Disclaimer: I understand that these questions will seem odd or out of place compared to what “could be asked”. I created these questions as they were interesting to me, and could be answered quickly, so I wouldn’t take up too much of the author’s time. As I’m known to say, this is a “no-nothing blog” and I’m a no-nothing writer, so even getting an author to answer a few of my questions is a joy.
About the author: Jakob Tanner is the author of the completed LitRPG series, Arcane Kingdom Online. He’s currently working on the second book of his ongoing LitRPG series, Tower Climber.
Originally from Toronto, Canada, he currently resides in the United Kingdom. Where he’ll end up next, no one knows!
1. Why litRPG? What drives you to write into a relatively small field (sub-genre)?
The discovery of the LitRPG genre was a real watershed moment for me as both a reader and a writer.
Everything I had been writing up to that point had aspects of the genre, from virtual reality to progression systems, but it was all kind of mish-mashed with my other interests like cyberpunk, shonen battle manga, and crime fiction.
I was sort of just doing my own thing and discovering LitRPG gave me the framework necessary to go from writing short stories in my bedroom to self-publishing novels (also from my bedroom).
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the real secret addictive sauce of LitRPG is the quantifiable progression. There’s just something about a character going from level 2 to level 3 or rank-B to rank-C that just fills your brain with dopamine-bursting goodness. It’s an itch that once scratched must forever be tickled over and over… (okay that sounded really weird…but it’s true, right!?)
Another thing that I was initially drawn to was the mash-up of genres that specifically VRMMO LitRPG offered: fantasy with a slightly sci-fi overlay felt really appealing to me as both a reader and a writer.
So that sums up my answer to your question, but I’d like to push back on one thing a little.
I’m not sure how small a field LitRPG really is.
A lot of us in the community (writers, readers, and myself included) talk about it like it’s a small niche, but when you have people like Dakota Krout, Will Wright, Michael Chatfield, and Luke Chmilenko all breaking the Top 100 on the Amazon Kindle Store — that’s a lot of readers and books being moved right there!
Also then consider Gamelit stuff like Ready Player One or the new Jumanji films or the Sword Art Online franchise and the fact that MILLIONS of people love those properties — you gotta start to wonder how small a niche we really are.
On the other hand, you’re right, you don’t really hear about LitRPG in, say, The New York Times or referenced in an MCU film, but hey, give it time.
2. Piggybacking off of the last question, where do you forsee litRPG going in the next 10 years? It seems there’s a new flavor of fantasy every 10 years and progression/litRPG fantasy are up, what needs to happen for them to not fade as mainstay fantasy?
This is a really good question.
I think LitRPG/Progression fantasy stands a really good chance against fading away because they are “meta-genres.”
You can have sci-fi LitRPG, fantasy LitRPG, post-apocalyptic LitRPG, and the list goes on.
LitRPG is kind of like shonen battle manga in that regard. Originally you had something like Dragonball Z which solidified the genre tropes and you can see that very DNA in stuff like Naruto or My Hero Academia; stories which are staying true to the formula and maybe only changing things slightly. But then you also have stuff like Death Note or Food Wars which take the structure and storytelling techniques of traditional battle manga and then completely flip things on their head, keeping the genre fresh…
So I suspect that’s what will keep LitRPG/Progression Fantasy alive and help the genre stand the test of time. The genre has a built-in flexibility to it. How exactly the genre will evolve is anyone’s guess — but maybe a thriller LitRPG is what everyone’s been waiting for, who knows…
3. There’s a lot of talk about Dragoncon and how the different fantasy authors get together during/after said con. Are you going? Have you gone?
I’ve not gone, but I would love to.
I always feel really jealous right around the time DragonCon happens because I can see my author friends on facebook posting pictures of the event.
4. In just two years you’ve published a plethora of different books, whats your secret? How do you maintain the drive?
I’m not sure if I have any mind-blowing secrets. A lot of it comes down to waking up, writing, and then doing that every day until you have a book done, and then another.
Rather than a special secret, I guess I’ve developed my own set of rules and tips that help me keep going. So I’ll share some of those here.
- Consistently take a day/weekend off. Someone who takes breaks is ultimately more efficient than someone who doesn’t.
- Consistently write. Try and have word count goals. Or writing sprint goals. Just make sure you’re consistently putting words down.
- Find an accountability partner. Having another writer friend (doesn’t even have to be the same genre) who you can log your word counts with and bounce ideas off of is invaluable. Not only do I discuss craft ideas with my accountability partner, but I also discuss strategies on how to write more and be more efficient with my time. An accountability partner is also a great person to commiserate with when you’re struggling as well!
- Digital Minimalism. It seriously does wonders, putting your phone and laptop in another room when you’re trying to write. I have a special computer that doesn’t have any internet connection whatsoever to write on and that helps me stay focused.
5. When and how did you get started writing? Do you have a degree or advanced knowledge in English? What tips can you give to those starting out?
I have been writing since I was a little kid and it was something I knew I always wanted to do.
I did get a degree in English Literature but I don’t think you need one to be a writer. Same goes with creative writing degrees. To anyone worrying about that, I’d say pretty emphatically: don’t.
The best tip is always the most cliche tip, which is: you need to write and read a lot.
But because everyone’s heard that tip before, let me add my own personal revelation I came to only a few years ago.
My special advice is this: learn to be generous.
Try to see the good in things you read and watch, even the things people say are bad.
Learn to be kind and generous with others so you can be kind and generous with yourself.
It’s that generosity with yourself that will allow you to free your mind to write thousands of words each day.
It’s that generosity with yourself that will give you the confidence to click publish.
And it’s that generosity with yourself that will push you forward to write the next book and to continue to improve.
As I’ve said in each interview prior, a large thank you to Mr. Tanner for agreeing to this interview and providing insight into his writing methods and thoughts. I stated to the author at the beginning of our communications that I hadn’t read their books, and would like to interview them “high school style”, from which he graciously accepted. I had quite a lot of fun asking these questions, and even more receiving them answered, and answered well. Please look below for a link to the authors goodreads page, as well as his two highlighted choices.
I'm a high school English teacher in Texas. I also hold degrees in radiography and radio and television broadcasting. Though I obtained certain knowledge and skills from my prior degrees, I do not currently use them.