Episode 09: Fantasy Books and World Building with Joshua Robertson

Living the Dream

Joshua Robertson is superman… or err… dragon slayer, dark fantasy author, game world builder, entrepreneur extraordinaire, ultimate family man, and… he’s living the dream of authors everywhere.

Joshua left his job to be a full time fiction writer.

Tall, dark, handsome and intense, like a hero from his own pages, Joshua has 14 dark fantasy books on Amazon since 2015 as of this writing—and more on the way. Joshua is a prolific writer and creator on a mission to build worlds and more.

Learn more about Joshua Robertson’s journey to living the dream, and…

  • Fantasy Faction [a term coined by the site Fantasy-Faction.com]
  • His disciplined writing schedule while working full time
  • What it took for him to be able to become a full time author
  • How he incorporates his masters in sociology
  • His daily disciplines
  • The role of awareness and resistance
  • The main thing that separates professional versus amateur writers
  • How he’s grown his brand
  • Joshua’s collaborator co-writer on some of his books and…
    • how that partnership works
    • financial split
    • what it takes to collaborate
  • When he gets furious with himself
  • Hear about Joshua’s tabletop game on Patreon
  • And so much more!

Tune into this awesome episode with Joshua and pay close attention to the gems wrapped in his casual comments about how he does what he does. Joshua shares tips and strategies as just a way of being and you’ll learn a LOT to help you grow your art and craft in the world.

Some of our favorite quotes from this interview:

“Professional writers learn to say ‘no’ to the things that pull us away from our craft.” Joshua Robertson

“In order to be a successful collaboration, you have to be okay with knife in the chest, brutal honesty.” Joshua Robertson

“If you can keep at a routine, it’s just part of your regular process, and you feel lost by not doing it.” Joshua Robertson

 “[On collaborative writing] Sometimes he comes and plays in my sandbox and sometimes I play in his sandbox. And when push comes to shove, we follow the rules of whoever’s sandbox we’re in.”

 

We hope you enjoy this visit with Joshua as much as we did. He’s a fireball of inspiration, creativity and brilliance.

Links from Interview:

Full Podcast Transcription:

LeAura Alderson: Greetings. This is the, I Create Daily Podcast. A movement for creators serious about their art. I’m LeAura.

Devani Alderson: And I’m Devani. And we’re joined today by Joshua Robertson. A best-selling dark fantasy writer and fantasy … For Fantasy Faction

LeAura Alderson: Fantasy Faction. 

Devani Alderson: You may recognize him as the dude whose dragons were said to destroy George R.R. Martin’s and Christopher Paolini’s dragons in a very biased Twitter poll. His first novel, Melkorka. Did I say that right?

Josh Robertson: That is correct.

LeAura Alderson: Melkorka.

Devani Alderson: Melkorka was released in 2015. And he has been writing fantasy fiction like clockwork ever since. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. That’s awesome. He currently lives in North-Carolina.

LeAura Alderson: Where we live also.

Devani Alderson: Where we live also, our home state. With his other half who’s also a fiction writer who we should have on sometime.

LeAura Alderson: Yes.

Devani Alderson: And his goblin horde of awesome little creative kids.

LeAura Alderson: Imagine what an interesting house that is.

Devani Alderson: Yeah, so welcome, Josh.

Josh Robertson: Yeah, thank you for the warm invite. I’m glad to be here.

LeAura Alderson: Okay, fantastic. So we wanna start by finding out how you got started. How did you take the leap? Because you were probably working somewhere. You probably had a job-job. And at some point you decided to start writing. So could you just tell us how that all started?

Josh Robertson: Sure. Well, if we were to go way back, I actually started writing when I was really young. I was always a kid that had my head in the clouds and my nose in a book.

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: Yeah. But my interest actually started by watching my older sister when I was young, and I said I was gonna give it go. And I found that it really energized me and fueled my imagination. And so over the years I’ve done that among a lot of different things. I actually finished my first novel when I was 17 years old.

Devani Alderson: Wow!

Josh Robertson: I had an agent when I was 17, and finished a book. But life kinda took its own course. Ended up going to college, getting my Master’s degree. Getting a career underneath my belt. And through the course of my career, I always came back to writing. I was spending late nights writing when I wasn’t working 60 hours a week. And I just pushed, and pushed, pushed until there was finally a place to put that first book out there. And had some success with it, and I just kept going after that.

LeAura Alderson: So what was your Masters? Isn’t it something to do with child psychology and social work?

Josh Robertson: Yeah. I have a Master in Social Work. I’m a licensed Master Social Worker. I have Minor in Psychology and Sociology. And I almost have a second Bachelor in Philosophy. So I’ve done a lot of work in child welfare, and I trained for the military for a couple of years as a therapist for several years. I trained other professional therapists for a number of years. I’ve done a lot of work, about 15 years in child welfare and social work.

LeAura Alderson: Wow, that’s varied and colorful. I can imagine that some of that contributes to your creativity in your writing?

Josh Robertson: Absolutely. You do see elements of abuse and neglect, and just the psychosis of the characters come through as I’m writing. And I try to show a little bit about not only what happens to children who experience abuse and neglect, but how that manifests as they get closer to adulthood.

LeAura Alderson: Right. The different schisms of the personalities that develop.

Josh Robertson: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

LeAura Alderson: So you currently have 14 books on Amazon. That’s incredible. And knowing that you have other business ventures as well that we can get into, and kids. How are you creating the time to show up and do the work?

Josh Robertson: Well, I’m glad you guys find 14 books to be impressive. I always see that and think, “Damn it Josh, you can do better.” But to answer the question, a lot of it just has to do with routine and recognizing, when I start becoming resistant to the process. I was pretty disciplined in writing when I was working full-time. I didn’t get a lot of sleep when I was doing that. As of last year, I am now writing full-time. That’s what I do.

LeAura Alderson: Nice.

Josh Robertson: I still maintain my license in case I need to go back to social work. But it’s been a wonderful escape from doing that type of work day in and day out. But now it’s just getting up  every morning and sticking to a routine. I got tons of alarms on my phone that go off regularly about where to post and what to do, and when I should be writing. I have a nice support group around me to keep me motivated to keep writing. But all of us, amateur and professional writers alike, really the only thing that separates us is how willing we are to recognize resistance. Whether it’s, “I need to go get me a snack,” or, “I’m gonna go watch a movie,” or, “I’m gonna go play a video game for a couple of hours.” It’s recognizing that those are all things that pull us away from our craft. And essentially saying, “No,” and sitting down and banging away on the keyboard.

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

LeAura Alderson: Definitely. That’s huge. That’s why we created actually the, I Create Daily brand. The concept that it’s the daily discipline and the daily practice, and the habits that contribute to that, that make all the difference between the amateur and the pro, or going pro.

Josh Robertson: Yeah. There is so much truth to that. I mean, to me it’s the biggest thing is keeping on with that routine, and keep pushing forward with that. Because it’s very easy to get side-tracked. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get side-tracked from time to time.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: Sometimes 30 days that will go by that I won’t write a single word.

LeAura Alderson: Wow.

Josh Robertson: And I’ll get furious with myself, and I’ll sit back down to rebuild up that. And it’s mentally exhausting to try to restart that routine over and over again. If you can keep at it, it’s just part of your regular process, and you feel lost by not doing. But the moment you stop, it’s like climbing a hill all over again in order to get back into the routine.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah, it makes so much sense. It’s exercise, you know? If we do it every day then our body stays fit. And if we don’t do it for 30 days, and we go and do the same thing, we notice how hard it is to get back to where we were. So yeah, that’s hugely important.

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: Yeah, it’s exactly like that. Great reference.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: So I had a question actually. We know each other from various online writing groups.

Josh Robertson: Yes.

Devani Alderson: And we have sort of on and off been communicating over the years. And I know you and your brother both write, and you have your own brands. But you also co-write with each other.

LeAura Alderson: Nice.

Devani Alderson: And I would like to know, the collaboration, and I think of many writers and even just artists in general who want to collaborate on whatever projects. What does that look like? And two-part question on that is, the first part is, what are the boundaries you set when collaborating in writing, and building a world with somebody else in that? And then the second part is sort of like, how do you work out the financial aspects of that?

Josh Robertson: Well the financial piece is easy. We split everything 50-50. We discuss where revenue’s gonna go in terms of backing the marketing or branding any type of sales that result, we just split half and half. So it’s a pretty simple process when it comes down to that. In terms of working collaboratively, and that’s actually a question I get asked a lot. Because of J.C. and I’s work together. And to be honest, J.C. and I have a very unique relationship. We are brothers, but we’ve also always been best friends. So there’s not much that we’ve experienced without the other one. I mean, even from childhood we told stories jointly. We were out in the yard playing games jointly. We were fighting imaginary beast with our sticks and saving the princess in distress.

And through the process we’ve learned to deal with each other a lot. Where it’s been … We’re not necessarily uncomfortable to criticism. We’re pretty straightforward with one another. We know each other in and out. I’ve been asked a lot to collaborate with other writers over the past several years, writers who are constantly messaging me saying, “Hey Josh, write a book with me.” And I always have to politely decline that, because collaborating is really hard. I can definitely talk about the process with what that looks like with J.C.

But he and I can communicate for an hour at minimum every single day, either on the phone or through video chat. We’re constantly looking at plotting and planning, and looking at critiquing each other’s work. And in order to be a successful collaboration, you have to be okay with knife in the chest, brutal honesty. I mean, I expect him to be my most critical 1-star reviewer with everything that I write, no matter what I write. And I’m expected to be the same thing for him.

Devani Alderson: That’s such a good point, because I think a lot of times we get caught up in whether it’s collaborating or building any type of relationship, because it goes into any type of relationship. You’re wanting to build. And in this context, the collaborative relationship, you’re building something of quality.

Josh Robertson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: And so you can’t both just be like, “Oh, that’s great. Oh, that’s fantastic. Oh, that’s awesome.” You have to be like, “Okay, no. This is not your best work.” Or, “This is what we need to change.” And yeah, that’s just always … That’s a fascinating process. And like you said, you have to … You can’t just always be collaborating with everybody, ’cause you’re not gonna work with everybody. You know? 

Josh Robertson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: … it’s not gonna … You have to find a system.

Josh Robertson: Yeah. I’m extremely blessed to have compatibility with my own brother in terms of writing. But I don’t think there’s a lot of people who say that. In fact, I’ve worked therapy for a lot of years, and I found a lot of siblings that have huge issues with their other siblings. J.C. and I don’t have that. We get along very well with one another. But yeah, we’re extremely honest with each other. I mean, if you were to see the comments that he leaves on my manuscripts, they are brutal. He does not leave any colloquialisms behind. He will curse me out and tell me what’s terrible. And say, “You need to rewrite this. And scrap that. And what the heck’s going through your mind?” I mean, all those types of things.

And we don’t take it personally. We realize that we’re bettering each other and helping each other become better writers. And so, it’s an exchange. It’s not a personal exchange, it’s saying, “We know what works in terms of writing. You’re not following the rule. Like, getting back to the craft and do it the right way.”

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Devani Alderson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Devani Alderson: That’s amazing. Get back to the craft, right?

LeAura Alderson: Right. So of the books that you have published, are any of those already published with him? Do you-

Josh Robertson: Yeah.

LeAura Alderson: Okay. So is that … Like how many of them are joint or collaborative?

Josh Robertson: Currently two of them are. And this kinda comes back to Devani’s questioning too. The first book that we published together is called Anaerfell. It’s the first book in the Blood of Dragons series. And that book’s is based out of my fantasy world. So we sat down, we’ve actually been … We’ve built this book, or the idea, the concept behind this book since 2002.

Devani Alderson: Oh, wow.

Josh Robertson: It took us almost 10 to 12 years to actually sit down and write it.

LeAura Alderson: Wow.

Josh Robertson: We were awful at working together when we first started. We spent, I kid you not, seven hours writing two paragraphs the first time. And it was beautiful. It was a beautiful two paragraphs.  But that’s the first book that we wrote. It’s out of my world. Currently we’re writing the sequel to that book, which should be out here in the next couple of months. And we’re having a wonderful time writing that one as well.

The second book that we have published right now is called, Blood and Bile. And it’s out of the Legacy series. And that’s out of J.C’s fantasy world. So we both kinda have our own sandbox that we play in. Sometimes I come and play in his sandbox. And sometimes he comes and plays in my sandbox. And when push comes to shove, we follow the rules of whoever’s sandbox we’re in.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: Cool.

Josh Robertson: But we’re very open and collaborative. We poke holes in each other and stuff, and be like, “You know what? You’re not playing with your shovel right. That’s not how a shovel works.”

LeAura Alderson: Right, right.

Josh Robertson: [And we’ll say] “Okay, okay. Alright, alright.”

LeAura Alderson: Oh, it’s so beautiful. I just love this whole story, because having kids and having homeschooled them for most of their schooling… and incredibly creative imaginative kids as well, and seeing all the stories that they’ve created. And how the play was exactly like that. There would be times that our son, would be leading, and Devani would follow along in his fantasy world. And then vice versa. And then there were times that conflicted, and they argued about who is gonna lead, and-

Devani Alderson: “Whose world are we in today?”

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. And then there was the blending of the worlds. And so what it brings to mind is the potential gift to children parents can have by observing those traits in their children, and encouraging to develop in some kind of creative outlet like that, and together. So there’s just so much potential, I think in what you described on not just what you guys have discovered and arrived at through trial and error. But also for other people who are parents or young people who have siblings who they get along with. That’s  wonderful. It’s almost like … It sounds almost like you guys were twins. I’m sure, are you the older or younger?

Josh Robertson: I’m actually the older one. A lot of people mistake that, because he’s got a full-grown beard. And he’s got probably about three inches on me in terms of height. But I’m two and a half years older than he is.

LeAura Alderson: Okay. So it works out. That’s really wonderful to see.

Josh Robertson: But you are right. I mean, I’ve seen this too in working with kids. There’s so much important elements that we’ve learned through the process of play. And a lot of kids I think, in modern day society are losing that. They’re not outside using their imaginations.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: J.C. and I would spend full Summers playing a single game in a single world. And the plot was so intricate in these characters…

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: … they would carry on day after day, after day. And I don’t see kids doing that. Even with my own kids, it’s a fight to kick them out the door and say, “Go use your imagination.”

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: ‘Cause they don’t want to. They’re like, “No dad, I just wanna watch T.V.” “No, the T.V. is broke.”

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: “…so go play.:

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. I know. It’s so huge, because it’s like the … You’re exercising the creative muscle early on. And that is incredibly important.

Devani Alderson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

LeAura Alderson: So yeah, I guess it is tough. But speaking of kids, you have three. And your wife has three.

Devani Alderson: Girlfriend.

LeAura Alderson: Girlfriend, sorry. Girlfriend has three, so-

Josh Robertson: It’s soon to be wife. But we actually have nine total together.

LeAura Alderson: Wow.

Josh Robertson: I have five. She has four.

LeAura Alderson: Okay.

Devani Alderson: Okay.

LeAura Alderson: Wow.

Josh Robertson: Yeah. We are a blended family. There’s six that are here throughout the entire year. And then the rest of them all come during major holidays in the summertime.

LeAura Alderson: Wow. That’s incredible. So you have … So I hope that they can take some of your creativity on and develop it. Because what we’ve seen, and parenting is one of my passions, as well as homeschooling educating kids, regardless of whether they’re homeschooled, you’re still as parent their primary educator. And it’s like-

Josh Robertson: Yes.

LeAura Alderson: … recognizing early on that the traits that are there, are most ready and visable to be nourished. So that, like with you and your brother, that was there. The storytelling and the creative play was there for sure.

Devani Alderson: That’s amazing. So what’s really interesting about that is, you’ve really been whether you knew it or not, you’ve been working on your writing career all your life.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Devani Alderson: And you know, it’s interesting, ’cause I bet if you talked to a lot of people, that’s probably the case. Like subconsciously they’re working on their creative career their entire lives, because they’re thinking about it, they’re dreaming about it. And most of the time when you find somebody who knows what their purpose and passion is and where they collide, those are rooted passions. It’s not just like, “I wanna quit my job and do something actually interesting.” It’s like, “No, I liked this as a kid too.”

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. And I think that’s where sometimes … And this is not a topic on education. But it is that if kids are inculcated and fitting into the format at school, and memorization, that’s not the same area of the brain for creativity. So really, but if they dive into and begin to explore that creative world, that’s really where they would live naturally as children. So there’s a lot there with you working with your own kids.

So you’ve published strong books. And for a while you had a publishing company where you published for others. So tell us … And you mentioned right before we started recording about some of the projects that you always have projects going on. So could you elaborate on any of that? You know, what you’re doing with publishing now, you’re other-

Josh Robertson: Yeah.

LeAura Alderson: … projects.

Josh Robertson: So for the publishing company, I had that for three, four years now. Something along those lines. We’re actually still considered to be open for the next six months before we finally close the publishing company. We’ve slowly let authors go and give them some guidance on some best options for them. Which I’ll be honest, having a publishing company has been absolutely phenomenal. I mean, just meeting the talented people that are within that, and what they have to offer. I really wish that a lot of them would have wider distribution so more people could read their works.

But it’s been a real honor having that. But I found that there’s some things in publishing that I know really really well and very confident about the things that I know. There’s also things that I do not know at all. And so I decided to kinda just take a step back. Crimson Edge, which is the name of the company will eventually just become J.C. and my, our imprints solely in our brand until we get picked up by another publisher, and go that direction which is likely what will happen. But … I’m trying to think.

For publishing, in terms of what people need to know before they go into publishing is just being … Like if you wanna to open a small press, you just gotta really be involved in the publishing world for a while before you start that process. And this is something that I wish I would have known before I started it. I learned a lot. I can’t say that I feel like I cut anybody short by what I did. I feel like Crimson Edge did really well. We pushed a lot of people along, we helped a lot of people out, we taught them a lot of things. But there’s certain things that I wasn’t very aware of, like trade shows and book fairs, and selling publishing rights like your first rights, your excerpt rights, your foreign rights.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: And there’s people there that really pushed authors ahead in terms of what they can make financially, and just the distribution of their works in general across the world. And I was like, “Okay. I don’t know how to do this thing. So I need to step back and help you guys get hooked up with people that do know how to do those things.” So I hope that makes sense. I’m very thankful they…

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: … share that experience with us. But it was just like a point where it’s like, “Things are going too quickly for me. And I can’t keep up with everybody else.” And I’m limiting their ability to shine right now.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: And it takes away from your own creative career. ‘Cause even as awesome as it is to help those other authors, you’re still first and foremost, your writer. Yeah.

Josh Robertson: Yes, that is true. And I’ll tell you, my better half got after me for a lot of that, because I would be spending three or four days a week creating content and doing marketing, and pushing other people’s materials, and all my stuff was sitting on the back burner. So I wasn’t selling my books, and I was pushing everybody else’s forward, which hurt us as a family.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: So there’s definitely that too. As for other projects that I’m doing. I do write for Fantasy Faction now, which Devani mentioned in the bio. Fantasy Faction is of course a website that was voted number one by Reddit a few years ago for the best fantasy website on the web. That’s been a wonderful privilege to write for them. I got to hook up with a lot of great writers like Scott Oden and Mark Lawrence. I’ve been talking to R.A. Salvatore back and forth for awhile now. I’m interviewing him currently for the website.

So it’s giving me a lot of connections with a lot of, I guess, foot in the door to help me move on and get an agent, move into bigger publishing. I also work with J.C. on a Patreon called, RollCraft where we create tabletop gaming tips and resources for people, where we create characters and monsters and dungeons, and adventures based around a wide variety of different types of tabletop games.

I can’t use any name brands in that, just based on trademark laws. But people can use those resources and be able to apply them on tabletop games. And we’ve had a lot of success with that, we’ve just started that in the past couple of months. And I do a variety of other things too. Me and my better half run a YouTube channel where we’re influencers for brands, and we promote stuff through there. I also got my social media marketing certification, so I can do social media marketing for other people. I got a whole variety of things that I always have my nose in learning about.

Devani Alderson: Do you have any ADHD, or like diagnoses issue? Or self-diagnose, ’cause you have a very entrepreneurial brain, which is not … And just, I know that from knowing you, you’re always trying this and that. And obviously your main career is writing and you do that very well. And then you’re also doing all these other things. So I’m just curious.

Josh Robertson: It’s a really good question. I’ll tell you that when I was in kindergarten, the teachers tried to tell my mom that I had ADHD, and wanted to put me on medication. And my mom told them where to go shove it. And they didn’t put me on anything. And I’ve been successful in life without having any medication.

LeAura Alderson: Nice.

Josh Robertson: I personally went and diagnosed myself with ADHD, but I would say that I have a tendency to hyper-focus on projects and get them done in very short periods of time. Now if you want me to go do the dishes or pick up milk after work, I’m probably gonna forget about it, because I don’t care about it. But if I have a project I’m working on like a book, or if I’m building a gaming system, there’s a good chance that I won’t sleep for three days until I get it done.

Devani Alderson: Wow.

LeAura Alderson: Wow.

Devani Alderson: That is some laser focus.

LeAura Alderson: Like how do you-

Josh Robertson: I’ll sit awake for 70 hours just typing and working on stuff. I won’t go to sleep until it’s finished.

LeAura Alderson: Now is that like sheer determination, or you’re just so stimulated by it that you can’t even sleep?

Josh Robertson: I’m just so stimulated by it, I can’t sleep. I’m so awake, and all I can think about is, I’ll just be writing the words on a page. Like even when I run. I run and it’s like, running is a meditation for me. I run every morning. I don’t really feel the burn when I run. I’ll just sit there on the treadmill and just go, and I envision writing. And I write in my mind. And so when I get off the treadmill, I’ll just sit down and put all the words down on paper that I see.

Devani Alderson: That’s amazing.

LeAura Alderson: I wish I … There are so many times I’ve actually literally fallen asleep at the keyboard with my fingers on the keys. And because I wanted to continue writing, but I just fell asleep. So I wish I was able to push through like you are and not-

Josh Robertson: I’ll be honest, I drink a lot of coffee. The coffee does help…

LeAura Alderson: It helps. Yeah.

Josh Robertson: Yeah.

LeAura Alderson: Okay. So yeah, so speaking of your 70 hours marathons or whatever. Sprints I should say. What are your daily habits? And I know you said that you’re about 30 … You know, you went for about 30 days without necessarily writing, but that’s not your norm.

Josh Robertson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

LeAura Alderson: But what is it that … you know, you’re clearly a very productive human being. And that what is it that you do daily that keeps you creating, especially when you’re in the mode of writing a book?

Josh Robertson: Yeah. In terms of my ideal process what I try to stick to, I get up in the morning. I get the kiddos off to school. I go and I run my mile, mile and a half. I lift a few eeights. I go and take a shower. I make my coffee, I sit down and check social media and get my marketing out of the way. I call my brother for about an hour and we chat on the phone. And then I write for about three or four hours until the kids come home from school. And then I run through evening routines, help them with their homework. Get supper ready, get showers done, go outside and play, go to the park what have you. Sometimes I might try to squeeze in an hour of Skyrim in there. And then I sit back down and I write-

LeAura Alderson: The game.

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: … for another three or four hours before I go to bed.

LeAura Alderson: Okay, wow.

Josh Robertson: That’s my routine that I do. So it’s about between six to eight hours of writing a day.

LeAura Alderson: Wow. Okay.

Devani Alderson: That’s awesome.

Josh Robertson: If I have other projects to do like the Patreon, or something, I might squeeze that in there so I’ll take an hour too to work on those projects. But that’s what I try to stick to.

LeAura Alderson: Right. So you’re working on … Do you work on one book at a time?

Josh Robertson: I usually work on one book at a time. Currently I’m writing four at a time.

LeAura Alderson: So what happens?

Devani Alderson: So you either write one book, or all of the books at a time.

Josh Robertson: Yeah, yeah. This is completely not normal for me. But I have a lot of deadlines coming up. I have my current sequel that I’m writing with my brother. I have a book that’s gotta be done for a box set in December. I have another book that’s halfway done that’s gotta be done by the end of November. And then another book that’s gotta be done by May. Or, I’m sorry. By March, then another one in May. So the one in March is already done. So the one in May I have sitting on the back burner and outlined.

Devani Alderson: So is there anything currently in your routine that you’ve had to switch up because of all those deadlines?

Josh Robertson: Mainly it’s just trying to squeeze in Patreon, honestly. The Patreon is actually fairly time-consuming, ’cause we’re creating monsters and we’re writing articles every week for gamers. So that cuts out about three or four hours a week of my time.

Devani Alderson: Got it.

LeAura Alderson: So speaking of Patreon, I know most artists, creators, authors wanna know, “Can I earn a living from my art?” You shared earlier that you recently left your full-time job and were able to. So what are the top things you do that brings the best results, the financial results for your business?

Josh Robertson: That’s a really good question. I think there’s three things that you really have to do in order to be successful. And a lot of them took time to build up. I know the Devani knows a little bit of my history. But I was a blogger for two years before I published even my first book. So I had a really nice fan base and following before I even started pushing content out there. So for one, you have to be active in a community related to your business. And I’ve talked about this before. But ideally, and a lot of business folks will talk about this. I’m sorry if I don’t know the resource, but you should spend about 30% of your time with people that you want to be like, or people want to get to their level. And spend 30% of your time learning from them. Letting them mentor you.

You should also spend about 30% of your time with people that you see as being on the same playing field as you in terms of encouragement and motivation, and pushing you along. And then you spend 30% of your time with people that you can mentor, and people that you can teach. And I’ll tell you when I do that, I remember things that I should be doing, ’cause I’m telling them what to do and be like, “Oh, yeah. I should be doing that too.”

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: But in terms of being successful, that’s a primary source. And that again goes back to habitual stuff in terms of just staying motivated and moving forward. The second thing that’s worked really well for me is being really visible. Social media isn’t the future, but it’s now. Video marketing isn’t the future, but it’s now. Those are things that you have to be involved in. You have to be comfortable being in front of people. They gotta be consistent in connecting with others through your social media. People spend most of their time online, and so you gotta be there with them. And so I spend a lot of time trying to get on panels, trying to do interviews. Being on Facebook live, going to Twitter live, being on Instagram live. Pushing content out to my newsletters. Being active on my blog. I go into a communities like Facebook writing groups and engaging with people, because that allows me to have visibility and people see me.

From the process of doing that, I built up a pretty nice base around me. I have close to 10,000 followers on my newsletter. I have about 180,000 followers on my blog. I’m about 31,000 followers on Twitter. It’s just constantly being genuine and interacting with people. And letting people know that you’re not just a writer, you’re a real person. You have real thoughts, you have real feelings, you have real beliefs, and you wanted to share those with the world.

Now if you’re looking for something that’s like, “What’s the thing that actually helps me make money?” Advertising. Advertising is a thing that if I sit a buckle down and realized it was necessarily. Whether you’re using Book Bum or Amazon, or Google, or Facebook. I had to spend money to make money. And I’ll be honest, I lost money in the beginning when I was trying to figure out how the ads worked, and what the right text was, and the right image was, and how to put that out there. And the sad thing about advertising is, what works for me is not gonna necessarily work for you, because we have different audiences.

Devani Alderson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Josh Robertson: But I had to use advertising. So I essentially buckled down and learned the system, and spend time with mentors for them to teach me how to use that advertising effectively.

LeAura Alderson: Right. And of those four that you mentioned, which one is the most productive for you?

Josh Robertson: Amazon.

LeAura Alderson: Amazon. Is that the AMS? Amazon Marketing Services?

Josh Robertson: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

LeAura Alderson: Okay.

Devani Alderson: That’s awesome.

LeAura Alderson: Okay, that’s good to know.

Devani Alderson: You’re the second person. ‘Cause as you know, we’ve done several interviews. And you’re the second person who said … A second fiction writer who was like, “Yes, you need to do Amazon Marketing Services.” So that’s a good … We’ll definitely link that for people listening. And one thing I wanted to touch on … And crap. The thought just flew right out of my mind. But you mentioned, you were talking about the social media and spending the time in the various groups. And …

LeAura Alderson: You want me to pick up?

Devani Alderson: Sure. You pick up with the next question.

LeAura Alderson: Okay.

Devani Alderson: It happens. It just flied out of my mind.

LeAura Alderson: Okay.

Josh Robertson: [inaudible 00:28:08] bring it back to me.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah, it’ll come back. So one of the things that is most challenging for fiction writers, Devani mentioned that you were blogging, you talked about blogging and building audience for a couple years beforehand. There’s a challenge for fiction writers in blogging, it’s like, what do you blog about? “Do you blog about my book? Do I blog about the process of the life of a writer?” So what about you? What kind of content are you creating as a fiction writer?

Josh Robertson: Yeah. I’ll be honest. I moved away from focusing so much on blogging, and putting more of that information in my newsletter. I used to blog little snippets of poems, little short flash fictions, about my day-to-day what I was doing. And that really helped me connect with the blogging community. Now I primarily put things up about special deals I have going on. Or I help promote other people through my blog and share their work on my blog. I don’t do the personal stuff so much in my blog, which honestly I think has probably hurt me more than it’s benefited me. I’m able to focus more on connecting with people that want to get my content through my newsletter. And that’s been a really good source of income for me, is connecting with them. But as for blogging, if you want to be successful with it, I think you need to be more personal.

LeAura Alderson: Okay.

Devani Alderson: That’s good to know.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. Definitely good to know. So in your newsletter then, what kind of content do you send to your folks?

Josh Robertson: I do let them know, like upcoming events. If I’m gonna be at a con, or if I’m doing a book signing or what’s happening. But I’ll also tell them, “Oh man, this week writing kicked my butt. Here’s what I achieved and here’s what I didn’t achieve.” Or, “The kids have been acting kinda crazy this week. Here’s some of the things that we went through.” I might also offer some tips in terms of writing, or publishing and that type of stuff as well. Or I’ll promote other people’s book in there. But it’s got more of a personal feel to it. I let them know, “Here’s this thing that I’ve been working. And here’s how it’s going for me.”

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. Okay. That make a lot of sense. Did you remember what you were going to say?

Devani Alderson: No.

LeAura Alderson: It’s just evaporated. It happens to me too. This is why it’s helpful having two. The other can pick up the slack. So you mentioned Joshua, earlier. Do you actually prefer Joshua, or Josh?

Josh Robertson: I’ve been called so much working in social working, you can call me anything. It’s okay.

LeAura Alderson: Okay. Okay. So you mentioned the thing about spending time around people who are where you wanna go.

Josh Robertson: Yeah.

LeAura Alderson: It was about 30% of your time. So essentially mentors and people that whether in that time, does that include things like podcasts and books? You know, like if you can’t be with them in person or don’t have that … Does that count for your 30% time?

Josh Robertson: Yeah. Any way that you can access it. I now am friends with some folks on Facebook, so maybe I’ll be like, shoot them a message and get information, and connect with them that way. But ideally, and this sounds really bad, so I hope people don’t take it the wrong way. But when choosing what Facebook groups you wanna be in … Or not Facebook groups. So like Facebook parties to promote a book. Or choosing what podcast you want to be on, or what panels you want to be on. It’s ideal to choose panels and events that have people that are at a higher status than you. That are more popular than you are, because it’s gonna help promote you to new readers groups and people that have already proven to be successful.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: Which has been hard for me, because I’m a, “Yes,” person. Every time somebody’s like, “Hey, you wanna go do this?” “Yeah, I’d love to do that.” “You wanna make this for me?” “Yeah, sure. I’ll make time for that.” And so I don’t know that I always made the best decisions in terms of where I put my time at. And I’ve been trying to kind of dissect those better and be like, “Okay. So is this gonna help push me behind, or is it gonna pull me back?”

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Devani Alderson: Well that goes … One of our questions is, currently what is one of your struggles? And I think one solution to that is just keeping in mind like, what’s the vision. You know?

Josh Robertson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: “Does this event help my vision of whatever it is I’m wanting to do, or wherever I’m wanting to go.” Whether it’s, “I wanna go there in a couple years, I wanna go there next month. I want to be in this place next week.” And just knowing it gets back to like, when you write a book, I’m sure when you outline and whatever your process is for that, a lot of it is, “Okay. What’s the goal of this story? What do I want the reader to experience and go through when they’re finished with this book?” And a lot of that, it’s amazing how much of fiction writing or any kind of writing, correlates to the process of your life. Like, “Where do I wanna end up?” Which can help with a lot of decisions along the way.

Josh Robertson: Yeah, we’re all the heroes of our own story, aren’t we?

Devani Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: It is. It is. It’s planning out your hero’s journey and where it is that you want to be in. And there are certain things that you do that can break you.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

LeAura Alderson: Definitely.

Josh Robertson: And if anything, just from exhaustion just from doing too much.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: Yeah.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. Are there any of the mentors or people that you follow that you would like to share? And who has inspired you the most? I know it’s tricky, because you don’t want to exclude anyone, because there are so many. And so maybe a simple way would be to, who is it that has [inaudible 00:32:50] recently?

Josh Robertson: I’ll be honest, I suck at these types of questions.

LeAura Alderson: Okay. Well, you don’t have to [inaudible 00:32:55].

Josh Robertson: But I have a few. But I mean, I’m inspired by so many different people, I’m always afraid that I’ll leave someone out. This one is not writing related, but I am extremely inspired by Emma Watson. I follow her very closely. I watch the things that she does and the projects that she does, and I help promote those to my own audience. She’s just a damn fine person.

LeAura Alderson: Yes.

Josh Robertson: And she has a good belief on the world, and she’s a good person, and she wants to make the world a better place. And so I definitely look up to that. It’s something that I also want to do in my own writing and use my platform for that.

Devani Alderson: Don’t you love how she’s basically Hermoine in real life?

Josh Robertson: Yeah, exactly. What I will say is, psychologically, I wonder how much that role shaped her over the course of her childhood. But you know, bygones be bygones.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: Scott Oden is another guy. He’s a fantasy writer that I follow. Him and John Hartness both. Scott Oden though, I had the privilege of interviewing him for Fantasy Faction. And again, he’s just a really great guy. I love his writing, and just the way that he string words together. And so I read his stuff, I’m like, “Yeah, I wanna make sure that my stuff has this same atmosphere to it when I’m writing it.” But it just has beautiful language. I mean, I read his stuff and I’m literally fist-pumping the hell out of the air when I read his books, because it’s just so well done.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: Devani and I are in the same writing group. I know the other day … Even people that aren’t as well-known, I listed out about 50 people that were inspirational to me, that are just great talented people. And the only reason I listed 50 and not more, is because Facebook wouldn’t let me tag anymore people.

Devani Alderson: Right. [inaudible 00:34:21].

Josh Robertson: But it just [crosstalk 00:34:21].

Devani Alderson: Yeah. And it’s interesting too, ’cause one of my favorite quotes … Well, two of my favorite quotes is one, “Promote what you love.” And constantly be shouting out the things that inspire you. But also like, realizing that a lot of … If you surround yourself with the right people, you’re gonna just constantly be surrounded by people doing interesting things, whether it’s the same thing that you’re doing. Or different from what you’re doing. You can find inspiration anywhere if you’re looking for it.

And whether it’s online, whether it’s offline, wherever you best create your community, the people that surrounding yourself with is so important. Because there’s gonna be those days like you said. You had a whole 30 days where you’re like, “Crap. No words got … I didn’t put any words in.” And those people are gonna be like, “You can do it. You got this.” And it’s like your cheer-squad, you know?

Josh Robertson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Absolutely.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. Definitely. So Joshua, what is it that stirs your soul with writing? So we’re kind of sensing that that’s like your … Writing for you, is the convergence of purpose and passion. What is your-

Josh Robertson: Yes.

LeAura Alderson: What is your, “Why,” related to writing? What does it do for you?

Josh Robertson: I think when I was younger, it was a place for escape. I think that’s what I used it primarily for was escape. I listened actually to an interview by George R.R. Martin this morning. And he was talking about how he was raised in a world where he didn’t get to travel a lot. And he didn’t have a whole lot of money. And he never really get to have these adventures that he seen other kids doing. And I had a similar childhood. I didn’t get to do a whole lot. And so writing allowed me to go on those adventures. And it allowed me to travel, and it allowed me to essentially live in an entire world through my imagination.

I of course had accomplished that through reading books, but there was something just intrinsically more passionate about writing my own stories, and being able to take those adventures. But another piece of it that I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older, is that I really like the legacy of writing a story. This is something of mine that is always going to be accessible to my kids. And for anyone that’s read my stuff, I’m really big at including philosophical and theological debates in there, and stories in there.

I never tell people what the right answer is, but I like presenting all side of the argument, and seeing how it shapes people the moves them through the world. So you can then close that last page and go, “How can I really apply this to my life? What does this mean for me? How can I become a better person based off this story that I’ve read.” Even though it’s fantasy fiction. And so I think it’s become my legacy. It’s just something I want my kids to pick up and be like, “What was dad thinking when he put this together?”

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: That’s amazing

LeAura Alderson: That’s fantastic. And are you arriving at some of your own answers as a part of that process? Or are you using some of your own questions, I imagine?

Josh Robertson: I think over time I have. I’m actually at a pretty good place in my life, I have been for several years. I’m pretty comfortable with my spirituality and where I’m at in life, and how I see the world. And so I think it’s more of maybe recapping the journey that I’ve already taken and what got me to where I am today. Because a lot of them are questions that I asked for a number of years.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Devani Alderson: That’s really interesting, ’cause I was listening to an interview, and I forgot who said it. Actually, it was Brendon Burchard who said it on an interview Lewis Howes, and he said some of the highest performing people, one of their gifts really is not teaching people what to think ,but helping people think.”

Josh Robertson: Yeah, just [crosstalk 00:38:02].

Devani Alderson: Yeah. Just like letting people think, “It’s okay to think about that. You don’t need to be told some answer about this. You should just think about it.” And, “Here are some questions that might get that going for you.” So I think that’s a real gift that you have. And I think it’s important for more people to cultivate that creativity, whether it’s writing or whatever you’re doing. It’s just helping your audience come to their own conclusions really, instead of you’re telling the story so that they process it. You’re not-

Josh Robertson: Absolutely.

Devani Alderson: … saying, “And this is the story. And here’s what you should think about it.”

Josh Robertson: Well, and fantasy is such a wonderful genre to explore that in. Because fantasy and fiction, it allows us to what you my not be willing to day out loud or even publicly. I mean, you can’t necessarily share [inaudible 00:38:51] non-fiction, because it’ll be heavily judged by it. But in fantasy, you can do anything and people are more accepting to contemplate what it is that telling them exactly. And fantasy has shifted a lot. I mean, if you look back at Tolkien, it was a lot of the black versus white, good versus evil.

Devani Alderson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Josh Robertson: And as we’ve moved into the world of George R.R. Martin, where characters are more gray, and there’s not really any right or wrong, or good or evil. It’s more of action and consequence. That’s the exact same thing that I’ve promoted in my own writings for years is that, it’s not right or wrong or good or evil, it’s action and consequence, and are you willing to live with the consequences of your actions?

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. Excellent.

Devani Alderson: Amazing.

LeAura Alderson: So Josh, if you could share, what would be like one piece of advice, one or two pieces of advice that you could share to aspiring writers that may have no books published yet, or may have a couple, that would help them in their journey?

Josh Robertson: Okay. I’ll tell you a little bit of something that I’ve shared in a number of different ways, even as a therapist when talking to people that were going through struggles is that, people often times miss opportunities because of their own fear. I’ve spent a lot of my life leaping into the unknown. Sometimes I land in shallow water-

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: … and get hurt. But there are times that I plunge into an ocean of success. And that makes up for all the pain and suffering that I go through.

LeAura Alderson: That’s beautiful.

Josh Robertson: I know it’s hard to imagine, but dark times … We have to go through dark times in order for us to understand the good times, or to appreciate the good times. You can’t see that something is good unless you had an experience with the opposite of that. Life just can’t exist without contrast. And so regardless, your fear is not something you should be held captive by. It’s an illusion. It’s you being afraid of something that hasn’t actually even occurred yet.

LeAura Alderson: Yes.

Josh Robertson: And a lot of us live in the shadow of that. So my advice is, spend your life trying to do what you love and know that half to doing that is gonna be extremely difficult at best. But if you don’t go down that, you’re gonna risk not living it all.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. That’s beautiful. It’s fantastic. There’s a lot of quotable in that, that we’ll pull out. Yeah, seriously. No, that’s wonderful. I am interested, before we let you go. If you could just share what is your vision for your future horizon? Where do you wanna go in your life with what you’re doing now?

Josh Robertson: I would really … If we’re looking at writing, I would really like for my books to get out to a wider audience. I wanna continue writing in my Thrice Nine Legends Saga. Eventually I hope to have 27 full-length books written in that saga, apart from short-stories. Most of them are already kind planned out. I know the next five that I’m doing right now.

LeAura Alderson: Nice.

Josh Robertson: And I’d like to see those move on to even television, whether it’s Netflix or HBO, or something like that, that’d be a lot of fun to go down that path. But that’s a journey away. I gotta get an agent and all that type of stuff first.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: Then in terms of just life, it’s knowing that I did what I loved, and I was happy with it. And I was good role model for my kids to, I guess, take the risk to do what they love.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Josh Robertson: That’s really what it comes down to. They’ve seen that, “You know what? Dad was willing to risk everything and fight as hard as he could. Not only to give us a good life, but also put himself first.” Which I don’t think that parents necessarily would set themselves before their kids. But if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not gonna be able to take care of your kids.

LeAura Alderson: Right.

Josh Robertson: And I think that there’s a lot of mixed messages that parents offer children about, essentially you have to be in pain and be hurt, and not have a happy life in order for other people to succeed. I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah, no. Absolutely. That’s brilliant. Did you want anything else before we close?

Devani Alderson: No, that was awesome.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: You’re just so cool.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah.

Devani Alderson: You’re such a cool person.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah, you could hone in on the key points in such a clear way. So it’s-

Josh Robertson: Thank you.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah, it’s really fantastic. So we will share in the show notes the link to your author page in Amazon.

Devani Alderson: And your site, which is robertsonwrites.com.

Josh Robertson: Yes.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. Is there any other that you would like people to connect with you, or any other thing? Oh, and I will say, okay, people please. Authors need reviews. So go to Amazon, get Joshua’s books and then leave review.

Devani Alderson: Yes.leave a review.

LeAura Alderson: That makes a difference. Yeah. So anything else that you want to share before we go?

Josh Robertson: I suppose if people are really interested in reading my works, you can go to my website, which will be in that link down below. And you can click there, and you can get three of my books for free right out the get-go.

LeAura Alderson: Wow. Okay.

Josh Robertson: [crosstalk 00:43:20] first book in my main series, plus two short stories for signing up for my newsletter, where you can get the more personal side of Josh. And then of course, yeah, leave reviews on those if you’re done.

LeAura Alderson: Fantastic.

Josh Robertson: I like to think that if I give a book away for free, I can at least get an honest review back for it.

LeAura Alderson: Yeah. Definitely. That’s fantastic. We’ll leave that link. Well, thank you so much, Josh.

Devani Alderson: Thank you.

LeAura Alderson: We’ll let you get back to your writing.

Josh Robertson: All right. Well, thank you for having me.

Devani Alderson: Yep.

LeAura Alderson: You’re welcome. Bye.

About the author, LeAura

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  1. […] my hard work, my book isn’t selling. Reframe: How can I sell more books? Who can I talk to? What are other successful authors […]

  2. […] Episode 09: Fantasy Books and World Building with Joshua Robertson […]

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