Author Spotlight – A. J. Rettger (OATHBREAKER)
A.J. Rettger lives on a farm near the small town of Aberdeen Saskatchewan with his dog, Zeke. He has a bachelor’s of education degree, as well as a certificate from a private vocational college. His hobbies include playing Dungeons and Dragons, listening to heavy metal, and reading and writing fantasy books. Oathbreaker is his first book.
Welcome to the Hive, A.J. Rettger. Let’s start with the basics: dazzle us with an elevator pitch! Why should readers check out your work?
If you love dark and gritty fantasy with lots of gore, you’ll love Oathbreaker! It starts off as a classic fantasy tale where a young knight sets off to live up to his father’s legacy, but as he enters the real world, things soon start to shift into the grimdark genre as he must make difficult choices along his journey in order to stay alive.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’m definitely a rogue! I love being sneaky, attacking from a distance, and pickpocketing people (only in D&D of course).
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (For example, in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Intense planner or is your system more organic?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I definitely need music! When I write, I have specific playlists that I have playing in the background. It’s mainly orchestral or cinematic pieces, but I find that the songs’ ebb and flow help me capture the emotions that I’m trying to describe on the page. I’m also one of those authors who fail to plan out anything and I just write where the story takes me. It is all very organic.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences?
Definitely Andrzej Sapkowski, Tolkien (of course), and Anthony Ryan
As a self-published author, you have to encompass many roles yourself: what aspect of self-publishing do you find the most difficult? Alternatively, which have you enjoyed the most?
The most difficult aspect has definitely been the marketing of a book. I’m naturally an introverted person so going online and ranting and raving about my book is all very uncomfortable for me, but I’ve also learned to enjoy this role as it gets me out of my comfort zone and it is truly something that needs to be done because I believe my book is something special. The aspect that I’ve enjoyed the most is joining and becoming an active member in the writing community. I’m still new to being in a digital community and I’m trying to learn all the “do’s and don’t’s”, but so far everyone has been really supportive and welcoming!
They may write some of the grimmest darkest things out there, but they’re a lovely bunch.
Are there any fellow self-published creators whom you’d love to collaborate with?
Probably Lee C. Conley. I read A Ritual of Bone and I fell in love with how he can bring tension to a scene. I’ve never experienced a book that put me on the “edge of my seat” until I read his work so it would be an honour if we could collaborate.
What is your process for choosing a cover for your book? Do you have a clear idea of how you want it to look, or do you give your cover artist full creative license?
It was a little bit of both, I gave the artist full creative license from an excerpt of my book. I originally wanted the cover to be a representation of a painting I described in the final chapters of the Oathbreaker (which is now the inside cover art). The cover that we see today, was an idea that the artist had. Once I saw it, I immediately knew that it was the perfect cover for my book and I decided to pull the trigger.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
There is a Neil Gaiman quote that always inspires me when I don’t feel motivated:
“If you only write when inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist.”
I think that speaks to anything worth doing in the world, if it matters to you and you want to be good at it you have to work on it every day, especially the days where you don’t want to do it.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
I’d probably just spend the day with my family and my dog and just relax. Nothing really special.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I have always been inclined to animal hybrids, so I’d have to say a chimera. I’m not sure why but the idea of having a three headed pet that can breathe fire has always been appealing to me.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Not at all a fantasy book, but probably David Gunn’s Summertime in Murdertown: How I Survived Where the Best Die. He paints an amazingly detailed picture of what it is like to grow up in a violent city in abject poverty. It’s truly amazing how people can persevere in such horrid situations.
Finally, can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’m currently working on both the sequel to my first book, Oathbreaker, as well as a stand-alone novel set in the same world. My hope is that the stand alone novel will be even darker than my debut (which I feel is a lofty goal).
Thank you so much!
Oathbreaker is available from: