#SPFBO7 Interview – Peter W. Blaisdell

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

The Lords of the Summer Season: A Psychedelic Fantasy is the third book in The Lords of History series. Here’s the blurb:

Bradan grew up in Camelot and grew famous during the Summer of Love. He’s nearly immortal, a talented musician, but only a mediocre magician.
That’s unfortunate because he’ll need more than pretty lyrics to confront a psychopathic Celtic warlord and a Welsh god hell-bent on collecting souls. They’ve also near-immortal and Bradan clashed with them 1500 years ago. They haven’t forgotten.
Theirs is a duel through history with savage fights in Camelot and Renaissance Florence. Now it’s 1967 and they’ve found him again, and they lead an army of specters intent on murder. Bradan’s only friends are his haunted motorcycle, his lunatic band-mates, and a witch with uncertain loyalties. There won’t be much love this summer unless Bradan defeats a warlord and a god. And his friends die too if he doesn’t win this fight.
This is fantasy with a dash of psychedelia.
The Lords of the Summer Season is part of a series, which also includes The Lords of Oblivion and The Lords of Powder. Each book can be read as a stand-alone novel or together as part of an ongoing series.
As reviewed by the Midwest Book Review Fantasy/SciFi Shelf – “Deftly combining elements of the 1960’s hippie psychedelic subculture, legendary fantasy, and adventure, “The Lords of the Summer Season” (the third book in a series that includes “The Lords of Oblivion” and “The Lords of Powder”) continues to showcase author Peter W. Blaisdell’s eloquent mastery of the kind of narrative storytelling that swiftly engages his reader’s total and rapt attention from cover to cover.”
Author S Alessandro Martinez states about THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON: “Being Merlin’s former apprentice and living for 1500 years is bound to make you a few enemies. Travel back to the 60s with Bradan the wizard and his otherworldly wolf Tintagel. As Bradan juggles careers as a professor and musician, he must defend himself from his greatest threat yet: a literal god. Blaisdell continues with his clever, skillful, and imaginative writing that will keep readers eagerly turning the next page. My favorite of the Bradan books, Blaisdell dives deeper into the Arthur mythology, and brings the reader even more elements of magic and folklore, all the while weaving an entertaining tale of gods, wizards, ghosts, and 60s acid rock. Thoroughly enjoyable!”

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 SPFBO. I’m thrilled.

I entered THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON because I loved the idea of setting a fantasy during San Francisco’s ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967. This was a time of real-life fantasy when the art and musical scene was exploding and everything seemed limitless.

However, this era also had a darker, edgier side, so there are scenes where the creative aspects of that summer run amok. The villains represent this – I’ve included some really horrible villains who have no qualms about using dark magic to achieve their ends. Even Bradan sometimes gets carried away and unleashes forces he really can’t control.   

Bradan also shows up in a couple of other novels I’ve written, THE LORDS OF OBLIVION (a fantasy with ecological themes) and THE LORDS OF POWDER (a noir fantasy). However, all of them can be read as stand-alones. Also, Bradan has a pet wolf who I couldn’t resist including in all three of the books. ‘Pet’ is probably the wrong word. He represents atavistic, implacable nature and has a sardonic sense of humor often directed at Bradan.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I write fantasy because it’s a genre that encourages – demands – that the author use their imagination. And also because you can mix interesting themes in with the magic, spell-craft and witches. My main goal is to entertain readers, but if I can also include cool ideas and motifs, that’s where the real magic happens.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
In a word: control. Self-publishing means that I control the book content, the cover design, and – maybe most importantly – I control the timeline for all the steps in the publishing process. From talking to friends who have traditionally published, they’ve typically waited many months or years after their book was accepted by a traditional publishing house before their book actually became available to the reading public. This is simply a reality of the book business; publishers have many books ahead of yours in line, so you have to wait your turn. By self-publishing, I can ‘jump the line’ and get my book out pretty quickly. Even worse, sometimes small, traditional publishers have gone out of business which can mean that an author who has a book with them is stuck trying to get the rights back to their own novels. This can be a frustrating problem.

By no means am I saying that all traditional publishing houses are difficult to deal with. Many are excellent partners for authors and assume business tasks that the author themselves doesn’t want to handle or doesn’t know how to do, including copy editing, formatting the files, hiring artists to design the cover, and marketing the book. However, if a self-published author is willing to learn these skills, they can control a little more of your fate in the publishing world.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
Before mentioning advantages and challenges, let me say that BOTH self-published and traditional authors face the same issue: how to make readers aware of their work and how to market your books. Especially for newer authors, a mis-conception is that traditional publishing houses do ‘all the work’ marketing your books. They can certainly help, but mostly the authors themselves have to be clever about how to promote their stuff – whoever publishes them.

Having said that, there are many advantages to self-publishing. As mentioned in question # 3, a self-published author controls how their book is written, edited, and produced. And marketing your books can be surprisingly fun (though a lot of work!).

As for the challenges, in a word: responsibility. Some readers assume that self-publishing may mean the quality of the book is suspect. So, it’s the responsibility of the self-published author to ensure their books are well written, rigorously edited, and have a professional looking cover.

The editing bit is super important. If the first pages of a novel have grammatical and syntax errors, most readers will toss the book – no matter how good the world-building, characters, themes, and plot are. Worse, this bad experience taints their opinion of all self-published work. So, hire a professional editor to do the job, not a friend or relative who has neither the time nor inclination to read through 350 pages and pick out millions of issues. I’m not suggesting it’s cheap, but it is worth it.

5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
Fantasy is nowadays more diverse both in terms of the authors and what stories they tell. Fantasy’s preoccupation with setting is helpful in this regard. It’s one factor facilitating the inclusion of diverse cultures beyond the Euro-centric settings that once dominated the genre especially in ‘high’ or ‘epic’ fantasy. Settings in novels by authors ranging from Robert Howard to George Martin and hundreds of others looked a lot like feudal Europe: sprinkle a few fae folk, werewolves and witches amidst the chain mail, castles and sylvan glades and you’re good to go. However, nowadays some fantasy readers are a bit bored by medieval castles – and they may more readily read about fantasy placed in Asian, Arabic, African, and South American influenced settings. These cultures with their varied myths and legends have broadened the fantasy literary canon. Currently, fantasy authors are like cooks who been given license to use wonderful herbs and seasonings after creating dishes with just salt and pepper for decades.

What hasn’t changed over the decades in the fantasy genre is that this genre really asks its authors to use their imaginations and come up with novels with really cool, mystical settings and great characters and plots – the sky is literally the limit.  

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
Great question! It’s loads of fun to write fantasy, but I’m also ambitious to try writing ‘main-stream’ fiction books. I don’t see fantasy and other genres as mutually exclusive. At the end of the day, writing in any genre means the author needs to create complex characters, vivid world-building and strong plots.

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 everything in a fantasy story, original ideas, fast-moving plots, intriguing characters and vivid world building. Most authors can’t ‘pick a favorite’ story element and just focus on, say, setting. The book will be unbalanced, so the writer has to try to make everything mesh together.

Particularly, I try to write literate entertainment: a story that has a lot of forward momentum, but also considers themes like creativity, the environment, emotions, and redemption. (Hope that doesn’t sound too pretentious!)

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
Yep. I’m working on another novel to follow up on THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON with the same main character, Bradan, and the wolf, Tintagel. It’s still in the gestation stages where I’m working through the themes and the major story arcs. This is the fun part! After that, it’s work to distil all of your ideas into a readable novel.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
As mentioned above, learn the business especially how to market/promote your work. Your biggest worry isn’t that someone will steal your ideas. Instead, it’s obscurity. There are so many books out there right now that it’s way too easy to get lost in the mix. Even ‘famous’ authors sometimes have their best books ignored. Self-marketing doesn’t guarantee success, but if you don’t do it, you’re guaranteed failure.

On the more mechanical side of writing fantasy, I’d recommend ‘in medias res’ (start in the middle). Instead of a long build-up at the beginning of your novel with lots of flashy scene setting and too many adjectives – and bored readers – get the story going, then layer in the background detail. And do this in a way that doesn’t have the plot grind to a halt as your filling in the back story. Easier said than done, but if you can do it, your readers will appreciate it.

You can find Peter W. Blaisdell’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Lords-Summer-Season-Psychedelic-Fantasy-ebook/dp/B08MZPCZTX