Friday, 8 April 2016

Interview with Joshua Robertson

My final guest today is Joshua Robertson. Joshua currently lives in Alaska with his wife and children. In 1999, he began crafting the world for Thrice Nine Legends, including Melkorka and Anaerfell. He is also the author of the A Midwinter Sellsword and Gladiators and Thieves in the Hawkhurst Saga. His short story, Grimsdalr, is inspired by the tale of Beowulf.

Hello Joshua, welcome to Just Books.

Would you like to kick off by telling us when and why you began writing?
I imagine I started writing for the same reason many write. Escape. Coping. An overactive imagination. At some point, I realized writing was the one thing I would do until I died; I never want to retire from writing.

Tell us about the people in your life who supported your writing or encouraged you through it?
My brother has been my keenest supporter through the years, encouraging me to hone my craft, to practice, and to embrace a bit of tenacity. Really it should be no surprise that JC (my brother) and I now co-write novels.

What does your writing process look like?
I drink a pot of coffee. I bake some cookies. I surf the TwitBook. Then I realize it is 10 PM and my readers might stone me if I don’t put out the next novel. In all seriousness, I write a couple chapters and then I plot…a LOT.

How did the idea for your book come to be what it is today?
I have been crafting the world for the Thrice Nine Legends saga since 1999, but it was not until December of 2013 that I started the series. I was inspired by a dream I had about a dagger that brought demons back from the dead. It was such an engaging dream that I started writing immediately, and finished Melkorka within a month. Dyndaer is the continuation of that tale.

What parts of you made it into your characters?
One of my primary themes in my book is challenging the ole fantasy trope of good versus evil. I like to approach my characters through the scope of their personal motivations, where their actions result in consequence without and precept of right or wrong. This is a similar way I live my own life, where I look at the consequence of an action before choosing to engage in the behavior.

Which of your characters do you relate to the most?
I think there are tidbits in each of my characters which I can relate to, depending on the situation. I am sort of a chaotic neutral individual, and I don’t think any of my characters necessarily fall under that category.

Who is your favorite character and why?
I am going to have to go with the reader-choice for favorite character, and agree that I enjoy my main character in the Kaelandur Series, Branimir Baran. The Kras, despite his grotesque appearance, is undeniably loveable. His inquisitive mind and good heart make him a rare find.

"I have likely read almost every story written by Tolkien and spent years studying his life."

Please describe your favorite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favorite?
Believe it or not, my favorite scene in my book is when the fellowship journeys through the ruins of Garain’l. I first conceived this enigmatic place in my late adolescence and wrote several short scenes among the stone archways and underground catacombs. The place can give you the creeps, but it has a long history worthy of respect.

Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?
Any and all chapters including boat travel. I am an avid tabletop gamer, and have spent many campaigns where I was stuck on a ship, drifting across the ocean. Separating myself from those excruciating, make-believe memories proved to be challenging when my characters were at sea.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are exceptionally important to me. I believe a name has to match the time period, the culture, and the ancestry in any given fantasy novel. In addition, the name should be recognizable and roll off of the reader’s mind tongue. Admittedly, I may have not always done well in this retrospect. But it would be ridiculous for me to have a Mark, a Nighthawk, and a Vladimir all strewn together in one setting. I like to use, but I also double-check etymology before finalizing a decision on any name.

Stories always require some form of research. What kind of research did you do for your book?
I enjoy exploring my ancestral roots in my stories by focusing on Slavic mythology. Because of the few historic documents relating to the early Slavic people, I had an interesting journey in researching their foremost beliefs and practices.

Tell us how you created the title of your book and/or series.
Thrice Nine Lands is a far off place in Slavic mythology leading to Thrice Ten Kingdom, and sometimes said to hold the secrets of life and death, or give direction to the land of the gods. Thrice Nine Legends gathered its name from this concept.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Again, I think it is the same struggle most writers face. I do not know many writers who are capable of writing full-time. I am a father to five wonderful children, who teach me a great deal about myself and life. I also work at a full-time, non-writing job, inclusive of volunteer work for veterans, victims of domestic violence, and children in need of care. I also host a podcast, read, bake, hike, play board games and video games, and stalk social media. The hardest part of writing a book is blocking off time to write the book. I guarantee you, however, the books will keep coming.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Love scenes or any hint thereof.

Did you learn anything from writing your book? Tell us more about that?
I learn something more with every book I complete. Every writer has a conceptualization in their head of the story they wish to tell. The first several stories may not always have the outcome the writer initially was aiming for (this is why we are advised to write many, many rough drafts before publication). The more I write, the better I understand my characters, their motivations, and how the plot of the story should progress for a dynamic, and engaging story.

Tells us about your next project...
I am working on several things at the moment. I am completing the Hawkhurst Saga, while providing a supplementary series on Wattpad in the same world for those fans. I am currently co-writing another book with J.C. Boyd as an introduction to his own inviting, fantasy world. And, I have a series of short stories prepared for release in 2016.

...And what can we expect from you in the future?
A lifetime of stories both in and out of the Thrice Nine Legends saga.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
J.C. Boyd and I wrote a standalone novel in the TnL saga, preceding the events at Melkorka, called Anaerfell. For those two main characters, I would cast Kevin McKidd as Tyran and Zack Ward as Drast. Or David Wenham for either role. Yeah…that would be awesome.

"I am sort of a chaotic neutral individual."

Tell us about your favorite book/movie (any genre and/or non-fiction) and how did it inspire/change you? How did this book/movie influence your book/writing/you?
My fandom is Lord of the Rings. I have likely read almost every story written by Tolkien and spent years studying his life. I have heard from some of my own fans that I write like Tolkien. When I hear this exceptional praise, I recognize it is not my writing that is reflective of the great fantasy legend, but the themes in my story, which are similar to J.R.R. Tolkien.

I once read that every author is simply a compilation of his/her favorite authors. Which authors have done the most to influence your writing and why?
We spoke of Tolkien. Again, I will turn to what reviewers have said about writing. I have heard names like Christopher Paolini, R.A. Salvatore, and George RR Martin. Admittedly, I have read a lot of Salvatore, but I have also read much of Robert Jordan’s work. Regardless, I would disagree with authors being a compilation of other authors; I think a writer has to find their own voice.

“Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. We invent it. What does “story” mean to you?
Story gives us a sense of meaning to ourselves and our existence. If story does not provide some internal and reflective message within its words, I would not consider it story at all. Our stories should shape us; we should shape our stories. For a writer, this is the circle of life.

Do you read your reviews? How do you feel about bad reviews?
I do read my reviews. I believe reviews are extremely important for authors to understand what their readers like and do not like, and they can be used to improve a writer’s craft. I would encourage readers to leave a review, or even contact me directly to give feedback. If you are going to take the time to reach out and talk about my story, I have the time to listen.

Thank you, Joshua. I hope the rest of the Brain to Books Cyber Convention goes smoothly for you.

Find Joshua here:
Website | Goodreads | Amazon |  Facebook | Twitter

Buy Anaerfell here:
Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Buy Melkorka here:

Buy Dyndaer here:

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