This is part of a new series of interviews featuring indie authors. These interviews will drop once or twice a week. If you’d like to be part of this series, please contact me at Sarah (at) bookwormblues (dot) net. Please support the authors by clicking on the affiliate links in the interview, spread the word, and, of course, buy their books.
We’re all in this together, you know?
Rob J. Hayes has been a student, a banker, a marine research assistant, a chef, and a keyboard monkey more times than he cares to count. But eventually his love of fantasy and reading drew him to the life of a writer. He’s the author of the Amazon Best Selling The Heresy Within, the SPFBO-winning piratical swashbuckler Where Loyalties Lie, and the critically acclaimed Never Die.
Let’s start out with this. Tell me about your book.
Which one? I’m ramping up to start talking about Pawn’s Gambit soon, so we’ll go with that one. Pawn’s Gambit is the sequel that’s not a sequel to Never Die. It’s the 2nd book set in the Mortal Techniques world, but is a complete stand alone. You don’t need to have read book 1.
As for what it’s about. Well, it’s about a famed and disgraced strategist who is recruited by the God of Missed Opportunities to help overthrow the Emperor of Heaven. It’s kinda like a big old mashup of Clash of the Titans and Journey to the West.
And it’s coming January 26th 2021.
What makes you and your books unique? Shine for me, you diamond.
Run on sentences. Sentence fragments. Comma splices. You know, all those things you’re not supposed to do.
On a serious note. I think I’m pretty good at creating unique characters who are strong (if not always likeable) and compelling.
What are you working on now/any future projects you want to talk about?
So along with my next release being Pawn’s Gambit, I am currently working on the 3rd Mortal Techniques novel which I also hoping to release in 2021. I’ve also got a flintlock military/horror fantasy called Guns of the Twelfth. And the follow up to The War Eternal is on the drawing board too. So many many books.
Let’s celebrate. What’s one of the best things that’s happened to you as an author? Don’t be shy.
My mother read my books and didn’t hate them.
Also, I guess I won a sword last year. That was cool!
Award: Booknest Award for Best Self Published 2019
Let’s talk about CRAFT
What does your writing space look like?
I have a really tiny office made even smaller by piles and piles of boxes. Because of all that clutter, I’ve included only two pictures. One is my desk which can be converted from sitting to standing depending on how lazy I’m feeling. It’s usually got a cup of tea sitting on the coaster because I consume tea at wild pace. It’s also covered in notes from the books I’m working on.
The other photo is my bookshelves which are desk adjacent so I have hundreds of books close at hand to make me feel like a proper author. Also pop dolls… and booze.
How do you build your world/character? What does your process of creation look like?
Plotter or Pantser? And why?
I’m calling these two questions one… for me at least. I have an absolute Pantser of the highest order. I rarely know much about the world or characters or plot before I sit down and start writing. So I usually start with an idea.
What if I wrote a story set in an Asian influenced world about heroes and shinigami and a young kid who can bring dead heroes back to fight for him?
This was honestly about all I really had when I sat down to write Never Die. Well, this and a bunch of cool-sounding hero names. The book just kinda flowed out of me, the world and characters building themselves as I went. It wasn’t until about 40% through that one that I figured out what it was about and had a vague idea of how it was going to end. And that’s pretty much how I work. I’m discovering the world as I’m creating it.
It’s obviously a little bit different with sequels and the like. Then I’m constantly referring back to the notes I made while writing book 1. Trying to make sure it all fits and remembering what eye colour everyone has. I am awful with remembering eye colour.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched while writing a book?
Well recently I ended up searching for how long a human corpse takes to cool down. That was an odd one. Apparently there are a lot of variables.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on Japanese Yokai (vengeful spirits) lately for the 3rd Mortal Techniques book. That could definitely class as weird. There are some really odd ones. Like a haunted stirrup of an officer’s horse. Or little spirits that drink the oil out of lanterns.
What research tips or tricks would you give another writer?
Figure out how you want your writing to be beforehand. What I mean by that is decide whether you want to go hard on the historical accuracy or if you’re happy to take some poetic lisence. For me, I tend to research a whole variety of subjects for the books I’m writing, but I’m also willing to ditch certain things if need be. I go for drama over rigid accuracy. But that’s just me. Other people are not willing to sacrifice the accuracy and that’s fine as well. So figure out your style and how you want to portray things before you start the research.
All Things BOOKISH
Tell me about your To Be Read pile. What’s on it? What should be on mine?
If you check out the picture of my bookshelves, the second shelf up on both shelves is my TBR. And that’s just physical books. I dare not look at my Kindle and I have a good 5 or 6 audiobooks lined up as well. You might notice I even have one of your books on the old TBR, Sarah. It’s got a whole range of trad and self pubbed books, whole series and series starters, stand alones. I’ve got fantasy and sci-fi and… other. Some have even been on the TBR for many years now. Too many books and yet also never enough.
As for what should be on your TBR. Anything and everything. But mostly, anything by Chris Wooding, Robin Hobb, or Mark Lawrence. From my experience you cannot go wrong with any of those three.
Let’s throw some light on diversity. What are some books your love that feature diverse characters, diverse authors, etc.
So straight off the bat I would say Sword of Kaigen by ML Wang. It’s an absolute heart-wrenching book that will make you fall in love and hate and grieve and cheer. The sheer emotion packed into it and the way that emotion is delivered is so amazing and so real.
Jade City by Fonda Lee is another one I have been reading recently and loved. Both that and the sequel Jade War are outstanding. The characters feel so real and their issues, their strengths and weakness and flaws are there on display in a way that just connects you to them.
Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. The book isn’t on my shelf because I listened to the audio (which was fantastic). It’s the start of a new epic fantasy that is clearly massive in scope and features an African-inspired world that is complex and woven so well into the story.
Gideon the Ninth and the sequel Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Again I listened to these ones. I loved the sheer amount of character that is woven into the voice of these books. So much snark! It was an absolute joy to be carried along with the wit and mystery. Also, it’s tagged as Lesbian Necromancers in Space. How can you not want to read that?
Hobbies & All Things WEIRD
What’s something you want to learn how to do? Why?
I would love to learn another language. Or two. Or five. I don’t really seem to have the brain for it and I really struggle to learn more than a few words, but I love that there are so many languages in the world. It’s honestly real life magic to me that people can speak multiple languages and can communicate across that divide.
How have your non-writerly hobbies influenced your writing?
So I’m a massive fan of card gaming. Things like Magic the Gathering, Arkham Horror (you can see my collection on the bookshelf picture). All sorts. I’ve played many. And recently I came up with an entirely magic system based not on any one card game, but on card gaming itself. It’s really cool and varied and bizarre. Hopefully I’ll get to talk about that more next year. 😊
If you had to pick a superpower, what would you pick and why?
Short scale teleportation. Sometimes called flash stepping and what not. It’s just the coolest thing ever. I mean, I’ve watched so many animes and the like where a character goes to punch someone, and then they just disappear and reappear behind their attack… IT’S SO COOL!!! Also a really good form of travel.
If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
An octopus. Those beasties are straight up magical. You have eight arms that can flail about in any direction and each one is lined with suckers that are as versatile as thumbs. Also, you squeeze through just about any space. You can zip through the water at unbelievable speeds and with damned impressive agility, and you can survive outside of water for a surprisingly long period of time. You have the strength to crack bones and rock. You can mimic your surroundings with such an accuracy that you become effectively invisible. You can regrow lost limbs. Seriously, octopuses are amazing!