Kasper Interviews Patricia Reding, Multi-Award Winning Fantasy Author

Oathtaker Book Cover Oathtaker
The Oathtaker Series
Patricia Reding
June 20, 2014
576 pages

An Oath Sworn. A Struggle Engaged. A Sacrifice Required. When Mara, a trained Oathtaker, is drawn by the scent of the Select to battle underworld beasts summoned by the powers of evil to destroy the guardians of life, she swears a life oath for the protection of her charge. Armed with a unique weapon and her attendant magic, and with the assistance of her Oathtaker cohorts, two ancients and a spymaster, Mara seeks safety for her charge from one who would end Oosa’s rightful line of rule and from assassins who endeavor to bring ruin to the land. As Mara puzzles to decipher ancient prophecy concerning her charge, as she is haunted with memories of her own past failings, she discovers the price her oath will exact. To renounce her word would be treasonous; to fail, ruinous; to persevere, tortuous. Abiding by an oath requires sacrifice.

patAuthor bio: Patricia Reding leads a double life. By day, she practices law. By night, she reads, reviews a wide variety of works, and writes fantasy. She lives on an island on the Mississippi with her husband and youngest daughter (her son and oldest daughter having already flown the nest), and Flynn Rider, an English Cream Golden Retriever. From there, she seeks to create a world in which she can be in two places at once. She took up writing The Oathtaker Series, as a challenge, and re-discovered along the way, the joy of storytelling.

Author interview by Kasper:
Hi Patricia, it is great to have you here. Welcome about the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network interview space ship.
What was the defining event that made you start writing?

Long years ago, I did a fair amount of writing. I recollect grade- and even high school classes for which I wrote. From time to time, teachers requested (or required) that we share our work with the class. Frequently, other students asked that I share mine. Then, the years passed, many of which I spent in furtherance of my education. I wrote countless term papers (on all things philosophical, historical, and political), and during my second year of law school, I wrote a law review article that the editors chose for publication. (It related to legal and/or illegal “group” searches.) But one could hardly call any of that “creative writing.”

I’d always been an avid reader and have read amongst other things, many of those works deemed “classics.” I contemplated, when I read those works, how and why they’d withstood the test of time. In some respects, I studied them. But I didn’t feel particularly compelled to write—at least not for public consumption.

Time passed. Eventually, I found that the only writing that I did was in connection with my job. I practice law, so once again, the writing was not creative, but rather, instructive—or at times even argumentative—in nature. Little did I know though, that the skills I used for that writing would come to play such a crucial role in my creative writing. In learning good legal writing, I also discovered how to pinpoint the missing piece in something, how to provide a logical train of thought that my reader could follow, and so on.

Then one day, something interesting happened. I’d been reading a fair number of fantasies. I enjoyed getting lost in the many and varied worlds other authors had created. I stumbled upon a series that left me… dumbfounded. I was utterly fascinated with what the author had managed to do in a series that must run 10,000 pages or so. I read it back-to-back four times. I wanted to know what the author had done and how he’d done it.  I was fascinated with his ability to take real life events and present them to readers (who might not otherwise have given his ideas the time of day) in a manner that encouraged (dare I say, “forced”) them to give careful consideration to serious topics. Unfortunately, after this experience, I had great difficulty finding things that met with my new standard. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I whined about it—fairly frequently.

Finally, one day, as I criticized yet another work, I realized that my children were watching and listening to me blather on about something about which, in fact, I knew nothing. I vowed then and there that I would give it a try. If I could write a story that could at least hold its own, then I could complain. If not, I would cease. But I couldn’t write just anything. No, I had to choose the hardest thing I could think of, to write. I had to choose fantasy, as it would require the creation of a world order, a magic system, and more. From that experience, Oathtaker was born. I never intended to publish it. Only after finally allowing some friends and family who repeatedly asked about it, to read it, did I consider that. (In the end, their prodding made me do it…)

I don’t suggest that my work comes anywhere near the fantasy series that had so enamored me. Still, I have managed to win a couple of awards for my work—and some devoted readers. For the record, I will add that in accordance with my earlier position, I determined that I could now complain about other works, In reality, however, I have discovered how very difficult it is to create a story that is compelling, internally consistent, and that might engage a reader, heart and mind. I also discovered that what I loved the most when I read, another person might vehemently despise. Accordingly, I’ve gained a new respect for those willing to try their hand at spinning a tale. Moreover, I applaud those willing to expose themselves, through their stories, to the criticism of others—often including those who really may not know anything about that of which they speak. That is not to say that readers don’t all know what they enjoy. Of course, they do. It is only to say that it is much easier for a reader to be “critical” when he’s never tried for himself the very thing he criticizes. (That was certainly true for me!)

That’s a great answer. Congratulations on taking up writing and on the awards you have won.
What’s the basic plot of your series?

I wanted to write a story that I could allow my teen daughters to read—but I didn’t want to write a story deemed strictly YA. The main reason for this is that YA is all too often filled with the same old concepts: insta-love, the love-triangle, a main character who is just so very “special” (you know what I mean), and so on. These stories have their place and purpose, but too often, adults will not give them the time of day. On the other hand, there are YA readers who want something more “adult” and they (and/or their parents) seek adult stories that do not include steamy romance scenes, outrageous graphic violence, or drug and/or alcohol abuse told in a manner that suggests that the same is acceptable.

For my part, I wanted to illustrate (primarily, but not solely, for the young) things happening in our real world—things I’d like for them to understand and that I believe adults will appreciate. I wanted a vehicle to view and comment upon real life and worldwide political and social issues and events. Oathtaker considers such things as the importance of honoring your word, living in a time and place under attack by those who challenge your right to live and to choose your own way of living, and so on.

It is hard to write a story that can be enjoyed by both adults and YA readers. Yet, if you think about it, the best-known works of recent years are stories that have done some of the very things I wanted to do. These tales include the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Game series, and more. The authors of these works managed to tell tales that cross the lines of YA/adult. I don’t begin to compare my works to these others, but I can say that I’ve sought to do some of the same things with my work as was done with these others. As a consequence, I’ve had readers ranging from ages 13 to 80—and those at both extremes have enjoyed the Oathtaker tales. So, while I would not classify my tales as YA, I would say they are “Fantasy/PG-13.”

Describe your road to publishing.

Oh, this road was very rocky, indeed. Before I got started, I wasn’t involved in Goodreads and/or other outlets that connect readers and writers—or even just writers with other writers. Consequently, I was not as well informed as I should have been. I thought the self-publication route would be too difficult to figure out and to manage—particularly given that I have a day job that requires my attention. (There are, after all, bills to pay.) Consequently, I looked for a company to assist me in the publication. Overall, they did a fine job. However, when I discovered things to correct or to improve in my work, or when I wanted a say-so in how it was classified, and so forth, I had no way of doing that—at least not in short order and/or without racking up additional costs.

So, I started researching the self-publishing world. During that time, having received a few early reviews that spotted some issues I wanted to address in Oathtaker, I also engaged in a critical additional edit, cutting the work down in size, fairly significantly. I learned how to self-publish, found a formatter to assist me in getting my work in its best form for print and e-book format, and then identified the provider I wanted to work with for my cover.

When all the pieces were finally in place, I hit the “submit” button. Thereafter, I entered Volume One to the Readers’ Favorite and Literary Classics contests—and won awards in both.

It took a couple of tries to get it right, but in the end, going the self-publishing route was the best choice for me.

What’s your favorite social media outlet and why?

Without a doubt, I’ve come to love Bublish (at www.Bublish.com). Most often, readers hear what other readers have to say about literary works, through the infamous “review.” With Bublish, readers can hear what the author was thinking, planning, etc.

The concept of Bublish is that the author takes portions of her work and then shares them with readers, adding comments about those excerpts. The author might explain how those portions of the story came to be, how real-life events brought the portions about or influenced them in some manner, and so on. For example, I’ve written “Book Bubbles” about such things as:

Why I included an introduction/preface to my tale: http://bit.ly/1YyN6Xb;

What I did in the opening scene to create suspense: http://bit.ly/1HtGNzS

The use and significance of smell/scent (an oft-forgotten sense) in my stories: http://bit.ly/1HtJOAb;

How I research for information while writing: http://bit.ly/1HtX5sD; and

How I use “doorways” and similar devices to urge readers to continue on: http://bit.ly/1Q5Pinn.

I would love for you to follow me on Bublish. Just click the “Follow on Bublish” button at https://www.bublish.com/author/view/6479 and join me for background to my creating the Oathtaker journey!

Thanks for sharing about Bublish. I’ll have to look up that one myself – KB
What’s your writing routine?

It is only now, after having published my first two works, that I’ve come up with a routine of any sort. I recently started using Scrivner, which overall has been helpful, although I’ve still so much to learn about the program. The best part about it is that all of my materials are in one place, so that it is much easier at any given moment, to find the piece of the story that I seek.

As to when I write . . . Well that all depends on what needs to be done. I practice law, which takes much of my time. My youngest has not yet graduated high school, and so I’m busy with her things on a regular basis. My other daughter is still in college and I assist her with things where, and how, I can. Finally, my eldest—and my only son—is quite newly married and I want time to get to know my newest daughter. Over the years, I’ve found so many things to distract my attention, and so few tools that I can use to help me to focus it. (For pet owners out there, I highly recommend you invest in a Roomba. You can let it help you with your cleaning while you sit behind your screen and focus!)

These days, I keep my current work open on my screen at all times. When I sit down, if I don’t have time to write something new, I might at least choose a portion already written to fine-tune. Also, I’ve recently started setting goals I can strive to reach. As a result, I’ve got the first 40,000+ words of book three (which is pretty much in final form, barring something extraordinary changing in the story I anticipate telling), and I managed to do that in just a couple months. One trick I use to keep going forward is that each time I stop writing, I try to leave my work it mid-sentence, mid-paragraph—or at a minimum, mid-scene. That way, the next time I sit down to write, the first (and usually hardest) words to get out just flow right off from the ends of my fingertips and—I’m off!

What scene do you like best from your book and why?

This is really tough. In truth, I quite enjoy a number of them! One of my favorites though, is the scene in Oathtaker in which the main character, Mara, discovers the person who has betrayed her cause. I knew little about the story when I started writing it, but I did know what the Oathtakers could do, and I knew how the betrayer would be discovered. When I finally got to write the scene, it was such fun!

How did you go about developing your cover art?

I worked with PhatPuppy Art. (Oh, please, do take a look at http://phatpuppyart.com. Their work is incredible!) I shared my story highlights with them and my ideas about the cover. With their help, I chose the cover model for Oathtaker, and suggested possible shots for use. I am thrilled with both of my covers and cannot recommend PhatPuppy Art highly enough!

For the in depth story of my re-publication venture, including the creation of my cover art and formatting (for Oathtaker, Volume One), see:

Part 1 (why I chose to re-edit, re-cover and re-publish) at: http://www.oathtaker.com/patricias-blog-and-interviews/-tales-of-publicationand-re-publication-part-1;

Part 2 (cover art decisions), at http://www.oathtaker.com/patricias-blog-and-interviews/tales-of-publication-and-re-publication-part-2-making-decisions-about-the-cover;

Part 3 (the cover shoot and choosing the background) at http://www.oathtaker.com/patricias-blog-and-interviews/-tales-of-publication-and-re-publication-part-3-cover-art;

Part 4 (interviews with the PhatPuppy people) at http://www.oathtaker.com/patricias-blog-and-interviews/-tales-of-publication-and-re-publication-part-4-more-on-cover-art; and

Part 5 (formatting, along with an interview of my formatter) at

http://www.oathtaker.com/patricias-blog-and-interviews/tales-of-publication-and-re-publication-part-5-formatting.

As I review these former blogs posts, I see that I should do a story on how the cover for Volume Two was created. Hmmmm . . . I’ll have to get on that!

You are a font of information and I’m sure many new (and perhaps not-so-new) authors would love to learn from you.
What music do you listen to while writing?

I almost always have music going in the background when I write. My go-to music includes the Lord of the Rings movie soundtracks. They put me in the right mood. Occasionally, I play other Celtic or Celtic-inspired music on Spotify or Pandora, including that of Enya, but I keep going back to the LOTR movie soundtracks. (I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve played through them.) For those who enjoy soundtracks as a background, I also highly recommend (although the spirit of each is quite different from LOTR), All the Pretty Horses, Legend of the Falls, and Out of Africa.

Who are your favorite authors?

For the most part, I have to go back to the classics for these. I adore Victor Hugo. Les Miserables is the best-told story of self-sacrifice (apart from the Bible) ever told. Also, the Hunchback of Notre Dame illustrates like no other, the power of the spoken work (for good or for ill). I’m also a big fan of all things Charles Dickens. He had a way of describing people, places, and things, in a most compelling and unique manner. I enjoy Jane Austen for her wit, Edith Wharton for her truthfulness about the society in which she lived, and Thomas Hardy, whose “endings” can be most surprising. For fantasy, Terry Goodkind, author of The Wizard of Truth Series, is my man.

Who would you choose to read your audiobook?

Me!  I’ve been involved in musical dramas for over two decades and I LOVE reading out loud. Whenever I do something for my church, for example, people gather around me afterwards to talk about it. Recently, I did a reading for a Christmas program. Afterward, several people came up and asked me when I was going to do an audio version of Oathtaker. Oh, that would be such fun!

We’ll look forward to that one, thanks.
What’s your dream job and do you think you’ll do it one day?

I would love to teach political science at the college level. I think it would be rewarding to challenge young people to look beyond the obvious and to become critical readers and thinkers. Who know, I might still pursue it one day . . .

What’s your favorite pet?

This one is easy!  My favorite pet is our English Cream Golden Retriever, Flynn Rider. (You might recognize his name from the Disney movie, Tangled.) Flynn will be two years old this April, and it is hard to imagine life before him, or life without him. He came to us at a time when my family was in crisis, with numerous outside forces coming against us. They included injury, serious (life threatening) medical diagnoses and treatments, and even crimes against us (ultimately leading to someone finding his way to prison). And all of these things occurred within a single calendar year.

My daughters had long been asking for a Golden—ever since we’d cared for my son’s pet while he was out of the States in the service of his country. I’d balked at the idea. I didn’t want another person or thing to care for—financially or otherwise—and given all the catastrophes that had befallen us, the idea was beyond me.  I didn’t want nights up with a pup, a mess in the house, hair collecting about me on a constant and regular basis, or the fact that I’d have to clean it up. Finally, however, I relented, realizing that the mental health of more than one of us could be improved with a new pet. As it turns out, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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Love at first sight.

From the moment my girls, Madeline and Isabelle, set their eyes on Flynn, a new hope was born. He has been the single best and easiest pet we’ve ever owned. His housetraining was almost non-existent. That is to say that he only ever had two mishaps—and they were both within the first week or so (and they were both our fault). By the time he was just a few months old, he could hold a “stay” for long times, even when we left the room.

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Flynn Rider at about two months old.

My youngest, Isabelle, has done most of Flynn’s training, from obedience, to agility. Yes, we know, agility is not a Golden’s best “sport,” but the team-building it allows for between owner and pet is nothing short of amazing. In the end, Isabelle has determined that her future will include working with dogs, either as a trainer, as a counselor—using them for therapy-work, or otherwise. For our family, Flynn brought healing and hope, and for my youngest, he opened an entire new world of possible futures.

Oh, yes! Lest I forget to mention this: the best part about Flynn is that he is my writing partner on those few occasions when I have the place to myself. Generally, he rests quietly near me, and keeps me company. I positively adore him!

What is your experience of the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network?

As a writer, the best part about the network is the ability to connect with other authors, to share information, resources and experiences with them, to help promote one another’s works, and to support one another though challenging issues and difficult times.

 

“Once again, I thank you for this opportunity. I had great fun sharing!

I invite readers to follow me through the various social media links noted.

Come! Join me in the Oathtaker journey!”

Thank you to Patricia Reding for sharing great writing and thoughts with us today on the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network.

Interviewed by Kasper Beaumont, author of the Hunters of Reloria fantasy series. www.huntersofreloria.weebly.com

 

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  • Patricia Reding

    Thank you so much, Kasper! It was such a pleasure!

  • I found this interview through Twitter. So many parallels with my own writing experience. I’m in my 40’s and one day in 2014 decided I wanted to write a novel. I kept going and wrote 3 even before I published the first one. I just loved exploring the world I created (post-apocalyptic zombies) and I too wanted a book my pre-teen children could eventually enjoy. The main character is 15 years old, but like Patricia I wanted to steer away from all the “typical” stuff that one finds a lot in the YA genre. I didn’t even think about Harry Potter, but I thought of Ender’s Game — which has a young teen thinking and acting (for the most part) at a very sophisticated level. My guy has nothing special about him, but as the world collapses around him he has to use his brain. He is the guy I hope my kids can find some inspiration from when they are that old. And thank you for the bit about Bublish. That is so funny, as I read reviews for my books and wish I could get in there and explain what I was thinking or explain why I disagree with them. That site sounds like a wonderful way to do that in a non-confrontational way. I don’t respond to reviews as a rule. Love a meaty interview like this. Very illustrative. Thanks!