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Interview with R.M. Krogman

She is an epic and dark fantasy author from Iowa, U.S.A. Her debut novel Liberation is the first volume of a larger story set in Midgate, a medieval-inspired world of magic, mermaids, and wyverns. She loves nature, art, and food, which all funnel into her world-building. Her story’s settings span two continents and the sea between, encompassing a diversity of peoples, cultures, and creatures. 

She is working on a collection of recipes from Midgate, and she loves drawing scenes and characters from the books (although those sketches may never see the light of day). She will never apologize for describing a tree, as she finds trees to be fascinating and far more alive than they get credit for.

When she’s not writing about Midgate, she’s penning fairy tale retellings. She enjoys mixing familiar pieces from many tales together and may one day reveal to you her Tinderbox Princess series.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
In addition to being an author, I am a fisheries biologist, basically a marine biologist who works in freshwater. I do a lot of math and writing, and when I’m lucky, I get muddy and slimy. I love doing everything outside, ranging from hunting to foraging and survival.

Q.2 What inspired you to write The Keepers of Midgate series?
I came up with the core concept of The Keepers of Midgate back in high school. I had been writing a little bit of fanfiction based on Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, but despite my love for it, I was frustrated by working in someone else’s world. Then the idea came to me, a basic concept of a man kept from his crown, his path to vengeance, and the rise of a terrifying madness that threatens all of society. It grew rapidly with the addition of a woman, a nemesis, and so on. Once it hatched inside my brain, it took over, and I haven’t thought of much else since.

Q.3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Absolutely! My debut novel Liberation is already out, and a novella, Myrmaiden, is launching in November. Although it is a prequel, it is meant to be read between Liberation and the second novel, Sundering

It can also be read on its own, which you may want to do because it’s all about mermaids. I am about 2/3 of the way through editing Sundering and plan to release it sometime this winter (maybe March 2024).

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I don’t find it too difficult to write characters of the opposite sex. In the end, they’re all people with personalities, agendas, and core beliefs. Those beliefs are often set by society through mores, and if you know what kind of propaganda they’ve been taught to believe about themselves, you can predict how they’ll act.

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I am definitely a planner. Writing epic fantasy, you benefit from having a decent idea of where you’re going; otherwise, it’s really easy to get lost. How much definition does all of it have before pen hits paper…that can change from writer to writer. 

I have a general plan for the entire epic trilogy, but very few details are worked out until I get closer to working on a particular book. For instance, I know what major turning points exist, where the characters will be, and what themes are conveyed in each book. However, I don’t lay out a scene-by-scene plan until I’m actually working on a particular book. 

Then I organize in full detail what each point-of-view character’s journey looks like throughout the book, and I map their arcs in relation to each other on a visual board. I use that scene outline to start writing, and once or twice during writing, I will return to the outline to see if anything needs to be redirected.

Q.6 How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
It takes me about one year to draft a 750-page novel, then another 3 months or so to do a developmental edit. I have a professional editor take a look after that, which takes about 2 months, and then it takes me about 1 month to fix things up from them. All in all, a doorstop novel takes about a year and a half to produce. 

However, I break some of this up with other work, so I can keep making progress on other projects. For example, I fully drafted and edited a novella between the big novel draft and the developmental edit. That only took a month. It gives my brain a little serotonin boost, knowing I actually finished something. Then, when one big novel is with the professional editor, I focus solely on plotting the next big novel.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
I wake up early every day and write for about 2 hours before the day job. I try to work extra hard so that I can take Friday off and just write all morning. I also tend to write on weekend mornings until lunch, but I don’t set goals on those days because so many other things are scheduled on weekends. 

I try to focus on just writing during all of those times, although it is almost impossible to avoid social media. If all goes to plan, I do all of my marketing and other tasks in the evening when I would otherwise just be sitting on the couch.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
If I didn’t have my day job as well, I would be an artist. I love most creative activities, but especially drawing, painting, and ceramic glazing. I’m not particularly good at them, but they bring me almost as much happiness as writing.

Q.9 Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I suppose I try to deliver to other readers what I would want. The Keepers of Midgate is the kind of epic fantasy I want to read, with diverse characters all fighting their own internal and external battles, a complex world rife with problems but blessed with the power to change it, and a combination of magic, tragedy, violence, and moments of hope and sweetness. I love most of the classic fantasy tropes, but I also like to subvert a few of them to keep readers on their toes.

Q.10 It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. Tell us about your marketing campaign?
My marketing so far is mostly social media-driven, although I plan to invest in more advertising once I have more books out (so people can binge them). On social media, I strive to provide enticing snippets from the books, aesthetics, and summaries of what to expect, and regular writing updates to keep people excited. 

I also strive to promote other books in my genre, review epic and high fantasy, and support indie fantasy authors. I think community is really important, and finding your community is essential to a successful marketing campaign later on.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
The myrpeople in my books are amazing. Not only can they transform between land and water, but their culture is one of proud warriors. They esteem honor and justice above all else, and they ride sharks and whales into battle.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
I think I would invite Thordrin, the assassin. He would easily have the most entertaining stories, half of them being true, and he would potentially make dessert interesting.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
Characters with a lot of souls who have been through a lot of things and handle them in different ways, diverse settings that include the traditional medieval but are not limited to it, and several incredibly emotional scenes that will tug at your heart

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
A. Tan
, Taiuki’s younger brother. He is so charismatic, so na├»ve to the darkness of the world, and so hopeful for a better future. He pretty much always makes me laugh.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
The incredible Eva at Celebril Art designed my book cover. She is a fantasy artist, one of many that I follow on ArtStation and DeviantArt. Her work has always caught my eye due to her use of color and perspective. 

She is great at conveying emotion and ambiance, and her body positions and expressions always look natural. She was so friendly from the start and ended up being a pleasure to work with!

Q.16 How do you select the names of your characters?
They tend to name themselves. I usually see what they look like first, and then a name settles on them that suits them.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I know I shouldn’t, but yes, I do. I don’t respond, though, good or bad. The reader has every right to think what they think about my books, and it’s really not my place to tell them otherwise. I think the biggest action I could take is re-aligning my marketing campaign if the books seem to be falling into the wrong audience’s hands. 

My writing has a lot of darker content, dealing with mature topics in a world that is ugly with human mistakes. If a reader isn’t looking for that, they would be pretty upset, and I don’t want anyone to feel that way just because they were expecting something else.

Q.18 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite among them?
I have written and published two and written two more. I don’t know if I can say anyone is my favorite because they all tie together, but I suppose I have annotated most lines in Liberation.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in dark horror or fantasy (or both!) you are excited about? What are you reading right now?
I’ve really enjoyed the recent work of Jessica A. McMinn and am looking forward to reading her new novel, The Ruptured Sky. I also just read Daughter of the Beast by E.C. Greaves and thought it was pretty good, and the sequel just came out this summer. 

There are probably a hundred books on my wishlist that fall into dark and high fantasy, including those by H.M. Long, C.D. McKenna, J.D.L. Rosell, Tim Frankovich, Rob J. Hayes, A.P. Beswick, Kate Schumacher, Ryan Cahill, and Michael R. Miller. I am currently reading Knights of the Alliance by Stefanie Chu.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
My writing journey really began in late 2020, although I dabbled in creative writing before that and writing constantly for my day job. I hadn’t really pursued making my world of Midgate a reality, though; I hadn’t put in the real work. I talked about it, thought about it, drew pictures, made maps, and jotted notes about it. But I didn’t actually do it. Why? Crippling fear of failure.

Like so many others, I was afraid that what I made wouldn’t be as good as what was in my head and that people wouldn’t like it. Then, my husband called me out and demanded the book. After all, he couldn’t read it until I wrote it, right? I had to make a decision: to live my life regretting who I wished I was and pining after the lost opportunities or to embrace the scariest, most intimidating project I had ever faced. I chose the latter, and I have never looked back.

It took a lot to get from there to here. It required serious discussion of how I balance my time, boundaries, flexibility, and financial investment into something that may never pay back. Is it a job? Is it a hobby? Is it a business? 

It takes dedication, patience, and faith in yourself that, while you may not be perfect, you can be better. It takes grace for yourself and for others who are likely trying their best to give you helpful feedback, even if they’re not very good at it. It takes endurance because almost no one becomes an overnight bestseller.

Writing makes me happy.

I think that’s the crux of my journey so far. I may not be a NYT Bestseller or Tor’s newest recruit, but I’m not writing for them. I write because my soul needs it. I write because I love telling stories, and I hope others enjoy those stories as much as I do.

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