Today we have the fantabulous RJ Mirabal on the blog! Grab your coffee or tea, sit back, and enjoy The Lindsay Show!
Thank you so much for joining me RJ! When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I knew I was a storyteller when, as a kid, I entertained my friends with a never ending story as we rode to school on the bus. It was told in installments which I made up on the spot. Later, as an adult, I realized I had the makings of a writer and started writing.
Oh that is freaking awesome. I would have loved to have someone do that :) What has been the most difficult part about being a writer?
Getting published! My career as a high school teacher left scarce time for writing, so I wrote some and published next to nothing for over 30 years. After retirement, I committed to making it work. After finishing and getting a publisher for my debut novel, The Tower of Il Serrohe, I thought I was done with the hard part. But now I’m learning about promotion, etc. which I find to be harder. I’ve realized the easy, fun part is creating, the hard part is editing and promotion.
Yes, getting published is so hard, especially when you can't devote yourself to it 100% of the time. It's great that you didn't give up and revisited it when you retired! Who are your favorite authors?
Quite a diversity. Isaac Asimov for both science fiction and science fact; James Herriot for human and animal interest—I’ve always loved animals and interesting people; J.R.R. Tolkien for traditional fantasy; Agatha Christie, Tony Hillerman, and Henning Mankell for detective mystery; Rudolfo Anaya for New Mexico Hispanic literature; and Charlotte Bronte for Jane Eyre (if I could write one novel like that, I would die fulfilled!).
Those are all amazing authors. What authors inspire you?
Same list as above! Isaac Asimov wrote in a clear, transparent style, a constant but elusive goal for me. I am always trying to evoke the terrain and atmosphere of New Mexico and the Southwest in my writing the way Tony Hillerman and Rudolfo Anaya have. And, of course, Jane Eyre is about as close to perfect as any novel I’ve ever read, and I read a lot! These accomplished writers inspire to keep at it!
I can certainly see how they'd be inspiring :) Are you a plotter or a pantser with your writing?
Pantser. That’s a good one, lol! I start out as a pantser once I have an idea that intrigues me. I usually write one or two chapters off the cuff, usually in a torrent. Then I step back and start mulling and plotting in such detail I can copy my notes to the draft and just flesh out a few more sentences. Strangely enough, when I’m plotting, I’m still being a pantser because I seldom go back and make drastic plot changes unless I’ve discovered a logical gap or have a revelation about how to spark up the story.
LOL I loved that term when I first saw it. That sounds like a great methodology :) What type of books do you like to read?
Most anything printed on the page except heavy duty technical nonfiction and textbooks! For fiction I prefer fantasy, science fiction, suspense/mystery (especially detective stories), and exotic stories. For nonfiction, I read a lot of magazines about motorcycles, cars, and National Geographic as well as travel and the occasional philosophy book.
Yeah, I've never been a fan of textbooks either ;) Love the mix of genres you enjoy! What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to travel though I don’t do as much as I would like. I have a 4wheeler which allows me to get out in the wilderness (desert and mountains) almost every week. I also love music and am learning to play the hammered dulcimer. And I volunteer in two organizations: a motorcycle club and the New Mexico Dulcimer Festival. I enjoy good movies and engaging television, particularly PBS.
I'm jealous you get to go exploring the desert and mountains every week! Where is your favorite place to vacation?
Anywhere in the USA and Canada. I also want to return to Europe to do the Grand Tour and spend more time in England and see Ireland.
I'm dying to see Ireland too! If you were stuck on a desert island and could have only three things, what would they be?
Is a person, a thing? If so, my wife would be my absolute first choice. Then I would want a library and plenty of paper and pencils (computers take electricity, so that’s out). Notice I cheated by saying a library instead of just one book! If I had to choose another thing instead of my wife, I would want a radio so I could listen to music and know a little about what’s happening in the rest of the world.
We'll count a person as a thing :) I think it's wonderful your wife is your absolute first choice <3 Why did you choose to write southwest contemporary fantasy?
I paid heed to the oft quoted injunction: “Write what you know.” I grew up in New Mexico and its terrain, atmosphere, and culture are ingrained in my being. Traditional fantasy has many excellent writers keeping it viable, so instead I carved out a unique niche by combining a few elements of traditional fantasy with the Southwest and my crazy imagination. I always want to do something different from everyone else: a result of being an only child who had to provide his own entertainment most of the time.
OMG my husband told me that EXACT same thing! It's how I got into writing paranormal romance :) I truly think it's the single best advice I've ever heard with respect to writing. What has been the most fun about working on your books?
I love creating my own world, putting interesting people in it, devising unique situations, and then seeing what happens. I’m always amused at some of the wonderful twists and turns in my stories that I didn’t plan. It’s fun to let your characters loose and see what they do and say.
That's such an amazing feeling when you can sit back and take in the world that you created. I especially love when things kind of take off on their own :) What has been the hardest scene for you to write?
There is a chapter where the two main characters make love. I wanted it to be tender and beautiful without becoming too explicit or salacious. I re-wrote and edited it more than any other chapter in my book. I hope I succeeded.
I can tell you that love scenes were by far one of the hardest scenes I've ever had to write. You really need to be careful how you approach it, particularly in your case I'd imagine since it's not meant to be romance per se. Do you have any favorite characters?
From my own book? If so, I do like my main character, Don Vargas, although he would be hard to be around at times because of his negativity and bluntness. But then on the other hand, I find that interesting. I also aspire to his very ironic and dry wit. It’s a survival mechanism for most anyone who teaches teenagers! I like Nersite because he’s so earnest and modest, but totally determined and stubborn. I think Raquela is “hot” without being obvious. A quiet beauty who wears well. Actually, I like all of them, but those three are my favorites.
He sounds like a fantastic character! How did you come up with the premise for The Tower of Il Serrohe?
It was the result of two stories I wrote. One a fantasy novelette about a clan a small people fighting a powerful, wily clan of nasty people who dominated their desert river valley with their tower set on a high volcanic cliff. The other was a character study of someone whose life was rapidly flushing down the toilet. Neither story was much on their own, but when I had the crazy idea of combing them, it just clicked in amazing ways.
Ooo that's awesome that you decided to combine those two novelettes! Tell us about Don Vargas please.
Well, he’s not like me except in a few ways I don’t want to reveal. Mainly he’s negative, an addictive personality, and apathetic. What more can one want in an anti-hero? He is at his lowest point of self-destructiveness at the beginning of the story right when he’s thrown out of his home and the life he’s known. I’ve known a few people who had elements of his personality as well as a few characters I’ve encountered in literature. I wanted him to be a loser, but not an evil person or punk. Just obnoxious and disinterested in the quest he’s given. Does he redeem himself? That’s what the story is about.
Definitely sounds intriguing. Anti-heroes are truly fascinating to me. How does the Southwest influence the story? Did you base any of the story on your own experiences or places you’ve visited in the Southwest?
There is hardly anything in the story except the battle scenes and the magic that I didn’t experience myself growing up in the Southwest. The setting is right where I lived and worked my whole life. The people are like people I know and have known. That’s why I put the word “Southwest” first in my classification of the story.
Ok well now I'm even more interested in this book! I've found that when authors can bring in their own experiences, the story can be so much more rich. Who are the different clans? What about Soreyes?
New Mexico has many divergent cultures. My clans don’t represent those real ethnic and cultural groups directly, but the diversity is brought out through their sharp contrasts. The Nohmin are small feisty people who live in holes and tunnels in the ground. The Soreyes are tall, lanky, and unpleasant as well as smarter and more powerful than the other clans. The Taurimin are physically large farmers who want to live in peace. The Càhbahmin work with the Taurimin though they are livelier. Ursimin are big, burly, gregarious hunters, and the only religious clan except for the Soreyes. The Loopohmin and Linksmin are hunters also, but live in small family groups and do not associate with the other clans (there are rumors they may prey on some of the other clans, but they are not the big threat the Soreyes pose). The Crotalmin are small in number but evoke fear in the smaller people of the valley. And there’s more!
Wow, you definitely have a rich world in your story! What do you have planned for future books?
I am now working on a sequel to The Tower of Il Serrohe. I originally wrote it as a stand alone story, but my editor advised I plan on a sequel if readers demanded one. So I planted a few plot elements that could lead to sequels just in case. Some of my early readers immediately wanted to know if there were going to be sequels. So I’m now working on the first of two sequels. After that, I’ll move on to other projects, but I may make further use of the world, though not the characters and situation of this Tower “series.”
Well I can't wait to read this and your future books! Anything else you want your readers to know?
Please visit my web site, write a comment, or drop me an email and let me know what you think of the story. I’m happy to answer questions and talk about the story at any point. Don’t wait until you finish the story if you have questions and don’t be bashful.
Thank you so much for joining me, RJ! It has been a blast learning more about you and your book!
The Tower of Il Serrohe...Buy it Now!
The Tower of Il Serrohe pulls us into the deteriorating life of Don Vargas thrown out of the house by his promiscuous wife. He lands in a dilapidated casita which, of course, is a portal to another world. Reluctantly, Don is seduced by an alternative existence in the Valle Abajo, a valley strangely like and unlike his own Rio Grande Valley. A creepy voice in the dark of his casita drives Don to take on a quest to save the clanspeople of Valle Abajo from the wily Soreyes who have built the mysterious Tower dominating the landscape and magically empowering them to preempt every effort of the clans to break free of Soreye terror. Traveling to the Valle, Don at first finds the clans are like a sophisticated mix of widely divergent races and cultures that do not work well together but are forced to unite to defeat the Soreyes...except they can't. A century earlier, Teresa, a curandera from the Rio Grande Valley attempted to defeat the Soreyes, but succeeded in only slowing them down. Now all Don wants to do is drink beer, spout profanities, and coat every thought and action with cynicism. Only the disarming beauty and quiet wisdom of a young curandera of the Pirallt clan can hope to move Don to take on this quest...that and the dogged determination of Nersite, a pint-sized story- teller and occasional warrior of the Nohmin clan. Don bounces back and forth between the Rio Grande Valley and Valle Abajo. Each time his perception of the Valle and the clans evolves until he discovers the final shocking reality of the Valle.
Buy it Now:
RJ Mirabal loves the Middle Rio Grande Valley having lived there for most of his life. A happily retired high school teacher, he now pursues writing and music while volunteering with a motorcycle club and teachers’ organizations. RJ enjoys exploring New Mexico’s wilderness areas on his four-wheeler and traveling with his wife, Cheryl. The Tower of Il Serrohe is his debut novel.
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*** Don't miss your chance to win a FREE SIGNED COPY of The Tower of Il Serrohe coming this April on RJ's website!!! ***