Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Travis Bughi

Today's interview is with an author who writes fantasy books filled with mythological creatures from all cultures. Travis Bughi is based in California, US.

Welcome to Creativity@Work Travis, and thanks for taking the time to do this interview!

1.           When did you first start writing?
I started off like most authors do, I imagine, by writing short stories as a kid. Then, at age 14 in high school, I finished reading Dune by Frank Herbert and was absolutely blown away. I decided I wanted to write something of my own one day, and seven years later, I completed that dream. I haven’t stopped since.

2.           What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
My books are self-published fantasy novels set in a world filled with all our mythological creatures across all cultures. Everything from angels to oni, rakshasas to manticores. The main character is an adventurous if somewhat naïve young girl named Emily Stout who grows from humble beginnings to legendary status in this world made so deadly by our nightmares.

3.           What led to your love for literature? Any favorite books / teachers / writing mentors?
My grandmother was a librarian before she retired and is solely responsible for my love of reading. Being in touch with the trends of the day, she knew what kids generally liked and introduced me to R.L. Stine, whose books I read voraciously. She would bring home stacks of his books for me to read, and I’d pour through them so quickly that she couldn’t keep up. My parents got me a library card of my own, and I’ve been expanding my list of books-read ever since.

4.           What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
I write books in a fashion like I read books, which probably doesn’t make sense, so allow me to explain. When I read books, nothing interests me as much as driven characters in a detailed setting. I can get behind just about any plot just so long as I’m following a character(s) who wants it badly enough. This is the way I write books. I start first with a strong understanding of my setting and then add in deep, fully-fledged characters with hopes, goals, and dreams. I have a general understanding of where the story is headed, but I don’t write down an outline. For the most part, the story writes itself as I set all these characters loose to work independently towards their goals.

Unfortunately, every method has its problems, and mine is that the way I write leads to strong characters and detailed worlds, but doesn’t always lead to strong plots or big twists. Those I have to add in manually, thinking about how to hide the secret motives of my strongly driven characters from the reader. I also have to contemplate timing a lot. The What and Why of my characters comes easily, but the How and When are just as important, so I must concentrate on these parts to make sure that my books aren’t all about characters and settings, but also includes plots and twists. Admittedly, I don’t succeed every time.

5.           What's your editing process?
Cleaning up the mistakes of my writing process. Once again, because my characters mostly write themselves, a lot of what I write in the first draft is set in stone, so my editing process is almost entirely polish. Edit a long-winded sentence here, remove a spoiler detail from here, clean up some dialogue and add in a few lines of characterization. Compared to my writing process, my editing is rather quick as I’m just adding the skin onto the meat and bones.

6.           Any favorite apps / software / technology for writing?
I use Microsoft Word for everything. Any outline I do is kept within the same document as the book and then deleted once it has served its purpose. Sometimes I’ll use the Notepadd app in my phone to jot down a quick idea while I’m out, but I transcribe it to Word the moment I get the chance. Everything else is in my head, and it has seemed to work so far for me. I think I might have to use a wiki-type app, though, once I finish this fantasy series and make a jump to scifi.

7.           Any favorite apps / software / websites for marketing and promotion?
I use Reddit and Goodreads almost exclusively. I do this because I frequent these sights a lot for fun rather than marketing and promotion. I use reddit as a time-filler where I get my information and drama fix, while I use Goodreads to hunt for books to read. When I see an opportunity to plug my book, I try to be respectful when I do so, spreading goodwill and understanding that people don’t want to be spammed. I don’t do much promotion, honestly, because I like to interact with people one on one rather than blast my work through large websites and email lists.

8.           What did you find most / least useful in learning to write?
Most: Reading. There is little else to be said on this topic that hasn’t already been repeated by nearly every other author, including Stephen King who said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Least: Writing advice. Going online and asking for advice on how to write, or reading blogs that tell you what words to use and not use, is an absolute and complete waste of everyone’s time. Every single piece of writing advice can be countered and shown to be false by a successful piece of fiction or non-fiction. “Don’t use adverbs!” they’ll say, and then I point to Harry Potter. “Don’t use purple prose!” Really? Because according to the list over at, The Inheritance Cycle, HP Lovecraft, Conan the Barbarian, and George Orwell all wrote purple. To quote George Orwell, “I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound.” And let’s not forget the writing advice “Don’t write badly!” People who say this stuff will also say that Fifty Shades of Grey is the worst novel ever written, while somehow ignoring the fact that book is also the best selling book of all time. Although I don’t care for Fifty Shades, I won’t ignore the fact that it blasted apart every piece of writing advice I’ve ever come across.

9.           Who or what inspires you? Where / how do you get your book ideas?
There is no one source for me. I draw my inspiration from every media outlet available to me. When I watch movies, TV shows, documentaries; when I read books, blogs, comics; when I listen to music, go on trips, seeing pictures, experience things myself; they all contribute to my understanding of how people interact and how the world fits together. It all goes into a single pool that mixes and connects like a giant web, and when I pull one string, hundreds of others tag along. I couldn’t narrow my inspiration any more than I could sum up the whole entertainment industry. In a word, I don’t discriminate.

10.       When in the day do you usually write? For how long?
I have no set schedule, only a goal. I aim for 5,000 words a week, done at any pace, at any time, for as long or as little as I like. I typically write for about an hour either in the early morning or in the early afternoon, as this is when my free time comes up, but I don’t feel held to that time slot. I also carry all my work on a flash drive which comes along with me so I can write from any computer I find myself plopped in front of.

11.       Do you have a writing routine / schedule? Any specific rituals?
Beyond the 5,000-word-a-week goal, which is actually more of a guideline, the only other ritual I have is to read over the last one hundred I wrote or so. It gets me back into the mindset and allows me to pick up exactly where I left off.

12.       Where do you feel most inspired to write?
Dune by Frank Herbert. That book was such a joy and had such an effect on me at that age that I became determined to write something of my own with which to bring joy to others. A sort of pass-it-on mentality where my books provide joy to other readers the way other authors provide joy to me as a reader. This is probably why I don’t promote my books as much as I ought to. Income has always been secondary to making sure I’m providing something worth reading and that books land in the hands of those who want to read them.

13.       Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.
I have a desk and a computer, but I wouldn’t call it my writing corner or my writing spot. My flash drive travels the world over with me, and any screen I find myself in front of becomes my writing spot. When I write, I get into the story and quickly lose track of whatever else is happening around me, so distractions don’t have much effect on me.

14.       Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
No. Never have, and probably never will.

15.       Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?
At only 5,000-words a week, I don’t write enough to run out of ideas all that often. I find I have lots of time to think on events so writer’s block is a rarity. When I do hit a wall, it tends to happen when multiple characters meet in a large, book-altering event, which forces me to think from several different perspectives all at the same time. Other times, I have to find some justification for why a character needs to behave accordingly, and because I’m me, that justification needs to be rock solid and true to the character. When this happens, I find a long walk or a long drive works best for me, thinking idly like I’m feeling my way through a thick fog. I explore different options, like Nicholas Cage in Next, taking each action to its logical conclusion and seeing which results come up. I then pick the line that works best for storytelling entertainment and my writer’s block is gone. Depending on how badly I’m stopped up, this process can take anywhere from a day to a month to fix, and because I’m not a bigtime selling author, it doesn’t bother me to go a month without writing while I work out a large problem.

16.       Do you now, or did you ever have any day jobs? Did they add to or detract from your writing?
I do have a day job as an appraiser, and I probably always will. I would say it adds to my writing, because it is thanks to the stability and income from my day job that I can write carefree and have the money and funds to afford the entertainment that keeps me inspired. I was jobless when I wrote the first book in my World of Myth series, and I hated that time of my life.

17.       How do you make the time to write?
I would call it simple, conscious effort. Like working out or doing the dishes, it is simply something that needs to be done. I don’t argue with it or forget about it. Writing is always in the back of mind, pinging me like anything else that’s important to me. “Did I leave the stove on? Did I write today? Should I write today?”

18.       How much research do you do? What kind?
I’m an avid Wikipedia reader. I’ve even donated to them before, as I know how dependent I am on them for both knowledge and entertainment. Most of my research comes prior to any writing, where I spend a few weeks quietly fleshing out the world my characters are going to exist in. I determine governments, weather, landscapes, creatures, places, events, and anything else I deem important to the setting. Once that is done, I fill in the world with people, who actually require little research. They mostly speak for themselves.

19.        How much marketing do you do? Which platforms are you most active on? 
As I stated before, I spend most of my time on Reddit and Goodreads, as these are the places I like to visit for reasons other than marketing. I feel I know the crowd more (or at least those places I do visit) and feel more comfortable interacting with people and introducing them to my work. I always offer up my work free first, as I would hate to be spammed with something I had to buy by the author. It makes growth slow but steady, which is good enough for me.

20.       What's the most fun aspect of marketing? The most challenging?
Just figuring out how to do it in the first place. Starting from scratch is the hardest, I feel, as I prefer to run on accomplishments. I find marketing and promoting much easier now that I have over 100 review/ratings and a 4-star average on my series. When I had 0, I felt like I was going door-to-door peddling haircare products, begging anyone and everyone to give poor old me a chance. Now that I’ve proven myself a little, I feel more confident and less apprehensive. Now I can message people, saying “Hey, you’re looking for XYZ, I saw. I just happen to have XYZ right here for you to try out free, and here’s all these other people with no connection to me saying it’s a good deal.” So, in terms of it all, the most challenging and difficult part of marketing is behind me.

21.       What project are you working on now?
I’m finishing the professional editing of the first part of my 6-book World of Myth series. Meanwhile, I’m writing books 7 & 8 in that series, and then I intend to take a break and write something new just to test my writing skills, and possibly try and get something traditionally published for the experience of it all. As to what I will write, I’m still not sure. I’m not there yet.

22.       What books do you like to read? What are you reading now?
I’m a strong fan of scifi, history, and fantasy, possibly in that order though it’s a close call between scifi and history. I prefer strong, driven characters with deep motives, flaws, and skills. I especially love characters that grow and change, taking up challenges and arising new above the ashes. Plot twists are like cherries on top to me. Not necessary, not unpleasant, but if an author ever sacrifices character drives for plot, I’ll lose interest in a heartbeat and drop the book never to continue again. I find my time too precious to waste on books I don’t enjoy.

What I’m reading now is The Three Body Problem by Ken Liu, which I’m about 20% through and so far enjoying. It’s different in that it switches characters a lot and jumps through time, but I like the characters and I’m curious as to where this is headed. Also, the author is fantastic at descriptions, similes, and metaphors. It’s beautiful, really.


I’m a simple guy who likes to write. I grew up with a passion for books, particularly fiction, and enjoyed the thrill of getting pulled into a whole new world. My goal now is to pass that joy onto others, and get lost in my own world this time around.

Most Recent Novel: Juatwa

The time has come for Emily to make good on her vengeance. After chasing the traitor the world over, Emily has her cornered in Juatwa, a place of never-ending war, and must fight her way through creatures, assassins, and three armies, to defeat her nemesis. But Emily has an ally whose skills rival her own. With his help, a bit of determination, and perhaps some luck, they might just win the day.

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