Monday, August 4, 2014

Grim Interview: Jake Scholl

Blade Of The Broken
Our next guest for Grim Interviews is Jake Scholl. As author of the forthcoming dark fantasy novel Blade Of The Broken, Jake has traveled the road of self publishing, and offers some insights to other new authors aspiring to get their work published and noticed. Jake is a blogger, gamer, metal head, and a true fan of speculative fiction, movies, and more.

Roll call: Name, age, where do you live, and what do you do with your spare time when you’re not writing?

Name is Jake Scholl. I'm 22, and live in southwestern Idaho. In my spare time I collect comics, watch movies, and spend time with family and friends.

Can you tell us about the moment when you sat down and decided you wanted to be a writer?

It was back in 3rd grade, and it happened rather by accident. We were assigned to create a picture book, and I remember being the only kid disappointed that I had to draw pictures. I wanted to make a real novel! Thankfully that book is hidden in place I only know. It may be embarrassing, and a flagrant rip-off of Jurassic Park and Neverending Story. So to avoid a lawsuit, it will stay in hiding. But we all have to start somewhere.

What other writers or books have most influenced your writing?

Quite a few. Most people say Tolkien, but Tolkien wasn’t the Fantasy writer I read first. It was Dennis L. McKiernan’s Iron Tower Trilogy. (Those first edition paperbacks I read were well used. Definitely a good sign.) People say that series is a Tolkien rip-off, but that is far from the truth. It was darker, and the characters were very complex and layered. The story may be simplistic compared to long running series, but I’d rather read a book series that gets to the point quick than not deliver. This was the book series that made me want to be a writer for a living.

Michael Moorcock would be high on the list too. His Elric novels are some of the best Fantasy books ever written. A lot of books, songs, and of all things video games, have been influenced in some way by Moorcock’s novels. His writing style is what always brings me back.

Ray Bradbury is another. His writing style will never be equaled, and is best read out loud. And that’s why I read my books and stories to myself. If your book doesn’t sound good out loud, something is wrong.

Tell us about your new novel, Blade Of The Broken. Give us an elevator pitch. Is this the first of a series? When do you expect the novel to be released?

The focus of the book is on a ranger by the name of Stefan. The rangers in Blade Of The Broken are the only law in the book’s world. Since this world is like a medieval one, most “justice” is solved by killing, or beating the hell out of people who hurt others. Sometimes arrests happen.

He gets sent on a mission to stop someone who allegedly wants to kill a bunch of people with a magical item. Though things aren’t as they seem… And dark things from the past are waiting to strike Stefan once again.

That’s the most I can say without spoiling the book. J It will come out either in October or November. You can find out more on my blog.

With your latest novel, Blade Of The Broken, can you go into some of the details of your writing process? What were the circumstances around your initial concept for the novel? Did you do an outline, or “discovery” write? How long did it take for you to get to a completed manuscript?

I began outlining my novel around the end of July of 2011 with a character I’d been “seeing” in my mind. (I thought it would be smart to outline before I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and I was thinking of writing an epic fantasy novel like the books I grew up reading.) Then in August 2011, I was rushed to the hospital, and went septic.

Real life craziness can really change plans, and book outlines. So the book became more of a heroic, and gritty fantasy tale. The fighting theme of the genre resonated even more so after the hospital, and I couldn’t read epic fantasy that wasn’t about people who couldn’t wield a weapon, or weren’t intelligent. The stories I read had to be realistic; so the story I would write had to be honest to the reader.

So in November, I started writing, and it took one month. I didn’t follow the outline word by word, but I didn’t go full-on discovery mode either. It was a good mix of the two. The first draft was horrible, and it’s taken 3 ½ years of rewriting and having an editor to go through it to get to the point I’m at now.

Thankful I never threw the book away.
Can you tell us about how you came up with the cover art for Blade Of The Broken?

The MacGuffin of the story, if you will, is a sword called the Runeblade. I don’t want to get too much into it, but it connects all of the characters together in one way or the other. (Trust me, it’s more than an old blade with runes scribbled on it.) So I always thought it should be on the cover, and I worked with my amazing cover artist Rene Folsom, she works at Phycel Designs.

The fiery, and dark background worked best to set the mood. There are quite a bit of sword fights and carnage throughout the tale… Speaking of the background, when I got the first cover proof I could’ve sworn I saw a raven with talon’s extended. When I said I liked the raven, Rene asked “What raven? I didn’t put one in!” but said it was a great idea. So she added a raven… That’s part of the magic of a writer and cover artist working together!

How would you describe your experience with self-publishing your novel? Do you plan to stick with self-publishing, or do you hope to someday go with a publishing house?

It’s been good. I like having a direct influence on every aspect of my book, rather than having another person make all the calls for me. I’m planning to stick with self-publishing. In this day and age, it’s possible to produce a great looking book without the publisher as a middle man. I’ve been told money should flow to the author, rather than making the pittance publishers pay. The model traditional publishing uses is rather outdated, especially since we use eReaders now. It doesn’t mean you don’t need editors or cover artists, etc, but rather can hire those people directly, and make your own decisions on your books.

Speaking of blades, weapon of choice: letter opener, Swiss army knife, or Ginsu blade?
Ginsu blade. The other choices aren’t barbaric enough.
This isn’t your first self-published piece, though; tell us a bit about Demon Stone.

Demon Stone was first written back in 2009. I was reading old school sword & sorcery a lot that year, by authors’ such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and Michael Moorcock. So I decided to write a tale inspired by these stories. It started out as a hack job, but over many revisions, I had something original in my character Dagr. I kept getting rejection letters, and kept revising, changing, adding… Then I gave up, and kept it saved. I went back to it in 2011, and kept revising. Then I sent it to an e-magazine and it was accepted, and was published in the first issue of Fantasy Short Stories, ran by Mark Lord.

By that time, I’d been working on the book that would become Blade Of the Broken. And when I got the rights back, I decided to self-publish a special edition version of the Demon Stone short that had more changes, to help with the hard task of building an audience.

The story is a quest about a King who lost everything to try and save his wife. If you like sword & sorcery, and heroic fantasy, this story may appeal to you. It’s on Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and a lot of other eBook sites.

What do you find most appealing about writing darker fantasy?

Being able to explore parts that normally isn’t explored in other genres. In traditional epic fantasy, it seems to be a big no no to explore what makes the villains tick rather than just that they want “world domination” or “destroy everything”. Doesn’t the reader want to know why the villain does what he does? Or see what the other characters want you to see?

Also, with the heroes, they don’t have to be perfect in “dark fantasy”. George R. R. Martin, Gary Gygax, Michael Moorcock and many others were/are of the mind that everyone has good and bad, so why not write people realistically, rather than make the heroes saints? Even bad people at times have done good things.

I think “dark” fantasy should be called “realistic”. But that would be a weird word pairing.

What influence has gaming had on your writing?

Games have had quite an influence on me. Before I even touched a novel, I’d been enjoying playing as Mario on the SNES, and trying to rescue Princess Peach, only to find out I was in the wrong castle. Or Banjo on the N64, trying to rescue his sister from the witch… And incidentally, these games had stories just as engaging as any novel, and inspired me to dream up stories in my mind with unlimited FX budget. Thus, writing was very attractive to me.

What do you find most aggravating aspect about the fantasy publishing industry today?

Probably the assumption most self-published books are crap. Yeah, there is some self-published drivel, but I’ve read quite a bit of crap published by people like Random House. Crap is crap no matter who the publisher is. It doesn’t care where it’s from. It just goes splat!

*Note to all self-publishers or would be writers: Hire an editor. Not your mother or father, or a friend or family member. We writers need editors who will say what needs to be said. No matter if it hurts your feelings.

Not only do you rock dark fantasy novels and short fiction, but you’re also a blogger. When did you start blogging? What is your blog about? Where can folks check it out?

I started blogging in ’08, originally just writing fantasy and sci-fi novel reviews, and posted them on my website called Goblins, Swords, Elves, Oh My! Then that progressed to also interviewing authors like Dennis L. McKiernan, Margaret Weiss, and fellow indie authors.

That site built up my writing confidence dramatically, so I decided to also write about my crazy life on another website called Jake’s Blog. I’ve been in a wheelchair most of my life, and was diagnosed with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy at age five. I really didn’t have that odd of a childhood as people would think, nor am I some broken soul… I just have some definite opinions on life and writing.

Now it has a dual function of being a blog, and an author’s website. I haven’t posted much lately on either site, but there’s quite a backlog of posts dating back to ‘08. So now you can see how bad of a writer I was.

I was pleased to read that you were also a lover of cinema and heavy metal music, now I’m pretty much convinced we were separated at birth. Give us your top three movies of all time, and top three metal albums.

Another favorite’s question? This is like choosing which children I’d keep around, and which I’d put up for adoption! I was raised watching old black & white movies my parents grew up watching. John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, and tons of other movies. I hope they forgive me if I don’t name any classics, haha. Plus, being disabled, movies are one thing I do to pass the time.

I would put the original, and uncut (Han shot first!) Star Wars Trilogy. (This was literally my first exposure to the science fiction / fantasy genre, and without it I probably wouldn’t be interested in fantasy or heroic fiction at all.)

Second, I would say Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a great play on traditional fairy tale films, and has a great plot and writing. It may have subtitles, but it’s worth reading through for two hours. I usually like quest type fantasy films, but at times I prefer the morality tales my mother and grandparents read to me as a child. There’s something comforting about stories about children and the small folk of the woods.

Since you asked for three movies, I’m going to have to skip a ton of others outstanding films, so here’s the third one; Mad Max: The Road Warrior. The story is probably one of the best in modern cinema, and The Road Warrior was a great improvement from Mad Max, from a writing and acting standpoint.

As for favorite Metal Albums, where do I begin?! Holy Diver by Dio is great. Summer Of Darkness by Demon Hunter. And currently 7th Symphony by Apocalyptica is a great album… And I’ll cheat and say every Iron Maiden album is amazing! (And Maiden is a fun band to write to!)

For writers just starting out, what advice or wisdom can you offer?

Listen to all criticism. All of it. Too many beginners have a thin skin, and that isn’t good when you’re a writer. Believe me, I was there too. I had my sister read my very first novel in 4th grade, and she said it was crap. I was devastated, didn’t listen to her criticism, and threw all the pages in the garbage.

Everything you write has potential to be a great novel, or story. Listen, and keep revising, and repeat. If you don’t have friends who have time to critique, find a group like Critters. There are thousands of people that use Critters, and I’ve gotten great input from the group. (Especially when I was working the early drafts of Blade Of the Broken.)

Also, watch out for scams. There are a lot of people wanting to scam writers, so I recommend checking out Writer’s Beware, Preditors & Editors, A Newbie’s Guide toPublishing, and David Gaughran’s blog.

What’s the next project on the horizon for Jake Scholl?

I’m currently planning a sequel to Blade Of The Broken, and maybe a short story or novel sequel to Demon Stone. Or maybe a Horror novel? We’ll see what the guy upstairs has in store.

You can find Jake Scholl on Facebook, Twitter (@JakeSCholl), Goodreads, and you can grab a copy of Demon Stone here for a mere $0.99. A special thanks to Jake for taking the time to talk to us, and wish him the best of luck with the release of Blade Of The Broken.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. Glad to hear Jake mention Moorcock as an influence. Sometimes I think fantasy readers and writers forget there were some great writers out there before GRRM et al, and that old school doesn't have to mean Tolkien. Elric's about as dark as it gets, especially the end of Stormbringer.