Hiya, party people! This is Judson Roberts!
Judson Roberts is a former police officer, federal agent, organized crime prosecutor, defense attorney, and private investigator (and obviously changed jobs far too many times). He lives in Houston, Texas, but hopes to move to the Pacific Northwest in the near future. He is the author of a historical fiction series called the Strongbow Saga which is set in the 9th century world of the Vikings.
And now….you get an ice cream cone!
Okay, just kidding. You know by now that the interview comes next.
Tell us something about you that would surprise us.
Actually, maybe it wouldn’t surprise your readers, but my many years working in various capacities with criminals has made me more suspicious than the average person. For example, when I originally received the email inviting me to this blog, which was signed only “Dr. Grasshopper,” I ran some searches to try and figure out who it was from.
Did you know there’s another Dr. Grasshopper blog? And on his MySpace page (which I mistakenly thought was yours), he has really lovely “friends,” like someone who runs an escort service. Fortunately, someone revealed your secret identity to me.
(I feel compelled to insert: snickersnicker heeheehee.)
What’s the best writing advice anyone has ever given you? What’s the worst?
In a sense, the same piece of advice was both the best and the worst. I wrote my series—and it’s not finished yet, there are two more books to come—as adult historical fiction. When my (now former) agent first undertook to represent it, although she specialized in children’s and young adult books, she was extremely enthused about my first book and assured she could handle adult fiction, too. She was unable to sell it as such, though, so persuaded me to let her try selling the book as a young adult novel, based on the fact that the protagonist is fifteen years old when the story begins. That proved to be very good advice, in that she was able to secure a contract with HarperCollins for three books, with a option clause giving them rights to buy the rest of the series.
It proved to be very bad advice, in that HarperCollins did publish the books as children’s/young adult novels, put covers on them that made them look like romance novels, then failed to follow through on any of the supposed marketing/promotion efforts they said they’d do for the launch of the series (my agent said she’d never seen the hardback launch of a new series by a major publisher get zero coverage before). So not surprisingly, hidden away in the children’s section of bookstores, the series never found its true audience.
To take a different twist on the question, what should have been the worst thing to happen in my writing career is now proving to be the best. Because the books were not selling, last year HarperCollins took the first two—Viking Warrior and Dragons from the Sea─ out of print (for some reason, they’re currently still hanging on to the third). That used to be one of the worst things that could happen to an author.
But now that the rights to those books have reverted back to me, I’ve republished them as adult fiction, with new covers, though Amazon. Currently they’re available only as Kindle e-book editions—new print-on-demand paperbacks will follow soon—but sales of them have already taken off as adult readers have discovered them and are falling in love with the series.
So the series that once was dead, and was considered a worthless property by its original publisher, is rising again.
What is the biggest obstacle you face when it comes to your writing?
Having the self discipline to make myself sit down at the computer and get started writing.
How do you overcome it?
How much research do you do on a subject you are sketchy on?
I research quite extensively. My goals in writing this series, besides the primary one of telling a really good, gripping story, are to be as historically accurate as possible—I weave my fictional protagonist’s story into a number of actual historical events—and to give readers an appreciation for what the Vikings were really like.
Although many today, if they think of the Vikings at all, believe they were crude, violent barbarians, in reality they had a fascinating, highly developed culture that in many ways was similar to that of the ancient Greeks of Homer’s time.
I’d love to hear whether you advocate wholesale slaughter in your novels or see it as a sign of weakness?
Wholesale slaughter—I hadn’t thought about it before, but I guess there are two of those in my first book, Viking Warrior. It was a violent period, though, and the ones in the story are true to what happened back then—one, in fact, is an actual battle that occurred in England between Vikings and Saxons, and the other is based on a type of attack that occurs repeatedly in the old Viking sagas, which were a major research source for me. Both slaughters act to set the story’s major elements into motion. Without them, the story would not have happened.
Hey, everybody! Judson is also going to hang around for a bit, if you want to ask him questions or talk about his experiences. He may even glare at you suspiciously before answering!
Join us in the comments section!
And, as always, be sure to visit the official Codex Blog Tour page for more interviewey goodness!