10 Questions for… Luke Romyn

Luke Romyn, the best-selling author of Blacklisted and The Dark Path, spent over seventeen years working in the security industry. From door work in some of Australia's roughest pubs and clubs to protecting Mickey Mouse and the Disney crew from the overzealous jaws of tenacious toddlers, Luke has worked throughout Australia and internationally in a vast array of roles. He's done close protection for UK celebrities in Fiji and chased feral pigs and snakes out of the jungle film sets on Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank's HBO minseries, The Pacific. Luke utilized his experiences to fuel his own expansive imagination and began writing fiction. His first book, The Dark Path, swiftly became a #1 best seller and was voted in the Top Ten Horror novels of 2009. Blacklisted is his second novel, published in 2011.

So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Luke Romyn.

1. What would you like readers to know about Blacklisted?

Blacklisted is like no other novel I have written before or since. A lot of my other writing, such as The Dark Path, involves supernatural or otherworldly themes incorporated into our world. But Blacklisted is a pure action-thriller about a young man who, due to instances from his past, becomes a vigilante. After numerous killings, he is finally captured by police and faces the death penalty, but is broken out by a mysterious group working for the government who plan to use killers like Mike to track down a terrorist mastermind.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?

David Gemmell is one of my all time favorite authors. It’s kinda strange since he wrote predominantly heroic fantasy and I have never written anything along those lines. Stephen King’s scope of imagination is unparalleled and Dean Koontz is a recent idol of mine simply because he introduces a subtle genius into his writing which is difficult at first to identify, and is such much more powerful to the reader as a result. On the completely odd end of the scale is my love for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I have no plans for writing anything remotely similar to this, but it will reign supreme as one of my favorites of all time.

My writing is my own, and my stories come from within me. Every writer has within them a power to control, albeit for only a short time, the imagination of another person, and this to me is stronger than wearing a cape and tights.

3. Has the 18 years you spent in the security industry had any effect on your writing?

Absolutely! I have seen things which normal people could not possibly imagine. My nightclub bouncing alone has allowed me to see violence on a scale few would ever think occurred in modern society. Bashings, stabbings and shootings have all happened right before my eyes, usually with me trying to grab and restrain those doing the deeds. Experiencing the fear of these situations first-hand and translating it to words in a story is something you cannot fake or imagine.

I’ve worked internationally doing various things, from reality TV shows to protecting strippers on tour, and such a life gives you a certain perspective on things. Perceptions break down and the line between good and bad becomes more jagged whereas another author might see it as straight. I have known good people who have done bad things and vice-versa. And the end result is that life seems far from black and white.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well as Blacklisted?

Everything and anything. I think the most important instrument any new author has these days is social media. I reach out to a large audience predominantly on Twitter, where I have over 150,000 followers. Facebook is also important, but you interact with your followers on a completely different level, and so it is important to adjust what you post.

Interviews, such as this one, are vital to reach out on a different level so that readers can understand a different side of you as an author. Live radio interviews, while nerve-wracking, are a great way to connect with those who are so used to simply reading your words. All in all it’s not just about promoting a book, it’s about promoting yourself…hopefully.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

I have an extremely complex writing procedure few could ever possibly understand. I sit down… drum roll… and I write. Usually in that order, too.

Jokes aside, I am as uncomplicated a writer as you could ever find. My stories seem to flow—sometimes pour—from me of their own volition. Quite often I will just have to let go as the ideas come to me and just try to keep up with my typing, going back later to fix mistakes lest I lose track of the storyline and fail to get it back. I don’t plan my books out as some people do, I simply write what comes to me depending on the situation. It’s what works best for me.

6. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think it was always there, lurking in the shadows of my subconscious, waiting for a moment to emerge and surprise the hell out of all those around me.

7. What drove you to write Blacklisted?

It started off as a short story about an angry and suicidal young man saved by the friendship of a stranger. When I finished, however, I wanted to know more about what had happened to him, how he had progressed beyond the limits of my story. And so I continued on, expanding upon the life of Mike Swanson and throwing his life around in ways I had never originally imagined.

He became a killer who became a government agent who became a hero. Cool.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

Right now I’m just trying to make a name for myself as an author of books which drag readers into another existence—the world of my characters—and allow them to escape reality for a short time. The ultimate goal is to earn enough money from writing books that I can quit security and concentrate on it fulltime, but for now I’m simply focusing on getting more books out to the people who matter—my readers.

9. What are you currently working on?

I’ve had to take a short break from writing to release some of the books which I’ve been stockpiling. I have another four books completed which I plan on getting out there over the next couple of years. It’s frustrating since my love will always remain with writing, but I simply have to accept that editing and polishing are part of the process. I work with a fantastic team who really help me get the best possible product out there in a tremendously short amount of time.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

Focus on one thing at a time. People often put the cart before the horse and think they should try to get deals before their book is even written. You cannot sell something that doesn’t exist; it’s that simple. If you want to write a book, shut up and write a book. Writing the thing is easy, everything afterwards is what will kill you.

Don’t get me wrong, writing is the most incredible thing I can imagine, but I constantly hear from people who think they have the greatest idea for a novel ever—often wanting me to write it for them—and yet they never do anything about it. The only way a book gets written is that someone sits down and writes it. No book ever got published because someone wished really hard about it.

Another thing: be confident in yourself. Writing is like putting your soul into words, so be prepared for the pain that comes with the rejections that always, always happen. Whether they are rejections from agents, publishers or readers, they all hurt like you cannot imagine. Self-confidence is the only thing that will see you through; think of it as a shield against a forest fire.

And never quit. You haven’t failed until you give up.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Luke Romyn for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about Luke, you can visit LukeRomyn.com. You can also connect with Luke on Facebook and Twitter.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple, the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Alice Walker, is a beautiful story that has, for nearly the entirety of my life, lived quietly in the marrow of my subconscious.

It is, in fact, a story I encountered for the first time on three separate occasions.

My first encounter with The Color Purple came in December of 1985, when I went with my family to watch Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Walker's novel. My godfather, Willard E. Pugh, had secured a starring role in the film, playing the character of Harpo. Harpo is the husband of Sofia, played by Oprah Winfrey, the son of Mister, played by Danny Glover, and the step-son of Celie, played by Whoopi Goldberg. While Celie is the central character of the novel and Goldberg, by extension, the star of the film, Willard, so far as I was concerned, was the only reason the movie existed.

Willard, along with my parents, brothers, sister, grandmother, and myself, went to the Edwards Cinema on Haven Avenue (which, sadly, no longer shows movies and is now used as a church), next to the Brunswick Deer Creek Lanes bowling ally in Rancho Cucamonga. We saw the movie on a Saturday afternoon and, in my memory, there weren't many people in the theater, which bothered me, because, for obvious reasons it was the most important movie ever made. I was eight years old that Saturday afternoon and as I sat in the theater watching Spielberg's film, I had no idea what it was about.

Not a clue.

I knew that Willard played the character of Harpo, but for the first twenty or so minutes of the film, Harpo was a little boy. That boy felt to me like an impostor, taking up the precious film time that belonged to Willard. I wanted him to hurry and grow up. And when finally he did, there was Willard, putting a saddle on a horse. It was a small miracle seeing him on the screen, though I was far too young to appreciate the complexities of Harpo's character. Harpo is, at his core, a kind man who grew up under the violent hand of a cruel father. When he wasn't getting beat himself, he watched his father, Mister, beat his step-mother, Celie.

"Harpo complain bout all the plowing he have to do.

His daddy say, you gonna do it.

Harpo nearly big as his daddy. He strong in body but weak in will. He scared.

Me and him out in the field all day. Us sweat, chopping and plowing. I'm roasted coffee bean color now. He black as the inside of a chimney. His eyes be sad and thoughtful. His face begin to look like a woman face."

-Alice Walker, "The Color Purple"

While, at the end of the film, I had no idea of what it was about, I was nonetheless satisfied with the experience.

My second encounter with The Color Purple came ten years later, when I was about 18 years old. Having been watching and enjoying movies for, literally, longer than I can remember, I considered myself something of a film buff. I watched any and every movie I could get my hands on and at some point, not long after my eighteenth birthday, it occurred to me I should watch Willard's film again—this time with a more mature, sophisticated eye. So, on a random weekday afternoon, I made some popcorn and sat alone in my room watching The Color Purple.

More than once, I found myself crying during the film, which was both tragic and uplifting all at once. I also had a much better appreciation for the power of Willard's performance, the way he articulated, with his beautiful acting ability, Harpo's sensitivity, the way he wanted to love his woman, Sofia, but didn't really know how, because of the ugly example set for him by his father.

"Harpo want to know what to do to make Sofia mind. He sit out on the porch with Mr. _____. He say, I tell her one thing, she do another. Never do what I say. Always backtalk.

To tell the truth, he sound a little proud of this to me.

Mr. _____ don't say nothing. Blow smoke.

I tell her she can't be all the time going to visit her sister. Us married now, I tell her. Your place is here with the children. She say, I'll take the children with me. I say, Your place is with me. She say, You want to come? She keep primping in front of the glass, getting  the children ready at the same time.

You ever hit her? Mr. _____ ast.

Harpo look down at his hands. Naw suh, he say low, embarass."

-Alice Walker, "The Color Purple"

When I finished watching The Color Purple again for the first time, I felt like I'd discovered this amazing jewel that had been hiding in plain sight since 1985. It was a movie that, to me, felt important, both cinematically and socially, and for Willard to have been a part of it left me feeling an overwhelming sense of pride.

Clearly, I figured, it must have been well represented at the Academy Awards. So I did a bit of research and found that it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Goldberg and Best Supporting Actress for Winfrey. It didn't win any of them. Out of Africa won the Academy Award for Best Picture and it remains, out of equal parts loyalty and animosity, a movie that I have never seen.