Monday, June 24, 2013

An Interview with Author Antonio del Drago

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Antonio. Please, take a moment to tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Antonio del Drago, and I'm obsessed with mythology and storytelling.

I work as a professional academic, and have spent a lot of time studying religious and philosophical traditions. One of my greatest interests is how humans use stories to convey deeper layers of meaning, and to tap into what Jung calls the "collective unconscious."

A couple of years ago I started an online writing community called Mythic Scribes, and it has helped me to connect with a lot of awesome writers... including yourself, Terry.

Yes, Mythic Scribes is a neat place to meet readers and writers, discuss fantasy, and learn a bit here and there about writing.

Is there a particular set mythology that you find most interesting, Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Celtic, or something else? Also, is there a particular author, novel and/or series that you’ve particularly enjoyed due to its incorporating of mythology?

As of late, I've been fascinated by Jewish mythology and mysticism. My current work in progress, which is an epic fantasy, draws heavily from that tradition.

When it comes to incorporating mythology into literature, no one does it better than Tolkien. He is the master.

I agree. JRR Tolkien set the bar very high in that regard.

Can you tell us a little more about your work in progress?

The best way to describe it is as a "dark fairytale," with several layers of wonder and mystery. My original working title was Shades of Silvertree, but the sudden popularity of another book with "shades" in the title has caused me to rethink that.

The tale that I'm telling is, at its very heart, a romance. It's a tragic, doomed romance. But there's a glimmer of hope to the story as well, with the possibility that things will work out in the end. Magic is secondary to the love story, but it plays an important part as well.

I finished an initial draft of this novel over two years ago, and it was a big, sprawling epic. But the story was too large, to the point of feeling impersonal. What I'm working on now is paring the story down to its essence, keeping it simple and heartfelt. Part of this process is me rewriting it in the first person, which is making a huge difference.

Some of what you described above is the writing process, at least as it applies to you. The writing process is often interesting to both writers and readers. With that in mind, you published a book titled, TheMythic Guide to Characters. Could you tell us about the book, and who you consider the target audience?

It's an approach to writing characters that is based on the concept of "layers."

I'm fascinated with how we, as people, are driven by our unconscious minds. So much of what we do is decided unconsciously. When I apply this principle to my characters, I find it to be a great way to create three-dimensional characters that readers can connect with.

In The Mythic Guide to Characters, I take writers through this character creation process, beginning with the deepest layer - the unconscious mind - and working outwards towards attributes such as social status, appearance, and use of language. The book also explores the concept of archetypes, and shows how to use them in original and creative ways.

The intended audience is fiction writers of all genres. I tried to make the book accessible to all experience levels, and have included a detailed worksheet that walks writers through the process of character development.

A little off-beat question: What is one of the most fascinating or memorable places you’ve visited and why would you classify it as such?

I'm involved with an organization called The Society for Creative Anachronism. It's a group of individuals who study and recreate the medieval period, including historical fencing.

A few years back I was invited to fence at the home of one of the members, who lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh.

To my amazement, this guy's house was literally a castle. He had spent time in Europe studying historical castles, and then designed and built his very own. This place was huge, and absolutely incredible.

There was a drawbridge, battlements, a great hall, and the whole works. He took me to the castle library, which was located in a tower, and then moved one of the bookshelves to reveal a secret passage.

What I especially appreciated, though, was that he didn't build this amazing place just for himself. He regularly hosts historical-themed events there, and uses it for the betterment of the greater community.

That sounds like a great place to visit, Antonio.

How do you feel about novels being made into films? Is there a novel or series that you’d like to see on the big screen?

Some people get upset when their favorite novel is made into a film. Based on this reaction, it's as if the film is somehow wiping away the memory of the book. But it's not.

A film based on a novel is not meant to be a replacement. It's a different interpretation of the story, intended for a different medium. And yes, things will have to be changed to make this reinterpretation successful. I have no problem with that.

I'm a huge fan of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth movies. While he made some changes to make the transition to film successful, I think that most of them worked well for the movies. I can't wait to see what he does with the next two Hobbit films.

As for a novel that I would love to see filmed, I will have to go with The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. It tells the story of a world where dancing demons rise from the earth at night, forcing people to take shelter behind wards. It has awesome cinematic potential.

For Shades of Silvertree, your current work in progress, do you have a particular audience in mind, or a particular individual in mind, when you sit down to plan and/or write?

My goal is to write something that I myself would get excited about as a reader. I remember how I felt when I first read The Hobbit, the sense of awe and wonder. I felt a connection with a hidden, mystical world. I'm trying to recapture those feelings.

If you had the opportunity to have dinner with any three individuals, alive or deceased, who would they be and why, what would you hope to discuss, and where would you like to dine?

I'd have dinner with J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Carl Jung at a Japanese steakhouse, and would discuss the importance of myth in storytelling.

Although there may not be a perfect match, which character in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy do you feel you have the most in common with? Why would you say this? Has this pairing changed over the years, or do you anticipate that it might?
I've always felt a connection with Bilbo. He appreciates a well-stocked pantry, and is reluctant to leave the comforts of home behind. Yet he's also a storyteller, writer, and a lore-keeper of sorts.  That's me.

I'd like to become more like Gandalf in the future. He has the wisdom, perseverance, and ass-kicking skills that I hope to acquire with age. He also has a magnificent beard.

Those choices and goals make sense to me, Antonio.

We’re closing in on the end of the interview. Is there anything you’d like to mention or add?

No, I think that you did a great job of covering a lot of territory.

Great, Antonio. I appreciate the time you took to participate in this interview.


  1. Interesting interview, Terry! It is indeed fascinating how we are driven by our unconscious minds.

    1. Yes, Phyllis. Antonio is an interesting fellow with a lot of thoughtful ideas.

  2. Great interview, Terry! I'm actually using The Mythic Guide to Characters on my current work-in-progress. It really is an excellent resource for any fantasy writer (or writer in general).

    1. Thanks, Philip. Glad you got something positive out of the interview and you're finding The Mythic Guide to Characters useful.