Interview with Albert Ruckholdt

When did you first realize you wanted to write?
There is one defining moment when I realized that writing was what I wanted to do. However, I’ll get to that later.
The truth is I wanted to write from an early age, but my lack of maturity was a hindrance. You could say I hadn’t experienced enough of what life has to offer to even consider writing about characters that were anything but one or two-dimensional. In addition, the necessities of life got in the way. So I shelved my plans, attended university, found employment and then began working my way through the daily slog of being a salary man.
The biggest problem was that I was really nothing more than a kid wearing a business suit. I really knew nothing about life, and I knew very little about how to deal with people. I guess you could say, I didn’t understand what makes people tick. But little by little, working as a consultant helped me get into their heads, understand their thought processes, and appreciate the differences between them and me, and how to use that understanding to my advantage.
In saying all that, the moment I realized I wanted to really try my hand at writing was when I finished reading a Japanese Manga by the name of “Suzuka” by Seo Kouji.
For months before then I’d grown in love with reading Japanese Manga. I found it different and refreshing from western writing and comics. I was never a fan of the Marvel and DC comics, so when I encountered Manga, I was quickly overwhelmed with how different it was, and how much I enjoyed their style of storytelling.
But I came across “Suzuka” at a time when I was doubting most of my choices in life. I’d broken up a few years earlier, and while I thought I was over that relationship, I realized I wasn’t. Reading “Suzuka” made that painfully obvious for reasons I won’t divulge, but needless to say, that after reading it I was overcome with the urge to write something that could elicit feelings in readers much like Seo Kouji’s work elicited feelings from me.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Quite simply the fact a series like this would never be published since I'm a first time author.
I realized that late in the game, much to my chagrin.
When did you first realize you had something to write about and actually put 'pen to paper'?
When I felt I had a story and characters that would prove interesting and captivating to readers. The saying you cannot please everyone was always at the forefront of my mind. But I felt that if I was enjoying “working” with these characters, then I was confident they would find an audience.
After that it was a matter of putting fingers to keyboard and beginning in earnest.
As your story unfolded what areas were most troublesome?
The first thing I should point out is that “Pride X Familiar” is not my first novel. I’ve actually written four others before this one, but none felt they had reached the level of completeness that a published piece requires. In many respects, “Pride X Familiar” is a rewrite of a rewrite of a rewrite. It’s the culmination of an idea that began a few years ago and from there it grew into what I hope to be an entertaining series.
So, perhaps the most troubling area was actually pinning down a story that encompassed all the elements that I felt made the earlier versions good, while avoiding what I felt were the pitfalls of its predecessors.
As soon as I settled on the story and characters, I realized I had a second problem. Originally it was going to be just one book, but I had to accept that was impossible to achieve. The story was just too big. While the first book is isolated to one particular geographic, the story’s canvas expands steadily to incorporate a wide vista. So there was no choice but to bite the bullet and turn it into a series. This would allow me to develop the characters at a steady pace.
The last but not least most troublesome aspect was identifying the audience I was writing for. Who were the readers I wanted to share this story the most?
I came to the realization that I wanted to share this with a young audience, namely teenagers and young adults. Once I accepted that, I was able to write it from the point of view of a younger person than I am. I also realized that I found myself having an enormous amount of fun writing for a younger audience. There are things you can do with a younger cast of characters that you just can’t do with “adults”. I wanted to write about young people on the cusp of embarking on a great adventure; characters that were only just beginning to appreciate the wide and wild world around them.
Is your life reflected in your work? If so, do you consider it positive or negative and how so?
I think my life’s regrets are reflected in my work.
Whether it’s positive depends on how my work is received by the readers. But, the negative events in my life have influenced me to write more “positively” than I would have otherwise. I believe that you can’t truly write positively about something or someone, unless you’ve experienced negative times in your life. To me, it would feel like I was “faking” the positive aspects if I didn’t know better.
To that end, while my life’s misses and regrets do shape my work, I’ve come to realize that using my writing to unburden myself is a mistake. I’m not arrogant or conceited to say that I’m using my writing as a means to educate others. Far from it. I’m using my experiences to try and give my work a feeling of realness when it comes to creating characters that are believable, especially to a young audience.
But initially, I did use writing as a means to escape from the pain I’d been harbouring for a long time.
Who are your favorite authors?
Let's see. Seo Kouji, C.J. Cherryh, Iain M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, Clifford D. Simak, Roger Zelazny.
That's just to name a few.
Robert Jordan is also one of the few that I've enjoyed reading.
What have been your strongest influences that are reflected in your writing?
In the case of “Pride X Familiar” it would have to be Japanese manga, anime and Japanese light-novels. The novel itself is written in the vein of a light-novel, what westerners may consider young-adult or teen fiction.
A specific piece of work would be the “Full Metal Panic!” series, not for their content, but for their style of writing. Another piece of work that influenced the story is a manga series by the title of “Freezing.”
Also, and I apologize if I offend fans of this Japanese light-novel series, but I was partially motivated to write “Pride X Familiar” as a reaction to reading “An Irregular in Magic School”. This is because I simply cannot abide the protagonist of that novel. In an early version of “Pride X Familiar”, I deliberately made the protagonist as markedly different in personality as the main character found in “Irregular at Magic School”. Unfortunately that turned him into the enemy of all woman-kind, while at the same time landed him in a harem scenario from which there was no escape.
All that being said, it’s true that stories share elements from each other. However, I strongly believe that while “Pride X Familiar” is influenced by popular Japanese works, the story elements are sufficiently distinct as to place it on a shelf of its own.
Your book has strong female characters. On that note, are there any female influences in your life you used in creating these characters?
Most of the “strong” women I’ve come across have demonstrated the ugly side of arrogance and pretentiousness that mars any attractive qualities they may have. Some believed they are God’s gift to men.
Some believe they have to compete with men.
That's not always going to work out well.

So to that end, I’ve tried writing the female characters as strong, yet modest. They display their strength of character without resorting to being rude or abrasive, or trying to act like men. I’ve always believed a quiet strength speaks volumes.

I guess the quiet, nice girls that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing have been the strongest influence for the characters in “Pride X Familiar”. The kind of woman that has confidence in herself, yet isn’t afraid to ask for help when it’s needed. I’ve met a few like that in the past, and they’ve helped define some of the female cast in the novel.
Your writing is themed toward Asian. Yet, you are not. Why? What is the attraction?
I find it’s so different from what I’m accustomed to and what I’ve experienced, that I can’t help but want to explore merging elements of that culture and daily-life with a western existence.
I believe it’s something that can be used to distinguish a story, or motivate it in directions it would otherwise have never taken.
My intent with “Pride X Familiar” was to write it as a light-novel with many of the tropes found in Japanese manga and anime, yet do so as a writer with a Spanish-German background, raised in an Anglo-Saxon country.
Have you ever been to an Asian country? If not, do you plan on going? Any in particular hold a fascination?
It’s my hope to find time to visit Japan, just as I hope to find time to properly learn the language. It all depends on the success of “Pride X Familiar” and its sequels which are currently being penned, and how much free time I have left.
If you could write your own life's story and ending, how would it go?
I’d like to end it on a happy note, but I don’t believe in Hollywood endings. To that end, I’d like to end it on a satisfying note.
In saying that, my life is not even remotely interesting in contrast to the lives my characters lead. However, I’m still hoping it all pans out in the end.
Having only one word to describe yourself, what word would you choose?
Complicated.
Do you have a favourite author?
I've listed earlier a number of authors I would consider favourites.

However, do I have a "favourite" author?

Surprisingly, no. But I will say that sometimes Seo Kouji’s work strikes a painful chord and that makes it difficult to read.

Perhaps one author I may consider a ‘favourite favourite’ is C.J. Cherryh. I find her style of writing awkward, however her novel, “Gate of Ivrel”, is one of my very favourite books. I think I’ve read it cover to cover a dozen times over the last twenty years.
I've also enormously enjoyed her Merchanter series.
But the "Chronicles of Morgaine" are my favourite works that she's published.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
At this time, I can say a great deal since without it I'd be unable to get this book out to a wide, mainstream audience.
For someone like me, I'll call them a godsend.
Published 2014-07-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Pride x Familiar
Price: Free! Words: 161,430. Language: English. Published: July 3, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi
Far in the future, in a galactic society where humanity is divided between the Aventis and the Regulars, and ruled by the former, a young man awakens to a third existence, a Familiar, and finds himself thrust into a conflict fought in microcosm between rival powers, while struggling to survive as a high-school student at a prestigious Academy dominated by Aventis students.