Author C.M. Skiera drops by to chat with Annabell about what makes him a nerd, what his job is like as an environmental engineer, what sparked the idea for his debut novel, Crimson & Cream, and what he’s learned through the writing process.
Annabell: Here, at TeamNerd Reviews, we love to get our nerd on! What are some things you just can’t help but nerd out over? (Definition Nerd Out Over: Get ridiculously excited to the point of either giggling uncontrollably or performing some type of dance that would most likely embarrass your family).
C.M. Skiera: Comic-Con is one of my favorite things—I must say it’s difficult not to get excited about that every year. I also get pretty excited every time George R.R. Martin releases another book (so roughly every decade or so ;-)
Annabell: What qualities would you say qualify you as a nerd? Do you like to collect things (i.e. stamps, pens, office supplies, colorful socks, cameras, guitar picks, etc.)
C.M. Skiera: Um, see answer above! I’m also kind of a video game junkie. Skyrim was not very good for my writing production.
Annabell: What were you like when you were in high school? Were you the awkward nerd or the popular jock or fell somewhere in between?
C.M. Skiera: I was probably somewhere in between, or maybe a baseball-playing nerd. I went to a small school and I think the size may have kept the typical cliques from forming wide chasms between students. Some of my ‘jock’ friends actually played D&D, so there was some crossover.
Annabell: You work as a professional environmental engineer. What exactly is that and what do you do?
C.M. Skiera: It involves a lot of different things, but in very general terms, it centers on removing or neutralizing toxic chemicals that have migrated into soil and groundwater from spills and leaks (gasoline, solvents, pesticides, toxic metals, etc.). There are a lot of regulations to follow and it’s a rather bureaucratic process. As part of it, I’ve done a lot of technical writing and editing over the years. I can send you a resume if you’d like ;-)
Annabell: Turning to your debut novel, Crimson & Cream, where did the title come off and how does it relate to the story?
C.M. Skiera: The title actually refers to blood and flesh, and also ties in as the colors of the Oxbow Kingdom. Their soldiers wear crimson and cream surcoats. Those colors have a big impact on the main character.
Annabell: Tell our readers what they can expect when reading Crimson & Cream. (Describe it differently than the synopsis. Give away some fun details.)
C.M. Skiera: I love Elmore Leonard’s writing style, and try to follow his advice about writing “Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” I also love the language his characters use (as well as George R.R. Martin’s) and I think (or hope) some of that realistic dialogue comes through in Crimson & Cream. So what a reader should expect is a rather fast-paced page-turner with rich dialogue (and hopefully I’ve delivered). This book isn’t about world-building, and I don’t weave the entire history of the civilization into it. Those kinds of stories are great (i.e., Tolkien, Martin), but that’s not how I write. It’s a character-driven story in a familiar fantasy setting that I hope I’ve brought to life with an economy of words. It has love, death, battles, blood, monsters, ghosts, swords, and sorcery. What more could you want? Dragons? Yes, it has dragons. No vampires, though.
Annabell: What sparked the initial idea for Crimson & Cream? Why fantasy? What is it about the genre that is so enticing for you?
C.M. Skiera: I pretty much will read anything, but my three favorite genres are fantasy, sci-fi, and crime. If you look at my Shelfari shelf or Goodreads lists, you’ll see I’ve read just about everything by Elmore Leonard. The first book I wrote (yet unpublished—still needs a lot of work) was actually more of a crime genre novel. But the Lord of the Rings and A Song of Fire and Ice were what really inspired me to write Crimson & Cream. Both of those series stir my imagination and make me want to write.
Annabell: You stated it took you thirteen drafts to complete Crimson & Cream. What did you learn about your writing skills and the type of story you wanted to tell along the way?
C.M. Skiera: I think the story was in my head all along. The difficult part was taking it from my imagination and putting it in words. I struggled with how much to reveal to the reader. In early drafts, I realized I was explaining everything, which may make a good technical manual, but not so much for a work of fiction. I had to learn to tease the reader a bit, keep secrets from them, even leave a red herring or two lying about.
Annabell: Which character in Crimson & Cream did you enjoy writing the most and which character did you relate to the most?
C.M. Skiera: I enjoyed writing all the characters, but probably Jetsam the most (which is why he’s the main character). I probably related the most to a character named Seryn Vardan, who appears later in the book.
Annabell: If you could have dinner with any one of your favorite fantasy characters from a book you love, which character would you choose and why?
C.M. Skiera: That’s an interesting question. I must say I’ve never thought about it before now. The first person that popped into my head was Gandalf, but upon further reflection, Cersei Lannister might actually make for a much more entertaining dinner, so she would be my pick.
Annabell: Thank you to Craig Skiera for stopping by TeamNerd and giving us the chance to interview him!
About the Author: I’m a middle-aged married man from Michigan who now lives in California with his wife and two rescue dogs. I work as a professional environmental engineer to pay the bills. I've been writing as a hobby since the mid 1990s.
I started writing Crimson & Cream in 1999, and after lots of twists and turns, 13 drafts, plenty of rejections, the arrival of the 21st Century and the advent of online self-publishing, it's finally here.
Where to Find the Author
Synopsis: Hounded by watchmen, trolls, goblins, and a relentless bounty hunter, 13-year-old Jetsam dreams of the day he’ll no longer have to run for his life.
In the mountain city of Dwim-Halloe, Eadriel and Elvar were born twins to teachers at the city’s revered School of Magic. When the new king outlawed magic, the boys’ parents were murdered. Their deaths forfeited the twins' magical birthright and made them homeless fugitives.
Rescued by an orphan gang, the fleeing twins were nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam. To survive as outcasts, the orphans scavenge and pilfer nightly. Their last risky foray sent them fleeing into an unfamiliar cavern. Now the boys are lost deep underground where they encounter a strange beast that will change their lives forever and begin a harrowing journey for their ultimate survival.
Crimson & Cream recounts Jetsam’s adventurous tale of flight and discovery as the fugitive orphan unravels his tortured past while securing his tenuous future.
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