Where Readers & Writers Connect
Yes! I’ve been an avid reader since age 5, and my word obsession isn’t limited to books. Anything in print will snag my attention: Vitamin labels, the care manual for my car, for my husband’s car, and my sons’ cars, as well as the fine print in real estate contracts–to our agent’s despair (he left real estate not long after closing on our house)–and I grab every book that lands within my reach. I may not finish the book, but I’ll always give it a fair start and a chance to finish; I read endings first. Always have.
·What genres do you read most?
For the past ten years, I’ve hit fantasy/speculative more often than any other genre. However, historicals and biographies are close runners-up. Fantasy and speculative fiction appeals to that curious aspect of my nature that always asks, “What if…?”
·Who are your favorite authors, and what makes them special to you?
This is a dangerous question, and wise authors are advised to avoid answering, lest they forget to include one of their close author-friends! The publishing industry is small, my friends, and word travels FAST!
·When did you decide you wanted to write?
Almost as soon as I learned the alphabet! Seriously, I’ve always scribbled and made up countless stories to amuse myself while I was growing up. Not necessarily a good thing when Ms. Efficient AlgebraTeacher was attempting to whisk my daydreaming self through lessons. Officially, I decided I MUST write a book when my editor sister-in-law showed me a manuscript she was garnishing with red ink. I believe I was twenty-five at the time and seriously deluded.
·How many books have you written, and how many of them have been published?
Eight and three halves. I abandoned the three half-tomes when my attention was caught by other ideas. Of these, four books have been published and two more are under contract. Perhaps I’ll eventually return to the languishing half-tomes, plus the two orphans; they’re historicals and, therefore, patient subjects.
·Can you tell us what you believe has had the greatest influence on your writing?
Apart from my Creator, my parents, my family, and friends? I suppose it would be my innate curiosity and my love of research.
·How do you prepare to write a book? Did you do any special research?
Once an idea strikes, I spend an afternoon writing a detailed synopsis, then I dive into chapter one. Usually, I research as I go. (How far can a trebuchet fling a boulder?) Over the years, I’ve read multiple-hundreds of encyclopedias and texts from ancient eras. I’m comfortable in other realms and times; I know what I would eat, drink, wear, and do–or not do–in numerous ancient societies. In other words, research is one of my favorite hobbies.
·How long have you been writing?
About twenty-five years total. Before signing my first contract for a novel, I wrote numerous devotionals and short pieces.
·What genre do you usually write?
Fantasy, because it’s what I promised to my editors. J
·What made you choose that genre?
A dark dream. Literally. I woke up one morning, still seeing a scrap of a dream—a young woman in a dark place, making a life-and-death choice. I HAD to know how her story ended, and I abandoned an 1800’s historical to follow this dream-fragment, which was published by Bethany House as PROPHET.
·Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
JUDGE, the sequel to PROPHET, is a fantasy adventure, both dark and humorous. The protagonist, Kien Lantec, is sent on a mission by his Creator—the Infinite. Unfortunately, Kien makes an impulsive decision and is thrown into a battle for his life.
·What one piece of advice would you give to a beginning writer?
Accept advice, particularly if the advice is from one or more industry professionals.
·What is your writing schedule like? Do you write only when inspired?
I write during my two days off per week, whether I’m inspired or not—though I am usually inspired; I love my craft! If I consistently write one polished chapter per week, I can finish a book within six months—good incentive!
·Did your parents encourage your love for reading and/or writing? If not, where did encouragement come from?
Yes! Not only did I inherit their curiosity and their love of stories and books, but they surrounded me with books before I ever learned to read. Both of my parents are wonderful storytellers, and I cannot match their skill unless I write. By the time my husband and I are blessed with grandchildren, I pray I’m able to properly recite a story aloud and carry on my family’s tradition.
·Do you like the promotional aspect of being a writer? What are your best promotional tools?
The promotional aspect of writing takes many authors—myself included—by surprise. Publication dates arrive with a whirlwind of blogs, interviews, articles to be written, signings, and online activities. Promotion is inevitable. The best thing an author can do is to know yourself, know your books, and dive in. As far as ‘best’ promotional tools, the subject is still debatable. I enjoy blog interviews and radio interviews, as well as print campaigns. The trouble is that results, critical sales numbers, are difficult to track and can rarely be pinpointed as resulting from one particular promotion tool. Authors must decide which types of promotion suit them, then use those promotion tools consistently.
·Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m more of a pantser. I love watching characters march into a scene and take charge—often sending my protagonists off into unexpected adventures. However, I always write out a detailed synopsis—about three or four single-spaced pages—before I start writing any book. Even a pantser needs a few guidelines, and it’s best to know the ending before you begin.
·What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
A few. I read and cook, then try to work off the calories. Most of my time is absorbed with the day job, family, and writing.
·How did you get your first book published? How long did it take? Was this the first book you had written?
My husband is an editor and one of his co-workers happened to be one of my first editors who, years before, had published some of my earliest devotionals. (Did I mention how small the publishing industry is?) When she—the coworker—decided to become an agent, she remembered my work and asked if I was currently writing.
We signed a contract in spring and had an offer that autumn. Officially, five months—after I’d spent more than ten years writing numerous short works and one-and-a-half previous (still unpublished) manuscripts.
·Why do you write?
I write for love. Love of words and stories, and for my Creator, who laced my DNA with this passion to write!
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R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals and is suspected of eating chocolate and potato chips for lunch while writing. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. PROPHET/Books of the Infinite series, marks her debut in the fantasy genre.