Recently, I had the pleasure to sit down with fellow author Mercedes Fox to discuss what’s old and new, the hardest part of writing Wraith, my favorite character, and what’s on the horizon. Check out the interview below and head on over to her own personal website here.
Welcome Robert Allen Johnson! I know my readers and myself will enjoy the interview.
What have you written? I started writing when I was seven or eight years old. I loved the process of creating stories from nothing and the way that made me feel. Although I’ve written a countless amount of short stories since those early days, I have three published works available to the public: Rising Sun, Triumphator, and Wraith.
What genre are your books? My first two novels, Rising Sun and Triumphator, are part of a historical fiction series called MAGNUS. These are both set in ancient Rome and feature true events and historical figures that walked the earth 2000 years ago. My latest novel Wraith is the first book in a new series called Empire and The Hand. It has a historical feel to it as well but falls into the mystery and fantasy genres.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? There was a stretch of seven or eight years when most of my reading centered on ancient Rome. I literally read anything and everything I could find within the incredible genre, one book after the other. After reading twenty books or so, I came away completely baffled that one of history’s most fascinating men, Pompey the Great, had never been the featured protagonist of his own series, much less a single novel. In 2013, I realized the inevitable would happen sooner or later and set out to become the first person to pen his incredible life story in novel form…and did! As far as I know, the first two books in my MAGNUSseries are the only two fictional works in existence starring Pompey the Great as the main character.
Where do your ideas come from? I’ll be the first to admit they come from the strangest of places. The entire intro to my first novel came to me while half-asleep in my kids’ room as I watched the ceiling fan spin in countless circles. As soon as I could manage, I tiptoed out, grabbed a pen, and wrote the words down on the back of a sheet of music.
The impetus for Wraith struck as I walked into a room and set my eyes upon a picture on the wall. It was a painting I myself had bought, one that had been hanging there for a good year and a half, but I had never truly looked at it. As soon as I did, the outline, characters, and plot of three books unfolded before my eyes. I sat on it for more than a year while I refined and ironed out the details, pausing every now and then to re-examine the picture on the wall and the story veiled within.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? I tend to stray as far from gratuitous violence as possible. I’ve distanced myself so much from it that I don’t even watch many movies or TV anymore. Having said that, I knew going in to Wraith that the story within my heart would be violent at times. There are some creepy, disturbing, and bloody moments from the opening pages of Wraith and things don’t get any lighter in Slaves. Writing many of those scenes were quite difficult, as the content made me uncomfortable. Working through those moments definitely increased my skill as a writer, though, as they pushed my creativity and emotions to places they’d never ventured with my first two books.
Mercedes comment: I’m sure you wouldn’t like my books. I’m the opposite, I love the graphic violence and gore.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special? Tiro is one of two main characters in Wraith. He’s young – just seventeen years old – but has lived a life you’d never wish upon your own worst enemy. Although troubled and distraught, he’s channeled his anger and hatred into his greatest skill in life: archery. When it comes to the bow and arrow, Tiro has no equal. Although he believes and expects his greatest skill to bring him some sort of peace and comfort, it never does. Since he is something of a loner and human island, he continues through life and the troubles it brings without learning from his past mistakes.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why? Aside from Tiro, Arach is the other main character in Wraith. I love this guy so much, I moved his entrance into the overall story from the middle of Book 3 to the second chapter of Book 1. Arach is the Greek word for traveller or foreigner, and that’s very much what he is. Although he’s much older than Tiro, Arach is in a confusing place in life. He’s haunted by regret, failure, uncertainty, and loneliness. He doesn’t know what to do with his life. He’s afraid. I think the reason I love him so much is because his journey is one I can relate to. It’s a journey I’ve been through in recent years, and I truly empathize with him.
What is your next project? My next project is Slaves, the immediate follow-up to Wraith. It picks up where Wraith left off, leaving the reader no time to settle in or get comfortable. Much like Wraith, it starts with a bang, ends with another, and moves fast and furious from chapter to chapter. Readers can expect it to hit shelves in March 2016. After that, my goal is to finish the MAGNUS series with the eagerly-anticipated Foreign Shores, then move back to the next book in the Empire and The Hand series.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? The best thing you can do is to sit down and write! I talk to so many writers who feel like they’re struggling to come up with something – anything, really – to put down on paper. Others feel like what they do have isn’t good enough. My advice is to remember that your first draft is simply the outline of your story’s foundation. In time the foundation will be filled in with something concrete…but first you must decide where to build! Don’t worry about walls, rooms, what furniture goes where, and what color the house will eventually become. That will come with time!
Mercedes comment: I love how you worded this, its so true.
How can readers discover more about you and you work? Facebook is always a great place to see what’s new and on the horizon. Recently I’ve become more active on Instagram, where I tend to post quotes from my current work in progress. You can also check out my website, where I tend to post various short stories designed to serve as standalone works.
Thanks Robert for taking time to chat with us.