Your Ad Spot

Interview with J.D. Ruffin

He is the author of multiple bestselling novels, including the epic fantasy Kingdom War series. Ironically, he never really enjoyed reading until a friend loaned him a dog-eared copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. From that day, he was hooked, discovering fantasy authors Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Goodkind, and many others.

Becoming an author was never part of the master plan, but as a fourteen-year-old bespeckled and freckled boy, J.D. and his friends would gather around the D&D dice for hours, the trading reality for fantasy, if only in their minds. In his quest to “stump his friends” with an impossible campaign, he dreamed up a storyline that captured his imagination.

Then… well… nothing happened. He grew up and went to work in a completely different world. Too many years later, that story pulled at the corner of his mind, demanding to be heard… to be written. Hence, an author was born.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I was a high school and collegiate basketball official for twenty years. Yeah, I was the guy in stripes everyone loved to hate. Fun times.

Q.2 What inspired you to write The Kingdom War series?
It all started with friends playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was barely a teenager. Decades later, I was sitting at home during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, bored, and the story I’d dreamed up many years earlier flooded my mind. 

I only wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it, but a neighbor’s young daughter began reading a copy of the manuscript I’d left on a side table and begged for the second book. That was the first time I realized writing might be my calling.

Q.3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Oh, yes. There are 5 books in the Kingdom War series, all releasing this summer. I am also working on several smaller novels within the Kingdom War universe to give each of the main characters a spotlight/deeper backstory. In addition, book 2 in the Isles of Jade & Fire series should release by the end of the year.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
This is no different than writing characters of different races, religious upbringings, cultures, etc. Our perspectives are different. As hard as I might try to put myself in a woman's shoes, it is impossible to truly understand what she would feel in various situations. When you layer societal expectations with personal experiences, this becomes exponentially more challenging.

I am very lucky to have a great team of beta readers, many of whom are female, who check me on everything. I can't tell you how many emails I've received from Betas that began, "A girl would never say something like..."

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I always have an endpoint in mind, where I want the book or story to wrap up. I spend a lot of time plotting out the story, chapter by chapter, before ever writing anything, but once I've started typing, the chapters evolve and change. Sometimes they split into several chapters; other times, they vanish altogether. I usually know the main points in a chapter but rarely plot out more than highlights. I've tried being more structured, but the writing felt forced. It needs room to breathe and grow.

Q.6 How long, on average, does it takes you to write a book?
That depends. If it’s the first in a series, it takes a lot longer, maybe four to six months. For the second book and beyond, where the world and characters are already established, I can usually produce a manuscript in two or three months, sometimes less if life cooperates and the juices are flowing.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
I write in sprints, generally three or four one-hour blocks each day. In between, I'll work on marketing or other writing-related activities. I've tried writing straight through the day but found my brain runs out of creativity without breaks.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I spent twenty years working in the financial industry. It was a great career, but I'm not sure I would want to go back to it now. Honestly, I hope I never have to answer that question!

Q.9 Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Anyone who hopes to make a living in this craft has to do both. If you completely ignore the market, what readers like and want, no one will buy your books. On the other hand, if you feel no connection to your characters or story because you're only writing what others expect, that will translate into your story and the writing will suffer. This is probably the most delicate balance for any author.

Q.10 It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. Tell us about your marketing campaign?
Like many authors, I have a love-hate relationship with marketing. It’s critical, but it’s also incredibly challenging, especially as the indie market becomes further saturated.

I utilize all of the primary marketing channels: email, social media, and paid ads on Bookbub, Facebook, Amazon, etc. There is no single marketing effort that works. You have to do them all and continue refining your efforts as the market changes and shifts.

I think an author’s greatest ability when it comes to marketing is flexibility. Those who get stuck using only one tool ends up getting left behind when that tool loses favor with readers.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I always loved the Elves. They're insanely intelligent, long-lived, and possess a grace, a beauty that's unmatched by the other races. The little boy in me loves how they're really fast and great with bows.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
That’s a really tough question. I think I see a bit of myself in every character I write. It would be hard to really empathize with their plight if I didn’t.

In The Kingdom War, I’d say Declan. He’s a bit of a lost soul, but he’s also funny and outgoing. He would probably have me laughing throughout the entire dinner.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
A. 1.
Authentic characters. I write characters who feel like people we know. They have flaws. They make mistakes and stupid decisions. They pay for their stupidity with real-world consequences. By the end of a book, I want a reader to feel something about each character. Whether they like or hate them, the readers should have some kind of emotional connection.

2. A fun story with forward momentum. Every book needs backstory and worldbuilding, but they can't bog down the pacing of an action-packed adventure.

3. Humor. I've tried to write serious books. They didn't work. My characters joke and tease. Their banter helps make them relatable. The books are by no means comedies, but humor is a critical element to most of my characters.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
I love side characters almost more than main characters. They give the story (and the MCs) texture. One of my favorites in Heir of Magic is Atikus. He's an affable old mage whose obsession with food follows him everywhere. He's one of those characters who is impossible to dislike. He makes you smile.

In the second book in this series, Ungifted, Orla is definitely my favorite side character. She's perky, snarky, clever, and ends up playing a critical role in the overall series arc. She was an absolute blast to write.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
. They were recommended to me by a few other authors. I was skeptical about working with a team halfway around the world, but MIBL has been amazing. The communication with their team is excellent, and their artists are brilliant.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
I would love to tell you there is a mystical process where a magic hat chooses and decrees names that become sacred, but the truth is far less enticing. They just pop into my head. Sometimes, I'll use names of friends (or less than friends who end up having a rough life in the book), or I might use a random name generator online, giving it a theme or race, or other information. There's rarely any meaning or significance behind character names.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I won’t lie and say I don’t read them or that they don’t bother me. No one likes to take the hits, but they’re part of the gig. Three-star reviews can be very instructive. They tend to be the most objective. Those below three stars tend to either be unhappy readers who just don’t like anything or someone who simply isn’t into what I write, which is okay. I have my favorite and least favorite genres and tropes. I won’t necessarily ding anyone with bad reviews, but I get where people are coming from.

Q.18 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
As of this interview, I’ve completed 17 books. Among my fantasies, Shadow of War, the third book in the Kingdom War series, is probably my favorite. It’s compelling and emotional. I immersed myself in that world while writing that book.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!) you are excited about? What are you reading right now?
There are a few indie authors I'm really excited about. Michael R. Miller has put a new spin on dragons and dragon relationships with humans. I loved his latest series and look forward to more. Michael Webb and Glen Dahlgren are two other emerging indie authors with fun books out.

On the traditional side, Joe Abercrombie is a master writer. I've been working my way through his books, mostly in audio. Listening to his style, the way he describes people and places without ever really describing them is simply genius. I learn more from his writing than anyone I've read in a long time.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
Writing is a passion, but it’s also work. To grow in our craft and to be successful, we have to work at it every day. Some days we’re on fire and words flow easily. On other days, like with any job, we have to push through and just get it done.

My favorite part about being an author isn’t anything I expected when I began this journey. It’s the reader interaction. Emails and messages from readers make me think or laugh, or both. They really are the highlight of my days. Hearing that something I created touched someone is special and something I treasure.

Share your social account links -
Facebook -
LinkedIn -
Instagram -
Twitter -

No comments:

Post a Comment