Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Luke Romyn Interview
4/12/2010 9:02:04 PM
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Best selling author of 'The Dark Path' talks about the business of writing.
For fans of the horror genre, I have a treat for you! If you are not yet familiar with this rising star in the literary world, then I’d like to introduce you to Luke Romyn the author of ‘The Dark Path’.
I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers. You’ve worked internationally, but where in Australia is home?
LR: I currently live in Queensland, Australia. Actually, I live right up the top of Queensland in a place called Cairns. It’s wedged in between the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest; so we’ve got a lot of things up here that can kill you, which is kind of cool.
LTS: Cairns was one of my last stops when I visited Australia. Didn’t run into any snakes or crocs, just HUGE spiders! I loved Australia, and this part of the country still stands out in my memory as being quite beautiful! So, what do you do when you’re not writing?
LR: In between writing I tend to either spend my time either doing contract security or assisting my wife with the day to day running of my shops – we own a couple of video rental stores. So I guess you could say my life is pretty varied at the moment. The security work is really a minor priority these days, and definitely comes third on that short list. It’s something I’ve done for almost half my life, but my priorities now lie elsewhere.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a lifelong dream?
LR: I wrote a lot when I was young and in school. I got a lot of praise and complimentary feedback from what I can recall, with one of my short stories representing my school on a state level. Unfortunately, circumstances saw my life move away from the more scholarly pursuits when I became a nightclub bouncer at the ripe old age of eighteen. My rollercoaster life after this went on for at least a decade before I decided it was time to really settle down and try to become respectable. I continued with the security work, but started branching out more into the contract stuff such as close protection and film work - which I really enjoyed. There were also other contracts which saw me doing less glamorous work, but which were very beneficial in other ways in regards to life experience as well as financially.
The Dark Path started out as a pet project for me, more or less to see if I could write a novel. The thing that amazed me was how natural being a writer felt, and how much I absolutely loved it! After battling my way to publication, the feedback from readers has been incredible, drawing the attention of Tribe Literary Management, who now represent my work.
LTS: Your debut novel ‘The Dark Path’ has received great praise, making it as one of the top ten finalists in the Predators & Editors Readers’ Poll for Best Horror Novel of 2009 and was ranked as the #1 highest rated Horror at Fictionwise & eBookwise. You must be so thrilled to be the recipient of such praise. Did you ever think you’d strike such a chord with fans of horror?
LR: The incredible response ‘The Dark Path’ has received from readers of all genres has been overwhelming. I never started out to write a horror novel, and in many ways it isn’t your classic scare tale at all. I set out to write a novel that explored realms that the books I was reading didn’t delve into. I began telling a tale about a man of intense amorality whose deeds made even evil people walk in fear, and then I wanted to throw him into a situation where he had to fight his own instincts in order to do what was right. The result was Vain.
I was hoping to somehow get a foot in the door of the publishing industry and a little bit of recognition, but seeing my novel battling away in between the likes of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Sherrilyn Kenyon to name a few is beyond anything I could have imagined. The fact that it placed in the top ten above Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” really knocked me on my ass. That was like a wow sundae with sprinkles.
LTS: This is not a simple tale of good versus evil. Can you tell the readers about Vain the assassin and his connection to Sebastian, the young boy he must protect?
LR: Vain really doesn’t want to protect the boy to begin with, but through a course of events, including his meeting with an enigmatic man named Priest, the assassin agrees to protect Sebastian. The boy is almost the complete opposite of Vain – light where he is dark – and the contrast between the two characters is really satisfying as an author. It really managed to hit the chords I was hoping to and blurs the line between good and evil.
There a lot of things which I can’t bring up because they’ll spoil certain things, but let’s just say that Vain wasn’t always the killer he portrays, and it’s this past which conflicts with his amorality.
LTS: What was the inspiration behind this story and your main character, Vain?
LR: Vain was a release of everything within me which was dark or nasty. I dredged up a lot of the anger and rage from my youth; things like the death of my father, and a lot of the fury within me during my early days as a bouncer where violence was really the focal point of my life. I put all of that hatred into words and created a character named Vain.
Now, once I had created this man, this assassin, I was hit with a problem: I’d made him too effective. I had initially thought to pit him against either the Russian mafia or the Japanese Yakuza. Unfortunately, throwing Vain against those guys would be like putting a puppy suffering from narcolepsy in the boxing ring against Mike Tyson. It wouldn’t even be a snack for Tyson. The same would happen if I’d put Vain up against normal criminals, they just wouldn’t stand a chance.
And that’s why I put him up against The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
LTS: This is intriguing! Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open ‘The Dark Path’?
LR: The story basically centers around the aforementioned character named Vain; an assassin who is almost totally devoid of conscience or emotion, and the path he takes while trying to protect Sebastian from a cult. This cult, The Souls of Sordarrah, seek to sacrifice Sebastian in order to raise their demonic lord from Hell and thus end the universe as we know it. Along the way, Vain fights tooth and nail against the evil within himself, and often finds his heart telling him the complete opposite of what his instincts scream at him to do. In order to defend Sebastian against his opponents, including the almost immortal Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Vain travels across the planet and into the very bowels of Hell, and finds allies where you would least expect.
This is very much a novel on many levels. Apart from being a superficially action orientated novel, there are many subtle undertones which add depth to the characters. It deals with the good and evil within us all, and questions how clear the line can be between good and bad.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Was it difficult for you to land an agent?
LR: I actually did things in reverse, and got published before I landed my agent. The reason behind this – and almost any struggling author will say the same – is that nobody will look at you unless you already have something published!
LTS: I know exactly what you mean. In my case, even having been represented by two ‘reputable agents’ who basically disappeared, receiving great praise from book reviewers and having two film producers vying for option rights for a movie trilogy, all this still does not mean I’ll ever be picked up by a traditional publishing company! So yes, I know exactly where you’re coming from.
LR: It’s a horrible situation where it ends up being almost a circle without beginning or end. Luckily for me the wonderful people at Wild Child Publishing saw the merit of The Dark Path and offered me a contract for the eBook rights. This in turn got me the exposure my writing needed and within a short time people began to contact me, including the fantastic team at TribeLit who have since agreed to represent me.
LTS: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation?
LR: The main advice I’d give to any author is to persevere and not expect things to fall in your lap. I don’t care if you’ve got the best book ever written, nobody will look at it if you’re not out there pushing it and promoting yourself as much as possible. Social networking is an absolute must these days, with the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and Myspace serving as platforms for anyone looking to get noticed. It’s like trying to be heard in a major city full of people screaming during a hurricane while the agents and publishers are flying in a plane overhead. That’s the size of the task ahead of any aspiring writer.
The other thing I’d recommend is to put your pride aside. YOU ARE GOING TO GET REJECTED. It’s nothing personal and it doesn’t mean your work sucks. It goes hand in hand with being a writer, and you need a pretty thick skin to survive it intact.
LTS: Becoming a published author is truly a difficult road to travel, so we’re always pleased when a fellow writer is plucked from relative obscurity to land a book deal. Can you share that moment when your agent told you he sold your story to Wild Child Publishing?
LR: The moment the news came through was like a bolt of lightning straight into my brain. I’d been working for a long time – many years and many incarnations of The Dark Path – to get to the point where they offered me a contract and it just didn’t seem real. It felt like my heart was about to explode. There comes a point in your life when you become so used to those rejection letters that when you get one which actually accepts your work, it just doesn’t seem real. I ran straight into the bedroom and scared the hell out of my wife with my yelling and excitement. I was like a little kid getting every Christmas present he ever wanted all at once…. I’ll let you know when that feeling wears off.
LTS: Excellent! When you work this hard to get a break in this business, you deserve to enjoy this feeling for as long as you like. Now, I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
LR: It all depends upon my mood at the time. If I have a self imposed deadline I’ll try to hit a daily or weekly word count, but if I’m not feeling it on a certain day I’d rather not push it. I think it’s much more important for your writing to be good than just mere words chucked in together for the sake of it. If I can’t get into it I’ve learned to just walk away after trying for a while, otherwise the next time I look at what I’ve written I’ll just erase it and start again because it’ll be crap. So some days it’s better to take a break for a while or just give up for the day in order to get the creative juices flowing again.
But in saying that, I think it’s important to get into a routine with your writing. I definitely like to get something done each day, whether it’s something as simple as a couple of hundred words in between my social networking or a tough, blood and guts style writing session where I churn out thousands of words. The most important thing is having that as a part of my everyday routine so it’s easier to pick up where I left off from the day before. Otherwise I fumble around for ages trying to figure out where I am in regards to the story the next time I sit down to write.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
LR: My writing, as with almost everything in my life, is extremely random. I’ll have a broad idea of where I want the storyline to go, but if I suddenly get the urge to shoot off in a weird direction with it I’ll run with that. I like to think that if I’m surprised with the direction of the tale then my readers will be as well, and I’ll often read back over such a passage and wonder where the idea came from because it’ll seem so natural as part of the story. It’s like the point where I decided to take Vain completely off the rails and into the paranormal side of things; The Dark Path would have never been the same if I hadn’t decided to do that on the spot. It might have ended up as some sort of kids’ book…. Okay, maybe not.
Anyway, my point is I believe the story, at least in part, likes to write itself. I have no idea how people can write a chapter by chapter plan for how they want their novel to go and still keep it spontaneous. To me it would end up like writing a travel guide through the most boring country on Earth. But different things work for different people. I’ve never worn leather pants with the butt cheeks cut out either, but some people swear by them.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
LR: Well firstly I like to put on my leather pants with the butt cheeks cut out….
LTS: Yeah, right… It’s all good until you get all hot and sweaty and you’re sitting on Naugahyde! Ouch!
LR: No seriously, I need to really close myself off from the outside world in order to write, and I do this by having my writing area completely separate from everything else in my life. Crossing into this writing area is where I leave everything else behind – all my troubles and concerns can wait outside this area until I have time for them. The time I spend in my writing area is dedicated to one thing: writing.
I often hear people complaining that they can’t concentrate on their writing because there are too many distractions. The biggest distraction is your own brain, and you need to shut it up by any and all means necessary. If you’re worried about the power bill while you’re trying to write, I can tell you right now that whatever you’re working on will suck. I like to listen to music in order to get my mind off more mundane issues in my everyday life, and have my office set up specifically as a writing area. I have no distractions in there like a TV or games. I have a computer with a bowl of caramels set up beside the keyboard and a bottle of Coke. I’m not saying it’s foolproof, but it cuts down on outside issues stopping me from writing.
It doesn’t have to be a separate room, though. Even something as simple as putting on headphones and closing off the outside world can be enough to achieve the sense of aloneness I’m talking about. How can you create a new world when you’re distracted by this one?
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
LR: I jump on Twitter, amongst other things. I find the social interaction plus the random stuff I post on there often helps to unlock my brain and imagination and assists my mind to start flowing with ideas again. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will attest to some of the randomly weird things I’ll post on there. This is a twofold action: on one side it makes people smile and pay attention to me, while on the other it is a totally non-pressure way of throwing things out there which kick start my imagination and writing.
Other ways I’ve gotten through a slump is to jump off in a different direction for the storyline or to create a new character and work out ways for them to interact with the current situation. Sometimes it works, but even if it doesn’t you just go back and delete the parts that suck. Most of the time, however, the biggest problem I have is controlling the ideas which try to pop out of my brain. Every now and then something will come up where I think, “Yeah! A four-headed politician would be a really cool thing to kill!” and I have to step back and re-evaluate the whole section.
Although a four-headed politician would be a pretty cool thing to kill. Hmm….
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
LR: I’ve been asked this several times in other interviews and I always answer the same. My favorite author of all time is the late David Gemmell, a British novelist of heroic fantasy. A friend many years ago put me onto David Gemmell’s books and I became instantly hooked on the way he often used flawed characters in his stories. At that time in my life I was very much a flawed character myself, and the way he portrayed their ability to find redemption somehow appealed to me along with his high use of action.
I have never been a big fan of black and white morals. My eyes were opened many years ago through the things I was seeing that nobody is absolutely evil or perfectly good. Often the people who claim to be so righteous turn out to be the ones with the cloudiest souls, while the man who will quite happily chop off your legs will do so without malice. Sure, his deeds are evil, but is the man himself evil? Back over the other side of the argument is the pious idiot who condemns others for having a different kind of lifestyle; whether it be sex, politics or religion. He causes more harm through the hate that he breeds than a hundred leg-choppers.
Good and evil are not like in the movies.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
LR: I am constantly amazed at how much people rave about my writing. It is like a dream come true and more incredible than anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life. Like any writer, I’m plagued by the monsters of self-doubt and harsh self-criticism, and when I get a complete stranger contacting me to thank me and tell me how much they enjoyed my book I just want to hug them.
I set out on the journey to become an author with one hope in mind: to write stuff people enjoyed. I don’t want to be the most financially successful writer ever born – although that would be nice – but if I can bring a bit of happiness or entertainment to a single person who reads my books it has been worth all the effort. I’ve already received this hundredfold and it sustains my writing spirit more than anyone could ever know. I want to thank each and every person who has read my first novel, and to those clamoring for more I promise it’ll be worth the wait.
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
LR: Patience with a side order of perseverance. Oh, and add a little bit of patience to that as well. And perseverance.
The publishing industry is quite possibly slower than the travel-rate of a glacier during peak hour traffic, and you really need to be patient. I’ve seen and heard of writers harassing publishers and agents mere weeks after submitting a proposal. It’s like being a door to door salesman who just won’t go away, but the people you’re dealing with aren’t going to turn around and buy your product just because you’re annoying. It’s a business like any other and agents and publishers take their time getting back to you. I always like to think that the longer they take to get back to you the further you are from a rejection letter.
The other important thing is to just keep going. It’s like trudging through a hailstorm sometimes, but it really is the only way to succeed. If you have no luck with one project, begin on another one. I did this while trying to get ‘The Dark Path’ published and I ended up with my second novel almost ready to go by the time it was published. But the idea was to try to sell the second book if ‘The Dark Path’ was unsuccessful, and then come back later to get ‘The Dark Path’ published. As it worked out I didn’t have to do this, but when my agent at TribeLit contacted me to see if I had anything else in the works I had another full novel almost ready to go.
And now I’m back to waiting….
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
LR: I’m currently reading ‘The Way of Shadow’s’ by Brent Weeks. I was searching for some different authors to my usual selection, and this one caught my eye in the bookshop. I like high action novels without needless banter or page filling drivel. I guess my attention span is really limited and needs constant stimulation. I don’t need to be told what each and every rock looks like – it’s a rock, move on!
LTS: Your second novel ‘Blacklisted’ is due for release. Can you give your fans a glimpse of what they can expect?
LR: ‘Blacklisted’ is the project I touched on earlier when I said I started a project while waiting for ‘The Dark Path’ to be picked up. I tried my hand at something slightly different with my second novel and it really made me sit back at the end and smile. I set out to write a novel based totally in the real world – whereas a lot of my other stuff relies heavily on the paranormal or horror side of writing. Once again, I used heavily flawed characters in this book and threw them into a seemingly impossible situation as well as one which would challenge their own ethics.
Mike Swanson grows up through horrifically troubled circumstances to become a young man fuelled by hate. When his best friend is murdered, Mike sets out on a path of retribution which eventually leads him to become a vigilante killer. Eventually Mike is caught by the authorities, but before he can be tried for multiple homicides, he is broken out by a mysterious group working for the government who give him the option to work for them… or die.
Mike becomes a part of the ‘Blacklisted Brotherhood’ – a group of criminals who are charged with infiltrating the world’s most organized mercenary armies and working their way up through the ranks to find and stop the mastermind behind some of the worst terrorist attacks the world has ever seen; a man who works in the shadows, using others as puppets to achieve what he desires: Anarchy.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from horror into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to ‘The Dark Path’ in the near future?
LR: I have so many projects lined up at the moment, but a sequel to The Dark Path is definitely on the cards sometime in the future, though I can’t say when. I’ve just finished another manuscript and am working on its sequel – which I can’t talk about just yet –before I start on an as yet stand alone novel which could potentially reset the axis of the Earth.
All jokes aside, I’m just grateful for every moment I can spend writing. Any true writer will tell you it’s not about the money; it’s about sharing your dreams. That’s why we crawl through razor wire to get published. As long as people keep reading what I put out there I’ll keep writing it. Early reactions to my work have all been positive, and nothing in this world can compare to the way that makes me feel. Most importantly I’m trying to just take everything one step at a time. My agent is doing a fantastic job representing me and my work, and I have huge hopes for the future.
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time to share in your wisdom and writing experiences, Luke! And thank you for sharing with our readers about your novels ‘The Dark Path’ and ‘Blacklisted’.
For more information about Luke Romyn and his novel ‘The Dark Path’ check out:
Follow Luke Romyn on Twitter: .LukeRomyn
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Lee Edward Fodi Interview - Monday, December 21, 2009
Interview with YA Author James McCann - Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Researching Historical Fiction with Diana Gabaldon - Tuesday, December 08, 2009
kc dyer Interview & Enter to Win an Autographed Novel! - Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Bev Katz Rosenbaum Interview - Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Writing Tips I Learned from Terry Brooks - Tuesday, November 17, 2009
An Interview with Tamara Sheehan - Monday, November 09, 2009
YA Author Loreena M. Lee Interview - Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Why Do I Blog About Other Authors? - Thursday, October 29, 2009
Critique by Author Jack Whyte - Tuesday, October 27, 2009
BookCamp 2009 - Monday, October 19, 2009
Participating at VCON 34 - Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Therese Walsh Interview - Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Interview with Debra Purdy Kong - Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Twitter – The Power of the Tweet - Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Part Two: Publishing in a Foreign Market - Tuesday, September 15, 2009
An Interview with author Christopher Belton - Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Part Two of the Caroline Leavitt Interview: - Thursday, September 03, 2009
An Interview with Author & Book Reviewer Caroline Leavitt - Tuesday, September 01, 2009
An Interview with Kathleen Bolton - Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Interview with author/artist Scott Kessman: - Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Interview with author/artist Scott Kessman: - Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Part 2 of the Kim Falconer Interview - Thursday, August 13, 2009
An Interview with Kim Falconer - Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Part 2 An Interview with Alan Baxter - Thursday, August 06, 2009
An Interview with Alan Baxter - Tuesday, August 04, 2009
If You Write It, They Will Come (buy it)… Not! - Sunday, July 26, 2009
Lori A. May: Author Extraordinaire - Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Merits of a Writers Conference - Sunday, July 19, 2009
Part 2 Publishing in the Digital Age - Thursday, July 16, 2009
Publishing in the Digital Age - Monday, July 13, 2009
Writing Tips for the Novice Novelist - Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Flog the Blog - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Do's & Don't of a TV interview - Saturday, June 27, 2009
Mortality & Writing - Friday, June 26, 2009
The Art of Editing 101 - Tuesday, June 23, 2009
How To Write When Suffering from Bad Memory Retention - Saturday, June 20, 2009
Finding Inspiration from Others - Thursday, June 18, 2009
To Blog or Twitter... - Tuesday, June 16, 2009