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Interview with Ron Vitale

     Anyone who has written a book knows that it can be a lot of pressure. Now, imagine the pressure of writing a sequel to a bona fide classic, Moby Dick! Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Ron Vitale, who has done just that with the book Ahab's Daughter. I greatly enjoyed it, and I am anticipating the sequel. I want to thank Mr. Vitale for his time, and I hope you enjoy getting to know a bit more about what it took to write Ahab's Daughter.

What inspired you to write a sequel to Moby Dick?

My kids and I were playing in a swimming pool back in 2015, and as a joke, I started chasing them in the pool pretending that I was a werewhale. My daughter made a funny whale-sound and the idea stuck in my head. I originally toyed with the idea of having my "Werewhale" book be similar to Sharknado. But then I thought about it and wanted it to be more serious and aligned with books such as Pride and Prejudice and  Zombies. The idea evolved over time and decided to put my studying to use. I had taken a graduate level class on Moby-Dick when I was studying for my Masters and decided that this time period fit well with what I wanted to write.

Were you worried about how fans of the beloved classic might react to your sequel?

Honestly, no. I first focus on an idea that I think will work for me. If it doesn't work, then I drop the idea, but if a book can get me out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to write it over 4-5 months during the first draft phase, then I know that I have a keeper. My book is extremely different than Moby-Dick and I did that on purpose. I wanted to focus more on the family dynamics with Ahab's family. Did he have children? What would they think about him? Would they miss him? And what would happen if his children tried to follow in his footsteps? 

What historical research did you pour into Ahab’s Daughter?

Yes, I researched the time period, the name of ships as well as the location of the where the original attach by the white whale may have taken place. For this book as well as my Cinderella's series, I start with a basis of facts and then blur reality. To be clear, my books are not meant to be a historical document, but a fictional "what if" that allows a reader to get involved in the story. To me, I'm more interested in the inner workings of a character than if I have everything be perfect according a timeline. I do bend things a bit as it would be highly unlikely that a young woman would be able to go on her own on such a wild and exciting adventure. I either had to bend reality a bit or not have that happen. For me, I want to push the boundary of what women can and cannot do in the normal canon of literature. It's no secret that for hundreds of years male authors ruled what was taught in universities. 

By changing the gender dynamic in Ahab's Daughter, I'm asking people to consider a different point-of-view--a woman's.

As a male writer, what were the challenges of writing from a female perspective?

This is a tricky topic these days. I look at how J.K. Rowling wrote about Harry as her central character and liken what I write to Rowling's style. I'm a man and yet I choose to make women the main characters in my books. I do that because I most naturally like to write that way, but also because I'd like my daughter to grow up seeing a whole range of heroines in not just my books but in many, many others. When I write my books, I focus on the emotional and human level of what my female characters are feeling: What is going through their mind? Why are they doing what they're doing? The challenge is that I don't write "pretending" to be a woman. Instead, I write and don't focus on gender at all. I ask myself: How would this person feel at this moment? I go for more universal feelings that can be reflected in either a man or a woman. 

What I find interesting is that I've received reviews from women who love how I write female characters and others that hate it. When I write, I focus on a germ of truth. There's something in there that has me inspired to write: Maybe I experienced a situation myself or know someone who went through a similar circumstance. I don't take the event, but the emotion and focus on that. I've been jealous before or angry or lost--I used my experiences to fuel what I write. But there's also a mix of creativity there that comes to me as inspiration. I know when I'm in a creative "flow" when I'm typing and I can "see" the scene play out in my head. I just try to type as fast as I can and get the scene down. When that happens, it's as though I'm not writing, but I'm watching a movie in my head. Allowing myself the freedom to write as I want and how I want is important to me. I know that there are great debates about this topic and I want to be clear: I'd like my work to be judged on whether is entertained and enjoys my books and not my gender.

What do you think is Morgan’s best quality?

Her tenacity. She just doesn't give up. She struggles, fights and will find a way to get where she wants to go. Unfortunately, this quality can also be her greatest weakness because she has a difficult time in letting go.

How were you able to expand some of the characters from Moby Dick, for example, Ishmael?

I specifically created new characters and made them the focus of the novel. I didn't really know that Ishmael would become a central character until I had the first draft written. But I realize that I could have him become a more fleshed out voice. He's damaged and sees himself as experienced, but flawed. That gave me plenty to work with because I could see how it's not all black or white with him--it's a blend and that complexity adds to my book.

How long did you have the idea to write Ahab’s Daughter?

I came up with the idea back in 2015, wrote the first draft and then sat on it for a bit so that I could finish another project. I'm happy I did that because when I came back to finish I was more willing to re-write and delete scenes. One thing that I'll share is that in the first draft Nathan and Morgan were lovers--and Morgan was pregnant. I'm happy I let the book sit for a bit because when I did come back to working on it, I just had to change that idea. Too much of Morgan's drive was tied into feeling abandoned by a lover who left her with child. If I would have stayed with that story line, well, I don't think I would have done a service to Morgan. She isn't the type of person that would chase after someone. If she was left by a lover and was pregnant, she would find a way, have the baby and not go after a boy who left her. In retrospect, I believe I have a stronger book now. More opportunities are open for future books and I was able to stay true to who I believe Morgan is.

How many sequels do you have planned for the Werewhale Saga?

At the moment, I have two books planned. I am more than halfway finished the first draft of book 2 and have some general ideas on where the characters will go in book 3. 

Can you give us a glimpse of what awaits us in Morgan’s and Ishmael’s next adventure? 

I've put a lot of thought and research into thinking about what would make a good story. What I came up with is taking the characters in places that are different and unexpected. I'm also working on focusing on emotional desires and what past parental decisions affect the characters in the present. There's more than meets the eye than just a whale, a boat and the island of nightmares. It's a lot bigger than that.

Do you hope your series will encourage to revisit Moby-Dick?

Yes, I do. Granted, reading Melville's novel is difficult as the cetology chapters can be hard to get through. But if you ever want to know about whales and whaling, Melville's book will tell you a lot!

Last but not least, I am greatly anticipating the sequel. When will Book 2 be released?

I wish I could give you a definite on this. It's going to take me another 2 months to write the first draft of book 2. My instinct is then to either start writing book 3 and have them come out closer together, but I'll need to have some time away from book 2. Sure, I could rush and push the book out, but if I did that with book 1, then I would have have a mess with Morgan chasing after Nathan because she was love sick. And I'm glad I waited and let the story settle in my mind. To give you some insight into my creative process, earlier this year I finish writing the first draft of book 4 in my Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series. That's been sitting now for several months. What I'll most likely do is to first the first draft of book 2 in the Werewhale series, go back and rewrite book 4 in the Cinderella's series and release that book first and then get back to the Werewhale saga. Having the distance will be good for the story and help me think through the bigger scope of what the story is actually about. 

When I go on my long runs, I usually get some creative ideas that pop up as rack up the miles. I have an idea of how to naturally tie several of my series together that is a great back story. I think of it this way: Imagine that there are different layers to a story. You see the present part of it, but what if you could also see the future? The future novels aren't even Werewhale saga books but tied into something different that I'm working on. That cross connection allows for a reader to experience different genres and see the grand plan that I'm building out over hundreds of years.

I tried this experiment with my Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries and the Jovian Gate Chronicles novels. A reader can just like Cinderella and sticks with those books, but if she's curious, she can find out what happens to Cinderella's daughter several hundred years in the future. The Jovian Gate Chronicles is Phoebe's story--brand new characters, challenges and struggles--but she's also Cinderella's daughter. That complexity brings about a whole different range of opportunities. For those who have read my first Cinderella book, Lost, they know about the concept of the dreamline... I don't want to give too much away because I wouldn't want to ruin the story for first-time readers.

I put a lot of time and thought in my books and hope to give my readers the best entertainment value as I can. Since I have a day job and work full-time, I have to make the little free time I have to write count. And if it might take a little longer for a book to come out (I usually publish 1-2 a year), then I think it's worth the extra time because it means a better book for my readers.

Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He's written the Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch's Coven series, book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles, and the Werewhale Saga. His first nonfiction book, How to Be a Successful Author While Working Full-Time: The Secret to Work/Life Balance is also now available. When not writing, Ron loves spending time with his kids even when they beat him in the fun card game Kittens in a Blender. For more information, please visit his website.

Also, check out my review of Ron Vitale's novel:

Ahab's Daughter


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