An Interview with Ryan Toxopeus
I had a chance to ask Ryan Toxopeus some author-related questions this week. I hope you enjoy his humor as much as I do; he’s one of my favorite people to chat with.
AW: Which author wasn’t your greatest inspiration, but did make you think, “Maybe I could be an author”?
RT: Terry Goodkind is actually listed as an inspiration of mine, but in the same realm that Tolkien inspired me… I learned something I really didn’t like. In Goodkind’s case, it was the repetitive plot structure. Every book felt the same at its core. Richard and Kahlan are together. Something happens to separate them. They mourn the loss for the whole book, until they get together again. Rinse and repeat. I loved the first few books in the Sword of Truth series, but it got to the point where I just wanted to get to the end of it. Turns out I didn’t get there. I THOUGHT I did, because the last book I read felt like the end, but it wasn’t. Never did bother to finish the series, though.
And back to Tolkien, if you’ll allow me two… I absolutely hated how dry and slow The Lord of the Rings books were. It’s painful to read, and I’ll never read them again.
AW: That’s interesting. I don’t often find people who view Goodkind and Tolkien like that; I’d begun to think I was alone in my love-hate for them! Tell me about the first time you thought, “Wow. I’m a real author!”
RT: I have three novels, two novellas, and several short stories out… some of them traditionally published… won Honourable Mention from the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest for a short story – and I still don’t feel like a real author. I think part of it stems from total lack of self-confidence and terrible Impostor Syndrome, and part of it is that I write as a hobby. I spend a few hours per week on it, in my spare time when the kids are asleep. You always hear things like, “You’re not a real writer unless you write every day!” I know that’s rubbish, but still… it doesn’t help the old Impostor Syndrome.
AW: I think Imposter Syndrome bites all of us most days. What’s the oddest part about your routine that you simply must do in order to sit down and write?
RT: Is it odd that I don’t have anything specific I need to do? Lots of writers have quirks, so I feel like it’s strange that if I get a bit of time to sit down and hammer out some words, I do. No coffee, no alcohol, no drugs, no ritual sacrifices… I just write.
AW: No sacrifices? How can you call yourself a fantasy author?! What is your biggest writing obstacle?
RT: Time. Especially recently. When I was just writing books, it wasn’t so bad. But I’ve branched out a bit, and have been working on a board game related to my writing. Plus I’d really like to do a web comic series that the community votes on where it goes from week to week, but I just don’t have the time or funds to get that off the ground right now. Maybe after I finish the board game.
Second biggest is motivation. After finishing my trilogy, it’s been hard getting back on the horse. I took a (well-deserved) break from all my creative projects after getting book 3 out, and I need to get back to it.
AW: Please get back to it. I want more of Thomas and Sarentha and Eliza! How do you prefer to network, and what impact do you think those avenues have had on your sales?
RT: I love attending conventions, which feels sort of weird to say as an introvert. But they force me to come out of my shell and geek out about something I’m really passionate about with other people who love fantasy, too. As someone who usually gets one or two sales per month, conventions are my best sale times by far. I usually have quite a few books head out the door with new readers at those events. It’s my hope to hit a bigger convention soon, now that my trilogy is complete.
AW: What is one mistake you’ve made in your publishing career that you’d like to warn other authors off of?
RT: I released a short story, 1100 Before Gods’ War, with a multi-author free promotion and got over 500 downloads in a weekend, catapulting it to #1 in the free 30-minute SFF category on Amazon. Do you know how many reviews I received from that? How many follow through sales?
Don’t give your books away for free. There are books being given away every day. I have piles of them myself, just sitting on my Kindle. They always get pushed off, as I tend to read books I actually paid for, because I’m more invested in those. The freebies were free, so why not download them? Maybe some day I’ll get through the books I actually want to read, and get to some of the free ones. But if those authors were hoping for a quick review by handing out their work for free, they’re not getting it.
AW: I admit to only occasionally getting back to that pile of free books. Is there any advice you’d like to give to a new writer?
RT: Finish your first draft. It’s going to suck. The sooner you get over that mental hurdle, the sooner you can get the first draft finished. Once the first draft is down, THEN try to pick it apart and make it better. If you just keep going over and over the first chapter, trying to get it perfect, you’ll never build up any sort of momentum to get the job done. Writing is a marathon… you need to pace yourself and keep moving forward.
Additionally, your book will never be perfect. But your best effort on your first book will make you a better writer, and even your first draft of your second book will be better than some of your later drafts of the first. The key is to learn from your editor as you go.
And please do get an editor. Half-assed self published books give all of us a bad name. A writer should never edit their own work.
Last, but most important, have fun with it!
AW: What are you currently reading?
RT: I published one of my novellas in the Scoundrels anthology, put out by Bushmead Press. I’m currently reading all the other stories in the anthology, trying to get through as many of them as I can before an upcoming convention so I can speak about the collection intelligently.
AW: Have any super fans found you yet, and if so, what sort of things have they done that seem surreal to you!
RT: Yes. I have a few stories… one who wants to cosplay Thomas, my thoughtful, self-doubting warrior. Another was at a local gaming cafe the same day I was testing out my board game, and he sat down at the table, really excited to play. As the game went on, he talked a lot about how great my books were… so much so that a couple other test players picked them up. And one of those players was at the cafe a few days later and when he saw me he shouted across the building, “Ryan! I’ve got a major problem with your book!” I can’t tell you how many terror-filled thoughts I had cascade through my head all at once before he said, “It’s too f’ing addicting!” Whew.
That level of support is absolutely amazing, though. When you can find other people who sell your books for you, that’s an incredible feeling.
AW: When people read your books, what do you want their greatest take-away to be?
RT: Have fun with it. I focus on a faster pace, with lots of action and intrigue. Also, the books get better as I go. That’s objectively true, as reviews get better the further you get into the series. One reader who has read all three books rated the first two 4-stars, and the third one 5-stars. I literally cheered out loud when I saw that, because I know he’s a tough critic, and if I could get 5-stars out of him, I’d done a great job. So if you feel the characters were a little flat in book 1, hang in there… I focused a bit too much on world building, but you really get to know them in books 2 and 3. In the first book I had several scenes throughout that focused on the point of view of secondary characters, because I wanted to show the scope of what the characters were dealing with. But in later books I focus in on just the protagonists, which makes a big difference.
You can read my review of Ryan’s Empire’s Foundation series here.
Ryan Toxopeus, award winning writer of the Empire’s Foundation fantasy trilogy, has been writing fantastic tales for two decades. His first award was received in university, when he entered a short story contest with a work of fiction that chronicled a Dutch resistance fighter in World War II, who was captured by the Nazis and put in a concentration camp. The story took first place, much to the surprise of the judges who said they were not used to seeing that quality of writing, especially from an engineering student. Although he loved writing, his schooling took him elsewhere, and he did not start writing seriously again until after the birth of his daughter. Since then, Ryan has published two novels (A Noble’s Quest, A Wizard’s Gambit), a novella (Demon Invasion), and several short stories both related to his larger fantasy world, and stand alone stories including Macimanito Môswa which won Honourable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest.
While writing, he keeps the mantra, “If I’m bored writing it, readers will be bored reading it,” in mind. Thus his focus is on fast-paced action and intrigue. His world and plots are rich and complex, keeping readers guessing right until the end.
Originally from Thunder Bay, he now lives in Guelph, Ontario with his wife, children, and furry monsters. He also works on creating games related to his writing.
You can find Ryan:
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Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, fur mom, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant.