John D. Pepe is the author of The Lone Wolf. He is a former practicing attorney turned school counselor. He’s a Neek (Nerd and Geek) and a lifelong D&D player. He enjoys martial arts, working out, podcasting, blogging, travel, and spending time with his family and friends. He lives in So. Cal. with his wife and son.
1.Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
It really was an amalgamation of things that happened in my life.
I think the storytelling bug was planted in me by my grandmother. She use to tell me all different kinds of stories. Stories about the Great Depression, my dad growing up, about the family that lived in the cardboard boxes (yes there was a family in their neighborhood that literally lived in cardboard boxes), etc. My friends and I also watched a lot of action shows on TV like Superman, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, and The A-Team and movies like Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian and Bruce Lee movies all made me want to be a hero. We were outside a lot as kids and we constantly were using our imaginations to play out the things we saw on screen.
Then at ten, or so, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons which spawned my love of fantasy. You couple that with my desire to be an actor and I think all those things lead me to the doorstep of writing. I loved acting because I was able to create the personality of my characters, to portray them on stage, and have input in how the play turned. That is remarkably similar to what you do as an author.
Then in my thirties I read a string of relatively crappy fantasy, by a pretty famous author, and I decided…I can write crappy fantasy as well. So, in February of 2007, after my third knee surgery and not being able to snowboard I instead sat in our cabin in Tahoe and started what would eventually become The Lone Wolf. It really was the culmination of all those experiences, and the eventual “are you going to talk about writing a novel or are you going to really write a novel” moment in 2014 that pushed me to get serious about finishing the book.
2.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
There is nothing like a hero being able to take up his sword, slay the dragon, and save the realm. I think I love being able to write about people who can do extraordinary things in a believable setting. It gives me a sense of hope and that feeling that good will triumph over evil, because that doesn’t always happen in the real life.
3.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
The dialogue. Especially of one of my main characters: Caladin. I really had no idea what I was going to write in terms of dialogue when I started, in fact I thought that was going to be the hardest thing about writing the book. I was like, “What do you have characters say that engages a reader, gives them information about the story, and helps to keep it moving.” This is where I thought I would struggle the most, but actually it is where I felt most in my element.
4.If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?
It would be Caladin. You two would be finely dressed (him in pantaloons), sipping on a fine Elven wine or a Corell’ian liquor, having a wonderful conversation with fetching lasses, whom he more than likely purchased for the two of you at the local upscale brothel (don’t tell your wife).
5.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?
Get into a writer’s group. They provide invaluable feedback about your work. Once I did that, and I lucked out (ML Spencer happens to be in my writers’ group), I garnered so much about the writing process, I got a better grip on how to market (not that I’m great at it), and I was able to make additional connections with people in the industry. ML introduced me to my editors, Angie Martin and Jon Bennet, who introduced me to my cover artist, Steven Novak and a young lady helping with my marketing, Paige Boggs. Plus, she told me all about the different Facebook groups to join to get plugged into the Indie writing industry. Had I not had the courage to go to my writers’ group I would never have met ML and I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you right now. But had I done that sooner I might be even further along.
6.Describe your workplace.
I like to start with a legal pad and pen; I’m old school. I prefer to write in the late afternoon or early evening outside in my backyard. I love the outdoors. I have a table, chair, and footrest that face the trees and setting sun. After I have enough written on my legal pad, maybe 15-20 pages, and I have let it marinate a couple of days, I will either bring my computer out to my backyard and re-write those 15-20 pages, or I wait until the late at night, after the family is asleep and head into my office, turn on some soft lamp light, and hit the keyboard.
7.If you could live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be?
I love Europe. Switzerland and Germany are on all the top 20 lists of places to live in the world, so they would be a very real possibility. But I’m quite fond of Ireland. There is just something about that country that draws me in. I don’t know if it is because it is green all the time, but with the castles and medieval history right at your fingertips, somewhere in Europe for sure. Those three countries would be at the top of my list though, they definitely set the mood for writing fantasy.
8.If you could choose any other writer, living or dead, to be your mentor, whom would you choose and why?
I think I would have to go back to Tolkien. He is the godfather of modern fantasy. I would pick his brain about why and how he created his works, in particular The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are some great writers in today’s day and age, but Tolkien was the trail blazer and to get help from him I think would be amazing.
9.Now that you have published your first book, do you have any dreams you have not reached? Goals for new books, series beyond this publication, or anything else that can tantalize the fantasy public?
Yes. At least seven more! I want to write at least 8 books in my life, if not more. One down! I have my trilogy I’ve started The Six-The Saga of Vykosch, which is about the first lich who teams up with the Dark Butterfly, a Drow goddess, to take down THE SIX (which are six powerful heroes who can stop them). The Dark Butterfly wants to exact revenge for a previous slight and Vykosch needs an item they possess to escape the purgatory he has been forced into. If freed he will begin his subjugation of Orn (the world I am creating).
I would like write a least two more books on my main character from my current work, The Lone Wolf. I want to explore the powers he possesses. I want to see what he does with them, why he has them and delve into his training to master them. I will also be bringing back another organized orc threat that Remence will be forced to deal with.
I would also like to write a couple of off shoot books on my gentlemen procurers from The Lone Wolf. They are fun characters to write and I want to keep the story going with them because of it. All these books will tie together in some way, shape, or fashion. So, I am excited to see where writing takes me, yet, a little overwhelmed. But hey, I still have many years ahead of me to write (at least I hope so).
10.If we reach beyond the written word into visual media, and you could choose how your story is consumed, would you want a television show, a movie series, or anime to tell the story of the book and the world it takes place in?
I really think that the best fit for my books would be in movie format. I’m not huge into anime and maybe you could do a television series with my current main characters, but in my gut, making them into movies would be the best medium.
11.What are the things you’re most proud of in this book or series?
I have to say I’m very proud of my dialogue. When I first stepped out onto the road with this project, I was pretty confident in the plot. I thought it flowed well, my friends and I had played it to its end in our D&D game, and it seem to a good fit for a first book. My biggest, and I mean biggest apprehension, was what do you do for dialogue. How do you make it interesting? What are the characters going to say that keeps a reader engaged and will pushes the story along? In a D&D game you don’t do tons of character development or dialogue. I mean I had a basic understanding of who I thought these characters were, but how do you get deep into their psyche and draw out their thoughts and feelings in words. But, in looking at some other authors works, I feel like I am very dialogue heavy. I think my characters’ motivations and personalities really shine through the dialogue, especially in my character Caladin.
12.You are forced to pick a fist fight with one of the characters in your book. Who would you choose and why?
I’m going to give myself the most difficult challenge. I would pick a fist fight with one of my Le brothers. Bruse. He is one of my triplet half-ogres. He is called “runt” by his brothers, Fug and Ug, yet he stands over seven-feet-tall, weighs more than three hundred pounds, and is a monk. He is well versed in the martial arts and moves with fluidity and speed that belies his size. I would get the crap kicked out of me for sure. Good thing I have dental insurance.
13.You are going to commit a crime, bank heist, murder, you can choose a co-conspirator from your book. What crime would you commit and who would you choose as your co-conspirator(s)?
This is a no brainer. Quinn. He is stealthy, has great sleight of hand skills, and knows his trade very well. He is an excellent thief, and great in a fight, if it came down to it. We would be ripping off the Commercial Bank of China Limited, the wealthiest bank in the world. We’re gonna be rich biatch!
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