Six Elementals Author Interviews will introduce prospective readers to some of the best writers in their genre you may, or may not, have heard of, via a series of six questions. I encourage you to check out the work of these phenomenal creatives! Links to their websites and purchase links will always appear, accompanying the interview. Check them out!
This is a distinct honour and pleasure, in that I have the fabulous fantasy author Vaughn Roycroft!
Vaughn has recently published his first book, entitled: “The Severing Son”!
P.L.: Vaughn, thanks again for joining Six Elementals Interviews! First of all, massive congratulations on becoming a published author for the first time! So happy for you!
“The Severing Son”, in my opinion, was an amazing novel. Your book has been getting a lot of buzz in the self-published writing community. For example, esteemed booktuber and author Philip Chase calls “The Severing Son”, “one of the best self-published fantasies” he has ever read.
I believe that most would say, by important metrics of nominal success that most authors achieve in the first few weeks of releasing their book – in particular, positive reviews – your launch has been quite successful. How do you feel about all you have achieved following your release?
VAUGHN: First, thank you for your very kind praise! I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Philip. His kindness in reading a relative unknown, and his generous review, just a few weeks before my debut, played a pivotal role in making my release the success it’s been. I can’t imagine where I’d be without his generosity and insight. I arrived in the self-publication arena knowing almost no one, but I’ve found such a supportive and kind community, full of generous writers and book-lovers—including you, P.L. Indeed, this opportunity to speak to your readers is yet another example of the kindness and camaraderie that is second nature to the community. It’s truly astonishing.
In regard to the response to the book itself, if it lacks anything in sheer numbers (reviews, ratings, etc.), that’s more than made up for by the stellar quality and ardency of most every response I’ve received. So many readers have embraced the story and characters, with a nuanced comprehension and a depth of feeling I hadn’t imagined. I continue to be blown away, as well as honored and humbled by it.
Those first few weeks were a blur, mostly because I was floating on a cloud of authorial happiness. But the book seems to be maintaining momentum, for which I’m also incredibly grateful. Readers continue to find the story and spread the word, which should carry us nicely to the upcoming release of book two.
P.L.: You can be assured I will be one of those definitely spreading the word about your work! Besides your own work, what are some of the most hyped and lauded self-published books out there that have caught your eye, and any other reason besides the notoriety that draws you to these works? Or are you more inclined to read more “under the radar” books? Do you succumb to “so many people like this book I should probably give it a try”?
VAUGHN: I’m a lifelong reader of the fantasy genre, but I must admit, I hadn’t read a lot of self-published fantasy before deciding to go this route with “The Severing Son”. Prior to that, I had been seeking a traditional deal, which kept me busy reading the new releases championed by the various editors my agent was pitching. Which gave me a solid foundation for comparison once I started reading self-pub. Although I don’t have a ton of experience, from what I’ve seen the overall quality of self-pub stands up to anything the NYC pub world is pushing right now. In some ways, I think self-pub has the advantage. No one is worried about tailoring what they’re doing to fit a marketplace or a preconception, which leaves indie authors free to pursue their passion. It really shows!
I’ve started to glean what’s hot, and sampled a few of the books coming out of our community, but not nearly enough—not yet, anyway. As to what’s next, after seeing your appearance on Dear Dr. Fantasy, P.L., I was instantly drawn to read “A Drowned Kingdom”. I ordered it that day, in fact, and as I write this, it’s up next on my TBR. Speaking of Dr. Fantasy, I was lucky enough to read Philip’s book, “The Way of Edan”, before it was released and found it every bit as impressive, immersive, and enjoyable as I suspected it would be. My most recent indie read was “Wolfeater”, by Anthony Mitchell. I just had to read it because a very supportive reviewer, Justin Palmer, compared my work favorably to Mitchell’s. That stoked my curiosity, and I’m even more humbled by the comparison now. The book is fantastic! His work is definitely well-rooted in history, much like my own.
I’m looking forward to continuing on my self-pub reading journey, and to supporting others, as so many of you have so generously supported me.
P.L.: Honoured you will be giving “A Drowned Kingdom” a chance! Thank you so much for buying my book! I hope you enjoy the read! Can you speak a little bit about your writing journey please? How long have you been writing, what inspired you to write, and what made you elect to publish via self-publishing rather than seeking an agent and a book deal with a “Big Five” traditional house?
VAUGHN: When I was in high school, I was certain I would be a writer, and that I would write epic fantasy. During college, the plan sort of morphed into one in which I would write “eventually”—you know, after I’d “made it” in business. Over the next twenty years or so, my wife and I actually did “make it,” running our own wholesale lumber business. It’s funny, but the desire to write was sort of a fond reminiscence by the end of our years in business. There was a point at which it just didn’t seem realistic anymore.
Then two things happened, in fairly quick succession, that changed all of that. The first was 9/11/2001. I didn’t really know anyone who was directly impacted, but when the twin towers fell, it affected all of us. We actually closed our business for a few days and retreated to our little getaway cottage, near the shores of Lake Michigan. One of the things my wife and I did to soothe ourselves in the wake of tragedy was to read fiction again—something neither of us had done a lot of during the hectic years prior. It made us realize that life was too short, too fragile, to leave our passions waiting for some distant tomorrow.
The second thing happened that very December: the release of “The Fellowship of the Ring”. I went to see it during the opening weekend, and then I immediately began a reread of The” Lord of the Rings” trilogy afterward. The converging result was a reawakening of that old yearning to write. Two years later, we sold our business and moved to that same little cottage. At first, writing was a sideline to a small carpentry business I began, but it soon took over. By 2010, largely due to the awesome support of my spouse, I’d completed a draft of the first story set in the world of “The Sundered Nation”. I was fortunate enough to land an agent with that story, and even more fortunate that the agent wanted to rework the story with me, to make it more salable.
While I was waiting for feedback on a revision pass of the first story, I began work on what became “The Severing Son”—about the father of the two brothers featured in the first story. Once I received my agent’s feedback, and while I was diving back into revision work, I sent him a draft of an abbreviated version of TSS. He very swiftly wrote back and told me to hold everything. He felt strongly that TSS was the right vehicle to launch my career, and I devoted the next decade to crafting the story into a trilogy. We came close several times, but the work never sold in NYC. Regardless, he was right—”The Severing Son” has provided the perfect launch.
By 2020, I had several writing friends who were self-publishing their work. Their consensus was that I should dive into the self-pub pond—that the water was better than fine. They convinced me, and I’m very glad. I love the freedom and flexibility self-pub provides.
P.L.: So happy your self-publishing journey has been so enjoyable thus far! Who (which authors) would you consider to be your writing influences?
VAUGHN: Every conversation I have about influences necessarily begins with Tolkien. Reading “The Lord of the Rings” provided the very first impulse to write. I’d never considered it beforehand. After Tolkien, thanks to my mother, whose books I often read, my interests really branched out—particularly in regard to historical fiction. My mom loved epic historical stories, and I really took to her choices. Because of her I read books like “The Far Pavilions”, “The Thorn Birds”, “Pillars of the Earth”, and “The Mists of Avalon”, all at a fairly young age. They definitely had an impact on my tastes, as a reader and as a storyteller.
After I began my writing journey, I read fantasy by authors such as George R.R. Martin, Jacqueline Carey, Juliet Marillier, and Robin Hobb, to all of whom I owe a debt of gratitude for continuing to inspire me, and to shine a light on what’s possible in the genre.
P.L.: Can you tell us a bit please, if possible, about what projects you are currently working on?
VAUGHN: We’re just a little over a month from the release of “Bold Ascension”, which is book two of “The Sundered Nation”, so most of my writing time lately has been devoted to pre-publication activity. When I find the opportunity, I’m doing a final read-through of book three, just making sure everything aligns perfectly. I hope to get book three out within a year’s time from the release of TSS, which means by late-October, 2023.
The publishing stuff has pretty much taken all of my writing time this year, but I have begun work on a complete rewrite of my first story—the one that landed my agent. That story is about the offspring of the characters featured in “The Sundered Nation” trilogy, so it’s natural for moving forward.
P.L.: “The Severing Son ” appears to be inspired by a period in history that is absolutely fascinating, but one I have infrequently seen depicted in fantasy. That period surrounds the ancient tribes like the Vandals, Visigoths, Goths, etc. of circa fifth century Roman era. What compelled you to write about a period analogous to this in your fantasy work?
VAUGHN: Your instincts serve you well! The decline and fall of the Roman Empire, from the viewpoint of the Germanic Tribes, is precisely what “The Sundered Nation” seeks to depict. In fact, the sundered nation in question is that of the Goths, who split into two: Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The Goths’ sundering occurred after—or in the view of some, because of—their various conflicts and entanglements with the Romans. The name Gottari, which I’ve given to the tribe of my protagonists, is from the Gothic language, meaning: “to pour forth,” as in migrating across the European continent.
My choice of the Goths came from a seed of speculation planted by my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Raymond, who bought me my first boxed set of LOTR. While discussing the books, Mr. Raymond suggested that the Riders of Rohan were operating as mercenaries for Gondor much as the Visigoth federati did for Rome. He wondered aloud if this was what had inspired Tolkien. It was mere conjecture for him, and whether he was right or wrong, a curiosity was born in me on that day. It led to a lifetime of fascination, study, and ultimately, to my storytelling journey. Which has been the most rewarding of my life. I’m hugely grateful for the gift.
P.L.: What an amazing story of what inspired you to write about the Germanic tribes! Vaughn, I have truly enjoyed our chat and I really appreciate you joining me on Six Elementals Interviews! Thank you so much!
VAUGHN: Thanks so much for having me!
Buy “The Severing Son” here: