R.J. Sullivan, Author of Commanding The Red Lotus

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

It’s funny. I wrote three paranormal thrillers and a collection of fantasy and dark fiction short stories before I finally got around to writing a spaceship adventure SF tale. Commanding the Red Lotus is my fifth published book and the first one set in the genre that I prefer to read for fun. I certainly make no apology for my ghost stories and I appreciate the readership that they have found for me. Nor will I stop writing them. But it felt like the time was right to finally venture into the genre I most love. And sales and responses prove that my love of the genre comes through in the narrative.

What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject that isn’t so?

My second book, Haunting Obsession, is a story about a fan of a dead movie star who ends up being visited by the ghost of that star. The not-so-subtle stand-in, Maxine Marie, can be recognized by even a casual observer as Marilyn Monroe (fictionalized just enough so I can have her “go evil” with only a twinge of guilt), and those who know me know that, indeed, I am a big fan.

In the book, I explore some of the worst aspects of fannish behavior, as exhibited through my protagonist. This is something easily taken at face value by random readers, but it leads to interesting, eye-raising questions by some friends and family who chose to read it as biographical, even though the very setup is something I find in bad taste. (The story begins when the protagonist pays hundreds of dollars for one of those “autographed” items that’s clearly a personal check that the dead actress wrote to pay her rent—the fact that this sort of exploitation for profit is even allowed is something that offends me personally).

What are some day jobs you have held?

I worked as a copywriter in the insurance industry and for a retail sporting goods store. Concurrently with my fiction writing, I am a contracted freelance business writer, composing ads, newsletters, success story articles, and other marketing pieces as needed for local businesses. The work ebbs and flows, and I work on my fiction around the “ebbs.”  Anyone interested can check out Copybob.

What have you written so far? 

My loosely connected paranormal trilogy:

Haunting Blue: A “dark Hardy Boys with a ghost intended for big kids” story, it introduces my punk girl protagonist Blue and tells how she teams up with her computer nerd boyfriend “Chip” to solve the small-town mystery and end up releasing a ghost along the way.

r.j. book cover3
Haunting Obsession: A sexy ghost story and my bestseller (the cover has a lot to do with that, I think) in which a fan is haunted by the object of his affection, only for things to go very badly. It introduces my paranormal investigator protag Rebecca Burton.

R.J. Sullivan book cover 2

Virtual Blue: Chip and Blue are back, and Burton is helping them try to stop a cult of demon worshippers from using virtual reality to free a demon from its otherworldly prison.

r.j. book cover4
Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy: Collects my first several published short stories.

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Commanding the Red Lotus: Collects three novellas that make a novel-length SF adventure. Spoiled daddy’s girl Sayuri Arai secretly buys a dilapidated asteroid mining ship in an act of petulant rebellion. Now positioned as its owner/commander, she finds she’s taken on far more than she can handle. And the crew knows it.

How do you feel about indie/alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I certainly have no hate for conventional publishing. If one of the big publishers offered me a contract, I would sign it immediately, and I think most indie publishers would. But the truth is that there remains a number of sound business reasons why big publishers have to be incredibly picky and choosy over who they will and will not publish. Sometimes it comes down to the simple fact that they don’t have the resources to publish everyone deserving.

This is an amazing time to be an author.

So I am very grateful that in this day and age that anyone who is willing to tell their story and put in the time and resources can put out their work and try to find an audience. I’m further grateful that Seventh Star made the choice to go on this journey with me and has helped me find a growing set of anxious readers.

Did you make any marketing mistakes that you would avoid in the future?

Early on I vastly overestimated the importance of a book trailer. They are fun, but they aren’t worth major headaches. The trailers for Haunting Blue and Haunting Obsession (you can find all my trailers on each book listing on my website) were incredibly ambitious with hours of work from multiple talents who all stepped up to help me (you know who you are), and I don’t think the results were worth it or any more beneficial than the simple static tag ones I make nowadays.

Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?

Commanding the Red Lotus collects three connected novellas about Sayuri Arai, a Westernized Japanese woman and daughter of the CEO of an asteroid mining company. She graduates from college with her business degree and turns away from an instant VP position offered by her father in the family business for fear of those golden handcuffs. Instead, she uses her resources to purchase an antiquated mining ship from her father’s fleet about to be retired—the Red Lotus—and operates as commander of the independent mining ship.

Of course, she has a lot to learn, the ship is falling apart, and the crew takes a dim view of its green captain trying to tell them what to do. Given the premise, the stories write themselves.

Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?

Sayuri is a strong, independent woman who recognizes that she has been coerced into a role that doesn’t suit her and she has the guts to say “I want no part of this,” even though it means causing discontent in her family and making the brave choice to strike out and try to be her own person.

But there is no getting around her sheltered upbringing and how she finds she has some hard lessons to learn in her character growth.

What is your next project?

I have taken a small writing sabbatical as I try to recharge creatively. I think I will write a short story in my paranormal thriller series with my heroes Rebecca Burton and Blue Shaefer before returning to the Red Lotus universe for another novella.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

In the early-to-mid-2000s, I was fortunate enough to connect with another aspiring writer. Her name is Debra Holland. She is now a multi-published bestselling author of sweet romances. For years, we were each other’s primary critique partners and referred to each other as such. Looking back, it is clear to me that I was the one with the most to learn and who most benefitted from the connection (though I probably would not have said so at the time). I am very grateful to have met her when I did. Our paths have gone separate ways in recent years and I am very pleased to see all of her successes.

These days I have come to look upon horror author Nicole Cushing as an example of public professionalism. It’s less about craft and technique (though we have had many discussions about this, and she teaches a terrific workshop on goal-setting) but more about showing by example what grace under pressure looks like. Without getting too far into the weeds, let’s just say I have seen many people who pride themselves on their professionalism but who tend to have an unpredictable “trigger” and professionalism is forgotten due to some random “grave” insult. Facebook doesn’t help this much—we’ve all seen the occasional “pile on” tactic used to try to make a point. And I am also counting myself as being guilty of that sort of thing. It is never nice to see, and I’m afraid it has a tendency to run rampant throughout the author community.

Nicole, however, is the exception that calls out the tendency. She continues to project dignity and fairness no matter what the situation (and in situations where I know she is not feeling as calm as she projects—which just makes her human). I have tried to model my own behavior according her example. (Though I gotta draw the line at sending out fanclub snail mail postcards, which totally rock if you are on the mailing list but look like they take a lot of time. Sorry, Nicole.

R.J. Sullivan book cover

Want to connect with R.J. and learn more?

Website and Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

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