Author Interview - RJ Batla
Hey, folks! I've got another fabulous Author Interview for you! I first met RJ Batla at Jade Mountain Martial Arts. He came in as a new student, and eventually ended up as one of our assistant instructors! He's a great guy who also writes epic and urban fantasy. Here's a bit about him:
R.J. Batla is a fantasy author and fan of the genre. He’s working on series in both epic and urban fantasy, and likes to write fast paced books that take the reader on an adventure that they can see in their mind. His books reflect influences from novels, comic books, manga, and other cartoons/media, and he joys in blending in these elements in his books. Author, Christian, Husband, and Father, R.J. Batla enjoys everything outdoors and takes as much time as he can with his family. When he’s not writing, you’ll find him outside (thinking about writing), working out (and thinking about writing) or various other places (all while thinking about writing).
1. When did you write your first story? What was it about?
The first story I remember writing was sometime in elementary school, I don’t remember the grade. It was about a super hero who lived in the jungle and helped people. In my head he looked like a cross between sasquatch and Cousin It from The Adams Family. Maybe that’s something I need to go back to…
2. What do you use to write; pen and paper, computer, table, or maybe a dictating device?
All of the above! Ha! But my main tools are Word and Excel on the computer. Word for my actual writing, and Excel for keeping up with all my ‘data’ and world building. I also use Dragon Dictation, and it really allows me to write faster and get those all-important words on the page. Another thing I do is email myself ideas. Probably too much, haha, but it allows me to get those ideas on some kind of record that I can look at later. Sometimes ideas come at an inconvenient time to follow up with them.
3. When did it dawn upon you that ‘this writing thing’ might be for you?
I wrote a story/started a book back in college, it got picked up and put down several times over the years. Then I discovered a few years ago that you can actually independently publish a book, and not have to hope a publishing company likes your manuscript. That gave me the kick in the pants to start writing again, and after learning a whole lot about craft in the whole process, I was hooked!
And then when I put out my books, and people actually bought them, THAT was what solidified this writing gig. I like my stories, but if other people like them… That high was amazing!
4. What inspires you to write?
Anybody who goes above and beyond to help or protect their fellow man inspires me.
If we are talking where my inspiration comes from for my stories, it’s easy – everything.
Everything – movies, comic books, cartoons, books by other writers, something my kids say. Also manga, and anywhere else I see something cool. One of the great things about being a fantasy writer is inspiration can literally come from anywhere, since you’re the creator of your world. Need orange plants to be the norm? Poof – it is!
5. What is a typical writing day like for you?
My goal is to produce at least 1500 words of “content” every day – that could be a blog post, outline, or a story. In general I have three times I can write – in the morning, on my lunch break, or at night after everyone’s gone to bed. So I don’t necessarily have a “typical” day, I just try to make sure I get some words on the page each and every day to keep moving the story forward and keep producing content. And by content – I really mean stories and stuff that people can consume in a written fashion.
6. Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?
No, I can be pretty much anywhere! I’m pretty flexible when it comes to that – I’ve even written part of the story while waiting in line at the doctor’s office. On my phone. Now I don’t want to do that ALL the time, but if I have an idea or in the middle of the story, I don’t want to put it down. Right now my life really isn’t conducive to going to a café in writing, but I can see how it would be appealing. I’ve also gotten into dictation, so I tend to try to be by myself where I won’t bother anybody while I’m talking and the computer is “writing” the words down for me.
7. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
I guess I should look through the questions before I answer them! My goal is to create at least 1500 words a day, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Especially on the weekends, with family being so busy, I don’t get my words in. Which means that I need to write more in the week!
8. How much of your story do you know for sure when you start writing? Are you ever surprised by plot twists that emerge during the process?
Depends on what you mean by ‘start’, haha! I’m pretty systematic on how I write, so I’ll outline the book first - and this is key for me, my best creative tool I’ve ever found. But it’s like a pirate code – more of a guideline than a rule. Then I’ll use that outline to actually write the first draft. And yes, I’m more surprised by a plot twist that emerges during the process, either in the outline writing process or actually writing the first draft. I’ve actually had to go back and change multiple sections of books because I got a great idea later in the process. But that was before outlining!
9. What are some of the most unlikely things that inspired ideas for story elements?
I would say these things my kids do or say or conversation I’m having with other people. Usually those come from conversations with other authors where we’re talking about were doing, or a particular scene, and then I’ll throw out an off-the-wall comment, which turns out to be a pretty dang good idea!
10. What, according to you, is the most challenging aspect of writing?
The need for sleep! Time, actually, is the hardest thing. I have a full time job, and between that and family I don’t have as much time to write as I would like. My philosophy is work hard, but stay flexible, which is essential for me. The first draft seems to come easier for me, so editing takes way more time.
But again, it’s the whole time factor that is really the constraint on my end. If anyone had a Time Turner from the Harry Potter series, I’d be in the market!
11. What would you say is your favorite part of being a writer?
Hands down interacting with fans/readers! And I’m lucky enough to have a lot of good ones! It’s always humbling and awe inspiring to me that people like my stories and ask questions about them, and I really enjoy that aspect of the business!
12. Have you ever been stricken with Writer’s Block? If so, how did you deal with it?
Yes, though I can’t bring a particular instance to mind. Usually what works for me is to get active in some way – go to the gym and workout, walk around the block, something. Usually that gives me a hard reset on my brain functions and I’m able to then get rid of the block
13. Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I’m a huge reader! Terry Brooks got me into the fantasy genre with his Shannara books.
Jim Butcher, especially his Harry Dresden series, which is probably my favorite series of all time.
I read a wide range of books. For fiction, they tend to stick in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, with epic fantasy being the most prolific. I’ve also got into some urban fantasy and LitRPG books, autobiographies (I’m reading one right now about Teddy Roosevelt), books that help me as an author and as a small business owner, personal development books, anything that catches my fancy really.
14. Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?
Do a little more research and put your books out there! I had ideas and books written that I very easily could have turned into novels for probably ten years before I got serious and actually published my first book. Especially right now, there is so much good advice and help available, you can get a good product out to readers much faster than I ever thought possible. So, younger me, do a little research, get your plan together, and go write!
15. Was there a particular book that inspired you to begin writing?
No, there wasn’t a particular book. I’ve always made up stories, but mostly in my head and for myself. So when I decided I did actually want to write a book, I had plenty of material to choose from.
For the Senturians of Terraunum series, it is a mashup of epic fantasy, superheros, and Avatar: the Last Airbender.
And I loved the idea so much, that I actually DID sit down and write the book.
16. Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
I LOVE to foreshadow things, for both the book I am writing and in the series.
I also like to kinda quote movies/songs/books, like have a scene kinda like one in a movie, where if you’ve seen it you’ll recognize it but it totally fits into my book and doesn’t rip off the source, more like a nod of respect.
I don’t know that my writing style is that different from other authors, but I have been told that my books in the first person is something you don’t see an epic fantasy very often.
I also feel that a lot of books are leaning towards the “darker” side of things at the moment, this is where the trend is that I see, but my books tend to be more optimistic and not quite as dark – that’s just more my personality.
17. Do your novels carry a message?
Yes and no. I feel like there’s always an element of being better than yourself or sacrificing yourself for the greater good of the world in my books, but I don’t set out to try to “send a message” to anyone on any level. But I think anything you read or write or watch does have some kind of message in it, it just depends on what that message is to you.
18. How much of yourself do you put into your books?
I use a quite a bit, especially my sense of humor. And sarcasm. And I try to put anything that I think would be really cool to do – like teleporting, or any other powers really. I don’t think you can produce a work like a book or a movie without putting at least some of yourself into it.
19. Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Not that I can think of right off the top of my head, but I have written a lot, and there are lots of scenes in all my books, so I would have to say probably… Maybe…
20. How did it feel when your first book got published?
Teetering between scared out of my mind and pure ecstasy! Scared that people would think it was crap and excited that they wouldn’t!
21. Was there a point when you really felt like you had ‘made it’ as an author?
When I put out my first book in the Senturians series, and I watched the sales and Kindle page reads get bigger everyday. The growth was incredible, and that really made me feel like I had ‘made it.’
22. Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
Yes I do. And yes I do! Although it does frustrate me that I can’t just write for a living, when I’ve really got too many stories running around in my head, but I do like my job and the people I work with.
23. Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?
EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Haha! Just kidding. Only a little…
But like I said before, time is my biggest struggle, but I am not a point where I can support my family through my writing yet, so “get in the way” could probably be more accurately described to my writing career!
24. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
I never sent in any books to any publishers, by the time I started writing and taking it seriously had researched enough to know that I was going to independently publish my book, so I didn’t even entertain the traditionally published option.
25. Do you enjoy book signings?
I’ve only ever signed books for people that requested them, and mailed it out, so I’ve never done a signing at a physical location. But I do love signing my books and sending them to people, so I would imagine I would love it!
26. What was your favorite interaction with a fan?
Every time I do a Facebook live event I get some comment or question in the comment section that just cracks me up, so I can’t pick out one particular example, but it’s anytime that they are engaging with me live.
27. Which of your books would you most like to see adapted as a movie?
Fire Eyes Awakened, just because there is a lot of characters and some amazing powers I’d like to see on the big screen.
28. Have you ever written a character based on yourself in some part? Someone you know?
Jayton Baird, the main character in Fire Eyes Awakened, is probably pretty close to how I would react in most situations, and he definitely has my sense of humor! There are definitely a few character traits or looks from people that I know that do make it into the books, though I’ll not disclose any…
29. Are you working on something new at the moment?
Oh yes! An author friend and I just started a podcast, so that is taking up a lot of my time.
But book wise:
I got an urban fantasy series is about to kick off. It will be shorter books, really like long short stories, but there will be a lot of them. Structured like a TV show, with seasons and episodes and all that.
I’m working on book 2 of the Senturians of Terraunum series, DEATH CLOUD.
I’m working on two different short stories for anthologies.
And I’m coming up with more ideas all the time!
30. What advice would you like to give all those aspiring writers out there?
I would say “You can do it!”
Becoming a writer, good or otherwise, is like anything in life – it takes practice.
Every time you write something, you are growing. You have more experience today than you did yesterday.
And in today’s world, help is literally at your fingertips. There are A TON of resources available, in book form, on websites, and on Facebook groups. There are lots of people more than willing to help.
If you’re willing to put in a little work, you can improve your skill level (no matter what level that is).
The best thing you can do is find some author mentors who will help you through the process with constructive criticism, which is delivered correctly and in a way where you learn and grow.
You can learn more about RJ at the following sites:
Website: RJ Batla Website
Patreon Page: RJ Batla Patreon Page
Facebook: RJ Batla Facebook Page
Amazon Author Page: RJ Batla Amazon Author Page
Bookbub Author Page: RJ Batla Bookbub Page
Facebook Group (Higher Interaction and more updates): Kickass Readers Guild
Free Book for Signup for Email List: Against the Beast
Pinterest: RJ Batla Pinterest
Goodreads: RJ Batla Goodreads
YouTube Channel: Kickass Readers Podcast YouTube Channel
Podcast: Coming soon, links will be found here – Kickass Readers Podcast
Twitter: RJ Batla Twitter