#SPFBO6 Interview – Rogan Feltmate

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

Night of the Bloody Tines is the first book in the Klinghammer Saga series.  Here’s the blurb:

Game of Thrones meets Suits in this action-packed dark fantasy epic about a city older than time, and the villains who seek its ultimate destruction. Or are they our heroes?

ENTER the city-state of Klinghammer, a former global superpower run by old guilds and older families. Its archaic corporatist government is the last of its kind, and Lord Mayor Trav Pinion sees the writing on the wall. With a pending bid to join the Concert of Tines—an international economic and military alliance—Klinghammer is on the cusp of taking its seat on the global stage once more. However, the Corporation’s repressive policies against magic have sparked outrage across the land, prompting Kasters to rise up…

Amid the tumult, Chelsi Ashbruner applies for an internship at Guildhall, and gets much more than she bargained for. She is hired as the Auxiliary to Airn Dutta, an up-and-coming political luminary and a descendant of the City’s most powerful industrial dynasty.

An attempt on the Lord Mayor’s life ignites a political powder keg, threatening to expose Klinghammer’s dirtiest secrets. An aged vigilante, a legendary swordsman, and a detective fallen from grace, are forced from retirement. Along with Chelsi and Airn, they’ll soon discover whether the City can survive its past when confronted by its eldest foes…

Debut author Rogan Feltmate bursts onto the literary scene with the first novel in the Klinghammer series—epic fantasy thrillers filled with political intrigue and romance, conspiracy and brutality, magic and mystery.

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
It is indeed my first time! I discovered SPFBO last year because of my admiration for Mark Lawrence’s work. Sadly, I couldn’t make the publishing deadline for SPFBO 5 and still have a novel that I was satisfied with.

Though it is a fantasy epic, my book takes place in a modern setting, and it’ll be a little different from what readers might be used to. I had the idea of taking a Middle-Earth or Westeros-esque world and turning the clock forward six centuries or so. What might that place look like? Probably a bit closer to West Wing than Discworld. Hence, Klinghammer was born! While I wrote the book that I wanted to read, I wasn’t sure how it might be received by genre connoisseurs. SPFBO6 is my shot at finding out.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
Fantasy worldbuilding is like building an aquarium. The writer introduces the wildlife, the set dressing, the confines, the climate. Too much or too little of this or that might spell doom for the entire ecosystem, and likewise, I’ve found it difficult to know how much or how little exposition is needed, what to show, what to tell. But a few buckets of love and of hard graft, and maybe a pinch of luck later, and maybe, maybe, you’ll have reached that lofty height of having built a world that strangers love to inhabit—the kind that transcends paper. I’m chasing that dream, but I have much to learn. This genre offers the breadth and freedom to do so indefinitely.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
After much research and consideration, I decided that self-publishing was the way to go at this early point in my career. There have been some pretty serious industry shifts over the past decade, with self-published authors gaining legitimacy in the field. While I am not in any way opposed to traditional publishing, it seems as though traditional publishers ask a lot of their authors (which is fine!) while taking a sizeable portion of their pie and imposing creative restrictions (which is less fine!). Time was also a factor. I did not want to spend years pitching agents and publishers before putting my debut novel in the hands of loved ones and strangers. I figured that the sooner I embark upon the journey, the faster I take my lumps, learn from my mistakes, and improve. That’s what it’s all about.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
That’s a really important question to unpack, and I think that my answer might embolden some and discourage others. I can only speak for myself, and many of the authors I’ve met and chatted with. I’ll attempt to refrain from value judgements one way or the other.

Choosing to self-publish is essentially opting to become an entrepreneur, and that entails unique liberties and challenges. You retain your creative freedom, telling the story that you want to tell. You build your own website, chase your own leads, set your own deadlines, outline your own budget for paying cover artists and editors or placing Facebook and Amazon ads, and much more. If you’re braver than me, you’re also on the streets imploring local bookstores to organize reading and signing events for you.

It’s all on you, and juggling all of these other priorities can leave little room for actual writing, especially if you have a day job. As a self-published author, you are your own boss, the sole board member at an empty table. You are the CEO, the COO, the CFO,and the PR rep. You’re the one-person support staff, the unpaid intern, and sometimes, on bad days, the janitor.

Also note that, though they surely exist in the wild, I have yet to personally encounter a full-time self-published author who pays their utility bills with book sale profits. You might be surprised to hear it, but try exploring the platforms of the authors you know and love; they push their Patreon page, sell merchandise, feature sponsors and affiliate links on their Youtube videos or Instagram posts, offer courses, and so on. Often, these goods and services are targeted towards other authors, as they’re more likely to pay 100$ for a publishing course or a shout-out than a reader is likely to pay 25$ for a book by an author with which they’re unfamiliar.

Jenna Moreci is an author whom I greatly admire—she leverages her books to upsell a content funnel in the form of entertaining and educational content, sprinkled with sponsored products. Same with Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, Derek Murphy, etc. I feel comfortable in arguing that most self-published successes are savvy business moguls first, and authors second.

5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
If anything, I would say that over the past several years, successful authors have demonstrated an acute awareness of established genre conventions and have sought to subvert them in unique and interesting ways. J. Zachary Pike’s Orconomics plays with economic concepts and how they shape that universe and its social hierarchy.  Joe Abercrombie employs dark humour in conjuring empathy for his unsympathetic characters, each of whom represent an interpretation of a familiar fantasy archetype, such as the barbarian. The fantasy world featured in my own SPFBO entry prominently features a stock market and a fictional combat sport, both of which inform the culture and philosophy of the setting’s inhabitants. But in consciously subverting expectations and putting unique twists on common fantasy tropes, authors are demonstrating an affection for continuity and the genre’s forebears. Without Lord of the Rings, there might be no Prince of Thorns.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
So far, I’m fantasy-exclusive. My dad once challenged me to write a pure romance novel, and I just may take him up on it someday. I have always been intrigued by the narrative structure of romantic comedies, and murder mysteries alike. (I’m not sure what that says about me. Feel free to let me know!) I’ve also had a few ideas for sci-fi on the backburner, though I tend to procrastinate on projects which require scientific research. Stay tuned!

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
Regardless of genre, my biggest pet peeve is stilted or unnatural dialogue. When it comes to writing dialogue, Aaron Sorkin is the god that I pray to, so much so that I considered giving him a mention in my dedication. His on-screen characters couch exhaustive exposition dumps in wit, snark, eccentricities and mile-a-minute back-and-forth. They also bungle their words, correct themselves, and take pauses to consider their next thoughts. Put simply, it’s a reasonable facsimile for how people actually talk! Fantasy writers—even established ones—sometimes reach for the Shakespearian or Tolkien-esque, “Hark, fair maiden! Prithee, could thine words be true?!” and nothing causes me to put down a book faster than that. Clever, flowing dialogue is by far the most important thing I look for in a ripping good fantasy yarn.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I have already started work on a prequel series of short stories set in the same universe as my SPFBO entry, Night of the Bloody Tines. At heart, it’s a murder procedural with comedic undertones, and tells a much more intimate, low-stakes story than the epic novel. The sequel to Night of the Bloody Tines is already outlined in the broadest of strokes, and I’m hoping to begin the initial draft sometime this summer.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
As I am a complete novice, all I can give to you is the advice I’ve received from a couple prominent self-published authors. Mileage certainly varies, but what I hear from almost every established author is to get commitments from people to post (honest) Amazon reviews of your book on the day that it launches, greatly boosting your algorithmic visibility thereafter. No easy feat, as these reviewers must not be among your friends, relations, neighbors, work colleagues, etc., which would contravene Amazon’s policies. And trust me—Amazon will know if you’re trying to pull one over on them. I’ve heard the horror stories! Lots of online advice is predicated on you already having established your platform and a healthy number of subscribers. I have found no easy solutions other than pounding pavement and liberally sending out ARC copies to anyone who’ll have them. In any case, be humble, generous, kind and caring with everyone you correspond with. Don’t get frustrated or defensive when faced with criticism. Enjoy the journey, and keep writing.

You can find Rogan Feltmate’s book on Amazon!  https://www.amazon.com/Night-Bloody-Tines-Fantasy-Klinghammer-ebook/dp/B07TN3LXDM

night of the bloody tines cover