JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
SJ Parkinson, author of The Legionnaire: Origins
When I wrote “The Legionnaire: Mask of the Pharaoh”, many readers wanted to know more about the shadowy past of Stephen Anderson. I had alluded to his time in the French Foreign Legion, and people wanted to know more.
“The Legionnaire: Origins” begins in a legion fort in Algeria and shows how he runs afoul of a nefarious scheme involving theft and murder. The resulting story highlights what happens when an ordinary man needs to distance himself from extraordinary events.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write “The Legionnaire: Origins”?
SJ Parkinson: I visited Egypt in 2006 on vacation and got to see King Tut’s gold burial mask in person. It’s an amazing piece of history. Later, I read about the Gardner Museum theft. The two items coalesced into the backdrop for The Legionnaire trilogy. When I tried to develop a protagonist, I wanted him to have a military background.
All of the military services had already been used in famous novels. That’s when I remembered the French Foreign Legion. Through research, I discovered that what people thought they knew about the Legion was mostly inaccurate. Good fiction grows best in the shadows, so I used the Legion and everything else fell into place around that.
JP: What sets “The Legionnaire: Origins” apart from other books in the same genre?
SJP: When I write a book, at least a quarter of that time is dedicated to research. Even though “The Legionnaire: Origins” is a fictional novel, I still want it to be anchored firmly in reality. I’ve had many readers comment about the accuracy of my descriptions of places and buildings in my novels.
By doing research, I create a believable backdrop for the characters. It is easier for the reader to lose themselves in that world. Often, I’ll discover some unknown aspect or fact about something and include it as part of the novel.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to “The Legionnaire: Origins” getting out to the public?
SJP: As mentioned previously, in-depth research is the cornerstone of my novels. I also employ multiple Alpha readers, professional editors, and proofreaders. My cover art is done by imaginative graphic artists while the e-books and paperbacks are formatted by another company.
While this is a time consuming and costly process, it does place the highest quality novel in the hands of my reader. With one and a half million e-titles on the market, you need to put in the effort to get noticed. That approach has certainly paid off for me.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish “The Legionnaire: Origins”?
SJP: The first thing I do is write a point form draft of the overall plot. This is roughly two pages of single sentence bullet points describing key moments.
Once I have the story fleshed out, I do up a character bible of physical and personality traits for everyone who will appear in the novel. This involves things like eye color, height, and noticeable features of all the characters. When happy with that, I’ll spend two to three weeks on research and make sure all of the character and story elements I intend to use are accurate. Then, the actual book writing begins using the point form outline as my guide.
Writing the novel can take between six to eight weeks. When done, I review the manuscript several times to ensure it flows smoothly with no plot holes or issues. Then I’ll turn it over to my Alpha readers who give me honest feedback on plot, settings and dialog. I amend as necessary, conduct another review myself then it goes off for the edit. After that, I get at least two proof reads done. Then when happy, it goes off to be formatted.
JP: What’s next for SJ Parkinson?
SJP: Now that The Legionnaire trilogy is done, I’ve begun writing a new science fiction novel which I hope to get out by Christmas. Once that is complete, I suspect I’ll be coming back to The Legionnaire series with book four. I have a dozen more books ready to go in my mind. I just need to find the time to sit down and get them on paper.
“Any success I have today is due to the encouragement of my international readers. Their positive reviews, emails, tweets, and other supportive words buoy me up and push me to write on.
Thank you everyone for encouraging me to follow my dream.” ~SJ Parkinson