At WorldCon, I ran into RJ Terrell. As a writer and an actor as well as someone who started off as an indie author and who got a traditional publishing contract, I thought he’d be an ideal person to interview. Enjoy!
Gama Ray Martinez: I am here with writer and actor RJ Terrell. Thanks for doing this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself to start off?
RJ Terrell: Well, I am originally from Carson which is a suburb of Carson which is a suburb of Los Angeles, California. I currently live in Vancouver, and I first stumbled into acting about five years ago. I had no idea that there was a film industry in Vancouver, and my wife started telling me about it, so that’s kind of how that happened. As far as the writing side, I started writing about 10 years ago, and after I finished my first book, Echoes of the Shattered Age, it took me probably a good eight or nine years before I came back to it again, and I’ve kind of been running ever since.
G: Thanks for that. Now, you started off as an indie author, but earlier this year you signed on with WordFire Press. What prompted that decision?
R: Well, my respect for Kevin J Anderson who’s the founder of WordFire Press along with Rebecca Moesta. It was a great opportunity. I mean to be able to work with some of the best authors in the business and an elite team of editors and authors, and to be distributed and to have my name and my books sit next to Kevin Anderson. I can’t imagine anyone who would pass that up.
G: In that case, why did you originally decide to go indie?
R: Well, options. I shopped around manuscripts to different publishers. You know, as the general rule, you get the rejection letters. I got really good rejection letters, but I wanted to create a control, and I wanted to be able to do things on my timeline, and it looked like a really viable action as long as I put the work in to create a quality product, I could hold all the rights.
G: Now, your situation is a little different from most people’s in that WordFire basically bought your entire backlist and is publishing that. Can you talk a little bit about that process?
R: Well, it started off with head editor Peter J. Wacks, and he asked me to send him a couple of samples of three of my books, so I did that, and he offered to have me as part of his team. He wanted to acquire my work, so we kind of talked back and forth about it, and they decided that they would like to publish two of my series. It’s a very strong possibility that my Saga of Ruination will come to WordFire also. They checked out a couple of samples of my work and they liked what they saw.
G: What about the whole transition that has been the most surprising?
R: I would say the comic cons. I never thought this early in my career that I would be working and selling at comic cons. I thought that would be years off. It’s been a great experience. Definitely having WordFire Press and Kevin and some of the authors that work with Kevin, being able to work next to them has been a huge surprise, especially some of the big name authors that I’ve been able to work right alongside.
G: Do see yourself being hybrid author and continue doing some indie stuff along with the traditional, or do you think you’re going full traditional?
R: Definitely hybrid. I mean there’s options out there, and I can’t see any reason I won’t exercise those options. As far as going with a large publishing house, they have the distribution model and they have the ability to go international, and then you have some of the ‘smaller larger’ presses that are still small like Wordfire, where they still have the distribution and they have the editing and so forth and I’m learning from some of the best in the business editorially, from some great people. And then on the indie route, my level of output can remain as high as it normally and I can retain everything. Just kind of exercise my options. It’s wonderful to have options.
G: The Arched Doorway recently reviewed Echoes of a Shattered Age, the first book in the Legend of Takashaniel. How did that series come about?
R: Well, it was kind of funny because I’d been kicking around ideas, but I hadn’t been serous about it, and then one day I’m going to school for medical coding and billing, and I was ahead in my work so my teacher says, “Well, why don’t you go down and play on the typing program and get your typing skills up?” which is funny because I type faster than she did. And so I decided to work on a story about a ninja demon hunter, and her brother who was a samurai, and just how much they butt heads obviously, the two different philosophies, and when I turned in the work that I’d done, she said she’d make a deal with me. As long as I was ahead in my work and my work is up to par, that I could continue to write this story. I kept doing that and over the course of the eight months that I was in the class, the book became Echoes of a Shattered Age, and I probably wrote half of that book in my coding class.
G: How many books are in that series right now?
R: Three books.
G: Is that complete or is that still ongoing?
R: The series is complete, and they’re actually going through revisions, so while they have been available in print up to now, I am currently revising them for the rerelease under WordFire Press.
G: You have two other series. Hunter’s Moon and Saga of Ruination. Tell us a little about those.
R: Hunter’s Moon is an urban fantasy. It’s a vampire series. It takes place in Vancouver, BC, and it revolves around a guy who’s out for a jog at night around Stanley Park which is ill-advised, and he witnesses what he thinks is a murder, but turns out to be a vampire feeding. Because this happens the vampire is out to kill him but also a hunter, a vampire warrior class — or their law enforcement, are called hunters, and they hunt down humans who witness vampire feedings, but they also hunt vampires who are incompetent and allow themselves to be seen. This book spans the first of a four book series, and it kind of reimagines the hierarchy of vampires, staring from the most powerful to the weakest, and there’s vampire lore and things like that involved. It goes into vampire physiology just a little bit, to give you a different take on what makes a vampire. Saga of Ruination is a kind of my sweeping epic fantasy tale. It’s going to span, I’m not entirely sure, but probably between seven to ten books, and that’s going to be my epic fantasy series.
G: So for a series that long how much of the overarching story line do you have planned for that?
R: I got a good portion of it. At the moment, I have outlined probably about the first four books, and then I’m going to be working on the rest. I already have the ending in mind, so I already have a point I’m working towards. I detail it out and I set a time, which equates to three or four books per session that I outline.
G: Who would you say was your greatest influence as a writer?
R: Anybody who knows me definitely knows the answer to that question. That would be R. A. Salvatore. He’s the author that I would say I imprinted on.
G: As I understand it, you’re about to hit a major milestone in that next month, you’re going be selling books and signing alongside R A Salvatore at Salt Lake City Comic Con. How does that feel to be at that point?
R: It feels great. It was one of those moments where no one was around so I was able to do that screaming fist pumps where no one could see me so I could still pretend to be cool. It’s one of those bucket list things that you hope will happen but you’re not really sure is ever going to happen, so the fact that I get to sign next to R. A. Salvatore at Salt Lake City Comic Con is one of bucket list to cross off, and I’m ecstatic.
G: In addition to being a writer, we mentioned you’re also an actor. You’ve had parts in Once Upon a Time, Battlestar Galactica. Is that right?
R: Yes. Battlestar Galicata: Blood & Chrome. I appeared in that. It was rather brief. I was a deckhand, so I appeared in Battlestar Galicata: Blood & Chrome which is actually a web series, and it’s really good. I highly recommend you check it out. Also, I Zombie, I was in that, the last season of that. Also, Supernatural, the episode that I believe is called Slash Fiction, and I’ve appeared many times on Once Upon A Time. I’m one of Robin Hoods Merry Men, and we have a lot of fun on that show. It’s a blast. They’re all really fun. Also, The 100. I’m an arc guard on The 100 from season 1 up to present.
G: I know you talked a little bit about it, but what actually prompted you to go into acting?
R: Well, I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a kid. There was one day when my dad told me that I exaggerated too much and that I needed to be an actor. It was kind of an accident nudge because he’s pretty traditional. He’s not one of those people who say, “Go to school for acting.” He’s one of those people who says got to school and get a job and work for twenty-five years and retire, so he probably wishes he could take those words back when he said, “You need to be an actor because you’re so dramatic.” That’s pretty much what spawned it.
G: With experience as both a writer and an actor, have you given any thought to going writing screenplays?
R: I’ve had it mentioned to me, but it’s kind of like speaking a different language. They’re both writing, but the format and just the pacing and the way it’s done, it’s quite different. I might try my hand at it one day, but honestly, I work with a really good screenwriter right now, so I’m content to have him do it.
G: How do you balance the two, being a writer and an actor?
R: It’s kind of a funny balance because with acting, you have to find a group and you practice scenes. It’s like a muscle. You know, you go to the gym and you work out a muscle. We call it going to the gym, where you go and you stretch your acting muscles. Sometimes you can go months or even a year without an audition, so you have to stay up on your skills whereas on the writing side, you write. You sit down in the chair and you write, and you don’t’ stop writing. It’s something you do every single day. You don’t have to wait for a audition to write. You just write. I would say any time that I have when I’m not on set and when I’m not working on scenes with my colleagues, I’m writing. I’d say I spend more time on the writing side simply because it’s something I can actively do consistent. I try to balance it as much as I can.
G: What are you working on now in either the writing side or the acting side. What’s going on with you now?
R: I worked on The 100 a couple of weeks ago, and I’m back on Once Upon a Time. We have the heavy flow on Robin Hood as I’m sure any viewers who have been watching have seen. There’s been more Robin Hood so there’s been more merry men as well. The Flash is back. I haven’t been brought on yet, but I’ve been called to see if I can go. There’s also a movie that’s going on there that’s a huge blockbuster. I can’t name it, but everybody is waiting on its movie and looking forward to it, and I’ve taken a few stabs at it. I’ve come close. I’m working on getting on that, and as far as the writing side, I am in the home stretch of the revisions for the remainder of my backlist for WordFire Press. Then, I’ll be outlining and getting ready to work on the Saga of Ruination.
G: Who are you on The Flash. You didn’t mention that before. Just curious.
R: Not a special character. I’m typically just your average Joe. I’ve done a few things because it’s mostly background on that show, but I’d say I’m a detective on the precinct whenever the go the precinct in that show, but nothing super distinct, but I’m there quite frequently. One other thing I forgot to mention that I’m working. It’s in the early stages, but we’re working on bringing the Hunter’s Moon series to film. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. We’re moving along quite well so you might possibly be able to look for that within the next year and half maybe two years.
G: Well, we’ll look forward to that, so that was I had for you so thanks for doing this interview.
R: Thank you. I really appreciate you having me, Gama.