Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona! My name is RobRoy McCandless, I write as R.A. McCandless and I’m turning 44 this year.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Originally, Salt Lake City, Utah, but currently I live in Southern California.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was born under a wandering star that eventually led to a degree in Communications and English with an emphasis on creative writing. I have three boys who love to wrestle and one wife who puts up with my writing. On weekends, I’m using battling sprinklers.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My first book TEARS OF HEAVEN in the Flames of Perdition series was just re-publisher by Zumaya (thanks Liz!). The second book, HELL BECOMES HER will release late September, and I’m very pleased to report to your readers that the third and final book COMPANY OF THE DAMNED was finished this week. We’ll look for a late 2017 or early 2018 release.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in telling stories. Only recently, about the last ten years or so, have I really started to learn the “how” of a good story well-told.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was eleven or twelve I co-wrote a stage play with my friend Danny, called “The Day the Robots Made Time Stand Still”. I still have the original copy. Due to creative differences, it was never performed. But after finishing that, I considered myself a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had an image of a character, she was a near-immortal and couldn’t die from age or disease—only violence. She was angry about something, and she fed that anger through an addiction to heroin. She was a creature of violence, and so she needed to be channeled and contained. I decided that she would hunt demons and I started doing research on the subject. I stumbled across a Bible verse that talked about the Nephilim, half-angel half-mortals who were “giants among men” and I knew what my story was going to be about.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
One of the key themes of the book is that Del, the main character, is doomed from her birth to the line of work she’s in—she has to fight demons. It’s a good thing that she does, but she rails against the constraints placed on her. She doesn’t want to be forced to do anything, and yet she would probably hunt down demons anyhow if she was given the choice. The idea that these creatures were unexpected and were being misused—heaven would weep at their pain. Thus TEARS OF HEAVEN.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Telling a good story well and hitting some epic high note moments while not getting carried away from the reality of, say, a sword fight or a battle scene, into the unrealistic—that’s very challenging to me. I always worry that I’m going to lose readers when I try to ramp up the awesome. Star Wars is a great example: Episodes IV, V, VI and even VII present the fights in a way that an audience can relate to—we don’t have the Force, per se, but we get the general idea of swinging a sword against another sword. On the other hand, Episodes I, II and III present the Jedi as nearly godlike and completely unrelateable in their fight sequences. Not only do you have to tap into the mystic powers, you have to become superhuman just to keep up. It’s no longer possible for the average viewer to pick up a light saber and join the Jedi Knights. Keeping the physics of actions and reactions on target is something I really strive for and enjoy. This is especially enjoyable when readers catch the effort that went into making a fight scene exciting, but still within the realm of the real.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All kinds of people—friends, family, acquaintances, other authors—find their way into the stories. It’s hard—at least for me—to create a world and a story out of whole cloth. I’d go so far as to say it’s almost impossible, and the result wouldn’t be anything readers would understand or enjoy. Even if you weren’t an orphaned child, like Luke Skywalker or Kvothe or Daenerys Targaryen, we can still understand their struggles and their frustrations because they’re human and relatable. Dialogue and relationships are some of my favorite elements, and I gleefully steal from conversations and events as my story needs.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Absolutely, any chance I get, which isn’t often at all. Shortly after I published TEARS OF HEAVEN I was fortunate enough to be invited to Malta a few years ago by some wonderful friends, and I took them up on the opportunity. I had in my head the idea that I would be completely focused on writing my next book. Yeah right! I was surrounded by distractions. People, places, history, food, more people! My two weeks felt like twice that with all the things I saw and did. That travel certainly paid off though, as Malta figures heavily into the third book COMPANY OF THE DAMNED.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I’ve been lucky to have worked with some wonderful and creative artists. Currently, I’m working with the wonderful Jennifer Givner from Acapella Book Design. She’s been wonderful. Very easy to work with, and she really grasps the concepts.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Fiction and fantasy are really reflections of our world, only better. Even dark fiction or dystopias tend to hand us heroes that rise up above the blackness and are able to make choices that sort out the good guys from the bad guys—they can decipher good and evil, right from wrong. That’s not always true in our own world, and so it’s quite a relief to sit back and be transported to place where considerations over extremism, and Ebola and politics aren’t realities. Or, if they are realities, they’re going to be handled, in one way or another, by the characters.
We also learn the most from stories, as examples of how to behave, or how we want to behave. When confronted with similar situations, while we can’t use magic, and probably shouldn’t use violence, we still look to our heroes for a means for how to act. How would Kvothe or Aragorn, or Katniss, or Dumbledore deal with this particular scenario. Fantasy and fiction provide us with multiple perspectives for dealing with the realities of our own day-to-day lives.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Elizabeth K. Lynn is my hero. No one has heard of her, but her prose, especially in A DIFFERENT LIGHT is unparalleled. Everyone should read that novella. Patrick Rothfuss makes a strong second. I’d love to develop a hate-hate relationship with him, but he won’t return my calls . . . or give me his real phone number . . . or acknowledge my existence. He’s brilliant. Slow, but brilliant. Bernard Cornwell, and Joe Abercrombie are great. I love history and fantasy with grit between the pages. You get a feel that they’re working from very real, very dangerous points of view. There’s some fantasy mixed in, just to keep it interesting, but when bows are pulled and swords are drawn, you know everyone is going to get bloody.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I’m going reach way back and mention my high school English teacher Miss Sue Davis. She passed away a few years ago, and I don’t think she ever fully knew the impact she had on me. Dr. Patrice Caldwell, who was the dean of Liberal Arts at my college Eastern New Mexico University. She must have found my naivete endearing because she put up with a lot of my innocent blather while I struggled writing. Finally, my editor, mentor and friend Shawn Howen. Please send her happy thoughts right now. She’s the one who suggested I submit my book to my first publisher, and she worked very diligently throughout the entire publishing process. She has the patience of several saints, and perhaps a couple of mountains.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Please and thank you! If I could get to the point where writing brought in just enough, I’d make it a full-time job. It’s a wonderful, frustrating, terribly difficult but ultimately worthwhile career that I’ve been lucky enough to catch the merest taste. Once you understand that sensation of completion—your first draft, first publication, first fan mail—it’s really heady stuff, and you want more of it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Each book is the culmination of experience and ability to that point. I might change a lot in my first book TEARS OF HEAVEN—voice and point of view shifts and so forth. I wouldn’t change one bit of the plot. I would change less in my second book HELL BECOMES HER. As I’ve just finished the third book, COMPANY OF THE DAMNED, there’s really not that much that I would change.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Everything. It’s a continual learning process. It’s like running or weight lifting. Dialogue and plot and narrative all become stronger and stronger the more you work at them—but unlike physical training, you can only get better with time.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Del is a unique combination of capability, charm and sarcasm that Natalie Morales would be perfect for. Morales’ characters have always been strong individuals who can put you in your place with the quirk of an eyebrow. I’ve follower her since the tragically short-lived THE MIDDLE MEN, PARKS AND RECREATION and the also tragically short THE GRINDER.
Marrin is that easy-going, uber-friendly, unfairly attractive guy that we all know and love to hang out with. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. He has those Gannicus (from Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) qualities, and that same wide, loose smile, that make him very likable. Jai Courtney or maybe one of the Hemsworth brothers would be ideal for Marrin.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Probably the best advice is to do and to learn. The best writing is when it feels plausible and real, even if it’s not. The worst is when the reader knows for fact that the events couldn’t happen the way the author is describing. Experience is the best teacher, and barring that (like sharing wine with a centaur) research, research, research. And above all, read. Stephen King says that if you don’t have time to read, you’re not a writer. Reading what everyone else is doing—in and out of your genre—is amazing. The inspiration that comes from other authors as they craft characters, dialogue, plot and narrative—it’s a thing of beauty to watch someone else performing.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
This year is going to be big. Huge. Re-releases with new cover art will be available for TEARS OF HEAVEN and its sequel HELL BECOMES HER. In addition, the third and final volume of the series, COMPANY OF THE DAMNED, will also be available. I’m working on the edits right now and I can tell you it’s good. Really good. Additionally, I’m pitching my historical fiction novel set in early Feudal Japan, THE SECOND CUT, and my steampunk series CONSTABLE OF AQUALINNE, to a couple of interested publishers. It will be a shift from the urban fantasy with wholly new characters, but they’re all related, on a genetic level, to each other. If you’ve enjoyed Del and her world, you’re going to love Tomoe Gozen and Aubrey Hartmann!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Eric Lahti’s latest in the HENCHMEN series TRANSMUTE. He has such a wonderfully unique style, and his dark humor just pours out through the characters. They’re technically the “bad guys” but they’re so relatable, you can’t help rooting for them to win.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, not the first. It was probably a “See Dick. See Jane.” kind of book. I remember I was in the second-highest reading group, and I was really upset that they got to move on to full “novels” and I was still reading these photocopied things. I read some children’s and early chapter books, but the one that will always and forever stand out is THE HOBBIT. It was given to me by a friend of the family, and it opened the gates onto the entire realm of genre fiction.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Anything to do with my friends and family. Most especially my boys.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
So many people. Through my writing, I’ve been fortunate to come into the orbit of a lot of wonderful folk who have been so supportive and inspiring. I would love to give them all a great, big hug and buy them a drink. There are some amazing people working in the field right now, and it’s an exciting time. I’d love to meet Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin and Elizabeth Lynn and so many others. Then, of course, there are the historical figures that I’ve love to sit down with. I’m currently somewhat obsessed with Vincenzo Anastagi, a Knight Hospitaller who fought at the Great Siege of Malta.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Other than reading and writing, I’m a runner. I wish I had more time to train and compete in races. It’s hard with work and family and writing to carve out time to get in a couple of miles. I love the sense of freedom that running gives me. It’s not for everyone, but I really enjoy plugging into a good podcast and letting the miles roll past.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Anything with strong, snappy, witty dialogue and layered plots. I don’t enjoy twist upon twist upon twist, but a few clever spins are great. “The West Wing” and “Veronica Mars” are some wonderfully solid storytelling. I’m following “Archer”, “iZombie”, “Game of Thrones” (of course), “Dark Matter” and “Killjoys”. I’m very much looking forward to the new “Star Trek”.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Sushi and a lot of is. It’s amazing how one simple food concept can be so expressive and unique. Basic rolls give way to some truly innovative choices, and I love the variety.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Read and never stop.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
It’s cheesy, but I’d prefer to be remembered as a good husband, father, and friend. It would be great to also be remembered for my writing, but that’s secondary to my boys.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My blog and my Twitter account are where readers can get the most current updates and interact with me. My Facebook is next, and then my website and Goodreads:
Amazon Authors page https://www.amazon.com/R.-A.-McCandless/e/B00H58AJU6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1