Ryan Troske a biologist who spends time out on the Bering Sea working with all sorts of fascinating creatures. Seriously. He collects, maintains, and distributes data for scientific, management, and regulation compliance purposes in the Gulf of Alaska and the Eastern Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. When he’s not tangling with squid and wrestling with sharks, he enjoys watching and playing sports of all kinds, playing guitar, and of course, writing, which he hopes to make more than a hobby instead of "that thing he tried one time."
Ryan Troske just published his first novel in a new modern fantasy series, Supernaturals: The Rising. Here he talks about going behind the scenes of his new book as well as his what's coming in the future.
You already have an exciting career in marine biology. How do you balance that with your writing career?
My position with Saltwater Inc. is actually a contract position. When I do a contract is essentially up to me. My boss is pretty awesome like that. That being said, I typically have lots of time off between contracts. Especially since my wife wants me to find a new job, you know, one that doesn’t involve me traveling to the Bering Sea for months at a time. Plus there’s the whole danger aspect of it as well. Needless to say, balancing work with writing isn’t too difficult. It’s the balancing the rest of life when I’m back home with writing that isn’t always so easy. It isn’t very difficult for me to distract myself, unfortunately. In fact, some of my most productive writing has come when I’m actually out on a contract. I’m on a boat, away from the typical hustle and bustle of daily life, with minimal contact to the rest of the world, and really there isn’t a whole lot to do when living out on the Bering Sea. Who knew, right? On one of my contracts, which was only about a month long, I was able to get well over a hundred pages written and finish up the first draft of The Rising. Plus the loads of biology stuff. Pretty productive I’d say. Hmmm, maybe I should go back to Alaska again after all.
Did you always want to be a writer? When did you finally decided, "okay, I'm going to sit down and write a book?"
Actually, no. I know a lot of authors say they knew they wanted to be a writer since they were five years old or something. Me? Not even close. Up until a few years ago I hadn’t even entertained the thought. I’ve always been the creative type, whether that be through drawing or music, but writing typically wasn’t a part of that. At least not a part I actively sought out. I did well in school when it came to writing papers, research projects, other assignments, and even the occasional creative writing piece sporadically spaced throughout my academic years, but again, I never flirted with the idea of pursuing writing in any form or fashion. Over the years I’ve had a few different blogs recounting my life in some manner, or like my last one which was basically a work blog to keep people updated on my adventures in Alaska. With the latter, I wrote about all sorts of different things: work, all the fascinating creatures I was encountering, dangerous situations I found myself in, reflections on daily life, my walk with God and learnings from quiet times, and other random things. It was through this blog that I would constantly hear “you’re such a great writer,” or “you have such a way with words,” and other similar praises. One such comment suggested I should write a book about all of my crazy Alaskan and Bering Sea adventures. At first I kind of laughed it off. I mean, write a book? Me? Crazy talk. Especially a non-fiction book. But it did make me think. Fast forward a bit—the thought of giving writing a shot in some fashion circulating my brain every now and again—I was reading through a series and kept thinking to myself how simple the author made it look. That’s not to say the writing wasn’t good or anything, but it was done in such a way that made me feel like maybe I could do it. Let me explain it another way. If you don’t know who Bob Ross was, he was an incredible painter known for his show The Joy of Painting. I’ve spent a lot of time watching reruns with my dad over the years, and it’s just incredible to see the paintings Bob creates in only half an hour. He makes it look so incredibly easy. It’s not. I bought one of his painting sets and tried myself. Turned out okay, but nothing like Bob’s. That’s how I felt when reading through this book series, that maybe I could do this. I flirted with the idea for a couple of days and then decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I went for it. It’s been an incredible experience.
Was it difficult to come up with so many characters, each with a unique ability?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult per se. The idea of super powers has always been something that has interested me, whether that be through literature, TV, or movies, so once I came up with the basic plotline for my book, I already had an idea of what kind of powers I wanted to incorporate. Most are nothing you’ve never seen before (almost everything imaginable has already been done it seems), but I tried to show them in a new light, or put my own twist on things, presenting them in ways I hadn’t necessarily seen before, giving them their own identity so to speak. My goal was to bring these characters and powers to life in new ways, ones I would have loved to see on the big screen somewhere, even if their specific abilities were nothing new. If that all makes sense. One of the more difficult parts, I believe, was coming up names for all of the characters. It wasn’t as simple as picking out something that sounded good. I wanted there to be meaning behind them. Quite a bit of research went into naming all of the different Supernatural characters. Basically, their name has something to do with their powers. For instance, Kenny, whose name means “born of fire,” has the ability of pyrokinesis, a.k.a. fire creation and manipulation; and Murphy, whose name means “sea warrior,” possesses powers of liquification along with water generation and manipulation. As for the main character Ethan, whose name means strong and optimistic, solid and enduring, his name more so describes his character and the power of his abilities rather than the abilities themselves, which are telepathy and telekinesis. So if you’re introduced to a new character and have yet to learn of their powers, look to their name. If it doesn’t relate to an ability directly, it’ll at least give you a character trait they possess.
Have you ever written about people that have influenced your life?
Not in a book format. Going back to my blogs, I have written some posts about individuals who have greatly affected my life, and traits of those I know or have known have no doubt found their way into characters in my novels, and there are definitely pieces of scenes taken from life experiences of mine and my friends, but no one character has been specifically modeled after someone from my life. Not yet anyway.
How long did it take you to write the first Supernaturals book?
From deciding to write a book, to coming up with a storyline and the completion of the first draft, was about a year. It took around another two years before it was published, as I was doing lots of edits and rewrites, contacting agents, trying to figure out how the whole publishing process worked, as well as continuing to work on other books in the making. When it comes to anything I make or create, whether that’s a book, a drawing, or some other arts and crafts kind of project, I’m very much a perfectionist, and have a difficult time being completely satisfied with how something turns out. Having to continually go back and “fix” areas I’m not entirely happy about, even if there was nothing really wrong with them in the first place. I’m extremely hard on myself that way. Probably way too hard. Which is why it took several years to get from conception to published on The Rising. A long process which I hope to considerably cut down on from this point out now that I’m familiar with how things work.
In the ever changing publishing industry, how did you decide to take the route of self-publishing?
It boiled down to the ease of the process. Sure, it would have been nice to publish traditionally, but I just wasn’t having any luck landing an agent. I’d never written a book before, so query letters were a completely new and strange thing to me. I believe what I eventually came up with was okay, but by no means perfect. I had no past credentials or education to prove I could be, or was, a writer. All I had to rely on was my manuscript, and to try and sum up a 130,000 word novel into a few paragraphs while enticing a complete stranger into not only wanting to read it, but represent it in trying to get it out into the world, was extremely difficult and nerve-wracking. I probably contacted around fifty different agents. Only one of which requested to see my full manuscript. Getting rejected that many times is enough to make anyone second guess their writing abilities. But I’d done enough research to know that rejections are going to happen. A lot. Especially if you’re a brand new author. Even J. K. Rowling was rejected a number of times before landing a representative for Harry Potter. Agents are flooded with so many submissions these days I don’t believe they give each the time they deserve. Not because they are callous or anything, but simply because they do not have that kind of time. You could wait six months or more before even hearing anything in regards to a submission. Or longer. Even then, sometimes it’s a completely generic response. That’s a lot of time to sit their wondering. Self-publishing allows you to bypass all the waiting and get your book out there in a matter of days once you’re ready. I realize the quality of some self-published books sometimes leaves much to be desired, but there have been countless gems as well, that without self-publishing, their books may never have seen the light of day and been introduced to the world. Ultimately, I think most authors would like to land a traditional publisher. Cuts out a lot of work marketing and advertising, and you’ll easily reach more people. But it’s not always feasible. Especially for new, unknown authors. I haven’t yet decided which avenue I will seek when I’m ready to publish my next book. It will depend on how things go with my first book out on the market and how I feel about book two. We’ll see what happens I guess.
Who is your all-time favorite super hero?
Oh goodness. Tough question. I know a lot of people would go with Superman. Not me. I’ve never been much of a fan. To me, he’s too good. He’s basically unstoppable, unless you happen to find some kryptonite lying around. Which comes from another world, mind you. No, Superman isn’t for me. I’m much more a fan of Batman. For one, he doesn’t really have any powers. I guess that makes him more of a hero rather an actual super hero, but his story is way more entertaining to me. I think he is much more relatable than most superheroes. I absolutely loved the latest Batman trilogy—Christian Bale’s obnoxious grunt-speak aside. I’m also a big fan of X-men—movies, comics, the old cartoon when I was growing up—if you couldn’t already tell that by my book, but I don’t know if they really qualify as super heroes. I guess they are. I just don’t recall really ever hearing them labeled that way. I have no idea who my favorite would be, though. I always kind of lump them together. In regards to the movies, I’d probably have to go with Wolverine. Such a fun and interesting character, and Hugh Jackman does such a great job bringing him to life.
Do you have any advice for aspiring new authors?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write. The old idiom rings true: practice makes perfect. When it comes to publishing, if you go the traditional route, prepare to receive rejections. I don’t care how amazing your book is, it’s going to happen. Everyone has their own tastes and what they’re looking for, including agents and publishers. Don’t get discouraged. Keep at it. Do your research. Know who to contact. If you still can’t get your foot in the door, self-publishing is always there. It may be just what you need to make a name for yourself. Then later on, who knows, you could land a publisher for your next book, or one could even pick up your original at some point. The main thing is, don’t give up and don’t lose hope. Keep on keeping on.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I am currently working to finish up The Recruit (Supernaturals Book 2), as well as the first books in a couple other series I hope to complete: The Outbreak (Survival Book 1), a dystopian/post-apocalyptic journey/thriller; and The Lost Book of Behlkrumór (The Telkuhryn Chronicles book 1), an epic fantasy adventure that will appeal to lovers of The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other similar works.
Read The Book!