Can't slow down!
Interview number two for this Monday is on deck, and I have JR Konkol dropping by!
Let's let him introduce himself...
My path to writing started with tabletop Role Playing Games. As with many, I started with Dungeons and Dragons. I wasn’t satisfied with the rules, so I started working on my own game. I tweaked it all throughout High School.
I started college with the thought of being a music major but got disenchanted with the idea after a few semesters. Something about an almost supernatural inability to stay awake when confronted with any type of chamber music made it a poor fit.
My RPG, Of Gods and Men, was taking shape, so I thought the better course was to learn to be a better writer. I switched my major to English, and eventually graduated with an English degree.
At some point, the game got published. It wasn’t a bad game. A lot of the rules and systems were quite robust, but it also wasn’t a great game. There was really no world to it… just an enormous set of rules defining how things would work once a world was built. It survived a few years. A supplemental source book and a screen got published, but eventually I pulled the plug on that chapter of my life.
The game became something we got together and played every week or two. I kept refining the rules with each new campaign, and, over time, a world started to take shape. When you run so many characters through a place, and build so many stories around those characters, one can’t help but eventually put some flesh around even the most skeletal of worlds.
Life went the normal course it goes for many. I found a career. I got married. I gained weight, and later lost it. We bought a house together, and with no children, started collecting cats. There were ups and downs… nothing too far outside the normal American experience.
Writing was something I always told myself I SHOULD do, but it never managed to claw its way to the top of the hobby list. I was playing with a few bands and releasing CDs. My classical piano studies were progressing, and when my wife, Kelly, settled on marathons and triathlons as her method of dealing with her midlife crisis… well, I added that into the mix as well.
Things changed after my wife had her stroke and started her long decline. I guess, somewhere along that dark twisting road, the concept of life being too short got hammered into my thick skull. So, I did my full Ironman. (barely) I fought through my anxiety and started (occasionally) performing some of the pieces I spent thousands of hours studying… and I finally started writing.
There’s a lot that happened on that long twisting road… it’s impossible to be with someone as they go through something like Kelly did and not have it change you. This isn’t a place to discuss it, but I was told a bio page was mandatory… and the death of my wife of sixteen years is a pretty big event in my life.
Star Trek or Star Wars? Neither… give me the Expanse and Bab-5
Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity? I think rebooting a GOOD show is lazy, unless something was left unsaid, or the overwhelming consensus is it was ended prematurely. Reinterpreting a bad show in a way that makes it good… that takes creativity and effort.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? I wrote and published my own table top Fantasy Role Playing Game back in the 90s. I must have run scores of campaigns in that universe, slowly building a rich tapestry of characters, and stories to weave into a larger narrative. At one point, in roughly 2004, I started a campaign for a group of my more experienced players, with the idea of it growing into a series of novel, and eventually it did.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? I have a very limited selection of music that I listen to when I write, invariable involving the soundtracks to Inception, and Bladerunner 2049.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? My other primary hobby is music. I am a classical pianist. I’ve studied for 42 years.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they? Get out of your own way. Honestly, don’t dwell on your errors. Just start writing, and keep writing until you’ve made it a good distance into your book. Only then, look back and make corrections. A lot of people dwell on making their first pages perfect, but the reality is, you won’t learn how to do that until you’ve practiced more. Write… practice… develop those skills. Then go back and fix your earlier writing.
Do you like to create books for adults? Yes
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry? Vanity presses. The lines are so damned blurred these days, with most small presses either being some form of hybrid, or something tradition with little to no editing or marketing. I can accept a true hybrid, where pricing is honest and upfront, or a low amenities small press that clearly sets an expectation that the author is performing most of their own marketing.
What I struggle with a the predatory outfits that use false claims to trap their authors into punitive hybrid arrangements that ultimately lead to authors paying a grossly inflated premium to publish the work the spent countless hours producing.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Both, and I mean that in a good way. Sometimes, when you finish a scene where the emotions all come together and leap of the page, the fact that it exhausts you energizes you, and vice versa.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I think one CAN make a career delivering writers exactly what they want, but it’s not anything that I want to do. The Harlequin Romance genre, for instance, has hundreds of rules with respect to when characters are introduced and how they have to look, and this and that.
I have a day job… I don’t want another.
I write what I want to write. If that finds an audience, great! If it doesn’t, well, not so great, but I’m okay with that.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book? I am writing a serial series. Each book very much leads into the next.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Go back and rewrite the first three chapters of your book before sending it to agents! Like many authors, the first three chapters of my first novel were literally my first three chapters as a professional author. What I didn’t understand at the time, was that literary agents weren’t ever going to read past those first three chapters. Had I understood that, I definitely would have rewritten them. You learn a lot when writing a book. I should have taken the time to demonstrate what I learned prior to sending my writing on for agents to review.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? It sped it up considerably. If nothing else, having the first book in a series out there gave me a deadline, but it was more than that. Once you understand how to organize your chapters, your plotting, and so on and so forth, it becomes much easier to map out a book.
What’s the best way to market your books? I’m working on figuring that out. Initially, I wanted to get a baselines level ofAmazon ratings and reviews, based on the mythical belief that at a certain level magical things would happen. Spoiler… nothing happened.
Now, I’m expanding through more podcasts, websites, and blogs… we’ll see where that takes me. At the end of the day, I think the best way to promote a book is to write another book.
What do you have coming next? Book 4 in my Rebirth of the Fallen series, The Crumbling City, releases on 12-29-2022. Book five in the series, The Sundered City releases in August of 2023.