Some Thoughts with ... Vaughn Roycroft

14 Nov 2023

The Author/s

Vaughn Roycroft

Vaughn Roycroft

Vaughn’s sixth grade teacher, Mr. Raymond, put him and a half-dozen classmates into an advance reading group, gave them each a copy of The Hobbit, and left them to it. Vaughn was never the same again. Finishing first among the group, the teacher bought him a boxed set of Lord of the Rings paperbacks, and he never looked back. The gift sparked a lifelong passion for reading and history.

After college, life intervened. Instead of writing epic tales, he married his soul mate, and they set about building a successful wholesale business together in Chicagoland. While there, they built a getaway cottage near their favorite shoreline in Southwest Michigan, in a fashion that would make the elves of Rivendell proud. It was the perfect place not only to escape the hustle and bustle, but to bury his nose in epic fantasy novels by the hearth.

Almost twenty years, and many milestone achievements in business, the pair grew weary of the hectic life of managing sixty-plus employees. With the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ they moved to their little cottage, and Vaughn finally set about writing his epics. When he’s not reading or writing, you’ll often find him cooking, walking with his wife and lab on his favorite shore, or working in his woodshop.

The Interview

1.- When did you start writing?
I started writing in my early teens. After reading Tolkien, and then hearing that he’d passed away, I had the notion that others would need to take up the mantle. In the fearless bravado of my youth, I figured, “Why not me?” 
Once the bravado wore off, my college years intervened, and the realities of day-to-day life kept me away from writing for many years. After seeing Fellowship of the Ring on its opening weekend, the old yearning for storytelling was reawakened. This was a few short months after 9/11 had happened, and the feeling that life was too fleeting for delay prevailed upon me to aspire once again. 
I took the first tentative steps into the world of The Sundered Nation Trilogy in 2004.

2.- What made you choose self-publishing?
In the earliest pursuit of publishing, I pursued the traditional route. I had a few near misses with the big publishers in NYC. I had nothing against self-publishing other than the amount of work beyond the writing itself that I knew it would require. Much has changed in the last ten years, and the ability to produce a high quality product is much more accessible today. 
During my pursuit of a traditional deal, I had several instances in which suggestions for changes were made. It’s not uncommon for the gatekeepers to make suggestions in order to have the work fit their vision of what the market wants, which is fine. But those suggestions made me realize how important it was for me to stay true to my vision. 
In spite of the extra work self-publishing demands, I’m very glad that I made the choice and would recommend that other writers who feel similarly should investigate self-publishing. 

3.- Could you tell us about the inspiration behind The Sundered Nation series?
As I mentioned, Tolkien has been a big inspiration. My first paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings were gifts, given to me by my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Raymond. While discussing the books, Mr. Raymond speculated that the relationship between the Rohirrim and Gondor was tributary, much like that of Gothic warriors to the Roman state. I was intrigued, and the thought stuck with me. 
When I began, almost twenty years ago, I wanted to explore the story of how Germanic warriors who’d been considered barbarians by the Romans might end up fighting for Rome, and then–ultimately–become the first nation to sack the city of Rome. 
I’ve been writing about the lives of an alternative historical version of prominent Goths and Romans ever since.

4.- You are close to publishing your second book, Bold Ascension. Would you say your process has evolved from the first book to the second one?
I’m not sure how typical it is, but my first trilogy began as a single-volume story. It was on the long side in spite of making several fairly significant leaps in time, since the story takes place over about a forty year period. It was my former literary agent who first came up with the idea to make it a trilogy in order to more deeply explore various phases of the lives of my two primary protagonists. 
Having said that, I think the process did evolve during the work of making it into three volumes with their own story arc.. In this arc I allowed myself more freedom to “play,” particularly in regard to the portrayals of the secondary characters. The world of the story expands dramatically in book two, and I think I became freer–and perhaps a bit looser–while examining the ways in which characters and societal forces affect the plotlines of the story. 
I hope the changes result in a fun exploration of many aspects of humanity and society. 

5.- Let’s talk about the covers, because they are quite eye-catchy. Could you tell us about the process behind them?
One of the most exciting aspects of deciding to self-publish has been the freedom it provides with cover art. I’ve always wanted covers in the classic fantasy style that feature painted scenes from the book. It required an investment, but I was willing to make that investment in order to have the covers I’d dreamed of having. One of the most fortunate things that has happened to me on my publishing journey is meeting cover artist John Anthony Di Giovanni. 
John is obviously incredibly talented, but my good fortune goes beyond his painting talent. John has a rare willingness to explore the text for the best moments to portray, and then to challenge himself with extraordinarily unique perspectives and dynamics in the final composition. I think you’re right, that they’re quite eye-catchy. Yes, the result comes from John’s talent, but it’s also because of his hard work and unique vision. I’m delighted that you like them as much as we do.  

6.- What part of writing did you find the most challenging?
Over the years I’ve had my fair share of challenges with the writing itself. It has required an incredible amount of dedication and patience to take my writing to a level that I’m nearly satisfied with. I say nearly because any writer worth their salt is never fully satisfied. I’ve never invested so much of myself in any other endeavor I’ve undertaken. On the flip side, it’s the most rewarding endeavor I’ve ever undertaken. At this point in my life, I truly enjoy the actual writing (by which I mean getting words onto the page). 
I’d say that for me, at this stage, the most challenging part of my writing life is putting myself out there as an author, investing my time and effort in marketing myself and the books. I love making connections with readers, but finding an audience is indeed a challenge. I’d much rather spend my time making progress on the next book. 

7.- What does Vaughn Roycroft like to do in his free time?
Beyond writing there is always reading. But that can feel like a component of my writing life. Outside of my writing life, I love spending time with my wife (who is also a very busy person). We love to travel together, and I love to cook for her. We also enjoy hiking and cycling. We walk our nearby forests and beaches daily with our black lab, Gidget. 

8.- What can we expect from Vaughn Roycroft in the future?
I’m making steady progress on finalizing book three of The Sundered Nation Trilogy, and expect to release it in late winter or early spring of 2024. After that, I want to rework another finished trilogy, set in the same world. It explores the lives of the progeny of The Sundered Nation’s characters, and is titled, A Legacy of Broken Oaths. I’m hoping to have made the entire six book series available within the next five years. 
After that I’m not quite sure, other than to say that I’m certain I will continue writing for as long as I am able. I’m incredibly grateful to each and every reader for their support of my dream life as an author.

Speaking of gratitude, thank you for featuring me and my work, and for these wonderfully thoughtful questions!