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Interview with N. M. Rudolph

He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in Bonn, Germany. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and teaches a great range of subjects at Gamut Academy. He has dabbled in music, painting, programming, and more. He is the author of three books.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I don’t know how young I was: single digits at most. I drew a picture of a hand giving another hand some money in front of a city skyline. I barely remember the details now. I think I did it for an art class. 

My childhood self tried hard, but it was such a janky picture. Somehow, it was submitted to an art competition, and I won! I walked across some stage, got a plaque, and had my picture in some newspaper. Good times.

Q.2 What inspired you to write Meadowvale?
Growing up, I read much of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. I started a story inspired mainly by his talking animals. I had begun so many projects besides it, but that was the one that had the most significant word count by the time I decided I would officially commit to completing a novel.

Q.3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Most assuredly! I’m currently in the editing stage of my next novel. Keep your eyes on the horizon for Michael the Traveler, a story about a young stablehand at a monastery who discovers too late that his vivid dreams are really him traveling to other worlds.

Q.4 What is the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A. Neil Gaiman
said, “As far as I’m concerned, any success I have achieved as a writer of fiction I have achieved because I’m an honest writer of fiction because my people are real people because you care about them.” 

I’ve never thought to write so-and-so as a “male” and so-and-so as a “female.” Sometimes, I’m just channeling someone from my life into a character. Most of the time, I’m just yanking parts of my own heart and clothing them as characters.

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
All of the above! For Meadowvale, I started with a few chapters before I developed a loose outline of the rest of the story. Then, I followed it pretty closely after that. With Michael the Traveler, it was sheer chaos from start to finish. 

My understanding of each character developed as I wrote them, and I surprised myself with a bunch of plot twists throughout. I have an outline for another series that I’ve been crafting for years, and it will likely be well-defined from start to finish.

Q.6 How long, on average, does it takes you to write a book?
If we count all the long pauses in the midst of writing each novel, roughly 10 years! But I’m developing better habits and more focus. The main impediment now is simply other responsibilities, but I’ll be able to write my next book in less than 10 years for sure.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
These days, my writing time is devoted to marketing current work. When I’m in writing mode, I spend most mornings writing. I start around 9 and aim for 1000 words before I count it as a writing day.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would be sad, but I do have a lot of other hobbies and skills I love. I started my adult life as a high school math teacher, which I still do to some extent. I might do something with the software. I might become some kind of craftsman. There are too many options. My current dream is to have them all anyway.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
Only two books are complete. I love them both, but I’ll choose Meadowvale as my favorite. It’s very approachable, with a familiar plot and a lot of charming characters.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
Jeepers and a half. Marketing is a lifelong question. If only it were as simple as just writing books! My marketing campaign includes everything from generic Instagram posts to book signings at coffee shops, from paid ads to talking about it whenever I get a chance. I’m starting to think I need to get more ridiculous. My last crazy idea was rolling around with a little suitcase full of my books with a big sign that said, “Buy my books!”

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
Goodness gracious, there are too many options! But I’m going to choose Dragonborn from Dungeons & Dragons. They’re unique enough to stand out even in the D&D realm, but they’re also generally well respected. Plus, fire breath is always fun.

Q. 12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
I would want to have Lapresi over from Michael the Traveler. She’s the keeper of the eternal resting places, so she’s a bit separated from our world, which means she’d have a lot of exciting things to say and ask. She also embodies a great fusion of kindness and intensity, so it’d be inspiring to chat with her regardless of what she says.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
Imagination, emotion, and banter.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
A. Jaislyn Shu
. She was just supposed to be one soldier in a futuristic setting, but when I presented her, she had a picture of her and her dad taped inside her battleship. It was this brief, heartfelt moment that inspired me to write her backstory, where I discovered her poor family. 

Her father, a mechanic, was such a kind, loving man. She lost him at a young age, which inspired her to become a mechanic herself, but it also made her bitter. I don’t know how far I want to go with her story, but she always stands out in my mind.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
A. Kateryna Vitkovska
! I forget what I searched on Instagram: something like “animal illustrations.” I scrolled through a bunch of accounts, and hers was the one that had what I was looking for. I don’t know if illustrators are just like this, but she’s very kind, and I love the cover she made for me!

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
Oh, jeepers. For Meadowvale, I have no idea where I got the name Werbel, but it appeared all those years ago, and now he’s one of the main characters. Allison was named after a girl who dated one of my older brothers. She was like a sister to me, and I tried to imbue my rabbit Allison with some of her kindness. Mary just seemed like a strong mother’s name. Jared was a bit too common, so I turned him into Jalek. The same goes for Brian, so I turned that into Brind. 

I wanted the lizards’ names to be just barely readable, so I imagined what sounds a reptile would make if he could speak: Chirrratka, Rrraktotrrraka, Korrrba, etc. One of the main characters in Michael the Traveler is named Thaveid, which I literally got from jamming the words “what have I done” together: whaTHAVEIDone. There are so many methods. At this point, I keep a vast spreadsheet of names from all kinds of sources.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Surely! I’ve received no bad ones yet, but that’s only because I haven’t gotten many. I think I’ll be just fine with bad ones, though. At this point in my career, I’m a mix of confident and arrogant. For the most part, however, I’m just trying to view it like a job. There are good days and bad days. There are happy customers and angry customers. Just keep typing.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. C. S. Lewis
. He wrote many of my favorite books, so I’d want to glean his author's wisdom. He also seemed like a fantastic, witty man, and I’d love just to spend time with him.

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?
I discovered Brandon Sanderson a couple years ago! I’m reading through his Stormlight Archive series. Each book is relatively long: roughly 400k words. However, I never get tired of them. 

Sanderson (along with his large team) has put so much work into each book that reading them is always engaging. I would want to do it on a smaller scale, but I definitely hope to learn from his style.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
Besides all the minutiae about stories and characters and whatnot, I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an author is that you have to ignore most people. It sounds so spiky, but many people struggle to understand what goes into writing. Thus, they think it caring to tell you that writing won’t work out. They love you, love them back, but ignore all the naysaying. 

My own personal experiences started off perfectly pleasant. I was a kid in grade school, and writing essays was relatively easy. Young adulthood saw my writing passion squashed for a few years. With some combination of desperation and a reasonable dose of growing up, I learned how to balance writing with other responsibilities. I also learned how to pick and choose my input-givers. 

Once I was able to rise above all the angst, it became a challenging but straightforward path. It’s one more job (though I love it). Like any other profession, it requires hard work, focus, marketing, and a constant desire to improve and grow. Nowadays, I’m known by my friends as a writer, and it’s a title I carry with joy!

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