Aaron, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
The Delving is the first book in Overthrown – The Chronicles of Denoril series. Here’s the blurb:
It rests deep in the ground, they say, an ancient burial treasure of unimaginable wealth. Riches to humble even the most prosperous men, locked away from time itself. But the Council’s edict was clear – keep the tombs of the ancient dalan closed. Keep the past sealed. But where there is wealth, there is greed, and nothing stays buried forever.
Thorben Paulson is an ordinary man, trying to raise his family the honest way. Unfortunately, the Council’s tax collectors demand more and more each thaw, taking in both coin and food. For a branded man like Thorben, his checkered past means the burden is always greater. With hungry mouths to feed and winter on the horizon, Thorben’s desperation grows. A visitor appears unexpectedly in town, a man from his past, carrying a map and a promise – enough coin to feed his family for the foreseeable future, in exchange for a single job. Not just any job, however. Thorben must delve once again, leave the sun behind and enter the underground crypts, the realm of the dead, and find priceless dalan relics. And yet, more lies in wait than things that sparkle and glimmer, and in Denoril, some things never truly die.
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me! This is my second year as an entrant in the SPFBO. Last year I entered “The Winter of Swords”, which isn’t just the first book in my Overthrown series, but also was my first novel. I decided to enter “The Delving” this year because it is a story extremely near and dear to my heart and believe it showcases how much I’ve grown as a writer and storyteller since first starting out. I also believe this story will resonate with more types of readers, as it includes themes of redemption and forgiveness amidst a thrilling, crypt-delving story set in a rich, fantasy world.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
Like so many people, I grew up on fantasy. The Lord of the Rings and Narnia were two of the first series my parents introduced me to growing up, and I guess you could say they left an impression. Later on, I expanded into Anne McCaffrey’s “Pern” series, as well as R.A. Salvatore’s “Dark Elf” and “Icewind Dale” trilogies. When it came time to dig into my first book, fantasy just felt like coming home, you could say. As a reader, I loved the escapism these fantastical worlds and adventures provided, but also the depth of history, lore, and culture. As a genre, fantasy provides such a broad pallet for creation and imagination, and I simply couldn’t resist.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I wrote “The Winter of Swords” (first released as ‘Within’) back in 2013 and spent over a year querying literary agents and publishers. I was not able to land a publishing deal at that point, but knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t have published it either–a fact I can laugh about now. With the indie publishing industry taking off, I decided to put my first book out into the world and see what happened. Some of the initial feedback was blunt to say the least, hard to take at the time, but valuable in the end. I stuck with the indie publishing route but learned from my mistakes and took all the feedback I received seriously. I went back to school and received a B.A. in Creative Writing-Fiction, rewrote my first book and rereleased it, and you could say that’s all he wrote. I used what I’d learned up to that point and released my second book, “Before the Crow” and then the third, “A March of Woe”, before writing and releasing “The Delving” in March of 2019.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
Definitely. It is a double-edged sword. Self-publishing affords us authors pretty much unilateral control over our writing projects. We control the content, the structure, the length, formatting, art, and release strategy. We do not have any creative oversight; save for the critical voices we seek out. That can be awesome, especially with the large and diverse community that has grown to facilitate indie publishing. On the flip side, that lack of oversight might also provide the biggest challenge. Indie authors are not working on anyone else’s release schedule, so it is up to the writer to stay motivated and focused. The lack of oversight can also stunt a writer’s development, especially if they don’t surround themselves with people who are forthcoming with honest, pointed, and unfiltered critique. I have identified so many weaknesses in my writing thanks to the line/content editors, alpha/beta readers, and proofreaders I have worked with over the years. If we approach writing as a craft–one that requires us to hone and improve our method daily, then we’ll be better for it.
5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
Fantasy has benefited from indie publishing perhaps more than any other genre. Removing the chokepoint that was the traditional publishing model means that infinitely more voices can now publish their stories. These new authors all bring their own vision, draw from their unique culture and beliefs, and use their voices to breathe so much diversity into a genre that used to be dominated by elves, orcs, and dragons. I struggle to keep track of all the new faces that publish within the fantasy ranks each year, let alone the constantly evolving sub categories within the field (grimdark, high, low, magical realism, dark, fables, fairy tales, sword and sorcery, alternate history, just to name a few). The scope is immense and truly staggering to behold. I, like so many others are thankful for what Mark (Lawrence) has done with competitions like SPFBO.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
Yes! While in school, I utilized some of my writer’ workshops to develop ideas for stories. Most were simply starters (first chapters of stories I didn’t have the time to fully develop). In 2019 I pulled one of these stories out and dusted it off. It was a science fiction/horror story set on a mining station floating in deep space. I was fascinated by the question: what would happen if someone cracked open a space rock and something alive was inside? I built the story around a viral outbreak but really wanted to play with some gothic themes (Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde). I released that novel as “Unleashed” in August and it quickly became my most popular novel. The sequel “Exodus” released last December, and now I divide my time between my fantasy and science fiction series, as well as a paranormal/werewolf novel that is almost complete.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
I am a sucker for immersive writing. I love fantasy that introduces me to a new world filled with interesting and fantastical things. It doesn’t always have to include monsters, but as long as they’re somewhat original, they’re welcome. I also appreciate a good arc, especially when I can relate to the characters. You can’t beat a good struggle, and who doesn’t enjoy tagging along when the underdog’s labors are rewarded? With that said, I find myself shying away from the epic-scaled mega adventures anymore. After having read so much fantasy, I am admittedly a little burned out on the macro/epic quests and end of the world scenarios–not every battle needs to be a defense of Helm’s Deep or the rise against a dark lord set on conquering the known world. A murder mystery or escalating conspiracy in a fantasy setting, especially written well, will really catch my attention. The micro conflicts can be just as engaging, especially when tied in well with character development. A great example is Tamara Jones (who publishes under Tambo Jones now). She wrote a series of fantasy books following a Castellan–a medieval peacekeeper/detective. He is charged with keeping law and order and is forced to investigate when a number of castle maids are horrifically murdered. The scale is small and intimate, but man is it engaging and thrilling!
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I am actually working on two different books at the moment. The first is called “Savage Dawn”. It is a paranormal novel set in the theoretical small town of Silver Pines, Colorado in the fall of 2010. It follows two perspective characters: Frances Kacella, a young, female Sheriff’s deputy returned from military action in Iraq, and Daeg Whalen, a high school junior who blacks out and has a seizure in science class during a video presentation about a forthcoming blood moon eclipse. The second is “Titan” the third novel in my NecroVerse science fiction-horror series. This book follows the continued exploits of Jacoby and his gang as they seek to escape a monstrous infection on the Hyde deep space mining station. I am also pre-writing a third novel, (one I have not released the title to yet) but can say that it is the follow up to “The Delving”.
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Definitely. First and foremost, if you choose to self-publish, be patient. Readerships take time to grow and development, and success for indies is not an overnight thing. Build the infrastructure around you, cultivate a list of talented professionals that you can trust and enjoy working with, and keep writing. Stay humble and do not buy into your own hype. Seek critique where it is available and set goals that are achievable. One statistic stuck in my head when I indie published my first book. It simply showed that most authors fail because they give up. This industry is hard. It can chew you up and spit you out, especially if you fixate on bad reviews. Remember that writing is a personal journey, and art is about personal expression. Write because you enjoy it and love the stories. If other people enjoy them, too, it’s just icing on the cake.
You can find Aaron Bunce’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Delving-Overthrown-Chronicles-Denoril-Book-ebook/dp/B07MCW3X35