Monday, January 11, 2016

An Interview with Author Chad Ballard

What feels like thousands of moons ago, I was once a high school English teacher. During the ten years I spent trying to teach teenagers a thing or two, I met lots of incredible young people who have turned out to be even more amazing adults.

Pictured: Author Chad Ballard

One such former student of mine is Chad Ballard. Chad and I share a great passion: writing. When I was working on my horror novel, Rabbit in Red, he helped me out with the live-action trailer. See him play the great Hannibal  while enjoying a piece of brain in this video!

Chad and I talked about writing and publishing. I got to preview his novel, Sentinel, while he was shopping it around to publishers. I knew from the very first chapter that he’d find a publisher and success. His writing is crisp and fresh. His voice is that of a matured, professional writer, not the voice I would have pictured coming out of a twenty-something. He’s got talent way beyond his years, and I’m happy to know him.

Let me tell you a bit about Chad and his first book, Sentinel.

Chad Ballard is 23 years old and lives just outside of Peoria, IL. He’s a graduate of Illinois State University with a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in creative writing (ISU should be proud—be sure you contact them to do an author event!).  He has a cat named Stark and lives with a small menagerie, courtesy of his roommate. His debut novel, Sentinel, was released on December 8th through Realmwalker Publishing Group.

I sent Chad a bunch of questions so that my readers could get to know him, too.

Tell us about your book:
        Title: Sentinel
        Genre: Fantasy
        Back-of-the-book blurb: 

Aelathil is on the brink of civil war! Once pampered and spoiled as the only heir to one of Aelathil's most powerful lordlings, Callan's world has been tipped upside down by Kin Ramsey and his mighty dragons. Now he must join the growing resistance or watch as everything his family stood for crumbles away to nothing.

After her father is mauled by one of the massive lion-men of the frozen north, Pyra must do her best to hold his seat as Lord until he recovers - all while teaching herself to control the magical spark smoldering inside her.

Together, Callan and Pyra will shape Aelathil's future. For better or worse, they will stand Sentinel over the people that the King as targeted for destruction. Should they fail, Pyra's people will be buried in the northern wastes and Callan's family legacy will be turned to ash.

Where can we get a copy of Sentinel?

For now, Amazon, Barnes and Noble's website, and! Also on any of the major e-book stores. We're always looking to branch out, so keep an eye out!

What kind of writing (genre) do you enjoy the most?

Fantasy, without question. I've never been good at writing non-fiction and I've always felt like writing fantasy was an escape from real-world problems. Besides that, it lets you express yourself in literally any way that makes sense. Sentinel has 8-foot tall, talking lion-men in it and nobody questions it! And I think that's awesome.

What kind of literature (genre) do you enjoy reading the most?

Again, fantasy. For the escape from life. I don't have to read about people who are stressing out about work or paying bills or wondering what their grocery budget is going to be for the next month. I get to read about guys and girls whose biggest issue is the dragon that just burned their castle to the ground or the tribe of trolls that just moved in next door and are eating anyone who walks out of their house.

Favorite author? Favorite reads?

Ever? J.K Rowling. Harry Potter was my favorite book series growing up and I attribute my love of reading and writing to the time that I spent at Hogwarts in those books. 

Currently? Anything that Brandon Sanderson puts out is gold. The Way of Kings might be my favorite book ever. I've also been reading a lot of books by my fellow Realmwalker authors. The Shadows Dance by Patch Middleton, The Summerlark Elf by Brandon Draga, and The Realmwalker Chronicles by Lee Aarons are the ones I've read so far. I've enjoyed every one of them. There are plenty more for me to sink my teeth into, though. I just have to find time to get to them.

Write a favorite line or two from your book:

I don't know that I have a favorite. It's hard for me to be complimentary of my own writing. So I'm going to open up the book and read the first couple of lines that I see. 

“Callan would never know who it was that screamed first, but before long the air was filled with nothing but terrified cries and prayers to the gods.”

Oh, good. I grabbed a nice, happy line for you.

What are you currently working on?

Book 2 of The Ashen Court! I have a few titles in mind, but nothing concrete yet. I'm working on finishing it as quickly as possible.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Write for you. Not for anyone else, not to get published, not because you think that someone else will like it. Do it because it's what you love to do. The rest will come.

What advice do you have for those who wish to be published someday?

Be ready to work hard. Not only on your writing, but on editing and finding an agent or publisher. It's not an easy road and it has its ups and downs. Stick through the pain, though, and it can be incredibly rewarding.

What’s next on your to-read list?

The Hunger by Dave Atwell

What motivates or inspires you to write?

I try to find inspiration in anything. Movies, TV, comics, other books. When i'm writing, it's usually rock music. It helps me get in the zone and start getting words on the page.

What other passions do you have besides writing?

Lots, but the big one is baseball. I love the history and the pageantry of the sport. I'm a stats nut and I could tell you just about anything regarding baseball from the last hundred years. The Cubs are my favorite, but I'll talk any team for hours and hours.

What’s the hardest or most challenging thing about writing?

Getting motivated. I have a hard time convincing myself that what I write is any good, even after I've been published and sold a bunch of copies. So for me, sitting down to write, whether I'm happy with what I'm writing or not, is the toughest part. 

Also, having a cat. His name is Stark and he likes to sit on my keyboard. That's not easy.

What’s the most rewarding thing about writing?

A few months ago, I don't know that I would have had a good answer. Now, though? Seeing my cover for the first time. The fact that someone visualized what I had written and done such a fantastic job with it blew me away. It made the whole experience feel real.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve written? Tell us about him/her.

Callan is probably my favorite. He's got the most of me in him of any character that I've written. Not so much in that he's a big hero. But the fact that he's not super confident in himself and thinks similarly to me really makes the two of us similar. I had a lot of fun writing all of my characters, but I'm really looking forward to continuing Callan's story in the next book.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Super strength. It's lame, but I don't want to be able to fly or run really fast. Just give me a slightly more chiseled body and the ability to throw a truck across the country and I'll be happy.

Where can we find you and/or your books?

Thanks, Chad, for taking time to answer my questions. I look forward to finishing Sentinel, especially since what I read was last year, back before it found its publishing home!

Thank you to my readers for supporting other authors and artists! Be sure to get a copy of Sentinel

About me:

Joe Chianakas is the author of the novel Rabbit in Red and is a professor of communication at Illinois Central College. Follow him on Facebook here

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