Winona State alum publishes debut novel


Nicole Girgen

Winona State University alum and first-time author Robert Junghans visited Winona State on Saturday, Feb. 23 to promote the release of his first book. “Cloud Warriors” is a historical fiction set in two different time periods and asks the moral question is living longer worth the price? Junghans spoke in the Somsen Engagement Center to discuss his path to publication and inspirations as a writer.

Zach Bailey, Editor-In-Chief

An anthropology professor, a young medium and a pharmaceutical company collide after the discovery of an ancient “fountain of youth elixir” is discovered in the Peruvian rainforest, home to a tribe of blue-eyed, white-skinned warriors from the Incan empire.

“Scientific advancement collides with corporate greed as competing forces converge on the tribe. The ensuing battle leaves the survivors asking: might extending human life expectancy destroy society as we know it?”

This is the world of “Cloud Warriors,” the debut book of Winona State alum Robert Junghans, which officially released Friday, Feb. 22.

Junghans, who writes under the pseudonym “Rob Jung,” grew up in Trempealeau, Wisconsin before attending college at Winona State University. While at Winona State, Junghans began his writing career.

Junghans began improving his writing abilities as he started working as a sports writer for the Winona Daily News, and then as the Editor-In-Chief of the Winonan during the 1968-69 school year.

Following his time at Winona State, Junghans would go onto Harvard Law School, where he graduated with his law degree.

After nearly forty years, Junghans decided to return to writing in 2006, when he began his first trip into the world of fiction writing. Junghans said he felt as though he was a good writer from his time writing articles and completion of different legal writing during his career, but fiction writing was a different world for him.

“I knew [that] I knew how to write, what I didn’t know was I had no clue how to write fiction,” Junghans said.

One thing Junghans said he was not prepared for was how much work went into being an author after finishing the “final” draft.

Junghans spoke about how after finishing the first version of his final draft for “Cloud Warriors,” he first ran the draft through multiple “beta readers” before rewriting based upon what the beta readers had to say.

After that set of rewrites, Junghans took the draft to a professional editor, then made the necessary changes after their edits.

After all the rounds of editing, Junghans then pitched the book to publishers and sent query letters, knowing rejection was imminent.

“If you send out 30 queries, there’s a big chance that you’ll get rejected by 12-15, you will get ‘send me more’ from two, and you’ll never hear from the rest of them,” Junghans said.

After finally getting a publisher, it seems as though the end must be in sight, right?

“When you get your book published, you find out you’re not at the finish line, you’re at the starting gate,” Junghans said.

The next step, and what Junghans said was one of the hardest steps, was the marketing of the book.

“Somewhere between 600,000 and one million books are published every year,” Junghans said. “You’re like a pebble of sand on the beach, trying to figure out how to make it pop up just a little bit.”

One marketing tactic Junghans used was to go on a release tour.

The tour, which began Saturday, will take Junghans not only through Minnesota, but also multiple states in the general midwest.

Following his first meet-and-greet of the tour at Paperbacks and Pieces on the east end of Winona, Junghans made the trip to his alma mater and gave a brief talk to an intimate crowd Somsen Hall’s Business Engagement Center.

Matthew Ohs, the assistant director of annual giving through Winona State’s department of university advancement, helped set up the meet-and-greet with Junghans at Winona State.

“I met Robert this past fall through my work on university advancement, and we chatted about his book and his interests in the area,” Ohs said. “He’s a Winona State alumni who’s done a lot of interesting things in life. He was publishing his book and wanted to

come to Winona, and I said we could probably find a way to get you on campus.”

When asked how often events like these happen on campus, Ohs said opportunities like this only happen once in a while.

“It wasn’t really official, it just came about because Rob and I were working on a few things and it came up,” Junghans said.

At the event on campus, Junghans talked about his new book and gave advice to those interested in pursuing a career in writing.

“I’ve found that one of the most useful parts in the writing aspect is a consistent pattern of how you go about it,” Junghans said. “The first book I wrote over the course of four years, 10 pages here, 1000 words here. I didn’t have any pattern. Every time you write you have to go back and reread what you wrote to remember where you are.”

Setting up a writing pattern that works for the writer was one of the key parts to writing, Junghans said, and what might work for one person might not work for another.

“When I’m in the writing mode I try to write 1,000 words a day, that’s around four type written pages,” Junghans said. “It can take anywhere from three hours to eight to get those 1,000 words. When I start the next day, I first go back and edit what I wrote the day before.”

According to Junghans, editing can be one of the trickiest parts of the writing process, because there is always room to improve, but one of the worst ruts a writer can get in is to take editing too far.

“If you start to write, whether it’s a short story or an article for a magazine, one of the things that you need to avoid is rewriting your work to death,” Junghans said. “I could pick up “Cloud Warriors” now and read it and re-edit it. And I know that every time I read it I could do the same thing. You can edit into oblivion, you have to figure out how to stop. Having a system, it’s either good enough, or it isn’t. Sometimes you just have to put it away, and it may come back later to become one of your bestsellers.”

Though Junghans is fresh off the release of his debut novel, time is definitely on his side, as his second novel, “The Reaper,” is set for a June 2019 release.

“The Reaper,” which Junghans began writing prior to “Cloud Warriors,” will be trailblazing a new path for Junghans, as his new book will have a new publisher than his debut novel, as well as a different publishing style.

For his next novel, Junghans will be following a publishing route called “hybrid publishing,” which takes a more virtual route than the traditional publishing process.

“The Reaper” will be published through Ingram Publishing, a service provider out of Tennessee, as opposed to John Hunt Publishing out of the United Kingdom, who published Junghans first novel.

When asked what brought this change into motion, the answer was short and sweet: time.

“With a traditional publisher it takes forever to get a book out,” Junghans said at his speaking tour on Saturday. “I handed them a finished manuscript 15 months ago, and it was just published yesterday.”

Junghans said the process of hybrid publishing is much quicker than that of traditional publishing, which, when writing at an older age, is very important. However, Junghans said age has not stopped him, and if anything, gives him hope for the future.

“Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books at age 64,” Junghans began. “My goal was to become a published author by the time I turned 75, I made that goal by about 16 days.”

Though Junghans now commits most of his time to writing, he said it may not have been that way had he began writing at an earlier age.

“We get along on the idea that we are storytellers. We start out with the idea that we should tell stories, but end with the idea that we should never quit our day jobs,” Junghans said. “To steal a line from a friend, ‘you would be absolutely amazed at the tens of dollars us independent authors make.’”

Nicole Girgen
Robert Junghans speaks to a small group of students with his wife, Kathy, in Somsen Hall’s Business Engagement Center on Saturday, Feb. 23. Junghans spoke about his journey publishing his first book “Cloud Warriors”.
Zach Bailey
Robert Junghans signs copies of his new book, “Cloud Warriors,” at Paperbacks and Pieces, during a meet-and-greet on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Zach Bailey
Robert Junghans stands by a display of his new book, “Cloud Warriors,” at Paperbacks and Pieces, a local book store where Junghans participated in a book signing on Saturday, Feb. 23.