Brace yourselves, winter is here, and that means snow, holiday shopping, and of course, December’s featured author! Meet Armen Pogharian, author of YA fantasy. You may not have heard of him because of his relatively small social media presence, but it’s time you get to know him!
Armen Pogharian: Unlike most authors, he was not an early reader. He can honestly say that he didn’t voluntarily read a book until he finished The Hobbit in sixth grade. After that, he became an avid reader, ravenously devouring science fiction and fantasy stories. In college, he earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was an Honorable-Mention All-American swimmer his senior year.
After serving as an officer in the USAF, working on top secret “Area 51” projects, he left the service and earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina. He spent a decade riding the high-tech wave, moving more frequently than an informant in the Witness protection program. Then he made the transition to writer.
His stories mix elements of science and history with a healthy dose of fantasy, combining the best of his interests into something everyone can enjoy. Plus, they feature a strong female lead!
When not writing, he can be found swimming, reading, or enjoying the outdoors with his family. He also maintains a blog where he reviews books, interviews authors, and comments about history, science, and the writing process. He currently resides outside of Rochester NY with his wife and three children.
Okay question time!
Lit Chic: So, you’ve been an engineer, a swimmer, and an officer in the USAF. When did you decide to become a writer?
Armen Pogharian: March 22, 2010. Okay, there isn’t a specific date, but at some point in 2010, I decided that I should try to publish the project I’d been working on.
Lit Chic: You write mostly YA fantasy. What led you to this genre?
Armen Pogharian: I didn’t set out to become a published author. My children are all tireless readers – it’s almost a vice with them – but they weren’t big writers and didn’t get a lot of opportunities to write in school. Perhaps I should say they didn’t get opportunities that motivated them. So I decided to help them along. During a bout of insomnia I went into the basement and pounded out over five thousand words (a feat I’ve yet to replicate) of what later became the first book in the Misaligned series. Since they read fantasy, that’s what I tried to write. It also helped that fantasy was my entry into reading as well. The clincher was getting my oldest children to participate in the process. It was very motivating to have them come home from school and ask me if I’d written anything new that they could read.
Lit Chic: Tell me about your first book. What was the inspiration behind it?
Armen Pogharian: I’ve already alluded to some of it above, but there’s more than just the original spark. Once I committed to turning my basement meanderings into a full book, I started thinking about how to make it different. Yes mixing String Theory and Welsh myth is pretty far out there, but I wanted to spin it even more. After all, countless authors have ventured into the pool of Arthurian myth. I also noticed that the vast majority (those of Tamora Pierce being an exception) of the books my children read had male protagonists. They had important female characters, but the leads were almost always male. So the final twist I added was making the Arthurian character a girl. (Super cool!)
Lit Chic: Please tell me about your latest work.
Armen Pogharian: Here’s the publisher’s blurb for the Misaligned: The Darkest Day: “Something is attacking the structure of the multiverse and releasing higher-dimensional energy into Piper Falls. Penny and her allies must defeat the Bodach, including a former Bodach commander defeated by King Arthur, a mysterious shape-shifter, and a destructive Celtic spirit in order to restore the dimensional fabrics and prevent the apocalypse of The Darkest Day.”
Lit Chic: Does your interest in science and history influence your writing?
Armen Pogharian: Yes, probably more than is healthy. When I started the Misaligned series, I decided that besides the obvious science tie-in for the theme, that I’d also work other elements of science and math into the story. Whether it’s one of the school projects or the fact that almost every number in the story is a prime number, science and math permeate the series. In addition to using the original Welsh myths as the basis for the Arthurian aspects of the story, I also managed to work in Hammurabi’s code, ancient Egypt, and Chinese philosophies into the series. There are even references to Henry VIII’s seizure of church property, a recipe (sort of) for a Babylonian dessert, and a historically based wassailing song (in Welsh no less) – and that’s just in the first book.
Lit Chic: Which of your characters is your favorite and why?
Armen Pogharian: Ah, the proverbial which of you children do you love most question. I’ll only partially dodge this one. I like all of my characters, but some are more fun to write than others. In the Misaligned series, I really enjoy writing scenes with Simon. He’s a multi-dimensional cat (a Cait Sith) who’s bonded to the protagonist (Penny Preston). In the Warders series, I’ve had the most fun with Draham, the veteran dwarf agent with numerous cover identities – ranging from a skilled jester/juggler, a successful merchant, and even a member of the assassin’s guild. I also really enjoy writing the scenes with some of the minor characters – those that move the plot along, add twists, or just flesh out the story. I’ve become so attached to a few that they have worked their way into the mainstream of the series.
Lit Chic: What is the best/worst part about being a writer?
Armen Pogharian: The best part is the whole creative process of turning a thought into an 80,000 word story. I’m always amazed that something that started as an attempt to answer a question in my head (What happens at the intersection of String Theory and Arthurian Myth?) becomes a story that other people read. As for the worst, most people probably think of all the rejection letters from agents and publishers. Fortunately for me, my dating life provided me with a lot of experience in the rejection area, (haha!) so that wasn’t so bad. Oddly, even though I have an MBA, it’s the business aspects that bother me the most. I enjoy book signings and talking to students about writing, but the whole self-promotion on the web is not one of my favorite things to do.
Lit Chic: What is one thing as an author you can’t live without?
Armen Pogharian: Not to be trite, but I’d have to say the internet. As you might guess from my previous answer, I do a lot of research for my stories. While I’m sure it would be possible without the internet, I’m also sure it would take a lot more time. Even my high fantasy Warder series requires a lot of research, whether it’s for accurate descriptions of medieval ships or teaching myself how to create my own fantasy map, the internet was indispensable.
Lit Chic: What are the ups and downs of publishing through a small press?
Armen Pogharian: I was obviously a complete novice in the publishing world, so I’m very happy to have the expertise of my publisher. They provide cover artwork, line-editing and while they don’t have the resources to do a full story edit, they do make suggestions. That last word is very important – suggestions. Unlike a major press, I have an equal say in the cover art, blurbs, and promotional ideas. On the downside, I don’t get any advance money and I have to share my royalties with the publisher, but from my perspective that’s all fine. If there’s one thing I wish I got more of it wouldn’t be money, but marketing help. Of course, I understand that even the big houses don’t provide much of that anymore.
Lit Chic: Speaking of marketing, what is the best marketing advice that you have for newly published authors?
Armen Pogharian: Based on my sales volumes, I’m not sure my advice is an example of what to do or what NOT to do. (LOL) There seem to be two schools of thought on this. One is to get as much exposure as you can and hope that some small percentage of those who see your work like what they see. The other is to try to build relationships/connections with your fans. Social media makes both a little easier to do than in the past, although it depends on your genre. In mine, it’s a little creepy for a middle-aged man to use social media to build relationships with his YA audience. That said, I think you need to do both types of activities, but only where appropriate. I use websites and appropriate social media groups for some blanket marketing, and pay for some of it (but never pay for FB to boost posts). Basically, it’s okay to post a review in a group for reviews, but not in a group for writers. I try to connect to my audience through speaking at schools, book signings, and even through my coaching at the Y. I restrict my social media connections to parents or adult cross-over readers – except in cases where readers reach out to me.
Lit Chic: Random question, if you could be anything other than a writer, what would you be?
Armen Pogharian: I’m pretty happy with who I am and what I’m doing, but if I had to be something else I’d go with a musician. Not a big-time arena-type or pop icon, but a solid performer who plays an occasional gig in front of a small crowd and does session work, too.
Lit Chic: Before you go, can you tell me about your current projects.
Armen Pogharian: I’ve just released the third (and final?) book in the Misaligned series. It is now available through all major e-book outlets. (Check it out!)
I’ve also just completed work with a new artist for revised covers for the Warder series. Basically we redid the first book so that it shares a theme with the cover of the second. With that done, a print version of the second is in the works – hopefully in time for Christmas shoppers. On the writing side, I’m noodling around concepts for the next installment (Book 3) of the Warders series. I’ve got several ideas. I’m just not sure which ones to use in the third book and which ones to roll out later.
Lit Chic: Any advice to new authors starting out?
Armen Pogharian: Be realistic about the financial aspects of writing. You may have written a really great story, but that doesn’t guarantee you financial success. If you’re getting into writing for the money, you’re likely to be very disappointed. Of course if you’re one of those Eeyore-types who enjoys disappointment, then great, but most of us aren’t. I’m not saying to give up on making money. I happily cash every one of my royalty checks. However, make sure you’re enjoying something about being an author, besides the money. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the research, the writing process, or the occasional compliment from a fan, you need something besides money.
Thanks again for stopping by. Come back and visit me next month to find out who the next featured author will be!
Could it be you? If you are interested in being featured on Lit Chic, or if you know someone who should be, please contact me via email@example.com or message me on twitter @kbbetzner. There are still a few openings left in 2015!