Welcome to Lavender Lass Books, Phillip. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
Augury Answered is a standalone fantasy story. Here’s the blurb:
Prophecy. Fate. Destiny. Augury.
Words that promise a chosen one will rise to protect the downtrodden . . . or avenge them.
Many cultures believe in their champions; heroes are desperately needed now. The oppressive, technologically advanced Corlain Empire ravages the weak people of Glostaimia; the “acceptable” cultures are forced to assimilate. Two powerful, and utterly disparate, crusaders emerge to oppose Corla.
Two Dogs has trained his entire life in protector magic. Circumstances suggest he’s the hero of legend, but Two Dogs is the master of his own actions. With a tomahawk in one hand and a knife in the other, he’ll prove why it was wrong to start a fight with the Lacreechee tribe.
Princess Murid has more reason to hate the Corlains than most. She’s been groomed since childhood on her duties as the chosen one, but not even her royal status can convince those who adopted her that the Corlains will soon come to claim their land and resources as well.
Can native magic and barbarian ingenuity combine to overcome a superior foe when both sides hold onto their dogmatic views about fate? Who’s the real chosen one?
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
This is my first time entering. In fact, it was the first year I knew of the competition. I’ve read three past winners and couldn’t wait for my chance to enter and dream of the top prize. I selected Augury Answered because it is my most traditional fantasy story. It asks how two cultures, each with their own Chosen One, can work together against an oppressive empire. Judging by Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series, I suspect it’s the one that will best resonate with SPFBO readers.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I enjoy stories in worlds that can’t really happen. Magic, superpowers, extremely advanced technology all lead to more imagination. I can break the rules without breaking the rules. Plus, fantasy allows me to add other genres too. I have a superhero series, Bystanders, where the reader doesn’t know the secret identity of the main hero; mystery is mixed in. I also have a comedy, Zombie Walkabout, where tourists go to Australia to safely hunt the undead while wearing chainmail armor. That one has romantic comedy elements (a zom rom com).
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I find a lot of mainstream entertainment has the same tropes used ad nauseam. Unfortunately, it’s business first and creativity second. I didn’t want to have to stifle my imagination to reach a wider audience. I feel I only have one person I have to impress: me. As long as I’m happy with the end result, it’s a success. Hopefully, others come along for the ride, but I’d rather have a book I love that nobody else knows about than a derivative tale that we all know already.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
The advantage is being my own boss. The disadvantage is being my own financier. I also have to hit the marketing hard. I have an MBA, so I understand the principles, I just don’t have the same level of passion for selling as I do telling. I also have to find time for my writing. I’m an 18-year veteran in the US Army. I’m currently a battalion commander, so a lot of my time is spent training soldiers and helping them with their problems or career advancement. After that, I have a wife and three kids. There’s only so much time available for my writing passion.
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 find a lot more dark, cynical tales these days than decades past. This is great for me! I despise plot armor. I often tell people that stormtroopers can shoot, just watch the first minutes after the crawl. It’s plot armor that makes them so ineffective. Don’t tell me my heroes will undertake a suicide mission, then have them not only survive, but conveniently form the perfect number of romantic couples.
That being said, the classic stories remain. The chosen one will always be around. The rags to riches will always be around. Majestic quests for mystical weapons. You get the point. They can be comfy reads that even a cynical bomb technician like me can appreciate.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I have a large list of ideas that haven’t been written and/or published. Among them are a western, a children’s picture book, and an edgy drama. However, for each of those, I probably have three Sci-fi/fantasy tales to tell.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
I look for a story with unexpected twists and an engaging plot. I would love to have dynamic characters too, but if pressed to choose, I’ll take an epic quest with bland characters over snarky banter standing in line at the diner. I also enjoy originality. Dragons and dwarves are cool, but I’d prefer new creatures created by the author. Show me your imagination instead of borrowing from the greats of yesteryear.
I also want real stakes. You can spare a major character once. If I like him/her, I’ll allow a second lucky break. Only the greatest of characters may survive a third long shot. After that, I scoff and never feel any fear when the characters are threatened. The higher the stakes, the higher the cost. Again, plot armor is the worst!
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I’m currently using my army background to write a military science fiction. I should have it ready this Christmas. As an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician (think The Hurt Locker), I had to write a chapter showing cyborg EOD techs trying to get past the booby traps in an enemy’s weapon.
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Expect rejection. Not just from the population who doesn’t know you exist, but from friends and family. When I finally published my first novel, I thought my hundreds of Facebook friends would flock. They didn’t. Neither did most of my family. It felt like telling someone you just had a baby, then never being asked about weight, length, or gender. It hurt. I turned that passion into better writing. I feel like rejection from friends, family, and strangers is important. It’s almost a rite of passage. Readers can sense passion. Passion leads to better writing. Keep pouring that love into the pages and the readers will find you.
You can find Phillip Murrell’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Augury-Answered-Phillip-Murrell-ebook/dp/B07SN165KT