Author of A Prince’s Errand.
I am excited to be joined by one of the authors of the Tales of the Amulet series, Robert Zangari as we chat about his books and how he and his father, Dan, work together. You can check out my book review of the first book in the series, A Prince’s Errand here.
Helen: Welcome Dan! To start us off, tell us about the latest book in your epic fantasy Tales of the Amulet series.
Robert: Taking place immediately after the events of A Prince’s Errand, The Dark Necromancer continues the thrilling adventure set into motion by the discovery on Dalgilur, and the climatic conflict at the Mindolarnian Palace. The story follows Iltar, Cornar, and Elsia as they ward off secret societies, thwart conspiring necromancers, and defy vengeful princes—all while struggling to unearth the truth about the Crimson Eye. But no place, not their homeland nor an island long forgotten, is beyond their enemies’ reach—not even the Translucent Fields of Vabenack.
If you want to hear Michael Kramer narrate those exact lines, you can do so over on the book’s Kickstarter campaign or on YouTube.
Helen: I can’t wait to read The Dark Necromancer. I must admit I fell in love with Iltar and I can’t wait to see how his story pans out, and if he survives the antics of his students! This cover is amazing. There is so much going on, it’s a story in itself!
Robert: Kerem Beyit did a fabulous job capturing our imagination with the cover art for The Dark Necromancer. We wanted a scene with a struggle and he did just that by depicting our main characters climbing the stairs to meet the three powerful mages. We actually had this cover done for awhile, as we commissioned it immediately after the cover for A Prince’s Errand was finished.
We went with a purple tone because my dad’s initial draft of The Dark Necromancer back in 2001 had a purple font colour for the title. It’s just kinda stuck through all the iterations of this story.
Helen: WIth so much thought going into the covers, what about the titles?
Robert: There is a bit of a special meaning to it. Initially my dad had four stories planned; The Dark Necromancer, The Golden Dragons, The Red Ruby, and The Black Knight. The Dark Necromancer consisted of the flashbacks for his original trilogy into one story that revolved around an evil necromancer, Iltar.
Yeah, Iltar was the bad guy that set my dad’s story into motion, and in the original Chronicles of Lorn story he died in the first book, but we got glimpses into his life via flashbacks (it was very similar to what Sanderson has done in the Stormlight Archive). But my dad had ultimately pulled those flashbacks because of feedback he had received from other authors and publishers, saying that method of storytelling doesn’t work (well it obviously does for Sanderson).
So, when I was sixteen, my dad re-worked his story and made a prequel of sorts to his Chronicles of Lorn and called it The Dark Necromancer. Our initial debut novel as independent authors was titled The Dark Necromancer, which we released in 2013. When we split the book up we later called it The Dragons’ Legacy, but this current 2022 title are those same events, just told very differently and with some different outcomes.
Helen: I’m in shock! You were going to kill off Iltar? How could you? Setting my horror aside, what made you first begin writing?
Robert: Well, I actually started writing non-fiction in 2010 and published my first book as a tie-in to my martial arts business that I had at the time. But I didn’t get my start in writing fiction until after my son passed away—he was stillborn at 28 weeks gestation. In an effort to ease his passing my father approached me about working with him on finishing his series. It had been nearly twenty years since he began and he was getting nowhere fast.
I was still in school studying Bio-medical Engineering, so I was writing only part time for the first year. Then I decided I loved crafting stories more than designing artificial organs or synthetic body parts, so I switched career paths.
Helen: I truly believe writing is carthartic. I am sorry you lost your son. I began writing after my mother passed, and I truly belive writing my books helped me deal with her passing. What made you write this particular book?
Robert: Well, it’s a sequel so I kinda had to write it. But other than that, I wanted to continue the adventure we set into motion with A Prince’s Errand.
But to better expand on the question, I’ll explain why we wrote Tales of the Amulet. My father has always been fascinated with the fantasy genre, and for as long as I can remember it’s been a part of my life. In fact, this series and the world have been with me since I was five years old.
Throughout the years he worked on the stories but never really made huge progress due to other responsibilities. But when we finally started working together we wanted to produce this fantasy series as if it were finished and published back in the early 1990’s—which was when my father began working on these stories.
We wanted to produce big, thick, epic fantasy tomes, and that’s sort of our motto now.
Helen: You definitely achieved that. The Tales of the Amulet is a wonderfully complex world with amazing world building, characters and magic systems. I don’t think you could not write a tome! Do you have ideas for other books?
Robert: I mostly sit and stew on a premise until I start getting ideas. But fortunately for me, most of Tales of the Amulet is already mapped out for me. So it’s more getting ideas to flesh out the major parts of the story my dad already created.
One of the things I often find myself doing is meditating in the shower to dig deep and find the nitty-gritty details of the story. Sometimes I just go on a drive by myself in my 87’ Pontiac Fiero and let the ideas flow. Other times I will crawl into bed and wrap myself in my covers and see what comes to mind. I’m an introvert, so if I can get isolated the ideas flow.
Helen: Who do you prefer to write villains or heroes?
Robert: Oh, I don’t know. I enjoy writing a fresh POV that I’ve never written in before, as it gives me an opportunity to explore something new. That’s one of the reasons the Greater Kalda chapters are in our main stories. I do enjoy writing from Cornar’s perspective, and I feel I relate to him the most out of those I’ve written. Although writing Iltar’s pain and trauma has been cathartic.
I enjoy both the heroes and the villains. It allows me to explore two polar worldviews and see things from both sides. Plus, there’s something liberating about writing an excellent bad guy/girl. I hate Vaem from The Prisoner of Tardalim but oh was it fun writing her.
Helen: Before we move into talking about your writing process, tell us a random fact about yourself.
Robert: I am an only child, and the son of an only child (my father). When I was a kid I often played out elaborate fantasy scenes with my medieval LEGO sets, and I think that’s marks the beginning of my imaginative madness. And I still enjoy LEGOs.
Helen: We can blame it all on the LEGO!! Do you have a special working place where you find creativity flows the best?
Robert: I have an office in my basement, well as of writing this I don’t have it accessible at the moment. So, I’m up in a makeshift office in a nook in mine and my wife’s bedroom. You can see a quick tour of it over on TikTok. I mostly prefer solitude when writing. I have a hard time writing in groups or in a classroom setting. It’s gotta be the introvert in me, but I feel the creativity flow when I’m just by myself.
Helen: Do you prefer writing or editing?
Robert: Oh, writing all the way. Reviewing next, but editing is rough. For me, editing is work and the writing and reviewing is the fun part. I also enjoy outlining and planning a story, and then writing it and having my plans get messed up by my characters—I like the problem solving that comes from those hiccups.
Helen: When writing, do you prefer silence or do you have a playlist playing in the background?
Robert: Yes I do, and it varies for the mood of the scene. I prefer to listen to movie soundtracks, and I often pick a track that was in a scene that matches what I’m writing. That helps me get put the right emotional beats in the scene and helps me stay true to the outline I’ve written.
Helen: Do you plan out every scene or do you pants it and let the story take you where it will?
Robert: Planner all the way and I do stick to a few frameworks that I learned from my writing mentor, David Farland. I try to incorporate a few different story structures, typically the 10-15-25-40-10 rule that you often see in the hero’s journey or the adventure story. Once I get through the first 10% and finalize my inciting incident that gives me a good idea of how long the story is going to be. I notice it more when I am writing a short story or novella, and it’s mostly accurate as the first try-fail cycle takes 15%, the second cycle 25% and the try success taking 40% with a wrap up at the end lasting about 5-10%.
I also try to incorporate a story in the round element that links to one of the main conflicts for the characters. In A Prince’s Errand Iltar at his homestead in the beginning, and at the end of the story he ends up back there again. I did a similar thing with Amendal Aramien in The Prisoner of Tardalim where the story’s initial inciting incident begins at a tavern, the Sea Vistonia, and the book ends at the same tavern. Physical locations are often my go-to for a story in the round element, but I’ve also tried to incorporate an internal revolution for the characters like what we see with Gigaus in the short story Sorter of Mages.
Helen: Do you find you have to do much research for your books?
Robert: It depends on what elements I’m incorporating and how much knowledge I have on the subject matter before starting the story. For instance, I did a good deal of research about Antarctica while writing The Prisoner of Tardalim. I also did a few deep-dives into several different animals to study their anatomy so I could accurately create some variant creatures for the story, since it featured a conjurer as the main character.
Helen: Who was your favourite character to write?
Robert: Zanxsthy’ll, you haven’t truly met him yet if you’ve read A Prince’s Errand. Well, you sort have met him, but you don’t know him by Zanxsthy’ll (that name shows up only once during Lirathy’lu’s point of view in Mindolarn). Zanxsthy’ll embodies everything I hope I can be, the ideals I visual for my best self. He’s more of a background character until later on, but as the series progresses he takes a more prominent role. I’d love to write a series about him one day, in the vein of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt books.
Helen: You have some very complex names! I hope you have a glossary and a pronounciation guide. Most writers struggle with distractions and procrastination. How do you fit writing into daily life?
Robert: I try to make it a priority and the best way for me to do that is to do it first thing after I wake up and get ready for the day. I write in the mornings and revise/edit in the evenings. One thing I learned from David Farland was that our brains tend to be more creative in the mornings and more analytical in the evenings.
Since I write full time and work from home it can be challenging. There are some weeks where I only get a few thousand words down, and others where I can get a novella’s worth finished. Part of that is just the ebb and flow of life with four kids. But I feel like I’m still trying to figure it all out, schedule wise. When I think I’ve got a handle life throws a wrench at my gears and cogs.
I notice that taking a shower tends to help me focus on the story. I guess it’s the solitude and the calming of flowing water, but I will get a good deal of “pre-writing” done before hand and often see the scene play out in my mind.
Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy what genre would you like to try to write?
Robert: I’d love to dabble in some science fiction. I adore science fiction, but more of the hard sci-fi and unfortunately I’m just not smart enough for that. I feel like I’d need a doctorate to accurately pull it off. But I’m fascinated with near future Sol system settings. DOOM and Destiny are two of my favourite videogame franchises and both share a similar setting I’d love to explore myself. I guess Star Trek sort of fits into that, especial during the Enterprise show era. But I think it’d be fun to explore the planetoids of our solar system.
Helen: You lead such a busy life, with four children to keep you occupied. When not writing, what do you do to relax?
Robert: Immersing myself in a good story, whether it be movies, a TV show, a story-driven videogame, or going to plays. Before COVID-19 we used to have an annual membership to our local theatre and saw a play almost once a month. I love that experience of watching a story acted out live, and even though I’m sitting in the audience I often feel I’m there participating in the story. As mentioned before, I enjoy putting together LEGO sets, and I’ll often do that with my daughters.
Helen: What are some of the books you read recently that you would recommend to others?
Robert: I’ve been reading Robert Jordan’s Conan books because I’ve had a Sword and Sorcery itch that I needed to scratch, and they’re great! I love how he writes Conan. As far as indie goes, I highly recommend anything by M.H. Woodscourt. I finished her Wintervale Duology and it was fabulous! I’m also reading David A Trotter’s Birthrights currently, well listening to audio (narrated by Henry Kramer) and it’s one of my favourites I’ve read this year.
Helen: What is the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Robert: David Farland (author of the Runelords) was probably the most influential author who’s given me valuable writing advice. Dave was a treasure trove of knowledge. While taking one of his classes I had approached him about a fantasy murder mystery series I wanted to do—the class was his Master Plotting class, so I had brought the series concept to use in the exercises. But, the visuals and story ideas that were coming to me weren’t what I wanted to do. When I told him about the conflict he told me, “You’re not ready to write that series. Go write this adventure instead.” And that is how The Prisoner of Tardalim was born.
Dave was like my author-dad, and he was always so happy to share his knowledge. I miss him.
Helen: His passing was a great loss. I have found authors to be so generous with their knowledge and their time. As a published author what piece of advice would you like to share to new writers?
Robert: Stick with it, no matter what. I know several writers who gave up too soon before they could truly become a published author. The hardest part is getting that first book done, but once you do you know you can write a book. So, writing another isn’t as hard.
Also, practice honing your voice. It’s often said that it takes 10,000 hours to truly master a subject, and I’d agree. I don’t think I settled into my voice until around the one million word mark. That’s one million words of prose.
Short stories are a good way to practice, but they’re not very profitable so I know many authors don’t write them.
I know it can be tempting to publish the first thing you finish, but in my experience that isn’t the best idea for your career as an author. We (my father and I) published our first project together and looking back at it, the story was solid but the writing not so much.
Helen: Thank you so much for spending the time with me today. It has been really interesting chatting with you. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Robert: You can get a FREE copy of my novella, Beneath the Frozen Wastes featuring two of our main characters, Iltar and Cornar, by joining our mailing list at https://legendsofkalda.com/pages/newsletter-1. And you can also get the first 10% (roughly 77 pages) of A Prince’s Errand when you join.
The Dark Necromancer is planned to release later this year and you can pre-order it on our website: https://legendsofkalda.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-dark-necromancer-book-two-of-tales-of-the-amulet or on Amazon (mybook.to/TheDarkNecromancer), but only the eBook is available at the moment.
My next scheduled signing is at Salt Lake City’s FanX (comic convention), September 22-24th, 2022.
About the Author:
Robert Zangari is the co-author of the various books which belong to the Legends of Kalda universe. He studied Bio-Medical Engineering at the University of Utah; however, his love for stories and storytelling took him down a different career path. When he’s not writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, playing video games, practicing martial arts and immersing himself in a good story.
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