Ethan Long on Offering Your Work For Free

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always included in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today’s guest is Ethan Long, author of the Tales of True Mythology series, self-published in 2012. He used his love of theater and experiences traveling to create the fantasy series that is now widely available on his website, Tomehaven. He lives in central Ohio where he tries to stay stocked up on good books, board games, and popcorn. You can usually find him scrolling through Instagram.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Yes, I can remember when I had the first inkling for the story. It was summer break from college and I was watching TV. A commercial I don’t remember popped an idea into my head: What if people from myths really lived? What if there really was a Zeus or an Artemis and their stories just got exaggerated over the years? What would that look like?

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I did it over a long time period. There wasn’t truly a story in place for probably a year or more after I started working on it. I built the world first. Trying to figure out how mythological people and stories and creatures have lived over the centuries and why no one has seen them in millennia took a lot of trial and error. But once I started cementing things like the Olympians not being gods but more like superheroes, and my main character being a bookworm, theater-loving doubter, the story started to fall into place.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Oh yeah. Talk about drafts. It really is true that the more you get to know your characters the more they take over the story. For the first book, I had an end goal in mind to reach a certain place in the woods. But everything before that changed probably a half dozen times. My first draft didn’t include the Mirrorwind Theatre at all, which is a big part of pushing Logan along his journey. But as time went by, I started meeting new characters, discovering new places, and finding new insightful back-stories to my characters that I had never planned at the beginning. I like the ever-changing flow to story building.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

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I have more ideas than time. I’ve got a list of other books, movie ideas, and even a cartoon series that I’d love to do. Plus, I’m always jotting down ideas for the True Mythology series since there’s going to be five books total. The hardest part is trying to figure out where each idea should go.

That’s actually been one of the benefits to my new website, Tomehaven. Not only are my first two books available to read there, but I can also start posting a new story I’ve been working on. Favor is an art deco, fantasy, superhero adventure story that has nothing to do with True Mythology, so it gives me a little refreshment to write something different and the ability to finally put down on paper some of those other ideas that have been sitting in a notebook for too long. 

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

I’m a bit of a writing butterfly. I flit and dart from one thing to the next. I write what I’m most inspired to write. Even when I working on a novel, I write whatever part of the story is really hitting me at the moment. Once I get enough of a story put together, I squish it into one piece and then edit it a million times.

I guess I’m the same way with other stories. I tried working on a movie script for a while but realized it was going to require a large amount of research which I did not have the time for at the moment. So I went over to Favor and worked on it for a while. Then I jumped back over Atlantis, the second True Mythology book, to finally finish it up.

I have 5 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

When it comes to reading, you have to yell my name to get my attention. When it comes to writing, everything is a distraction. I can easily get pulled away by the littlest thing. I don’t have a writing buddy (or any pet at the moment), but that’s probably for the best. Although, I do have a figure of Scrooge McDuck and a tiny Atari controller on my desk that I sometimes play with when I need to just think for a while. They seem to help.