December 12th, 2015
Hiya readers! Thanks for joining me again for another indie author interview. We have something super special this time. I am thrilled to bring you a dark fantasy novel written by one of the most active independent authors I’ve worked with.
With all honesty, I can tell you I loved reading this story!
Though tragic at times, this is a story to relish in and must be placed on your To Read list if you’re into dark fantasy (and a tiny bit of sci too).
One of my favorite things I run into as a reader are the times when I come upon a story that lights me up with satisfaction. The surprises, I call them. The ones you don’t expect to find that strengthen your pursuit to open new books just so you can experience yet again a new world unfold in your very hands. I have the honor of introducing to you R.J. Jojola, author of a story that did just that for me…
On the Verge.
Most people tend to think that fiction stories are only that. Made up stories based on what the author imagined and how their creativity transformed that into words on the page. We have a great many stories based on that principle, but when we come across a fantasy novel built on the foundation of real life tragedy, we have a rarity of delicious proportions. We not only have a beautiful novel forever in our library but we also are witness to something that will encourage us for years to come.
R.J., thank you for the honor of letting us into your world so we get to know you for a little while.
Can we start with sharing with the audience a little about where you’re from?
Well Tyler, I have lived a few different places in my life. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona. I grew up in Michigan from the ages of one to thirteen. And I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico from the ages of thirteen to twenty-eight. Currently, I reside in Fleming Island, Florida with my husband, two little dogs and our very mischievous cat. I’ve always been an outdoors girl. Spending the first half of my life in Michigan, I was definitely a lover of the great outdoors. I love being out on the lake, catching fish. Making sandcastles and being in the peaceful realm of nature.
I moved around a bit too just not around the country. I did grow up in the Midwest like you. How about writing, what kind of writing past do you have?
Since elementary school I’d always enjoyed writing and excelled at it. I reveled in being able to create stories and illustrate them. Though, I was much better at the writing than the drawing (laugh out loud). In my middle school years, I used writing poetry as a means to express some of my experiences. Writing poetry was my favorite. Especially during a time when I had just moved to a new place. Not being able to spend much time outdoors like I had in Michigan, I had more time alone to think and write about things in Albuquerque. Throughout high school I was always in advanced humanities courses where I really enjoyed reading the classics and letting them inspire my writing. I remember reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and choosing to write a monologue for my book report. A few people in the class were actually in tears during my performance. I think it was because it was actually me speaking through that character. I really connected with her struggles. And writing was a way for me to connect with the world. Which is why I inevitably chose to teach language arts. It was a way for me to connect with my students and connect them with the world.
Sounds powerful R.J., do you have a place where our readers can read some of your poetry?
Yes, absolutely. I have some of my poetry on my website under the “poetry” tab. The first half is social justice poetry on being a girl in America. The second half is just for fun and healing poems. Inevitably, my plan is to publish a book of poetry some time in the near future. But for now, just on the website.
I’d like to move into On the Verge and dig into the inspiration behind the story. Could you share with us a little bit of where this story comes from and why you wrote it?
Music is a huge inspiration in my life. When I listen, it calms me. It helps me clear my head. The vision for, On the Verge came to me while listening to a very emotional, instrumental track. I saw Raelle’s home in the valley. At first, I didn’t know what it meant, or why I kept seeing it. And some how, I knew I wanted to write a story beginning there, in that place, but I wasn’t quite sure what it would be about until a very dark time in my life. My entire life, I’ve suffered from childhood PTSD and anxiety/ depression. But, my PTSD had always been misdiagnosed until my last and most intense relapse. None of my misdiagnoses of A. D. D. and other mental illnesses ever explained the night terrors, the intense fears, or my dark way of seeing the world, until my worst relapse in 2010. My mind finally felt safe enough to unlock the gates, and the flashbacks came flooding in. My life changed forever in that moment, and I realized why I was the way I was. I also realized that the reality I had created for myself as a child, was false. A falacy created by my brain to keep me safe and somewhat sane until I was strong enough to face it head on. And when I did, I knew exactly what the vision of the secluded valley was. It was my safe place. It was my false reality. I knew I was meant to journey from that valley and into the harsh realities and let downs in my life. In writing this book, I was able to work through most of my issues. It is, in the end, a nightmarish metaphor for my life’s experiences.
You’ve shared some of your past with me before we started but hearing about what Raelle’s secluded home valley means to you as the writer of On the Verge and as a person that worked through serious struggles, changes it completely for me. It frames the story in hindsight adding so much more depth to it. Amazing.
You mentioned that every character embodies a person or trait that helped you make it through your childhood PTSD. Could you elaborate this on a couple characters for us?
Yes, absolutely. One of the main characters, Raelle, she embodies my innocence. She embodies the good and curious part of me. She is pure and she is free of guilt. She is the victim part of me. The character Chrishtan, the warrior, he embodies a couple of people. First, he embodies my husband. My husband was the first person in my life to never give up on me. He taught me about unconditional love. But at the same time, Chrishtan also embodies the fighter in me. He embodies the part of me that faced my demons and came out stronger on the other side. He is my strength. The character of Samuel embodies much of my anger, frustration, and that part of me that has been easily manipulated by others. Cohlen and Oleevar represent friendship. While they are symbolic of my real friends Colin and Ollie, they are a symbol of unconditional friends. Those rare people that stick by you no matter how dark things get. And then there’s Browden, he represents my very dear and beloved friend and surrogate brother, Reid, taken from us at a very young age. It changed our lives forever. The character Jenladra, she represents wisdom, and the people in my life that helped me move forward, including my therapist. And finally, the demon Hazale, represents the predator. The child abuser, the trickster, the manipulator. He is the destroyer of innocence. He turns children into monsters.
You certainly portrayed these characters exactly as you say. Honestly, I appreciate your writing more as you tell us what you were attempting to illustrate in the story. My heart breaks for why this story was written but I have to say that you working through your struggles, partly with this book, certainly have a mechanism for inspiration here. Well done, RJ and thanks for being vulnerable enough to let us in.
“One word… WOW! I constantly find myself searching for a new fantasy/sci-fi novel that I can lose myself in like when I was younger and first started reading series like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Eragon. … Enter “On the Verge”… This novel had me hooked from beginning to end!”
Bob Jena – Snippet from Amazon review
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Can you tell us about the world this story takes place in, the continent of Mirilan?
The world that this story takes place in is mainly me fan-girling over some of my favorite books, movies, and video games. I am a huge fan of high fantasy. Middle Earth, Azeroth, and other fantastical worlds are a big part of my life.
Do you have a process that helps you develop character and place names?
I usually name a character after someone I know, then I put my own spin on it to make it sound more fantastical or foreign. Each nation in Mirilan is named after a place I’ve been, or someone in my life. Or sometimes, I just make up a random name that I think sounds cool. I try not to put too much stress on it. I think that part should be fun.
There’s this term called “Falling in love with your footage” it comes from, as you may guess, the film industry but we can extrapolate that to authoring. It describes the scenario where you write something. And you LOVE it. You love the language. You love the scene. You love what the characters are doing…but it just doesn’t fit in the story. In writing On the Verge, did you encounter this and what did you do? Cut it or keep it?
Gosh, yes. In fact, the very first chapter, “Samuel,” was never intended to be there until I received some harsh feedback from an editor. It wasn’t my editor, but someone I ended up not using. However, their harsh critique did open my eyes a bit and prompted me to write the chapter 1 – Samuel, that you see in the book now. Originally, I had intended for it to open up right into the scene where Raelle is attempting to take her own life. That was my favorite scene. And in the beginning, it was written rather differently than you see it now in the book. It was originally very telling, and not enough showing. Even though I loved the way it felt to me as I wrote it, I needed to make it more action and dialogue oriented than telling in narration. And, some of my beta readers who got to actually read the original version, were a little miffed about the whole thing. They liked the way it opened up, but once they saw the new version, they really liked that one as well. But I think as a writer in any realm, you have to make sure what you write makes sense and moves along at a nice pace, even if that means taking out some of your favorite wordy parts.
Is there anything you wish you had put in the story that you didn’t think of until you published On the Verge?
Yes, there are some minor details that I feel I may have missed. However, the great part about writing a series is that, in the next book, I can make sure to add those things and make them the way I want them to be even after the fact.
How long did it take you to write On the Verge?
It took me about 3 years on and off. I was working and going to school, so I had to fit in writing where I could.
“As an avid reader, I love to get caught up,and wanting more in the books I read, and This does it. The author brings such vivid details that I felt as if I was watching a movie. Loved this book, cannot wait for the next. R.J Jojola, your novel is excellent and I am now bummed that I finished it so quickly. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a great fantasy!”
Dawn Morris – Amazon Review
Do you have any favorite writing tools?
I would say some of the tools I use the most are reading other books in and out of my genre and then also, playing video games. I know it seems strange, but playing games is a great way to really get into a character. You put yourself in their shoes more so I think than in a book. I also keep a messy notebook of all my ideas. I am a very unstructured writer. Which is hilarious because I used to teach writing. LOL But, I think because I have been writing from such a young age and also teaching others, things just come to me so automatically that I don’t think of them as tools. I’m also not a fan of the “writing prescription.” People saying that people have to use certain tools or do things a certain way or else their not really writing. I say, if you’re sitting down and writing something, you’re a writer. Especially if you complete it.
Where is your place of writing? Your lair, if you will? What’s it look like right now?
I have different places. I mostly enjoy writing outside though. When the weather is nice enough. When I first began writing On the Verge I lived back in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My back yard had the most amazing view of both the mountains in the east and then the desert to the west. So each evening when I would sit outside and write, I could watch both the moon rising over the mountains while at the same time watching the sun set in the west. It was one of the most beautiful and inspiring places to write. Now that I’m here in Florida, I write out back as well. I have a view of a woody area with many creatures. As for my writing cave inside, it is surrounded by my favorite things; inspirations, movies, books, characters etc. And, it is usually kind of a mess. LOL
Are you an outliner or an on-the-fly writer?
I am mainly an on the fly writer. Or a “gardener” as Stephen King would call it. I let the characters drive the story. Many of times when I sit down to write, I have sort of a general idea of what is going to happen. But most of the time, even I don’t know and am just as surprised as the readers when it comes to fruition.
What avenue did you use to publish On the Verge and what were the 1-2 biggest lessons you learned from going through the publishing process?
I chose to take the self-publishing route. I never even submitted my book to any agents. The reason for that was because I didn’t want anyone changing my story or my vision. As you know, this book is very personal and I had no interest in changing it for anyone. It’s such a huge part of me that I am sharing with the world, I wanted to be in charge of how it was shared. Essentially, I felt very vulnerable. But with the positive feedback I’ve gotten from readers, that vulnerability has faded and when the series is finished, I may shop for an agent.
“So I am a total fantasy nut! And I loved this book. RJ does a great job really creating another world, and her imagery allows you to see it. I felt like I was there. I knew these characters, I cared about them and felt what was happening to them. It was a fully developed world with its own creatures, cultures, politics, and secrets. I loved it, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.”
Shelby McCorkle – Amazon Review
If you had the choice to be part of a Lyre bloodline or write fantasy novels for a healthy living, which would you choose?
That is a great question. I’m going to have to say, I would love to be a lyre-blood warrior and pwn noobs for the rest of my life. (laugh out loud).
Readers, if you don’t know what a Lyre Bloodline is, well….you’re just going to have read On the Verge then aren’t you!!
If you could co-write an epic story with a favorite author of yours, who would it be and what would the story be like?
Well, if we are just talking authors I would have to say either J. K. Rowling or Terry Goodkind. But I would have to lean more toward Rowling because her writing is so much different than mine. I would love to write a story with her for children. Rowling knows how to keep childhood fantasies alive. She helps adults to bring back and reconnect with their inner child. I would love her assistance in doing that in writing.
Just because you mentioned Azeroth and Middle Earth I’d like to ask one thing…if you had the choice between reigning for one year in a real Azeroth or spending an evening picking the brain of and chatting with J.R.R. Tolkien, which would you choose?
Oh my gosh, that is a loaded question. The teacher in me wants to say an evening with Tolkein, But the adventurer in me says, “Well of course you’re going to Azeroth.” Honestly, I’m going to have to go with Azeroth. If it were real, I would move there now. Those real experiences I would have there for a year, would give me so much writing fuel! LOL
So, if someone likes your author page, then it would be no secret to them that you’re diggin’ the Cosplay. Like a lot! Like no joke people, she has serious characters going! For us peasants…hehe…could you share with us a little bit of what Cosplay is all about for you? (Readers see cosplay pics below reply)
For me, cosplay is another way to step into the shoes of a character. You are becoming that character in a tangible way by creating or crafting a costume of that character and pretending to be them. Not to mention, crafting is incredibly fun. Very time consuming, but fun.
Okay enough with the goofy fun and back to business… I want to leave the audience with a few things. One, a definite, yes on checking out On the Verge, one of THE best indie books I’ve read so please help support RJ in making that purchase. Two, I’d like to invite everyone to Like RJ’s Author page so you can stay up to date on, yup, you guessed it…BOOK TWO – From the Void hitting the shelves in the spring of 2016.
RJ, can you give us a little glimpse/plug/teaser from Book II – From the Void?
I sure can, Tyler.
When darkness, deception, murder, & torture reign over truth, trust becomes a wavering notion…
Will the heirs of Mirilan escape the lethal web of lies? Or will they let it drag them to hell?
Sounds great, I’ll be sure to pick that up when it comes out. How else can we support your writing?
Honestly, just reading my work and sharing it with others is the biggest help. Word of mouth is still the best way to get your work out there. And so I must say thank you, so much to you, Tyler for taking an interest in my work and helping to get the word out there.
There you have it folks, R.J. Jojola, a writer to be watched (read actually).
Sincerely R.J., I give you from myself and all our readers, the warmest thank you for joining us and letting us get to know you for a little while. I wish you all the best in your writing and hope to continue to see your name on the bookshelf.
R.J. Jojola Website – rjjojola.wix.com/authorrjjojola
Purchase here: On the Verge
Lost & damaged in evil’s wake, two reluctant strangers may be the last hope for their continent of Mirilan… Raelle Jowellia and her siblings were never allowed to travel outside their secluded valley. Having never come into contact with anyone outside of their immediate family, the mysterious and gruesome murder of her younger brother leaves Raelle tormented by a relentless need for answers. But answers reveal much more than Raelle bargains for when she discovers that the magical practices, daunting creatures, and foreboding demons of her father’s bedtime tales are anything but fiction. As a dark force closes in, the shock of her family’s secret renders her completely alone, with only bits and pieces of the puzzle. Lost in a world teaming with menacing danger, Raelle is forced to rely on the help of a meddlesome warrior, Chrishtan Vilgare. Together, will Raelle and Chrishtan be able to outrun their sordid pasts, or will they let it devour their very souls?
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