I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author Ralph L. Angelo Jr.
Ralph is an excellent writer of science fiction, fantasy, and other action-packed genres, a hell of a nice guy, and (we can't underestimate the importance of this) a fan of the New York Yankees. Here are Ralph's answers to some questions about his work, as well as some information about his books, past, present, and future.
Who is Ralph L. Angelo Jr.? Tell us a little about yourself and your life beyond what a reader might learn just by reading your books.
Well, I’m a 56 year old guy whose idea of fun is riding sport and sport touring motorcycles in the warmer weather, and up until this past year skiing all winter. But due to these constant injuries I keep getting skiing every year I may be done with that for good. I have a bad lower back to begin with and last season I crashed badly on my upper back along my shoulder blades. That laid me up for two months before I was back to normal. I play guitar and sing, though the last few years that has been down to karaoke nights and not in any bands. I’m single, never been married and no kids. I owned a business for 15 years prior to all of this.
What inspired you to begin writing, and what's the earliest thing you remember writing?
I always had an interest in writing dating back to elementary school. I loved to read, and it naturally carried over. The earliest thing I can remember actually putting down on paper was what became the prologue to my ‘Torahg the Warrior’ novel. I actually wrote that scene in mid ‘80’s. It was my attempt at the beginning of a Conan novel, and I just kept it for myself.
When and why did you decide to take writing seriously and pursue it as a profession?
In the late 90’s to the early 00’s I had been writing and selling articles to a few motorcycle magazines and decided to write a book on Motorcycle safety. That was published a decade ago and is called ‘Help! They’re All Out to Get Me! The Motorcyclists Guide to Surviving the Everyday World’ It was my first book, and while it didn’t sell a ton of copies at first, it left me with the idea that I could do this thing. So I immediately began writing my first novel, ‘Redemption of the Sorcerer-The Crystalon Saga, Book One’ But I lagged on that one. I took my time. I dragged my heels. Flash forward 6 years and I got hurt at work. My back got so bad that I could not continue in the field I was in (I was an appliance repair technician.) and was out on permanent disability. But now I had time to finish my book, which I did. There were a bunch of growing pains associated with that book, but it was nothing that couldn’t be overcome. I think that’s probably the best book I ever wrote, to this day. I wrote 3 more within the next year, including Torahg, the still unpublished sequel to Torahg, and ‘The Cagliostro Chronicles.’
When I think of your work, Ralph, the first thing that comes to my mind is "The Cagliostro Chronicles." Can you tell us a little about how those books came about, what they're about, and what plans you might have for the future of the series?
The Cagliostro Chronicles is my ode to space opera/sci-fi. Not the technical boring stuff that makes you want to peel your eyes out of your skull but stuff more like Star Wars and Star Trek. It’s action packed, adventurous and generally a lot of fun. It’s my most popular series. It starts in 2089 and goes from there. It begins with a scientist/engineer named Mark Johnson (BTW, the concept of this series was also something I came up with in the mid to late 80’s, especially the opening chapter) who discovers the secret to faster than light travel. Along the way he also discovers that mankind’s progress in space has been stunted by an outside force; an alien civilization that does not want man to leave Earth because they fear us and our potential. So since the early days of the Apollo missions and right through to 2089 they have made sure that there have been disasters that have set man’s quest for the stars back. The first book deals with their first mission out amongst the stars, and how they begin to unravel the conspiracy. It culminates in an intergalactic battle for Earth’s survival.
The second book is two and a half years later on and The Cagliostro and its crew have just discovered an Earth-like world about 4 days distance from Earth at hyper-warp speed. Along the way the ship gets badly damaged in a battle and they end up crash landing on that planet. There they face all sorts of threats including natives and monsters. This culminates in a three way war for that planet. This book also introduces a huge threat to both mankind and their enemies from another dimension.
The third book is set six months after the second and The Cagliostro has been in for refits and upgrades. Its shiny and new again as well as being better than ever. Now they discover that the President wants them to go undercover once again and infiltrate an ancient, long abandoned world with a hidden secret that they must retrieve before their enemies the Agalum do. But the new threat that emerged at the end of the second book is cutting a bloody swath through the galaxies, complicating things on a grand scale.
The fourth book will close the current arc. The fifth book will begin a new series of adventures that will be slightly lighter in tone, at least for a while.
You mentioned before that "Torahg the Warrior" began its existence a long time ago, long before you started your career as a writer. What was it about that concept that stuck with you for so long that it eventually found a place in your professional work?
The opening sequence really hooked me. It was frightening and monstrous and filled with dark magic and evil men looking to overthrow an empire. But most intriguing to me when I wrote it was that one of those evil men is Torahg’s older brother, the King’s other son. This novel is brother Vs. Brother but not just in their present. There’s a twenty year gap that takes place when we first see Torahg, he’s a young, wide eyed young man of eighteen or nineteen. After he escapes his home with the palace guard on his heels the next time we see him he’s thirty eight and no longer so pleasant to be around. He’s been in a forced exile for twenty years with his teacher living under an assumed name. He’s been framed by his brother for their father’s death, even though his brother, Welcomb, is the one who actually killed their father. But events have a way of coming back around, and he ends up in a position to take back his home land of Fairandia, now renamed Blackhorne by his brother to remove all semblance of the land his father ruled so peacefully. Taxes have been increased dreadfully upon the populace and everyone is miserable. King Welcomb has a private army of thugs making sure everyone stays in check as he turned a once wonderful country into a hell for its citizens. And of course the fact that he’s willingly possessed by a demon has something to do with all of this as well. It’s an epic, sprawling tale that may indeed be my favorite creation to this day.
Tell us something about The Crystalon Saga and what plans you have for its future.
Oboy… Crystalon’s story begins in another dimension. A dimension he has ruled for a million years, yes I said a million. He is an immortal sorcerer on a parallel Earth in a parallel dimension. Where the first novel begins he has just been overthrown by an invading force. He’s poisoned and shackled by mystic chains that it takes thirteen sorcerers to maintain, even in his weakened state. He’s incalculably powerful, more like a force of cosmic nature than a man. But his punishment (For ruling with somewhat of an iron fist, though not as harshly as some would make it out to be) is to be banished to a world without magic. A world that looks exactly like the one outside our door. A world where he is completely powerless and destitute. He soon discovers a mystical plot involving soul stealing demons is in place and that consequently this world is not so free of magic as he once believed. But he is the only man on Earth who has a chance of defeating the evil sorcerous forces allied against him. If he does not, two worlds will ultimately fall. His new home and the world of his birth as well. Will he regain his powers in time to save both Earth’s or is it already too late?
The second novel in the Crystalon Saga, ‘My Enemy, Myself’ takes place a few years later and he is firmly entrenched on his new home when he receives a visitor he never expected to see again, one who begs him to return to his old world and help them against a foe that cannot be defeated, one who is mad in every sense of the word. He’s making deals with the devil, literally and is seeking revenge against everyone from his old home. The universe he was originally from; the universe Crystalon now occupies. Once again the master sorcerer must put aside all his concerns and work to save two universes from a foe who is at the very least his equal in power. But how can he defeat an enemy who is alike as the face in the mirror? How can Crystalon defeat ‘My Enemy, Myself’?
Tell us what Hyperforce is about.
Superheroes and their first appearance on an Earth that never had them before. A world that is suddenly changed by the appearance of a young alien prince of extraordinary power who is being hunted by an evil warlord looking to usurp the throne of the world they are both from. They have many adventures within the book, in fact each chapter is written as if it were a monthly superhero comic. There’s even a supersized chapter inside to replicate an annual or king sized issue. Hyperforce is my ode to the great comics of the 70’s to late 90’s. It’s a fun, gigantic adventure.
Who or what is The Grim Spectre?
The Grim Spectre is my first true pulp novel. It’s set in the 1930’s in a city where everything and everyone is corrupt except for the citizens. Robberies and muggings are commonplace and happen every day. Gangsters and crooked politicians rule the streets with impunity. When a man is beaten nearly to death in an abandoned alleyway his life is saved by a mysterious being, who could be an angel or something far worse, but he doesn’t know. What he does know is that now he has a mission and the ability to complete it. The city of Riverburgh has its champion now, but will the avenger of Riverburgh, The Grim Spectre, be up to the task? It’s a rough and tumble novel filled with fights and gunfire between good and evil for the fate of a small city forty miles north of Manhattan up the Hudson, with a horrific demon-like being as its star.
Having talked about your novels already, can you tell us about the short stories you've had published?
Sure, the funny thing is I have to sit back and actually remember what I had published as shorts. I have one novella out there that is appropriate for this time of year called ‘The Halloween Terror of Weatsboro’ which is a Halloween tale of a community that discovers they have had monsters living in their midst for over a century. At only .99 cents it’s a bargain and a steal! Many are still awaiting publishing, but the ones that worked best for me were the Sinbad tale I did for Airship 27 last year in volume 4 of that series, a story in an anthology I did for Pro Se called ‘Rat-A-Tat-Short Blasts of Pulp.’ And most especially my story in the Destroyer Anthology that came out last Christmas entitled ‘More Blood’ that one was actually nominated for an award last year. Though I didn’t win it, it was still nominated and that worked for me. I also have shorts coming out in a book by Flinch Books, another in a new Pro Se anthology featuring a hidden segment of the musketeers in old France that battled against enemies of a mystic or horrific nature. This one may actually be Lovecraft-ian. I have two stories coming out in anthologies that are being produced for those of us in the community who have been suffering with illnesses. One being handled by Ron Fortier and Airship 27 and another by Van Plexico and White Rocket. Both are benefit books. I believe that is all I have out there right now as far as new or unpublished anthology tales.
What writers do you feel have influenced your work the most?
Easy question, Robert E. Howard, Warren Murphy, Robert Jordan, Lots of comic book guys like Chuck Dixon (Who has crossed over to writing novels and is kicking ass doing it), Roger Stern, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin, Walt Simonson and lots of others I can’t bring to mind right now.
Looking at your various published works, I see some science fiction, some fantasy, and even a little horror. What other genres, if any, would you like to try?
Believe it or not, I’m considering trying my hand at an old style mystery book, something like what more acknowledged authors write. I doubt I’ll ever try romance, that’s not in me, as a writer. At this point I’m looking to write something that will be a breakout title for me, that will definitely take me out of my action packed comfort zone.
What is your process for writing like? Do you write detailed plans for your novels, fly by the seat of your pants, or somewhere in between?
No detailed plans at all. I have a few ideas of where to start and go from there. There are times I don’t really know the ending of the book in progress until it appears on the page. The opposite of this is the just finished ‘The Grim Spectre’. I knew the ending well in advance. I didn’t even have to put it down on the computer screen (Notice I did not say ‘paper’?) It was floating around my brain for a long time. It’s been said by many a writer that a book is a definite beginning and an ending and the hardest part is everything in between. Sometimes this is true for me. I put these artificial word counts in place for myself. Usually a minimum of 65K words until I’m satisfied that I’m giving the reader enough for their money. Some of my books are closer to 100K words (The two Crystalon books) others are nearer to the 65K mark, and quite a few are in-between. The original cut of Torahg was 106,000 words. Usually I let the story tell itself and if I have to add some meat and potatoes to it to fill it out I do. There was a late chapter in The Cagliostro Chronicles III where I added this entire side adventure to fill it out. It was several chapters’ worth of material and this one big adventure that had nothing to do with the main storyline, but it’s also one of my favorite parts of the book, if not the favorite.
What is your favorite things about writing? Your least favorite?
Well my favorite is coming up with new ideas for stories and putting them down on the screen, then of course seeing them actually printed. My least favorite is actually getting lost in the story and starting to realize just how little I have written. Then I have to force myself to write more and to a steady schedule, which always gets far easier as I come to the end of a storyline.
Ralph, thanks so much for taking the time to tell readers of this blog about yourself and your books. I look forward to everything you write in the future!
Ralph's Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/ralphsamazon
Ralph's web page: http://rlangelojr.com/
"Ralph's Rants" blog: http://dominatr37.blogspot.com/
Follow Ralph on Twitter as @RLAngeloJr