Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Charles W. McDonald Jr whose book A Kingdom Forgotten thrilled and excited me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love fantasy but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Charles, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Charles will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Charles W. McDonald Jr.
Charles W. McDonald Jr. was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Norman, Oklahoma. He 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 with an emphasis on Technical and Solutions Architecture. Honorably discharged from the United States Air Force Reserves, he also has a background in the armed forces. He’s currently a Sr. Cloud Architect on AWS, Azure, and GCP, and lives with his wife, Brandy L. McDonald, in Roanoke, TX.
In the summer of 1995, Charles read every available book in the “Wheel of Time” series 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 “A Throne of Souls.” Very shortly afterward, 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. While radically different from the “Wheel of Time” series and other modern fiction, the completion of “A Throne of Souls” is a deeply personal mission for Charles to thank the living spirit of Robert Jordan. “A Throne of Souls” is an obsession for Charles to deliver something entirely unique for the intellectual truth-seeker in us all.
Now, how wonderful does Charles sound?! Charles is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of his work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and Charles, I hope that you enjoy Charles’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
The inspiration for writing A Throne of Souls was a dream from more than two decades ago, but inspiration is probably not the word I would use. It’s much more of an obsession. That dream led to some hand-written notes that led to a vacation in Colorado where I flushed out the majority of the Tier A characters and how they interacted with one another. That led to writing some 150 or so pages over and over and over again for the next two decades and I really felt stagnant with the story. I felt like it was wandering aimlessly in the wilderness until I found the moment where it all clicked for me. The dream might have been the foundation, but that foundation had serious flaws and needed to be re-shaped and re-poured in order to support the complex and massive structure I was going to build atop it.
I’ve mentioned this in other interviews, but for me, what really made it click was visualizing inputs and outputs as well as layering all the timelines and storylines on a whiteboard. Everyone has their way of writing and I can imagine that just sitting at your keyboard, writing sequentially one event leading into another leading into another might work for most mainstream stories. However, that methodology had no chance of making A Throne of Souls take the shape it needed to make it to you—the audience. I needed a totally different methodology. So, it wasn’t enough to do character development for nearly one hundred characters and write a massively complex story that I knew would take at least one million words, but I also had to come up with a methodology to tell this story because there had never been anything like it before—not to my knowledge and that has been confirmed in review after review after review. I’m sure as you read the story, it felt radically different and highly unconventional from other stories you’d read and how you had to read it at the very least.
It goes against our natural grain of contemplation to consume information asynchronously, but this is something readers must adapt to in order to comprehend this story. I’m not going to tell this story in a synchronous manner because conceptually it doesn’t naturally flow in that manner. What do I mean by that? Well, you’ll just have to read it and find out. However, I felt like the story was so radically different that it needed a small instruction manual at the Preface of each book just to set the stage for what was to come. My editor said, “Thank God you created that Preface. That was badly needed!” Others have said in their reviews that they were “horrified” at the thought of having to read an instruction manual in order to read the series but then thanked me at the end of the review for including that in the Preface because it proved so necessary to their ability to comprehend what was going on.
I guess you could also say that part of my inspiration for writing A Throne of Souls was that I was really exhausted with the literature being produced by mainstream publishers. The writing was too ‘dumbed-down’ for my taste. I felt like I was being pandered to by people—gatekeepers really—who thought they knew what I wanted and could not have been more wrong. I wanted to read something that would elevate my thinking, my vocabulary, and my ability to see beyond the obvious and to do so while being thoroughly entertaining—immersive even. I never found anything like that from any mainstream publisher putting out one fifth-to-sixth-grade-level novel after another. So, I decided to write A Throne of Souls—the highest risk story in my pipeline of ideas. A Throne of Souls was written, first and foremost, for me. However, I think it is also tailor-made specifically for intelligent truth-seekers who, by nature, are open-minded critical-thinkers. I realize that is a small slice of the literary public and I’m okay with that. I did not write A Throne of Souls to get rich. I wrote it because this story will not leave me alone until I exercise it (like a demon) from my mind by completing its story and getting it out there to you for you.
That’s a pretty verbose answer, but this is far more than inspirational for me. It is all-consuming.
If you’re trying to write a hit story, don’t copy what I’m trying to do with A Throne of Souls. You would be going in the wrong direction. Hits that make it viral usually do a few key things: a) keep it simple with a twist or two, b) keep it relatable to the common man/woman (the younger the better), and c) make an emotional connection with the reader. These kinds of stories can be written sequentially (or by what’s called back-building) with normal writing methodologies. There are tons of stories out there that could fit into these categories and you might ask what was different about the ones that made it viral versus the ones that didn’t. I’d say two things, really: a bad ass cover and proper marketing. Sometimes, if you do those two things in addition to the others that I mentioned, you’ll hit a nerve with a celebrity or public figure who’ll mention your work in passing and bang; then it goes viral. There are lots of paths to viral, but that’s one I’ve seen over and over and over.
If you’re writing for yourself like I am with A Throne of Souls, then throw out the manual. Do it your way. Fuck what everyone else thinks. If it doesn’t become a smash hit overnight, who cares. You’re writing it for you and the only opinion that counts is yours. Having said that, I would still never publish anything—whether written for myself or not—that wasn’t thoroughly edited, proofread, and beta read.
The other critical thing I would say is to write with a passion. Write like you have some ‘fire in the belly’ as the saying goes. Books that are written ‘safe’ or try not to piss anyone off by cruising straight down the middle end up end up making all the splash of a whisper on the water. Stand for something and put your back into it when you write it. I promise you it will become evident in your manuscript if you do that and people, generally speaking, appreciate books that are written with passion. They may not agree with everything you’re saying, but at least they will respect that you said it with some fire.
Finally, and hear me on this one… If you do it right (this writing thing), you are going to upset some people. Everyone has an opinion these days and many feel duty-bound to tell you what they think whether you want to hear it or not. They’re going to say hateful, cruel, wrong, and incredibly incompetent things. However, and I really mean this, they’re going to be right about a few things too and you need to read these reviews with a thick skin and apply what you learn from them. Nearly every single review will have at least one valid, genuine point—even the most hateful and cruel of them. I’ve read reviews of my books that talked about how awful my editing was and in that same review, the reviewer had some 20+ contextual spelling and grammatical errors in their own writing and this was a review of maybe three paragraphs, so you get the idea. He literally didn’t know what he was talking about, but in that most ridiculous review, I found two legitimate points that I took to heart—neither of which had anything to do with my editing, which is outstanding. You have a couple of choices. You can either not read reviews of your work or read them knowing that some will be awful. I’ve seen the most horrific reviews for mainstream authors like: Dan Brown, Robert Jordan, and James Rollins. Even if you can write better than them, be prepared to be hated by some. Once you publish your first novel (self-published or not), you have voluntarily made yourself a public figure to be critiqued, criticized, slandered, and maligned. This is part of what you’re signing up for, so be prepared for it. Accept it. Take it in stride and use it as fuel to write something even more daring than the last. The flip-side of that is, if you do it right, the great reviews will vastly outnumber and outshine those haters. I don’t recommend writing for people that need external confirmation for their self-efficacy. It can be a rough and volatile ride for writers like that.
Have a point and stay on message. Teleport your readers into your story with the way you choose to tell it. Phraseology matters. Dialogue tags—beyond said—matter. Character development absolutely matters. In each of my novels, I try to have a handful of central themes and usually one major arc I’m trying to convey. When readers get to the end of my books, I want them so immersed that they’re hanging on every single word of every sentence and they’re furious with me for bringing that book to an end—forcing a pause in the storyline. That’s a good thing—not a bad thing.
The Fall of Hate, what I feel is my best novel yet, is set to be released in early May 2018. It’s not easy writing complex, full-length novels with pace—especially when writing isn’t my full-time job. Maybe someday soon it will be, but for now, I have a day-job and I’m forced to write on weekends and evenings when I can spare a few moments. So, even when I have a backlog of ideas to put into the manuscript, it’s extremely difficult to find time to do so. I wish it was only a matter of writing, but there’s also a great deal of my time spent on coordinating artwork and other resources required to turn a manuscript into a book. I am concurrently writing the last two novels in the Throne of Souls series. I expect them to be released in 2019. After that, I have a demonology series titled, The Unholy Veil. That series will still look and feel like my style used in A Throne of Souls. However, it will be written for a more mainstream audience and it will be terrifying! It will be very, very dark and people will question what the hell is going on inside this twisted mind of mine. And, I’m good with that…
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Charles! If you have liked what you have read about Charles and are interested in learning more about them and reading their work, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the previews too! You will not regret it.