As I've mentioned before, I had the opportunity to meet a group of Christian fantasy writers last fall when the Motiv8 tour visited my area. As always happens with authors, they have some fascinating stories about the process of writing and their own path to publishing.
Today, we talk with Eric Reinhold, author of the Ryan Watters (The Annals of Aeliana) series.
Q: Your background involves the U.S. Navy, football and financial & wealth management experience. When did you first consider writing fiction? And what drew you to teen fantasy as a genre?
A: Great question! Some people are very surprised that a naval officer, college football player and now financial advisor could write a youth fantasy novel. Perhaps it’s the fact that I am left-handed, which engages the left side of my brain versus the stereotypical right side associated with financial advisors and numbers. The initial impetus for writing came from my two daughters when they were 6 and 9 years old. Every night I would continue a made up fantasy story prior to putting them to bed. After six months, they said, “dad… you need to make this into a book so other kids can enjoy it.” That’s what got me thinking - maybe I could write a book.
Q: Christian fantasy has historically been considered a very tough market. How did you find your publisher?
A: My story is very different in how I came to be published. I outlined the twenty chapters of my book, back in 2000 and planned to have it completed in a few years. Unbeknownst to me, God had other plans. The week before 9-11, I came down with a fever that wouldn’t go away. After a week, I sought medical attention and my doctor sent me over to the hospital immediately. I was hooked up to IV’s and ended up staying in the hospital 10 days. I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in my heart, in which they had to insert a tube in my chest so that I could administer the IV’s 3 times a day at home for a month until the infection was healed. Then I would need to come back for open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve in my heart with a titanium valve. Needless to say, that was a shocker! Between the surgery, recovery time and then leaving the company I was with to start my own business, my book plans were put on hold. I had completed 10 of the 20 chapters, but would not return to finishing it until 2007.
My financial planning business is unique in that I work with professional athletes, business owners and some very senior executives at Disney and other Fortune 500 companies. I was at breakfast with Steve Strang, the President of the publishing company, Strang Communications, one morning to discuss his finances. At the end of breakfast I mentioned that I had written a youth fantasy novel and he asked me to send it over to them. They liked it and 4 months later, I had my first book in hand [Ryan Watters and the King's Sword, cover art and illustrations by Corey Wolfe]. I have author friends who have received over 200 rejection letters from publishers and I received none. The moral of the story is to persevere, but God has His timing and His ways.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
A: I’m definitely someone who plans first. Initially I layout all of my characters for the book, what biblical themes I’d like to incorporate and the major confrontations. Then, I go back through and come up with subplots within the story. Based upon this I’ll write one or two paragraphs on what is going to happen in each chapter of the book. Finally, I’ll sit down to write each chapter based upon these notes. Typically, one of three things happens - one chapter turns into two, I consolidate two chapters into one or a new idea pops into my mind and I figure out where to work it in. So in some ways, the story does develop as I write.
Q: How did the Motiv8 tour come about? Had you met any of the other authors before?
A: In the process of marketing my book, I decided to reach out to other Christian fantasy authors in hopes of linking web sites. My daughter was reading Bryan Davis’s books, so I decided to start with him. His bio said that he lived very close to me. I offered to take him to breakfast and he informed me that he had moved his family to Tennessee, but when he was back in the area we could get together. At that breakfast, about one month later, he asked me if I would be interested in going on the Motiv8 tour. I told him I would be honored and the rest is history. Despite being the junior author with only one book, I added my expertise in finance by starting the Fantasy Fiction Tour, LLC and managing the income and expenses for the tour. In addition, the Character-4-Kids foundation purchased $300 in books from each author for our visit to READ Fresno and the Central California Children’s Hospital.
I had never met 6 of the authors, but with our common interests we gelled immediately. Several authors were typing out stories while we traveled in the 15-passenger van and it was fun to have someone yell out, “can I get a synonym for ________?”
Q. How would you compare it to a "solo" event as an author?
A: It’s much easier going into a store, church or school dressed with a cloak and sword as a group versus on your own!
Q: Was there any sense of competition because you were all in the same market? I understand you each had a different publisher.
A: It is nice to know that every author on this trip was putting the Christian Fantasy genre first and themselves second. Marketing ideas were shared, story concepts, experiences on what has worked and what hasn’t in book promotion, discussions on publishers and so much more. I was very encourage over the future of our genre with no drawbacks… except lack of sleep!
All of us utilized different publishers, which was great. Every author was extremely transparent on the positives and negatives of the publisher they were working with. The bond is so close now that several authors are working on joint projects, we’ve done a post-tour blog to promote each other on all of our websites, and there is talk of putting together a compilation of short stories into one free pdf download or print-on-demand book.
Q: Tell us about the foundation www.Character-4-kids.org. How did that come about?
A: I have a close friend and prayer partner who runs an inner-city after school reading program and another who works at a Children’s Hospital, so it got me thinking about ways I could benefit kids in these areas. I formed the non-profit foundation, Character-4-Kids, so that through donations from corporations, individuals and grants the foundation could purchase books with high moral character for distribution to kids at a disadvantage physically and financially. When possible, the foundation attempts to have the author of the book show up at the place of distribution. It’s a lot of fun!
Q: Ryann Watters and the King's Sword was your first published fiction and I understand you've just finished the second. How soon can we expect to see it and what's planned next?
A: I am very excited to be finished with “Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith,” book 2 in the Annals of Aeliana series. It is almost twice as long as book 1 and is based upon the four gospels and life of Christ. Ryan Watters and the Shield of Faith will have awesome interior artwork, completed by an up and coming artist, Jared Sloger. (Val's note: Get a sneak peak of some of the upcoming illustrations at the end of the blog.) It will be available on my website in pre-release in April and in stores in May. Since it is based upon Ephesians 6 and the armor of God, I am planning on having book 3 be “Ryann Watters and the Belt of Truth,” which will be based on the book of Acts. Book 4 will be based on the book of Romans and I am planning on book 5 being based on Revelations.
Thank you, Eric!
To find out more about Eric's books or about the Motiv8 Tour visit his website at www.ryanwatters.com, his blog at www.ryannwatters.blogspot.com or find him on Facebook for more tour photos and stories.
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