I have to apologize for how long it has taken me to post this Interview. It took me so long to deal with the storage shed nightmare and then I needed to sleep for a day or two.
But the Interview is with Jacob Cooper A fairly new author that I was lucky enough to find just over 2 years ago now. He is definitely someone you should check out. I think his books would appeal to any lover of Fantasy no matter what sub-genre you usually read. I have done reviews on both of his books you can find them here and here.
A few days after we had done a giveaway for the Audiobook of his new release Circle of Reign. I got a message from Jacob that got me excited even though I doubted it had any thing to do with me.
Jan 30th, 8:40pm
I felt all self important and everything. So when he sent me back the Interview questions I asked “When I do the write up is it ok if I mention something about your text about sales doubling? I might not but I would never want to post something from a one on one conversation with out asking first. Thank you again for your time doing it.”
His reply was great for bringing my ego back down to goblin height. “That’d be fine. I found out it was from audible running a promo for it. But it was uncanny how it coincided with your post on Reddit.”
Oh well I guess I didn’t single handedly double sales but here is the interview. My first one! So I got dressed up and everything.
Hi Jacob, thank you so much for your time to do this interview and welcome to the Blogin Hobgoblin.
- I have to admit this is the first time I have done a real Interview. Is this the first time you have been Interviewed by a Hobgoblin?
I’d have to admit, this is the first time ever being interviewed by a hobgoblin. I should be afraid, right? What do hobgoblin’s like to eat?
- I just recently reviewed your prequel, Altar of Influence; In the review I said how I ” loved the forward. Very insightful look into why this prequel was written. can you tell us a bit of why you decided write it here?
Altar of Influence: The Orsarian War started out as a short story. Chronologically, it happens before Circle of Reign, book 1 of The Dying Lands Chronicle. I had just released Circle of Reign when several readers asked about Thannuel Kerr’s early life and the Orsarian War, something that Circle of Reign makes mention of several times. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Why not?” I had started writing Song of Night, book 2, but decided to allow the diversion to write a short story.
The original version started out where Part 2 now starts, with a character named Elkinal. He is new to the Dying Land Chronicle. I loved him so much that he now appears in the expanded version of Circle of Reign and will also play a role in Song of Night. The story itself was to really just to be 30-50 pages of a battle scene … Thannuel on the Runic Islands fighting the Orsarians. As the forward explains, I failed miserably. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to know what happened before and after what I had already written. The exercise of writing Altar of Influence, I discovered, was something I really needed to do. I grew so much as an author and discovered so much about the world I had created. The history deepened, the mysteries of the world and its history deepened, and the characters blossomed.
It is strange to release a prelude (I don’t really call it a prequel) right after releasing book 1 instead of going to book 2 right away, but I had the book written and ready. I wanted to see if the world loved it as much as I did.
- How long had the Idea been on the drawing board or did you just get hit with the Inspiration stick and start writing one day?
With Circle of Reign, the idea came to me in literally a few seconds. Not the whole story, but large swaths of it. I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt like lightning struck my brain. I’d never thought of writing fantasy or any fiction. I didn’t go to school to be a writer. This is something that is so far from what I thought I would ever do that I have to believe it was inspired on some level, even if just for my own development.
I wrote COR on the side, very part time. It progressed slowly. I’d go months without writing anything and then I’d write feverishly with almost no sleep for a week straight. I had no idea what was going to happen next, thought I had a general idea of where I wanted the story to go (it ended up not going the way I had planned). It was very much a discovery process. In the end, it took 5 years for the first version to be written and released. I had to learn the business side of writing as well. Though flawed, I am very proud of that first version.
Altar of Influence (AOI), on the other hand, I outlined. It grew beyond the outline, but I always knew where it was headed. That helped immensely. It was still a process of discovery, but less so. I finished and released AOI in 8 months.
- I know COR was your first book, Is it true you never went to School for creative writing?
True. It seems I have to do things the hard way. Blunt force trauma.
- I have said before that your writing feels very cinematic The PoV’s felt like a camera moving around during battles. Any degree is cinematography? or anything like that?
No, BUT I did go to one year of school at Berklee College of Music, working toward a degree in film scoring. I did some film scoring in high school and loved it. Though I never finished my degree, I believe the influence of music creating panoramic, epic vistas in the mind is always something I have loved. I hope that my writing is somewhat like a sweeping symphony with morphing worldscapes.
- So your first book hits number one on audible and to celebrate you decided to rewrite it? Tell me a bit of the How and Why that came to be.
Well, it happened like this. Somewhere along the way, I came to know David Wolverton/Farland a little. He is one of Brandon Sanderson’s early mentors and teachers (among others students, such as Brandon Mull and Stephanie Meyer). Sanderson credits Farland for significantly helping his early writing career. Farland also teaches writing courses throughout the world and is much loved amongst authors of all genres. His bestselling Runelords series is fantastic, and I can easily see some of the influence that its earlier books might have had in Sanderson’s work. I discovered that Farland actually lived in my same small town. That was it. I was doggedly determined that he would teach me and take me under his wing. But would he? After all, he was (is) a legend in the sci-fi and fantasy genres and travels the world. He’s written X-Files and Star Wars books. Did I mention he also hosts the largest short-story writing contest in the world? I don’t think I knew what a challenge it would be for him to take notice of me and my work.
But I would not be deterred.
Finally, finally, after a solid year of hounding him, he read the first 50 pages of Circle of Reign. He stopped, picked up the phone, and called me. He asked me what my goal was for having him read the book, especially since it had already been released and done moderately well. It went something like this.
“Well, Dave, I know the book isn’t perfect,” I said. “I’m sure there are things you could help me with. Perhaps a light edit from you would be good.”
“It’s not perfect,” Dave said. “But, it’s damn good. What is your end goal here?”
“I just think if I could tighten up a few areas and maybe rewrite some weak scenes that–”
“No, stop,” Dave said. “That’s not what I’m asking. What do you want?”
The dead silence swelled. I decided to go for broke. “I want to write like Sanderson and Rothfuss.”
I swallowed hard, waiting for the inevitable, “Sorry kid, that’s just not going to happen for you.” That never came. Instead, Dave said, “You can absolutely be as good as them. You are so close, but raw. And I’m willing to push you to their level based on what I’ve read so far.”
“Dave,”–I think my voice cracked–“are you offering to work with me one-on-one?”
Now, I’m dense at times, and generally prefer the method of hard knocks to anything easy, but momma didn’t raise no fool, as my cousins in Tennessee say. I accepted. How could I say no? I gave Farland permission to be brutal. I wanted it. I needed it. He went through the entire novel and tore it apart. I did not accept everything he wanted me to do, but the vast majority I did. New scenes were created. Several were cut and archived for later use. New characters came to life as well as completely new scenes and sequences. Old scenes were refreshed. Bad writing was replaced by tighter, cleaner language. All in all, it took nearly a year to rewrite. Yes, I could have been working on Song of Night, book 2; but I could not pass this opportunity up. The new Circle of Reign is 45,000 words longer (4.5 hours longer in audiobook format) than the original, and that’s after cutting nearly 70,000 words from the original. I might add that Farland wanted to cut 50,000 words initially, making the book substantially shorter, but he kept telling me to add this or that scene. I certainly went beyond those scenes as new developments came to my mind, new elements that excited me like never before. I even “reappropriated” about 8,000 words from Song of Night.
- What, In your opinion, is the single best piece of advice on writing You have ever received and who from?
This is a hard one. There have been so many people help me along the way, but I would have to say that early on, Mike Sirota made a huge difference for me. He’s been writing fantasy since the early 80’s and has taught hundreds of students. He truly loves the art. Working with him on the first version of COR and AOI made them both so much better. His advice came in the form of edits. He did share this one insight from Dr. Seuss that I’ve always tried to remember, especially because I write epic fantasy: “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
I also learned a great deal from David Farland, Charlie Pulsipher, Davis Ashura, and Jonathan Renshaw, even if just from examples of their writing. They are each very talented authors and I have studied, at various times, their writing. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that a lot of new ideas came from being challenged by my fans. Andy Stone read COR and AOI, then challenged me to write more about Thannuel and Moira during their early teenage courtship. That awkward teenage love. Well, I write fantasy with a lot of battles, for Ancients’ sake! But, I took him up on the challenge. That lead to the short story, Remnants and Shadows, now part of the expanded AOI. Within that story I discovered the existence of desert wraiths in my world, an element that now has become a huge part of the overall plot. I would not have discovered them if I had not accepted the challenge of one of my fans.
- What is your usual writing process? Are you a outliner or do you just let the Characters go where they want?
I do outline, but I often deviate. I love to outline so that I have a general idea of where I’m going, but it’s never so rigid that I can’t deviate, discover something I didn’t know, then take the on-ramp back to the outline. I guess I’m a hybrid between discovery writer and outliner.
- When you write do you need silence or do you listen to music? what kind?
I constantly have the Lord of the Rings channel on Pandora cranking. Really helps me. Lots of great soundtracks from video games and genre movies that put me in the right mindset of creativity.
11. In your free time what kind of books do you read? Who are your favorite authors?
Naturally, I love epic fantasy. I also love space sci-fi. I wrote a short story in Explorations: Through the Wormhole and Explorations: First Contact. Both are space sci-fi and my first stab at that genre. Woodbridge Press put those anthologies out, and a classic epic fantasy anthology called Journeys is coming out Feb 15th. I have a story there as well that is set in the same world as The Dying Lands Chronicle, just 3,000 years prior to COR. I really love the story and hope the readers do as well.
Believe it or not, I also really like thrillers here and there. They are not as deep, but for whatever reason I have a hard time writing fantasy if I’m also listening to (I’m an audiobook junkie) or reading fantasy. I don’t know why. So, I’ll switch genres while I’m heavily writing.
My favorite authors: Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Justin Cronin, David Baldacci, Vince Flynn, Davis Ashura, Jonathan Renshaw, Brian McClellan, Peter V. Brett, GRRM, Tolkein, Jack Campbell, etc.
- We both have a daughter with the same name, Any other kids at home? Animals?
Four daughters and two akitas. Full house for sure.
- Some authors have “things” they love that fans give them all the time. Sanderson has Magic the Gathering cards and His wife likes chocolate, Kevin Hearne has Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. (He lucked out with that one) My Last question, What is your “Thing”? If nothing yet, what do you wish they would bring you? (besides cash)
Knives. Swords. Anything by Fallen Oak Forge. But on the more affordable side of things, pictures of fans reading my books is always awesome. I’ll never forget waiting in an airport to catch a flight and seeing a Delta Airlines pilot sitting there reading Circle of Reign. That made my year.
I connect with fans daily on facebook and twitter. That interaction is priceless to me. I hope I never to get busy enough to where I have to have an assistant do that.
My books are available in paperback, hardback, kindle and audiobook all on amazon or audible.
Thank you again Jacob!
You can find his books here.