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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Travis I. Sivart talks about the inspiration behind the latest book in his Portals book series, Sigils & Satyrs.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Travis I. Sivart about book 4 in his Portals series, Sigils & Satyrs, what inspired his characters, and his creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
A bit about me? Okay, I am an eclectic wanderer who loves to explore all things, physical or psychological. Which means I travel as much as possible and ask questions of everyone I meet. I explore my world in every way possible. This has led me through dozens of jobs, a few careers, and I’ve moved over sixty times in my life.
I’ve visited twenty-seven states, eight countries, and four continents. But at heart, I just want to give something back, and I try to do that through my stories.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I was told by my older sister that I carried a notebook to write down ideas when I was six years old. I created stories with action figures, and later role-playing games, but didn’t start writing complete stories until my teens. When did I WANT to write a book? Subconsciously, since I read my first book. Consciously, since about age fifteen.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Some would say it was since my teens. I would put it in about 1997 when I began submitting my writing to publications. At first it was editorial and opinion pieces, followed by poetry, and later short stories. But it was in 2007 I wrote my first full length novel, and 2013 when I self-published my first book.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
This is a tricky question. When I sat down to write my first novel, I did it in two months. I averaged two thousand words every day and ended up with a 134,000 word book in about sixty days. Thus, The Downfall, book 1, Harbinger was created. I cleaned it up and sent it to publishing houses, and got a lot of rejections.
In 2016, I rewrote that book, had it professionally edited and self-published it as my seventh book. The first book I published was a collection of short stories, each of which had been published in anthologies previously. My second book was a collaboration between myself and Wendy Callahan and took about 90 days.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My latest book took about a year. The writing of the 85k words was only about a month. But once we add in multiple edits, alpha readers, beat readers, editor, the recording of the audiobook, etc.… it stretches that finish line out a bit further.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Sigils & Saytrs?
This time around I wrote three books before releasing any. This is books 4, 5, and 6 in the Portals series and I really wanted to tie them together while still keeping them as stand-alone novels. Focusing on book 4, Sigils & Satyrs, I wanted to write that story to open up some of the mythical and mystical landmarks in my fantasy world. The Downfall series saw the collapse of societies across a continent, and these books take place thirty years later and show the rebuilding after the recovery from an apocalypse.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Sigils & Saytrs?
My biggest challenge was juggling a 60 hour a week job with a 30 hour a week writing schedule. I did find that the writing suffered, and the extra work on the back end (editing side) has been extensive. Book 5, Towers & Trolls, was written with me at home and completely focusing on it. What a difference! It’s was much stronger story from the get go without as much cleanup on the back end.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
This latest book has three protagonists. I love mixing personality types and seeing how they click with one another, or the conflict that arises. Each protagonist came to this fantasy world as the moment of their death in our world, and not all from the same time period.
Aiyana was marching in the civil rights movements of the 1960s, Nathan was a meek jeweler with a small shop in the 1990s, and Reggie was an archaeologist on his deathbed in the 1930s. Each character allows me to show people at different points in their lives, and from different walks of life. Blending them creates delicious tension and lasting friendships.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
In Sigils & Satyrs we have two antagonists, both who were minor characters in previous books. They step into power when the main characters defeat their predecessors in the previous books. Manalo, a warlord, is bold and brash. Tymere, is an alchemist with an inferiority complex.
When I created them and brought them forward from the background to the foreground, I really wanted to show their journey also. Show their growth, and how one played off the other. I think there’s a few surprises in store for the readers in their relationship.
What is the inciting incident of Sigils & Saytrs?
Great question! It’s a bit different for each character, but it would either be the burning of the village of Wiley’s Station, or the ogre with undead minions.
What is the main conflict of Sigils & Saytrs?
Internally, it’s the characters looking for their place in the world. Each one of them has their own and unique internal conflict. Aiyana is driven to change the world around her, Nathan just wants a quiet place to grow old, and Reggie wants one ore adventure before he dies. Externally, it’s Manalo and Tymere (the antagonists) trying to capture the group to get to the powerful magic they have as the protagonists search for Aiyana’s lost people, the aeifain.
Did you plot Sigils & Saytrs in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I’ve found it’s always a bit of both. This was more the latter, but later books are becoming more the former.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Sigils & Saytrs need?
A book always needs just a little more editing, and never has quite enough. With Sigils & Satyrs I had a few alpha readers, a professional, paid editor, and beta readers. The book went through their hands multiple times. And I am grateful for their help. It’s made this a much stronger and tighter story.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
The first piece of writing advice is simple, write it. The follow up is finish it. The caveats are read, pay an editor, and have someone else write your blurb.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
After Portals, book 4, Sigils & Satyrs there will be books 5 & 6, Towers & Trolls (with alpha readers now), and Legions & Liches (being written now). I will also be recording books 2 through 6 to audiobook. Next year (2023) I will continue writing my cyberpulp series (think Blade Runner meets Indiana Jones) Silver & Smith Chronicles. I’ll be picking it up at book 3, Silver & Smith and the Quantum Hourglass. I’ll continue this series to book 6, including narrating and recording each as an audiobook.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Wow, proud of my accomplishment? Tough questions that I don’t really think about. I love to write, and I know I am always learning and improving. What I just wrote can be better, and future books will be better. I don’t see this as an accomplishment, this is just what I do. It’s part of me, and I love doing it. In that respect, I am proud to do what I love as a whole. Was it worth the effort? Yes, definitely. Each book makes me a better writer and brings enjoyment to readers. Those two things are invaluable to me.
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