A longtime resident of Lebanon Kentucky, Marion County High School English teacher Troy Costisick recently published “The Huntsman and the Heretic” the third novella in a planned five-book fantasy series “The Huntsman’s Rose” beginning with “The Huntsman and the She-Wolf” back in 2019. Originally from Columbus Indiana, Costisick received both his undergrad and graduate degrees from Campbellsville University and has been teaching at MCHS since 2004. Following the book’s launch party last Thursday, which Costisick characterized as a “massive success,” at the Knight Academy library with over 50 copies sold, Costisick talked with the Lebanon Enterprise about his thoughts on the new book, how he was inspired to begin writing and his thoughts on the craft.
Q) So what got you started writing?
I was first inspired to begin writing my book back in I believe it was 2016, when another author, Courtney Stevens, came to the high school to speak. She’s written several books. She came and she talked to students about how there’s no need to wait if you want to write a book, you should go ahead and get started. I know she was talking to the kids. I took that to heart myself.
I went home that night, and I started brainstorming ideas. That’s kind of where the process started but the first year I spent just researching how to write and what story structure was. Even as an English teacher, I had a lot to learn. So, I probably didn’t write the first sentence of my book until 2017.
Q) When you were doing that research, did any of the texts particularly speak to you?
There was one author, her name is K.M. Weiland. She’s written several novels, but also has a book called “Creating character arcs, which was very influential. Her book gets used all the time by regular authors, but also people who write screenplays for movies and television, she was a pretty big influence on me.
Q) What do you like to read?
I like to read fantasy novels; Joe Abercrombie is one of my favorite authors. J.R.R. Tolkien is, of course, another one. When I’m not reading fantasy, it’s writers of the 1800s like Alexandre Dumas, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson… The Gothic writers of the 1800s are probably my biggest influence, along with J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis.
Q) Are there any other inspirations outside of the books that you read that influence how you write?
I got some great advice when I was just starting out and that advice was: write the book you want to read, but can’t, so when I was thinking of the setting and the characters for my book, I wanted to put something together that I’ve always wanted to read but there’s really nothing on the market like it and this is what I came up with. It is sort of a late medieval setting with the Gothic monsters of the 1800s, werewolves, vampires, skin changers, gargoyles, that sort of thing. I put those together with the Dunedin Rangers from Middle Earth because to my knowledge, there’s very little out there like that [combination] and I’ve enjoyed reading my own books, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing.
Q) So what’s the hardest part of the process for you?
The most difficult part is getting feedback from my editor. She’s terrific, and she’s terrific because she’s not afraid to hurt my feelings, and my feelings get hurt every time I submit books to her. The toughest part is accepting the criticism not because it’s harsh or anything but because it’s true. It reveals all of the mistakes I’ve made and I’m like “Aw man, I can’t believe I did that.”
Q) Since the books you write are novellas, are there any challenges to keeping to that kind of length?
Actually, it’s not that difficult. I prefer shorter works and if you look at the dedication on my book, it’s dedicated to students, who also prefer shorter works whenever they can get them. It wasn’t that difficult to keep to that. The biggest problem comes when I’m editing and my editor says “You need to elaborate on this or that more, and I still want to keep it at the 50,000-word mark, which is a novella for the fantasy genre.
Q) With that in mind, how do you feel you have improved between the first and third books?
I’ve improved a great deal. A lot of it is in my tone. When I started the first book, I felt like my tone was much more immature and wide-eyed. Now I’m a much more veteran writer so it reads more like something that was written by a grown adult.
Q) So how do you feel about the new book?
I am very excited about it. One thing I’ve done since I was in college, is a dream journal and I can’t remember every dream but the ones I can remember I write down. One of the things I wanted to do when I first started this series was incorporate some of the dreams I journaled about. In the first few books, I might have been able to include one, maybe two, but in this book, I was finally free to include as many as I possibly could. Almost all the major scenes come from my dream journal and I am very excited to share that with people.
Q) So I understand that it’s quite early, but do you have ideas for where you’re hoping to take that fourth book?
I do. The fourth book will be the darkest one of the series. It’ll be the character at his lowest point.
Costisick’s latest book “The Huntsman and the Heretic” is available for purchase in paperback, hardback, and eBook on Amazon with links, and updates, available on his website: troycostisick.com.