From the Courtroom to Lodric

Rob Niccolini 1An Interview:

“Where is Lodric?” we ask. “It’s in my mind,” replies Rob Ross, the author of “The Juggler’s Blade”, the first book of the trilogy. And indeed, Lodric is located in a fantasy world, created by the vivid, creative imagination of the author. He dares to dream and thereby give life to his unique, fearless characters.

Recently, I had the pleasure to interview Rob and ask him the questions that were stored away in my mind waiting to be asked and answered.

At what point in your life did fantasy first attract your imagination?

My parents were both veracious readers, and my mother went out of her way to find books she thought would appeal to a young boy.  So I grew up with books like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series, and of course Tolkien.  I have been hooked on fantasy (and science fiction) ever since.  In a lot of ways, I thinks it’s very similar to what has happened to a more recent generation of readers  with Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

Have you written any other stories?

I wrote a number of plays and short stories back in college, but then took a pretty long hiatus from writing during law school and the beginning of my career as a trial lawyer.  I started writing again about ten years ago at 35, and have written four novels since (although “Juggler’s Blade” is the first I felt was ready to be published).

Have you entered any contests and with what outcome?

I have been lucky enough to have some success through the Maryland Writer’s Association (MWA), which has been very encouraging.  “Juggler’s Blade” won a Silver Prize in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category in the 2012 MWA Novel Contest.  I also won second place in the Mystery/Thriller category in the 2010 MWA Contest for a science fiction thriller called “The 9th Sphere,” and first place in the 2009 MWA Novel Contest in the same category for book called “The Cambrian Factor.”

How do you form your plots, scenes and locations? Do you pick a place that actually exists and re-write it into a fantasy world?

For me, the fun of writing fantasy is giving yourself the freedom to let your imagination run wild.  Creating a world, with its own sense of feel, and its own rules, can be difficult, but also incredibly rewarding.  As a writer, you obviously have to draw on your own experiences, so locations in your world are always going to have at least some connection with places you have been and seen.  But hopefully, you can use that to create things that are new and unique.

Where did the idea of using a young Juggler as the main character come from and why a Juggler?

I take my kids to the Maryland Renaissance Festival each Fall (which is a lot of fun, by the way).  One year, we were watching a group of jugglers perform on one of the many stages, and I found my mind wandering, wondering: “what if that boy actually had the ability to control the flight of the knives he’s juggling?”  I went home that night and started sketching out a fantasy world in which the rules of magic would allow just that to happen.

How do you give your characters the powers and the life that they have? Are they purely imagination or do you base them on some real people that you know and then give them supernatural characteristics.

As I said before, I think all writers, either consciously or subconsciously, have to draw from their own experiences.  But I’m also reminded of Pirandello’s famous play, “Six Characters in Search of an Author.”  Sometimes, I feel that after an author creates his or her characters, those characters can become quite demanding, and can take the story in directions you never intended.  With Fantasy and Science Fiction, your characters have to operate within the rules of the world you create, but how they develop and where they take you can end up being as surprising to the author as, hopefully, it is to the reader.

How do you arrive at the names you give to your characters, places and locations?

The internet is a wonderful thing!  I like to Google list of baby names, and then let my imagination wander as I scroll through until something I see (or some variation of it) strikes my fancy.

How long does it take you to write a book such as The Juggler’s Blade?

A draft of a novel takes me anywhere from six months to a year, but revisions are another matter.  Sometimes I think you need to get away from a book for a while, and then come back to it, to be able to see things objectively.  With “Juggler’s Blade,” it ended up taking almost two years before I was done with revisions.

Looking at the list in your Glossary, you have a number of strange and unusual names. How do you keep them straight in your own mind when writing?

Before I start writing, and then throughout the writing process, I keep notebooks with names of characters and places, as well as notes on back stories.  I also tend to outline my plots a great deal, and although those outlines are constantly being revised, they help me keep things straight.

How or where do you form your plots? Do you have a starting point and an outline? If so, do you follow it strictly?


Do you start writing and let your thoughts and imagination take you onward without worrying about what will come next. Is your story planned or spontaneous?

There’s a good book for writers called “Plot versus Character: A  Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction,” by Jeff Gerke.  He argues that there are plot first writers, who tend to skimp on character, and character first writers, who tend to skimp on plot.  I definitely fall into the plot first category.  I need to work out the details of my plot, and often outline things in great detail, before I can start writing.  As I said, those outlines will often change as my story and characters develop, but I need to have at least some idea about where I’m headed before I can really begin.

What do we, the readers, have to look forward to after you’re finished with this trilogy?

I’m in the middle of writing “Juggler’s Oath,” the sequel to “Juggler’s Blade,” and I anticipate that book (along with the third in the trilogy, “Juggler’s Crown”) will be occupying the majority of my writing time.  Ultimately, though, I would like to return to another book, “The 9th Sphere,” a science fiction thriller which is about string theory and a thief who can walk through walls.

You, being an attorney, have you thought of writing a legal thriller, set in a fantasy land?

I once tried writing a legal thriller.  It was called “Proximate Cause,” and it was pretty bad!  But anything’s possible.

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