#SPFBO6 Interview – D.H. Willison

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

Harpyness is Only Skin Deep has a sequel planned for the end of this year.  Here’s the blurb:

On a world where death lurks around every corner, is friendship the strongest survival tool of all?

Darin: bored with his paper pusher existence, he accepts a questionable deal for the LARP adventure of a lifetime. A jump through a dimensional portal strands him on the mythical world of Arvia, where everything is gigantic. Except the life-expectancy of newcomers.

Rinloh: a mere ten meters tall. Life in the harpy flock has never been easy for her. Determined to become full-fledged at the upcoming human-hunt, nothing is going to stand–or fly–in her way.

A chance encounter between these two–what could possibly go wrong?

Humans consider consorting with a harpy a capital offense. Harpies consider the human citizens a tasty part of a balanced diet. Yet the two must overcome a most monstrous conspiracy as the citizens of the city begin disappearing, with a list of suspects as big as the inhabitants of Arvia.

Harpyness is Only Skin Deep blends endearing characters and whimsical fantasy adventure in a uniquely witty, charming style. Contact your neighborhood dimension broker, or download Harpyness, and jump into the world of Arvia today.

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
My first instinct is to tell you that Mark and team have created a great event and it’s an incredible opportunity, which is 100% true, but the real reason I entered is to challenge myself. Like any fan of fantasy I seek a quest. The more daunting, the better. In this case, a test of my mental and emotional fortitude. The publishing experience has been challenging and an emotional roller coaster ride for me, and I’m bracing myself for nerves and excitement as I check blogs on a daily basis, refreshing and reading about my fellow authors and their books.

But I’m also a bit terrified. Wait? How long has it been since I’ve checked SPFBO posts?

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I like extremes. Provided they’re taken in moderation. Of all genres, fantasy is most accepting of extremes. You can break the laws of physics, biology, economics, and occasionally even good taste, and still make it work. The heartfelt story of a friendship between a giant harpy with talons that would shame a t-rex, and a human that should, by all rights, not have survived the first ten minutes of his trip to Arvia? Why not? It all makes perfect sense! As I go through fantasy titles, so often I’ll come to a book and say. “Somebody wrote a book about that?” Aannnd, then it’ll go on my tbr. Even if it’s not for me, I have serious respect for authors willing to color outside the lines. And the fantasy genre in general seems to foster this sort of creativity.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
For me it was a question of timing and content. My story didn’t fit into one of the established genres, and so would have been a tough sell with a traditional house. Yes, I could have sanded and polished my dodecahedron-shaped peg of a book to fit one of the perfectly round holes. But it wouldn’t have been my story any more. Additionally, the process for a new writer going traditional is very slow. Months to years to find an agent, then more months to years to query a publisher, then at least a year for the actual publishing process. I could have gone through a two- to four-year process, and at the end still been at square one.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
With self-publishing, I don’t have to worry about producing content for the standard audience. I have the opportunity to explore ideas and take risks that a mass-market media would shy away from. The more expensive media is to produce, the bigger audience is needed to break-even.

I also mentioned speed before, but in the broader sense it’s control. As an indie, you control every aspect of the process from drafting, seeking feedback, editing, formatting, and marketing. Yet with great power comes… loads and loads of work. And not all of it is the creative, “fun” sort of work that most writers envision. If you want to do it all yourself, and do it well, it’s more than a full-time job.

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 a foot in both mythology and the real world. What readers have done and experienced in their lives shapes what they can accept, and what may need more exposition. For example, many fantasy readers today will have experienced role playing, or cosplay, so writers are able to weave these elements into their work. One of my favorite examples of how much things have changed is a story about the filming of the Wizard of Oz from 1939. The entire land of Oz was changed from a real place from the novel to a dream sequence in the film, because it was thought that no audience would accept it otherwise. Things have changed in the last eighty years!

And yet, when I visited my mother’s house last winter and re-read some of my old Oz books, I was still transported to a wonderful realm, with characters that I wanted to succeed in their quests.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I wrote a couple of sci-fi novels that I trunked a decade ago–which I’d love to edit and publish. When I have “free time.” [Breaks into maniacal laughter] But seriously, pushing my boundaries with larger-than-life characters in Harpyness made me a much better writer, and one day I look forward to going back the other direction, where there is a scientific explanation of why it all makes sense.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
The world can be epic, but for me the story needs to be character-driven. I want the stakes to be personal to my characters. Save my friend versus save the princess. Unless the friend is also a princess, in which case that’s fine too.

Characters have to feel real, and if a story can accomplish that with a fantasy race, it’s even better. Can a writer get in the head of a character that’s a centaur or a mermaid and paint a compelling picture of the challenges of their lives? Big bonus points in my book for that.

Things like magic systems and world building for me fall under immersion. I really don’t have a preference one way or the other for things like hard versus soft magic systems, but if these elements and the consequences they have for a society are really thought through, it can be tremendously immersive.

Finally, I love stories that turn tropes on their heads, or weave elements from other genres in interesting and innovative ways. And even more bonus points if it’s funny.

The king’s tax collector as one of the villains? Too easy.

The king’s tax collector secretly helping the peasants by falsifying collections? Better.

The king’s tax collector rewriting the kingdom’s treasury records, to implicate a corrupt king in a plot to replace monuments of the prior king with lewd and inappropriate sculptures? NOW we’re talking!

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
Yes! I’ve just finished the first draft of a sequel. Readers of Harpyness will appreciate how the next novel builds on the friendships from the first one. We learn more about harpies, mermaids, and the humans of Xin, but we also get to explore new cities, meet new creatures, and delve deeper into the magic and history of the world. I’m particularly eager to see how readers like the goblins and rodent folk. Publication target is year end 2020.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
There is a ton of good information and tutorials out there, so use the freely available resources. Everything from the well-known Brandon Sanderson lectures, to numerous smaller writers’ blogs provide a wealth of advice. But there is no substitute for connecting with other writers: participate in a writer’s group. My writing improved dramatically when I started with a critique group. Both giving and receiving critiques proved equally valuable. People in my groups write everything from horror to historical fantasy to paranormal romance, and I’ve learned something from all of them.

You can find D.H. Willison’s book on Amazon!  https://www.amazon.com/Harpyness-Only-Skin-Deep-Willison-ebook/dp/B082Z44YDG

Harpyness is only skin deep