By Basil Sands
Ronie Kendig knows her stuff—and her latest novel, STORM RISING, is the high-adrenaline, pulse-pounding proof.
Kendig grew up an “Army Brat”—her words not mine—in a classic military family; father often deployed to parts unknown, and her mother holding down the proverbial fort. By the fourth grade, Kendig had attended six schools. Her only constant companions were the characters she created.
Since launching onto the publishing scene in 2010, Kendig and her books have hit bestseller lists and garnered awards and critical acclaim. Oh, and did I mention she writes high-energy, action-packed novels that can take you down a quick path to tachycardia?
In this The Big Thrill interview, Kendig gives us the scoop on her latest release and shares insight into her writing process.
Ronie, please tell us about STORM RISING.
Former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe embarks on a mission with his team to retrieve an artifact once lost to history—the Book of the Wars of the Lord as mentioned in the Bible. Pitted against numerous political and religious figures, Leif and his team are tasked with stopping wars erupting—wars that haven’t happened, yet are recorded in this ancient text.
Describe the world of this and other books in your multi-storyline series.
STORM RISING embroils many different political, religious, and military entities around the world in a vicious fight for this ancient book—some bent on instigating the wars. It’s a turbulent environment where it becomes difficult to tell friend from foe. As the first book in the Book of the Wars series, Storm has an overarching theme that will span the next two books, both set to release in 2020.
Describe two or three characters in this story that really stand out to you, and why.
Leif Metcalfe is, of course, the one who stands out the most because not only is he the little brother of another character (from a previous book), but Leif is a classic hero, willing to do violence on behalf of the innocent—and yet there are secrets from his past that are hidden even from him. He’s a complex, but intelligent character.
To add some volatility, enter Iskra Todorova, a notorious assassin known as “Viorica,” who has more at stake than her own life and will stop at nothing to retrieve the book, even if it means killing Leif. She is a multifaceted character who broke my heart, yet also inspired me.
I do a lot of research and development with characters, but then Mercy Maddox, an infamous hacker, leapt into the story, fully formed. After 20-plus books, I can’t recall another character who so forcefully pushed her way into a story and staked her territory. She’s snarky, crazy-intelligent, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of superheroes.
You spent your whole life in the military, both as a child and as a military spouse. How has that informed your writing and your choice of genres?
Growing up a military brat and marrying a man who wanted to be career army (though a training accident shattered his knee and that dream) definitely impacted my choice of genres. But it wasn’t until roughly 12 years ago when I encountered a family fractured by the toll combat had taken on the Navy SEAL husband, that I became impassioned to write about our military heroes with a deep conviction that I wasn’t to glamorize it, but to share the toll it takes on them and their families. My mission became to open dialogue—get people thinking and talking—about our military heroes.
Are you an “outliner” or are you “a seat of the pants” writer?
When I first started out, I was a die-hard pants-er, but as my plots became more complex, foreshadowing more involved, I started outlining. Then I joined my current publishing house and they required an outline of each story before I wrote it. Now, I strongly prefer to outline the novel, set that outline aside, and let the characters loose.
Do you have your series plotlines and characters laid out for future novels in advance? If so, how far ahead do you plan?
For each series, I’ve had a skeletal outline that consisted of a paragraph. Most of my series have overarching arcs that span all three books, so I like to figure out how that larger arc will play out and what broad impact it has on the main characters.
Do you have a special space in which you write?
Absolutely! I’m so fortunate to have had an office in which to work. Typically, once I head into storyworld, I slip on noise-cancelling headphones, hit play on soundtrack-style music (no lyrics), and escape into the story with my characters.
How do you prepare yourself, personally and physically, when you start a new novel?
For the most part, I prepare myself by making sure my family is taken care of, the dogs have had some play time and water, then I give myself permission to head into storyworld and slip on my noise-canceling headphones.
As a homeschool dad of three now grown sons myself, I am curious how you managed keeping up with educating your children while at the same time producing a rather prolific run of very exciting novels.
Homeschooling was, of course, my priority—or rather, my children were. I spent all day homeschooling and being present for the kids, then cooked dinner, and once hubby and kids were taken care of, I slipped away into my office, shut the door, and wrote well into the night. It was my therapy. My mother-in-law says I’m hypergraphic—and that just means I’m not a very nice person if I can’t write.
You mention faith in your bio, and are a very active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a columnist for the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. Would you classify the “Christian” thriller genre as a type of its own?
Just as I was an assistant for a music buyer and happened to be a Christian, I am an author who writes books and I happen to be a Christian. My novels aren’t Christian; I am. Does my faith filter into my books? Forensic linguistics says it does and will, but my focus is to write a compelling story, not a theological statement. The inspirational market is pretty different in terms of what they write and allow—because they know the market. I’ve received some flak from readers in that market because they felt my books are “violent,” but those aren’t the readers I’m targeting. On the flip side of that coin, I’ve been written off by mainstream readers simply because I’m a Christian. My thrillers have “many moving parts” (as my editor says), which is not largely typical of the books coming out of that market. However, I’ve been working hard to stylistically model (lightly) my novels in the same way as my favorite authors—James Rollins, David Baldacci, etc.—and they’re all mainstream.
What advice would you give to a new writer, one with a story in their head, maybe a few notes or the start of an outline, just about to leap in and get swept up by the river of story?
DO IT! You’ve been bitten by the writing bug, so follow that story to its conclusion. Learn the craft, hone the craft, but don’t lose your style or voice to the “rules” of writing fiction, because you’re the only one who can tell the story that’s in your head.
One last question, a scenario really. This is the part of the interview where I ask a deep, soul searching, heart-delving, mind-broadening question that looks deep into the essence of Ronie Kendig.
You are out on a geo-caching field trip with your homeschool co-op group and your GPS shows you are right on top of a major item labeled as “The End of the Rainbow.” The description says it was posted less than an hour ago. You search and search until standing at the hollow end of a fallen tree your GPS starts beeping frantically and shouting, “Hey! Hey! It’s right here! Look right here!”
You lean down and peer into the hollow log, only to see a smiling bearded face looking back at you, the light of a cell phone illuminating the twinkle in his eyes.
“Hulloo,” the bearded face says. “Could you give me a hand? I am a leprechaun, and a terribly vile wood-witch had her troll stuff me in this hollow log when I wouldn’t give her my PIN number for the Pot o’ Gold ATM machine. If you help me, I promise you all the gold you can carry in your hands or my assistance in attaining an alternate remuneration of equivalent value.”
“But leprechauns are also known for being tricksters,” you say.
“Ah, yes,” says the little man in the log, “that is indeed a risk you must take.”
What do you do?
Well, having more than a fair bit of Irish in me (my mom came over as a governess from Dublin to Boston when she was 19), I know they are sneaky little creatures, so I would be more than wary of believing what they say or taking my eyes off him. But I also know that leprechauns are often known to be generous to those who are kind to them, and since I find kindness far more enticing and needed in this world, I would allow my empathic and empathetic nature to take over—fully aware that I could be tricked, but then, that would be on him, not me.
Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of over twenty titles. She grew up an Army brat, and now she and her Army-veteran husband live a short train ride from New York City with their children, VVolt N629 (retired military working dog) and Benning the Stealth Golden. Ronie’s degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters.
He lives in Anchorage Alaska with his wife and teen sons.