#SPFBO7 Interview – Zamil Akhtar

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

Gunmetal Gods is the first book in this epic fantasy series, and it won this year’s #SPFBO cover contest! Here is the blurb:

Game of Thrones meets Arabian Nights in this blood-soaked fantasy epic inspired by the crusades, featuring Lovecraftian gods, mischievous djinns, and astral magic!

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

“…a huge, epic story that is an absolute page turner full of amazing battles, intense political intrigue, and surprises at every turn. This book easily stands with the best of epic fantasy fiction.” – Reedsy ★★★★★

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Gunmetal Gods is a risky idea, and judging by previous finalists, SPFBO rewards that. As a reader, sometimes you’re looking for a comfort read, and other times you’re looking for something that will blow up your senses. Gunmetal Gods is the latter – it’s a military fantasy set in an Ottoman-Empire-inspired world where people war with each other in the name of Lovecraftian gods. It’s not my first SPFBO entry, but it’s the first I’m taking seriously.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I don’t want any limits on my creativity. I want to create worlds, countries, and cultures without bounds. I want magic and creatures and metaphysics that our world couldn’t handle. Want to summon an eldritch abomination out of a star infinitely far away to defeat your enemies? Well, there’s a spell for that, but it’ll cost you…

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I was originally going to go the traditional route. Then I saw Twitter friends talking about how they’d been querying for three years and how they were doing their best to stay positive with all kinds of hopeful affirmations. Nah. In those three years, I could’ve written six more books instead of writing 300 query letters to agents and suffering a nervous breakdown every time I pressed “send.” Life is too short to be mired in that.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
In self-publishing, there are paths taken and there are paths not taken, and you decide which to walk. Some authors “write to genre” and succeed doing what other self-published authors did – that’s perfectly awesome! Others “write to their own madness” and bulldoze a path through the jungle. As the author, publisher, and marketer, it’s up to you to find your path, and that’s both an advantage and a challenge.

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 as a genre is still slow burning, and as a busy adult I no longer have time for 700-page tomes with a story that would be better told in half the pages. That’s why I gravitate toward self-published books now, as I find them faster paced. I like how lately books feature more gray characters and unique settings inspired by different cultures.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I write horror and sci-fi, and both leak into my fantasy. I especially love writing horror for the Reddit NoSleep community.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
I want an intimate, emotional connection with a character; I’m not a fan of books with 70 POVs where I’m not feeling connected to any of them. I want unique worlds; take me somewhere wondrous that feels like nothing I know. And please don’t waste my time; I want characters who are burning to achieve their goals, not sitting around waiting for things to happen.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
Yes! Conqueror’s Blood (Gunmetal Gods Book 2) is my current project, and it’s releasing on June 20, 2021 on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, paperback, and hardback. It continues the story of the first book.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Pay as much attention to marketing as you do writing. Don’t skimp on it. Learn the best practices and implement them, and also try new things. Don’t take your foot off the pedal and try to cruise your way to success, especially early on. You need to be a one-man-army for your book to succeed.

You can find Zamil Akhtar’s book here! https://www.amazon.com/Gunmetal-Gods-Zamil-Akhtar-ebook/dp/B08KRHBB6Z