Monday, February 11, 2013

Fantasy Authors of Today: R.J. Larson

I am very excited to be introducing R.J. Larson to you! She is a new voice in the CBA fantasy field, enticing the market with her exciting blend of Biblical fiction influence (she wrote a Biblical fiction series called "The Genesis Trilogy" under a different name) in her own invented world. Library Journal gave her first novel in the series, Prophet, a starred review, calling it: "Character-driven and suspenseful . . . outstanding YA speculative fiction . . ."

Her second novel, Judge, just released this last November, and book 3, King, is due to release this coming summer. So lots of fun reading for you to dive into.

Here is her bio, swiped from Amazon:

R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals and is suspected of eating chocolate and potato chips for lunch while writing. She lives in Colorado with her husband and their two sons. The Books of the Infinite series marks her debut in the fantasy genre.

She is with us today for a fun interview, so I hope you will enjoy a chance to get to know this new author . . . and be sure to pepper her with questions and encouraging comments at the end!

Thank you for joining us today, Ms. Larson! First of all, why don't you tell us a bit about yourself. What sorts of hobbies do you enjoy. Are you a tea or coffee person? And so forth . . .
R.J. Larson:  I’m a sociable introvert. In other words, I love people, but I need my quiet time. Most of my hobbies are solitary. Reading and writing top the list, but my other interests involve creating meals or gifts for others—baking, tatting, crochet, walking, and working with flowers. I also love music. Classical, worship, rock, soundtracks, and whatever my husband and kids toss at me.
I also dearly love listening to my family tell stories. My husband and brothers are avid outdoorsmen, each in their own way. While listening to them (as I’m baking or crocheting) I mentally store up their adventures for writing fodder.
Coffee or tea? Both! I love mocha—I must have at least one serving per day—and my tea cabinet is quite large and always overflowing with choices. Lately, my kids have been experimenting with iced tea mixtures; I don’t mind being a test mouse!
Hoorah for overflowing cabinets of tea! That sounds pretty much ideal. Though, this time of year, I definitely want HOT tea, not iced.
So, I'm curious . . . what led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller?
R.J. Larson: My parents unwittingly led me into the writing life. Both are wonderful storytellers! From the beginning, they surrounded me with books, and my mother often sang to us and recited poems and stories instead of turning on the television. Throughout my childhood—particularly at dinner—my father would embark on dry-voiced narratives that usually ended with zingers calculated to make me and my four brothers howl with laughter. Unfortunately, our mouths were often full of food or liquid when that final joke hit, necessitating some cleanup of the younger sibs. 
I’m also a storyteller, and I always have been, but the only way I can half-match my parents is to write instead of recite. I hope to remedy my lack of verbal storytelling skills by the time grandkids arrive.

I love storytellers! But it is nice to be able to hide behind a pen and paper, and have time to edit and perfect, isn't it? :)
I understand (from a certain among of internet stalking) that Prophet was inspired by a dream. This is so intriguing! Can you tell us a little about that?
R.J. Larson: True! My dreams have always been huge, complex, and vivid enough to worry me. In early 2010, I awoke from a rather grim dream—a frightened young woman in a dark chamber. I was particularly struck by the dream’s few details—a thin glowing branch, an ‘other-world’ mood, the young woman’s flowing garments, and her fear.
What was her life-changing decision? What was with the glowing branch? How did her story end? The questions ate at me, and Ela’s storyline blossomed. I never intended to write fantasy—I’m a history fanatic—but I couldn’t shake off Ela’s story for all the history books in the world. I abandoned my 1890’s work-in-progress to write Prophet, and I finished the initial manuscript in about six months. Looking back over the past three years, I’m still amazed. This series has been such a joy and a blessing to write!

That is very cool. What an inspiring story to other young novelists as well! Fun to see how the small seeds from which an entire novel--and entire series--can grow.
Do you find it easier or more difficult to write under contract? What difference does a deadline make to your creativity?
R.J. Larson: I love to write—I breathe to write—so a contract makes no difference as far as my weekly word count. Lack of sleep, however, is a different matter. J
Thus far, deadlines haven’t cramped my creativity, though I find that I now write with an awareness of reviews, which may or may not be a good thing. As a side note to deadlines, I also enjoy having the editors throw suggestions for unexpected twists into my storyline while they’re reviewing the initial draft. I love the challenge of unraveling and reweaving storylines to *attempt* a seamless plot.
Can you pick a favorite character from the Books of the Infinite series?

R.J. Larson: I love all of my characters. They’re all my babies, good and ‘bad’, so I had to think about this question for a few days. Kien, I think, might be my favorite. His humor, his calculating ways, and his sense of honor as he strives to follow his Creator—and Ela—have been a joy. I pieced together many of his traits while watching and listening to the guys in my life. (Guys, if you’re reading this, don’t take this as a cue to blindside me with more adventures. Warn me first?)
I'll bet your guys get a big kick out of reading your works and seeing themselves cropping up here and there in unexpected places. "Hey, look! It's me!"
What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?
R.J. Larson: Did I mention the guys in my life? I think writing is my way of dealing with a lifetime of being the token female. Also…I love my Creator! He inspires me and speeds me onward in work and in life. I’d like to think that my love for Him is lived out by my characters. On the rare occasions when I feel “blocked” I pray. And I walk, read, watch movies, listen to music, visit with others and pray some more.
I’ve also been known to scrub the kitchen floor—once!—when I couldn’t face a particularly wrenching scene.
Scrub the floor?!?!? That is some desperation. I'll bet that wrenching scene turned out pretty epic as a result, though.
So, floor-scrubbing aside, what are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
R.J. Larson: My favorite part is when I’m lost in a scene. The words are flowing, the characters are interacting and living, and the whole writing process becomes a realm unto itself—every writer’s dream!
My least favorite part of the writing process is….  Hmm. *Stumped.*
If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?

R.J. Larson: Donita K. Paul, because I enjoy her forthright feedback and her cozy fantasy plotlines—unless she’s writing about the Grawl, who is insidious enough to give me nightmares. When I read Dragonspell, I felt like a child again, ready for adventures in a fantasy world. Also, Donita has an amazing critique-eye; it’s enough to make me green-eyed with envy.

Donita is pretty much the queen of current CBA fantasy. She certainly opened up doors for the rest of us fantasy lovers.

I know King is the next book due out.  Can you tell us any exciting tidbits about it?

R.J. Larson: The action sequences just about did me in! Somehow, I always ended up writing them at midnight, then doubting myself. I’d fire off the finished scenes to my fourth brother, Joe, who fences and excels in martial arts—in addition to working in law enforcement. He (typical mindgame-playing fightmaster) would read the scenes and answer cryptically. “Yes.” “Keep going.” And, most disgusting of all, “There are many ways to skin a cat.” Augh!!! I wanted to reach through the email and attempt to shake Joe, which would have been an epic fail. I could almost hear him laughing.

However, in the last third of King, when my characters are fighting for their lives—a series of fights, actually—I sent Joe a detailed list of the weapons, props, terrain, motives, and goals, with a desperate plea: “What am I not seeing? It’s there, but it’s late and I’m too tired and too close to the scene.”

That time Joe actually offered advice, and his (brilliant!) answer went directly into Kien’s self-defense tactics. I’ll allow readers to guess the scene. Meanwhile, I owe my fightmaster a dinner out. 

I'll bet Joe is tickled pink to have his expertise go into your fiction! I'm sure your male readers will appreciate the authenticity behind it too.

What are you actively writing right now?

R.J. Larson: Right now, I’m taking a break from writing, as ordered by my family. The ‘rest’ is driving me nuts! I’m repaying them by baking and cooking and nagging them all. It won’t be long before they send me to my computer again—just as I’ve planned.  

Enjoy the break while it lasts . . . I'm sure the creativity is building up to bursting point!


Thank you so much for taking the time to feature here today. I'm sure all of my readers enjoyed learning more about you and your work!

You all can find R.J. Larson on her website:

She's also on Pintrest for you pinners out there:

And, of course, you should like her facebook page, under her writing name, R.J. Larson (author).

Now, for the exciting part . . . the giveaway! Ms. Larson has generously offered the winner of this giveaway a choice between either Prophet or Judge. So go ahead and use the Rafflecopter options below to get your name entered! And be sure to thank Ms. Larson for her time today." rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway


Shadowwolf said...

This was a wonderful interview! Thank you!! Also, thank you for the opportunity to win one of amazing author's books!!

Shadowwolf said...

R.J.Larson - What was your favorite part of writing this series?

Molly said...

Wow! I really liked this interview! I'm thinking I like Miss R.J. Larson...

Hannah said...

I'm REALLY glad you interviewed Ms. R.J. Lawson. I've had my eye on her books for a while. They have such gorgeous front covers. Ms. Lawson, I've got to ask, what is your favorite front cover?

I'm hoping these books will be in our library soon.

Thank you, Ms. Lawson, for your time, and for writing these books!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for agreeing to an interview, Ms. Larson! I'm so excited; I've been eager to read these ever since I first heard about them! :D

Now, for a question:

What is the hardest part about writing a story that combines the feel of the Old Testament--a real time with real places, etc.--with a completely new, fantastical world?


Bookishqueen said...

Ms. Larson, how do you decided what prophecies you want to use in your stories?

She Will Move Mountains said...

Do you have any more Fantasy novels in the works?

Therru Ghibli said...

Wow! Thank you so much for this interview! I've been trying hard to find some good Christian fiction for me and my sister to read and now I know who I'm looking up next!

So, what is your favorite type of scenes to write?

chappydebbie said...

Thanks for this great opportunity to win! Great interview.

Renee S said...

Sounds wonderful!

Beth said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Prophet, it was so unique!

Do you have any ideas brewing while you're on break? :)

Thank you for the interview!


Anonymous said...

Awesome interview! The Prophet is actually on my list of to read list so this makes me even more excited to read it as well as the series! I am really pumped up about King because my husband is into martial arts so I can't wait to see what kind of action were going to get! So glad to learn more about this author! :)

Clara said...

Mrs. R. J. Larson, these books sound WONDERFUL! I am going to either buy or rent Prophet this very week...this interview has my curiosity piqued. Who is Ela?? And what's her story? It's also very interesting that it was inspired by a dream. I look forward to finding out the story you wove from it!

Bethany said...

I read Prophet in 2 days and I can't wait to read Judge! How many books do you think wil be part of your series?

Emma said...

I have had the first two books on my to read list for a while now! The covers for all three are beautiful, butthe cover for King may be my favorite!! Thanks for the givaway and the interview! :)

Lauren said...

Thanks for the awesome interview!

Do you have any other tips for handling writer's block . . . short of scrubbing the floor?

Meredith said...

I loved this interview, particularly the account of the dream that inspired Prophet. That's so amazing and beautiful. God works in mysterious ways, doesn't He? Are your books available in audio formats? What are the books entitled in your Genesis series? God bless and keep up the excellent work.

Unknown said...

Shadowwolf, thank YOU! I love the name, btw! And I truly enjoy giving away books--I'm eager to see who wins, and which book the winner prefers!

Unknown said...

I have so many fave moments, from recogning Ela's story in the dream, to researching the epic beasts I presented in each book, to those late, LATE weaponry discussions with my fourth brother...I think the strategy reviews with my brother might win here! :D

Unknown said...

Yay! Thanks, Molly! I'm really enjoying meeting you all!

Unknown said...

My pleasure, Hannah!
As for my fave cover...hmm... I love all three for different reasons, but I have to admit JUDGE looks so mysterious, it's my youngest son's pick as well!

J. L. Mbewe said...

We read and discussed Prophet in our book club and it was a hit. Look forward to reading the other books, sort of. ha! Just a little apprehensive about Ela and the "gray-haired prophet" saying, not wanting to give too much away for those who haven't read it, but we did speculate a lot of what could happen.

Donita K. Paul is awesome! There really is such a great, growing field of inspirational fantasy to choose from. It's exciting. :-)

Thanks for sharing the interview with us. :-)

Unknown said...

Beka, I think the hardest part is to keep the Old Testament lessons, but to turn them on their heads, so to speak, to present our fave verses in new ways. However, it's a challenge I've truly enjoyed and prayed over with all my might.

Unknown said...

Hi, Bookishqueen! Some of the prophecies and OT storylines were ones that challenged me as a believer. I couldn't resist exploring them further, to learn the "story behind the story" so to speak. Others were old favorites that I've loved since childhood; I had to include them! Kien's storyline in JUDGE is based on one of my faves!

Unknown said...

Sarah Elizabeth! Welllllll....I have several ideas, including one OT classic with a huge twist. But I promised my family I'd take a break for a whle. Not too much longer, though. I'll start to miss the writing too much!

Unknown said...

Oh, Queen Ali, what a tough question! I have to say that I loveLoveLOVE writing epic scenes dealing with my characters' fears--and then following them with some comic relief. Rather like Shakespeare's clowns. ;)

Unknown said...

Woot! Chaplaindebbie! Blessings, and glad you enjoyed the interview--I've tried to behave with decorum for Anne Elisabeth--she's been such a gracious hostess!

Unknown said...

Aww... Thanks, Renee!

Unknown said...

Hooray! Beth, thanks--I'm glad you enjoyed PROPHET; I couldn't believe how much fun I had while writing it--once I recovered from the shock of stumbling into a fantasy realm. LOL!

Unknown said...

Hi, Lora!!! Thanks, and glad to know that you'll haul your husband into the adventure! :D

Unknown said...

Good evening Clara!
Ela is the main character of PROPHET. She is asked by her beloved Creator, the Infinite, to serve as His prophet, though she knows she will die young. "A silver-haired prophet has failed."

Unknown said...

Hi, Bethany! I hope you enjoy JUDGE. :D Right now, only three books are planned, but I could certainly write more!

Unknown said...

You're most welcome, Emma! I love the colors and the stormy ocean behind Akabe--and I'm eager to see who wins the giveaway!

Hannah said...

I have to admit, Ms. Lawson, that the "Judge" front cover is my favorite too. "King" is also really magnificent, but there is that air of mystery about "Judge". Plus, I love the scenrey...mountains and evergreens.

Just from hearing about Kien, I suspect he will be my favorite character in your books when I read them. : )

Unknown said...

Hi, Lauren! I get ideas flowing with dramatic music, a brisk walk, or--odd as it sounds--reading a thesaurus, or classic poems. Anything to send my thought patterns flying.
Another thing that having no time to write. For some reason, I'm hit with all sorts of ideas when I'm rushung around. Strange, eh? :)

Unknown said...

Hi, Meredith!
Thank you--and, yes, He is forever amazing!!!!!
All three books will be available in audio formats, and the narrator, Brooke Sanford Heldmen did an awesome job with the charactors. They fight, you know. The characters, I mean. ;)
The Genesis Trilogy consists of:
The Heavens Before (Noah's Flood)
He Who Lifts the Skies (Nimrod and his kingdom)
A Crown in the Stars (Tower of Babel.)

Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement!

Unknown said...

Aw...Jennette, I hope you're not TOO apprehensive. :) What fun to know that your book club kicked around ideas concerning Ela, and the sayings of Parne's Elders.
Donita IS amazing!!! And, I should mention another author whose works I enjoy--she wrote Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and (soon!) Dragonwitch! I'm hearing rumors of a sixth book. Shadowhand!

Unknown said...

Hannah, Kien is quite the character--fun, even when he's being serious.
The cover of JUDGE reminded my guys of The Lord of the Rings--the colors, the mountains--everything! I whooped like a kid when I saw it. :)

Unknown said...

Anne Elisabeth, thank you for inviting me to your blog! Your readers are delightful!!! Thank you, all!!!!

Jasmine A. said...

I loved reading Prophet! I am not usually a fantasy fan but Prophet got me hooked! I am impatient to read the next 2 books so in the meantime I will be reading and enjoying my e-book copy of Heartless.
Blessings to both of you and keep up the good work!
Jasmine A.

Unknown said...

When I first saw, Prophet, it was on my local library's "new" shelf. the back "blurb" intrigued me, so naturally, it came home...and I polished that book off in two evenings (and a bit of the day in between. ;) ) RJ, you instantly became my favorite writer <3 [hug] and I love that we have so many things in common (except I'm not much of a writer, lol).

Can hardly wait for King!
Blessings to you and your guys, and I look forward to meeting you someday in real life (or when life gets even more real!)
Robin D.

Unknown said...

PS. what's your favorite verse? (at the moment) <3

PPS I can't wait to read what comes after King, either! (new series? ;))

PPPS, what's up with "needing" the ebook and the print book in my collection? lol

Unknown said...

We read Prophet for my book group a while back and I loved it!

Unknown said...

Jasmine, it's okay that you're not usually a fantasy fan; until recently, I wasn't a fantasy author! *Smiles.* Thanks!
Hey, have you read Starflower yet??? :o <3

I'm eager to read Patrick Carr's A CAST OF STONES

Unknown said...

Robin, I like your description, " naturally, it came home..." Reminds me of, "Hey, Mom, this followed me home!"
I'll be working on KING today--I was SO happy to see the galley (edited manuscript) arrive. :)

Unknown said...

PS: Psalm 63:1 <3!!!
PPS: I'm not sure yet, but I'm sure it'll be an adventure!
PPPS: *confesses* I have a few books in multiple formats. Perfectly normal. At least...that's what I tell myself when I buy them! :D

Meredith said...

Thank you, Mrs. Larson, for letting me know the books are available in audio formats. That's fantastic and a rarity. There are so many Christian fantasy authors whose books I want to read, but they aren't available in accessible formats. I really appreciate that you have insured that your books will be available for those with print disabilities. God bless you.

Brittany Nader said...

Thank you for featuring Mrs. R.J.! She is one of my very favorite people and her writing brings tears to my eyes. Thank you R.J. for continuing to be an inspiration to me :)

Unknown said...

Aaron, thanks for letting me know! One lf my goals with this series was to write balanced plotlines that would allow guys and gals to enjoy the stories while they searched for Biblical parallels. Great for book groups!

Unknown said...

Meredith, I was so happy to learn that Ela's story would be available in audio. A different publisher told me that the audio companies choose which books to record. Sometimes, audio rights aren't requested for years, and a company will suddenly opt to buy them. Often, the author hasn't a clue that rights have been sold until a recording or translation lands on the doorstep! *Surprise for author.*

Unknown said...

Brittany--yay!!!! You are one of my fave readers! Hope you are enjoying your studies and work--and that you're taking time to play!!! YOU inspire me! :D

Imblest said...

Anne Elisabeth and Ms. Lawson, thank you for such a wonderful interview! I felt like I was sitting and talking with the two of you in person, sharing a pot of tea of course! My daughter is the writer in our family, and I love to "hear" what such godly writers as yourselves have to say on the subject. I'm sure our God is using you to encourage her on her writing journey for His glory.

I'm really looking forward to reading this series. Is it best to read in the order that you wrote them?

Take care and our Lord's blessings,

Rae said...

I've seen these books on Amazon before, and they really intrigued me! Fantasy + Old Testament!! The Old Testatament is so epic, there should really be more novels out there inspired by it than there are. I really want to put your books on my summer reading list, but first I wanted to ask what age they are recommended for. I find that there are so many amazing YA books out there, but there are some which, as a young teenager, I shouldn't be reading quite yet. Can I probably read these books now, or should I wait until I'm a little older?

Thanks for hosting this interview, Anne Elizabeth! :)

Unknown said...

Hi, Becky! I've heard from a number of people who found JUDGE first and read it before PROPHET with no problem. Most readers, however, are telling others to start with PROPHET :)

Thank you, and have a blessed, amazing Tuesday!

Unknown said...

Hi, Rae! Bethany House officially recommends ages fifteen and up, but I've heard from quite a few parents, who are reading it with their pre-teens. The Kindle version offers sample chapters. :) Hope this helps!

Rae said...

Thanks! Well, these will be on my reading list then. :) I can't wait!

The cover for "Judge" reminds me very much of the Lord of the Rings. I saw it and immediately thought, "Aragorn!" :P

Rebecca said...

I've had my eye on these books for a while now, but they are now officially on my reading list. Library here I come!

I noticed that you really like music and that soundtracks made your list. Do you have a favorite? I have an entire playlist of soundtracks that I call my "Writing Playlist." I simply have to have it nearby in order to get into the creative zone and am always keeping my ears open for more. :)

The Alpha Jan said...

Hello R.J. I am a fellow author like yourself and I am very interested in your books. I keep seeing them in my local Family Christian store. If there is just one sentence you can use to pitch your book for my interest, what would it be?

The Alpha Jan

NatureFairy said...

Thanks for the interview. I won Judge in a contest, and I enjoyed reading it very much. I can't wait till I can read Prophet and till King comes out.

JoJo said...

Hi!!!! I'm super excited about this series!!!
My question is...
What genre or topic would terrify you to have to write???

J. L. Mbewe said...

Aaron! Hi! :-)

Oh yes, Ms. Larson, I have to agree. The author of Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower and all the ones to come, takes the cake. LOVE her books. ;-)

Now, about Ela, I'm thinking there's gotta be a way around the saying. *fingers crossed* :-)

Courtney said...

I read both these books and enjoyed them. I guess a question I have is how much will Ela and Kien be in the next novel? Is it going to be 3 different perspectives now?

Unknown said...

My family thought--and said--the same thing. :D

Unknown said...

Hi, Rebecca!
I don't have an official favorite soundtrack, but I do love THE MISSION (starring Jeremy Irons) which I've had for years and still listen to often.

You're so right--music is great for setting a mood while writing different scenes!

Unknown said...

Hey, Alpha Jan!
Here it is: "If she becomes the Infinite's prophet, Ela Roeh knows she will die young--yet she cannot imagine living without Him.
It's always a challenge to pare down an entire synopsis and fit it into one sentence! Hope I succeeded!

Unknown said...

NatureFairy, that's awesome! I never win contests, so I enjoy arranging giveaways! It'll be fun to see who wins this one! :)

Unknown said...

I'm afraid whenever I write any Biblical fiction. Above all, my goal is to honor the Lord's Word, and my fear is to fail readers in conveying the truth through my writing. I pray over each book, and bite my nails through the whole writing process--and I love every second of the work! :)

Unknown said...

Hi, Jennette!

Without resorting to spoilers, I can tell you that I considered a number of options and I hope you approve of my final decision--your own opinion will play into the storyline!

Unknown said...

Hi, Courtney!
You guessed it! Book three is Akabe's story, with lots of input from his most trusted friends, Ela and Kien. Plus one new character who is crucial to their story. My editors and I are being very careful with each scene to avoid confusion--we're working through the galleys right now, and clarity is top priority. :)

Unknown said...

These books sound so unique! I don't think I've ever heard of a book set in an alternate world during this time period!

RJLarsonbooks said...

Lacee, I haven't found anything else set in a Biblical era alternate world--though I'd love to read one if it appears. I'm watching for a similar title!!! :D