CRANFORD, NJ — Author Kevin J. Kessler may always consider himself a “Jersey boy” at heart, but the journalist-turned-adventure fantasy writer expresses little regret about his life-changing decision to relocate to sunny central Florida. Since moving to Orlando less than two years ago, Kessler has accomplished a lifelong dream of becoming an author and releasing his first full novel, “The Rosinanti Series Book One,” in December 2016. During a recent conversation with Cranford Life, the Class of 2003 Cranford High School alumnus discussed his unfolding professional and personal journey, as well as his plans for the future.
CRANFORD LIFE: After spending your entire life as a resident of northern New Jersey, what gave you the motivation to uproot yourself and start a fresh chapter of your life in the Sunshine State?
KEVIN J. KESSLER: I moved here in July of 2015, determined to follow my dreams. Since the age of 2, it was always my desire to one day reside in the greater Orlando area. I have always had a passion for the region, the climate and the local attractions. The fact that I own and operate a podcast network called the “White Dragon Podcast Network” makes my relocation all the more sweeter. Our No. 1 show is called “2 Men and The Mouse,” which is a Walt Disney World news and information show. The benefit of enjoying such close proximity to the Disney empire has added many new layers to our show that we just could not access from outside the state. This change of scenery also allowed me the opportunity to get to know myself better, and I soon realized that I had to pursue my ultimate dream of becoming an author. My current line of adventure fantasy books called “The Rosinanti Series” may have been completed here in Orlando, but the creative fire was ignited in the auditorium of Cranford High School over 16 years ago.
The path from local reporter to prolific author must begin somewhere. Can you recall any experiences or guiding forces from your formative years in Cranford that helped set you on this creative course?
I was fortunate enough to have a number of wonderful individuals influencing me while growing up in Cranford. First and foremost are my parents. They instilled a love of literature in me from an early age. My father and I would read together every single night, contributing to an undying passion for books and the art of storytelling. During my years as a student at Cranford High School, I was blessed to have several superb teachers who nurtured my love of reading and writing. Most notable of them would probably be Joe Dugandzic, who was my senior year art of writing teacher at CHS. Mr. Dugandzic passed away earlier this year and the news of his death hit me very hard. I honestly don’t think I would be sitting here having accomplished this dream without his presence in my academic life. The Rosinanti concept came to me as the spark of inspiration when I was just a sophomore in high school. I remember telling my friend Molly that I had this idea for a story about a boy who could turn into a dragon. She asked me what the title was, and I replied, “I think it is … Rosinanti.” Molly gifted me with a small, leather-bound journal later that Christmas. Within that journal, she had written these words in black marker: “Rosinanti By Kevin J. Kessler.” I started writing immediately! Another classmate named Shannon became the first person to read my early Rosinanti stories when they were scribbled in that journal in five or six different colors of ink. She loved it and encouraged me to keep going beyond our high school years. To this day, Shannon has read every single draft of my Rosinanti tales and remains the series’ No. 1 fan.
Before we get into discussing “The Rosinanti Series” at length, how has the relocation from northern New Jersey to central Florida affected you as a person and as a writer?
I have found the warmer weather and overall atmosphere here in Orlando to be quite beneficial. There are far less distractions to contend with on a daily basis and I’m just generally happier here, which certainly supports the creative process. I still love New Jersey, but now I don’t have to deal with all those cold, dreary winter months, where I would just want to hide in bed all day. Plus, I have real-life magic just minutes from my own backyard. I often take my iPad Pro to nearby Walt Disney World, where I can sit on the grass in the main hub of the Magic Kingdom. With such a breathtaking view of Cinderella Castle in clear sight, my inspiration to write has been in no short supply.
Can you describe your current line of novels to our readers? Are they aimed at a certain market or demographic?
KK: “The Rosinanti Series” are fantasy/action/adventure/romance books, released by Lavish Publishing LLC, that blend elements of traditional magic-based fantasy with aspects of the popular steampunk genre. The ongoing saga follows the story of a young warrior named Valentean and a magically gifted princess named Seraphina. Together, through the bond of friendship and love, they fight against the forces of darkness and chaos. The tales feature large-scale battles similar to those typically found in epic superhero movies, light and dark magic forces, and, of course, dragons! The series will be presented in six full-length novels; Book One is titled “Rosinanti” and is out now. Book Two is called “Rosinanti: Wrath of the Faithful” and will debut May 16 on Amazon, in both the ebook and paperback formats. There is also a short story called “Rosinanti: The Decimation of Casid,” which takes place in between the events of Book One and Book Two. And as far as who would enjoy these adventures, I have delivered them in a way that will appeal easily to readers of all ages. I should also note that both my present and upcoming written work can be found at lavishpublishing.com, who have been nothing short of fantastic in their continued support of my various projects.
Where would you like to see this journey as an author take you?
I would love to be able to write full time; to utilize my creative muscles and make a living doing it. Eventually, having Rosinanti become a film or a television series would be my ultimate dream come true. My other “professional bucket list” goal would be to one day write an “in canon” Star Wars novel for Disney. The ability to leave my fingerprints on one of the most iconic pop culture franchises of all time would be the pinnacle of accomplishment for me! But for the short term, I’m just content in looking forward to my second book in “The Rosinanti Series” coming out on May 16.
In closing, is there anything else that you have stewing on your creative backburner?
It’s going to be a very busy year. The entire six books of “The Rosinanti Series” are tentatively scheduled to be released before Christmastime of 2017. After that, I can focus on writing other stories that have been rattling around in my head, as well as begin a quirky comedy screenplay based on my many years as a northern New Jersey local news journalist. My podcast network continues to be a labor of love that actually started in downtown Cranford. My “2 Men and The Mouse” co-host, Peter Mandle, and I would set up inside his Rogue Comics shop on North Union Avenue to record the show. I may be a full-time Floridian now, but that Cranford blue and gold still runs through my veins. But I will readily admit it’s a great feeling knowing that I don’t have to shovel snow anymore.
For additional information or to contact author Kevin J. Kessler, please visit Facebook.com/kevinjkesslerauthor or amazon.com/author/kevinjkessler.
David VanDeventer is a frequent contributor to the Worrall Media Arts & Leisure section and can be reached at pics@thelocalsource. com.