Ryan W. Mueller is an author of fantasy and science fiction for all ages. He enjoys talking about himself in the third person (who doesn’t?). Currently, he has written all four books of the World in Chains series, with the first, Empire of Chains, released on June 30, 2017 and the next three to follow over the course of the next year.
He’s a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Jim Butcher, and many other fantasy authors. He first decided he wanted to be a writer at the age of 11 after he started reading Harry Potter. Between that and Super Nintendo RPGs, he was pretty much destined (or perhaps doomed) to become a fantasy writer, though he does like to branch out to science fiction occasionally. His fantasy is classic fantasy with modern twists. That is, you’ll see a lot of familiar tropes, but he puts his own spin on them. For him, part of the joy of fantasy is the tropes, and as TVTropes would tell you, there is nothing wrong with tropes. It’s all a matter of how you use them.
1. Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
I’ve always been a storyteller in some form. When we were kids, my brother and I created a very elaborate world for our toys. When we ran out of action figures, we made our own out of notebook covers. A lot of these stories were ridiculous and over the top, but they made me realize how much I loved storytelling. I didn’t really consider writing until I started reading Harry Potter. That opened up my eyes to an entirely different form of storytelling. At first, I was a terrible writer, but I’ve improved a lot over the years. Empire of Chains, my first published book, has been with me in some form since I was 15. It was terrible, cliched mess back then. Now it has developed into something much more mature, something I can actually feel proud to put out there.
2. What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
Fantasy and science fiction are all about possibilities (and sometimes impossibilities). I’ve always been an escapist. I love to read about new worlds and create them myself. For me, though, the world is more of a vehicle to tell the kind of story I enjoy. I do some worldbuilding, but I figure out a lot of the details as I go, when they become relevant to the story. My mind always tends toward epics when it comes to storytelling, and fantasy and science fiction lend themselves so well to that kind of story. Plus, magic is awesome.
3. Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
My favorite thing about Empire of Chains is the way I’ve taken some of the common quest fantasy tropes and put my own spin on them. On the surface, it looks like a quest to defeat a dark lord, but the more you read, the more you realize that dark lord may not be a dark lord at all. I feel like this introduces a lot of tension to the story because you don’t really know what to expect as the reader. My antagonist is also one of my favorite characters to write, and I include short sections from his point of view.
4. When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.
Emotions are a big part of my writing process. If I don’t feel any emotion during scenes that should trigger it, I know I’m doing something wrong and the reader won’t feel anything either. I’ve been known to cry at a character’s death, and I have to stop writing until the emotions pass. Also, when I’m in the middle of a huge action scene, I start to feel the anxiety, the fear, and the general chaos of what I’m writing. It makes those scenes flow from my fingertips.
5. How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
I try not to be too rigid about these things. I like to set a daily word count goal of 1,000 because it’s relatively easy to hit. I often exceed this goal by quite a bit, but I still consider it a successful day if I merely hit my goal. Every now and then, I have a day where it just isn’t going to happen. I don’t beat myself up over this, but I do make sure not to make it a habit.
6. How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
For me, it’s a matter of making writing a priority. Life may be busy, but it’s also very easy to waste time you could be spending writing. Thankfully, I can often hit my word count goal in less than an hour (sometimes less than 30 minutes). That’s how I know I can carve out that time if I get off social media for just a little bit of time. It’s a delicate balancing act, though. As a self-published writer, I have to establish and maintain a social media presence.
7. Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
Like many writers, I suffer from depression and anxiety. The depression can make writing feel like pulling teeth. The anxiety can make me think that no one will ever want to read the crap I’m writing. I overcome these issues by reminding myself that this is not a rational side of me speaking. It’s depression and anxiety, and I should never trust what they have to say.
8. If you could change any one thing about your work, what would it be?
This isn’t really one thing. It’s more of a general observation. Since I’ve written Empire of Chains, I have written seven other epic fantasy novels (I also wrote a couple middle grade fantasy novels in there as well). Through this process, I’ve improved quite a bit as a writer. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and write this book again knowing what I know now. But I’ve had to resist the temptation. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve written the novel, and eventually you reach a point that you have to get it out there and abandon your perfectionism.
9. If you could change any one thing about the writing industry, what would it be?
In terms of trade publishing, I’d like to change the whole query letter thing. I tried before to get an agent and publisher and all that for both Empire of Chains and Sunweaver. Despite getting all kinds of feedback on my query letters, I never could get past that stage. It’s a bit demoralizing when your work is getting rejected before anyone even has a chance to read it. But I’m not bitter over that. I’m happy with the path I’ve taken. I may pursue trade publishing at some point in the future, but it’s not a priority right now.
10. You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?
Read more. As a child and teenager, I did not read nearly as much as I should have. I was too busy focusing on getting straight As in school. It wasn’t until my last year of college the first time around that I really dedicated myself to reading. Since I did that, my writing has improved exponentially. I have so many more ideas now, and my feel for good prose is much better than it was.
11. Describe your workplace.
I do most of my writing in the recliner with my laptop. I like to be comfortable while writing, and sitting at a desk just doesn’t do it for me. I usually put on headphones and listen to some music while writing. It eliminates all the other distractions. Generally, I’m listening to some form of Power Metal, Symphonic Metal, or Progressive Metal. Some of my favorites to listen to are Kamelot, Nightwish, Epica, and Blind Guardian. Metal really helps me get into the fantasy mood.
12. If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
For a great epic fantasy series, I highly recommend Phil Tucker’s Chronicles of the Black Gate. The first book, The Path of Flames, came in 2nd place in last years Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, and it’s some of the best fantasy I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of story that makes me remember why I fell in love with the genre in the first place.
13. If you could choose any other writer, living or dead, to be your mentor, whom would you choose and why?
Brandon Sanderson. I love his books, and he seems genuinely interested in helping writers grow. I’ve listened to his creative writing lectures and some the Writing Excuses podcasts, and there is a lot of good stuff there. I also admire his work ethic and dedication to his readers. If there’s a writer I really want to pattern myself after, it’s Brandon Sanderson.
For more from Ryan Mueller:
Amazon Author: amazon.com/Ryan-W.-Mueller/e/B071YXBZRW/
Goodreads Author: goodreads.com/author/show/16822285.Ryan_W_Mueller