Jed, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
Fires of the Dead is the first book in the Pyromancer series. Here’s the blurb:
#1 Bestseller in Fantasy Adventure Fiction
“The perfect read for someone looking to be quickly immersed in a magic system unlike anything else.” – Nikki Wallace
Wisp is a pyromancer: a magician who draws energy from fires to make his own flames. Leading a misfit thieving crew, he enters a desolate wasteland to steal a dead sorcerer’s skull. But his crew aren’t the only ones on the hunt, and the forest isn’t as barren as it seems …
A jaded gang leader longing for retirement.
A bloodthirsty magician with a lust for power.
A brutish fighter who’s smarter than he looks.
A young thief desperate to prove herself.
And a cowardly navigator with secrets that won’t stay buried …
Together, they must survive fights, fires, and folk tales that prove disturbingly real – if they don’t kill each other first.
Fires of the Dead is a grimdark fantasy novella with a unique magic system, perfect for fans of Rob J. Hayes, Joe Abercrombie, and Brandon Sanderson.
Read today to experience a story readers say is “unputdownable!”
#1 bestseller in Fantasy Adventure Fiction
#1 bestseller in Myth & Legend Fantasy eBooks
#1 bestseller in Sword & Sorcery Fantasy eBooks
Praise for Fires of the Dead:
★★★★★ “A common misconception about fantasy novels is that they are all epic, thousand page long tomes. […] Fires of the Dead proves that you don’t need to write reams of narrative to fit all the components of a classic fantasy novel into one tale.” – Reviews Feed
★★★★★ “A gripping, fun, twisted tale of a band of misfit thieves as they adventure through charred forest to retrieve a valuable, magical item with a mega payload. […] Be prepared to smash this book out in one reading; you’ll be left wondering what’s next at every damn turn.” – Mitch Bruce
★★★★★ “I loved every second of it. I didn’t want to put it down. After I finished, Fires of the Dead left me wanting to continue reading about this world. Highly recommend this book for someone who loves a quick read full of action and suspense.” – Dannielle Leotta
★★★★★ I could not put this book down! I wanted to keep on reading and not sleep, and ended up the next day being a very moody person with a good story on the brain. I am so glad I read this and will be keeping an eye on books by this author.” – Sarah Coleman
★★★★★ “A great fantasy novella, a real page turner (it gave me goosebumps), I highly recommend it.” – Caitlin Shaw
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Yes! I’d come across quite a few cool authors by following previous SPFBOs (Rob J. Hayes is a noticeable standout). As a new indie author I thought it would be a great chance to connect with other readers and authors, along with hopefully getting my books into more hands.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I think Ray Bradbury summed it up perfectly in Zen and the Art of Writing. He likens fantasy to how Perseus slew Medusa in Greek myth. Medusa was a gorgon whose gaze turned onlookers to stone, so to counter this, Perseus used the reflection of his shield to look at her. This let him sneak up and lop off her head – just like fantasy authors, who enjoy a good spot of decapitation to liven up their days … no, wait, that’s not it.
Ah, that’s right. My point was this: Perseus couldn’t solve his problem by looking at it. He had to look away first. That’s what fantasy does. It acts like Perseus’ shield, drawing us into another world so that we can reflect, understand, and hopefully improve our own.
Fantasy is a mirror that gives us another angle on reality.
Beyond that, it’s just so fun and free. Fantasy can do everything that other genres can. Fantasy romance, fantasy thrillers, fantasy adventures, fantasy crime, fantasy mystery, fantasy heists, fantasy tragedies, fantasy redemptions. Fantasy can do everything that any other genre can, with the added bonus: you can also have magic.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I’d done a ton of research into traditional and independent publishing routes, well before I had anything ready to go. But all the thinking in the world can’t tell you if either method is right for you. So, I decided to experiment. I wrote a short novella about an idea I’d been kicking around for a while. The result was called Fires of the Dead.
Within five months of starting the outline, the book was out in the world, in ebook, paperback, hardback, and audiobook (like I said, I was experimenting, so I wanted a lot of data). I set a financial target for the book. By the end of the year, it got 70% of the way there. More importantly, I learned a lot and really enjoyed the process. Almost as equally important, people seemed to enjoy it, with quite a few cool reviews rolling in.
From there, I decided to commit to self-publishing for at least the next few years. While this is purely speculation, since I’m at such an early stage in my career, I think self-publishing will not only give me more creative freedom and control, but will also make more money that traditional publishing (long term), since by running the marketing myself, I’ll be able to keep things lean, have bigger margins, and make longer-term bets than trad publishers will stomach.
That all sounds someone cold-blooded and rational, but I should mention that I’m certainly not in this for the money. I do it for the love, and I just think that I’ll be able to do it more – and more freely – with the indie route. Plus, I’m still young, so if it leaves me financially destitute, I can always sell a kidney or something.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
To begin, a disclaimer. I’m new to this game, with my first book released in September 2019. At the time of writing, I have two books published. Saying that, I can see things moving in a positive route, albeit slowly, and when I get my first series off the ground later this year, I hope that will accelerate my progress.
Saying that, I’ve learned that the advantages and challenges of self-publishing are the same.
Advantage: it’s all on you. Freedom!
Challenge: it’s all on you. Nowhere to hide!
Basically, it comes down to extreme accountability. If you thrive on taking full ownership of your destiny (good and bad), then you’ll probably love the indie route. That’s not to say that this personality type guarantees success. Even then, it will require years of hard work and probably a dose of luck, but luck only shows up if you’re showing up. I’m certainly not there yet, but I am loving the process and I am reasonably sure that I’m on the right pathway.
5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
I think we’re seeing a bigger diversity of stories. Both in terms of authors coming from more varied backgrounds, and from a genre perspective, with new sub-genres of fantasy seeming to be far more plentiful than long ago. I’d also like to think we’re getting more innovative, unique, and brave as our storytelling evolves to meet readers who are increasingly genre-savvy thanks to sites like TV Tropes and Honest Trailers.
I’m a big fan of this. Originality – in characters, setting, and plot – is a huge factor for me. I’d much rather an interesting failure than a boring success, and I think the lack of gatekeepers for self-publishing is allowing more people to innovate.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
At this stage, I’m all in on fantasy. It’s probably 80% of what I read as well. In the future, I’d love to write in different mediums, though – game writing, TV, etc., and this would probably be how I’d branch out into other genres. But first, I really want to establish myself within the fantasy world, since fantasy is my first love and will probably continue to be my mainstay. It just offers so many approaches within the genre that any cravings for external genres will probably get incorporated into my fantasy stories.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
Character, world building, plot, and all the obvious things, of course. But what really makes me love a book is a strong theme. I don’t mean ‘theme’ in the boring way your high school teaching taught you (i.e. ‘love!’, ‘war!’, ‘money!’). That’s subject matter, not theme.
Theme is a moral quandary woven into the heart of the story, like ‘secrets are necessary for order to be preserved’ or ‘the weak must serve the strong for society to function.’
This isn’t about an author standing on a soapbox. It’s about the author setting up a fascinating moral dilemma, then having multiple characters, plot events, etc. explore it from all angles. Good themes keep the story going after the final pages close.
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I am indeed! It’s called The Lightning Heist, and here is the work-in-progress blurb. Some details might change, but this should give you the gist:
A relentless thief. An impossible heist.
Meet Kef Cutmark. Pirate, monster-slayer, scourge of the Twisted Seas.
After a lifetime of running from her past, she’s returned to Zorith – a tangled jungle of a thousand boats, all lashed together to make a floating city-ship.
Long ago, Zorith sunk its claws into Kef. She thought a life roaming the Twisted Seas would wipe away her pain, but some memories can’t be escaped. So she’s back for revenge.
Unlike other city-ships, Zorith is powered by a device that draws energy from lightning. Mysterious, unique, and locked in an unbreachable tower, it’s the envy of Zorith’s rivals. And Kef? She’s here to steal it.
If she can take the device and cripple Zorith, she’ll find justice for all the hurt it caused. But with an unreliable thieving crew, hunters closing in, and her past bearing down upon her, failure looks more likely. And if she fails, she’ll never find peace again.
If everything goes to plan, I’m aiming for a September release, so if you’re interested, follow me on the socials to stay updated. Hopefully the cover reveal will happen soon!
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
I’m probably not the best person to ask for publishing advice, since I’m relatively new to self-publishing (2 books out at this stage), and have yet to make it into my full-time job, which is my long-term goal.
However, I do think I’m decent at the actual craft of writing. Or at the very least I love blabbing about it.
The main way I do that is on the Novel Analyst podcast, where I analyse the world’s best fantasy books to extract writing lessons. There’s also quite a few author interviews (aka, excuses for me to pick other writers’ brains for an hour). For the analysis-type episode, you might like to start with the one about Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson:
Episode 38 – Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Giving Readers Chills
And for the interview-type episode, you might like my chat with past SPFBO winner, Rob J. Hayes (who somehow tolerated my babbling enough to come back for a second interview):
Episode 53. [Interview] Rob J. Hayes – Writing a Fantasy Trilogy, Overcoming Doubts, and The War Eternal
Thanks so much for having me!
You can find Jed Herne’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Fires-Dead-Fantasy-Jed-Herne-ebook/dp/B07WDBLW9Y