So you’ve finally completed your first series. That’s a huge accomplishment. How does it feel to have the Giants’ Spear published?
Honestly, it’s a great feeling to have the series completed and to be proud of it. It’s taken up so much time and effort over recent years that it feels kind of weird that it’s over. Because The Giants’ Spear is the climax and all the books form a whole story, I also feel better offering it to readers, because now they can read to the end.
What did you learn and take away from the experience of working on and publishing the series?
Man, it would take a whole book to answer that properly. It’s such a steep learning curve—learning a whole new profession. And of course, it’s not just the writing but the publishing side too. Looking ahead, I would like to release a series together from now on, rather than having such long gaps between releases. I have no regrets for this series, because I was learning all the time and I had a day job for most of it. But from a reader’s point of view I think it’s nice to have a full series to read. I think it can also help with the editing and other decision making, to have the full story in place.
Now that it’s all out there for the binge readers, describe “The Weapon Takers’ Saga” for new readers. Why should they jump in?
My goal with this series was to write something that had the feel of the classic epic fantasy series that I first fell in love with – Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance, the Belgariad — but updated with modern sensibilities. I like to think of it as a fun series, even though it has the darkness inherent in epic fantasy. So there is detailed worldbuilding but the story is fast-paced; there are a range of character points of view, including strong female characters. There are strange new races and twists along the way. Pulling all this together is a quest plot focused on locating and taking the seven weapons of Madria that are needed to defeat the dark forces. The novels in the series are named after four of these weapons and the need to secure these relics before it’s too late builds a sense of urgency into the story.
You also just released a box set of the first 3 books and received a couple of orange bestseller tags. Huge congrats. How do you feel about box sets in general? Has it helped raise more awareness to the series?
Thank you. It’s been awesome to see the books find readers from all over the world. I think the box set definitely worked for this series. Toric’s Dagger, the first book of the series, was released back in 2017 and so I think the boxset has helped me to relaunch the series, reminding existing readers of it and finding new ones. There is definitely an avid reader audience out there who go for the box sets because they offer value. It’s also been attractive to readers in Kindle Unlimited. I would warn that it’s hard to speak in generalities though. I certainly wouldn’t automatically go with a box set for every series, you really have to think carefully about what will work in each particular situation.
What’s been taking up your time when you aren’t writing?
Outside of work I have a family with two secondary school age children. I’m a pretty obsessive follower of tennis, so this time of year is my most productive because there’s about a month of no tennis before the season starts again! I’m not a massive gamer but I find that’s a good way for me to relax and switch off. Strategy games are my go-to genre.
I remember you had mentioned taking the bold step toward writing full time when we last spoke. Has that started? If so how has the experience been?
I’ve been gradually transitioning away from a career as a full-time teacher to a full-time writer. It’s not an easy trick to pull off. In the last 12 months I’ve been doing tutoring which gave me more writing time and since September I’ve stopped that, so yes, I guess that makes me a full-time writer. Of course, a lot of that time has been spent on publishing and marketing the boxset and book 4 of the series. But I have started my next series and it’s great when you get a few full days in a row to write and build up momentum.
I know you are a huge music lover. Has there been any music that has influenced your writing? And do you listen to music when you write?
Yep I love my classic and indie rock. I think the closest music artists that have come to influencing my writing is people like David Bowie and Marc Bolan, who I think were creative geniuses and were themselves influenced by sci-fi, comics and fantasy. I tend to put music artists on a pedestal above other mortals because I know I couldn’t do what they do. It used to be that listening to ANY music would be too distracting while writing. My brain would just focus on the music. More recently, that’s changed, and I’ve started listening to music when I need a boost and I’ve found I’m able to keep my focus on what I’m doing.
What do you find to be the most effective means of promoting your work as a self-published author?
I think you have to be open to try a number of things and figure out what works best in terms of connecting you with potential readers. Also, find what suits you in terms of what comes naturally to you and what is the best use of your time. I know different authors do different things, so it’s not like you have to be good at everything.
Networking with other authors is an important step and I’ve found the fantasy community to be really friendly and supportive to new writers. There are informal places on social media like Fantasy Focus. There are more formal places like Bookfunnel and StoryOrigin where authors can help to promote each other. There are paid promotion sites and you can advertise on Amazon and Facebook. Be prepared to give potential readers something free to read so that they can decide if they’ll like your stuff and don’t sweat it if some don’t, someone else will.
How important is reader interaction to you?
Hmm. That’s tough to answer. I don’t think anyone has a skin so tough that they aren’t happy when someone says they liked reading their stuff. It’s a lovely gesture when a reader does that and hugely appreciated. It makes you feel good and motivates you. Any feedback, including reviews, is very important. But being a slight introvert, I don’t crave interaction. Because I’m the publisher, I can see when people around the world are reading my books and I get a real kick out of that, even if they never reach out.
So I’ve had the extreme privilege of reading your current work in progress. Can you talk a bit about it and how you came up with the idea for it?
OK there’s a bit of a story here. It actually dates back to 2003 and my mother invited members of my extended family to each write up a fantasy character with the idea that the characters would meet up and create a longer story. I still have the originals on my pc.
Anyway, when I came to write mine, I found it hard to write something with just one character in it. So I decided to have an ogre with three heads so that they could talk to one another. The family project fizzled out (what a surprise!) but Og-Grim-Dog the three-headed ogre had been born. When it came to choosing my next project, I felt like there was the potential to do something cool with that character and here I am, writing book one.
What are some of the literary and comedy influences that helped inspire the new book?
Well oddly it’s hard to put my finger on anything. I’ve always loved watching comedy. Obviously, Terry Pratchett is a giant when it comes to humour in the fantasy genre, and I enjoyed his books but I never aspired to write the same kind of thing. I think if anything Book One is inspired by playing D&D, Heroquest and the like and pokes a bit of gentle fun at some of the classic fantasy tropes.
How many books are planned for the new series, and when can we expect the first one?
As I mentioned I’d like to offer a full series on release, so 3-4 books initially. I’d like them to be ready by late spring or early summer 2020.
Looking far out in to the future what are some of the writing ideas you have that you would love to someday put to page?
It’s a lot easier to come up with ideas than write them! I have no shortage of ideas, but history is one of my big passions and I’d love to do something historical, whether out and out historical fiction or something with a fantasy twist.
I’ve asked this before but I’ll ask it again…now that you have completed a series, what advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?
I can’t remember my last answer so apologies if I’m repeating myself. I would encourage people to think long-term. Overnight success is rare. Don’t get hung up on one or two bits of feedback or negative reactions. Be confident about what you’re doing. If you don’t back your own project 100% then others are less likely to. Identify a popular book that you think your story is similar to. If you can’t there may be a problem. Be self-critical but don’t beat yourself up. Identify the areas where you need outside help and do proper research to make sure you’re getting the best you can. Estimate how much time and money it will take you and then multiply that by 5 to 10. Haha — always good to end on a positive note!
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