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Fantasy writer influenced by summers in Ligonier

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 3:28 p.m.
Robert Oakes, who writes under R.A. Oakes, is the author of the action-adventure fantasy series, The Black Scarlet Saga.
Robert Oakes, who writes under R.A. Oakes, is the author of the action-adventure fantasy series, The Black Scarlet Saga. (Submitted!)

Black Scarlet, the second novel in a nine-book series titled the Black Scarlet Saga, has been released to the pleasure of fantasy fans both across the country and internationally. In a classic battle of good versus evil, women characters reign supreme in this action packed fantasy novel

Author Robert Oakes, who writes under R.A. Oakes, resides in Shenandoah, Va., but he said some of the inspiration for his writing began years ago in Ligonier.

“Ligonier is the virtual basis for the hopes and dreams of the people in my novels,” said Oakes, “People in my novels ache for a better way of life — good people who will give every last ounce of their strength to build a better way of life for themselves and their children.”

Oakes said he found that type of life in Ligonier. He recalled the town as it was long ago, when he first visited. It was the 1960s — “before the gazebo on the Diamond became a showpiece” — where anyone who worked hard enough and loved their country was living the American Dream.

“Good manners were taken for granted and hard work was something to be savored and enjoyed,” said Oakes.

Oakes spent his boyhood summers in Ligonier and it is where he met, and later proposed to his wife of 40 years, Ann. They still visit today and have an artist drawn photo of the Diamond hanging in their home.

“Ligonier is important to me because is it the place where I came to know myself as a person, and found acceptance from others just for being me,” said Oakes, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area and visited Ligonier every summer to attend Camp Twin Echo as a Boy Scout and later worked on the camp staff.

Oakes' action-adventure fantasy novels feature women as the main characters. The story is about “independent, strong-willed women who strive to overcome the forces of evil. Though trained in the arts of war, their most powerful weapons are their willpower, determination and a willingness to endure great personal sacrifice,” said Oakes, who said he recognized that while it was the men who created a morally and ethically ideal environment to raise families in the 60's, it was the women who held everything together.

Oakes' protagonist, Chen, is based on a personal friend, Dawn Rogers, whom he said he has witnessed over the years making difficult personal decisions and who never chose the path of least resistance.

“Having my main female character based on a real life woman provides a level of authenticity about women in action settings that is more real than other novels,” Oakes said.

Dawn Roberts, also of Virginia, said she has known Oakes for about 12 years.

“I like reading about women playing the stronger rolls,” Roberts said, “and Robert does a very good job of portraying women accurately. I think a lot of women can relate to that.” Roberts added that often when a male author writes from a female perspective, it is unrealistic.

“When I read the stories and think about the main character, Chen, I do see myself in her,” Roberts said.

Roberts said she enjoys the fantasy genre and finds the Black Scarlet Saga to be a very fun read.

“I've been deeply influenced by ‘warrior women,' women who possess the wisdom and strength to survive life's challenges,” Oakes said, “My novels are a tribute to such women.”

The third book of Oakes' series is scheduled to be released in January 2014.

The first two books of the Black Scarlet Saga, Black Crystal and Black Scarlet, are available on,, or at Oakes' website: To follow discussions about the series, those interested should visit:

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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