#SPFBO6 Interview – John Pepe

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

The Lone Wolf is a high fantasy story.  Here’s the blurb:

While tracking a tribe of orcs, Remence comes across much more than that…an ogre mage seeks to unite all the orcs of the region against humans and non-orc kind. These orcs are well-disciplined, organized, and much better equipped; it is a true army, unlike anything young Remence has ever seen. And they are heading right for his village! When he fails to convince the village elders of the imminent threat to their lives, Remence takes extraordinary measures to save his people.

Caladin and Quinn are much more than the fancy thieves they appear to be. On their latest endeavor, they, too, learn of the orc host bearing down on the people of the region and throw themselves into the fray. After the gentlemen procurers are hired to uncover information about the recent orc attack, they enlist the help of Remence, learning their fight is against a common foe. Alongside a ragtag group of orc hunters, three half-ogre brothers, and a half-orc, Caladin, Quinn, and Remence turn detective and seek to find the person who is aiding the ogre mage. What they discover is that they may be the only ones standing between the massive orc army and the threat to humankind.

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
It’s my first book! And I finished it under the wire! So, yes this is my first SPFBO.  Well, ML Spencer is in my writing group and she had suggested to me joining many different groups on Facebook. SPFBO was one of them.  I had been watching the SPFBO#5 unfold and decided to put my work out there for #6.  I wanted to get a sense of where I stand in the fantasy writers’ community. Is my work good, bad, what do I need to improve on, etc. Gotta get in the pool some time so I decided to dive on in. But the water is warm. The Indie community seems to be very helpful and encouraging with one another.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
Well, I love fantasy.  I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was 10 years old, and I still play, so that is 38 years of D&D.  And I read nothing but fantasy books from the time I picked up “The Elfstones of Shannara” in 8th grade all the way through college. I mean nothing else. Not my textbooks, my assigned reading, a newspaper, subtitles on a foreign movie. Nothing. Just fantasy. So, fantasy is in my bones. I think it is an appealing genre because you get to escape from the real world. You can take up arms and slay the dragon and save the day.  I’ve always loved that. In fantasy the hero can make a real difference. I don’t always feel like that in real life.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
It was a cost-benefit analysis for me. I had written one query letter and got a nice email back saying, “Thanks but no thanks.” And I decided that I didn’t want to spend countless hours writing tons of query letters and end up at a small publisher who gives you three choices on a cover and still has you do your own marketing like one of my friends did.  Getting a major publisher to notice you is difficult.  Plus, I hate rejection.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
I’m a newbie so I can’t claim to be an expert on this question by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is a double-edged sword.  The advantages are you control everything! The challenges are you control everything!  I choose my editor, cover artist, what I want to edit out of my work, when I want to publish, etc., but you have to pay for all of that out of pocket.  When you go traditional you lose some control, or can, from what I understand, but the publisher foots the bill. The biggest challenge is the marketing though. I don’t have a degree in it, and don’t know much about it, except sell yourself.  But it is difficult for me because I don’t want to push my work on anyone. I want them to read it not because I asked but because they want to. Again, there is that rejection thing. LOL. Wow, this is like a counseling session.

5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
Again, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert in this area but I think one of the changes is having Indie writers (and there are some really good ones out there). ML Spencer said the word “Indie” when I first started in her group and I thought, WTF? Indianapolis 500? What does she mean Indie? (you like how I italicized my thoughts as if I was a character in a book) I had no clue there that this world existed. I was going to write a book and some big-name publisher was going to buy it.  I think another change that I have noticed is that the genre has added to that classic fantasy I grew up on. Now we have so many sub-genres like grimdark, urban fantasy, romantic fantasy. You have LGBTQ characters and female leads. The fantasy world has really opened up, and that is a great thing. The one place that hasn’t changed, and anyone can correct me if I’m wrong (not an expert here-see above), but I don’t know that traditional publishing has changed much.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I have one book to my name, so only fantasy. I’m not opposed to writing in other genres, but I doubt I ever will. I love fantasy and I have a day job. Plus, I’m a slow writer.  I tend to do it only when the mood strikes.  So, if I had to choose to spend my free time writing fantasy or some other genre, fantasy all day, every day, and twice on Sunday.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
A must for me is having a logical plot line that flows. Jumping all around and not having some sort of sequence of action is something I don’t enjoy.  Or having characters whose behaviors don’t fit with the story-no bueno.  I have to be able to see why the characters are doing what they are doing in a way that makes sense. (Gosh…I hope I did that in my story) Now, if you have that then what really draws me into a story is connecting with the characters. I can read, and enjoy a story without it, but I really get into the story if I connect with at least one character.  I love original ideas, cool magic systems, but only if you have some level of logic to the story, otherwise you lose me.  Oh, and great prose and descriptive language are a plus as well.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
As a matter of fact I am.  It’s called THE SIX-The Saga of Vykosch, but that could change. I think it will be a trilogy, not sure. I thought my current book would only be about 120k words and it ended up being 142k before edits, and this one is much more involved, so probably a trilogy. The Lone Wolf, the one I entered in SPFBO is high fantasy, this next one is epic fantasy. In terms of details it is not fully fleshed out but in a nut shell six well known, powerful adventuring companions are forced out of retirement when Vykosch (the first lich) teams up with the Dark Butterfly (Drow goddess) to exact revenge on the six heroes and establish a much stronger foothold in Orn (that is the world I’m creating for all my books).  Vykosch is also looking to recover an item he needs to get out of the purgatory he has been forced into and bring his material form back to Orn where he hopes to begin his subjugation of all. The six heroes, with the help of some other powerful friends, are the only thing standing in their way.  Writing this book has been slower than usual (Turtle paced is the norm, but I’m bordering on sloth speed), but it has been a great deal of fun. I have put more emphasis into my world building, which I didn’t think I would enjoy, but I do.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Not sure anyone should take my advice since I only have one book under my belt and I don’t know how it will be received, but I think first and foremost you have to put pen to paper (that was advice from one of my tenth graders a long time and ago -I’m a high school counselor- and he was so right!)  Second, I would encourage someone to find a good writer’s group. They are invaluable.  They give you some of the best feedback.  Third, don’t be afraid to put your work out there and please, please, please, be open to constructive criticism; you have to if you want to get better at the writing process. Last, make connections. I lucked out meeting ML Spencer.  She has provided great insight into writing, marketing, and introducing me to Facebook communities like the SPFBO.  She recommended my editor Angie Martin, (who has been super helpful throughout this entire process-really from A-Z) who gave me the name of my cover artist, Steven Novak (he does great work, he’s quick, and cheap) and Paige Boggs who is helping with my marketing.  The moral of the story: write and get connected, especially to writers in your genre.

You can find John Pepe’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Lone-Wolf-John-D-Pepe-ebook/dp/B089595GBS

the lone wolf