Marc, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
Unbinding the Stone is the first book in The Flame in the Bowl series. Here’s the blurb:
All Tarkas wanted was to live the life he’d made for himself, get married, have children, as generations of his fathers had done before him since the beginning of time. The Gods had other plans, and Tarkas couldn’t say no, even had they bothered to ask him. Between one footstep and the next they alter his life irrevocably, and he finds himself plunged headlong into a new world and life, full of magic, mayhem, monsters, and mystery.
For a new prophecy has pitted the forces of Nature against themselves, and the Gods are helpless. But when even the Gods’ gifts have thorns, their need exacts a price that only a Hero would ever dare to pay. Only a Hero can act, and Tarkas has been chosen to do the things that must be done, with the fate of two Realms in the balance.
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
This is my second time in the contest. Last year I entered Ghostkiller, my first self-published title. Unbinding the Stone is my second. It’s my first novel, though, the start of my fantasy series, almost 20 years old now, which I re-edited and created a new cover for. The original cover was pretty ghastly.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
My father is a member of the Wizard of Oz club, and I grew up with the Oz books, and Star Trek, so fantasy and SF have always been my thing. You can do things with fantasy that you can’t do with something more realistic. Reveal aspects of character, turn good and evil into physical things, etc. This book came to me in two dreams while I was at Graduate School for Philosophy. I don’t normally remember my dreams but I remembered these. A few days later I had the first line in my head, so I guess this story wanted to be written and it wanted me to write it. In Kantian philosophy there is the notion of the Holy Will, which does the right thing because it is right. This sort of person can’t exist in the real world, but in a fantasy novel, well…
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
Necessity. The books I write are not at all standard, I never learned any rules. I write what I want to read, and there are many things in the more mainstream books I don’t like to read, so I developed my own way to write. Publishers, especially the big ones, aren’t in the business to take chances with oddball stuff like mine. Not to mention that it saves me the trauma of having to write a query letter. Those are painful at the best of times, and require me to know what it is I wrote, which can sometimes take years. Queries have a pretty standard format, especially the hook, and my books don’t usually the type of structure that works with that format. Since I don’t build my books but rather ‘grow’ them, I can’t make them conform to someone’s preconceived notion of what a story should look like.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
They’re both the same. I’m in charge of everything, and like I said, I never learned the rules. The story, the cover, the blurb, it’s all on me. I’m not worried about the book, but when it comes to marketing and stuff like that I’m hopeless. It’s like a foreign language to me, one that it hurts to hear. I’m a little better with the covers, but I still tend to think of them as ‘what suits the story’ rather than ‘what sells the book’.
5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
It seems to have gotten a bit darker than it was. Steampunk and grimdark didn’t exist when I started writing. Anti-heroes are more popular than heroes, it seems. On the other hand, more stories are character-focused, rather than plot-focused. One of the things that started me writing was the lack of character-focused stories. Even then it usually meant the author was standing right behind the character, close up rather than far away. I put myself inside him (or her), discover the story as they discover it, which is easy to do, since all my characters start out as pieces of me. I don’t build them.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I currently write fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction. Mashup isn’t a genre, is it? I tend to combine things. I’ve always maintained that a detective can fall in love while chasing a monster through a space station. I have a space opera series in mind that I think of as Shakespeare meets Cthulhu in outer space. I discovered while writing St. Martin’s Moon that I didn’t really have a feel for mystery, but maybe I can do a bit of horror. I didn’t know how, once upon a time, but my SF short stories are on the creepy side. Mystery and romance are things I do better incorporating into my stories, I don’t think I’d do well writing in those genres specifically. Too many conventions, and writing techniques I haven’t studied and don’t really want to.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
Characters first and foremost. There’s a surprise, right? There aren’t that many plots, but what a good character does with it is almost always unique. I find plot and setting centered books mostly uninteresting. What matters to me is what matters to the guy, what he thinks is going on, and what he notices of the setting. I don’t care about the sword nearly as much as I do about the guy holding it, and how does he feel about swords. (Or she, but I’m male so my default pronoun is ‘he’.)
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I’m currently working on the fourth book in my fantasy series, the first true sequel, with a very odd character who came into my head at 3 AM one day. Her current pronoun is she, and much as the other heroes in the series serve the gods, she’s been taken into Death’s service, and believe me, the gods are not happy about it. I’ve already written this part, that’s how I know what’s going on. I’m sure there’s more to come but I won’t know what that is until I get there. Maybe a few wars, and some empire-building, and I’m not entirely happy about that, but I’m always trying to step outside my comfort zone, so I just tell myself, “Self-” and I can call myself that on account of we went to school together “-Shut it.”
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Don’t be in a rush. Sure you can type ‘The End’ one day and publish the next, but that’s not what’s best for the book. There’s more to polishing and editing than just the activities themselves, however necessary they are. You need to also talk about your book, let awareness build, reveal bits slowly. If you just throw it out there it will just sink like a stone, even an unbound one.
You can find Marc Vun Kannon’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Unbinding-Stone-Flame-Bowl-Book-ebook/dp/B072MM9TN6