Q&A with R. J. Larson

I really enjoy introducing you to new novelists. Today we have R. J. Larson with us who has just published Prophet. We have the first chapter of her novel posted online so be sure to go out and give it a read.

I recently asked her a few questions in order for us to get to know her better. 


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What is it like being a first time novelist?

I’ve actually been involved in the publishing industry for many years. My husband is an editor, and his sister is an editor/author. Over the years, they’ve each dragged—ahem—invited me to pitch in on various projects. I’ve also written quite a few short pieces and manuscripts that were published. And I have suffered my share of rejections, so I’m not an “overnight” publishing success story. However, I’d never planned to dive into the fantasy genre. Ever. History and Biblical studies were my focus, so writing fantasy was a shock. I do read fantasy fiction, and always have, but I’d never formally studied the genre and I had doubts about my work. I was stunned when Dave Long at Bethany House Publishers responded so positively to my proposal for Prophet. My first coherent thought was, Wow—thank You Lord! My second thought was…At last my poor agent will be paid for representing me! She’s been incredibly patient and encouraging for years.

How has the writing and publishing process been for you?

The whole writing process is amazing! It’s almost too much fun to count as work. Once I’m hit by a storyline, the characters are so alive and busy in my thoughts that I wander around in a daze. It’s a relief to pour my characters’ stories into the computer and clear my brain. I’ve heard other authors try to describe the “voices” in their heads as they’re writing; non-writers must think authors are two steps short of madness—in a good way! For me, the voices are actually like watching a movie, which is exciting because I don’t always know what my characters will do next.

The process has been an adventure from submitting the manuscripts and seeing the cover art for the first time, to finally holding the finished book. I even enjoy edits, which many authors dread. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen the editing process firsthand in my husband’s work, and I know how passionate editors are about perfecting manuscripts. They want the best for readers, and so do I.


Tell us a little about Prophet and how it developed for you.

Prophet first hit me around April 2010. Cliché as it sounds, I woke up after a disturbing dream. A young frightened young woman was kneeling in a dark chamber, staring at a glowing piece of vinewood while struggling to make a life-threatening choice.

I often have vivid dreams, so I tried to dismiss this one and work on my current manuscript—an 1890’s Victorian novel. But my troubling dream didn’t vanish. Instead, it unwound and expanded like a movie reel. Within hours, I knew the young woman’s name was Ela. I also knew she’d been asked by her beloved Creator to become His prophet, which meant, according to the elders of her people, that she would die young. I wanted to follow Ela and find out would happen to her. She loved her Creator, the Infinite, too much to refuse His offer and walk out of that dark chamber. Would she fall in love with another mortal during her adventures? J Would she survive the story?

From the details in the dream—the dark chamber and the glowing vinewood—I guessed that Ela’s story must be in the fantasy genre. The thought of writing fantasy actually stopped me in my tracks for days. Many days. I love history. I couldn’t possibly write fantasy! Nevertheless, Ela nagged at me until I couldn’t ignore her. What was the worst that could happen? I’d already learned to accept rejections. Why should a few more matter? My one remaining concern was that my agent, Tamela, didn’t usually represent fantasy writers. Would she agree to present Ela’s story to publishers? Well, being ever-gracious and patient, Saint Tamela agreed.

I celebrated by immediately opening a new file and writing chapter one. Because I’m such a history fanatic, I drew on my own lifelong studies to create Ela’s world. Ela was asked to become a prophet, therefore she must live in a time not unlike Earth’s own Biblical era, which I’ve researched. Yet, because this was a fantasy, Ela’s world must also be inhabited by epic mythical and Biblical creatures. And her “hometown” had to be unique. I loved the thought of a fantasy Jerusalem, but this was a different world, and a different city. To achieve a fantasy mood, I added details inspired by archeologists who’d been researching one of Earth’s most ancient cities, Catal Hoyuk, which is filled with tomb houses and shrines—details that played perfectly into Ela’s story.

With my city mentally built, I had to stop long enough to name the place. Guessing that anything might be allowed because this was fantasy, I turned to Earth’s ancient languages—particularly to Tocharian. Parne was the first name I drew from my list of Tocharian names for Ela’s home. Kalme, Ela’s mother, was the second name on the list. With Ela’s city and her mother named, I then dug into my favorite Hebrew lexicon and named Ela’s little sister, Tzana. After settling on names, I charged through the first three chapters, which I sent to a dear friend, Donita K. Paul, author of Dragonspell, and The Chiril Chronicles.

Donita approved my work and inspired me with enough confidence in my new fantasy world to send the three chapters off to Tamela under the email heading, “Teen Prophet proposal.”   Tamela sent the formal proposal to Dave Long at Bethany House in August 2010. Dave replied within days, and the publisher offered a contract for Prophet shortly afterward.

I’m still shaking my head over it all, pinching myself, and staring at the book. Fantasy?

What do you hope readers will get out of your story when they are finished with the book?

Above all, an understanding of our Creator’s profound and everlasting love. Yes, like any good Father, the Lord is stern with us from time to time, but His love is endless! Which is why I chose to write about Him as Ela’s Infinite Creator.

In addition, I hope that readers will finish the book—actually, the series—with a deeper understanding and love for the stories of Biblical prophets and kings!



Thanks, R. J.!  

Tomorrow I’ll be posting about another new author, Julie Cantrell.  Hope to see you then!