#SPFBO7 Interview – David Stephenson

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

Enemy Unknown is the first book in the Journey of Selvorne series. Here’s the blurb:

It took murder for Selvorne to learn his entire life was a necessary lie. One that must continue, if he wishes to live.

Those killed had a dark past. Earning enemies, now his own.

Do they want him dead – or worse? He might already be followed.

If amongst enemies, would he even know? Young, good of heart, his seemingly ideal life has left him unprepared. Too trusting, with a face that reveals all. He must make his way, avoiding enemies as he journeys to find the only person he might trust – a powerful ally of his father.

Can he hide his horror and despair, avoiding killers, who may be anyone? To save himself, and learn what is truly happening in the lands of North Waehter?

If you like epic adventures, deeply bonding with characters, as an innocent, good–hearted youth is forced to face a hard world, then you will love David Stephenson’s spellbinding prose and delightfully unexpected fantasy.

Join Selvorne on his journey today

Enemy Unknown – book one of the complete Journey of Selvorne series.

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
It is my first time entering, I had not heard of SPFBO until last year, just after I made my work publicly available, and I missed the 2020 entry by a few days. For an entire year I was annoyed, and could not determine why. It was only on entering this year that I realised the truth – I felt sorrow to miss that chance to be a part of it.

There is a a great warmth in the SPFBO group. Amongst the authors, judges, readers. The small army of people assisting with all the tasks. People are excited, joking, helping – advising. Teasing. Quite a few seem to have entered in previous years. Others are new, completely baffled by how it runs. Attempting to calm their nerves, someone posted, “do not stress, you are not going to win,” but the truth is, everyone is winning. Including those who have not even entered the competition. It really is quite special, I can see why people enjoy taking part in it. I am.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
A story, well crafted, will take a reader far from their usual reality – disengage their mind from problems, assumptions, their habitual patterns of thought. Once away, their mind is free – to operate at full power, uninhibited. Grow, expand. Re–think things they thought they knew. Challenge assumptions, without consequence – explore ideas. Guided by the words written, following the story to construct a new fantastic land. The land – the story – the world – they are all imaginary. But the complexity of neurons in the brain remain. They are real. That is a permanent change – that is power that lasts. Reading is of incredible importance to us all, as a species, as a person, as an individual in charge of one of the greatest wonders of the universe – our minds. I write to make that happen.

I choose fantasy as a genre, for it is easier to make that journey – to disengage from the usual. To unlock a person’s mind. High fantasy especially – those stories with little trace of the world as we know it, a complete world, somewhere else, something new. Familiar, but not the same, with none of the intrusive issues or nonsense of this world. Parallels, perhaps, and relevant – but unstuck. Fantasy can create a true vacation from a reader’s usual life, their day to day thinking. The fantastic journey allows a mind to rest, be stimulated, regenerate and rethink. Returning more powerful than before. It is, truly, magic.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
Control. Speed. Time to market – autonomy in all decisions. The ability to realise a vision – uncompromising. Few businesses are happy to sacrifice money for devotion to the product. A single page, which may touch the heart of a hundred readers – they would cut and burn, if it saved them twenty cents. Is this the way the world should be? Not if I have any choice in it. And I do.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
Yes, many, all that I mentioned above, but the truth is, you can have all those advantages if you are lucky enough – and perhaps stubborn enough to enforce your will – with a great publishing team.

The great challenge of self publishing is doing everything yourself. It is hard. It likely is not work that an author wants to be involved with. There is the loss of expertise in the various areas required. Some authors might also be great artists, and enjoy the creativity of making their own covers. But what about accounting? Finance? Publishing law – writing advertising copy. Devising marketing strategies. Running a warehouse. In your actual house.

Of course, all this can be paid for – let others do it, and hire them yourself. Congratulations! You are now a publishing company, staffed by freelancers who you must manage and fund. A task on top of writing, although, that can be exciting. Love it or hate it, it is work that has to be done.

There is also the loneliness, if doing most things yourself. Lack of contact with others, and not being part of a team. Many of the joys of interaction are lost, the inspiration, and help. Encouragement and conversation. Writing is already quite a lonely activity.

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 suspect that the deep love of fantasy has not changed over centuries, but that in recent years it is gaining more attention. Becoming a preference, a popular trend. Movies have helped. Forty years ago, you would not have expected Lord of the Rings to be a blockbuster success, as a movie, or to capture the imagination of the entire world. Twenty years ago it did, boosting readership of all fantasy, I suspect. Did the movie cause that? Or was it Harry Potter, blossoming at the same time, entrancing young fantasy enthusiasts – also a chain of movies – expanding and growing the genre. Did society change during those decades, or did the works change society?

I think a little of both, and also that society in past decades has been bombarded with technology and changes so fast, people want to take a step away. Step sideways, to another world of fantasy – step backwards, to a time of the past, perhaps an historical period piece, where problems were not the same as today. Or similar, but not technological. Not overwhelming. When people are weary with the ever–changing, the always new, the never–the–same – they seek a retreat to the timeless and unchanging.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I would happily write in any genre if I felt I could tell a good tale, a story with purpose and power, flowing well through the reader’s expectations for that genre. Also if I felt it would add to the story.

My story has murder. It has mystery. It is not a murder–mystery, and if I tried to push it upon those fans, they likely would be disappointed – wanting more clues. And likely more murder and mystery. I could rewrite it for that genre, but it would not add to the story. Would I ever write in that genre? Perhaps. I certainly would if I thought of a fitting story.

Science fiction I adore. I am least fussy with that, enjoying almost anything from sci–fi. Would I write any? I would love to. I have many ideas for science fiction works, but to do justice to that genre would take devotion of time and effort I do not have, at the moment, for the enormous list of other fantasy works I must complete first.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
A world that is consistent, deeply developed, interesting.

A premise that is intriguing, stimulating to the mind.

A plot that surprises – and is strong, with characters that are actually plotting – and clever, and conflicting with others who are cleverer.

Characters who are not only believable, and relatable, but show profound truths, who struggle and laugh, and for whom I care. Or hate. Feel for, and wish to follow.

Minor characters who are equally deep, even if briefly encountered, adding to the richness of the world.

And finally, a writing style which is magnificently beautiful.

What I want is a story that moves me. Something I would talk about, think about for a long time after – hours. Days. Decades. Something to be excited about. That makes me laugh, smile, and at times, cry. To wish to enter that world, for a time. Which is, of course, exactly what we do when we read.

In my series, Journey of Selvorne, in the final volume, by one character to another there are two words said, which take my heart, every time. They are not words of death or danger. Two words, simply said, as any person may say to another – but at that time in the story, for those people, with all the depth and complexities of their relationship, those two words are a hammer to the heart.

That is what I look for, in a story. Moments that forever echo in the mind.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
My book Enemy Unknown is the first of a twelve volume series, Journey of Selvorne – which is complete. The hard cover, paperback and electronic formats of all twelve volumes are sitting on my shelves. They are complete, but not publicly available yet, and that will happen soon.

I like to completely finish a series before releasing any of it – that way I know where it is going, it does so smoothly, all the way through. With hidden hints and foreshadowing that make a reader put palm to face when they re-read it. And then again, on reading it a third time. Or fourth. The only way to achieve this is to write it all, to completion. Then again. And again. And a fourth time, to be sure.

I have another five series in various stages of completion. Some are advanced. Others are only a few hundred thousand words, as outlines. Five series, each of these intertwines with Journey of Selvorne, for characters, plots, locations – but they are also independent, so you do not have to read one series before the others, or in a particular order. They are each of a different flavour, some with more action, others with more intrigue.

They call to me. To mention them wakens my mind. Each demands my full attention, my utter effort, and it is hard to choose which to work on next. This is why:

“Of the IriDusal there are twelve clans, hidden, elusive, as different to each other as a rose to a nut, as a tree is to a turnip. Across the lands they dwell, it is said, at the edge of the woodlands, unseen. Or … seen by those who never returned to speak of them. And so, I never expected to see any, let alone all – and not as a captive, against my will. In truth … not against my wishes. It all started on a bright day, after a storm, when I went to fetch … ”

It will be many years before I have the time to finish that, unless I bump that volume up the list of work I have to do. I am working on many books, all these series, from an initial idea I had over thirty five years ago. Creating them all this time, and approaching completion. But no more details, for now. Just the first volume, in the book of the first series, to be rapidly followed by the next eleven.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Everyone should write. It is great for development of the mind.

But not everyone should publish everything that they write. The work to take a written product the extra steps to publication must have a purpose.

Why publish? Why write? Why do you want to be read, and who wants to read your work? Why do you want to reach them? Why do you want to take your time, money, effort and a large chunk of your life, and hurl it into that?

Knowing those reasons will assist in focusing your efforts. As is knowing your motivation.

If you could do any three things you wanted, for the entire next year – would one of those things be writing? If your answer is yes, then clearly you have the spirit of a writer.

Now, ask yourself this: would you be happy for another of those two things to be the added publishing workload? That is two thirds of your life consumed, for some while. A year. Longer.

If you have even the slightest desire to answer yes to that as well, then I say – you have the devotion to get through the effort required, and do it well. And if so, you will have no trouble finding all the help and resources and allies to make it happen.

Also, I would say … if you truly would choose the workload of writing, over all the other things you could do instead – then you will know great rewards from your efforts, and satisfaction beyond anything else. You are a writer truly, nothing else will fill that void in your heart. My advice is: proceed. And my hope is you enjoy that journey.

You can find David Stephenson’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Enemy-Journey-Selvorne-David-Stephenson-ebook/dp/B0874Q7QCQ