The response to my call for fellow indie authors to sit by the camp fire and tell us more about themselves and their work has been fantastic! This time with the bag of marshmallows is new indie author Andy Freeman-Hall. Enjoy!
- Hi, Andy tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
My name is Andy Freeman-Hall, I’m 29, and an ecologist in my day job. I have what I affectionately refer to as turbo-dyslexia, and after many terrifying experiences of having to read aloud at school, I became genuinely afraid of books, getting my fantasy fix from films, TV, and games instead. Then when I was finishing my master’s degree, I decided to give audiobooks a try to help pass the time with all the fieldwork I was doing. And just like that, I was hooked. After my masters, I spent a year struggling to get a job and I decided to try and write instead of sitting around doing nothing all day but wait for rejected job applications. The next thing I knew I was writing for 8-10 hours every day. That dropped down to 2-4 hours a day once I started my PhD, but since then I’ve never stopped. That was 6 years ago.
- What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
The ability to create entirely new, living, breathing worlds. New concepts, new systems, new ways that peoples, groups, and nations interact. Fantasy (or at least the fantasy that I love most) allows the writer to create a world with unique properties, geography, and history within which amazing stories can immerge organically. That’s what I love to see.
- Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?
It’s my first novel, The Sage’s Lot (Blood and Balance #1). I tried to get it published years ago when I first finished it, but it was in no way a sellable product. My skill level just wasn’t there after only 2 years of writing.
Since then I have re-written the entire novel from scratch twice because my ability had improved enough that each time it just needed a clean slate. Those were hard decisions to make but the best decisions I have ever made. When I couldn’t get the final version picked up by an agent or publisher, I gave up and started writing an entirely new series to try again at getting a book published through traditional means, but after speaking with a lot of authors and readers, I realised that self-publishing my original novel was the right way to go.
A lot of epic fantasy readers won’t even pick up a book like mine until 2 or 3 in the series are released (I’m planning eight). Now the beta-readers are all done, as are the proof-readers. I’m currently finalising the cover art and working on the maps. The Sage’s Lot will finally be released by Christmas, even if it kills me.
- What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
My favourite characters to write are the ones with my own sense of humour. I feel like each of the main characters in my book reflects some aspect of my own personality (or some warped version of that aspect), but my two favourites are the ones that consistently make me laugh. I may be the one writing down the dialogue, but the characters are the ones coming up with what to say.
- For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
Perseverance. I forget who said it (maybe Steven Pressfield), but the only difference between a successful author and someone who just does it as a hobby is perseverance. I want to write fantasy professionally, but the only way I’m going to build my skills enough to do that is to just keep going. I didn’t stop after the 1st rejection, I didn’t stop after the 40th, and I won’t stop after the 400th. In the immortal words of Brandon Sanderson, ‘The most important step a man can take. It’s not the first one, is it? It’s the next one. Always the next step’.
- What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
Brutality in editing. My first draft meandered down so many rabbit holes that the story often got twisted up in itself. I’m a pantser, so I just write down everything that comes to mind with no predetermined endpoint. After, I have to go back and ask myself in what way each scene progresses the story. If it doesn’t, then I either tweak it so it does or (more commonly) cut it out, slice off the best bits, and splice them into another scene. If you have the problem of writing way too much like I do, you have to be brutal. No prisoners.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
Pantser, 100%. When I briefly started writing a book in an entirely new series, I added in a little planning, but in reality, I’ve found that no plan survives first contact with the keyboard.
- What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
I’ll get the first 3 or 4 books in Blood and Balance rattled off and see how it’s going. I’ve got ideas for 4 other series (all fantasy) and a fairly coherent structure for one of them, but Blood and Balance is my baby. It’s the culmination of a lifetime of complex daydreams distilled into some semblance of an entertaining narrative. I need to see if it can swim on its own before testing the waters with anything else.
- With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?
Anything with characters that make the sorts of hard choices that a real person would in their situation. Most of us wouldn’t sacrifice ourselves for some forlorn cause, and I need to see characters that act that way as it grounds a book in realism, no matter how fantastical the setting. People are people. It also makes our courageous heroes who are willing to sacrifice everything all the more heroic.
- What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
Star Wars, but again, I was terrified of books until my early twenties. The Star Wars films were my go to films as a kid and will always hold that special place reserved for a first love.
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