#SPFBO7 Interview – Todd Herzman

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

Oathbound: A Progression Fantasy is the first book in the Surgecaller series. Here’s the blurb:

How do you kill an Immortal?

Huon is weak. A surgecaller who escaped into the wilds, his only goal was to survive.

Now he is Oathbound, forced to fight in an arena, forced to become stronger than he’d thought possible.

As he realises he can become strong, the need for revenge fills his heart, and a new goal forms in his mind.

But his goal is impossible: kill the dragon rider, the Immortal of Fire.

To succeed, he’ll have to do more than just survive—he’ll have to advance beyond anything the realm has ever seen.

In the spirit of progression fantasies like Cradle and Mage Errant, enter a realm with magical beasts, where surgecallers can cultivate essence to strengthen their weapons, enhance their bodies and wield elemental magic.

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 entering SPFBO. Last year, I entered my debut novel, A Dark Inheritance. I was lucky enough to become a semi-finalist, and met some great people along the way.

I set my deadline for Oathbound—my current entry—to have it published in time for SPFBO, because I had such a great experience in the last contest. I don’t expect to rank, but you can’t win if you don’t try!

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
Sometimes it’s hard to identify why we love things. I just know I’ve always loved fantasy, since picking up Harry Potter at the age of ten. There’s something about the genre that never fails to intrigue me. If I had to pick one genre to write for the rest of my life, it would be fantasy. I just… love getting immersed in a totally new world, whether I’m reading it or writing it.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I’m impatient.

I want to write full-time, and self-publishing, in the modern day, seems like the most well-worn path to getting me to my destination. I also love that I can finish writing a book and publish it soon after. I don’t have to spend a year (or ten) finding an agent, getting a publisher, then waiting two years for them to publish the book after I’ve signed a contract.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
Like anything, there are a whole host of advantages and challenges. One of the advantages—as mentioned above—is speed. Indies can publish a book whenever they choose, without waiting for approval.

Control is another one. We can do our own advertising, our own marketing, get our own covers, hire our own editors, format our own books—everything.

All of that—the control—is also a challenge, because there are so many things to learn and do, and it’s hard to get a handle on everything.

But I like the challenges.

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’m sure it’s changed in far more ways than I know. I try to read a lot in the genre, but I can only get through so many books in a year.

One thing I’ve noticed is the uptick in books in the progression fantasy genre—a genre I’ve started writing in myself. I fell in love with the Cradle series by Will Wight when I picked the first book up early last year, and it’s what spurred me to write Oathbound. One of my favourite things about fantasy is watching the characters grow stronger, and seeing what they’re capable of. Progression fantasy tends to take that to the extreme, bringing ranking systems into the equation and making the ‘power levels’ clear.

It’s addictive, and I love it.

How has the genre stayed the same? Well, epic fantasy will always sell, and will always be long, and will always have familiar tropes.

Look at Dragon Mage by ML Spencer, a fellow SPFBO 7 entrant. It’s got all the (wonderful) tropes of traditional epic fantasy—characters starting off in some random small town, not knowing the world, then discovering they’re special is just the beginning—and it’s doing incredibly well (it’s also incredibly good, I’m reading it right now!).

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
One day I’ll write some sci-fi. It’s my favourite genre after fantasy. I’ve probably watched more of it than I’ve read—I grew up rewatching Stargate SG1 an embarrassing amount of times. I don’t have the time to branch out into other genres right now, as I’m trying to establish myself in fantasy. But I can see myself writing space opera in a couple of years.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
Smooth writing, and engaging characters. Which, I know, sounds pretty general, but it’s true for me.

The story doesn’t have to be terribly original—in fact, I like the familiar. The world building doesn’t have to blow me away. I just want good characters I can get to know, writing that doesn’t throw me out of the story, and a world I can get lost in.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
Always. Right now, I’m working on Knighthood, the sequel to Oathbound. I can share that it will be releasing on June 30th!

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Get a good cover. Write a good blurb. Make sure your book is well-edited. Write as much as you can, as well as you can. Find some writer friends, get their advice. Read in the genre, a lot. See what’s selling, and figure out why. You don’t have to ‘write to market’, but you should know why something is successful.

And always remember writing is a marathon, not a sprint.

You can find Todd Herzman’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Oathbound-Progression-Fantasy-Surgecaller-Book-ebook/dp/B091YJXX4P