Today I am happy to publish an author interview with fellow fantasy writer Ernie Laurence Jr. He recently published his debut epic fantasy novel Islands of Loar: Sundered. Ernie was also one of my beta readers and helped me whip Protector into shape. I asked Ernie a series of questions about his fantasy debut, as well as his writing process and the path that led to him getting his first novel published.
If you want to learn more about Ernie’s work and fiction use these links:
Webpage – http://herosguild.wikia.com
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/herosguild
Blog – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5767415.Ernie_Laurence_Jr_/blog
Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.com/Ernie-Laurence-Jr/e/B007OYNT3K/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/139361
And now for the interview….
Hi Ernie, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions for my readers.
My pleasure, Vanna.
First, I would ask you to tell us a little about your background.
First and foremost I am a very religious person and that comes out in my novels, though not so much in this first series. I married later in life, but I’ve been married to Heather for almost 7 years (Aug. 6th, 2005). We have twin 2-year-olds. Kade Auren and Gwynevere Anne.
I’m also a game designer originally, with a degree in Computer Information Systems. I worked for a couple of studios after college before I realized I needed something more stable to raise a family. I went through an alternative certification program and now I am certified to teach Physics, Chemistry, and Math in Texas. I have been teaching Physics (which I love) and the others off and on for five years now. All of those things come together a bit in my later novels like the Islands of Loar series.
When did you first start writing and how long did it take you to finish the Sundered, the first installment of your Islands of Loar series?
I started writing in the 6th grade (Fall 1986). I finished my first novel my senior year. After that, I cranked ’em out pretty fast…about 350K words apiece. Islands of Loar I started in 2003 and finished about a year later, another 350K word monstrosity. I had been writing for fun, for the enjoyment of the process itself and never considered publishing too much.
Then I married and Heather found out how much I’d written. Several workshops, conferences, and years later, Islands of Loar: Sundered is around 107K words and on the e-shelves.
You’ve recently self-published your book. What was the biggest obstacle in getting your book ready for publication?
Time and money. I’m a high school teacher and Heather is a stay at home mom for our twins. I am learning the book publishing process (which is entirely different than the book writing process) as fast as I can, and my efficiency is increasing geometrically, but this first book took about…sheesh, has it been seven years already?!?!
Anyway, I am predicting that the other forty something books won’t take as long to update, edit, and get out the door.
Your book is teeming with interesting characters. Is there one you are most attached to? Who are they?
Kade Rystalmane. He is actually a minor character in this series, but he plays a crucial role. I like him because of the rest of his iceberg (Hemingway’s principle). Kade is my alter ego. I named my son partly after him and so in a way that makes my son a “Junior” so to speak.
Kade is in a very dark place in his own timeline in this series. He is a deeply religious individual but he approaches it in the absolute worst way. I don’t want to say too much more other than you’ll see more of him as I publish more books.
The world in your series is very complex. Can you explain a bit more about it?
About 2000 years ago the planet exploded. Through magic, twenty large pieces of it were preserved with life still intact. Various elemental sorcerers prevented those pieces, the Islands, from being consumed in the cataclysm called “The Sundering”. They also stabilized them and provided gravity, heat, renewable water (because there is no rain), and air. The earth sorcerers (Geomancers) also formed large arches called pulons, gates that allow instant travel from Island to Island. Then the Geomancers began to disappear until there were no more left. The Pyromancers (fire) and Aeromancers (air) got into a big war and the Aeromancers won. They Hydromancers ended up as second-class citizens who are nothing more than river rats now. The Aeromancers rule because without them, nobody breathes.
Loar is a world utterly in despair. It barely remembers how it came to be in its current predicament, nothing more than a bunch of rocks orbiting the local star. No one remembers why the world blew up. Their gods left under unknown circumstances before it happened. Advanced technology was somehow involved and is now considered sinful. Wizard magic was involved somehow, too, but few know that.
Magic exists (or in some cases existed) in a number of different forms. Wizard magic is distinct form Sorcerer. Shamans and druids use magic drawn from living things. Monks use an internal kind of magic called chay (pronounced “kai”). One of the big things about Loar is that with the departure of the gods, there is no form of magical healing. It’s one of the big concerns I have in the book because I wanted that point to come across well. They’ve not had it for two millennia, but it gets reintroduced in this story, yet this is the first story I’ve written in the world. It’s return signals something bigger.
You asked me a question for which I could go on and on. As a writer I’m a world builder. Rather than ramble any more, I’ll just direct readers to my wiki where they can peruse the parts of the world that interest them. I’m almost done copying the original entries from my .doc appendix over so most of what they will be looking for is there.
What is your method for writing a book?
As I said above, I’m a world builder. I construct a world from the stellography, then the geography, and then work my way to ever-smaller circles until I have a living world. I come up with some characters who actually tell the story. I just sit at the keyboard and type. They tell me what comes next and I keep typing until the voices in my head fall silent. I was never much of an outline person, as a public speaker or a writer.
So far so good.
Faith also plays a major role in your story. Tell us a bit more about the religious aspect of your fictional world. Did you base it on an existing religion or constructed the rules yourself?
So, this brings us back to Kade and his role. It won’t take long for readers to gather that the various non-English languages used in the book are a form of Greek (called Koine, which means “common”), Hebrew, and Japanese. There is a direct link to why that is in the part of the iceberg that isn’t above water right now, but it has a lot to do with religion.
Initially the religion of Loar was a pantheon of deities. There ended up being ten total, but one deity replaced another who was destroyed. Then something happened to them and they stopped interacting with the mortals without warning. After that was the Sundering.
Any religions that spring up now are fake, created by men who want to gain followers for power. The scene in chapter 24 shows how this normally takes place, except Kade shows up and begins heckling the priest. He asks questions they don’t know how to answer because Kade has a very, very long history of dealing with this sort of thing. Where my own religious background as a Christian comes in is in this scene. Kade mocks the priests poor use of the Koine Greek and quotes whole sentences from the Bible at them. After he goads them into revealing themselves as charlatans, he destroys their idol and makes another Bible reference. Then the main characters speak to him and Kade withdraws into himself after making a reference to the one true God, Εγο Ειμι, which translates as “I AM”.
This series is not meant to be overly religious. It’s only meant to have some subtle sub-contexts and connections to Christianity. The rest of the series will have only a little dusting of it as well, mainly in the character of Kade and in one of the antagonist groups that come later. It’s really meant to be an epic fantasy, not a Christian fantasy.
There is also a slightly larger social commentary on American politics through the book, but hopefully not in a way that will bog down those who hold to a different political paradigm than my own.
What about the rest of the series, when do you hope to release the remaining books?
Well, I had hoped to do an every six months release, but events in my personal life might be conspiring against me on that. At the latest I’d like to have Causality, the next in the series, out right before Christmas and then Rebellion and Prophecy out in six month intervals after that.
Once this thing takes off, I hope to manage that six month thing for all the books I’ve written.
Who are your main writing influences?
Oh man, that list is so long it’s not useful to list names here. Anyone is welcome to check out my Goodreads list if they want. I will say that Tolkien and Terry Brooks were probably the ones that had the longest and strongest impact because they were some of the first fantasy novels I ever read. I’ve got every Terry Brooks book ever printed. The first game I helped design was a Lord of the Rings game and I was hired in part for my knowledge of that mythos. I also have to throw in George Lucas and the whole (early) Star Wars saga. I may not be the king of Star Wars geeks, but I’m in the royal family.
What are your top three ways of promoting your book? What type of success have you had with each?
Social media like Facebook and the blogosphere, word of mouth, and a number of e-book marketing websites. Again, I’m a high school teacher and so I have to go with the least expensive ways to market until this whole things snowballs to a point where it pays for itself.
I’ve only been out a month, but I sold just over a book a day. I’d say that the social media was the best tool, but I’ve spent a couple of years building a small following. The night I announced the book published I had twenty sales. I’m starting to see that grow as I expand out with more of a marketing mindset. Before I was in edit/polish mode. Word of mouth, well, that’s worthy of a book in and of itself, but I gave my word not to talk about some of those details online so I’ll keep that to myself. I don’t have a metric yet from the marketing websites, some of which I just signed up for yesterday.
What advice would you offer beginning indie writers?
1. Finish writing the book. Don’t edit. Once you finish that first book, others are much easier to finish.
2. Edit your book. Then get other people to edit your book. Then edit some more. Places like critique circle have some crazy, but very talented people who have a lot to teach. Learn what they have to teach you, then polish your book.
3. Learn to take criticism. Learn that you are new at this and not the world’s best writer. Become one of the world’s best rewriters (yes, I stole that, but I forget from whom). I’m going to frame my first negative (but earnest) review.
4. If you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong. If you aren’t frustrated at some points, you’re doing it wrong.
5. Never give up. You are a writer because you love to write. Publishing is just a thing you are going to do because you want to share what you wrote. If you enjoyed writing the story, the rest is just steak sauce. I wrote for twenty years before I even considered publishing.
Now that I keep spouting these dates and years, I feel really old. Thanks, Vanna.
Thanks for stopping by, Ernie. Good luck with your book!