Author Interview - R.T. Kaelin

As I mentioned with my review of Progeny, I first discovered this book on LibraryThing and along with raving reviews, I was introduced (in the online sense) to the book's author who graciously agreed to a Her Book Self interview!  Please join me in welcoming R.T. Kaelin!

*applause, applause*

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in the swamplands of Ohio – otherwise known as Columbus – with my wonderful wife and two small children who keep me on my toes. I am a lover of books but the selection of books I read now is more of the Llama Llama, Red Pajamas flavor. I am a sports fan – Bengals and Reds – but do not get to as many games as I would like. I love good music, although my taste is quite varied (Mumford & Sons, Owl City, Eminem, Green Day, OneRepublic, The Beatles, O.A.R., Third Eye Blind, Steve Miller Band).

How did you get started as a writer and why did you choose fantasy as your debut genre?
How much space do you have? Here is the short version: I would write when I was younger but had this horrible trait of hating to read my own writing. Such an aversion to editing makes producing anything of worth difficult. I used to read a lot, devouring books in a day or two, but as I got older, went to college, got married, and had kids, the amount of time I had to read decreased more and more.

A couple of years ago, I made the conscious decision to start making time to read again. I picked up Magician: Apprentice by Raymond Feist – a book I remembered really liking when younger – and re-read it after fifteen years. I happily discovered Mr. Feist had continued with the world he had created and quickly devoured every book he had written. I love immersing myself into an entire world to the point where it becomes a familiar place I long to return.

After writing a number of short stories for a gaming group I was a part of, I challenged myself to do something larger. Fantasy was a natural choice for me as I have an active imagination and love storytelling.

Progeny is definitely epic - both in its story and the world that you created. Did you start off to create such an expansive work or did things develop as you wrote?
A little of both. Before writing anything, I worked for months on crafting the world. I came up with maps, countries, cultures, people, places, mores, weather, gods, histories, laws, events, etc. I wanted a solid backdrop for when I wrote the story – I wanted characters to react to the world around them just like ‘real’ people do. The choices each one of us makes every day are based on the world around us. I wanted the same thing for the characters so their decisions felt natural.

After the framework of Terrene was done, I developed the overarching plot for the series (Progeny is just #1) and put it aside. I had a basic plotline for the first novel and I finally started to write Progeny. As I went along, many things evolved from my expectations and details about the world seeped up from nowhere. Great swaths of the story were very organic, though. In fact, one of the main characters was an accident; he just sort of wrote himself into the story. Overall, it was a combination of planning and not being afraid to let the story tell itself.

Were there any characters or scenes that you wanted to include but ended up cutting out for length?

Not at all. That is one of the benefits/curses of self-publishing a novel: the author can put in whatever he or she wants. My copyeditor focused only on typos, grammar, and structure – all editorial decisions on content were mine. Now, the goal is to have Progeny picked up by a major publisher, and if that happens, I fully expect them to chop things from it. Personally, I began re-reading the Kindle version and I think I could chop about 15% now, easy. It is my debut novel and I will freely admit I was a little wordy in places. I am much more conscious of that as I continue writing the second in the series.

Your historic heroes are known as The White Lions - why did you choose that color and symbol for them?
To be honest, I am not exactly sure. I looked back at some of my early notes, and from what I can decipher, it seems I plucked the name from nowhere. I do recall having the idea for the origin of their name from the beginning. I wanted to mimic real life and illustrate that even momentous things (like acquiring the mantle of “The White Lions”) are often guided by somewhat random events.

The White Lions did not choose their name, nor was it bestowed upon them. Rather, it was something they inherited from the populace due to a chance circumstance. Their introduction to the world of Terrene and people of the Oaken Duchies happened to be under the banner of a minor baron who was willing march into battle with them despite their fantastic claims they were sent by the Gods and Goddesses. The baron’s coat of arms happened to be a stylized white lion on a black pennant and “The White Lions” were born.

I will say this: I wanted a version of the white lion on black background for the cover of the book at a very early point in the process.

The system of magic in the book was one of the most unique and creative story elements I've encountered in a while. How did you come up with it?
This is a great question as the origin of the Strands is a good story that shows the randomness of the human mind.

Early in world-building process, I did not know what I was going to do with magic. I did not want to rehash or reinvent traditional systems already in use in other’s works, nor did I want to shout ‘poof!’ whenever something fantastic happened and expect the reader to swallow it. However, as I worked on everything else, I left that problem alone, figuring I would address it eventually. Then, one night, I had a dream where I saw these golden, pulsating strings of energy hovering around me. I woke up and had my answer for magic in Terrene. I sat down, and in a half hour, the entire way magic works in Terrene was done. The nine types of Strands, the colors and what they represent, how they can be combined, how only some people can see or ‘touch’ them…nearly all of it flowed out in one sitting. I made a few modifications as I wrote, but most everything from that half-hour has stuck.

If you could touch and weave Strands, which elements would you want to control and what sorts of things would you want to do with them?
All nine, please. However, assuming I was like most mages in Terrene and I could only touch a handful of types, I suppose I would choose Will, Void, and Air. Void and Air for the simple reason that I could use the two together to create the ports to allow me to travel instantly between two places (Tuscany, here I come!) and Will for the simple reason it would let me talk my way into/out of any situation.

Your book has so many great characters that I'm hard pressed to choose a single favorite. From which character's perspective did you most enjoy writing?
Jak (the elder brother) and Nundle (the out-of-his-element and resourceful Halfling) were my two favorites to write. I am a very empathetic person, which helps me as I write from the different characters’ point of view. However, Jak’s personality is very similar to my own, so his chapters were even easier. Nundle is fun to write as his perspective on the world is unique in relation to the others we meet in Progeny. He is a short Halfling in a tall person’s world whose spirit cannot be beat down, no matter the situation.

What other hobbies or activities do you enjoy besides writing?
Well, I do not have as much time to spend on other activities right now as writing has taken up a large portion of the little free time I have. I like to cook when I have the time – I am the chef in the house – and enjoy making dinner for the family. As mentioned earlier, I am a Reds and Bengals fan so I like to watch baseball in the summer and used to like to watch football in the fall… however, the Bengals have ruined that for me as of late. When I am not writing in the evenings, I enjoy watching a handful of television shows (Castle, House, Big Bang Theory, and – I will admit it – Glee).

Cubs vs. Reds - Jackie Robinson Day
I will extend a belated congratulations to your Cincinnati Reds for winning the 2010 NL Central - are you expecting your team to take the division again in 2011? Keep in mind that the Cubbies are hopeful about the addition of Carlos Pena to our team as well as the return of (my fave!) Kerry Wood...
Thanks for the congratulations. Here is to hoping they can repeat, but as a Cincinnati sports fan, I have come to expect disappointment. Perhaps not to the level that Cubs fans have, but typically, a good year for a Cincinnati team is immediately followed up with an incredibly frustrating one. However, if the young core of players continues to get better, then I am optimistic. Check back in July, though.

I know a sequel to Progeny is in the works. How much can you reveal about it at this point?
The rough draft is well on its way but I do not want to give away much. We meet some new people in the second of the series and a little more is revealed about what is really behind what is happening in the Borderlands. I would love to say more, but I do not think I should at this point. The one person who I have shared the first (thrice-edited ) twelve chapters with said she thinks she likes the story more than Progeny’s.

What other projects are you currently working on?
I am glad you asked, actually. As I have already mentioned, Progeny is a self-published title – a decision I made to prove an ambitious undertaking by a new novelist could be really good (after literary agencies ran from the length of the book). The great reviews the novel has received tells me that not only can I legitimately write, but encouraged my belief the book can be a commercial success.

However, I am struggling with the same issue all self-published authors: no one knows about the book. I am the author, editor, publisher, and marketer. The stigma around self-published titles is crumbling amongst readers, but it is still difficult to overcome and gain any sort of recognition.

So, in an effort to draw new readers, I am going to be releasing a series of short stories detailing past events relevant to characters or places in Progeny (and perhaps a few sneak peeks of what is in store for the future novels). Each installment of the “The Terrene Chronicles” will be about 5,000-10,000 word short stories, released as I write and finish them and available free at my website. I'll also be bundling up a few (as they are completed) and selling them for the Kindle for $.99.

Links to the short stories as they become available can be found here:

Where can we find out more about you and your work? is the website of the book ( also points there). The book has a following at and (where I blog). You can get details on the book or see reader reviews at either of the sites (as well as at or purchase print editions at or The Kindle version was released last month for those of you with a Kindle (or Kindle reader software).

Thanks so much for agreeing to the interview and sharing your time here!

4 Response to "Author Interview - R.T. Kaelin"

  1. Anonymous Says:
    March 10, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    *clapping loudly*

    This sounds like an interesting book. Self-published authors are underappreciated. It takes a lot of ambition and courage to strike out on your own like that! I read an article the other day about this one female who is now a millionaire after selling 300,000 or so copies of her books via Kindle. Each book was priced from. 99 to 2.99.


  2. Attack of the Book! says:
    March 10, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Good questions asked!

    I hope you do get picked up by a major publisher R.T. Sounds like your book is very worth it! But if not, I wish you much success!

    Void and Air sounds like wonderful Strands to touch and weave (did I get the lingo right?). You were thinking Tuscany, I was thinking something as simple as the grocery store. I need supplies for dinner...

  3. Anonymous Says:
    March 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    Self-publishing takes guts, I think. Great interview.

  4. Greg McConnell says:
    March 13, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    I grew up as a Reds fan in Ohio, so it's cool to read about an Ohio author. Sounds like R.T. Kaelin has done a great job with this debut novel. Plus I like the idea about writing short stories to tie in with your novel. I'm trying to do the same thing... when I have time. Come to think of it, I need more time but losing an hour this weekend didn't help! ;-)

    It's really neat to learn about all these authors, Lisa. Thanks for doing this interview. And good luck to R.T.

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