#SPFBO6 Finalist Interview – Robert H. Fleming

Robert, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!

The Fall of Erlon is the first book in The Falling Empires Saga. Here’s the blurb:

As Empires Burn, Heroes Must Rise.

Elisa Lannes was once heiress to the mighty Erlonian Empire. But when her mother abandons the empire and her emperor father is defeated on the battlefield and sent into exile, the world she would rule collapses around her. As enemies converge on the capital, Elisa must join with the last of the empire’s loyal soldiers to escape the evil that hunts her and her family.

With the help of her father’s generals, can Elisa find the strength to fight for her people? Or will a twist in the tide of the empire’s last war awaken an evil far greater than the enemy’s blade?

The Fall of Erlon is the first in the new military fantasy series from author Robert H. Fleming. If you like deep fantasy worlds filled with colorful characters and massive battles, the gods and generals of the Falling Empires Saga is for you.

Buy The Fall of Erlon today!

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, this is my first time entering the competition, let alone making the finals. I’ve enjoyed many of the past finalists in the competition and have plenty more in my TBR pile. Once I had my own story out into the world, it was an easy decision to throw my book into the fray.

I never dreamed of actually making it to the finals, but needless to say I’m thrilled to be up alongside so many other great finalists this year!

2.  Why do you write in the fantasy genre?  What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
Fantasy is king for me because of the worlds I can create and the images I can put in readers’ minds. There is immense freedom (and fun) in worldbuilding and making your own rules. I only really read fantasy books, but if I do read another genre, it’s history. All a good history book does is give me more ideas for my own writing though, so I always return to this wonderful genre.

3.  Why did you decide to self-publish this book? 
I didn’t query agents or any traditional publishing houses for Erlon. I wanted to get the story directly into the hands of my readers.

I listen to most of the big self-publishing podcasts (Self-Publishing Show, Joanna Penn, etc) and they really helped me, first, learn the craft (i.e. how to finish something as difficult and complicated as a full novel). Then they showed me the light in terms of the freedom that indie authors have in the modern publishing world and I’ve never looked back.

4.  Are there advantages to self-publishing?  What about the challenges?
Freedom is the main advantage. I have full control over the story, cover, marketing, etc. I also feel like self-published authors can get their stories to market so much quicker than traditional houses. That said, the big traditional players can open doors in the marketing realm that indies can never touch.

I’m happy in the indie world for now. I’m still amazed I can have even one book on Amazon for readers to enjoy, let alone four(!), with more coming.

5.  As a reader and author, what changes (if any) would you like to see in the fantasy genre?
Not much. I look at just the SPFBO finalists from the 6 years of the contest and see how diverse the stories are and have nothing to complain about (my TBR pile is always stacked high). But that’s a vanilla answer, so here’s something I’d like to see more of:

Warfare.

I love the Malazan series and the Chronicles of the Black Company. To me, Erlon fits in with those gigantic tiles in the genre of “Military Fantasy”. If I look on Amazon at the Military category, I see many books I wouldn’t lump in with Erikson or Cook. They may have knights and some element of fighting and war, but I want more.

I want more books like the above series, with large scale, intricate battle scenes, to be written and rise up in that category and within our genre.

Give readers more action like Helm’s Deep and The Battle of Pelennor Fields. Give us the details of the Chain of Dogs or the Siege of Capustan. Give us something thrilling that we’ve never seen before that leaves us speechless.

I know from interacting with my few fans in the early stages of my career that I’m not alone in this.

6.  Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I do not. There could be a military sci-fi idea that comes out of my head at some point (to me sci-fi is a separate genre entirely from fantasy), but that would be all. I have too many ideas for crazy fantasy tales to move away from fantasy at the moment.

7.  What do you look for in a story?  Especially in the fantasy genre?  (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
As stated above, I love when the climax of a novel comes together in a burst of action or a giant battle for the fate of the world. Sanderson is incredible at this, of course, as are the aforementioned Cook and Erikson.

But to get there, the author has to pull us into the world. I look for strong (and unique) characters and a sprawling world that pulls on my imagination to set up the ultimate payoff in the climax. Hopefully Erlon does this for readers, but I know I have a lot still to learn.

8.  Are you working on a new book?  Can you share any details?
I just published the fourth novel in The Fall of Erlon’s main series. The complete saga is now available on Amazon and I’m thrilled (and, admittingly, in disbelief) that I was able to accomplish publishing a full series of this scale.

I’m already starting on the next series now. I don’t know how many books will be in this new story, but it’s set in an entirely new world. I’m moving away from the gunpowder fantasy of Erlon and basing this story on Ancient Rome, but giving the generals of this empire war gryphons to lead their legions into battle with. I’m having fun exploring what adding a flying cavalry to ancient warfare does to battlefields. More to come on this story later in the year!

9.  Do you have any advice you would offer authors who plan to enter next year’s #SPFBO?
Editing. If you’re looking into SPFBO, chances are you already have a story and are a strong and committed writer. That is great, but I feel the main way to differentiate yourself is to have a polished manuscript. You could be the second coming of Robert Jordan but if your books have typos or gaps in the plot the judges can’t push you forward.

If you’re on the fence about paying for professional editing, whether it’s a dev edit or a simple proofread, I highly recommend shelling out for it. A polished manuscript not only allows you to put the best product forward, but sets you up for success in the indie world when being judged alongside your peers.

You can find Robert H. Fleming’s book at Amazon!
https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Erlon-Falling-Empires-Saga-ebook/dp/B07Y5S94CZ