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Interviewing the Indies: Ryan Toxopeus

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Ryan Toxopeus stopped by today for an interview on Examiner! He’s the author of the young adult fantasy book, A Noble’s Quest, which is the first in the Empire’s Foundation trilogy. With fast-paced, action-packed writing, his novel is sure to impress any YA Fantasy fans!

Thomas and Sarentha flee everything they know when Thomas murders a co-worker. In the dead of night, a cloaked noble approaches and offers them a sum of coins they cannot refuse. His sole request is for the pair to retrieve an amethyst from a tomb.

From there, they are introduced to Eliza, a spirited and head-strong noblewoman who proves her competence with her skills in diplomacy and combat. Together with Thomas’ strength and steadfastness, and Sarentha’s drive and inquisitiveness, the trio makes an odd but capable group.

Their adventures take them across the lands of the Tamorran Empire to witness sights they never imagined. With grand plans in motion, everything hinges on Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza’s success. Artefacts need to be crafted, alliances need to be formed, and above all, secrets need to be kept. Not even their own allies know every facet of the noble’s quest, and he plays a dangerous game by creating plots within plots.

Can the disparate trio hold together throughout their trials? What secret does the noble know that causes him to go to such extraordinary lengths to succeed? Dark shadows blanket the Tamorran Empire, and illuminating those secrets will bring a terrifying truth.

If that’s not enough to pique your interest, Ryan gives a more detailed look at A Noble’s Quest in his interview.

In A Noble’s Quest, you have three characters that make up the core group -- Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza -- who is your favorite and why?

The parent in me screams, “I have no favourite!” After some careful thought, I still can’t pick. Thomas is thoughtful and protective of those he loves, Sarentha is driven and sarcastic, Eliza is spirited and opinionated. At one time or another, I can be like all of them. Each character holds a small piece of my being in them, so this question is asking me to pick a favourite part of myself. Perhaps my eyes (I’m channeling Sarentha, there).

What separates A Noble’s Quest from other young adult fantasy?

I feel like some authors try too hard to impress people with their incredible vocabularies, especially in the first three chapters (to try to woo traditional publishers). Eragon comes to mind, with a series of words I had to look up, but then became more readable after those first chapters. I believe the point of writing is to convey a story to the audience, not alienate them.

I also keep the pace pretty quick. If I’m getting bored with the writing, I imagine the reader would be, too. I try to cut out fluff and stick to the story. I give just enough description to let people build a framework in their minds, and let them fill in the gaps. I’ve read far too many books where my eyes go crossed and my mind wanders to other things, only to come back to the book a couple pages later and wonder what I missed.

We all know people say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the cover art blows me away. Harvey Bunda did an incredible job with Eliza for A Noble’s Quest. The cover for A Wizard’s Gambit is even better. I’ve received the preliminary sketch for the third book, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. He’s even done some incredible promotional book videos for me which have received some great feedback (although I’ve also had people ask, “A promotional video for a book? This is a strange age we live in.).

Finally, there’s the storyline. I haven’t had any readers say, “I had it figured out before the end.” I’ve had several people say they thought they had it all worked out, and then were surprised when the ending didn’t do what they figured it would. That’s an incredibly satisfying feeling. Although the characters are a bit thin in A Noble’s Quest, the story is strong enough that it keeps people’s interest. All I can tell people is that the first book focuses more on world building, and the sequel will delve deeper into the main characters’ desires and fears.

What was the inspiration behind writing this series?

The primary inspiration was my friend Ian. I wouldn’t have written it without his urging. More than a decade ago we used to play role playing games together, and we had a long standing campaign that I ran. The players loved their characters and the story, with all of its twists and turns.

I think he expected me to write that story first, but I couldn’t tell it without the back story. That played out with a different group of gamers, but lasted almost as long. So the Empire’s Foundation trilogy begins over 400 years before the story he knows. I’m hoping this set will do well enough that I can continue on to the next one without pause.

What do you think is the hardest part of being an independent author?

Marketing. I’m an introvert by nature, so I can’t get in people’s faces and ask them for money. Even as a kid I hated selling chocolate covered almonds to raise funds for my bowling league... and people wanted those quite a bit! Sure, I’m giving them a book in the exchange, but something about peddling my wares feels sleazy to me. I rationalize it by saying, “I only have one book out. When I have more books, I’ll really start marketing.” but the fact is I need some sales to pay for this. I often tell my wife if I break even one day, I’ll be happy.

I have found a way to work around this personal failing, and that is with giveaways. I’m running my first paperback giveaway through Goodreads until May 23rd. With 200 people already signed up, and over 60 people adding it to their “to read” list, it’s been a huge success. I plan on doing more of them. I feel no shame telling people about a book I’m willing to give away for free. And if some people decide to purchase it if they don’t win, all the better!

Since A Noble’s Quest is the first book in the trilogy, can you give us any teasers of what to expect in the next book?

Like I mentioned earlier, the sequel, A Wizard’s Gambit, focuses more on the main characters. Right from the beginning, they are thrust into new roles with more responsibility. Given that Thomas and Sarentha were lumberjacks, they are woefully under-prepared for the challenges they face. There’s a steep learning curve, mistakes are made, lives are lost. This book gets darker than the first one, with more action, suspense, and intrigue. It’s also twice as long as A Noble’s Quest.

One teaser: My developmental editor, R. J. Blain, loved the antagonist. She was rooting for him by the end. If you want to find out why, you’ll have to read the book. I’m hoping it will be coming in the fall. It’s out for line editing and beta reading right now, but I’m hoping it will be available in September.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Ryan! If you want to purchase his work, you can purchase the amazon ebook, paperback, for the nook, and from smashwords.

Stay tuned for more Interviewing the Indies! Click the links below to see our past Interviewing the Indies articles! There are ten authors featured this month. All have passed the great writing, artistic cover, and fantastic first pages test, so you as a reader know you’re picking up a good book!

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