Hello everyone! So today I am excited to bring to you my interview with RT Lowe, author of The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen. It is an amazing book and I can’t wait to share my review of it, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this (kinda long) interview with RT Lowe!
1) To start off with our first question, tell us a little about yourself. How old were you when you realized you wanted to write?
I’m from a little town in Oregon and I moved to New York for law school almost twenty years ago. I now live in Newtown, CT with my wife and three boys. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to take up the pen and put my thoughts on paper. I always felt like I had a very creative streak in me, but I struggled to find the right outlet. I remember one time right after graduating law school I was working in the Mergers and Acquisitions department at the largest law firm in New York City when a senior partner asked me to draft a simple document. He called me up to his 40th floor office and stood there behind this massive desk with lower Manhattan spread out behind him through floor to ceiling windows. It looked like central casting had hired him to play the role of senior partner (perfectly knotted tie, dignified dusting of gray above the ears). He gave me a bored look and said wearily, as if he’d uttered the same tired lecture to generations of young blundering associates: “Why did you change the wording in the form, you ***damn ****up? This isn’t an exercise in art appreciation. Do you think you’re smarter than the people who created it? Change it back and stop wasting my ****ing time.” Then I was summarily dismissed to toil away on other documents, never forgetting the importance of precedent. But to someone with a creative streak, the lesson was a painful reminder that not everyone wants to hear something unique, and most importantly, if you have something unique to say, you better find the right forum for it.
2) How did you come up with the idea behind The Felix Chronicles?
I drive to work now. The traffic in Connecticut is pretty awful and the commute takes about an hour. A few years ago I started telling myself a story to pass the time. The story took place on a college campus and the main character was a freshman. His name was Felix. In some ways this freshman (and the story) was quite ordinary. Felix made friends, went to class, studied, and partied like any eighteen-year-old away from home for the first time. Then I took that basic story and layered it with elements that interest me. After all, I was making it all up in my mind while stuck on the Merritt Parkway to entertain myself. Once I had it locked down tight in my head I sat down and started to write. 500 pages later (and a year or two of very little sleep) I published the book.
3) What was first running through your mind right after you thought of the idea?
I was excited. I had what I thought were some really great ideas and I was committed to getting it all down on paper.
4) How many books do you think the series will have because I definitely want more!
I think the story will require five or six books, depending on length. I’m working on Book 2 now and I’m hoping to have it done by next summer.
5) So one of my favorite things about your book is that there are about three different plots/subplots that all magically and wonderfully come together by the end of the book. I have to say, I have not read many books that do that, and even more, do that well. So, I have to ask, how easy was it for you to create those subplots and tie them so well?
I really appreciate this question because it’s something I enjoy doing, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how people would react to it because I think so many books are told in the first person, and from beginning to end there’s just a single POV. There’s obviously nothing wrong with that, but I think there are inherent limitations for the reader if everything is experienced through the mind of just one person. The Felix Chronicles is told through multiple perspectives (10 or 12), and while I enjoy being inside the mind of the protagonist, Felix, I also love telling the story through the eyes of his best friend Allison, his reality star roommate Lucas, the paparazzo Quinn, the groundskeeper Bill, and the serial killer the “Faceman.”
6) What is your favorite thing about writing and what is your least favorite thing?
Writing is such a wonderful escape. I mean this in a good way, obviously. I love my life, and I’m grateful for everyone in it, but there’s something about creating a story with its characters and places and emotions and events that is really unparalleled. When I think about writing, and where I want my story to go, I literally get goosebumps up and down my arms.
7) Which writer(s) of your genre do you admire most?
I love Young Adult and Fantasy, but I’ll read just about anything if the mood strikes me. I really admire Suzanne Collins because of the way she was able to create a story (The Hunger Games) that appeals to just about all age groups. Part of it is the writing, which is exceptional, but I think there’s a depth and genuineness in her characters and her storytelling that makes the whole thing come alive. I actually live in the same small town in Connecticut as Ms. Collins, and I sometimes wonder if I’ll bump into her at the grocery store. There is this one woman I tend to run into at the deli counter on Sunday mornings who likes to talk about books, and I’ve deliberately refrained from pulling up Ms. Collins’ picture just so I can hold onto the possibility that I’m chatting with the person who created The Hunger Games while I order cold cuts.
8) When do you usually write?
My job keeps me busy and I have three boys under the age of four so the only time I can write is between the hours of two and six in the morning. Fortunately, I’m a bit of an insomniac and I can function reasonably well on very little sleep. When I look at my finished book now, I think of it as the sunnier side of insomnia.
9) What drew you to this genre of writing?
Writing an Urban Fantasy really just aligned with my personal interests. I grew up reading YA and Fantasy. I also read just about everything by Stephen King which may account for the violence and general ‘tone’ of my book. I’d like to take just take a moment to address this issue because I’ve been criticized recently for the level of general mayhem and ‘gore’ in my book. In The Felix Chronicles, I created a world in the midst of an approaching darkness, where strange creatures roam the nearby forest and a serial killer murders teenagers who fail a “simple” test. The encounters with the unfortunate victims are chilling, violent and bloody. I made the decision ‘to spare no gore’ after a great deal of thought, fully aware that I was potentially subjecting myself to criticism. I understood that it would shock some (and most likely remove the book from the reading lists for those under sixteen), but I didn’t want to hint at the violence or rely on my readers’ imaginations. There are characters in my book who are truly bad people (or flesh-eating monsters, in some cases) and I took the position that their actions should be described in such a way that the reader will understand that there is no limit to their cruelty. To put it another way, I want my readers to literally wince at the prospect of ‘what will happen to that poor girl when she can’t move the piece of wood with her mind’. Spoiler alert: nothing good.
10) And for the final question, is there any advice you have for aspiring writers?
I know this is where I’m supposed to say something like “believe in yourself and all your dreams will come true,” but that really depends on what you’re hoping to achieve through your writing. If you expect to garner fame, fortune and universal adoration I think you’re setting yourself up for crushing disappointment. If you find that message unclear or ambiguous, I’ll put it another way: You have a better chance of simultaneously falling into a sinkhole, getting struck by lightning and being squashed by falling space debris than striking it rich through your writing. Does saying that make me sound bitter and disgruntled? I hope not, because that certainly isn’t my intent, and I would never discourage anyone from writing. I love writing. I think everyone should write, if only because the act of writing has a way of focusing your thoughts and making those thoughts seem real. I have a perfect example of this disconnect between writing as a craft (the creation of the story) and the commercial opportunities that many believe will inevitably result from the completed manuscript: We were in our back yard for a Fourth of July party and a distant relative came up to tell me that he heard I wrote a book and that he was nearly finished with a book of his own, a “fairly short romance” that he was thinking about publishing. From the eager look in his eyes, I could see he was looking for advice. I thought about offering up some meaningless platitudes, then I thought better of it and gave him an honest response. This is what I said: “Congratulations! It’s awesome that you wrote a book! Writing a book is hard, and you should be proud of your accomplishment. Publishing, on the other hand, is entirely up to you.” I paused to make sure I had his attention, then I gave him the bad news. “But this is what happens when you self-publish a book. Nothing. No one cares. No one will talk about it and no one will accidentally stumble upon it, read it in one sitting, and then tell their 50,000 closest friends that they uncovered the next great American classic. You will not become famous and Good Morning America will not feature you on their ‘going viral’ segment. But—and listen to me very carefully—if you wrote a great book, and you’re proud of that book, and if it somehow validates your writing to know that your book is available to the outside world, then you should absolutely publish it. And if you do, I will help you out any way I can.” Let’s just say this wasn’t the advice he was hoping to hear, and I’m sure he was thinking ‘the angry writer guy had a few too many Blue Moons’ as he fled to the other side of the yard. That said, I would be remiss not to mention that there is one bright exception to the rule of ‘no one cares about you and your silly self-published book’: bloggers. Anyone willing to devote ten or more hours to read the work of an unknown author is a saint as far as I’m concerned, and without their dedication it simply wouldn’t be possible for people like me to share their imaginations with the world. I would love to continue this conversation if anyone’s interested. You can find me on Goodreads and Amazon.