Aleron Kong has written an incredible LitRPG saga, beginning with The Land: Founding. I had a great time speaking with him during our interview. He is every bit as enjoyable and funny as his characters! For more information, please check the LitRPG site, and Aleron Kong’s Patreon, Forum, Newsletter, Blog, Youtube, and Street Team.
- Tell us about your journey of becoming a writer.
I have always enjoyed reading. The first book I really loved was A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony. Science Fiction and fantasy are my biggest loves. Unfortunately, reading fell by the wayside during medical school. By the time I finished residency though, I was looking for an outlet and my buddy James (whom Richter is named after) encouraged me to write. When I stumbled upon LitRPG I read all that were available to me at the time, which admittedly wasn’t very much. One day I was bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t much to read and figured why not write my own? So I just started writing. I wrote the first book in six weeks. I then wrote five more in ten months.
I love the process. Along the way, I have made some mistakes, great friends, and (perhaps inevitably) even some enemies. I was a little burned out and frazzled after this last book, it took an entire year of my life, but I am getting excited about the next story!
- What does earning the title Father of American LitRPG mean to you?
First, I’d like to explain, I didn’t give myself the title, it came from a cool fan a few years ago, when LitRPG was just making it onto the map in the west. I was completely flattered and thought it was awesome, so I ran with it! While being interviewed for the podcast “LitRPG Podcast” with Ramon Mejia, he used the term as well, and it just took off from there.
Now as far as why someone would say that in the first place, I think it has something to do with that fact that there was no social media presence for the LitRPG community back then. Seeing that lack, I created the LitRPG Facebook group. Though one of my greatest loves and prides are the novels I’ve produced, a close second is the community that has sprung up over the past several years. I have loved watching it grow to include people all around the world.
It has also been the springboard for almost every author that has come to write in the genre. Establishing a name for yourself as a new indie author is extremely difficult and it has been my pleasure to help some truly wonderful writers reach the awesome LitRPG audience. I think it is truly amazing that the five LitRPG writers that were published on Amazon before I founded the LitRPG group has now grown to number several hundred. I am also proud to say that the original group of a dozen people has grown to a community of over 8,000 people and is by far the largest (and most fun IMHO lol) community for LitRPG in the world. It has also been said that it is perhaps one of the greatest resources for new authors that exists in any genre!
None of this should be taken to mean that I am the original creator of LitRPG. I am not. Nor was I, even then, the only American LitRPG author, quite the contrary actually. What is true is that I have worked hard over the years to bring as much attention to the genre as possible. I have established and moderated several groups on different social media platforms, I update my website weekly to help both new and established authors let the LitRPG community know about new releases, and I am working hard to make it a nationally recognized genre. I have dedicated many hours to setting up resources for new authors, including “how-to’s” to begin writing, creating a pool of beta readers to help polish their work, and regularly encouraging authors to ask questions and share their expertise, so we can all help the genre grow. Does this make me founder of the genre? Of course not! Does it make me someone who has devoted thousands of hours to nurture it and help it grow? Absolutely. In that sense, LitRPG is a precious to me as my own child… though possibly with shared custody 🙂
My use of the term “The Father of American LitRPG” is by no means meant to discredit the many amazing authors out there, nor to overshadow them. I love the genre. In a very real way it saved me and I am so excited to see what we can all help it to become!
- Your books read like some of your characters are based off people in your life, their personalities and interactions are so well-rounded and life-like. Can you tell us who some of the characters resemble in your life?
Richter is based on myself. Some of the characters are named after people in my life, like James. I sometimes think of a general personality type and began with their basic characteristics. Then, as I write that character they take on a personality of their own and began to do their own thing. Hisako is a mix of my mother and grandmother. The reason the character is so strong is because my mother is a force to be reckoned with!
- It is easy to see where your medical knowledge comes into play with the details of healing, injuries, and effects of spells. Was this an intentional level of detail you wished to add, or was in subconscious level that naturally flowed from your understanding of how the body works?
A little bit of both. For some reason, everyone loves a gross hospital story, so I couldn’t help but add some of that in. I added more detail to the “finishing moves” in the story. I want the reader to see the character as real with physical consequences. As the characters power up I don’t want to lose the fact that they still have bodies, human or otherwise.
- How many years of gaming experience went into your writing?
Years and years! I grew up playing strategy games, shooters, all the stuff kids grow up playing. I was a typical gaming kid who liked all the typical gaming things.
- Where did the idea of having a human taken from this world and placed into his gaming world come from?
It is a very classic trope of LitRPG. Keep in mind, there are a lot of works that have been published recently since LitRPG has blown up that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. My experience has been that most of the stories rely on the mechanics of virtual reality, however, and there is usually a way for them to walk away from the game. One of the large differences with my story is that the characters are actually in a real world, not just a computer simulation. That means the consequences are real!
- How did you keep track of the leveling points and allocations while you were writing?
Reference documents! It takes three times as long to write my books because I have to keep track of so much. I enjoy the intricacies, but it takes a lot of double checking. It’s an amalgam of every game I’ve played, book I’ve ever read, and movie I’ve ever seen. As we all do, I’ve progressed by standing on the shoulders of the giants that have come before me, albeit with my own spin.
I like the development of the characters, like I mentioned before. Sometimes Richter doesn’t make it because he doesn’t have what it takes yet. Sometimes he squeaks through. It feels realistic. It shows the full gamut of the characters.
- You’ve mentioned before that it will take time to meet more chaos seeds, can you tell us a little about this development?
When I first started writing, I wrote the ending first and several major plot arcs. I just wanted to write a book I would want to read. I never want these stories to end! I’m going to keep writing and showing the love and pain.
I modeled this as a sort of Star Wars universe where multiple story lines and characters can be happening at the same time, and somewhere along the way they intersect.
The seventh book is my momentary catharsis. My life goal is to write 50 books, though I don’t know if they will all be in The Land.
- You’ve placed a lot of emphasis on the injustice non-humans received and how Richter is determined to make the Mist Village equal, safe, and community-centered. Does the founding of this village stem from simply wanting a utopian world in your book, or does the Mist Village mean something deeper to you?
My number one goal is to write an entertaining story and for people to enjoy their passage through the world. But it’s not enough. I wanted to deal with issues society has now. Personally, I hate it when people preach to me in writing. I always thought a much more valuable and useful approach is systematic desensitization. I write strong characters that show the differences that I’d like to see in our own world.
On a more personal level, my choice to publish under my own name and post my picture has not been without consequence. I have been targeted by racial slurs and threats. While this has been harrowing at times, it is all worth it when men, women, and children tell me how much they appreciate seeing a character that looks like them and even more that a black man can create a story that they really enjoy.
The Mist Village is a place I would like to see society reach. I like having different races and personalities and characteristics that a variety of readers can identify with. It’s important to present a positive message. But the Mist Village still deals with its own obstacles to show that the world is not a lollipop, sugary place.
- I am thoroughly enjoying your shout out Ron Swanson! Can you tell us a little about your pop culture references?
I love TV, music, movies, and many other types of pop culture. I wanted to add that to the story for others to enjoy as well. Shows like Parcs & Rec bring a lot of joy to my life, and I want to pass that on to others. My highest aspiration is to have humor in my book. I remember reading Pygmailion by George Bernard Shaw and marveling at the fact that he could make me laugh with the written word. I want to do the same for others, so I added what makes me laugh.
- Nick Podehl does a phenomenal job with the Audible books! Tell us about your process of setting your books up on with Audible and finding such a fantastic voice actor. Did you have any direction or say in the sound effects used? Did you provide any guidelines for Podehl on how you wanted any particular actor to sound?
I reached out to Podehl among a few others, and he responded. He is really humble and chill and I love working with him. He initially said he wouldn’t have time to do it for another nine months, and I was willing to wait for such an amazing talent. The audiobooks we now produce are a collaboration between Nick and myself. I just work out what I want with Nick and he in turn just has fun with it. But he’s also very professional. He reads the book, makes notes, and we spend hours going over pronunciations and dialects. He puts in a great deal of effort, and it shows in his amazing performance. We’ve formed a friendship over the years of working together and I enjoy just talking and laughing with the guy. We are total dorks!
Here is a free sample of the first book!
- How do you find the time to write with your practice?
I literally did nothing but write for two years. It was a psychological release for me as I went through medical school. If you love what you do, you find a way to make it happen. I’ve only been in the writing business for about three years, and most of what I know has been self-taught. I usually sit down with a general idea of what I want to go from point A to point B, but sometimes the characters take on a life of their own and it adds an organic element to the story. I like the “every man” feel as opposed to perfectly lined up plots.
- What inspired your signature “Peace, love, and the perfect Margareta”?
It’s simple: I make the perfect margarita, and I believe in peace and love.