Mark, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
The Blood of the Spear: An Epic Fantasy Adventure is the first book in The Eye of Eternity series. Here’s the blurb:
Two brothers. One prophecy. A world in peril.
When Kaiel loses his chance to become part of the legendary Daemon Hunters, joining the Bronze Guard mercenaries seems like the logical alternative. It is an opportunity to put his training to use and, more importantly, as the company is currently in the employ of Prince Alesandr, it will allow him to keep an eye on his younger brother, Darien, who’s determined to follow his dream of becoming a Ciralys magic-user.
But the broken continent of Athmay still bears the scars of the war between the Summoners some three-thousand years ago, and an unexpected battle with a daemon – a remnant of that ancient war – reveals the brothers’ connection to a forbidden bloodline. Soon they find themselves on the run from the prince, daemonic hordes, and a prophecy that could break the world anew.
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Yes, this is my first time entering #SPFBO. The Blood of the Spear is my debut, so I haven’t had anything I could enter previously. I decided to enter this year as a way to get some exposure and because I’m very proud of the book and the work I’ve done. I’m not well versed in doing my own marketing, and I’m just starting out as a self-publisher, so it’s a bit of a learning curve and a lot of hope that, given the chance, The Blood of the Spear will find some readers 😊
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I fell in love with fantasy way back in my younger years. The first proper fantasy book I ever read was Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis & Hickman, and it was like they had reached into my imagination and taken all the daydreams of dragons, wizards and knights out and put them onto the page. I was entranced and went in search of every fantasy book I could find.
I guess the big appeal for me is the fantasy aspect. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of magic and powerful magic-users, gods that interact with mortals, dragons and the politics of empire and personal ambition. I get lost in the dream and find that fantasy – and some sci-fi – does a great job of helping me escape the humdrum of my day-to-day with something a little more exciting.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I’d been working on The Blood of the Spear for a long time. Perhaps too long, but these things come in their own time, I suppose. I have done the whole ‘submit to an agent’ thing, and I received responses along the lines of ‘it’s good, but not for me’. As a writer, you spend countless hours/months/years working away, pouring your heart and soul into a word.doc (or scrivener etc.) with the hope that one day your story will be out in the world and finding readers who connect with what you are doing. But then, having spent however long you have writing and polishing it, if you want to publish traditionally, you must wait again while you find a match with an agent, and then you wait even longer while your agent looks for a home with a publisher. Faced with this reality, I decided that I’d self-publish this book and work on finding an audience. The Blood of the Spear is the first book in The Eye of Eternity series and not the only thing I plan on writing, so maybe finding readers now will help with the sale of the next series/book to an agent and publisher? Or perhaps I’ll discover that being a self-publisher really works for me like it has for some of the other authors I’ve become friends with, and I’ll never look back.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
Well, I suppose the most common advantage you hear self-publishers talking about is that you have complete control over all aspects of your novel. From typesetting and internals to the cover, and you don’t need to write a proposal for the entire series upfront (although it is a very good idea to outline where you’re headed!). If you don’t like something about the book, you can change it. But having control over all those things can also become a challenge in and of itself. For instance, I had no idea what I wanted on the cover; it took a few brainstorming sessions with Felix Ortiz to develop a scene/image for it. Decisions on the book’s layout and how you want it to look and feel were also challenging because I hadn’t thought about it before. But I think the most challenging part for me is something that Devin Madson blogged about recently, and that’s the idea that self-publishers don’t have anyone to say ‘no’ to them. I hadn’t considered that before, but it’s accurate. I have second-guessed myself a lot in this process, and while I have friends to bounce ideas off, it is ultimately my decision to make and own. That’s a big thing, and for me – with my first novel – somewhat scary.
5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
The simplest answer here is to say that it has stayed the same in that it still has magic and/or dragons, etc. But I started reading fantasy back in the eighties, and the changes in the genre between now and then are quite noticeable.
At a storytelling level, there has been a shift from omniscient narration to tight third person, or even first person (though first-person tends to be more the norm in urban fantasy). There has also been a move away from traditional epic fantasy (some call it high fantasy) to grimdark. There has also been a turning away from stories that include elves and dwarves as characters and races. Another change – for the better – has been that women play more prominent roles, both as successful authors and as characters in books. Gender roles are becoming fluid, more representation is being included, and the misogyny that characterised the books of the eighties no longer has a place in modern fantasy.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I do have plans for a space opera/space fantasy, not sure when that will see the light of day though. I may start working on it as a palate cleanser between books in The Eye of Eternity 😊
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
The first thing I tend to look for is epic. I like to invest in stories with several books, or a number of books planned, and contain stories that will encompass a world stage. I like high stakes, spending time with characters who ‘level up’; I really enjoy reading about everyday people who have to overcome their own limitations and become extraordinary. I also look for world-building; a fully realised world is as essential to me as characters are, sometimes more so as I might forgive a poor character choice, but poor world-building often becomes too distracting for me to continue reading.
I tend not to be too concerned about new or original plotlines. A familiar tale is fine with me as long as the characters are their own people, the world is fresh, and the story is well told. I think there is often too much focus on new or original. The same collection of stories about gods and heroes have been told around the hearth fire for centuries; there were adaptions of these tales to make them more applicable to the audience, reinventions to make them fresh, but the core has remained the same. I am all for that. I find some people take change too far to be ‘original’.
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I’m currently working on book two of The Eye of Eternity; the working title is ‘The Towers of the Stars’ – not sure about the title; it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, which is why I’m calling it a working title lol.
The Towers of the Stars picks up right where The Blood of the Spear finishes, so I can’t give you any details without spoilers.
But I am also circling at a space opera/fantasy, The Legend of the Black Star. This is a stand-alone set in a far, far future sci-fi universe I’m building and is about the space pirate Myrana Harlowe and her discovery of an ancient vessel, The Black Star. The story is about her early days finding and gaining control of this immensely powerful spacecraft and some of her exploits as she builds a crew. Myrana Harlowe is an archetypical romantic hero, a ‘noble’ space pirate, rebellious and champion of the underdog; she fights for freedom and sets herself and her crew against totalitarian regimes, whether they be the Commonwealth of Humanity or the Gorgon Empire.
This isn’t to say I’ve not got other epic fantasy stories in my folder of notes, but these are what I’ve been thinking about most recently 😊
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
I don’t have any specific advice for publishing in the fantasy genre; there is a presumption here that you are already a fan if you are writing it. But if you’re not a fan, I would suggest you familiarise yourself with the big sellers, their stories, and how they are executed.
More generally, make sure you can afford an editor, and trust what they tell you. Ultimately, you decide what works for your story, but a good editor knows what they’re talking about, and their advice is worth listening to.
Don’t forget to have your book proofread. It’s an important step and receives very little focus when people talk about what to do once you are finished writing. Typos happen every time you touch your manuscript, and you, the author, will rarely be able to catch them all.
A good cover artist is worth their weight in gold, and a cover designer too! We always say, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ but we do.
All these things can cost money, and as someone just starting out, you may have little of it to spare, but it’s worth the investment. You may not recoup their cost in sales of the first book, but if you are at the point of publishing, then I’m guessing you are planning to play the long game, and these things will pay for themselves in the long run.
You can find Mark Timmony’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Spear-Fantasy-Adventure-Eternity-ebook/dp/B092TBD7B3/