Saturday, August 29, 2009

Interview with Robert Lee - The Shadowborn General

When I started this blog, the first thing I did upon completing my very first post, was to find out if there was anyone who was doing a similar blog. Lo and behold, when I posted on a forum I frequent, two posts above mine, was a guy who was talking about the progress he was making on his first novel, he also mentioned that he had set up a blog site and had attached a link. I clicked the link and was taken to a very professional looking website with great graphics. I posted on this site, and within a day said blogger had responded with a polite and helpful post. Following that, every time I posted I received an instant response. Personally, this was the perfect site, it was updated regularly and was hosted by a friendly guy who you felt honestly appreciated you visiting the site.

The aforementioned guy is a man called Robert Lee. He is the author of “The Shadowborn General,” his first book. As of printing, he is extremely near completing the novel with a view of publishing it at the start of 2010.

I emailed Robert and asked if he would be interested in doing an interview with my humble self so we could attempt to capture his feelings as he nears the end of his pet project. Robert agreed immediately, and what follows is the interview. I found Robert to be extremely candid. His answers are open, honest and above all helpful. Quite frankly, he has inspired me to complete my book. Hope you enjoy:

Robert, first of all, congratulations on completing your first book. Can you tell me what it is about?

Right to the meat of it all ha. Well the book is titled "The Shadowborn General" and it follows a Human named Vespasian. The setting is the land of Etherea and Vespasian ventures through the land in an attempt to save two of his friends from a mysterious foe. Along the way an intricate and twisted plot is revealed to include Vespasian's past, a few sinister characters, and a chaos secretly growing in the shadows of Etherea. There are quite a few twists and turns in the book which made it a lot of fun to write.

How did you come up with the idea?

I've always had a pretty creative imagination. When I would get done with a book, movie, or video game I would convince myself that I could do something like that too. One day I decided to give it a shot and started writing down my ideas. At the time some friends wanted to create a video game and I started writing for it. My writings eventually fleshed out and I decided to expand the world and write a book on my thoughts.

Sounds like you spent a long time world building. Did this stop you writing some times?

Etherea was originally the focus due to the idea of a video game. If you want to include everything related to my book I've been working on it for five years now. When I finally sat down to write about the adventures of Vespasian in Etherea it was easy to visualize everything because of all the ground work I did. But yes it did stop my writing a lot. I would find myself focusing on Etherea more than the book at times. It paid off in the end but added a good deal to the overall time spent on the book.

What were your main obstacles?

I'm currently in college and everything from my military duties to papers and Astrophysics has slowed me down. Now the biggest obstacle is getting everything critiqued properly so that my book is polished and professional.

On your blog, you talk about publishing in Dec - Mar. I assume this is self publishing? Why that route?

You're absolutely right. I plan to publish with CreateSpace. There are multiple reasons for this actually. I chose CreateSpace because it’s fairly simple to understand but it also puts your book up on amazon.com which is a great market. The reason I chose self publishing in general though is because I wanted more control over my book. I have a secure job and am not worried too much about making money or huge deals. I love writing and I want others to enjoy my book. I feel that self publishing will give me a more personal route to reach an audience. If the book is that good it'll get a larger audience eventually.

A noble attitude. Your book comes in at 60,000 words, impressive to those of us aspiring writers. I believe the average is 75,000 words. Did you have a word count in mind or just write your story?

I just wrote my story and let it come in at whatever word count was right. Certain publishers will ask you to hit a certain word count, another reason I want to self publish, but I rather just let the story be what it is. I don't want to add filler just to hit a certain word count. My word count may go up as I continually go back and edit my book before publishing but for now 60k is it.

Who is your target audience?

This is another thing I didn't think too much of. I'm sure there are more professional editors and writers out there banging their heads on the kind of answers I'm giving. But honestly I just wanted to put my thoughts and imagination into writing. I loved writing my book and whoever enjoys reading it is my target audience. The book only occasionally has a mild swear word so it doesn't have to be a mature audience reading it. And at the same time I feel that it's rooted deeply in classic fantasy with a mythological element thrown in that anyone could enjoy.

That’s very refreshing to hear. You talk on your blog about getting your book critiqued. How is that going? How much attention do you pay to critiques?

It's not the quickest process but it's moving at a rate that I'm comfortable with. I use online workshops so I get a variety of critiques but nothing so far that's overly negative. You have to take critiques with a grain of salt. You want to listen to them and improve on your book but you don't want to take the bad ones to heart. Enjoy what you write and be proud of it. Always keep your own personal voice regardless of what others say but make sure to listen even when it seems hard to do.

Your blog is impressive. Who does the artwork?

The artwork I have on the blog is from a group of friends that were creating the Etherea: Dark Genesis video game. It was meant to be an MMO but these were high aspirations for everyone. Right now everyone's regrouping to build a web based game and eventually move back to the MMO realm under a more professional approach. I have artwork I'm getting for the book but that was done through commissions.

As I mentioned your blog looks great. How do you let people know it exists?

Thanks. I try to use the internet as much as I can. There are plenty of resources out there including sites that you can add your blog on. I also include a link in my signature on the critique website I use, I use a Twitter account that talks about my book and my blog, and I try to be actively involved in other people's blogs and stories. You learn a lot, meet a lot of cool people, and at the same time advertise yourself.

Can you tell me more about the game?

The web based strategy game is that group of friends I mentioned that wanted to make the MMO. The main being Chris Hill who currently lives in England. Him and I have been good friends for years and he and I agree that a web based game would be fun. We would like to eventually connect it to an RTS but we are taking everything at a slow pace. Without professional funding you just have to work at a "let's have fun while doing it" pace.

A sensible approach!!What about you? Besides writing what do you like doing?

I love playing rugby, basketball, and other sports. As I mentioned I'm in the military, I attend the Air Force Academy, so I enjoy hanging out with my friends and people in my squadron. There are a lot of duties and academics but always time for fun and hanging out.

What's an American doing playing rugby?

At the Academy we have all sorts of intramural sports including rugby. We also have a rugby team that competes nationally and is usually highly ranked but I just do intramural rugby.

What authors do you aspire to be like?

I love the works of George R. R. Martin. I'm not going to fool myself and say that I'll ever be as great as him, I'm not aspiring to be a professional writer. I have a job and love it, I just enjoy writing on the side and hopefully inspiring other writers who will do it better than I could. George R. R. Martin has some pretty inspirational words on fantasy though that I love. He mentioned that when he dies everyone can keep their heaven, he’d rather go to Middle Earth. I think the idea of always creating something better and somewhere we'd all wish to live in is the heart of fantasy.

I approve of your taste! That is also one of my favourite quotes. When you've finished your book, what's next?

I want to work on a few short story ideas I have before starting the next book set in Etherea. Yes there will be a "next book" but since I do this because I enjoy writing and at my own pace I couldn't tell you when that will be. If there is enough desire for the next book after "The Shadowborn General" I'm sure I'll pick up the pace for my audience. Right now though I'm looking to getting this book out, writing a few short stories, and graduating.

Now you are near to the end of your book any tips?

My tips to aspiring authors would be to have a vision of your story before you just start writing. Some people write and hope that all of the story comes to them but you should have a view of the world or your characters before you start. Plenty will come while you're writing and your own writing will inspire you but if you don't put the effort into your writings it will show. Write for you, at your own pace, and enjoy what you write. Hopefully others will enjoy reading it.

And finally anything else you would like to add?

Thank you very much for giving me the chance to speak on my book and good luck to you on your own book. There are so many fantasy writers out there but that is only testament to the imagination and creativity of man. Always look to creating a place you and the reader would want to live in.

Thank you and best of luck with getting the book published and graduating. I for one will be buying it.

Check out Robert’s blog at http://robertsinferno.wordpress.com/. Where he has also posted the first chapter of his The Shadowborn General.