Welcome to Lavender Lass Books, Matt. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
Darkness Forged: Eschaton Cycle is the first book in the Legends of the Ragnarok Era series. Here’s the blurb:
Vengeance is wrought. Darkness is forged.
The greatest crafts on Midgard come from the dvergar realm of Nidavellir. Volund, a gifted smith and once apprentice to the dvergar, escaped their dark realm to find solace in the arms of a valkyrie.
Nine years of respite.
And then she was gone.
What would you do to reclaim your light?
But Volund’s reputation precedes him, and a cruel king knows the weapons Volund forges can win his wars. Imprisoned in the king’s forge, Volund’s only hope to escape is to find his wife. If he can’t, more than the forge’s darkness will overtake him.
Where will he turn when the light finally fades?
You’ll love this grim fantasy set in the Ragnarok Era because it retells the dark Norse legend of Volund.
Get it now.
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time making the final round in the #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Yes. I had two semifinalists in the past, but this was the first finalist. I wrote Darkness Forged back in 2017. Feels so long ago now, but I’m still proud of it. It felt very complete despite being short, and worked both as a standalone and as a prequel to my other work.
The story takes two related Norse legends, that of the brothers Volund and Agilaz, and intertwines them into single dark fantasy narrative. I wrote it to serve as a standalone prequel to my Gods of the Ragnarok Era series.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
Speculative fiction allows us to explore the human experience through the lens of worlds beyond our own. Such worlds, even if frightening, invoke wonder and awe. A lot of my work is tinged with horror, too, because the reaction to experience something truly inhuman helps to highlight humanity.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish this book?
I started self-publishing for the control, agility, and level of financial reward it offers. By the time I began working on Darkness Forged, I wouldn’t have considered any other path for it. Indeed, because it’s short for a fantasy novel and too long to qualify as a novella, it would have had a hard time in trad had I even wanted to go that route.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
The answer I always give to this is pretty much the same. Higher royalties are nice. But there’s also always been this question of control. I always planned the Eschaton Cycle as an expansive, interconnected web of series. And I remember hearing this story from a trad author I was reading, where his series got cancelled by the publisher and they had the rights and he wasn’t even allowed to publish more of it. Reading his interview was just devastating.
5. As a reader and author, what changes (if any) would you like to see in the fantasy genre?
Huh. Well, I mean I think people should read what they want and be happy and I think there’s room for all kinds of stories that way. On the reverse of that, I have found that fantasy series outside the European tradition prove much harder to get traction with. So, yeah, I kind of wish more people wanted to give a chance to those.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I write sci-fi under a thinly veiled pen name, albeit not so often as fantasy. I’ve been doing that with a collaborator, which is a great experience, and their company manages all the publishing aspect of it, allowing me to focus only on publishing fantasy and just write sci-fi as a palette cleanser.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
As a reader, I find myself drawn to stories with elegant prose, compelling characters, and a grittier edge, that for me, increases verisimilitude. This means my literary idols are R. Scott Bakker and Guy Gavriel Kay, among others.
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
Always working, lol! The Eschaton Cycle universe (where Darkness Forged takes place) is meant to be an expansive tapestry of reimagined myths and folklore, so there’s always more to do. I have both big series, and standalones meant to enhance the world (as is the case of Darkness Forged).
I’m currently working on a Greek-myth-inspired series, The Tapestry of Fate, which I expect to begin releasing in Q2 this year. But I’ve got lots of other series I’m planning concurrently. Plus, I’m also interested in finding potential collaborators to further expand the universe.
So, basically, I plan to be working in this setting for a long, long time.
9. Do you have any advice you would offer authors who plan to enter next year’s #SPFBO?
Just the obvious, I guess, which is that art gets better with practice. I’m super proud of Darkness Forged, but now I look at it, written four years ago, and at my style now and think how much I’ve grown. So the important thing is to keep writing and improving.
You can find Matt Larkin’s book on Amazon!