I had an opportunity to talk to Robert A. Valle, the author of the very entertaining book The Quest for the Wizard’s Ring. Robert does a ton of work in a lot of different areas, so it was great that he was able to free up some of his time. You’re bound to see more of his work crop up soon, so it’ll be interesting for you to know what goes on in the mind of this renaissance man!
Tellest: Hi there Robert. I wanted to thank you for taking a while to speak to me today. You’ve got a lot of different projects going on, so I’m sure this is taking up some valuable time for you to be working on one of the many cool ventures you’ve been working on.
Robert A. Valle: Lots of projects for sure, but always a pleasure to talk about them!
T: As I mentioned above, you certainly wear a lot of hats. You’re a composer and producer, you’ve developed a web series, and now you’ve got a book out (among other things). Did any of these projects inform the others? How did you get a start working in each of them?
RAV: Believe it or no, I think the closest relationship comes between the web series Class Act and the latest book. But there was a step in between. I always felt the web series could be more musical, and being a writer and songwriter/composer, I developed it into a musical. I wrote more than a dozen new songs for it and had demos produced by a good friend and producer in Nashville named Gary Carter (he’s also one of the world’s best steel guitar players and a regular at the Grand Ole Opry). I was finishing the musical while writing the book, so I suppose I was in a “teen zone”.
As for my start, the music began when I was playing in a NYC rock band called Most Wanted way back in the eighties. Music has always been part of my life, and I’ve been playing guitar, bass, piano and most recently violin for years. I moved into scoring movies when my older son formed a production company in Hollywood called Big Squid Productions. I scored some of their smaller projects and moved on to score and write songs for their first feature film, ZombieCon (expected to be released late 2020). As for the writing, it’s something I’ve always done. I finally took the time to publish a few years ago.
T: You’ve obviously got a lot of connections. Does it get easier to work on your projects as you meet new people and can get their insights? What kind of reaction do you get from people when you tell them you’re a songwriter, composer, web series developer, and author?
RAV: I certainly leverage my creative colleagues when I need an opinion on the direction of a story or the impact of a new song. Having a source for new ideas or even a confirmation that I’m on the right track helps keep me moving. As for that long list of activities… I don’t typically put all that out there; people view me as a musician or songwriter or writer.
T: Your book, The Quest for the Wizard’s Ring, is about two brothers. I’m guessing you took some inspiration growing up with a brother of your own, right?
RAV: Actually, the brothers were inspired by my own sons. The concept was derived from a short story I wrote for my younger son many years ago when we he was struggling a bit with reading. Nothing like being a character in a book with your older brother to generate interest in reading!
T: That’s brilliant! My assumption is that they really enjoyed it, and that was what prompted you to push forward and redesign it as a fully developed story. Do they ever push you to make any other stories? I take it they are your biggest fans.
RAV: No doubt my biggest fans—especially after completing this book. But the biggest push I am getting now is for a sequel!
T: What were some of the challenges you experienced when it came to work on The Quest for the Wizard’s Ring? Did you find it more difficult to come up with the story itself, or was publishing and marketing the more difficult part of the process?
RAV: Because I derived the book from a short story I had already written, I had a solid roadmap to work from. Starting with the short as my outline, it was just a matter of filling in the details, fleshing out the main characters, adding some supporting characters, and adding new obstacles for our heroes. In all, the book took about nine months to complete. The publishing aspect was relatively easy since I learned the process when I released The Secret of Tibesti Massif a few years ago.
T: What kind of advice would you give to someone who might be struggling with the parts of the process that you found most difficult to push through (whether it’s something you experienced on Secret, or on Wizard’s Ring)?
RAV: Here it is in a nutshell: even if an activity is a true passion (writing, music, painting, etc.), if you are paying your bills another way, it’s sometimes hard to muster the energy to move forward. Now think about how much time you spend on social media or watching television (just look at your daily screen time on your phone!). Then make a commitment to steal just thirty minutes a day to pursue your passion project. If you stick with it, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in a few months much less a year. You’ll also find yourself “going over” the thirty minutes when you’re in a groove. And if you truly get stuck, use that time to learn. There are so many great sources for self-learning available today! Use your allotted time to study and overcome the obstacles.
T: So, this isn’t your first novel. The Secret of Tibesti Massif has a little bit more of a historical fiction vibe to it. Did you like working on one of them more than the other? And if you did, for what reasons do you think you did?
RAV: I think the latest book was by far more fun. The Secret of Tibesti Massif had some great history and research behind it (readers would be surprised at how much of the narrative is derived from actual events and characters), but The Quest for the Wizard’s Ring was pure fantasy. Some early readers have compared it to everything from the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings, to Pokémon and Star Wars.
T: How do you picture the stories that you work on? Since you have a foot in a lot of different professions, do you envision your story with actors already in mind? Do you almost hear music seem to come out of every scenario? Or is it just words on a page?
RAV: It’s a very visual process for me. I translate those images and actions into words in a writing style that is to the point and “easy to read” – ideal for many ages. And I think that style comes from writing song lyrics, screenplays and book for theater. In those media, you need to focus on the essential and you need to make an emotional connection. A book for a full musical is only about 100 pages, a screenplay for a full-length movie is about 120 pages, and the lyrics to a song typically fit on one page!
T: Now that the story is on the page, do you almost score the scenes you’re reading while you’re making your way through them?
RAV: I do have some ideas for some music that matches the mood of the story, and I plan to put it into work in an upcoming book trailer. Although I’ve worked in visual media and even scored film trailers, this will be my first trailer for a book. But talk about different interests colliding!
T: When you were writing your latest story, was it your intention to have it written as a standalone, or did you have plans for a series?
RAV: I’ve gotten that question from many readers. I painted a broad world and left many questions unanswered (don’t worry – the ending is satisfying!). So yes, if the book is successful the plan is for a series.
T: In the meantime, what’s the plan for your next book? Are you waiting to see what happens with your latest, or are you already moving toward the next story?
RAV: The next story is absolutely a sequel to The Quest for the Wizard’s Ring. When I finished this one, I still felt very fresh and energized by the world of Altor. I also don’t want to disappoint my readers, and there are lots of questions to answer (and more to pose!). I hope we’ll be talking again in about a year about the sequel!
T: That would be spectacular, and I can’t wait for the opportunity! Thank you very much, once more, for your time. You’ve shown that you have a lot going on, and I appreciate the look behind the curtain!