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Interview with JR Konkol

A classical pianist and marginal triathlete, J.R. Konkol is permitted to live in the sprawling home of four very large cats. He published his first table top RPG, Of gods and Men, in the early 90s and has been running games within that setting ever since. He recently returned to writing to share those stories with a broader audience.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I switched my major from Music to English because I couldn’t stay awake during performances of Chamber Music. To this day, it puts me to sleep.

Q.2 What inspired you to write the Rebirth of the Fallen series?
As difficult as it is to discuss, I wrote much of Citadel of the Fallen at the bedside, in the hospital. My wife passed in 2019 after a long struggle. Seeing life's fragility finally forced me to push through my procrastination and fears and finally start writing.

Q. 3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Book 5 of my Rebirth of the Fallen series will be published on 8-3-2023. The next thing I’m working on is book 6. While I certainly have ideas for another series, my readers deserve 100% of my attention on this series right now.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Tackling difficult issues from a perspective outside of my own privilege. We all embody Anima and Animus aspects within our spirits, and I’m both blessed and cursed to be strongly tied to both sides of mine. 

However, I’ve lived my life as an assigned male and with all the privilege that comes with that. There have been a few places in my writing where I’ve needed to step back and consider how my characters would be treated differently than I have been. It’s never a comfortable headspace to be in.

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
Writing a long, serial-style series, from multiple points of view, I very much plan my storylines. I don’t like the planner versus ‘pantser’ comparisons. I prefer to think of it as the architect versus the gardener.

In my case, while I started very much as a strict architect, I’ve rather taken to letting many of my plants grow on their own. I simply give the trellises to guide and control the directions in which they grow.

Q.6 How long, on average, does it takes you to write a book?
I’ve been trying to keep to a six to a nine-month release schedule. Fortunately, I built much of the narrative arc of my series years ago, so now I just need to tell the story. It allows me to write more quickly than other writers.

Since my series is relatively young, I feel it is very important to demonstrate a consistent pace to my readers. We’ve seen too many fantasy series die on the vine, as it were.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
It’s challenging. My best creative time is in the mornings, so I try to get up most mornings before 5AM. This gives me time to practice piano and write.

During the day, on breaks, lunches, and in between tasks, I refine my thoughts here and there. After work, I often edit what I write during the day. It’s an exhausting way to do things, but it’s productive.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would spend more time on my music.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I wrote and published several role-playing games prior to starting the novels, but as for the novels, I just turned in the manuscript for book 5 of my series a few days ago. I think the book I just turned in, which will be entitled, The Sundered City, is my favorite.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing? Tell us about your marketing campaign?
Marketing has been a struggle for me. I have a strong relationship with the Geekshock Podcast, which has been helpful, and I, of course, lean on my publisher, Black Rose Writing, to whatever extent I can. I have recently branched out and started exploring the much wider blog, website, and podcast ecosystem.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
If we are sticking to the traditional races, as much I want to say Elf, I’m going to say, Dwarf. I’m thick and stocky, and despite that, I completed a full-distance Ironman event. I guess that means I’m stubborn. I guess that means I’m a dwarf.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
Raelyn. You probably need to read the books to understand why, but her blend of strength and vulnerability is touching.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
Fast-paced action, a fair bit of gore, an in-depth world that continually expands, and a very emotional story. I guess that’s four things, but I felt I really needed to warn you about the gore.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
Since I write through multiple PoVs, there is a blurring of lines between what is a supporting character and the main character. I’m pretty careful to evenly split time between the majority of my point of view characters. So, given that distinction, Attia. She was my late wife’s character in the role-playing game I based this series.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
A. David King
does the cover designs for Black Rose Writing. It’s a collaborative process. I suggest images from a web-based image repository. He comes up with a cover. I criticize and request alterations. He sends a compromise and back and forth until we reach an agreement.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
I have little difficulty with character names. I’ve orchestrated and run role-playing games for decades. After a while, creating secondary characters becomes second nature.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I skim them. If I see a long review, good or bad, I read that and try to process what’s being said. If the review is short, I take it as a passing opinion and try to move on. It certainly will make me feel good or bad, mind you. I’m deeply affected by reviews. I simply don’t see a value in dwelling on a review unless the reviewer took the time to craft a complete message.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Frederic Chopin
. I’m a classical pianist. That should be reason enough.

Q.19 Are you excited about any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!)? What are you reading right now?
I just finished the Expanse series, which I enjoyed quite a lot. I’m currently waiting, like many,  I suspect, for the end of the Dresden Files and for book three from Patrick Rothfuss.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
My experience has been bittersweet. When I started this series, my wife was still alive. Even though book 1 wouldn’t be published until much later, I was writing the first chapters of book 2 when I took her off life support.

So much has happened in my life since I started this series; it’s hard to fathom how different my life was before I started. In many ways, writing was my therapy. It was the thing I forced myself to do every day until the skies gradually grew brighter.

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