Welcome back everyone. Tonight, we’ll be talking with Philipp Kessler from Nebraska who has been kind enough to stop by and visit with us. He is another sci-fi author I’ve met through the wonderful Facebook group SciFi Roundtable. Philipp will you get us started with a little about yourself and where you are from?
- I was born in small town Colorado, my family lived on a cattle ranch owned by my granddad. I’m the youngest of seven kids, five boys two girls. My brother closest in age to me and I were often left to our own devices for entertainment. So we spent a lot of time outdoors, using our imaginations. We moved to small town Nebraska when I was seven. A real treat that was! An indoor bathroom and cable! I’ve been in Nebraska pretty much ever since. I’m 39 now, even after living in Lincoln since I was 14 I still miss the country life. The hustle and bustle can be draining. So I escape into books and my own writing.
Sounds wonderful. I miss the countryside myself. When you started writing, did any of your childhood games ever make it into print?
- Not yet. I’m working on a sci-fi novel, among other things. I watched a lot of Star Trek, Buck Rogers, and Doctor Who as a kid. We had an old hay baler that my brother and I would pretend was our Viper from Battlestar Galactica. Something like that might make into this story. Mostly my love for the outdoors has been creeping into things. Having acquired allergies as I got older I’ve had to limit my outdoor activities.
Ouch. That’s never fun.
Did you start writing then, when you started being forced to remain indoors more often?
- I got into computers rather young (for the time). My brother had discovered RPGs and the joys of dial-up modeming. He introduced me to both when I was 8 or 9 and things took off from there. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories and both those avenues gave me a way to tell my stories differently. I don’t have much of my scribbles from then, we lost a lot of stuff due to flooding. I think it was in 5th grade that I was first told that my writing was good. My first book is dedicated in part to that teacher.
Hats off to the teacher that helped inspire you to keep writing. Too many are discouraged from pursuing the dream.
Did those early experiences create a favorite part of the writing process for you?
- If I had to pick a favorite part of the writing process I’d have to say it is seeing the words on the screen. I don’t do long hand writing, arthritis and horrible handwriting don’t allow for that. Seeing the words and knowing that I made that, that is a very satisfying feeling.
- Usually when I write I just let the words flow and see where they take me. I’ve got scads of notebooks from before the arthritis kicked in that I go through sometimes and see what they inspire in me today. I used to keep a journal, that is probably where I really first started telling my good stories. Where only I could see them.
::Nods:: I’ve heard of others who journaled first. Gives writers a chance to practice telling stories in print where they don’t have to worry about being judged.
Since you say you enjoy letting the story unfold on its own, would it be safe to say you are a “panster”-type author, or do you do some planning and/or research before you get started?
- I’m a hybrid. Depends on what I am writing. I research a lot before and while I am writing. I sketch characters out and have an idea of their backgrounds, motivations, and where I’d like to see them go with the story. After all of that, I let them have the reins.
- One of the novels I am working on is an historical fiction. I have to be accurate where I can with the actual events, but I can have as much fun as I and my characters want with the rest. It also includes a lot of psychology, so there is that research as well.
- Now, when I am doing nonfiction I generally use an outline and plan it out as much as I can. Especially long pieces. Much of my nonfiction are short essays or articles that have been published on blogs or in anthologies. I am currently working on a book that will probably take me through a lot of research, outlining, and personal experience.
My hat comes off to you. I’ve tried the general outline idea – it didn’t work.
Since you said historical, I’m going to guess outside your nonfiction work, you focus on fantasy? (If not, how do you mix historical with sci-fi?)
- My Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings series is magical realism. I also write erotica with a fantasy bent, urban thriller leaning towards horror, and the occasional short in high fantasy. The sci-fi is something different for me. My first attempt was way back in middle school, I was home schooled for a short time and my mother assigned a writing project to me. I’d been reading a lot of Star Trek novels at the time. She assigned me the task of writing a story in the ST universe. It wasn’t very good.
- In my current effort I have computer magicians. Combining science with magic. There are nonhumans who have supernatural abilities or characteristics. It is relatively easy for me to combine my love of sci-fi with my love of fantasy. After all, yesterday’s magic is today’s science.
Very true. And that does strike at the heart of the “science fiction or fantasy” debate.
Do you have any authors who’ve influenced you over the years one way or the other?
- Piers Anthony was probably my first love when it comes to fantasy. His Xanth books are still a favorite of mine. He also has some really good sci-fi and sci-fi meets fantasy books. His Firefly novel was an influence on me as a teen. Before then I’d not read a book that combined horror with science fiction. Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradley have influenced my writing some. I’ve taken inspiration from many current authors who have shown to me that “yes I can!” Alex Bledsoe and M.R. Sellars come to mind for that. They both have taken magic and the supernatural and put them into a modern setting. Not truly magical realism, but good reads! Bledsoe uses his Appalachian childhood in his books while Sellars combines his own Pagan beliefs with modern crime thrillers.
Sounds like I’ve got a couple of new authors to investigate from that list, not to mention a few of my old “friends” as well.
Now that we’ve looked at the past, I’m going to turn our attention to the future. What are you working on right now?
- If you are adding authors to your list, might I suggest one more? Sarah Buhrman. Her Runespell series is proving to be an excellent example of magical realism. 🙂
- What am I working on right now? I’ve got five fiction documents open on my desktop at the moment. A gay male erotica involving bikers and faeries, a dark urban thriller with a computer geek, a bloody skull, and a jaded detective; a short story that tells a modern take on the story of Sekhmet the lion-headed goddess of Egypt, chapter two of my sci-fi novel (a chapter-a-month perk on Patreon); and volume two of Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings. Not open are two metaphysical nonfictions dealing with Pagan spirituality, the historical fiction I mentioned earlier, and … I think that’s about it. I’m sure there is more, though. lol. Yeah, I work on a lot all at once.
How on earth do you keep that all straight?? I get lost if I’ve got more than 2 at a time. (Shorts don’t count – those are a start-to-finish in one sitting type thing.)
- When it comes to the fiction the characters will take turns. Mostly. Sometimes more than one group of characters want me to work on them at the same time. That can be a headache. And my moods shift throughout the day. Sandra and Elaine, two of my MCs from Dark of the Moon, have been talking to me a lot the last week or so. Ever since their first story came out. They want to get more of their story out there. They’ve even let one of the antagonists take over the last two days for a little while. The Captain of the Pinnacle knows when a mission needs to be focused on and keeps his crew in line for me. The bloody skull and the computer geek have been sitting patiently in the backroom for a while, but the skull is starting to scream at me. That’s just some of it.
- Sounds crazy, right? Well, most of us authors are a little crazy (or a lot!). The nonfiction stuff is there for when I need a break from all those voices. I can sit back and write what I know when working on nonfiction. If I come across something that needs more research I’ll go explore and get lost for a while. It all comes back to the writing though. I do it for the love of it. Sales help, of course.
Doesn’t sound crazy to me at all. I’ll just quietly take my hat off and watch as you perform the amazing juggling act that you’re doing to work on so many different projects at once. I’m also going to peek over your shoulder, and see if you there’s anything you want to share? A snippet, teaser, excerpt?
- How about something from Backfire, the first volume of Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings?
Sandra opened the window a crack to let a bit of fresh air into the room. The incense smoke swirled in the breeze as it was sucked out the window. As the air cleared she blinked the smoke from her own eyes.
“Well that sucked,” she muttered under her breath. “Back to square one.” She pushed her hair away from her forehead, brushing the sweat away from her brow.
She looked about the now smoke free room and sighed. Picking up the athame she began to put her ritual and spell tools away. Sandra put each tool into its place in the box she pulled out from under the altar table. The wand, the incense burner, and the athame each had a special compartment in the ornately carved oak box. As she put the pentacle plate and the bowl into their pouches she gazed into her own reflection in the blade of the boline.
The curved blade, shaped like a crescent, was affixed to a piece of deer antler. The antler was hand carved with delicate Celtic knot work and the blade itself had been hand forged by her grandfather. Her eyes were captured in the blade’s surface, reflecting back her own frustration at the failed spell. Her hand shook a little and she broke her own personal staring match.
“Oh, stop it!” she admonished herself. “No sense in crying over spilt milk.”
She tucked the boline away into its pouch and picked up the simple silver chalice she preferred to use for her personal workings. Her gaze went to her reflection in the curved metal and she paused. What she saw in that reflection was different from the narrow bladed reflection of the boline. She could see more than just her eyes. She could see the frown of her lips and the smudge of soot on her nose where she had touched her face after snuffing out the candles with her dampened fingertips. The smudge made her grin a little and as she watched her lips twist in the curve of the chalice she couldn’t help but giggle at the image. The giggle soon turned into a laugh.
She took up a small terry towel and wiped out the chalice before placing it into the box as well. All the while laughing to herself.
“Hmm. Wonder what I did wrong this time.” She shook her head and made sure that she had placed all the tools in the box before closing it and putting it back under the altar. “Too much sandalwood in the incense? Or what is it the wrong color for the candles?” She wrinkled her brow with thought and picked up the remains of the failed spell materials. A bit of burnt twine, blackened parchment, and a small cracked quartz. She brushed it all into her hand and got up from the pillow on the floor.
As she left the small room she used for rituals, spell work, and meditation it was as if she walked from one world into another. Her bearing and attitude changed as soon as she stepped over the threshold. She hurried off to the kitchen and dumped the remains of the spell materials into the trash before washing her hands at the sink. She wiped the smudge from her nose with the dampened towel and filled a glass with water from the tap.
Her phone made a beep. Picking it up she saw that her best friend Elaine was texting her.
YES. WHAT UP?
WEIRDNESS AROUND HERE. WAT U DID?
WAT U MEAN?
THINGS WEIRD HERE. SAW U IN CORNER OF EYE & THINGS WENT WEIRD.
??? SAW ME?
YES. IN CORNER OF EYE. WEIRD!
Sandra’s phone rang in reply to her last text. “What do you mean you saw me? I’ve been here all afternoon.”
“I saw you out of the corner of my eye. I did. And then everything started to go weird.”
“What do you mean weird?”
“The light in the bathroom blew as I saw you out of the corner of my eye. It was like catching a glimpse of you in the mirror and then boom! The light bulb blew. Scared the shit of me, I tell you!”
“Wow, I imagine. You said things went weird. More than just the blown bulb?”
“Oh, yeah! A lot more. I ran out of the bathroom, scared the shit of me. Almost literally. The lights were flickering in the whole apartment. What did you do?!”
“I, uh…” she hesitated. Elaine knew she was a witch, but trying to explain magick to her was not always easy. “I just tried to cast a spell. It didn’t work.”
“Didn’t work? Elaine asked. “What on Earth were you trying to do?” Her tone of voice was enough to convince Sandra that she wasn’t going to have to explain much about magick. At least not just yet.
“I was trying to bring you peace,” she replied flatly.
“You call this peace?” her tone was almost accusatory.
“No. I said the spell failed. Nothing seemed to happen on my end.” Sandra was grasping for an explanation in her own mind. She cast a spell for peace in Elaine’s life and nothing seemed to happen.
“Girl! Something happened here on my end!” Elaine’s voice rose in pitch a notch and her volume was increasing. “What the hell were you doing!?”
“I did what I always do. I made my Circle, laid out my tools and worked the spell. Other than a lot of choking incense smoke, nothing happened. Nothing,” she was really at a loss here. She couldn’t fathom that a simple spell for something positive would cause anything to go wrong, let alone on the other side of town.
“Okay. Let’s take a breath.” She could hear her friend take a deep breath and exhale loudly over the cell’s speaker. Instinctively she did the same thing. “Now, tell me exactly what you did.”
“But you don’t believe in magick.”
::chuckles:: Oh, that definitely looks interesting. (Then again, after discovering another author who writes magical realism, I’ve been hooked.)
You said you’re working on the second book in this series?
- Yes. Waterfall takes place three months later. Elaine has moved in with Sandra out of convenience (and no spoilers). I’d tell you more, but that would be a spoiler! lol Read volume one and you will get more of an idea. I can say this, I’ve got 24 more stories planned for this series. Waterfall should be out by May 1, 2017.
Wow. I thought I was ambitious with a 10 book series! Need to start saving pennies for this one, you’ve definitely got me curious!
Last question for you: Where can folks find you for the latest news and teasers on your work?
- Like I said, I’m a little (or a lot) crazy. I won’t tell you my timeline for releasing each volume then. 😉
- I’ve got a page on Facebook where I post at least once a day. Either a teaser or an update on what is going on. I’ve also got a Patreon where I release a chapter-a-month for my $1 and above patrons out of the sci-fi novel I am working on. And of course I have author pages on Amazon (US Amazon) and Goodreads. RevKess is one of the voices of Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel. I am the host of Musica Pagani, co-host of Pagan-Musings and Pagan Weekly News. I am also one of the hosts of Murphy’s Magic Mess on KZUM and Lavender Hill on KZUM.
With all you’re juggling, it’s probably safer this way.
Philipp, thank you for stopping bye today. It’s been fun getting a chance to sit down and talk with you.
Any final words before we wrap up?
- Thank you! I’ve enjoyed our chat.
- Last words…Buy my stuff! Of course. But seriously, if you feel the desire to write. Do it! Even if it is only for yourself. Tell the stories that are inside of you. Who knows, you might just have a bestseller hidden inside you.
I’ll agree with that.
If you’ve enjoyed the interview, and want to keep up with everything Philipp is doing – please feel free to follow him on any of his social media links above. And, don’t forget to come back. Philipp said he’ll be returning with one of the characters from Waterfall for another chat in a few days.