Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Actually, no. Three years ago, if you had told me that I would have written 650,000 words of published material (two big, epic books and lots of short stories), I would have called you crazy. I started writing short stories as a side project for a local gaming group and received very positive feedback. After a while, a few folks said, “you should try something longer,” I decided to give it a shot. Hence, Progeny.
As to what I wanted to be before that: I can honestly say I did not have much of a dream. I do now, though.
Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
Depends on what you mean by published.
Progeny and Prophecy are both self-published titles. When I had finished Progeny, I had a massive book that, admittedly, needed work. When I did not draw interest from agents, I leapt into self-publishing. Looking back, I’d say it was both a good and bad thing I did that. Good in the sense that many people really liked the story, bad in the sense that my writing chops were soooooooo not up to par.
While I managed to have success with that edition, I went back to look at it after I had written a few hundred thousand more words (in short stories and book two). Wow. It needed work. A lot. Turns out, the more you do something, the better you get at it. Amazing how that works, huh?
So, I edited Progeny and resubmitted to agents, able to point out that it was one of the top rated fantasy novels at Amazon (despite its shortcomings). I now am mulling over a couple of offers of representation while waiting for a few other agents to get back to me who have the full manuscript. It is not a quick-moving process.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Prophecy, Volume II in The Children of the White Lions series. Twenty words, huh? I’ll try…
The God of Chaos is marching. War is here. And the Progeny—leader, mage, and soldier—must stop it.
Boom! 19 words!
(that’s harder than it looks)
Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
Sort of. Although, in my case, it’s waiting for agents to offer representation.
Anytime I see the clock at 11:11 or 4:44, I visualize my books on the NYT Bestsellers List. Ambitious? Yes. But 4 is my lucky number and comes through more often than not.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
It depends. I write epic fantasy, so they take a while. As I have a ‘real’ job during the day, I write in the evening, after the kids are in bed. If I’m going good, I can get about 1000/hour during the rough draft phase. If you figure Progeny and Prophecy are both about 260k words long, that’s 260 hours just for the first draft. Then comes revisions. Lots and lots of revisions. Overall, if I had to guess, I’d say it takes me a little less than a year from beginning to end. If I could write full time, I’d guess about 6-7 months.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
The Children of the White Lions series is a planned five book series. I’m about 1/3 of the way into the first draft of book three. Presently, I have no plans beyond completing the series.
What genre would you place your books into? What made you decide to write that genre of book?
The first is a hard question to answer. Fantasy, for sure. But it’s a cross between epic and young adult. The story is epic in its scope, but because the main characters are brothers and sisters between the ages of 15-19, it is also considered YA. I have received email from an 11-year-old read and loved Progeny (kudos to her) as well as an email from a 69-year-old woman who called it the best fantasy she’s read since Tolkien. I blushed.
Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
I have a few favorites, each for a different reason.
Jak, brother to Nikalys and Kenders, more or less has my personality. So the quips and jokes he makes in the book are a way for me to slip my own voice into the story.
Nundle Babblebrook is a lot of fun to write. He’s an underdog with a big, brave heart for whom everyone loves to root.
A character in Prophecy (whom I will not name as I do not want to ruin the story for anyone who starts with Progeny) is my current favorite to write. He is so different from the rest of the characters—direct, a bit selfish, very impressed with himself—that it’s simply fun to write from that perspective.
Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
I have no idea. I’ve always had an active imagination, so…it just comes. The overall plot of the series I had written down before I started. Before each book, I do a rough outline of what needs to happen (beginning, middle, end) and then I write. That is when the ‘good stuff’ happens. I put my characters into difficult situations and they tell me how they get out of them. The story feels real this way, complete and believable.
Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I have a couple groups of people who do this for me.
I have a group of three who are my ‘alpha-readers.’ They get a very early draft of things, often while I’m still writing the book. If things don’t work, if established characters act odd, if new characters aren’t ringing true, I want to know immediately. In Prophecy, I was well into my fourth or fifth revision when I realized one of the new characters needed a major personality overhaul. I made it, but it was hard to do. I wish to avoid that again.
Then I have ‘beta-readers.’ These are people who get my ‘final’ version who help proof things for me (I have a tendency to drop words, forgetting an ‘it’ or ‘here’ or ‘is’ in sentences). After I get a few people through the whole thing, I’m done.
Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Not to just any reader, no. I do give gift copies to people who have book review sites. It’s standard practice.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I should say no, but the answer is I do. The good ones feel great, the bad ones not so much. The good news is there are a lot more good than bad. Of the combined 85 reviews on my works at Amazon, 67 are five stars, 13 are four stars.
What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
The one that hurt the most is a two-star that said Progeny was not written well. Turns out, they were 100% right as that review was on the first version of the book It was NOT written well. Nevertheless, at the time, it was no fun to read.
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Heck, no. That’s unprofessional.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
For Progeny, I wanted something stark, different from most fantasy books. So, I went with three colors: white, black, and crimson. The white lion design on the front is of my own creation. For Prophecy, I went with something a bit more complicated as a reflection that the story within is a bit more complicated.
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
This depends. I named the two main characters, Nikalys and Kenders, after my children: Nikalys and Kennedy. Everyone else, the names are chosen based on their point of origin in the world. A few times, I’ve done a wholesale name change once a draft is done, but that is not a frequent occurrence.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
A little bit of both. I start with an idea or template, but as the story goes along, the characters take on a life of their own.
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I have a confession. I have yet to suffer from writer’s block.
Now, in order for me to make that statement without my nose growing, I need to place some qualifiers around the claim.
I have never reached a point where I simply cannot write. Sure, there are plenty of times I’ll stare at that cursed cursor on the screen, blinking, blinking, blinking. At times, I can hear it taunting me. Every so often in said situation, this frustration-laced response might—just might—have appeared on in my manuscript.
Once that happens, I delete the offending gibberish, add a capitalized “HERE HERE” to the manuscript and move on. I might go to another as yet unwritten chapter. I might go flesh out upcoming chapter outlines. Or I go edit early chapters. If I choose the latter course of action, I often go back to the LAST scene with the same group of characters and do an editing pass through it. That helps get me back in the moment and in their heads, allowing me to return to my “HERE HERE” and resume my effort.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
Yup. There are a few in each book. And the overall series will have one, too.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
Depends on the book. And what the screenwriter does to the author’s story. My favorite movie adaption is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sure, some liberty was taken with the story (where’s Tom Bombadil?), but for the most part, the three movies were great. As for an awful adaption: Eragon. I really enjoyed the book, but the movie…ugh. They changed so much of the story that it ruined it all.
Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
No, I do not. I’m thinking we’ll hit about a 60-40 e-book/print book mark and then level out. But, hey, that’s my opinion.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Write. Write. Write. Write. Write.
The only way to get better is with more practice.
If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, and J.K. Rowling. Tolkien to thank him for what he has done for the genre, Twain because his wit would be much appreciated, and Rowling for a spot of encouragement. She labored for seven years with publishers saying no to Harry Potter repeatedly. Yet she pressed on because she “believed in the story.” That’s a phrase I utter at least a few times a week..
Where can readers follow you?
Your blog details?
Your blog details?
I blog at Goodreads.com: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4468635.R_T_Kaelin/blog
Your web site ?
Your facebook page?
Your Goodreads author page?
Your Twitter details?