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  • Writer's pictureMorgan Elliott

Interview with JR Konkol!

Hey y'all! Today I'm with for another author interview with JR Konkol! JR is a high fantasy author. While JR always had a love for writing and fantasy, he didn't start writing until a few years ago when he was faced with the truth of just how short life can be. His series Rebirth of the Fallen is set in a dying world that his characters must adventure through. With each book, the world grows and the reader is given clues about how the world came to be such a dark place. Something I really love about the first book is it is set in a fantasy-horror rainforest. It's such an off the wall, fun idea. It was the perfect setting for Citadel of the Fallen and I really enjoyed the quirky aspect of it. Before JR was a writer, he created his own game similar to D&D but better suited for his and his friends needs. It's this game that has helped him shape his novels into the fast paced fun they are. Check out everything he has to say (and buy his books!) below!

How did your writing journey begin?

I guess I started considering writing back in the mid-eighties. I was playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons at the time, and wasn't quite happy with the system. So, I built my own game. I produced and published it in the early 90s, while I was pursuing my English degree.

Eventually, I pulled the plug on that, but I always kept running those games for people, constantly building the lore and the world my friends were adventuring in. I always told myself I was going to turn that world, and those adventures, into a series of novels, but I think many of harbor plans like those that seldom reach fruition.

A few years ago, I found myself spending a lot of time bedside in the hospital. My late wife's health was starting to decline. I think facing that mortality really shook things loose. We only have so much time. If I wanted to write, I needed to stop dreaming about it and start doing it.

So... I started writing.

How would you describe fantasy-horror to someone?

I think, as soon as you decide to make your fantasy creatures somewhat realistic, you quickly arrive at horror.

Just look at the insect kingdom. In Citadel of the Fallen, I explore army ant migrations, like what occur in the Amazon every year, but I do so at a fantasy scale, where insects that might normally be two inches long, are two or three feet long.

In the real world, insects have lethal claws, spit acid, and do a wide assortment of other nightmare-inducing things. Once you scale that up to giant-sized for your fantasy world, it's quite horrifying.

How would you summarize the world in your books?

The world is in many ways two worlds. I built the original world over the course of decades, but when I cast the story, I moved things 300 years in the future. I basically broke the world, leaving just a handful of surviving human settlements.

Readers only get to experience the world through character points of view. In book 1, Citadel of the Fallen, we're in an overgrown, fantasty-horror rainforest. The world continually expands with each book, as new regions are introduced to the protagonists.

Throughout the story, readers get brief glimpses into the past. Little clues, here and there, pointing to what happened 300 years ago, and starting to answer questions about how and why the world fell.

How has music changed your life?

I've studied classical piano for 44 years or so, now, and I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of it. Most of my studies are for my own growth only, though I do perform from time to time. My strongest repertoire is my Chopin. I've learned most of his Nocturnes.

It's hard to put into words how profound an impact music has had in my life. My friends and loved ones notice if I'm forced to go a few days without playing.

For me, music gives me a vehicle to express my emotions, in ways I simply can't in my day to day life.

Do you have a favorite character you have created?

I think Raelyn has largely stepped forward, and claimed a significant amount of space in these books. She started off somewhat as a McGuffin. An ancient succubus, with access to lost magics, who would ultimately move the plot forward.

As I wrote her backstory, filling in how she learned those forgotten magics, and how she spent her centuries, I arrived at a truly gritty, and poignantly tragic character.

When I moved her into the big city, as it were, I started toying with her redemption arc, and I really like where it sat in the story.

How do you find the time to plan for a 12-book series?

I've been planning much of this series for decades. I built the backstory, and much of the contempory story arc through role playing campaigns I ran for my friends.

The campaign that became Rebirth of the Fallen ran close to 100 session, each around five hours, over the course of six or so years.

For those who've watched Critical Role, or have ever participated in a Tabletop Fantasy Roleplaying Game, it's exactly what you're thinking.

What is the hardest part in writing that you have come across?

Transitions within the story. If you dissect a lot of movies, or novels, you'll find that most of them feature a number of connected scenes, with transitional moments in between.

I'm pretty comfortable writing 40+ page action sequences. Most of my books feature one or two. Sometimes, the pieces in between can be daunting.

Invariably, I find those pieces inbetween the larger set pieces to be the most rewarding, in the end, but I find they often require more activation energy to write.

Would you be excited, nervous, or terrified to be in the world you have created?

Certainly, all three. I love the beauty and the darkness in the world I created, but make no mistake, it is a very dangerous place.

What is a scene you hope every gets a chance to remember from one of your books?

I think each book features a number of cinematic style scenes. I switch point of views on a chapter-by-chapter basis, so I'm able to essentially move the camera around in large battles.

I think the Black Tide in Citadel of the Fallen is a great scene.

In Gathering the Fallen, there's a truly horrifying scene I wish I could forget. I won't ruin it for anyone.

In Flight of the Fallen, I think any scene involving Bonewalker is memorable.

What have you learned from your adventures in writing so far?

I think a lot of patience. When I got that first contract for Citadel of the Fallen, I thought things would happen quickly.

They didn't, and I've learned that my experience is largely the same as most small-press authors.

It takes time to earn Amazon reviews, and to build a readership, and for your books to get noticed.

Things don't happen over night. My biggest mistakes and disappoints in publishing were born out of my attempts to force, or rush things.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Writing is a skill, similar to many others. Some days are harder, and sometimes new writing challenges will seem impossible to conquer.

But if you work at it, after a few months you'll look back and realize just how far you've come.

Comments:- Book 5 in the Rebirth of the Fallen series, The Sundered City, will be published on 8-3-23. I expect book 6 to be out in the first half of 2024.

Short Author’s Bio:

A classical pianist and marginal triathlete, Jeff Konkol is permitted to live in the sprawling home of four very large cats. He published his first table top RPG, Of gods and Men, in the early 90s, and has been running games within that setting ever since. He recently returned to writing with the hope of sharing those stories with a wider audience.

Longer Author’s Bio:

My path to writing started with tabletop Role Playing Games. As with many, I started with Dungeons and Dragons. I wasn’t satisfied with the rules, so I started working on my own game. I tweaked it all throughout High School.

I started college with the thought of being a music major but got disenchanted with the idea after a few semesters. Something about an almost supernatural inability to stay awake when confronted with any type of chamber music made it a poor fit.

My RPG, Of Gods and Men, was taking shape, so I thought the better course was to learn to be a better writer. I switched my major to English, and eventually graduated with an English degree.

At some point, the game got published. It wasn’t a bad game. A lot of the rules and systems were quite robust, but it also wasn’t a great game. There was really no world to it… just an enormous set of rules defining how things would work once a world was built. It survived a few years. A supplemental source book and a screen got published, but eventually I pulled the plug on that chapter of my life.

The game became something we got together and played every week or two. I kept refining the rules with each new campaign, and, over time, a world started to take shape. When you run so many characters through a place, and build so many stories around those characters, one can’t help but eventually put some flesh around even the most skeletal of worlds.

Life went the normal course it goes for many. I found a career. I got married. I gained weight, and later lost it. We bought a house together, and with no children, started collecting cats. There were ups and downs… nothing too far outside the normal American experience.

Writing was something I always told myself I SHOULD do, but it never managed to claw its way to the top of the hobby list. I was playing with a few bands and releasing CDs. My classical piano studies were progressing, and when my wife, Kelly, settled on marathons and triathlons as her method of dealing with her midlife crisis… well, I added that into the mix as well.

Things changed after my wife had her stroke and started her long decline. I guess, somewhere along that dark twisting road, the concept of life being too short got hammered into my thick skull. So, I did my full Ironman. (barely) I fought through my anxiety and started (occasionally) performing some of the pieces I spent thousands of hours studying… and I finally started writing.

There’s a lot that happened on that long twisting road… it’s impossible to be with someone as they go through something like Kelly did and not have it change you. This isn’t a place to discuss it, but I was told a bio page was mandatory… and the death of my wife of sixteen years is a pretty big event in my life.

Writing has finally clawed its way to the top of my hobbies and pursuits. Book one has a publisher, a release date, and recently won a 1st place Pencraft Award for Literary Excellence, for Citadel of the Fallen. Books two through four or out in the world, making names for themselves. Book five is releasing in August of 2023, and book six is starting to take shape. I guess I’m officially a writer now.

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