Joey Ruff is new to the world of publishing, but an old hand at the world of writing. I recently met Joey and wanted to know more about his work. He explained that he had written a book called Synder which was the first book in a planned series of ten. The book had sold moderately well and he had released the sequel The Dark Communion mid-February. Now, I started wondering what this book was about. Joey explained that it was a monster story, a horror, but with a twist. Anyway, I will let Joey explain about the book. I think his interview might just fascinate you enough to go buy it!
Q) Nice to meet you, Joey! I have to ask, why did you become an author?
A) I’ve always wanted to write. I remember in third grade, I would write my own “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, the kind where you have to flip to different pages and nearly always die by falling rocks or poisonous bees (laughs). Those were fun! So, after that, I wrote stories about my friends.
In ninth grade, I wrote a short story on assignment and I remember my English teacher (who was named Dick Bushy–no joke) gave me a perfect score and commented on how visual it was, how he could see everything I described. I’ve been writing ever since. I guess I should add that writing’s the only thing I ever wanted to do. I got my English major in college and a minor in writing. I was so addicted I would write in the middle of my classes!
Q) It’s been your passion for a long time then! Let me ask you, how do you write and what is the process for you? Is it a long process? Do you like to write to music?
A) Little stolen moments here and there. I always get the best inspiration when I’m in the most inconvenient place to write anything down: driving, in the shower, etc. When I worked at Burger King in college, I would be on the line making Whoppers and I would get flashes of inspiration and write with a grease pen on a Whopper wrapper. But when I sat down and decided to hammer out the first book, I did it mostly on lunches and breaks at the office (my previous job). I wore headphones and listened to heavy rock. I’m not sure why, but with the first book, I listened almost exclusively to Breaking Benjamin. I think it really helped set the mood and the tone of the overall story. With the second book, I listened to a lot of Incubus. The tone of that book, at least to me, isn’t as dark as the first.
Q) Did the music help you to set a tone or theme for a book? Darker music for a darker book, so to speak? Many writers tell me me that they often channel the feelings evoked by music, so many of them prefer to write in silence.
A) I don’t know if it came across that way, but in my mind, that’s what I feel like. In chapter 8 of The Dark Communion, the main character, Swyftt, is driving home at night and it’s starting to rain. He begins to reflect on his past…his wife, his daughter. That scene came from a song called Weight of the World by Blue October. I was struck by the emotion in the song, and I wanted to capture the desperation. In the song, at the end, the singer whispers, “Let’s go. Let’s really, really go,” and I thought that line had a story behind it. So I was able to take the emotion in that song and translate it into a scene in my book and to this day, it’s a scene that I can’t read without tearing up. However, music’s just one of the many places I draw inspiration.
Q) Swyftt is an interesting character. Tell me about him– how did the character come to you?
A) Most days, I’m not sure. (laughs) I wanted a character that felt real. Given the life that a character like that would lead, the isolation of doing a job like that… hunting monsters! It’s not a job for just anyone, and so I wanted a character that would be drawn to it believably. He’s a character with a lot of pain, a lot of demons in his past; and also, he’s a character that’s been running from God, literally, for twenty years. I was raised my entire life in church. I’ve had my ups and downs in my faith, and I always found that on my downs, at my lowest points, I was a person that I didn’t like to be around. I was selfish, I was rude, I felt like that needed to come out in Swyftt. You know people tend to ask me if Swyftt is based on me.
Q) Yes, I was going to ask about that…
A) Honestly, I do see a bit of myself in him. If I were in a place that I could really let myself go and not care about societal restrictions and what other people thought about me, then sure. I’d say maybe he’s the ‘me’ that I could be if I let myself go to a certain degree; and certainly, if he has any redeeming qualities, maybe I’ll claim those. But as a husband and father, my priorities are vastly different than Swyftt’s. I could never afford to be too much like him. Though writing him originally — finding his voice — was quite difficult and very taxing on me, there were times when I was writing the first book that I was nearly depressed at times.
Q) You were depressed? You really felt the character’s pain and grief. How did that affect your real life?
A) I was very short-tempered even hours after I’d stopped writing. I just tried to put myself so much into his mindset, figure out who he was as a character, it was almost like acting. However, with the second book, I had a better grasp of who he was that it didn’t require as much of me.
Q) In my review of The Dark Communion, I tried to put a lot of emphasis on how action-packed this book is. Did you consciously set out to write a blockbuster of a book, and the emotional stuff just crept in? Or did you set out to write a book that dealt with both? Was it always the plan to write a character as dark as Jono Swyfft?
A) I set out to write action. I wanted to create and write about monsters. I’ve always been a big fan of the concept of horror movies, always been drawn to the supernatural, but I’ve always been disappointed by horror movies. They always have the same two plots: either a bunch of kids wronged someone who’s coming back for revenge against them, or a bunch of kids unleashed an evil and have to seal it away before it kills them all. I wanted to write–not necessarily horror–but monsters with a plot. I’ve been a big fan of the TV show Supernatural so I allowed myself to be influenced by that to some degree. The show always did a really good job at telling an old story with a new twist. and that’s one thing I really tried hard to do– give all these familiar monsters a unique spin.
Q) Have you always been so interested in monsters and mythology? Has that always been a big thing for you?
A) I’ve been a fan of mythology as long as I can remember! I’ve always been fascinated with the way that varying cultures had such similar ideas: a vampiric creature, shapeshifting, the gods mating with humanity to create weird races, numerous accounts of bigfoot creatures. I did research into Ley Lines, found that same idea echoed in Asia as Dragon currents, found it again in Australia as Song lines. I got to thinking that if all these ideas were so similar, despite the barriers separating ancient civilizations, then maybe they were all based on some kind of truth, some actual event or creature. Growing up in the church, I found a very Christian way of explaining it. CS Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity like I believe in the sun. Not because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.” So I created a very Christian-based world of monsters, and then I created the most unchristian character I could think of and let him loose to play in it. Since the threat was so real and so high, the action had to be, too; and the character became dark as a byproduct of his upbringing, experience and environment.
Q) Your character has an addiction to firearms. Has that always been an interest of yours or is it something you’ve only just recently become interested in?
A) It’s an interest now. I wasn’t a big gun guy before writing the book. I did my research. I spent a lot of time — many hours — just searching gun sites trying to figure out the best weapons to use, what made the most logical sense. I came across the TP-82 pistol on accident, and it changed everything. Swyftt calls that gun Grace. It’s his sweetheart. Like Tupac, Jono thinks of his gun as his girlfriend and has sexy ways to describe her and the gun made sense. It’s a combination rifle with three barrels: two shotgun barrels on the top and a rifle barrel below. Did you know it was originally used by Soviet cosmonauts upon reentry? When their spacecraft would land in the middle of nowhere and they’d have to worry about not getting attacked and eaten by bears or wolves until rescuers came.
Q) You have written Swyftt as a man who uses knowledge as his biggest weapon. The right ammo to get the job done is a big part of his edge over the monsters. Did you have to research ammo? Research the way the guns felt, kicked?
A) I did research into the various shotgun rounds he uses, also. I couldn’t believe that they actually existed. He uses bolo rounds and flares. In Book 2, he uses the dragon’s breath shells that basically turn his gun into a flame thrower for a few intense seconds. As I wrote, I also learned that a buddy of mine WAS a gun guy. He had some of the guns I was writing about, so we went out shooting a few times to the range. He gave me the hands-on approach, which is something you can’t get from normal research– how it sounds, how it kicks, etc.
Q) As a result of the book, have you personally bought any weapons?
A) Not yet. My wife said we needed a gun safe before I could buy any guns, and she just got me one this past Christmas.
I definitely have a list of guns I’ll be purchasing…hopefully with the royalties from book sales.
Q) Let’s talk about sales. So far you’ve had strong sales, correct? How do you promote your work?
A) I’ve been pleased with the sales, but I’m not sure I’d consider them strong. They could always been stronger. I’ve been using social media almost exclusively. A neighbor told me Twitter would be instrumental, so I created a handle on there (@ruffwriter4), linked up with some book reviewers, and got my book on their waiting lists for review. My brother’s been my biggest fan, and I know he’s been pushing it as much as he can get with word-of-mouth. He’s sold at least four copies himself. I use Facebook. I’ve created a blog.Yet, I’ve only been actively doing this for a month or so, and I have to keep reminding myself that and not expecting too much! Yet!
Q) What do you feel works for you promotion wise? Where do you see results?
A) Talking one-on-one to people. My wife is in sales and is always hosting parties for her clients. On Valentine’s Day she hosted one, and I got to mingle with people I’d never met and spark interest in the book. I’ve also had cards printed to use for promotion. On one side, it’s the cover of the novel saying “available on Amazon” and on the back, it’s Swyftt’s business card as described in the book. I pass that out to people I meet, leave it with the tip at restaurants, etc.
Q) So you believe promotion is an investment, too?
A) I believe in the book. I believe the book will sell itself, but it’s my job to get word of the book out there. I think that if nobody knows your book exists, nobody will buy it, regardless how good it is. In my opinion, it would be stupid of me not to invest, at least a little.
I don’t have a ton of money to throw at it, because we’re working to pay off debts, but I’ve decided to invest all of the initial royalty payments back into the book to help get it further recognized and generate more sales.
Q) Well, I have to say I enjoyed The Dark Communion immensely, and I wish you the best of luck with it!
A) Thank you, Nick!
I can’t wait for the next installment! I hope you all enjoyed the time Joey and I shared! We had a great time just talking about the mechanics of a book. Every writer will tell you that one of the most interesting elements of writing a book is the research! Find Joey on Twitter, Facebook, JoeyRuff.com, or email him at ruffwriter4 (@) gmail.com.