Sit-Down with Honor Raconteur, part 2

So, last year I got to sit down with Honor and chat with her about her book series, Jaunten. She’s been a hero of mine since she decided she would self-publish after facing rejection after rejection for a book that is now gaining popularity. Since then, she’s been kicking butt in the literary world with the rest of the series.

Recently, she released an image from the final book in the series, Balancer.

Plus, in addition to finishing a series, Honor has opened Raconteur House, a publishing house aimed to help aspiring writers become authors. With so much happening for her, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk with her again.

TG: You’ve had an amazing, and I’d say successful career as an author and now as the head of a publishing house. Tell me how you got there.

There’s a long, long story behind all of this. But the beginning of it, really, is that I always wanted to be an author. Even as a little girl, if my head wasn’t in a book, then I made up my own stories to keep myself entertained. The adults around me used to ask “what I wanted to be when I grew up” and when I said “Author” they always shook their heads and said, “That career doesn’t pay enough. You can’t succeed with that.” I never said it to them (politeness was drilled into me) but I thought: “Watch me.” That cockiness never faded. I went to three different colleges, and got three different degrees, that taught me what I needed to know about writing and business. After that, it was just a matter of research, experimentation, and a LOT of paperwork to get started.

TG: What made you first decide you wanted to write a book?

Decided? Who said I had a choice? When characters start yammering to you in your dreams, nonstop, with this incredible story—well, you don’t have any real choice but to write it down. Not if you want to stay sane. I wrote a book simply because I was consumed by curiosity. I wanted to know how the story I dreamed every night ended. The book was written before I knew it. Same thing with the rest of the series.

TG: What’s it feel like to complete the Advent Mage series?

It feels…I don’t know, honestly. It hasn’t sunk in. (Probably because at this point I’m still doing edits!) But I’m astonished I managed to finish four books in just three years. I have so many ideas hit me that are so sparkly and distracting it’s hard for me to focus on any one particular thing. The fact that I focused long enough to actually finish a story…well, it’s a miracle of biblical proportions.

TG: What made you decide to open Raconteur House? What’s the vision you have for this publishing house?

A couple of things influenced me to found the House. I am a paralegal (I actually have a degree in this and worked in a law firm at one point) and so I know what all of that lovely legalese in contracts are saying. I found it appalling how most publishing houses write their contracts. They are generally adhesion contracts, which boils down to highway robbery. It upset me, this legal theft. Especially since it didn’t have to be that way. I thought to myself, “Self, you could do a better and more honest job than most of these companies are doing.” The other thing that motivated me is that I saw in several instances that the publishing world is becoming stagnant. It’s just the same plot formula done over and over. I felt like there needed to be at least one publishing house out there that wanted to break all of the old literary rules. And since no one was around to stop me, I volunteered myself for the job.

My vision, really, is to gather authors and artists that have fresh, original ideas that they want to share. I want to give everyone good, clean, amazing books to read that promote creativity. If I’ve done that for even one person, I’ll be well satisfied.

TG: What book are you currently reading?

Don’t assume I only read one book at a time.  Currently, though, I’m reading Skip Beat, Heraldry and Genealogy by LG Pine, Hammered by Kevin Hearne and In Death’s Grip by Michael Claymore.

TG: Authors sometimes talk about a “spark,” a moment or thought that’s powerful, binding, and motivating in their writing. Have you ever had a moment like that? How do these sparks fit in for an author?

My sparks happen when I’m asleep and my defenses are down. Characters take unfair advantage of my subconscious. It’s actually getting dangerous for me to sleep…too many ideas. These sparks are always the start of the book, and often revolve around the major scenes that play out as well. I wish I had sparks for the END of the book, but that rarely happens. The sparks, though, are what motivates you to write in the first place just because the image is so strong, so vivid, that you just have to share it.

TG: Of the cast of characters you’ve worked with on the Advent Mage series who has been your favorite to work with? If you met any of them in real life, do you think you’d be friends with them?

I like working with all of my characters, truly, but Shad is probably my favorite to write. It’s mostly because he’s a brat. Brats are the most entertaining, simply because they do what we’re all tempted to do but are too polite to actually put into action. They’re totally fun to write.

I think I’d be friends with practically all of them, simply because I’ve met people with this range of personalities before and got along with them just fine. But then, I’m a person that can rub tolerably well with most people, so it wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

TG: Who is your literary hero? What makes him/her your hero?

I have too many literary heroes to mention. Now, some of my favorites are Dojo Atsushi from Library Wars, Bazhell Banakson from War God’s Own, Zen and Shirayuki from Akagami no Shirayukihime, Mogami Kyoko from Skip Beat, Dag and Fawn from the Sharing Knife series, and Syaoran from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. (To those of you who recognize these characters, it must seem quite scatterbrained. There’s method to my madness, I promise. It’s not just madness!) Now, I like all of these characters for one simple reason: they have grit. These people all faced difficult situations but used creativity, persistence and sheer stubbornness to work through the problem. I admire ambition and work ethic more than anything else.

TG: For those seeking to make their dream come true and be published, what do you as a publishing house look for? Are there things you did in trying to get Jaunten published that you would look for now?

There’s several things that I, as a publishing house, am looking for. We look for good writing techniques, creativity and originality in story composition, and likeable characters. We look for someone that knows how to tell a story. I need to be able to read the first three paragraphs and like the character, have a good idea of the setting, and have enough questions from what I’ve read that I want to see the story play out.

Knowing what I know now about the publishing world…no. Nothing that I could have done would have changed getting Jaunten published the traditional way. It was just too different from the “fantasy formula” as I like to call it. I broke too many molds. That said, this publishing house, at least, does not rely heavily on query letters. (Mostly because I suck at them and I know that most authors do.) What needs to come across in submissions to us is enthusiasm for your own work and originality. Give us a sample of the book to prove you actually CAN write and we’ll definitely take a serious look at it.

TG: Where do you see yourself going in the future, both as a publisher and as an author?

So far, authors have been coming to us from all different directions as they hear about us. I envision that eventually, we’ll be doing more genres than just fantasy and sci-fi (as we have been doing) and really get a good grip on other stories. I also hope that I can get enough good editors to where I can turn that part of my job over completely and devout more time to what I really enjoy doing – writing.

TG: Tell me about a thrilling moment in your author career.

My first real thrilling moment was when I looked at my book sales and discovered that in three short months, I was selling internationally. That just about blew my socks off. My second amazed moment was when some of those international fans started emailing me questions and comments. Nothing has more impact for an author than someone from Brazil emailing you and pleading for the next book.

TG: So if you’re looking for new authors, can anyone submit?

You most certainly can – if you’re trying to publish either Young Adult or Children’s. We’re always looking for new authors and new material. If you have a book and you’re not sure if it’s good enough, send it anyway. I’ll give you a professional critique. We have two main editors in the house that handles submissions (including yours truly). Go to www.raconteurhouse.com and look at our Agents page to figure out which person you should submit to.

TG: So…all you do is write and publish books? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

Ah…no. I do more than that. I also do seminars for different groups that want to know how to be an author and/or the president of a publishing house. In fact, if you want to have me talk to your school/church group/whatever, then send me an email at ayockey@raconteurhouse.com and I’ll be more than happy to talk about appearances.

TG:  The series that got you started, what is it called?

The Advent Mage Cycle. The first book is Jaunten, and believe me, you’ll want to start at the beginning. I write under the pen name Honor Raconteur and you’ll find that I also wrote a guide on how to be a self-published author without putting yourself into debt. If you want to follow in my initial footsteps, that guide is a good source of information for you to start with.

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