IndieView with N.H. Roncolato, author of The Redemption of Brian O’Connor

The Internet told me that all authors should have a target audience, but I feel that my book is accessible for anyone to read. Both men and women, young and old, have read and liked my book. 

N.H. Roncolato – 30 November 2017

The Back Flap

The lands of Northern Caltus are consumed by war; a war that has raged for three bloody decades. The expansionist aggression of the Empire of Elriol is only countered by the defiance of the young khan of the Korghum Khanate, and the two are locked in a desperate struggle for hegemony.

Into this steps the disavowed assassin, Brian O’Connor, once a servant but now his own master. A man with a sordid past, Brian seeks the end of Elriol by any means, even if he must bare blade alongside former enemies to see it done.

In his quest for retribution against the Emperor of Elriol, Brian finds a deeper meaning to life that causes him to question all that he knows. Yet the choices that he makes leave him torn between the retribution that he seeks or the redemption that he needs.

His story, one of courage and strength, cunning and sacrifice, will shatter the foundations of Northern Caltus. A new era in the world begins to the gunfire of Brian O’Connor.

About the book

What is the book about?

This is always the hardest question to answer.  How to condense a sweeping epic into a paragraph or two?  Ultimately, The Redemption of Brian O’Connor is one man’s journey to reconcile with his past and find a future to move towards, and all the complexities within that.  It is also about the struggle against tyranny, the fervent will to stand against injustice, and the bitter sorrow that comes from war.  It is about the brotherhood that is forged in conflict and the ideals that unite us as humans, extending beyond the borders of nations.  It is also about a journey to faith.  I saw this book as a way to explore meaning in life and the individual paths that we all take, and for me that meant looking at the role God and faith play in our lives.

When did you start writing the book?

I began writing this book on a complete whim (or divine guidance) in March of 2010.  I was struck by the idea for Brian O’Connor and so began typing.  I actually started writing the second chapter, only adding the first chapter much later.

How long did it take you to write it?

All-in-all, after all the edits were done, it took me almost seven years to write it.  It was a long, long process, as I had no idea what writing a book like this was going to take or how much work was involved.  I took a lot of wrong turns in the process, but I feel like I came out stronger, forged in the fires of writing and cleansed from ignorance.  At least, that’s what I like to think happened.

Where did you get the idea from?

The idea for this book really began with the characters.  Many, many years ago, while sitting around hanging out with friends, I first created one of the characters that ended up being in this book.  It was my ideal of what a real man was; an ideal based on intelligence and strength.  Years later, I tried unsuccessfully to put a story about him on paper.  Even so, the story refused to leave me until I finally started this book.  It was adding in humanity that made this story work where the others had failed.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Yes, definitely. Before writing this book, I had no idea what went in to writing a sweeping epic.  It was a baptism of fire, and I had more than my share of hair-pulling and table-flipping before I figured things out.  That said, I would say that my biggest struggle was with the meaning of the narrative.  It’s one thing to write an awesome story, but I wanted a deeper connection than that.  Figuring out what to use and how to add it was the most difficult part.

What came easily?

I would say the easiest part was the ending.  It was a struggle for a moment to figure out exactly how the book was going to end, but once I settled on it, it remained fixed.  It was the sum of all the things that I consciously tried to do and those things that seemed to happen accidently.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

All of my characters are fictional, specifically the final versions.  I had made the mistake of trying to include my friends in as characters in the earlier versions of the story, and that fell flat on its face.  So I stuck with fictional people.  However, some of the names that I used for characters have historical importance that pertain to their roles, so the answer is yes and no, I guess.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

Yes.  The list is quite long, but there were a few major influences that I will happily acknowledge.  I was heavily influenced by the father of modern fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien.  The Christian themes that ran through his masterful work The Lord of the Rings, the characters therein, and his rich use of description resonated deeply with me.  I was also influenced by The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is attributed to Luo Guanzhong.  Aside from the scale of that saga, the way characters interacted and the epic sweep of the themes and the timelessness within them have always been fixed in my mind.  A third major influence would be Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Gasp!  That’s not a book!  Yes, I know, but I found his story telling and character-driven narrative to be inspirational and formative for the realism and characters that I sought to bring to life in my own story.  Last but not least, I was also influenced by Steven Pressfield’s The Gates of Fire, which floored me with such realistic battle descriptions and cultural insights.

Do you have a target reader?

Again, a very hard question.  The Internet told me that all authors should have a target audience, but I feel that my book is accessible for anyone to read.  Both men and women, young and old, have read and liked my book.  However, given that there are some scenes of violence, I would say that this book is generally not for young children.  Other than that, anyone who is interested in reading really good books would be what I consider my target reader.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

I do now.  When I started writing, however, I did not.  I wrote at random with no organization, and as you could guess, that was a painful and inefficient way to write.  Now, I try to write something everyday.  I do work full time and am a husband and father of two, so I don’t always have a lot of time to write.  Still, when I can I do, and when I do I try to write a chapter at a time.  I like to write chronologically, but sometimes a passage or word strikes me and I leap ahead to jot it down real quick.  One thing about my process, though: I don’t read while I am writing.  I find it helps me maintain my own voice while I write.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

Again, I do now.  When I started writing this book, I did not and suffered for it.  My eye’s twitching just thinking about it.  Now, though, I do outline.  And plan.  I am currently writing the sequel and have planned out the story arc by chapter, with a few notes for what happens in each chapter.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

This has changed for me as well.  When I wrote this story, I kept stopping and going back and editing what I had written.  It was pretty chaotic and began to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere.  So towards the end of writing, I refused to start a new edit until I had finished my previous one.

Did you hire a professional editor?

I did.  I got what I paid for: a cursory look at my work.  If I had been willing to pay more, I probably would have gotten more bang for my buck.  As it was, I ended up doing a lot of the editing myself.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I do.  I find it helps me to focus and it also drowns out most of the noise around me.  I really like artists like Lecrae, KB, and Andy Mineo, and metal bands like War of Ages and For Today.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Yes, I did.  Unsuccessfully, too.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

It was a gradual process.  I thought I would find an agent eventually, but after a while (and a number of prayers) I realized that agents were not looking for a book like mine.  My book is 150,000 words, its not specifically YA, and is from a new author.  There was too much risk for them so they bypassed me.  Once I realized this, I began the process of self-publishing.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I tried doing it myself a few times (I have a blog about it, actually) but ended up commissioning a piece by an awesome artist who goes by Xia Taptara.  He did the cover image, and I then composed the rest using AffiinityDesigner.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

If the rest of this interview is any indication, I am winging it.  I tried a few things, like reaching out to influencers and promoting my book on social media, but things sometimes work and sometimes don’t.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

It is not an easy journey.  Be sure of yourself and the vision that you have, but remember to at least hear advice.  Take it with a grain of salt, but at least hear it.

About You

Where did you grow up?

My dad was in the Navy, so I moved around a lot.  Mississippi, California, Virginia, Japan, Maine, Florida; all I called home.

Where do you live now?

Now I live with my wife and two kids in Los Angeles, California.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I studied Global Affairs in college, with an emphasis on East Asia.  I use that in my writing as much as possible, something that I never thought I would be doing.  When you are called to something, you have to answer.

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on the sequel to The Redemption of Brian O’Connor.  I’m already a few chapters in to the writing process, and I hope to have the first draft finished in a few months.

End of Interview:

For more from N.H. Roncolato visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

Get your copy of The Redemption of Brian O’Connor from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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