Like many LitRPG authors, TJ turned to the genre as a way to indulge his gaming addiction while pretending to be an adult. His latest projects are: The Shattered Sword: Eternal Online Book 1 by Aethon Books, The Ruined Temple: Eternal Online Book 2 by Aethon Books (due for publication Summer 2020), and The Guild Core: Dragon Bourne (Currently on Royal Road and due for publication June 2020 on Amazon!)
When did you first start writing fiction?
First started writing fiction as a kid, sixth grade to be exact, and I got some cheesy story in the local newspapers. Was awesome. Had fun in high school as well but never took it seriously. When I got back from Iraq (1/24 INF 04-05 Mosul), my writing got serious, but I only ever wrote poetry and Creative Non-Fiction. I wanted to “tell” my war stories honestly. Then I figured out I could do that with fiction. I’ve gotten more involved with fiction, especially LitRPG, in the last few years.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Paper or eBook?
I have to discipline myself to finish an eBook. I know they are popular, but I can’t, not even for a moment, lose myself in the story as I can with a print book. Also, audiobooks are my new crack. As I spend a lot of time writing, so it isn’t as fun to stare at words as it used to be. I listen to 3-5 audiobooks a month as well.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated LitRPG novel?
The god core book God of Gnomes was a lot of fun for me. I feel like the writer, Demi Harper, is under appreciated, but people will catch on. Her writing style is excellent. Also, I like Carrie Summers though she is well known.
Of your books, which is your personal favorite? Why?
Well this is my first published, and I love it, but I do have a couple more written. The second book in my Eternal Online series might be my favorite. I split into more character POVs and some that I just adore. Ever wondered what a bard would look like if they carried a pistol? Meet Alysand, my one and only bullet bard/ gunsinger. He is sooooo fun to write. Also, I added a ton more action in book 2, so hold onto your seats.
You can make one LitRPG book (not your own) a movie. Which is it and why?
I think I’d go with Tao Wong’s Adventure of Brad books. I like how they have a high fantasy feel. Though I love all types of LitRPG, I am beginning to appreciate the ones where the gaming elements occur within a world that exists on its own rather than through VR. If it were to come to the screens, that story would be fire!
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Haha! I decided to write out these interview questions rather than face a vaguely outlined next chapter, so sort of, yeah. However, writer’s block is never, NEVER, incurable. Sometimes you need a nap. Other times it helps to outline or world build. But the myth of inspiration makes a lot of people fail in writing. You can create inspiration; it isn’t limited, hidden or mysterious.
Are you an outliner or pantser?
Used to be a pantser but spent far too much time revising. I now outline a ton, then when I write, I let the story take its course as well, adjusting my outline as I go. So maybe a planster…
What is your writing process like?
Multifaced, haha. Before I start a story/series, I do a lot of research. Sometimes this take a few weeks, and I’ll layer in the time to do it between edits or composition on another project, so I don’t burn out.
That said, no matter how much I do, when I sit down to start that new world, I realize I need to do a lot more research. I’ll just slog along at a snail’s pace filling in the bits I need until I have enough world built to write freely. So, I have my world building doc, sometimes a Wonderdraft map, and my story all sharing screen space.
Then I write a lot and pretty fast. When I get moving, I can write a book in 5-6 weeks. But then the revision comes, which takes another few weeks. Then off to the editor. Revisions and edits there. Back to the editor. Final fixes and tweaks. DONE!
How many hours a day do you write?
When I have all day to myself, I can write (actively mind you) as much as 8 hours. That is rare though, so typically 2-4 hours. My mind goes to swamp muck after a couple hours, as is common, so I end up thriving on word sprints and taking breaks in between.
Share a photo of your workspace and tell us about it?
Got my standard MacBook air (a decade old and still kicking!). I use a wireless apple keyboard. The after-market brands do not work as well as they need to and slow down writing. Wireless mouse, not Bluetooth or apple cause I’m cheap and the last one broke, haha. And what makes me feel most fancy is the aluminum laptop stand I bought off of the Amazon, which helps me write without crouching over my work like a mad scientist.
I wish I had a fancier station but writing at home leads to depression for me far too often, so I go to coffee shops and set up my ridiculous station there. Oh, also, I have a lapboard that I can put my keyboard and mouse pad on when I want to be truly ergonomic. It sits in my lap, so I can write with minimal strain.
Who are some of your favorite authors of all time?
Tolkien was my first and last. Found him at eleven and never left fantasy. Then I discovered Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks (though I don’t like them nearly as much now as I did when young).
As an adult, Ursula K. Le Guinn remains fire, and the ever-potent Brandon Sanderson. The Stormlight Archives needs to become a movie, but they’ll probably screw it up anyhow.
I love a lot of LitRPG authors too, which is mostly what I dive into these days. Found Awaken Online and Ascend Online first I think but love many other series. I appreciate LitRPG with mythological inspiration like Carrie Summer’s new Northblood series and Troy Osgood’s Sky Realms. It hasn’t opened up yet like I want it to, but I also really dig books with the sci fi vibe and evolution progression seen in D.W. Belfield’s The Scourge Wars.
Where do you get your ideas?
They jump out at you when listening/reading to books, watching anime, The Expanse or anything fantasy. I play tabletop games with friends too, not DND but similar. Ideas will get you at ANY time, so you just gotta be ready to scribble down a note or do what I do, text yourself, haha.
What are your thoughts on how VR will affect the future of humanity?
Yes, and yes. I can’t wait. It will change everything. With the current number of gamers, things are def gonna get more intense. Esports is more popular than football, which is something I did not see coming. So, VR, if it will ever progress quickly enough (exasperated sigh), will change everything from romance to entertainment and education.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Covered this briefly in process. I do my research online. Books are awesome too, so I have purchased some, but I end up skimming them and then returning to the vast archives of the internet. Youtube can be awesome as well. Studied some sword masters there and wow, so cool.
First video game memory?
I’d like to give credit to the 8 bit rpgs I fell in love with like Destiny of an Emperor or Dragon Warrior, but my first memory was of my mother playing (and she wouldn’t share) Hogan’s Alley. I remembered thinking it was pretty crazy my mom was blasting bad guys. I think I was 3 or 4.
What can fans expect from you next?
I am going to finish the Eternal Online books first. I sure hope they take root. The series has a chance to run to five or more books, but that is always tough to tell. No matter how much some fans love a series, no author can afford to write books that aren’t selling enough. The first three are a go for sure though, and they will be awesome! In book two, which is already written and being devoured by a blood-thirsty editor, expect arena battles, wyvern warfare and even a quaint but fairly epic siege!
I am also beginning to release a side project on RR, so if anyone wants to read up on my new dungeon core/epic LitRPG series The Guild Core: Dragon Bourne, please hit me up there too. It will be finished and fully uploaded by early April. It is fun because rather than a video game, it takes place in a classic, high fantasy world, which I love.
Anything else you would like to add?
Check me out on my social media stuff. I’m trying to be an adult author and do those things. Feel free to ask my anything. I’m pretty helpful too, or at least know of someone smart enough to do so. Thanks for checking me out!