I discovered the anthology of Realms of Our Own (ROOO) through the Facebook group, Iron Sharpens Iron. This is a group
"for authors, would-be authors, or just fans of Christian speculative fiction to exchange ideas, brainstorm, and swap experience and advice about navigating the difficult road of being a Christian author in a predominantly secular genre."
The only other anthology I have read is the Crossover Alliance Anthology, but in that anthology, it is stories that fit in the edgy Christian speculative fiction genre and are not related to each other in plot, characters, worlds, or time frame. When I read about the concept of what ROOO was, I found this to be very innovative, unique and was very curious to see how this worked. So I bought the first 7 books in the 10 book anthology (the remaining 3 to be published very soon) and have reviewed the first 5. It is from reading and reviewing these, that I felt it was worth exploring more about this concept and to see what the challenge was like for the authors involved.
So instead of myself as interviewer asking the questions, I have let the authors be in the driver's seat and let them describe their experiences of being part of this unique anthology. In doing so, it will give potential readers the background and encouragement to check out this innovative concept.
Part 2 of this Interview, will be published when the remaining 3 books are released within the next month or so.
So grab a coffee, relax, and be transported into the imagination of these pioneering authors. Enjoy!
The Concept of the Realms of Our Own Anthology.
Realms of Our Own (ROOO) was conceived as a unique spin on a popular genre. Collaborative anthologies in Speculative Fiction were truly popularized by Robert Asprin in his Thieves’ World series. The city of Sanctuary was created as a common setting, and a collection of Fantasy authors came together, created their own unique characters, and wrote short stories set in Sanctuary. These stories would occasionally feature characters submitted by other authors, although usually only in support or cameo roles. The success was far greater than anticipated as fans loved to see different aspects or viewpoints of the same characters viewed through the perspective of other, different Point Of View characters.
Others went on to emulate this model, such as George R.R. Martin’s Aces High, which was set in an alternative future New York City, after an alien engineered virus gave random mutations to humans, many of which became superhero-like (Aces) while others horribly twisted mutations (Jokers). The fact that this concept was not only extremely popular among Fantasy fans, but that it could cross genres within Speculative Fiction was the genesis behind the idea.
So the new “twist” in ROOO is that, rather than a single, unified setting with different characters interacting within it, the characters themselves would be the constant, while the stories, settings, and sometimes even embodiment of the characters themselves would be the variable. This will allow authors to truly use their creativity in creating unique stories, while stretching their imaginations as they figure out how to incorporate nine other characters into their story and setting. The only requirements is that each character must appear and be recognizable (preferably at least named) in each of the stories, but it is up to the individual author which characters will take the leading roles in their story, and which characters will be supporting or cameo characters.
Click on the book cover, to read more about the book and buy from Amazon.com.
David G Johnson
Author of Time To Change.
Developed the Character of Molan Hawkins.
Wow, what can I say about ROOO? Honestly, you ever see those classic Sci-Fi B (or maybe C) movies where the mad scientist creates something that grows completely out of control? That's a bit how I feel about ROOO. I have LOVED collaborative anthologies ever since I first read Robert Asprin's Thieves' World. What a brilliant concept, a shared setting with each author writing their own characters and stories within those bounds. One day I got an idea. What if we took this to the next level and created characters, but all authors had to use the characters in their own worlds. The possibilities were staggering, but I had no idea how truly cool this would be.
ROOO was riddled with frustration for two years. How do we post it, how much do we charge, how do we all claim credit for the same book? That plus the limitations of self-publishing, royalty splitting, etc just brought it to a standstill. I was still sold on the idea, but was very frustrated at the inability to execute it. Then, it hit me. The stories are set in a multiverse, right? Well let's publish as a multiverse. We have each author publish their short story individually, charge the minimum Amazon will allow, and cross promote. It seemed to be the answer, and the idea of ROOO was resurrected and has become a reality.
What strikes me as the best thing about this project, now reading half the 10 stories already out and looking forward to the other half due out soon, is how unique and engaging the stories are. I was afraid people might get bored seeing the same characters over and over, but since each author "reimagines" the characters in their multiverse, and in their unique setting, it is not repetitive at all. It is like digging into a box of chocolates and waiting to discover what amazing filling is inside this one. You kind of know what is coming, yet are still surprised at the delicious new taste each time. Each author brings their unique flavor and imagination to different stories, and each author selects different characters as main and supporting cast, so you get a delicious mix in the end.
Honestly I am excited to see the remaining five stories in their final versions, but I also have already begun gathering authors and characters for ROOO2. I can't wait to do this again. This is without doubt the most unique and fun project I have ever gotten to work on, and seeing the results is worth every bit of the trouble we went through to get it done.
Author of Rewind.
Developed the Character of Grayson Floyd.
For me, ROOO was a completely unique experience. I presumed that having so many characters pre-made for me would make the story-writing much easier, as with writing fan fiction, but in fact, the opposite was true.
When you write fan fiction, you do have pre-made characters, but you generally have had weeks or months to get to know the characters -- their personalities, their flaws, their quirks and strengths -- so even if you write a completely unique story involving them, the characters themselves remain roughly the same. You do have to craft the story a bit, but it can till be incredibly organic.
Further, when a writer writes his own story from scratch, EVERYTHING -- each character and situation -- comes from within himself, so he has a front row seat with their development. It's even easier to disengage the mind and allow the story to write itself. Because the story and the characters come from you, it's totally your rules. You can go in ANY direction with your story (so long as it remains consistent), without restrictions.
But with ROOO, each writer had only one character that was actually theirs. The other nine were total strangers, so you're effectively writing a story about characters that even you as the author don't know! It made writing my story extremely difficult. Still, I considered it an amazing experience, and am eager to participate in the next round.
Author of Soul Thief.
Developed the Character of Indalrion "Indal" Tay.
I signed up for the ROOO anthology on a whim, because I thought it sounded fun. I had assumed we'd be trading around two, maybe three characters. What do you mean, ten characters? I have to tell a coherent short story with ten characters? I wrote down all the characters and their profiles, and stared at them for a while. Then I grouped them into pairs that made sense to me--the wolf anthro and werewolf, the two tortured teens with second sight, the homeschooling mom and the weird kid, the shapeshifter and the autistic savant. That left the angel and the woman in the wheelchair--and as my mystery plot began to take shape, I found places for them, too. In the end, I think Soul Thief worked out satisfactorily, clocking in at 8000 words.
Parker J Cole
Author of Godforsaken.
Developed the Character of Natasha Genesis.
My major works are in romance so what’s a romance writer trying to do, hanging out with the speculative fiction powerhouses?
Working on ROOO was an exercise I thoroughly enjoyed. My first love is speculative fiction, with an emphasis on horror and sci-fi (thanks Stephen King and Gene Roddenberry). I didn't discover romance till I was fourteen years old. So when this opportunity came, I wanted to see if I could blend all my loves into one story.
When we were presented with the characters, I had the toughest time working with these various people. A wolf, an angel, an AI, an assassin, just to name a few, had to be included. What was I going to do with them? It was a hard question to answer. Yet, after a while, it became a wonderful exercise as I molded them into what I wanted them to be.
The best part about this project has been reading the final product from the other authors in the series to see how your character faired. In one of the books, my character Natasha Genesis had her soul stolen. In another, she’s the underground connection for illegal activity. In still another, she works with outcast angels who left Satan to right the evil in the world. How cool is that to see your baby portrayed in different ways.
The sky’s the limit to what we can do and I look forward to contributing to more.
Author of A Time To Play.
Developed the Character of
I have been a writer/author for most of my life. However, this is the first time for me to venture into the realm of fantasy. It was a very fun challenge.
The reason I choose to get involved in this project is that I hope to one day write a novel. This project helped me put into perspective some of the challenges of doing that. While this short story is not anywhere near the length of a novel, it still had some of the same elements within it.
Probably the greatest frustration to me personally was the editing process. I lost track how many editors we went through. My story saw at least five editors, each one different in his/her approach, some of the later ones pointing out possible corrections that were the result of previous editing changes. Now if that doesn’t frustrate a person, I don’t know what would. I am used to working with proof readers/editors, so that was not really a difficulty here. It was the fact that they were not consistent.
My particular story is a challenging one, in that, in order to portray the particular message behind the story, it needed to be written in a style that is not common. Thus, most of the editors balked at the style, rather than to look at the possibility there was purpose in it. I saw no other way to write this particular story.
We had some great characters to work with in putting these stories together. I have noticed that the next ROOO project that the characters will be more restrictive in what one can change and not change. I personally thought that the characters in this first project were great, but if certain traits needed to be tweaked just ever so slightly, then the author should have been able to do that, as long as the character was still recognizable. What I would like to have seen would have been something along the lines of an author having the ability to change one major characteristic or two minor ones, if needed, but beyond that, all the details of the character stays the same. A lot of the details were left out on purpose, which was good. However, as an author, I felt that this one area of control over our stories was taken away from us, control over our characters. But then, that is just me.
The time element of this project was quite a challenge. Getting ten writers, who are naturally loners, to work together in a timely fashion was really something to be a part of. This project has been two years in the making. It was not supposed to take that long, but between changing editors, losing focus, and the monetary issues, it came close to not happening. Losing focus? Yes, at one point the focus was taken off of the ROOO project and placed upon a magazine, which I was not interested in doing. Every one became excited about the magazine and as a result the ROOO project suffered and fell by the wayside. At that point, I gave up and figured that this was one project that would never see the light of day. I still followed along, but my heart was not in it any longer. Then with the monetary issues, that all but killed it. But I was wrong, thankfully. I am really glad to see that it is being completed.
The greatest blessing I had in this project is that two of my sons are also in it. We had lots of fun sitting around talking about this project and still do. I had that unique situation in which I could discuss the project face to face with other collaborators. I hope one day that my sons and I can do a project together.
Would I do this again? No. Why? The logical perfectionist within me has taken a few hits along the way in this project and I am not interested in repeating those hits. Thus, I will let others play in this room. I do believe that it is a worthy project, a worthy idea to pursue. It is just not for me.
Author of The Revelation.
Developed the Character of
Sophie "Sophie" Sanchez.
I really enjoyed this collaboration because it gave me a chance as an absolutely new author to work with established, published authors. I got to get at least one of my ideas out of my head and into a format that someone other than myself can enjoy it. One challenge I had was to use other characters in my work when some of them did not fit the initial story I had in mind. I had to stretch my creative muscles right away. This, I think, will make me a better author in the future.
Author of Then Again.
Developed the Character of Jesse.
For me, the Realms Of Our Own project was very much a case of right place, only just right time. I was approved to join the Iron Sharpening Iron Facebook Christian writers’ group mere hours before the deadline (to take part in the collaborative project) was due to expire, with one author slot left to fill. I had no idea that there was even a project on offer when I applied to join the group – but as soon as I was approved as a group member and went and had a look around the group posts, I discovered the ROOO project. Sudden decision time: it was a case of “act now or miss out”. I grabbed the chance, offered up as my character contribution Jesse (one of the supporting characters in my Outcast Angels series-in-development), and off we went.
CHALLENGES & OBSTACLES
I guess the biggest challenge for me was that before writing this story, I hadn’t written any fiction for around 25 years – and what I wrote back in those days was stage plays. I’ve been writing professionally (i.e. writing and getting paid for it) since I was 17, which is now forty-something years in the past. But most of that writing has been advertisements, brochures, newsletters, blogs and so on. These days, I write online training courses about topics such as Social Media, Mobile Marketing and eCommerce, all of which need constant updating, so I’m writing almost every day – I’m just not writing fiction.
I’ve authored two non-fiction books (three if you count a book I ghost-wrote) and I’ve been pondering a book series about my Outcast Angels for a couple of decades, but it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve actually been working on creating the Outcast Angels universe.
Writing novels and short stories is different from writing plays (doh!), particularly in terms of characterization (in the plays, I simply cast people who matched my mental image of each individual part) and setting (I have to describe things a little more fully than EXTERIOR: CASTLE). On the other hand, playwriting has given me a solid grasp of story structure, plotting and dialogue.
The first challenge for me in terms of the story itself was shaping the diverse range of contributed characters so that they could coherently inhabit my alien-less universe. In line with the rules of engagement for ROOO, I was able to conveniently ignore any extraterrestrial backstory and attribute most individuals’ powers to genetic experimentation (radioactive spiders being unavailable). Perhaps the most significant constraint was the existence of a chronomancer, which effectively demanded that the manipulation of time be included in the storyline. I chose not to try and invent a scientific explanation for that ability.
Once I’d assembled the cast of characters, I then looked for some task that might tax their collective skills. I like working with existing historical facts and giving them a tweak, so I decided to set my story on Millennium Eve and then went Googling to see what happened on that day. I quickly stumbled across the early resignation of Boris Yeltsin and that provided fertile ground for my imagination. I tossed in various bits of backstory from my Outcast Angels world and the story began to assemble itself.
Once our stories were written, we authors were assigned partners with whom to swap manuscripts for a first sweep through the editing process. That part of the process seemed to go relatively smoothly, with the biggest casualty being several of the dashes that I usually sprinkle far too liberally through my writing. Many more dashes and ellipses gave their lives valiantly in subsequent editorial exterminations.
ON TAKING PART
I’ve loved every minute of being part of this project. My collaborators have shared some wonderful characters with me, the reviewers have been kind and the result is a finished story that I’m delighted to have created as the first step in bringing my Outcast Angels to the world.
THE FUTURE OF SUCH COLLABORATIONS
Is there a future for multi-author collaborations such as Realms Of Our Own?
Absolutely – but there are always practical considerations when assembling such collaborations. The fact that this first ROOO endeavor has proven as successful as it has is a real tribute to the creator/co-ordinator David G. Johnson.
Conceptually, the idea of a shared cast of characters is a fabulous one. In practice, one is faced with issues such as:
Who chooses the participating authors, if there are more who wish to contribute than can be effectively accommodated?
Do contributors have the necessary writing skills (and is each of a comparable standard)?
Will the authors deliver on time, creative muses being notoriously tardy?
If those types of issues can be satisfactorily addressed, then concepts such as ROOO should enjoy a glorious future.
Thank you all ROOO authors for allowing us to get an insight into what you faced in bringing this new type of anthology to life. It has given me, and I am sure our readers, a greater appreciation of you as authors and a greater love for this new, unique and innovative type of anthology.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in the very near future.