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Interview with Ronie Kendig

Ronie Kendig, author of thrilling, military suspense novels, is kicking off her new series, The Quiet Professionals, with the release of fast-paced, action-packed Raptor 6. She joins us today to talk about research, life as an author, and her well known, “rapid-fire” approach to writing. Listen in on this top-secret conversation and build up your writing defense system with helpful tips from Ronie.

I have been following the adoption of your retired Military War Dog (MWD). How has it been living with your very own MWD now?
Oh my—he’s the most amazing dog I’ve ever met. Spending 3 years doing research on MWDs did not prepare me for the incredible, raw power this 4-legged hero exuded when he stalked into the adoption room at Lackland AFB. Once we got one, he quickly took control of the bipedals (humans) and their hearts. It became clear to us right away that this dog was not a ‘pet,’ but a working dog that has retired. Vvolt N629 has seen combat, having been deployed to Kuwait, and he has done security detail for the POTUS in New York and the FLOTUS in Tallahassee. Our whole family loves Vvolt. He’s a riot, a goof, and a lover—but he’s also very intense! He doesn’t give anything less than 120%. We are already aware we’ll have to re-carpet, strip the wood floors and reseal them, and paint…often! LOL But it’s all worth it to give this retired MWD a home and love him for the rest of his days!

Raptor 6 starts a new series for you. Did you always know you wanted to write about Dean Watters and the new Raptor team, or did that grow out of your A Breed Apart series?
The more I wrote about Dean (aka Watterboy) in the A Breed Apart series, the more I wanted to know his story. One thing I noticed about the Discarded Heroes series is that readers responded very strongly and favorably to the team dynamic, so that pushed me to allow the team known as ODA-452 to come into their own.

Who’s your favorite character on the Raptor team? And why?
In all honesty, my favorite character, and I think it might just be because he’s got this amazing accent, is Eamon “Titanis” Straider. I’ll confess that Eamon originated in another potential series that hasn’t been picked up, and I really wanted to let him out of his cage for a while, so I attached him to the ODA team in Raptor. You don’t get to see much of him—story necessitates focus on other elements—but he’s a very complicated warrior. He’s modeled after a well-known Australian SAS operator, Ben Roberts-Smith (look him up—he’s an amazing hero!).

What was one challenge you faced while writing Raptor 6?
The technology aspect unequivocally. I had three experts in the field who held the security clearance and worked in the field of U.S. cyber security, but there was very little information they could give me. It was like standing before an entire wheat field, starving, and you’re told you can only have one head of grain. Incredibly frustrating, so I just asked them to tell me enough to maintain believability. It’s for this reason the story doesn’t heavily center on technical aspects.

You’re known for your “rapid-fire fiction” and unique ability to write action packed scenes. Please share a few guidelines/hints/tips you’ve found useful when writing action/suspense.
As with any novel, the author needs to keep the reader from obeying their insatiable desire to put down the book. That means keeping the plot moving, keeping the characters moving. When I critique a person’s work, I make them tell me what’s happening in a scene. If it’s all head-chatter, then maybe they need more movement—not necessarily “action” (explosions, fights, etc.,) but something has to be happening. For me, I use these tips:
• Keep sentences short.
• Say it with me: Fragments are our friends! – fragments give sentence structure a choppy feel, and that lends itself well to a faster movement
• Skip mundane words and use exciting, strong verbs!

Writing action is as much about employing a psychological strength to the scene as it is about writing out a fight or explosion. When readers come to a page, their immediate first impression frames their expectation (I’ll be talking about this and more in my workshop, Mind Magic, at the ACFW Conference this fall!). We writers have tools to, for lack of a better word, manipulate our readers into finishing that chapter—and the book, then demanding you “Write faster!”

Your plots are known for being intricate and incorporate several character views. How do you plot your novels? Are you a pantser or a full-plotter?
I’m both. When I first started writing, I was a rebellious panster. Hehe. I wrote my heart out and let the story lead. While that worked well, as the stories I wrote became more complicated (multiple storylines), I needed a “brain assist,” so I started mapping my story—very lightly—on grease boards. I used to get so frustrated when I had to write a synopsis (still do, in fact), because I felt it took the “thrill” out of the glorious exploration of that story and its characters. My mentor at the time, John Olson, told me to write one, then throw it away and write the story. That way, I had a skeletal idea of where things should go, but also the freedom to let the story and characters breathe.

For the most part, I still follow that sage advice, however, some stories—like the 200k serialized novel that will release July 4, 2014—demanded a detailed outline because I had to write that tome in 3 months!

How do you research the technical, special ops military aspects of your novels?
One benefit at this stage of my career that I have is that I’ve been doing military research now for six years, so I’ve built up an arsenal of friends. If those friends do not have the knowledge necessary to answer, they most likely know someone who will. It builds from there. I work very hard to protect those sources because I’ve built a relationship with them. Ultimately, I am always praying that God would provide what I need to make the story come together. He has never failed me.

What is one thing about the novel writing process that you don't enjoy (if anything)?
So, I know—I know some of the most talented authors sing the praises of doing edits, but if I sang anything about edits, it’d be a eulogy. I’m well aware that edits make a book stronger, and as an author, I learn as I edit, but because of the way God wired me, because of my very sensitive side, edits wear me down and often deplete my energy stores. I’m so blessed to work with amazing editors who know my sensitive side and respect it as we work to improve each story and character.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Two years ago, I had an interviewer ask me this question, and I realized that over the course of my pursuit to get published, I sort of lost myself. I had no hobbies. So, I taught myself to crochet. It’s very therapeutic and relaxing (except when I realize I made a mistake and have to pull out five rows or something).

I also love painting/decorating/re-modeling, and between each book I write, I tackle a big-ish project in my home or yard. That is so very satisfying to me!

How do you balance your time writing, reading, and spending time with your family? Any top-secret tips to share with us?
Wow! Balance is crucial to surviving this industry and its demands. I’m in a place right now where burn-out is a mild word for what I’m feeling, and through that I’m learning that there is a vast difference between responsibility and obligation. I have a responsibility to do the best I can to promote my book and write the best story I can. When we start feeling like it’s an obligation, then I think maybe we’ve lost sight of Who is in control. I’m not obligated to do an interview for anyone—and it’s crazy, but I even cringed writing that! Refusing interviews or features or writing a blog post doesn’t make me a diva, as some have insinuated; it makes me wise in the preservation of my creative energies.

Ultimately, our priority should be God first. If we get that right, He will direct the rest.

What are you currently reading?
Currently, I have an eclectic stack I’m reading through—I’m rarely reading just one book—that includes: Lis Wiehl’s SnapShot, Joel Rosenberg’s The Auschwitz Escape, Cassandra Clare’s The Clockwork Princess.

Do you have an “all time” favorite book you can share with us? Why is it your favorite?
Two books spring to mind in this “all time” favorite category:
C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters – The powerful portrayal of how the devil plays on our hearts and minds, uses our fears and weaknesses against us, really changed me.
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief – the poignant story of a girl who loves and rescues books during book burnings in Nazi Germany, and the incredible narrator—Death, himself—stunned me. I knew what the ending would be, I knew where it was going, and I still bawled like a baby. I think this new generation is losing a lot in terms of remembering a horrible time in our world history, so it’s good that the tragedy of the Holocaust is wrapped in a compelling story that will encourage young minds to engage with the past.

Any parting words?
Thank you for taking this time with me. I strongly encourage everyone to become a Champion for those around you. Shed the opportunity to be a critic (there are enough out there already) and be a voice of encouragement in an already-tough industry!

Thanks for sharing with us, Ronie!

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