Welcome my guest author today, Charles McDonald, who brings us the flavor of Robert Jordan.
Charles W. McDonald Jr. was born in Oklahoma City, raised in Norman, Oklahoma, and is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a BBA in Management Information Systems and a Minor in Economics. He also has a background in Aerospace Engineering and High Availability Systems Engineering. Honorably discharged from the United States Air Force Reserves, he also has a background in the armed forces. He lives with his wife, Brandy L. McDonald, in Roanoke, TX.
In the summer of 1995, Charles read every available book on the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan in a couple of weeks and later that same July awoke in the middle of the night from an incredibly immersive dream. Charles began writing, by hand, everything he could remember from that dream which became the outline for the story of A Throne of Souls. Very shortly afterwards, Charles wrote Robert Jordan directly, looking for advice and inspiration for his own work, and Robert Jordan personally responded in a three-page letter, encouraging Charles to tell his story in his way, in his voice, and in his time. The completion of A Throne of Souls is a deeply personal mission for Charles to thank the spirit of Robert Jordan.
- Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a very versatile, broadly-talented, pretty intense guy—very opinionated, organized and structured with a drive that is palpable. No one ever had to coach or encourage me to go do something. I’m a do-it-yourself doer and a perfectionist. I can be a little tough to work with when it comes to writing because I expect the best from anyone affiliated with my work. If it’s got my name on it, it has to be right and that means I expect the very best from them and I won’t settle for less.
- What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve had this story in my head that just won’t go away. It’s like an itch that only gets scratched when I write. I’ve heard writers don’t write because they want to. They write because they need to—it’s just who they are inside.
- What are your biggest literary influences? Favorite authors and why?
Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, James Rollins, Tom Clancy.
- If you could have written any other book by any other author, what would it be, and why?
I’ll never take credit for anyone else’s work. That’s just not my style. Not even hypothetically. My style is so radically different from others, it’s not really comparable. People who read A Throne of Souls will see. I’ve got multiple critic reviews that essentially say they’ve never read anything like it before both from a story perspective and a story-telling perspective.
- Tell us something about how you write? i.e. are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have any weird or necessary writing habits or rituals?
A bit of both. I’ll write stream-of-consciousness style, but only after making the plan and outline. I have an eight-foot long whiteboard in my office I use all the time to illustrate the plot’s many layers. It looks like a CSI crime investigation with arrows going all over the place. J
- Do you think people have misconceptions about the speculative fiction? Why do you think it is a worthwhile genre?
I do and rightfully so. Most, but not all, have character development but the characters still don’t jump off the page as “Holy crap! That felt real!” People have told me that they felt as if they “rediscovered” what fantasy and what literature could be when they read A Kingdom Forgotten (Book 1 of A Throne of Souls). They said it felt very real to them and they felt connected to the characters.
- Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book?
Well, A Kingdom Forgotten could be related to Episode 4 of Star Wars in that it throws you right into the action, kinda starting in the middle of the story, but at a critical point in the story. This story isn’t told like others. It’s completely nonlinear. I don’t tell what happens in the past by flashbacks—generally speaking—although I think you’ll find two legitimate flashbacks in book 1. I do it by narrating the past events as if they’re happening now and I’ll usually group them together in such a way that it makes sense to the reader. For example, maybe we’re getting ready to cover a thread in the storyline’s present day, but before we do, I’ll give backstory and character development with an event from the past that relates to the thread you’re about to read or just read. I’ll do something similar for near future timelines. The best way to think of A Kingdom Forgotten is that it’s general theme is the what and the when. Black Mirrors of the Soul (Book 2 coming in April) has a general them of who and why and is LOADED with character development. It delivers a gut-level connection with the reader that will ‘scatter their emotions all over the room’ according to my proofreader. It’s both terrifying and thrilling and it has a shocking conclusion. One thing about my books is that they are hard to predict. The plot is so layered and there’s just so much going on, it’s going to challenge your critical thinking. These books are not a light read, but I guarantee you’ve never read anything like them before.
- What gives you inspiration for your book?
A dream I started with in July 1995. Today, I’d say I feel the most inspired as I go walking.
- Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
Well, that’s a multi-response question. Damon I’m most familiar with, though least like as a person. Illirian Starfire is always on my mind—I just can’t get her out of my head. Michael Anthony Day is the one I aspired to be and the only altruistic character in my story.
- What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
That moment when people start talking about your books and your characters and how much they loved them, felt they were real, wanted to be like them, wanted to understand them, etc. When you go into forums and see what people are saying about your story for the first time, it’s very surreal.
- What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The artwork! SAWEEET JESUS—the artwork! My books require a ton of it, and it’s not simple cartoon art or whatever. It’s illustrative-realism-level quality art. It takes about 6-8 months per book just to get the artwork across the finish line. It only takes me about 12 weeks to write a 165,000-word novel. Yeah, I can write kinda fast. J
- What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?
It’s not just fantasy. It’s an all-encompassing cerebral thriller. I’m going to paraphrase on of ‘anamcara’ who said, “Wow! The sample I've read...not even sure where to classify it! Fantasy? Check. Science Fiction? Check. Thriller? Check again. This story sounds so insanely deep, complex and intriguing that I can't wait to get my hands on it to read!” It covers a lot of ground from Philosophy, Religion, Physics, Meta-Physics, Biology, Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM), History, etc. I mean you name it, this story covers a LOT of ground and you’re going to learn a lot and be highly entertained while doing so. You’re also going to be both challenged and rewarded when you succeed in those challenges. I drop so many clues all over the place and use disinformation as well, but when you figure something out, you’re like, ‘ah-hah!’ And that moment opens a whole new understanding of another layer in the story that now makes complete sense to you.
- Titles have always been extremely difficult for me. How do you come up with yours?
They just come easy to me based on the theme of the book. I mean, you can see I’ve already named all five books in the series and I can almost guarantee you none of those future book names will change. Why? Because, it describes the biggest theme that book has a job to describe.
- What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
Write your ideas down immediately—as soon as they happen—or they’re gone. That’s a fact. You’d be surprised at how high a ratio of those writing ideas I actually put into the story.
- Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Do you have any other books in the works?
I’m currently working on all the books in the series, A Throne of Souls:
Book 2 (Black Mirrors of the Soul) – April 2017
Book 3 (The Fall of Hate) – Dec 2017 at the earliest
Book 4 (The Rise of Hope) – Fall 2018
Book 5 (A Throne of Souls) – 2019 (You’d be surprised how much of this one is already done)
Where can we find you online?
A Kingdom Forgotten (Book 1 of A Throne of Souls) – Chapter 12: Banthis:
“(Physical Cave Entrance to The World Below and Between, Kaleion, Recent History)
Dawn still a couple of hours away, they stood and talked, continuing their conversation from
Lithe, dark, and beyond beautiful Evanyil stood there basking in moonlight with her radiant platinum hair and unique violet eyes, batting them at the doer of all doer’s. No one—not in all her lifetimes—could compare to Damon’s ability to get things done. That made him the only possible candidate for this task—the only one she could trust to get the job done right the first time. And with this task, there would be no second chances. They would either all succeed and reap the benefits, or they would all suffer a fate far worse than any death that could possibly be imagined.
Damon stood there in his full mage regalia, letting Evanyil caress, or rather pet, the top of his hand as she peered into his black mirrors of the soul. They were so amazing lit up the way they were in that cool smoky aura backlit by the moonlight. He was an amazing specimen. She did love him—truly so. It wasn’t just physical love, or lust, between them. It was love of trust, love of reliability, love of dependability, love of so very much history together, and the love of rescuing one another more times than either could count. They had been a team from the very first moment they met. They knew each other’s thoughts and could complete each other’s sentences, and they were just opposite enough to attract without driving each other insane. Well, Evanyil would fit the definition of insanity already—with, or without, Damon. Even that he loved about her. She was just sane enough to be surprisingly lucid at times, and just crazy enough to come up with the most brilliant and unconventional thinking that frequently dovetailed perfectly with his order and structure.
The vines and dogwood masked the entrance entirely to the untrained eye, but they had been here so many times, they knew right where they were going—physically and otherwise.
“Sweetie, I’m not saying it has to be now-now. I’m saying I know it takes time to plot something of this magnitude, and I’d like to start the planning now,” so unusual coming from her—the realization of planning something like this. Evanyil was the act first, solve problems-on-the-fly personality. But, if she, of all people, was realizing the need to plan something like this, then she truly did have an understanding of the consequences at play.
He was trying to keep his thoughts focused and ordered as she continued stroking his hand, leaning her perfect body into his as she blinked at him with those magnificent violet eyes of hers. He knew he wasn’t being used—not really at least. Was he? It was the briefest of thoughts crossing across his consciousness as he replied, “Look, I’m just saying my biggest concern has always been about what happens after. I mean, we’re going to bring enough to this fight, I’m pretty confident we’ll win. The question is, in the massive power vacuum that follows, who gets what, when, how, where, and why are all extremely important questions that need to be asked and answered before the first spell is cast in this war we’re about to start. There has to be a viable path to a lasting equilibrium. That’s all I’m saying. And forgive me for saying this, but you’re not the ‘share my toys’ type.”
Evanyil feigned insult pouting, but she knew where Damon was coming from. He had a valid point—he always did. “You’re suggesting a meeting between myself and your wifey.”
A huff of derision at the thought from Evanyil. She didn’t hate Banthis. They had largely stayed out of one another’s way all this time, but Banthis took Damon away from her. It wasn’t a jealousy thing between Evanyil and Banthis. More like, Damon and Evanyil were best friends, teammates, traveling companions till the end, and then one day Banthis came in and changed all that. She detested the change that came with Banthis in Damon’s life more than she detested Banthis herself. Evanyil knew she wasn’t the marrying type and neither was Damon and yet he’d done it—more than once already. Their relationship had been violently hot, then cold, then hot, then unbearably distant, then ethereal, then… The one constant between them was that they could count on one another, particularly when commitments were given.
He could see the wheels of chaos turning in the half-psychotic mind of hers, and thought better to interrupt her train of thought before someone got killed—or worse. “Look, you two need to figure out who gets what when this goes down. I’ve known you a lot longer than I’ve known her but don’t ask me to choose between you two. That won’t be good for any of us.”
“And what if I am asking you to choose me?”
“Evanyil, please don’t. Please.”
A batted eyelash, then a look down at the lush grass beneath them bathed in moonlight as her spiders stood sentry around them made Evanyil consider her options if it came down to it. “I miss the old us.”
A broad smile from Damon—she loved his smile—caused Damon to reminisce. Thoughts of their first meeting flooded his mind…then their first time together in combat…then all the years she spent with him at his manor. They covered a lot of ground together—shared tremendous history. Cupping her magnificent face, he kissed her—really kissed her—like their lives depended on it. Was that because it did, he wondered. “If this works, we’ll have all the freedom to be whoever we want, to forge, or reforge, whatever state of relationship we desire. And, for the record, I miss the old us too. You mean…,” he paused thinking as a lump formed in his throat, searching for the words, “…more to me than words can describe. You’re my last real living link to the past—at least that part of my past I remember with fondness. I adore you, Evanyil. Please don’t ever change.”
It was a strange, and rare moment, seeing a tear streaking down the cheeks of a living Goddess, but she had what she wanted—for now at least. She had Damon’s commitment to execute the plan that would set them both free. Though, here with him tonight in this perfect moonlit night, she wanted more. She wanted a future with Damon…without Banthis.”