Foster The People’s Isom Innis On Balance, The Elusiveness Of Inspiration, And Being A Student Of History

Who: Isom Innis

Claim To Fame: Isom Innis is a multi-instrumentalist, song-writer, producer, and member of the Platinum-selling band Foster The People

Where To Find Isom: Instagram, Twitter, Spotify


When and where do you like to write? Are you the same-thing-every-day kind of writer or can you write anytime, anywhere?

The nature of having to travel as a musician has meant my writing process has become really adaptive. I have an ideal writing set-up, but am usually bouncing back and forth, finding a flow between being creative while traveling and being stationary in LA. A lot of times I’m bouncing back and forth between studios, too. So my laptop is really my homebase.

Do you have any pre-writing rituals or habits before you sit down to write?

I try to exercise first, but the most consistent ritual is a cup of coffee and clearing my thoughts to where I can approach my work with fresh instincts. For me, this is finding a balance in my life. For example, if I worked on music until 6am the night before, instead of having any musical interference in the daytime, I’ll listen to a podcast or watch a film until I work again—just trying to avoid any other musical stimulation.

Have you ever experienced a prolonged creative rut or a spell of writer’s block? How did you get through them?

Yes, usually writer’s block for me comes shortly after the completion of a project and takes me a period of experimentation and research to evolve, successfully emerge and start from square one again. It’s a process of going back and researching musical eras and sounds that I’m inspired by and in some way are leading the sonics of where music production is now—for me, it’s a process of being a student of music history and then deciding where it can go from there.  

When you’re writing a song do you typically begin with the lyrics or the music?

I’m a drummer, so a lot of my writing process comes from either playing the drums or making a beat — and then I’ll usually experiment musically over a beat. If I hit a pocket of inspiration and I’m able to transcend in a kind of moment of hypnosis, then lyrical and melodic ideas will come. My lyrical and melodic ideas usually are channeled as a response to the music I’m hearing 75% of the time.

What’s your process for editing and refining a song? When do you know that the song is finished?

It’s a brutal and essential process—also essential not to overcook and is something that is a never-ending education for me. But I’m a firm believer that art is never finished but abandoned. Usually after a period of really intensively working on something, there’s a period of taking some space from it, and then coming back with fresh ears.

Any books or writers that have most influenced the way you think and the way you write?

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield helped me push through resistance and come back on a consistent basis—and taught me not to expect inspiration to come all the time. I also have a hard cover compilation of T.S. Eliot works that I’ll crack open as sort of a roulette wheel of lyric inspiration and phrasing. Also, my wife has a vast poetry collection that is great to dive into.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid of failure. Put the time in. Be honest. Also, cherish your pockets of inspiration and ride them out as far as they’ll go—in my experience, inspiration is elusive and it’s a lifestyle of chasing it. 

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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