Please help us welcome author Armen Pogharian! In todays interview, we will learn a little of what inspires him as an author.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Virginia, but school, a stint in the military, and career moves took me through six other states. Eventually, my wife and I tired of the moving and decided we wanted to settle down. For reasons not entirely clear to me, we chose to settle in upstate New York, just outside of Rochester.
Why did you begin writing and what inspired you to write your first book?
I don’t come from a typical writing background, in fact quite the opposite. I have an engineering degree and spent most of my professional life in the high-tech industry. I did a fair amount of technical writing, but other than some marketing spin, nothing too creative. After making some career decisions that left me with more free time I decided to try to connect with my creative side. My children are tireless readers, but they showed little or no interest in writing, which bothered me. So one night I went down into our basement and banged out forty pages. Most of it subsequently fell to the editor’s pen. I think the prologue and a few early bits of the first Misaligned book is all that remain in the published book.
We understand about those first pages when an author begins the writing journey. Still, very valuable experience. So, tell us, what genres do you normally write?
It’s hard to give a straight answer to that one, because I have a habit of mixing my genres.
Oh, what do you mean by that?
My first novel, Misaligned: The Celtic Connection, is a good example. Broadly speaking it’s a Young Adult fantasy, but it’s got a strong underpinning in historical and science fiction. The idea for the book sprang from the question: What’s the relationship between science and myth, specifically String Theory and the origins of Arthurian legend. That’s the basis for the story. Along the way, I add historical elements, ranging from Hammurabi’s Code to King Henry VIII’s appropriation of church lands in the sixteenth century and quite a few tidbits in between.
That’s an interesting approach. Is that how you start all of your stories?
In short, yes. The second Misaligned story, The Silver Scepter (due out in late June) uses the same basis as the first, but I spin it with some Egyptian and very early British history, as well as a tie in to a proto-Iroquois civilization. In my other series, The Warders, which is due out later this year, I went a little lighter. My daughter really wanted me to write a straight High Fantasy, with dwarves, elves, and dragons. I’m a big fan of that genre, but it’s a very well-trodden field. I tried to come at it from a non-traditional angle. So I started with a question: What if a James Bond-like story took place in a High Fantasy setting. Magical items replace M’s high-tech gadgets and fantastic creatures and sorcerers serve as villains and Bond’s exotic allies.
That is an unique approach, love it. Tell us your latest news?
I’m actually working on three things right now. I’ve just finished writing the sequel in the Misaligned series, and I’m going through the last of my feedback. I’m also promoting the print edition of The Celtic Connection. I have my first book signing scheduled for September at a local book store. Finally, I’m in the early stages of writing a second book to my soon to be published series, The Warders.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t mean to sound too commercial, but even after finishing my first book, I didn’t feel like a writer until I received my first royalty statement.
Do you choose the titles and covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
My publisher needs to approve both the title and the cover, but it’s a very collaborative process. I suggest a few titles and we banter them about until we come up with something we both like. For the cover, I send my ideas to the publisher, who assigns an artist to work with me. We go through a few iterations and when we’re happy, we submit it to the publisher. I think it’s hard to underestimate the importance of both the cover and the title, especially as a new author. It doesn’t matter how great your writing is, if you can’t get them to open the cover, they’re not going to read (or buy) your book.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My target audience is 10-14 year olds. My main goal is for them to enjoy my book and enjoy reading. If they find the history or science elements interesting enough to dig a little deeper, great, but I’m not going to delude myself into thinking it’s about anything more than that.
How much of the book is realistic?
It is a fantasy, but one that’s grounded in science and history. For The Celtic Connection, I spent a decent amount of time researching String Theory, Mesopotamian culture, as well as using the early Welsh names for the Arthurian characters. I took a few liberties with some aspects of the story, but everything has at least some, albeit tenuous in many cases, connection to reality. Even in The Warders I try to make sure everything is as realistic as possible. It’s a fantasy with magic and fantastic creatures, but it’s also got to be believable enough for the reader to suspend their disbelief.
That’s a rather fine line to toe, don’t you think?
Absolutely! I’m not saying I don’t err here and there. Great stories need an element of surprise, but I think too many fantasy writers succumb to the temptation of popping a dragon in to save the day without an inkling of the possibility. To me it’s just poor story telling.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life, or are they a figment of your imagination? (i.e. – is your hero/heroin you? – is your ‘bad guy’ you or someone you know?)
Some of the names come from my own experience, but none of the characters is explicitly based on anyone I know. I wouldn’t want to annoy a significant portion of my audience.
What are your current projects?
Besides finishing up the projects I mentioned above, I’m starting the process of creating the story for the second Warders book.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Rosanne Catalano. She’s an editor I found through the internet, who not only gave me great editorial help, but supported me through some of the difficult early stages of the process.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? (a short excerpt would be great)
Sure, I’d love to. Here’s where we first meet Penny’s best friend Duncan and her mentor Mr. Myrdin.
~~Duncan O’Brien walked up the Prestons’ steps and rang the bell, just like he did every school morning. He and Penny and were best friends, but this year they only had two classes together, both with new teachers. The first was science with Mr. Myrdin, who also served as the class counselor. He was tall and grandfatherly with thinning grey hair, pale blue eyes, and a nose that was a bit too large for his face.
His hair seemed to have a mind of its own. It started each period neat and orderly, but throughout class individual strands would defy gravity and stick out at odd angles. Several students turned it into a game, betting on how many hairs would escape. Mr. Myrdin never made the connection between his unruly hair and the occasional sighs from the losing students. The other constant in his classroom was the faint smell of lemon, from his ever-present mug of Earl Grey tea.
According to Mark Chapman, who thought everything was a conspiracy of some sort, Mr. Myrdin was a genius scientist from England who just finished working on some top-secret codebreaking computer system at the Monroe Institute. The real reason the school hired him was to install undetectable software on the school computers to track the students’ every move. Penny didn’t see how someone who looked like her grandfather could be a computer hacking genius, much less why one would work as an eighth grade science teacher.
He wore a strange silver ring with five different colored stones set in a pentagon shape. Gene Shoemaker, always one to ingratiate himself with the teachers early, asked about it. Mr. Myrdin replied that it was a family heirloom. Penny noticed that he absent-mindedly twisted it whenever he was in deep thought. ~~
Thank you, that will make our readers want the book all the more. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
In general, I like the whole process. I enjoy creating a rough outline for the story, writing the story, fleshing out characters, leaving hints along the way, everything. I even enjoy editing – it keeps me humble to see all of the mistakes I’ve made. That said, I’m not always able to block off big chunks of time for writing. It often takes me 20-30 minutes to get in the groove and even little interruptions can derail me. I wish I could turn it on and off with a snap, but I just can’t.
This is one question we get asked a lot: what is your particular writing quirk?
I don’t know if you’d call it a quirk, but I have a fondness for strange facts and numbers. In the Misaligned series, almost every number in the book is a prime number. I made exceptions for awkwardness, where I use a round number like 500 or 1,000 instead of the nearest primes (499 and 997), but as long as the prime number doesn’t detract from the flow, I use it.
Oh, T.L. really likes that, she is a math major herself and knows the importance of numbers. Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No. The Misaligned series is based in upstate NY and most of the scenes outside the area are historical. For those that aren’t I rely on past visits and some internet research.
Who designed the cover(s)?
Laura Redmond. She’s an artist, web page designer, and author from the UK. We do everything through the internet. I was a little leery about it at first, but I really enjoyed the process – not to mention I loved the cover. I’ve asked my publisher to work with Laura again.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Given the amount of research I do, I learn uncounted new things with each book. One of the more interesting was the life-cycle of the Monarch butterfly. The butterflies here in upstate NY are the result of a nearly two thousand mile multi-generational migration. No one understands how they do it. I decided to use that as an example of multi-dimensional development in nature. I liked it so much, that I even worked it into the second book.
That is fascinating about the Monarchs. We both love the history we learn as we do research for our historical novels. It’s great to add in historical facts that are used to enhance the story. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just keep reading. With all of the changes in the industry, there’s literally never been a better time to start reading than now. You may not like everything, but there are plenty of options.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Outside of writing, my wife and I own several franchised Great Clips hair salons. We both also volunteer coach the local YMCA swim team several nights a week and I coach my younger son’s soccer team. I still swim two to three times a week, and while I no longer compete in meets, I do keep track of my workouts. My goal for this year is to swim more than 500,000 yards, or about 300 miles. I’m also a very occasional painter, just basic landscapes for now. Other than that, most of my time is spent with my family at kids’ activities or bopping around local events. We like hiking, cross-country skiing, family game night, and reading together. Basically, I’m not that exciting.
Wow, that is wonderful. It’s great to hear that you have such a full and well-rounded life. We both believe that a well-rounded life helps an author to write great novels. How can our readers connect with you?
Thank you so much for being with us today. We wish you all the best!!
K.R. Hughes and T.L. Burns