A Tale of Dragons & Epic Adventures
A Writer's Prompt Author Interview
Cambridge, a growing community in southern Ontario, Canada, is known for its historical sites, festivals, open-air markets, theatres and art galleries. But, did you also know that it is home to Epic Fantasy writer Richard H. Stephens? Let's learn a little bit more about him before we begin the interview.
Richard began writing circa 1974; a bored child looking for something to do. A trip to a local bookstore saw the proprietor introduce him to Terry Brooks and Stephen R. Donaldson, and his writing life was forever changed.
Richard worked in a warehouse for 22 years before going back to school. Graduating with honours, he joined the local Police Service.
In 2017, Richard resigned from the Police Service to pursue writing full-time. With the support of his family, he has finally realized his boyhood dream and has currently published 13 novels with many more on the way.
Hello Richard, and thank you for joining me today. I am excited to learn more about a fellow Ontarian and find out what makes you tick. Let's begin with "What inspired you to become a writer?"
When I was 9, I was sitting around on summer vacation in 1974 with nothing to do. I glanced at a copy of one of Franklin Dixon's Hardy Boys novels in my bedroom, and I thought to myself, 'I could write a story like that.' So, I did.
To have such confidence at an early age is inspiring. I lived on a farm when I was nine. I chased chickens around the yard, got stuck in the mud and ate cucumbers right off the vine. I had no idea what I wanted to be or do.
It is safe to say we know the answer to this next question, but let's ask it anyway - How long have you been writing?
I've been writing on and off for 47 years, Not with the thought of becoming a published author, but because that was something I loved to do 5 children and 2 careers later, and thanks to my supportive wife, I have finally left the so-called 'real' world behind and have been able to finish the book I started when I was 17. 36 years after dreaming up the epic fantasy story that has become the foundation for everything I've written since Soul Forge was published in August 2018. From that modest first step into the publishing world, I am now working on book 14 in my Soul Forge Universe, and there is no end in sight.
That is wonderful. Having a supportive family makes following your dreams easier What type of writer are you? For example, do you plan out your storyline and have a bio for each character, or do you let the creativity flow and see where it leads you?
I'm a hybrid. When I first started out, I simply kicked the main character out the door and discovered my ever-expanding fantasy world through his eye. As we explored the land together, I began entering each person and place on an excel spreadsheet, accompanied with detailed descriptions of what the reader learns so that in future stories, I never have to go back and read through four hundred pages to recall what colour Silurian's eyes are…Hmmm, let's look…Ah, yes, Ice-blue.
I wish I had been that organized with my series; I am constantly flipping through copies of the books for information. Do you follow a strict writing schedule, or do you sneak writing in when you have time?
Before I retired from my last career, I wrote and edited every lunch hour at work, quickly ate, put on a pair of headphones, opened my old laptop, and ignored those around me. 😊 Now that I'm a full-time writer, I follow a loose schedule. I get up in the morning and venture down the social-media rabbit hole to catch up with my readers and attempt to gamer more After that; I edit what I wrote yesterday. If I write 2500 words today, I will edit 2500 words tomorrow. Not only does that immediately tighten and correct what I have recently written, it sets me up to begin today's writing. I sometimes get an hour of writing in before lunch, eat, and then write for 2-3 hours in the afternoon. I take weekends off as I'm a firm believer that my creative mind needs time to mull over things in the background.
I might have to try your way and see where it takes me I edit as I write; it takes me forever to write a paragraph. LOL. What is your writing style? For example, are you a meat and potatoes leave it to the readers' imagination kind of writer, or are you a heavy with description, dialogue, and lots of extra gravy writer?
As writing epic fantasy is harder than many other genres when it comes to leaving things to the reader's imagination due to the strange lands and creatures involved, I would say I fall somewhere in between. I aim to keep the story moving along while inserting important bits of information regarding worldbuilding, magic, the look of a forest sprite—these things that are hard to leave to someone's imagination if they are to visualize my world the way I see it.
I feel the same way. I like how you described it as "worldbuilding;" you must be a gamer. Since becoming a writer, have you acquired any unusual peculiarities? For example, do you find yourself studying people more and critiquing their habits or editing their speech?
People in general, no. But I do find myself being pulled out of books by writers I used to love reading because I see how they could have improved a passage. I've also become very critical of TV shows and movies. I am constantly picking out inconsistencies and plot holes—sometimes to the point that it ruins the story for me.
I critique movies the same way. I chuckled when I wrote this next question because I often find napkins and scraps of paper with ideas written on them in my purse. Do you have a pocket full or stack of napkins and scraps of paper with ideas written on them?
Sticky notes and a separate word document that I keep open while writing in case I think of something that should be added later or in a subsequent book.
With that last answer, this next question is probably doesn't need to be asked, but let's ask it anyway - How many new, unused writing journals do you currently own? Did you buy them for future projects or because they look inspiring or because you can't remember where the other ones are?
I just own one. It sits unused in a secret chamber in my home library, where I keep all of my original manuscripts safe for posterity's sake.
A secret chamber in your home library sounds like a scene waiting to be written. Which segue nicely to my next question - What scenes do you have the most fun writing? For example fight scenes, heavy dialogue scenes, or scenes where your character is pondering the meaning of life.
I enjoy all the different nuances each of those scenes have to offer. I adjust my music playlist to accentuate the mood accordingly.
Ahh, another writer that listens to music while they create. I find ambiance noise too distracting when I write. But, I will listen to music or have a movie playing in the background while creating art. Are you a single project writer, or do you have several projects on the go?
Although I have over 20 books in my head that I will write in the coming years, I concentrate solely on what I'm working on now. I loathe the idea of becoming like a certain fantasy author who, in my opinion, has been disloyal to his fans by not finishing something that was so amazing.
Interesting. I, too, work on one project at a time. I think it's important to finish a series. Readers, fans, and the writer themself need closure. What have you learned about yourself from being a writer regarding your strengths and weaknesses?
I've learned not to take myself seriously. I've also learned to believe in what I do.
Belief is a powerful motivator. Are you strictly a writer, or do you have other creative outlets? For example, do you enjoy participating in Paint Nights or know how to strum a guitar, or can you knit a sweater?
Strictly a writer, though lately, I have been dabbling in creating my own interior artwork.
Artwork? You should share it with TWP group sometime. Have there been any exciting changes in your life as a result of being a published author? For example, do strangers ask for your autograph, do you have a movie deal in the works, or can you now live solely off your writing income?
Once in a while, people recognize me. Sometimes t ey ask to have their picture taken with me. If there's a movie-maker or Netflix scout looking for an immersive, unforgettable epic fantasy, please send them my way.
LOL, we all dream of being noticed by a movie-maker. If you run into Ron Howard, send him my way.
In the meantime, what publishing route do you prefer, self-publication, traditional or hybrid, and why?
As I only know self-publishing, that would have to be it. I once worked with an agent. Never again. Of course, I would love to be picked up by one of the 'big 5' publishers, but until then, I'm more than content to maintain control of my Soul Forge Universe.
I, too, took the self-publishing route. When you hear stories of how well-known authors were treated by publishers, it doesn't inspire confidence in the trade. Now that you are published and have several books under your wing, what sage advice do you have for budding authors looking to publish their first book?
Write it, pay for a good editor, pay for cover art that screams your genre, publish the book, and move on. You'll only ever be as good as the book you're writing. Don't fret. Get it out there. Believe in yourself, and the world will follow.
That is excellent advice, thank you for sharing it. I wish I would have heard that when I started.
In 100 words or less, tell us what you have planned for your writing career for 2022. For example, are you releasing a new book/s and or attending author events.
I will write and release books 3 and 4 in my Highcliff Guardians series and produce their corresponding audiobooks. I will be attending many author events throughout the year, Covid permitting.
Windwalker, Book 3 in the Highcliff Guardians - April 26th, 2022.
When Legends Rise, Book 4 in the Highcliff Guardians - November 15th, 2022.
Schedule of Events
Although I plan on attending many more events than the ones listed below, these are the ones that are confirmed—Covid permitting.
I have a permanent spot in the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market in St. Jacobs, Ontario, until the end of February 2022.
CK Expo on April 30th, 2022.
Goderich Artsfest from July 8-10, 2022.
Elmvale Sci-Fi/Fantasy Street Fest July 17th.
Fergus Medieval Faire July 24th.
Royal Medieval Faire in Waterloo September 17th.
Oxford Renfest September 23-25th.
Richard, that all sounds exciting. I hope the covid restrictions lift soon so that we can go back to meeting fans, readers and fellow wordsmiths in person. Thank you, for joining me today. I wish you all the best with the Soul Forge Universe and your writing career.
To follow Richard and purchase his books check out these links.
Youtube channel: https://bit.ly/2NKpOhn
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/richardhstephens