Author Interview: Jeffrey L. Kohanek

29910761Discover a lost magic, long buried and forgotten…

Without a rune marking his role in society, Brock is doomed to an existence below the lowest rung of the social ladder. Unwilling to accept his fate, the teen risks his life to obtain a fake rune that marks him as a member of the Empire’s ruling class. He then embarks on a quest to join an institution where the Empire’s future leaders are trained.

As a student of the Academy, he soon uncovers a chain of secrets kept hidden for centuries, secrets that expose cracks in the foundation of Empire society. Among his discoveries is a powerful magic, long buried and forgotten.

Brock’s compassion and sense of justice are seeds that sprout tight friendships and a blossoming romance. An unwillingness to be bullied earns him a dangerous enemy, becoming a feud that escalates to a climactic showdown.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the author of The Buried Symbol, Jeffrey L. Kohanek!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Raised in a tiny town in northern Minnesota, my childhood adventures rivaled those of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I now reside in sunny Southern California where I can surf, hike, and snow ski all in the same day.

If you opened a box that was to tell a story about me, you would find the following items: Marvel t-shirts, Nintendo game systems, fantasy novels, hiking poles, power tools, luggage tags, an Atlanta Falcons blanket, craft beer, and pictures of my wife and kids.

2. When did you start writing?
From a young age, I’ve always been driven by the need to create. That need was expressed in many ways, ranging from drawing panels for my own comic books to building a fort in the woods behind my house.

When I was in high school, a guidance counselor noticed that I had creative skills and was good at math and convinced me focus engineering in college. However, when I got into the real world, I found that engineers are allowed very little creativity since someone else tells them what they are to design.

After taking some business courses, I became THAT guy, the one who tells the engineer what to make. A product manager is a hybrid role that includes marketing, business, and design responsibilities for a product. The marketing aspects of this role became a suitable creative outlet more than a decade but never allowed the characters within me to express themselves.

Three years ago, I decided to dust off my creative writing skills and put pen to paper. I had a story for a book series within me that had been brewing for years, inspired by my love for magic and supernatural abilities. It took me a year to get the first draft of a book ready. By the time I found a publisher, I had written the first draft of book two and crafted an outline for the final book in the trilogy.

3. Why did you start writing?
I began writing because I needed the creative outlet and I had a story that I wanted to share with the world. Now that I have written a few books, I would love to turn writing into my full time job because I enjoy sharing my work and interacting with fans.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
It came in pieces, starting with the magic system. That, along with a controlling and somewhat oppressing government to use as a bad guy, created a basis for The Runes of Issalia trilogy. Every component of the world is intertwined with the magic, including the history, the social structure, the creatures, even the natural resources.

5. On a related note, how different is the final product (the book) from your original vision? That is, did the structure and content of the novel change with the passage of time?
From a high level, the final product is much like the original vision. From a detailed perspective, things changed quite a bit. The outlines that I create tend to point to significant moments or events but they don’t dictate how the story gets to that event. As I write, the tale weaves itself with the next defined event as a destination. I often surprise myself as to how I get there and what new details I pull into the story as I write.

6. How did you arrive at your book’s title?
Since I am writing a series, I will focus on book one, The Buried Symbol. The world within the story revolves around runes, or symbols. One of these runes represents a magic that has been lost (or buried away) for centuries. The discovery of this rune and the magic it represents is a core theme of the book, thus The Buried Symbol became the title.

7. Were there other titles which you were considering?
For the entire time I was writing and trying to pitch the book to publishers, the manuscript was titled The Harmony of Order, matching a line that occurs mid-way through the book. Eventually, I decided that the title needed to exude a sense of mystery and discover to match the story, so I changed it.

8. Does your story have a moral?
Segregation, bigotry, and oppression have been scourges that have plagued humanity since the dawn of recorded history. The main character (Brock) of the book is a member of the lowest class of society and I hope that the reader becomes sympathetic to the cruel nature of social oppression.

If there is a moral, it’s that we are all people with hopes and dreams of a better life. We should be supportive of each other, not beat each other down because we are different.

The story is also very much a coming-of-age tale, showing how the teenage protagonist evolves as he leaves his hometown behind and begins to experience the world. Not only does he see new places, but does so under the guise of a completely different social status. Brock’s process of experiencing so many new things and new situation is an extension of the overarching theme of discovery that is present through the book.

9. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
While I always knew that I would easily associate with Brock, I found that I quickly fell in love with Master Nindlerod. He was fun to write and his personality really jumps off the pages when you read the book. I liked him so much that I wrote him into book two and he becomes a major character in book three. Good job, Master Nindlerod!

10. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in The Buried Symbol.
Compassionate, Charismatic, Inquisitive, Tenacious, Determined

11. What does a typical writing session look like for you?

  • Do you listen to music as you write?

Yes, I DO usually listen to music. It puts my mind in the right mood. Pandora is my friend, playing songs ranging from 80s rock to today’s alternative or punk rock.

  • What is your preferred writing time? Morning? Afternoon? Late at night?

I work best in the morning but afternoon is fine too. My creativity tends to lesson as the day goes on so I rarely write at night.

  • Do you have a specific location that you go to when you want to write?

I write anywhere and everywhere. Planes, trains, ships, buses, airports, my living room, kitchen, and more places have been used as places for me to write. I travel a fair amount and I’ve written chapters in at least twenty different countries.

  • Do you prefer writing outside or indoors?

If I can control the lighting and have access to it, writing outdoors is wonderful.

  • Do you like to write in public places, or do you seek out isolation?

Either way. When I’m writing, I pretty much tune out the world anyway.

  • Do you set daily goals for yourself (in terms of word count)?

I do set goals but I rarely stick to them. Forcing myself to be creative is hard and often doesn’t work as well as when I FEEL like writing. Some weeks I may not write a word while other weeks I will bang out 10,000 words.

12. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I use outlines as a reminder of major events that need to occur within the plot, referring to them from time to time to ensure I haven’t forgotten something or if I need some direction as to where to go next.

13. What is your favorite book genre?
I love fantasy books with epic (or high) fantasy at the top of the list. Magic is cool and I really enjoy learning about the different worlds that epic fantasy authors construct.

  • Which genre do you prefer to write in?

I write the type if books that I like to read. However, while I do read some adult-focused fantasy, my books tone down sex and violence to a PG-13 level so that a more broad audience can enjoy them.

14. What are you currently reading? 
I am currently reading The Black Prism by Brent Weeks and am eagerly waiting on Brandon Sanderson’s next book in The Stormlight Archive series.

15. What is your favorite book?
I love book series’ and my favorite is The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. While slower paced than I would like, the story takes place in a world that I could return to again and again. Jordan’s world building ability is amazing and the highly intertwined plot is a joy to unravel.

16. Any project in the works?
My second book, The Emblem Throne, came out in October 2016, and I am currently writing the third and final book of the trilogy. Book three, An Empire in Runes, is planned to release in April 2017.

17. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
It has taken me anywhere from six months to a year to write a book with additional months of editing that follow. I could write faster if I could only ditch that darn day job…

18. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
As a fiction reader, I need to care about the characters. As soon as that happens, I am hooked.

19. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Three things:

The more you write, the better you get. I’ve spent thousands of hours writing over the past few years and it has become clear to me that my writing continues to improve.

Secondly, DON’T be afraid to share your work. Writing a book is a major accomplishment that should be shared. Leaving it in a drawer or buried on your computer because you’re afraid that it won’t be good enough is just sad.

Lastly, if you share your work and you receive criticism, use that to make your work and your writing better.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Dogs or cats?
I love dogs and always have had one or more dogs as part of my family. Accordingly, you will find a very special dog in books two and three of my series.

2. Summer or winter?
I live in Southern California so there is hardly a difference. After three decades of Minnesota winters, I can’t complain though. J

3. Ebook or physical book?
This is a cop-out but I like both. eBooks are convenient, allowing me to travel with dozens of books at a time. However, there is an emotion I get with a physical copy that can’t be replaced.

4. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
I will take the telekinesis. The existence of cell phones have made telepathy less relevant than it once was.

5. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
While I love hiking, boating, and many other outdoor activities, I will take the warm shower and soft bed of the hotel anytime.

6. Being Spider-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?
Being Spider-Man would be amazing. I spent many hours as a child dreaming of that exact experience.

7. Bungee jumping or going on the slingshot ride?
I’ve done both but the slingshot ride is far easier. Letting go of the rail to do that bungie jump was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It feels unnatural (and I don’t fear heights at all).

8. Misunderstanding everything that is told to you or being misunderstood every time that you speak?
I’m pretty sure I experienced both of these during my first trip to Japan.

9. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
HA! I don’t drink coffee so this one is easy. Plus, who would give up chocolate?

10. Have every day be Saturday or have every day be Christmas?
As the song goes, I wish everyday could be like Christmas. I have so many great memories of the holiday and I like the magical sense you feel at that time of year.

Thanks for joining us, Jeffrey!
Readers: want to connect with Jeffrey? You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. Also, be sure to check out his website and his author page on Amazon.

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