What made you want to write books?
I’ve been writing original content for over 20 years but they were always in the form of short stories, prose-style poems, song lyrics, or for character development purposes. I never actually tried my hand at writing an actual book. For years, I had a story in my head that I wanted to get out and figured that I would go ahead and start putting it to paper. I never had any intention of publishing it but after a few people read what I had written, they encouraged me to make an actual book out of it, so I did. With that, my first book series, Final Hope was born.
You say series but there are only two volumes of Final Hope. Why?
I never intended to publish it at first. I simply had a story in my head that had a beginning and an end. I had some major plot points but nothing in between. A lot of what was written in Final Hope was written on the fly as I filled in the blanks and moved from plot point to plot point. Honestly, Final Hope could have been a three-volume series but I made a lot of mistakes.
What kind of mistakes?
For a question containing three words and a preposition, that’s a pretty loaded question.
The first mistake (and probably biggest one) was going WAY over the limit of what a typical light novel is supposed to be. They are usually 180-200 pages in length so imagine my joy when I finished Vol. 1 of Final Hope at 192 pages! When I went to put together the book, I realized it was 192 pages of 8 1/2 x 11 paper… not the 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 that the book would be in so the book ended up at 320 pages instead.
I also made the mistake of not shopping around for an artist. I was just so excited to have finished writing my first book that I wanted to shove it out in the world and let the masses enjoy what I had written! I guess shoving it out there as fast as possible was another mistake because I didn’t take the time to market it and build up any hype.
I also made the mistake of not looking into self-publishing options and did the first run of my book through a local printer and ended up paying through the nose to have copies of them made.
All of these were valuable life lessons that I applied to Vol. 2 of Final Hope and carried those lessons forward into A.R. Dragonfly. That’s why volume two of Final Hope looks much thinner in comparison to volume one. Despite all of the flaws, I’m still really proud of it, though!
What inspired Final Hope?
Time travel and advanced A.I. are my two favorite genres of science fiction. I wanted to craft a story utilizing those genres. Also, Steins;Gate was (and currently still is) my all-time favorite anime (sorry D.Gray-man) and that heavily inspired me to write a time travel-like story. I’m glad I didn’t abandon the story like I originally planned.
Well, those are interesting subjec- Wait… abandoned?
Yeah. The idea for Final Hope came to me around 2014. After mulling it over for a year and a half, I began writing Final Hope in November 2015, oblivious to something that was going air in January of 2016 called Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED). I started watching the anime and my heart sank when the show had a very similar premise to the story I was writing. Not only did it have a similar premise but I felt the show pulled my story off better.
Talk about a blow to your pride and ego.
I didn’t want to continue. Not only was I demoralized from watching the show and seeing the similarities, but I was also afraid that people would think I was just copying someone else’s work. That concern was what drove me to stop writing my book for eight months. It wasn’t until my friends pulled me out of that funk and convinced me to finish it. In the end, Final Hope had its own unique flavor to it and didn’t end up being a copy of ERASED after all.
So why a new series?
Once I published two books, I kind of got hooked. I wanted to publish more and I had an idea for another story. Therefore, A.R. Dragonfly was born.
What is A.R. Dragonfly like? And please don’t copy/paste the description from your Amazon listing again.
Amber Ryann is the #1 ranked player in…
Oh DON’T copy. Right.
In short, A.R. Dragonfly is a slice-of-life romance story that’s heavily wrapped around geek culture references, video games, and e-Sports. Going from science fiction murder mystery to slice-of-life romance is a huge genre shift but I wasn’t jumping into this series blind. I’ve had years of practice writing Amber as a character all thanks to handling her in eWrestling feds.
eWrestling feds? What’s that?
So I’m a fan of pro-wrestling and when it was really popular back in the late 90’s, the internet began to become populated with eWrestling feds… in other words, places you can go and role play as if you were a wrestler. There are many types of eWrestling feds that can be broken down into two main types: Real or Original. Real feds allowed you to take control of wrestlers that exist in the real world and role play as them. Original feds had you create your own character. I opted for Original.
No matter what you pick, there are two choices: RP feds or Angle feds. RP feds usually have you write out role plays. Match winners are determined by whoever had the best roleplay. These feds were unpredictable and very dynamic. Angle feds allowed you to pre-construct stories with other people in the fed. You and your “angle partner” for a story arc would then write out all segments and matches. Rather than a competition simulation, the events read and felt like actual tv shows. I opted for Angle feds.
Amber Ryann was one of my characters and she’s not that much different in the book than she was as an eWrestling character.
Will she wrestle in your book?
Did you steal anything from eWrestling for the book?
Steal is such an ugly term. I prefer creatively acquired but no. I did pay homage to eWrestling though. The Legacy of Champions tournament referenced in volume one and was the focal point of volume two was the name of the eWrestling fed Amber was a part of.
How did you come up with Blaze Auras?
Funnily enough, I dreamt it. I must have eaten some bad juju or something before bed because I never remember my dreams in great detail but I ended up dreaming about a game where you could pull off combos while switching auras, giving you different moves depending on what color aura you were in. It was a knee-jerk reaction style game and I thought it was a cool idea. At the time, I was struggling to come up with a game that Amber was good at playing but then it just came to me in that dream. I made sure to write down every detail I could remember and I expanded on it from there.
It’s a semi-serious goal of mine to get that made into a real game one day. I wonder if there’s anyone out there that’s up for the challenge?
Are you going to expand on Blaze Auras in the future?
I already am. With each volume, there’s a short bonus chapter called History of Nara. Nara is the name of the world Blaze Auras takes place in so I’m building the lore of the game through those bonus chapters. That story won’t last forever so I figured that once it’s all said and done that I would do a Blaze Auras instruction book/strategy guide as bonus content in a future volume.
What the hell is an instruction book?
It’s those things that used to come with video games. You know, before they stuck a piece of paper in there and told you to go to a website. Hell, some games I buy these days completely skip the paper! Instruction books were awesome. They gave you the controls, game lore, character bios, and even had a notes section for you to write in! Bring back instruction books you cheap bastards!
Ahem. Next question?
Is A.R. Dragonfly going to end after two volumes as well?
I mean NO! Hell no!
Unlike Final Hope, I actually don’t have an ending in mind for A.R. Dragonfly (which is going to make this answer really awkward once the series does eventually end). Final Hope was me testing the waters. Even though I love the series with all my heart (hell, I have all of its characters framed and hanging on my wall), I wouldn’t say I was fully serious with it. A.R. Dragonfly is me being fully serious. I have a slow burn story in mind and AT LEAST six volumes worth of content planned. I don’t know how it will end as of now but I want this to be about the journey more than anything. When I feel I can’t take the journey any further, I’ll think about how it will end.
UPDATE 9/6/19: Twelve. A.R. Dragonfly will end on Volume 12. Didn’t I say that this answer was going to be really awkward once I came up with the ending? Actually, I know for a fact I said it because it’s right up there in the paragraph above in black and white! I didn’t change that answer and even if I did, so what? This is my site! (But seriously, I didn’t change the answer! PUT DOWN THE INTERNET PITCHFORK!)
What does A.R. Dragonfly even mean?
Well, the main character’s name is Amber Ryann so her initials are A.R. The character she plays in Blaze Auras is Dragonfly. Got enough clues there, buckeroo? It’s just like Final Hope is the English translation of the main character, Mikomi Saigo’s name. Mikomi = chance/hope, Saigo = last/final.
Oh! That’s clever!
Not really, but thanks for the compliment.
What have you learned the most from writing?
I learned a lot of things from writing. First off, learn to pace your story. Final Hope ended way too early. After writing A.R. Dragonfly, I realized just how much more I could have done with Final Hope. It could have easily been a 6-volume series, if not more. The problem was I had a beginning, a middle, and end in mind when I started writing the series. With A.R., I only had major plot points. I simply connected the dots until I got to a point where I felt like I could end the story. I liked that open form of writing as it allows for much more exploration rather than just trying to get to a pre-determined end point. In fact, I’m taking that lesson forward with all of my series from now on.
Yeah. You know, a series that comes after the one that you’re currently writing.
I know but do you care to answer what that is?
Well, if I did then it would make this Self Q&A outdated once it comes out. That means I’d have to come back and rewrite this thing over and over again and pretend like I’m “Rowdy” Roddy Piper… you know… just when you think you have all the answers, I change the questions. That kind of thing.
Can’t you just talk about your third series as if you’ve had already begun writing it? Wouldn’t that elongate things?
I suppose. That’s a good point. I’m glad I talked to myself. I can come up with some great solutions! Hey me… remind me to thank myself later!
In any event, the third series that I am writing is called From Ashe. It’s about a girl named Ashe Sawyer who wants to be a novelist. She begins as a nobody and works her way up to becoming a published author. Her lethargic freeloading childhood friend Renji lives with her but she can’t throw him out due to a mysterious past between the two of them. Oooooooo… generic mystique that’s meant to hook you! Is it working? Are you interested? Please say yes… I need the money.
I MEAN… I want you to enjoy the story when it gets written! Yeah, let’s go with that.
Final Hope was the English translation of Mikomi Saigo’s name. A.R. Dragonfly was Amber Ryann and her character Dragonfly. Where’s the meaning in From Ashe?
Her name is Ashe, so that’s pretty much half the answer right there. From means two things here. From Ash… to start from nothing and become something and From Ashe because everything she writes will be from Ashe herself. So, this one has kind of a dual meaning to it.
So From Ashe sounds like a slice-of-life series. Is this just going to be a copy/paste of A.R. Dragonfly’s characters with a different setting?
Of course! I’m a lazy writer who likes making the same characters over and over while just changing the setting! I’m the English Hiro Mashima!
I’m going to hell for that one, aren’t I?
But seriously, no. Ashe kind of is like Lynn from A.R. Dragonfly. I love Lynn to death and think she’s just a great tomboyish character. After writing an anxiety sufferer for 12 volumes, I wanted to write someone who had more energy. Who just didn’t care as much about things. Someone who had some sass. Someone who defined that zing between steak and sizzle. Renji, on the other hand, is a completely new character type for me to write.
Renji is very short in his answers. Usually with a single word, a short phrase or a certain muttering like a “Hmm” or a “Hmph.” Easy peasy dialogue to write, huh? Not really. Renji’s major personality points come from inner monologues. You will get to peer into his mind to see what he’s thinking versus what he’s actually saying. You’ll see his true personality and it’s done that way to frustrate you. You’ll want to question why he’s like that and trust me, there is a reason why. When you discover it, you’ll fully understand.
Will Ashe and Renji fall in love?
Usually, I don’t say stuff like this because it’s spoilers but in this case I’ll spill the beans. Yes. Renji and Ashe are in love with each other and I’m saying that because unlike A.R. Dragonfly, the love component is not the main focus of the story. It’s a back burner thing that just happens naturally and doesn’t really have a major impact on the overall series. Ashe’s journey through her writing career is the major focus… plain and simple. This is more slice-of-life than it is SOL Romance.
Writing is hard but is there something else you feel is hard about being an author?
Wow… just ditching the From Ashe questions. Way to screw the readers out of new and interesting tidbits but yes. Yes there is.
You’re asking and answering the questions, you know. Blame yourself, jerk.
Fine! I will! I’m a jerk, okay!?
Can you at least just elaborate on the previous question that you asked yourself?
Oh, right. Marketing. That has been my toughest challenge. Getting my name out there, getting interest in my books. That’s been the biggest challenge to date. I love to write. I’ve been writing all my life. It’s like second nature to me. In fact, when I did eWrestling, I wrote so much and so quickly, I was given a nickname
And that was?
A goddamn terminator.
You should make that into a light novel
I’d rather not be sued by a former California governor, thank you.
So, what is it so hard to market yourself?
Because the anime community scoffs at English light novelists. It doesn’t come from Japan, therefore it’s not authentic and it must be garbage. Nobody from outside of Japan can write a high-quality light novel. Add in the fact that Japan thinks the very same way about foreigners. You think Final Hope, A.R. Dragonfly, or From Ashe (or anything else I write… HA! Future proofing the question!!!) will ever get an anime? Hell to the no! Change is very difficult to come by in Japan and if they don’t want to recognize my stuff as something that could probably do well over there, then they won’t. That means the stigma among the anime community will continue and they’ll still look down at OELNs and feel they’re not worth the time or effort.
So, why do you keep writing?
Nothing changes by doing nothing. All I can do is continue to write and hope and pray that people enjoy what it is that I write. I’ve gotten mixed feedback on Final Hope but A.R. Dragonfly has been about 90/10 in the positive to negative feedback realm. Even that 10% has been pretty minor stuff. Still, all feedback is valuable. I couldn’t have made A.R. Dragonfly like it is without taking a few on the chin from Final Hope. Even those I took on the chin from A.R. will carry over into From Ashe. Everything is always a learning process and I just want to keep getting better.
By doing that, maybe I’ll turn some heads. Maybe I’ll get people to take OELNs seriously. I know… changing an entire community’s perspective is REALLY optimistic for a guy who is a realist in real life. Like I said… change never just happens. Someone is always there to force the hand of fate. I don’t know if I will be that person but I at least what to do something.
What would you like to do to help?
Simply just talk to me! Let me know how you like my books. Give me feedback good or bad. Let me know what I’m doing right so I can continue to do it.
Conversely, if you know you like what I’m writing, don’t just tell me. Tell others. Spread the word. Telling someone else only costs you a minute or two of your time. The human voice is still the most powerful tool on this planet. With the internet, you have the tools to amplify that voice in ways others before us never had. Tell a friend with similar interests, just mention it in passing. Say SOMETHING. ANYTHING. That’s how things get spread. Pressing a like and moving on doesn’t do anything. Proactive activity is what spreads the word.
Also, when I say talk to me… hit me up. I’ll hop on podcast to talk about my books, being an author, my inspirations, etc. I’m not shy. I do podcasting as part of a life each and every week. Together we can help spread the word. I’ll do written interviews for news sites, too. I’m available. Let’s break these barriers together!
Are you getting tired of answering questions?
It is getting a bit tiresome.
Last question then. If someone wants to know something that wasn’t asked here, what can they do?
They can click on the Contact page and send me a question. They can even request review copies of Final Hope and A.R. Dragonfly if they’re part of the media or run a blog site! They can even send me feedback (both positive and negative) if they choose to do so! They can even ask me to come on their podcast as a guest and help me promote my books!!! (wink wink nudge nudge) Who knew a simple internet form had so many useful purposes!?