs out there that are specifically designed to do better than Microsoft Word as far as organizing your thoughts. And I've just not, that's not how my brain works, I guess.

 

Valerie Khoo

So you mentioned that you do combat choreography. I have to come back to that. Number one, how in the world does one learn how to do combat choreography? And number two, obviously, in a book that involves Richard the Lionheart and this whole era, there is much combat. What did you draw on in your experience with combat choreography to make the scenes in your story? You know, I don't even know if the word is real, because I don't know what real is in terms of combat. But yeah, what did you draw on for those scenes?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Yeah, I actually, I think real is the goal that I was aiming for. So I learned combat choreography. I went to University, the University of California, Irvine, and I got a major with honours in acting back in 2002. And one of the classes that I took there was stage combat choreography. I then took an advanced course with the graduate students. I was very lucky as an undergraduate to get to do the advanced courses with the graduates in which I became certified in hand-to-hand combat for the stage and rapier and dagger fighting and knife fighting on stage. And so with all that, I was then able to continue doing that in my theatre when I built it a couple years later.

 

And so what's fun about it all is that you learn what's possible. And you also learn what's not possible. So, you know, a lot of times, if I'm watching a show or I'm reading a book and there's choreography or fighting, I'll know, “Oh, no, you can't do that. You can't swing the sword that way. What do you mean, he's swinging from the left right now? All his momentum was on the right a second ago. Yeah. How do you twist and pivot like that?”

 

So some of it is literally being Star Wars kid and grabbing a sword in your room and doing it. And that, you know, it always feels pretty silly. But that's how I choreograph, is I grab – I have a whole bunch of swords – and I grab the right weapon and I mark the moves, and I write down, you know, I have my own shorthand for what different moves are so I can read back later. And I make sure that each, the flow and, you know, the weight makes sense to transfer from attack to attack, things like that.

 

Now, when I transfer that to writing, it's valuable because I know the fights. But I'm really aware of not writing the choreography. I don't want to do that. You don't want someone to just say, “he swung his sword over his left shoulder to his combatant's right hip, who deflected it with his sword pointing downward.” You know, like, that's boring. You want to experience a fight from the emotional state of the person who's having that fight.

 

And so I approach it more from that perspective of getting, hopefully getting the reader in the same sort of panicked frenzy that a combatant would have. So that you're not worried so much about the details, but you're worried about the pacing, you're worried about how quickly you can get in and get out and survive, or be surprised that you're still alive and get to fight again.

 

And also, the reality is that a real fight does not last very long. You know, we get to see all the fancy swashbuckling fights, like from Pirates of the Caribbean, where, you know, it can last 20 minutes and cling, cling, cling, cling, cling. That's not real. Areal fight is probably three moves. Someone's making an attack. And if, and whoever's defending is either going to get stabbed and die, or they're going to defend it and attack back. And you have to have a couple of really good fighters to get more than a couple interactions go back and forth. And if they are, they're not going to waste their energy on just hacking at each other's swords. And also, usually, in these kinds of, you know, in medieval England, you're not going to have as many trained fighters anyways. So usually, you know, in the fights in the books, it's rarely a duel between two people, because that's not going to last long. It's usually more a melee where you're thrown into the thick of things. And you dispatch an opponent, and he's dead, and it took a sentence and then you're running, and then there's someone else and oh, someone attacked you. Slash again. Did he die? He's dead. Argh, run away.

 

So it's, for me, it's more about that. It's about the pacing, it's about the energy than about the specific choreography. That's not fun.

 

Valerie Khoo

Okay, so you are obviously a kid who had a lightsabre when you were growing up and would hang out with your lightsabre. What I'm picturing is when you were writing this big, you were effectively acting out the fight scenes.

 

Nathan Makaryk

Yeah.

 

Valerie Khoo

Were you acting out the scenes as well? The non-fight scenes?

 

Nathan Makaryk

No. That's not to say that I didn't write them with an actor in mind. But no, I would, I usually wouldn't speak them out loud. I had the benefit in the first book of the fact that I had worked with a cast already that had performed it. So I did have a lot of actual humans that I was rewriting in my head. So I got a sense, I knew their cadence. I knew their rhythm, I knew their mannerisms, and a lot of that came through in the book, because that's just how those characters lived in my head now. So that was very useful.

 

And even falling through to the next book, the characters who survived the first book, obviously, I never got to see those actors do any of the things that they're doing in book two, but in my mind it's still very much those actors. And it's actually weird for me at times, because I'm close friends with some of those actors, and I tell them, “I feel like I've worked with you every day of the last seven, eight years” because I literally do work with them and direct them in my mind, you know, even though I haven't seen them in months.

 

Valerie Khoo

So with Lionhearts, what was the most challenging thing about writing it?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Lionhearts is, well, I'll say challenging, but also one of the most fun things, I would say both of the same thing, which is that there's an element at play in Lionhearts, which you could only accomplish in a novel, which is obviously something I couldn't do in the first one or in the play. In Lionhearts, we get a number of different characters who all take on the persona of Robin Hood. And they all take it on in their in their own different way. And some of them, you know, are closer to good guys. And some of them are closer to the bad guys.

 

But we never see those actions taking place from the point of view of whoever's doing it, we always see it from someone else's point of view, which means that we don't know who is quote, unquote, being Robin Hood in those moments. So it almost has sort of a mystery, a murder mystery feel for a while where you see all these actions happen. You don't know who's responsible, but you know who all the suspects are. You know who might have been Robin Hood in that scene, but is it the same person who was Robin Hood in this other scene? Or was it some other character entirely?

 

And so it was really fun to play with what the reader can't know, and has to fill in with their own imagination. But the challenging part, of course, is that I know who is Robin in every single scene, and I have to make sure to never give up that game, to never accidentally reveal when I'm in someone else's shoes that they were there or never drop the wrong hints. That was very tricky, because that's the kind of thing that when you go back and read it, it's so hard to read it with a blank mind. You can never read your own chapters and really, truly experience it for the first time the way a reader can.

 

And so that was just so hard to always remind myself, am I truly presenting this character in a neutral way? Have I given up the game the wrong way? Or am I playing too mysteriously? Things like that.

 

Valerie Khoo

And so is there going to be a third book?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Oh, I hope so. So, so I do have my Word document full of outlines and notes and snippets of conversations. And that is all complete. I have it fully fleshed out, I know where it goes, and I'm waiting to start writing it. I only have not started writing it because I currently do not have a deal for it. So my first deal was for the two books. And currently, I'm literally like this week, you know, kind of waiting to find out whether or not we get to do more.

 

And you know, that's understandable. Earlier this year, when I turned in this book, I turned in Lionhearts in March, we had every expectation that there was going to be a third. And so I was basically ready to jump right in. And then we all know what happened in March. So the entire world kind of got put on pause, and lots of things have been delayed. And there's a lot of hesitation, obviously, in a lot of industries.

 

So I think that I'm currently, you know, waiting to find out. I think that we're assuming that if the book does well, then we'll have a third one. And hopefully it does, because…

 

Valerie Khoo

Well, I have no doubt that Lionhearts is going to be a hit because it's awesome. So we look forward to the third book. Finally, what are your top three tips for aspiring writers who want to be in a position where you are one day?

 

Nathan Makaryk

Ah well, my first one kind of harkens right back to what I said earlier, which is do your research. Don't be dumb like I was. Yeah, study the industry first. You've got to find out what kind of books work, what the target word counts are that agents are likely to say yes to. It's not just them being mean and saying, “Oh, I don't want to work on a big book.” You know, a book requires so much investment from in the time of an editor and a copy editor and a proof reader. And it's not a linear progression. Like, my 300,000 page novel is not twice as hard to edit as a 150,000 page novel; it is four times as hard to edit. That work is exponential. So listen, look at what is likely to be sellable. You obviously as a first-time author, your goal is to have a sellable book, so don't put any extra hurdles in your way like I did, that will make it more difficult for an agent or a publisher to see yourself as something that's viable.

 

Another one of my big recommendations is to take time off. And I mean, that's literally like, like treat it like a job. And don't write seven days a week. You know, if you think about your normal job, you probably don't go in on the weekends and nor do you feel guilty about not going in on the weekends. Give yourself some time, some defined hours where you are writing and let that be your job. And then that means you got to sit down, and you actually have to do your job when it's those hours, whether you feel like it or not, because otherwise, it's not gonna get written. You can't always wait for the Muse to come, right. But that also means that if you give yourself, give yourself like Tuesday and Thursday, Tuesday and Thursday, you're not allowed to write. And if that is the case, a) you'll discover that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you're going to have those thoughts percolating. Rather than feel like you're forced to write them, they're going to be growing in the back of your head. But more importantly, for your mental health, it will give you the authority or the approval to enjoy the rest of life, to watch TV every now and then, to watch a movie. I think that every writer has experienced the moment where we are, you know, we're watching something on TV and we just feel gross, because we're like, “oh, I could have spent that hour on my career, I could have been writing and I wasted my time.” And that's not true. And if you give yourself those moments where you are literally not allowed to write, then you'll be able to enjoy your downtime so much more and not feel like you just infinitely have homework. Because that's what writing is – you have infinite homework from now until you die. And that's not fun.

 

And then my third bit of advice is a little bit more sobering, which is to lower your expectations. They're really, you know, getting the book deal, or even getting the agents, especially when you're in the querying trenches, and you're trying to get past that hurdle, when you get it, it will feel like you won the lottery. And it is so much less like winning the lottery, and so much more like starting a new day at a new job. And that first day at a new job, you know, you don't know what you're doing, and everyone has to help you, and you're gonna feel dumb for a while, and you don't know where the copier is. And no one expects you to know how to do that job on that first day, even for the first month, for the first couple weeks of your job, you're still learning. That's the experience as a writer, too. Is to remember that when you get that lottery moment of, “I've got a book deal” you are now almost the bottom of the totem pole of a brand new pole. You've gotten past one hurdle, but you are now, your job is to be humble and to listen and to help other people rather than to, you know, to think “I've made it! I am a writer now!” Just take your time, be patient, it's not going to, you're not going to be famous overnight in any capacity. You know, that stuff takes time. You know, one in a million people get that book that just breaks out like crazy. Most people don't. So being a writer is a career choice. You know, over the course of your next 10 books, yeah, then you will slowly get to be more and more known, hopefully. But you're not going to be famous. So lower that expectation.

 

Valerie Khoo

What a great explanation, and what fantastic advice. So, thank you so much for your time today, Nathan. Congratulations on Lionhearts and we look forward to more books in the future.

 

Nathan Makaryk

Thank you.

Browse posts by category
Browse posts by category

Courses starting soon

About us

The Australian Writers’ Centre offers courses in creative writing, freelance writing, business writing, blogging and much more. Our practical and industry-proven courses will help you gain confidence and meet your goals faster!

Contact us

Phone: (02) 9929 0088 Email: [email protected] Head office: Suite 3,
55 Lavender Street, Milsons Point NSW 2061

© 2021 Australian Writers' Centre | FAQs | Terms, conditions & privacy policy

GET OUR FREE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER – WITH WRITING TIPS, COMPETITIONS AND MORE! YES PLEASE!

Back to top ↑
×

Nice one! You've added this to your cart