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.
In 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: