Interview with Travis M. Riddle

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I happened to look at who you were following on Twitter and I found you’re a fan of AOC, Bernie, and other democrats. Did you celebrate this week? If you could choose only one big ticket idem from the dem platform to come true – what would it be?

We were definitely celebrating over here. I was obsessively refreshing election maps, waiting for states to be called, watching the numbers come in. It’s disgusting how close the race was, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did. Hopefully some progressive legislature gets passed over the next four years, but we’ll see. I think free healthcare for all is one of the biggest things we need to focus on, even more so now in light of COVID. 

You follow Limited Run Games – an account for physical games, retro games, and cult classics. What three physical retro games are you favorites?

I love Limited Run Games since they offer physical copies of smaller indie games that would otherwise never have physical releases. As a collector of physical media (I have 750+ movies and like 200+ seasons of TV), I really appreciate the opportunity to add games I love to my collection. I suppose these aren’t retro, but some of my favorite games that Limited Run has released include Golf Story, Celeste, and Transistor. I also really want to grab Cosmic Star Heroine by them, as well as the upcoming Bug Fables.

I see you follow Bo Burnham – what’s your favorite song of his?

I saw his “Make Happy” tour live, and it was an amazing experience. The closing song of the performance, “Can’t Handle This,” is probably my favorite song he’s written. It has the perfect blend of Bo’s goofiness blended with poignancy. Seeing it performed live absolutely floored me, it was such an unexpected way to end the show.

Spit and Song had an addict as one of the main characters, was this something you planned out ahead of time, is there any particular reason you chose to write a character like him?

Yeah, it was definitely planned ahead of time. With “Spit and Song,” I wanted to explore the dichotomy of being a creator. Kali represented the very passionate, driven side of things, the person striving to succeed no matter what, while Puk was representative of the side that just wants to relax, forget about everything, have a good time, since nothing he’s tried has taken off. I don’t dabble in drugs like Puk, but in my writing career there have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to just throw out the book I’m writing and watch a movie instead because it’s much more fun and less stressful. The novel was my attempt to explore both sides of that coin and the need to strike a balance between the two.

You wrote in 2019 lamenting that common advice for indie authors is to be as productive as possible and to pump out books as fast as possible to create a new audience and keep the old audience coming back for more. In the past year, has it become easier to be an ebb and flow writer over the “consistent” writer?

Not really, honestly. That pressure still exists, and it weighs on me a lot. It’s partially self-inflicted, and I am totally aware of that, but I can’t help it. I’ve actually been surprisingly productive since quarantine started; in the last week of April I started writing a trilogy, and I already released book 1 and am a little more than halfway through writing book 3. To combat this pressure I feel, I’m opting to not do a rapid release schedule and am instead spacing each book out over about 6-8 months, so book 3 is planned to release in early 2022 even though I’ll finish draft one this year. That way, I can already have books prepared to release each calendar year, and getting all of them done so quickly can maybe give me time to relax a little and then also continue building up a backlog of novels to release every year so that I don’t get that voice in my head telling me “Quick you need to write a book to release before the end of the year!” 

You’ve written quite a lot of genres, does one or the other feel more complicated or difficult than the others?

Horror is pretty tough, because there are so many types of horror out there. If you just describe your book as “horror” you’re no doubt going to leave some people dissatisfied because it doesn’t 100% fit what they think horror should be, as I have definitely learned with “The Narrows.” I also have a difficult time writing action scenes, though I’ve tried tackling those head-on with my new series. I find much more enjoyment writing character interactions, but people tend to think that makes things go a little slow, haha. 

You like the band Waterparks, and in particular, their album Fandom. If you want to leave a little blurb on why you like the band, what their music means to you – and in particular why Peach is one of your favorite songs of theirs.

Waterparks actually consists of friends of mine, haha. I’ve been good friends with those guys since before the band was officially a thing. I’m actually in several of their music videos! I’m in New Wave, Blonde, and Dream Boy, as well as the main character in a goofy sketch they made called “Talk Line.” Even though they’re my friends, I’m still genuinely a huge fan of the band. I think Awsten is incredibly skilled at writing super fun, catchy melodies that are infused with painfully real and relatable lyrics. He’s always trying to push boundaries with the instrumental side of things as well, drawing on tons of different unexpected influences outside of rock music such as hip-hop and pop. I think they’re one of the most innovative bands in their genre. (Fun fact: there’s a Waterparks song playing in a party scene in “The Narrows”)

Where would you recommend people visit if they’re stopping through the Austin area?

Man, there are too many amazing restaurants here. Arpeggio Grill is great for Mediterranean food, and we have an awesome Nashville hot chicken spot called Tumble22. For some finer dining and something a little different, there’s also Kemuri Tatsuya. They have things like barbeque eel jerky and sweet and sour jellyfish, the latter of which is one of the strangest things I have ever eaten. I genuinely don’t know how to describe the texture of it. There are also tons of beautiful, natural greenbelt areas to explore all around town. 

The cover art for your books is always stunning – how did you find the artist/artists who do your covers?

Thank you! Once I have a vision in mind for the art, I hit up Artstation and go through their galleries, picking out artists whose visual style fits what I’m envisioning for the book. Since up til now all of my books were standalones, I wanted to evoke a new style for each book to really make it feel different from the others, so I used a new artist each time (except for “Spit and Song,” which takes place in the same world as “Balam, Spring” so I thought it was appropriate to bring back the incredible Amir Zand). 

Balam, Spring (Ustlian Tales #1) by Travis M. Riddle

I had to google to be certain what a degree in Rhetoric actually is, I thought I knew but wanted to make sure – I was pretty close. In your own words, what does this degree mean and why did you chose it?

It’s essentially a writing degree; I majored in English Writing & Rhetoric, with a focus on Creative Writing. It gave me the tools to better express myself, I think, and I took several Fiction and Poetry workshops in college that helped me identify the weaknesses in my writing and gave me the tools to improve certain aspects. I’ve always been interested in writing, ever since I was in middle school, so it just made sense to pursue something in that field when I got to college.

Do you have any pets? If yes, names, a story about their personality – and pics?

I have a dog! With the attention I get from my association with Waterparks, I actually try to keep his name private. It’s kinda dumb, but it’s one of the few pieces of privacy I have left and I am trying to maintain it for as long as possible, haha. But he’s a very stupid creature, which often results in very funny situations, and I love him

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