Having read and thoroughly enjoyed R.L. Novak’s Heaven Seeks: Part 1 of Offspring and Avatars I couldn’t resist the chance to send him a few interview questions.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m an old guy that’s been around and has seen much of the world. I spent most of my life in the military, and when I wasn’t involved in conflict, I took the opportunities presented to see parts of the world I would otherwise not have the chance to see. I loved going to the old countries—France, Spain, Israel, Italy, etc.—and walking the very grounds where history transpired. I believe it helps keep life in perspective when I realize just how small we truly are; a fraction of a millimeter on mankind’s timeline.
Aside from writing, I spend a lot of my time supporting and training American military members in anti-terrorism and force protection measures. It pays well, lets me hang out with Marines, and occasionally, I get to blow stuff up. My free time is dedicated to my family, or fishing, or killing zombies on the computer—every once in a while I have to unleash my “inner nerd”.
I’ve been married for twenty-four years to my high school sweetheart and have three kids; all of which are surprisingly balanced considering that my wife and I are both batshit crazy. We found a niche in Southern Maryland, and enjoy peaceful, southern living; spending our days appreciating our quaint and scenic town. My wife dragged me here, kicking and screaming, fourteen years ago, but when I wake up and hear nothing but wild life, I realize that I couldn’t be happier.
Who made your cover?
I develop all of my own cover work. I typically use a picture that I have taken, or purchase rights for one, and turn it into something more in line with the fantasy that I write. I’ve always enjoyed expressing myself artistically, and I think I get more joy out of creating the covers than I do out of writing the books themselves.
Can you tell us a bit about your current project?
I currently have two projects in the works. The first is the second book of the Offspring and Avatars series, continuing the adventures of Scott, Danny and crew. We learn more of Danny’s powers, and what he truly is. I also further develop Nadia, her role in the war between Heaven and Hell, and her link to Danny. It’s both exciting and frustrating. I have the story outlined and know where I want to take it; however, outlining a story, and actually putting it on paper, are two different things. I’ll straighten myself out shortly, and find the path forward that I want the story to take, but until then, it is an exercise in revisiting a storyboard over and over and…
My second project is delving into true fantasy. I have never attempted world building before, but the thought always excited me, so I’m trying it. The Calling of the Mark introduces us to the World of Terse, a land still trying to cope with the death of its deity. The story’s protagonist, Jack “Soap” Sopensky, is an unwitting hero that must pull the world out of the chaos caused by the gods’ demise, and once again restore balance to the land. I’m really pumped about this story, and am trying different approaches and writing styles until one clicks.
What was the thing that made you want to write novels?
The simple answer to this is reading. I was an avid reader growing up. We couldn’t afford a television, and the library was free. I didn’t have a library card, so often times I had to “borrow” the books that I wanted to read—don’t worry, I always returned them.
I enjoyed almost every genre of book, and found them to be a wonderful escape from a life that was less than ideal. As I got older, my hopes were that I could do the same for somebody else. My hope is that somebody out there read my book, and for a brief moment was able to forget whatever problems they were facing in the real world.
What’s your favourite genre/s to write? Are they the same genres as you read?
My favorite genre is a bit of a hybrid between fantasy and horror. If it were a movie genre, I suppose you would call it a creature feature. I like monsters. My favorite thing to do is find a creature that is integral to local folklore, and build a backstory to it that ties it to current times. I typically go for the obscure legends like Attimus the spider, or Champ of Lake Champaign. I enjoy bringing these legends to life, and pulling a story together that mixes a normal, everyday person with an icon of myth.
Are you the type who needs to know every last detail of the story before you write, or do you have a sort of partial plan and then link things together as you go along?
I am kind of a planner. The planning is a necessary step for me, but it isn’t for the reason that authors typically use it for. When I first begin a project, I plan it out in excruciating detail. This either gets me excited enough to continue, or bored enough to lose interest. Once I begin the process of writing the story, my plans, often times, fall to the wayside and I get completely off track from what I had originally intended. So, typically, it is nothing more than a litmus test on whether or not the story will engage me, before I engage the story.
What about the rest of your writing process?
The rest of my writing process is less process, and more, spilling words onto a page and hoping that they make sense. After I finish each chapter, I give it a quick read to ensure that it lines up with the rest of the story. Then I give it a thorough read to ensure that I caught most of the mistakes before sending it off to my editor. The editing process typically takes as much time, if not more, than the writing process. Not only am I correcting grammatical errors, but also doing a lot of rewrites to make sure that I capture the same “feel” as the rest of the book. It is easy to accidently mirror your present mood into your writing, and though this can be beneficial at times, if you’re not careful, it could seem as if the reader is experiencing multiple stories from one chapter to the next.
The saying is, a picture paints a thousand words. Do you ever get an image in your head of a particular moment or scene and then struggle to capture it? How do you overcome this?
I have written entire stories based upon an image that was stuck in my head. If I have trouble capturing the scene onto paper, I try to put myself into the image, or find somewhere that I can go that will facilitate reliving that image. If I want to capture the nuances of a gun fight, I’ll go to a gun range. If I want to write about how a certain animal moves, I’ll head to the zoo or watch hours of NatGeo. Where I go is situationally dependent, but why I go is always the same. Real life is the best model.
What’s the piece of writing that you’re most proud of? (A whole story or specific scene.)
The piece of writing that I am most proud of was unpublished, and unadvertised. It was a letter that I had written to my son when he was five, that was placed into a time capsule and opened when he was eighteen. It was the most emotion I had ever put on a page. I get misty reading it today.
Is there a genre you’d love to write, but don’t have the bravery to tackle?
I think I would like to try my hand at romance one day. I’m a pretty sappy guy deep down, and rarely show that aspect of myself. It’s under the surface and I only show it to my wife, but I would like to pull out the stops one day, and put some of that to paper. I‘m living a love story, and I think that it is one worth writing about.
Thanks, R.L. Novak!
If suspense and fantasy is your thing, along with a bit of blood and a few deaths, then head over to his Wattpad page!