Author Journeys: Welcome Vaughn Roycroft

I’m proud to launch Author Journeys today, an open-ended, unscheduled collection of interviews with unique writers. I hope, as time goes on, these interviews will make an exciting collection for other writers looking for inspiration; it certainly excites me to learn a bit more about some of the wonderful writers I’ve had the opportunity to connect with.

A warm welcome to my first of many guests: Vaughn Roycroft.

VR headshot croppedIn the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened, and Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. During those years, he and his wife built a getaway cottage near their favorite shoreline, in a fashion that would make the elves of Rivendell proud. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ they left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their little cottage, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. Now he spends his days polishing his epic fantasy trilogy.

Q: What was your earliest writing memory?

I knew almost immediately after reading The Lord of the Rings at age 11 that I would one day write my own fantasy trilogy. I was so sure of it that, starting in the ninth grade, I took typing classes through high school (something very few young males did in those days). It came in handy in college, but my writing dream was put on the backburner after that. For far too long.

Funny you should mention early memories. My memory is terrible. My wife was recently digging through an old box of paperwork from my parents’ house and found a notebook I’d filled when I was 14 to 15 years old. It was full of story snippets and drawings. I’d completely forgotten about it. Inside there were several drawings and undeveloped story scraps that featured warrior women (yes, they were cartoonishly curvaceous and scantily clad, but hey—I was a fourteen year old male!). This might not surprise those who’ve read my work (that there were warrior women, not that they were curvaceous and scantily clad), but it surprised me. I had completely forgotten them, and honestly believed that warrior women were not at all on my radar at the onset of my writing life, which began in earnest about thirty years after the notebook. Seems the seeds of my Skolani warriors were buried deep in my subconscious.

Q: What was your toughest writing lesson and how did you grow as a result of it?

This might sound ridiculous to an audience of writers, but honestly, my toughest lesson was that the first draft that I crapped out was not good to go. I really had no idea while I was composing it that it would only be the first step of the trilogy’s evolution. Granted, it was a major first step, about six years in the making, but a mere first step nonetheless.

I learned this lesson through a combination of rejections and some very honest beta-reader critiques (thank you, first-round betas!). It stung. I wondered if it was worth going on. I wondered if I shouldn’t simply go back to full-time carpentry. After all, I’d gotten the story down, and learned a lot about myself in the process. Watching it unfold had been a rush. And a couple of people (besides me) really seemed to have enjoyed it (literally two—a dear friend and my sister). I wondered if that was good enough.

How did I then grow? I pushed on. I decided I couldn’t simply stop writing, and that my characters and their story were worthy of my continuing to strive. I started to study. I attempted to revise it based on what I’d learned. I put it out there again, took in the feedback. Rinse, repeat.

Along the way I started following Writer Unboxed, and got more involved. I hired a developmental editor, and willingly submitted myself to more stinging critique. I realized that—as my developmental editor, Cathy Yardley, puts it—we all have to write alone, but none of us succeeds alone. I became a part of a community, and made some wonderful friends and gained a few wise and gracious mentors in the process.

I realized that writing is not about getting one story down, or even about getting a story published. It’s about putting yourself out there, listening, and then digging deep. It’s also about giving back. We learn as much by helping others as we do by being helped. In other words, I learned, and have mostly accepted, that it’s a journey not a destination. I say I’ve mostly accepted it. I still have days when I just want to be published already.

Q: How has your writing method evolved over time?

When I started, drafting was not only fun, it came easily to me. Lots and lots of words flowed onto the page. Some of them were even essential to the story. But after over five years of trying to sort out the mess I made on the page, I came to the determination that something had to change.

Although I did do some outlining before I started my trilogy, I drafted it mostly by the seat of my pants. Even the outline was sort of a free-form spewing of ideas. I have since taken my outlining a bit more seriously, mostly along the lines of exploring my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts. I’ve even adopted Cathy Yardley’s patented GMC scene chart. I wouldn’t say I’m a totally reformed pantser, though. And I wouldn’t really call myself a plotter. I try to have a better idea of what’s driving the story at the onset of a project. I’ve embraced the fact that story is about how the characters are changed more than a simple series of events.

My word counts are a fraction of what they were in those heady days of composing my first draft. Hopefully what makes it to the page is farther along the path that subsequent drafts must inevitably take.

Q: What are your future writing goals?

I still intend to get my work out there, to make an earnest effort to reach readers. And I aspire to do more than to entertain them. I aspire to move them, and to leave them thinking after the last page is turned. Which in turn will lead to writing more books. Which means I can continue to do what I love. Funny how that works out, isn’t it? But seeking to ensure that the books will have a shot at touching their fair share of readers is why I’m being so careful before I do put them out there.

Presuming I meet those goals, I not only have a notebook filled with ideas to carry the story of my fantasy world forward, I also have a couple of ideas for books outside the fantasy genre. As I said earlier, I love to draft. It’s a magical experience to be immersed in a story as it flows onto the page. The prospect of doing it again—hopefully with readers waiting to forge ahead with me—is a powerful motivator.

Q: Looking back at your author journey, if you could do one thing different what would it be?

I’d have started earlier. I can tell myself that during my years in business I couldn’t have found the focus or the time to have written, but I have friends who’ve shown me that it isn’t so. I am inspired by so many of my friends who are writing in addition to other careers and families and other interests. It’s a great release. It keeps the creative soul vital. It would’ve been a boon, both to my writing skills and to my sanity, to have been writing regularly since my teenage attempts.

And, if I might add a supplement, I wouldn’t have wasted a single writing opportunity. Having recently lost a dear friend who was a brilliant writer, I can honestly say one of my greatest fears is that I’ll run out of time—that my story will never be told. This is an ongoing lesson for me. We live but once. It’s a great motivator for striving every day, and for being grateful for every opportunity.

I’m also very grateful for the opportunity to share my journey with you, John! It’s been an honor to be your guest.

Vaughn, it’s been wonderful having you as my guest. Thank you so much for taking the time to share about your journey. I look forward to hearing more about your trilogy soon!

Connect with Vaughn and find out more about his stories by visiting:

http://vaughnroycroftblog.com/

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About John Robin

John Robin is an epic fantasy writer, professional editor, and lover of imaginary worlds. He write stories about magic and myth, human suffering and the power to rise above it. He loves world building, coffee shops, mathematics, chess, and is an avid author community builder.
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29 Responses to Author Journeys: Welcome Vaughn Roycroft

  1. Thanks for having me, John. The site looks great! I’m honored to be the subject of the first in this series. Looking forward to seeing what comes of your journey!

    • John Robin says:

      Thanks, Vaughn! I am having fun piecing this site together. I have to say, though, Author Journeys has truly excited me now; I don’t feel like I’m just puttering around anymore. Thanks for launching – and what a fitting guest to start: your love of Tolkien hits home and has inspired me in my own journey.

  2. brindle808 says:

    Congratulations, John on the launch of your Author Journey’s interviews. I’m delighted with your choice of a first author — his writing is stellar and he’s an inspiration. 😀

    • John Robin says:

      Thanks for stopping by Brin! I loved learning about Vaughn’s journey and look forward to the eventual launch of his trilogy (written from Rivendell, to boot).

    • Brin, you always know how to make my day. Speaking of creativity and talent, I’m really looking forward to reading more of your work someday soon! Have a great weekend!

  3. Pingback: Author Journeys Interview – Redirect to John Robin’s Blog « Vaughn Roycroft's Blog

  4. katmagendie says:

    Love this peek into your handsome head, Vaughn! You know, I have a terrible memory, too — as long as a pea (I know, peas aren’t long but that’s what I envisioned ,sooooo), and everything comes in little stills and snapshots, kind of weirdly.

    And, like you, wish I’d have started earlier – I didn’t pick up my writing again until my 40s. Later 40s. What a waste of time, but, really, Vaughn, I think I’m a better writer now than I would have been when young–still. Yeah. But we’re doing it now, right? Right!

    Smiling . . . .

  5. Tonia Marie Houston says:

    This looks like the start of an amazing adventure, John. Frodo would be proud. 🙂 I look forward to reading more Author Journeys. I agree with Brindle- best choice of first author all around.

    Vaughn, your theme and mine (in writing and in life) are in simpatico. The loss of our dear friend seems to have taught many of us the same lesson: Tomorrow is not promised. Life is circular, and I definitely see that in your story.

    Knowing you and having read one of your books, I know you’re going in the right direction. You always find your way. It comes through in your writing and in the way you help others all the time. Your inner compass is unswerving, even in those moments when you feel lost.

    Also, I’m outlining my first series. I am listening and watching very closely, John and V. No pressure. 😉

    • John Robin says:

      Thanks Tonia! Your words (and Vaughn’s) about the loss of your close friend have struck a chord with me too. We only have today, so let’s make the most of it and live each moment with passion and fire – like Feanor crafting his Silmarils.

    • I agree – we’re simpatico. And Lisa lives on through our renewed dedication to our work. I’m so freaking excited, both about seeing what comes of Follow You Down (it’s got SO much potential!!), and about your series!

      Thank you so much for your very kind words and for being a part of my writerly journey, Tonia. You rock! 🙂

  6. I second Tonia on your writing, Vaughn. My gut tells me your current project is going to be very special. I am excited for you and for this journey you’re on, As for you taking it sooner, I believe you are taking it at just the right time. The path opens for all of us when we are ready to see it. Blessed by your journey, my friend.

    Great interview, thanks for sharing with us, John.

    • John Robin says:

      Thanks for visiting, Bernadette!

      “The path opens for all of us when we are ready to see it.”

      Now those are words to live by.

    • I can’t think of anyone who’s been a more selfless supporter of others than you, B. And it’s so clear how much your generous nature has infused your creativity. And right back at you: SO excited for Burning Lily, and for your journey. Thank you, my friend. For everything. Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. Glad I happened to find you here while in the midst of my New Mexico visit, Vaughn. I understand your feelings about starting late and having time gain an intensity it never possessed in the past. I guess I like to think of all those years beforehand as research, both internal and external. I couldn’t write what I write now if not for all that came before. Your life experience, I’m sure, will enrich your pages. Thank you, too, John for sharing. 🙂

    • Hey Christina, I know there is depth to be gained from our life experience. It’s just that sometimes I feel like such a babe – fifty-something babe – when it comes to writing well. I wonder if I’d have had the patience when i was younger. Because, even though I still struggle, heaven knows I’ve gained patience over the years. And one needs an ability for self-critique. I’m positive I’m more humble than I used to be, although my former brashness may have been a boon in building my business career. The more I say here, the more I see that it may have all been as it was meant to be.

      Thanks for taking time out from your trip to share the wisdom of your experience. Have a great time in NM!

  8. Nicole L. Bates says:

    I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks, Vaughn and John, for sharing. I have been a friend of Vaughn’s for a while now, and more recently a fan of his novel since I had the privilege of reading the latest edition. Nevertheless, I learned some new information in this post, which is always fun. Best of luck to both of you!

    • John Robin says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Nicole. Vaughn is inspiring! I’m grateful to share his journey here at my new online home.

    • Pay attention to this one, John. Nicole is a wildly talented and inventive writer. I was honored and privileged to read what’s sure to be her hit debut, as well. It’s the kind of story I can perfectly see it on the big screen. Mark my words – you will be seeing her name on many book covers and quite probably listed in some credit rolls, as well! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Nicole! Hope all is well in your world, and you and (all of) yours are healthy and happy. At least the heat hasn’t been a big issue up there this summer, right? Have a great week!

      • John Robin says:

        Thanks for pointing this out, Vaughn! I went to your website (Nicole) and loved what I saw! It will be great to connect and I look forward to a future Author Journeys post about Nicole L. Bates

  9. Nicole L. Bates says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Vaughn! Summer has been just the right temperature for me this year. 🙂 I expect a very exciting next couple of months! I hope you are doing well and enjoying that puppy, and garden, and lake.

    Thank you, John for taking a look at my site. I’m happy to meet you and I look forward to getting to know you through your posts and blog! Have a great day!

  10. Pingback: Author Journeys: Welcome Therese Walsh | The story world of John Robin

  11. Wonderful interview, V! Love this: “I was so sure of it that, starting in the ninth grade, I took typing classes through high school.” I think typing was one of the most valuable courses I’ve ever taken; I can’t imagine writing without that skill.

    And this: “My word counts are a fraction of what they were in those heady days of composing my first draft.” This is how it was for me, too. Maybe I’m trying not to make so many mistakes, so I’m writing more slowly. Either that or I’m just slugging down as I age. 😉

    Thanks for bringing Vaughn over for this interview, John Robin. I really enjoyed it.

    • John Robin says:

      I loved reading Vaughn’s interview. He has inspired and encouraged me from the day I joined the WU Facebook group. I like to think of him as a pillar stone.

    • Aw man, you two have made my day! (I’m with you on wondering whether it’s caution or slugging, T. 😉 )

      John, such an honor to be considered a pillar at WU. Very early on in my association with WU, that’s exactly the feeling I gained about Therese Walsh. My esteem has only grown since. I aspire to live up to her lofty example.

      • John Robin says:

        Vaughn – what I think I’ve enjoyed the most about WU is that there is no sense of “one pillar”, even by the founder, Therese, who I find to be so humble and approachable. I have been involved in several writer’s groups and have been a part of different writing communities in the past and I find these are often riddled with pretense (simply put, ego war and elitism). I find none of that at WU. Only encouragement, which is why I have fallen in love with it!

  12. I think you’ve really hit the spot there, John. I went through the same thing before I found WU. The lack of pretense and the encouraging and supportive atmosphere were always bound to attract certain types of individuals together. To look at what we’ve become as a community speaks volumes about the character and vision of the founders.

  13. It was all very organic. Kath and I are both so thankful for the community, and are still in awe of how everything has evolved. Thanks for being a part of it all!

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