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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

SPFBO: Interview with J. A. Devenport (Interviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of By Raven's Call
Order By Raven's Call HERE

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, can you tell us a little about yourself, your background & your interests?

JAD: Haha! There’s a lot to tell. I guess I’ll start with the basics…I grew up in the Alaskan wilderness, in a cabin (16 feet x 20 feet) with my rather large family (at the time there were 11 of us). After I graduated high school, I attended BYU in Utah and never really ended up leaving because it’s actually warm here.

There’s a lot of things that I enjoy, mostly really manly things like cutting firewood, and shooting guns, but I’m also a retired ballroom dancer, which is weird. Currently, I mostly spend my free time hitting the gym and playing videogames. Also, I like cats.

Q] What inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you chose to go the self-publishing route?

JAD: My writing drive started early on, evolving pretty naturally from reading constantly (there wasn’t much else to do during the Alaskan winters). There’s a good story here, but I’ll save it for when I finally get around to starting a blog.

Finishing my first book was actually quite difficult, I’d been working on a project for years during college, an epic fantasy, but as I learned more about the publishing business (from Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class) I realized I wouldn’t be able to get it published as a first-time author. So then, I started a smaller “standalone” project which I felt would be easier to attract the interest of publishers. To finish that project I had to quit a very awesome job with the National Park Service so I could take a stab at writing full time. Once I did that and could actually focus my energy, I managed to finish a VERY rough draft of By Raven’s Call in about four months. Then I had to get a job again :(

Even though I wrote the book specifically so I could get it published, I found the actual submission process to be time consuming (you spend so much time just waiting to hear from a batch of agents about your query, and then even longer if they ask for a partial). I hated it, and I probably only ever submitted to 15-20 agents. But then, last year, I stumbled on J. A. Konrath’s blog about self-publishing and I was hooked. Here was a viable way for me to get a project that I was starting to get annoyed with off my plate so I could move onto the next.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of By Raven’s Call occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

JAD: By Raven’s Call has gone through a few stages. It was born from a writing prompt in a creative writing class, just an idea a couple paragraphs long. Then, during another class it turned into a short story. And finally, I novelized it when I decided I needed a quick, sellable idea. And honestly, I couldn’t have purposefully made it a more difficult and complicated process.

The idea has evolved a ton since I started it in 2010. The original short-story was told in the first person and had a jaunty and light-hearted tone that I realized didn’t work after I finished the first draft. So I had to change all that. And that was just the beginning. Getting the whole project to the stage where I felt confident letting other people read it has been painful. But I learned a lot. And the result is something that I feel is a solid first attempt.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

JAD: That’s a hard answer. I wish I had a muse. That would make things easier, I think. But right now my source of inspiration is my imagination, and my motivation is that I don’t want to work a day job forever. Haha!

Q] Why did you decide to enter SPFBO?

JAD: Honestly, I literally found out about SPFBO the day the contest opened for submissions. Randomly, a month or so earlier, Kopratic over at The Fantasy Inn had discovered my book on the Kindle store and liked the cover (we’ll get to that). So he bought it and wrote a review about it (my first ever! Woot!). The first day of submissions for SPFBO4, his fellow blogger, HiuGregg, messaged me and convinced me to enter. What did I have to lose?

Q] I described your book as plot-driven - do you agree?

JAD: Yeah, absolutely. I like fast-paced, action oriented books and I guess that’s what I ended up writing.

Q] You have quite a few distinct characters in the book - was it difficult to manage them in a satisfying way?

JAD: Yes and no. The first draft had more characters, and I tried to remove all the unnecessary ones. Other than that, there was only one character that really gave me trouble. One of the women. I had to rewrite her five or six times because it was so difficult getting a balance of vulnerability (in regards to what she experiences early on) and core strength that was relatable, and likeable. Hopefully I succeeded.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

JAD: I discovered the realm of fantasy through two books: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. They’re very different, but both absolutely captivated me with their magical worlds. These days I read a bit of everything, but, obviously, I’m a fan of Brandon Sanderson. He’s basically the king of fantasy right now. If I could accomplish a tenth of what he has, then I’ll be happy.

Q] By Raven’s Call features an impressive and immersive world-building. How long did it take you to develop the world? How do you keep track of everything? Does it still evolve?

JAD: Oddly enough, I never really focused on world building. It just happens because I have an imagination and I spend a lot of time daydreaming and taking pieces of the real world and giving them a bit of magical flare. For instance, my magic system was born from my enthusiasm for dance, augments are a natural progression of real world drugs, and airships…airships are just frickin’ awesome!

It isn’t really hard to keep track of…in my head the world exists, it operates a certain way, and obeys its own rules. As long as I know the rules—and I do since I made them—then everything just makes sense. At this point, the evolution is mostly over, though some things will change through the course of the sequels.

Q] Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Your cover is rather simple and minimalistic. Can you tell me about the idea behind it?

JAD: Ahem. This is easy. I’m dirt poor. So I designed my own cover, and since I was limited by my artistic skills, I had to keep it simple. Still, you can accomplish a lot with a shutterstock subscription and free art programs like GIMP and KRITA. I drew the sword by hand though. Hahah! I know it doesn’t compete with most of the covers in this competition, but it works.

Q] Can you tell us about your editing process?

JAD: I’m a firm believer that the best writing is actually good editing. So I just vomit the first draft, then I go through and clean it, cutting as much as I can. Then I give it to the meanest, most critical people I can find and let them tear it to shreds. Then I rewrite it again. And again. And again. I do that until I have a story that I am happy with.

Q] I love oddball questions and oddball answers, so allow me to ask you one - What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?

JAD: Errm…I’d slap it with the salmon he was trying to steal and tell him to go get his own. I think. I don’t know. Is he a wizard?

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

JAD: Louis L’Amour is underrated as a writer. That is all.




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