SPFBO Author Interview: S.D. Howarth

As the SPFBO continues and as the judges start eliminating books at speed I will be interviewing as many entrants as I can regardless of whether they progress to the next rounds. Indie authors need all the good publicity they can get and I am happy to do it. Today I interview S.D. Howarth the author of The Tryphon Odyssey.


  • Hi S.D. Howarth tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I live in East Yorkshire with my wife, children and eternally hungry cats. I bypassed kids books at school and went into adult adventure books and military history. Since then I wanted to write, but deferred it until an enforced break from computer gaming, then looked at seriously working at it after I dinged 40. Then the learning process began.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The breadth and scope available to play with. You can do something close or offbeat to existing history, or go all out and do your own thing. You can keep it small and local, spread through time, or massively encompassing. Everything is there in the toolbox to play with, and if it isn’t, you can change it so it is, with and without limitation

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

Mt debut novel The Tryphon Odyssey is available from Amazon from May 2021, and was an entrant in SPFBO7. Worldbuilding was a mix of Civilization & Warcraft gaming inspirations, with archaeological/historical references to keep it grounded as an evolution to ‘What if’. The novel could be described as nautical fantasy in a medieval period, with a few twists due to environmental calamities. The main challenges were a lack of primary sources to the original worldbuilding, once you dig past Christian and much earlier Roman influences in historical accounts, and looking to archaeology instead – where it exists. Then the pounding and evisceration to turn the manuscript into something readable around the day job and children. The duration of that is something you don’t expect, when putting pen to paper.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

People who I can develop and throw into events, or what I’d like to read. Sometimes based off historical individuals – sometimes more inspirational than fiction, or someone who came out of the woodwork and is fun to play around with, particularly when in over their head.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Patience. If I can do it, anyone can, but you need to set time aside and work through the fun, the challenge and the frustrations. When time is a challenge, keep chipping away, the greatest source of stress will be yourself adding pressure.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

What deadlines – I’m in the plebite ranks.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

Panster, but some structure will kick in to define key events and POV.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres? ‘The Tryphon Odyssey’ is the first in a trilogy, with a rough draft for another couple of trilogies, ideas for a prequel origin novel and a standalone side project in The World of Sanctuary. I also have a Steampunk/Flintlock world called Crater, which morphed out of a short story ‘Halidom’ in the Blackest Spells Anthology by Mystique press which I was developing with a few short story ideas.
  • 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?

Either, both work for me if entertaining, or have interesting characters or concepts. Something to pique my interest would be the distraction, I’m after as dark hunour can be amusing.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Star Wars, the RPG saved the franchise for me in the 90s when it went silly, and the recent trilogy shows what works well, and less well when you only use part of the toolkit, and swap around the tools each film. The recent series and standalone movies resonate with the RPG feel and even with the tropes, they are fun.

(Please include any social media links – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)

facebook.com/sd.howarth.79

http://twitter.com/Angry_Cumbrian

www.worldofsancturary.co.uk

Many thanks for your time & good luck with your releases.


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The Summer Sale Continues with The First Fear

Another week is here which means that there’s another book on sale for just 0.99p/c. This time it’s the turn of book 1 of the Empowered Ones series The First Fear. If you love dark fantasy and super powered heroes check it out.

The Supreme rules the world. For years, the people of her Imperium have lived in fear. Dreams of freedom are long dead for most. Those that could challenge her are in hiding.

Yet hope remains.

Following an incident, Elian, a young man living at the edge of the Imperium, discovers he possesses powers with devastating consequences for both himself and the people he loves.

Forced to flee from the Supreme’s most deadly agent, Elian encounters a ragtag band of resistance fighters and a group of powerful rebels led by a charismatic leader, who believes that the key to overthrowing the Supreme lies in the ancient ruins of the once mighty Kingdom of Aeranyth.

Can Elian survive long enough to develop his newfound abilities and help the rebels turn the tide against the Supreme? Or will he die trying?

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Announcing EPIC- The home of Indie Fantasy

Are you a fan of indie fantasy authors and who wants to engage with other readers as well as interact with other fantasy authors? Join the new Facebook group Epic- The home of Indie Fantasy

We’re just getting started so jump in at the start and invite as many of your readers and fellow authors as you can.

Our aim is to reach 150 members by the end of the month. We also plan on launching a new website, competitions as well as regular emagazines filled with stories from contributing authors. 

This is a group founded by myself and fellow indie authors Joe Jackson and Paul Lavendar. We want the group to not just become another front for unscrupalous cabals of authors to use to push their work over and over. No.

Epic is for everyone, both readers and authors alike. We want to spread the word of good indie fantasy, help authors achieve success and for readers to find new exciting books to read.

With creativity seemingly dead in places like Hollywood and with the aversion to anything slightly original or not filled with left wing political activism we want to promote entertainment where someone can truly switch off from the world and genuinely be transported to epic worlds of adventure.

We would be honoured for you to join us.

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SPFBO Author Interview: Anat Eliraz

Today’s special SPFBO interview is with Israeli fantasy author Anat Eliraz who has entered her debut novel Jewels of Smoky Quartz into this year’s competition.


  • Hi Anat, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hi! And thank you for the opportunity to take part in this!

I live in Israel, work as a physiotherapist with preterm babies and am a mother of four.

I have written from the early years of primary school. I have more unfinished stories than I can count (I still have all the notebooks!) and many poems and songs.

My inspiration comes from anything I come across. My children, pets, books and movies. Even the news. Though mostly, it would take shape in a fantasy setting.

I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in the late 1980’s and that’s when my love for fantasy started.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I love the fantasy genre for having almost no boundaries. You can soar with your imagination in so many directions.

I see most fantasy stories as allegories to the real life and world.

If you think about many stories, and peel away the magic and dragons- you’re left with events you can find in our own history. Be it discovering a new continent with its people and culture, different revolutions, wars…

It is said mankind doesn’t learn from its own mistakes. Maybe we can learn something from fantasy stories instead.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

‘Jewels of Smoky Quartz’ is my debut novel. It was released on the 25th of April, 2021.

The idea itself came to me on a cold December evening in 2018. I sometimes find myself daydreaming ideas, but they move from one to the next every day or two. This time, it just continued to expand and I had to start writing it down so I don’t forget where I started. After the fourth notebook, my kids told me I better just copy it to the computer!

Most of the story was written in less than four months. I had one, not even that important, part that took me three more months to put together. That was the first draft.

I let my sister and sister in law read it and did necessary changes. Then it just ‘sat there’ for almost a year, until the first lockdown. Suddenly, I had free time and started listening to webinars about writing and publishing and decided- why not?!

I really can’t say I had many challenges. The writing itself just came to me. I HAD to write. I would wake up in the middle of the night and had to write.

I could say that the challenge was working during those three months with very little sleep!

Maybe publishing in a non English speaking country made my journey different than what some other authors experience.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like sophisticated characters. Most of them have foggy backgrounds.

I used to play such characters in my D&D days.

Readers today want the characters to have depth to them. To have reasons for their actions and beliefs, but also have them make mistakes. It is what makes them ‘real’.

There is some of me in all my characters. After all- I made them and they say or think of the things I wanted them to. How much of me differs from character to character. Some might have more physical traits like mine and others more intellectual.

Or just my ‘I wish’ list!

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Just write. Maybe a certain scene will be cut out of the final version and maybe another will need extensions.

Don’t look for reasons why not to write. There are plenty. I can write a book about it!

Even if you never publish, if you feel you have something to tell- do it.

I am not a full time author. I will probably never be, either. I love my job! But I love writing, so I also write.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

Ha! I have the best trick ever!

Ready?!

I have no deadlines!!!

Since I don’t have any publishing company on my head, and I didn’t promise anybody anything- my time is mine to spend as I see fit.

As to keeping my story on track (track of correct writing, not deadlines)- once I have my first draft, I check the timeline for all the characters involved. This means the time of day and the logic of how much time passes while things happen. Making sure left and right and all directions stay accurate from all characters pov’s, etc.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

100% panster.

I write scenes. I see them like movies in my head and write what happens. There is no order in them. Some won’t make it to the final version of the story. I do have a general idea of the plot, but it can change drastically as I write, by the scenes I come up with. Only much later, will I start putting the scenes together and adding what is needed for them to fit together and make the story.

That’s why in question 6 I said I check the timeline and all the small bits and pieces.

  1. What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

My book can be read as a stand alone, but I left an opening for more (started getting ideas for a sequel). I already wrote seven scenes of the next book.

I also started another fantasy story, that takes place on earth, during WW2.

I never say never, but I like the fantasy genre and don’t see myself writing in another genre any time soon.

  • 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?

I don’t usually like the ‘happily ever after’ ending. The world is far from being a ‘bed of roses’. Living in Israel sometimes takes it another step forward.

So it’s not that the bad guys win. Sometimes no one wins. You have to compromise. In a way, it takes some readers by surprise.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

All. Each in a different way.

Lord of the Rings is somewhat of a pioneer in the fantasy genre, and it deserves its respect.

Star Wars is more sci-fi, but has amazing world(s) building, characters, storyline…

Harry Potter had millions of every age group reading this fantasy that ‘exists’ parallel to the ‘real world’.

They all fascinate generations of people, who read or/and watch the movies, collect related products etc.

They are all timeless!

Look how much the world has changed over the years and these books/ movies don’t lose their shine. And it seems they will continue to intrigue more people in the future.

Follow Anat via –

https://www.amazon.com/Jewels-Smoky-Quartz-Fantasy-Novel-ebook/dp/B08VNH7KDW

https://m.facebook.com/anat.eliraz.7?ref=m_notif&notif_t=feed_comment_reply&_rdr


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Voyage for the Sundered Crown on Sale for just 0.99p/c this week only! (Ends July 11th)

The Summer Sale continues and this week you can get my latest release and book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga for just 0.99p/c.

First Ever time this book has been on sale!

I was considering not putting this book into the sale as it’s so new but I figure, it’s only for a week and every purchase and new review will help it climb the book seller rankings. So, this is and will be your only chance to get this book for such a low price, don’t miss out, oh and tell your friends and family about it too!

The book is available on all major e-reading devices and stores.

The Kingdom of Delfinnia has fallen, but hope remains. Sent on a daring voyage to seek out allies from across the sea the wizard, Luxon Edioz and his companions rediscover the continent of Tulin. A land that is full of dangers, magic, and adventure.

There they will find new allies, new wonders, and new enemies. As Danon’s conquest draws closer to completion, Luxon must use all of his wits and powers to unite the peoples of Tulin and convince them to help him save his homeland.

It will be a voyage that will test him to his limits and one that will decide the fate of all.  

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SPFBO Author Interview: S.R Cronin

In this latest special SPFBO author interview I spoke with S.R. Cronin about her entry into the competition and what she enjoys most about writing fantasy.


  • Hi  Sherrie. Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Like many others, I made up stories in my head as a child. I also read all the science fiction and fantasy I could find in Western Kansas in the early Pleistocene. (It wasn’t much.) When I tried my hand at a dystopian short story in eighth grade, my English teacher told me to keep writing. I was an obedient sort, so I’m still doing as she said.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

It’s my world. I make up the rules, I create a place that fascinates me, and I let people have adventures in it that I like. Why would you want to constrain a story and write anything else?

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

I don’t like doing easy things and that’s a shame because I’ll probably never know if I could just write a good book. To my own misfortune, I like complicated.

So after my first six-book series (complicated in another fashion) I got this idea to tell an alternate history/historical fantasy story seven ways, each time through the eyes of a very different sister. I called it “The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters.”

Because these seven young women will manage to save their realm, it’s a little like a female Seven Samauri with some Rashomon effect thrown in. (I thanked Japanese film genius Akira Kurosawa for his inspiration in the first book’s dedication.)

Book one, about the intellectual mastermind of the girls, came out in November 2020 and is in entered in the SPFBO#7. I released book two, the story of the nurturing sister, in February 2021, and book three, the story of the warrior sister, in May 2021. These days I’m writing book five, at least when I’m not checking SPFBO sites to see if book one has been reviewed and cut yet.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like my main characters to surprise themselves with what they are capable of. I’m not a particularly grey or dark writer, though every good story needs a little grimness to be interesting.

I put a lot of me into most characters, including (or maybe especially) the villains. You can’t write what you don’t know, and I think spinning tales is cheaper than therapy. It sure gets you to confront things in yourself you don’t like.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Write. Write more. Keep writing. Don’t get me wrong .. classes and writer’s groups and beta readers and online blogs are all a wealth of information and should be tapped. But unless you write, rewrite and edit a lot, the rest won’t matter.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I set aside three writing days a week and don’t let myself do anything else. No social media. No laundry. No random ordering junk from Amazon. I write, or I sit and stare at my screen. It works. After a while I get bored and I start writing. (I do let myself eat cookies though and that helps.)

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

Much more of a pantser. I always have a vague idea of the story’s main conflict and how it will be resolved, and I often do an outline with a few sentences per proposed chapter before I start the book. (I seldom stick to it.) But I always do a more detailed outline of the next chapter before I start it, listing what has to happen in it somehow. It usually reads something like: Jason and Margie MUST meet now and Jason’s cat HAS to die. Hit by a car? Margie’s car? Maybe Jason’s car. Is it because he was looking at Margie?

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I can’t imagine life without thinking about the next series. I already know mine will be a crime novel/fantasy hybrid. (Crime novels are my other love, a taste not developed until adulthood.) I’m thinking I’ll have three different detective protagonists from different times and places who loosely work together. Like I said, complicated fascinates me.

  • 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?

I’ve always been a good triumphs kind of lady when it comes to my entertainment, although I think a little shading makes it more interesting. (Good triumphs but …) It’s not because I’m inherently cheery or an optimist, though, but more like because deep down I’m pretty cynical. I like my entertainment to take me out of the dark places I’m prone to go to in my head.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Star Trek – none of the above.

Follow Sherrie via –

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinnabar01
Facebook: www.facebook.com/46Ascending
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/s.r.cronin/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5805814.Sherrie_Cronin
Amazon: www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Cronin/e/B007FRMO9Q

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/s-r-cronin

Author Blog: https://sherriecronin.xyz/


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Get Quest for the Sundered Crown for just 0.99p/c this week until July 4th

The summer sale continues! This week it’s the turn of book 3 in the Sundered Crown Saga: Quest for the Sundered Crown. I’d like to give a huge thank you to those of you who have picked up the books. Every review helps and if you enjoy my books please do spread the word and tell your friends and family about them.


Danon’s army sweeps across the Kingdom of Delfinnia and Luxon, the only one capable of stopping the annihilation of the realm embarks on a desperate quest to cure himself of the deadly Void Sickness that threatens his life.

To find the cure, Luxon must travel through the Magic Gates and find the Waters of Magic, but in doing so, he will be sent to new worlds and even through time. There he will uncover the shocking truth about Danon and another he calls friend and mentor.

Elsewhere dragons ravage the eastern lands spurring Kaiden to reform the Knights of Niveren and in the south, the King’s Legion, led by the usurper Ricard makes a desperate stand against Danon’s hordes. As the world turns ever darker, one hope remains. The legendary sacred sword Asphodel remains hidden.

The Quest is on to claim the blade and perhaps push back the evil threatening creation itself.

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SPFBO Author Interview – Devin Downing

In this latest SPFBO special author interview I spoke with Devin Downing who has entered book one in his Adamic Trilogy: The Dividing into the competition.


  • Hi, Devin. Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write? I grew up in Temecula, California where—like every other author in existence—I read books nonstop. As a kid, I was a huge fan of Rick Riodan and the Percy Jackson Series. I loved how he took a polytheistic Greek religion and turned it into a magic system. Growing up in a very Christian household, I started thinking about how I could do something similar with the Bible. I ultimately decided to turn the creation story into a magic system. Once I started running with that idea, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to write it. Eventually, my freshman year of college, I decided to give it a shot. Now four years later, I nearly have the Trilogy complete.
  1. What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre? One of my favorite aspects of fantasy is its ability to critique the real world. The fictional, impossible nature of fantasy creates a barrier—a safe space if you will. Fantasy readers want to be immersed in a new world. Most of them aren’t looking to read about systematic prejudice or sexism in society; however, when reading about a magical realm, they might just find those same messages hidden between the paragraphs of dragons and danger. Fantasy authors have the ability to introduce world-altering topics to readers who may not even be looking for it, and I think that is pretty amazing.
  1. Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? My most recent project is the third and final instalment of the Adamic Trilogy, The Reviving. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m so excited to finish my debut series. The size alone has been a bit of a challenge. The trilogy will be weighing in at just over 500,000 words. I’ve been writing it while simultaneously getting my bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, so I’ve been pretty pressed for time. However, I just graduated this last April, so I’m ready to devote all my attention to this epic conclusion. Assuming everything goes according to plan, I hope to release book 3 in October 2021.
  1. 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 without a doubt villains. While I know that sociopaths exist, they aren’t the kind of villains I want to write about. I want a villain my readers can relate to, with a cause that even I could consider justified. I tried my best to make such a villain for The Adamic Trilogy. As for the second part of your question, I put a pretty liberal helping of myself into all of my characters. I pick and choose the most interesting aspects of myself and mix them with personality traits of my friends and family. Matt (my male protagonist) is probably the most unfiltered reflection of myself, but they all have little sprinklings of Devin.
  1. For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned? This is a cliche, but write what you want to read. Even if you’re into some weird stuff, you’ll find an audience. Writing requires a lot of motivation, and if you don’t love your story, odds are, you won’t finish it. Second, don’t be afraid to suck. We all gotta suck before we ascend. Just start writing. You might just surprise yourself how quickly your story progresses into something you’re proud of.
  1. What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track? Frankly, I just try to muscle through. Occasionally, if I get stuck in a scene, I’ll jump ahead to a scene I’m more excited for. I find that skipping to my most anticipated scenes keeps me going, even in the face of writer’s block. Otherwise, a little caffeine and a comfy couch are all I need.
  1. Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)? Plotter, to the extreme. I like to have a chapter by chapter outline before I write a single word. For me, it’s often the convoluted conclusions of a story that motivate me most. Without having some implication of how it all ends, I doubt I’d find the motivation to start any story.
  1. What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres? Both you could say. Once I complete the The Adamic Trilogy, I plan on writing A Sliver of the Soul. It’s a Historical Fantasy Romance that adds soulmate magic to the tragic events of America’s colonization. I hope to finish and begin pitching it by January. From there, medical school is actually the plan. I’ve been accepted to medical school for Fall 2022, but that won’t be the end of my storytelling. Once I complete medical school, I have no doubt I’ll be back to writing.
  1. 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? I definitely take the darker approach. Something about the realism of tragedy makes it infinitely more appealing. The truth is, characters die, heroes fail, and sometimes… villains are victorious. I think maintaining a realistic degree of darkness makes a story that much more believable.
  1. What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars? What kind of trick question shenanigans is this? That’s like asking ‘which is better, food or water?’ Honestly, I’m not sure I want to give an answer, though I will say this. The Dividing most closely resembles Harry Potter in its contemporary fantasy nature. Of the three, Harry Potter definitely played the biggest inspirational role for my writing.

I have an Instagram account where I post daily writing prompts and short stories. https://www.instagram.com/writing.prompt.daily/?hl=en



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SPFBO Author Interview: Rob Donovan

The interviews keep coming! This time it’s the turn of Rob Donovan the author of The Crystal Spear, an entrant in this year’s SPFBO competition.


  • Hi Rob tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

 I am 42, married with three boys and live in West Wickham, a small town in greater London, UK. I’ve always dabbled in writing and wrote my first novel of sorts when I was 14. It was entitled, “the Scarecrow” and was derived from my love of reading Point Horror novels.  I never really considered writing novels properly though until 2009. I had read three books from three of my favourite authors in a row: Robert McCammon’s Speaks the Nightbird, Stephen King’s The Wolves of Calla and George R R Martin’s, A Storm of Swords. I loved all three books but two of them went in directions I wished they hadn’t and “a Storm of Swords,” just blew me away so much, that I wished I could write something as good as that. My wife had just given birth to our first boy Joseph and was extremely ill. I would do many of the night feeds and it was whilst sitting up in the quiet one night around 3 am, that an idea popped into my head that involved aspects of those three novels and how I wished they had gone. Not tired, I lay Joe down and on a whim, scribbled down a scene. I had no idea of a plot, but the scene was just so vivid to me, that I wanted to write it. The next night, I read over what I had written and the next chapter came to me immediately. It really was that simple, every night I would write a bit more until I got in a routine of doing the night feed at 4am and not bothering to go back to bed, but writing until I had to leave for work at 6am.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

How broad and diverse the genre is without a doubt. Not only do you get to create brand new worlds with rules and laws of your choosing and fill them with all kinds of characters and species but you are not restricted in any way to the genre. If you fancy adding in elements of horror you can, want some romance, comedy, detective novel etc go for it. With the fantasy genre you can have the choice of including all of those elements or none of them and still be creative.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

I’m currently hard at work with the sequel to the Crystal Spear entitled, The Kraken Churn. I’m around 80k words into it and have roughly 30K to go I reckon. I aim to finish the draft by the end of July. That should allow me to release the novel in autumn.

There have been two main challenges in putting this one together. When I finish a novel in my series, I normally go onto a lighter project or short story before delving into the next in a series. It clears my mind and allows me to let off steam. I did that by starting to draft a prequel to another book I wrote 7 years ago. I was having great fun doing that when suddenly the urge to write a prequel of sorts to the Crystal Spear took my fancy. I always try and finish the current project before moving on to the next but this time the story was so clear in my mind, I knew I had to get it down on paper or risk losing it. I was really enjoying that story when I woke up one day and thought I really need to be getting on with the next book in the Forbidden Weapons Saga. So once again I put my pen down and started on another project. It was a challenge to start with as I had three separate stories whirling around in my head and it took a while to quiet the other two voices.

The second challenge is being productive. Being in lockdown and working from home has not been as fruitful as I thought it would be. I had a nice routine of writing before work and at lunch whilst in the office. At home with three kids that routine has been harder to maintain and so some weeks have been very productive but there have been others where I have managed a few days writing and then it has just not been possible.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

Flawed characters are always great to write about, especially ones that don’t know they are flawed. I also like to write a good villain. The best villains are complex with understandable motives, but I also love to create “cool, almost cartoonish villains.” Villains that you just love to hate. Darth Vader in a New Hope, the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, Joffrey, the Ringwraiths, Voldermort, the list goes on, but all of them are just evil because they are evil and everyone loves to hate them. There is a push to make villains masterminds or Machiavellian and I love that type of villain but sometimes you just want to read a classic good vs evil story. 

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Reach out and back yourself. Being an author is a lonely profession and with it comes a large imposter syndrome complex. No matter how many times you get good reviews or praise, there is always an element of doubt as to whether you are good enough to do what you do. The truth is, if you want to write, it is because you have a story to tell. Someone, somewhere will love that story and so do it for them and yourself.

Writing is inherently a lonely profession but it doesn’t have to be. The writing community is the most friendly and helpful community I know. Everyone is rooting for each other and ready to help in any way they can. It is hard work but the help is there to make sure you have the best chance of succeeding.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I find setting the mood definitely helps and I have a variety of things I try depending on what scene I am about to write. Often I will work in a dark room, light a candle and play medieval music on Alexa to get me in the zone, if I am not in the writing mood, a walk through woods and imagining myself in another time period often helps.

In terms of tools, I use Dabble writing software, which I have found to be excellent. I wrote my first 7 novels in Ywriter which was a simple but great free software, but I saw Dabble and loved: its simplicity, its planning feature and more importantly, being web based, I was enamoured with the fact you could log in on any laptop or phone and write at any time. It is subscription based but I think the fact that I changed from a perfectly acceptable free software to paying a monthly subscription tells you how impressed I am with it.

Finally, I am on a few writing Discord channels. One of them is very active in running 15 minute sprints where you compete against other writers to write the most. I say compete but it is really not a race, but it does inspire you to stay focus and distraction free for those 15 minutes. I average around 450-500 words during those 15 minutes. Do that three times a day and I achieve my daily targets.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mostly a pantser for sure. The majority of the novel is definitely made up as I go along, allowing the characters to drive the story. Around about three quarters of the way through where I sense I should be wrapping things up soon, I will sit down and plot the last ten chapters or so to make sure characters have a decent arc and the story is cohesive. I always find this part (the plotted part) hardest to write as it begins to feel like doing a homework assignment or a task at work.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

A busy one. I aim to finish off the other two projects I mentioned earlier. I am roughly 15K words in to both of them and I don’t plan on them being long – more novellas really. I have also been jotting down ideas around a coming of age story with a supernatural element that I am quite excited about. I might attempt that one during NaNoWriMo this year (writing 50,000 words in the month of November).

Then of course there is the third book in the Forbidden Weapon saga.

  • 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?

I am not sure if it is do with the state of the world at the moment or my personal circumstances but my tastes have changed. I always used to love a dark ending. I loved any book where evil triumphed unexpectantly, or the hero died at the end. Those are the endings that stay with you (the Mist for example). However, since having my three boys, I tend to want good to triumph and with all the doom and gloom around the pandemic, I think we all need a feel good story.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Wow, now there is a question. The answer is without a doubt Star Wars but I feel guilty about saying it. I am a huge fan of all three. I grew up watching Star Wars on repeat and had all of the toys and played with them daily. I loved the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings and had read the books but it wasn’t until the Peter Jackson films came out that I went back and read the books again and truly fell in love with Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter is just a magical series and I am not ashamed to say that I queued up at midnight for the books as they were released. Star Wars though just affects me like nothing else ever will.

Follow Rob via –

Rob’s website: www.Robdonovanauthor.com

Rob’s facebook page: (3) Rob Donovan Author | Facebook


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SPFBO Author Interview – Christopher Matson

The SPFBO author interviews keep on coming! This time I spoke with Christopher Matson who has entered his fantasy novel Half Sword into this year’s competition.


  • Hi Christopher, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hi Matt, thanks for having me on your blog (hope you don’t mind parenthetical asides). Hmm—about me, huh? Okay, I’m an author as a second… third? Maybe sixth career. Among other things, I’ve been a mess-hall cook, underground geologist, commercial fisherman, marine engineer, and an international port consultant. Like most authors, I’ve written my entire life. But for me, it was the fun of creating a story, with no thought for publication.

That changed some time around 2013, when Amazon opened Kindle Worlds. I made contact with authors Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo who were running the “Mongoliad” universe as a KW series. My contributions there were fairly successful and the experience of writing for a broad audience became intoxicating. I’ve written for publication ever since. And oh, this year is my first experience with the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). It’s been a real trip so far (and we’re only a few days into it).

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Okay, I’d argue that all fiction is more or less fantasy (even some non-fiction, hah!). Look at Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth.” Historical fiction, yes—but with so much world-building, so many new social constructs, it only lacks dragons to be classified as fantasy. Take another example, Umberto Eco’s “Baudolino” (if you haven’t read it yet, close this file right now, open your Kindle app, and don’t do another thing until you’ve finished). It starts as a historical drama and walks right off the deep end into Medieval fantasy. Eco was a genius.

So wait… I didn’t answer the question, did I? Why fantasy? Simply put, it is the most immersive of all the genres. Done well it forces the readers (and sometimes the author) to suspend all judgement and submerge themselves in the story and the characters. It takes you to a whole new world and lets you explore it through the eyes of the protagonist. Sometimes it even lets you come back (unless you’re reading Brandon Sanderson, then good luck).

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together.

Which brings us to “Half Sword.” This is the one book where I think I settled on the title after the final cover art had been completed (hmm… looks good that way, “Half Sword” it is). Usually, I create a title first and write the story around it (not recommended, by the way). The story developed as a prequel to a yet to be completed series called “Tapestry” (no, you won’t find the other books, they’re not complete, all six—maybe seven of them. Long story about writing a long story).

Did I say I admire Umberto Eco? Yeah, well “Half Sword” is in a similar vein. The underlying theme (or what Twyla Tharp would call the Spine) is self-discovery. Young Simon doesn’t know who he is or where he came from. To find out, he has to take on a cabal of conjurers and survive the encounter. Set in the year 1187, “Half Sword” required substantial research to build a Medieval world that is both authentic and convincing. So much of that early period has been lost to history, and so much of what is written about it is speculation. The fantasy elements were perhaps the easiest part of writing this one.

I published “Half Sword” in the beginning of May, just before SPFBO 7 opened for submittals. It’s available now on Kindle Unlimited and the print version should come out before the end of June. But wait, there’s more… I also write action-adventure under C.B. Matson. I have two books (“Maug” and “Shasta”) that are collaborations with David Wood in his “Dane Maddock Universe” series. Presently, I’m working on a third, “Baal.” Our heroes are going to run into a whole lotta supernatural bad-assedness out in the stinking Danakil Desert. And yeah, I bring a lot of fantasy elements to my action-adventure novels.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I really enjoy writing off-trope female characters. That is, complex characters that do not follow the fantasy stereotype. My protagonists are generally messed up in some way, not beautiful, don’t really have much fighting skill, and scrape by on wit and luck. That said, “Half Sword” is mostly male characters and they are all warriors, in one way or another. All but the protagonist who struggles along on a couple of trick moves and his own stubborn will. Of course, he does get tangled up with a few off-trope women who mess with him pretty good.

As far as projecting myself into a character, I’d say a little in each, but dam’ little. I do steal flagrantly from people I have met, however. My father-in-law is cooked into one character in “Half Sword” (no, not say’n which one). My former career involved a lot of travel to odd places and I’ve picked up a gaggle of fantastic character types to exploit. The hard part for me is focussing my point of view on just a very few individuals.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Hmm… [scratches head]. If you’re writing, then you are a writer. Even if it’s just a site-visit report for your client, you are a writer. The point? The point is that you’ve got to decide what kind of writer you wanna be. That is, why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it? As long as you keep punching that ticket, then you are a success and that is enough.

Oh, an important corollary—you’re going to be bombarded by hundreds of people selling courses, books, how-to advice, MFA degrees, and what-ever. I won’t argue the merits of any of it. However, for your money and time, you can learn more from hiring a good editor than all the rest combined.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

Okay, deadlines—there’s no trick, you just have to plan for the deadline early and leave plenty of buffer. Your editor of choice may need months of notice, don’t figure a couple of weeks, give them a shit MS, and figure on miracles happening. Same with cover art. Plan ahead, cook in revision time and budget. Deadlines still gonna getcha but not as bad.

Keeping your story on track is a lot harder. My own first efforts were similar to delivering a bus load of first graders to the amusement park and telling them to be back at the entrance by five. The story metastasized. I had to call the cops (not really, but). I learned from that to write the ending (aka, the grand kablooie) when I am about 2/3 into the first draft, then focus my remaining efforts on converging at the desired conclusion. It works. Sometimes now I outline the ending before I even begin the story.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

A plotster perhaps? Again, early efforts were pantsing all the way. It was a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. It was that dizzy dancing way you feel. It was an adventure in joyous abandon… and the results were about as dreadful as you can possibly imagine. I’ve since come to realize that pantsing makes for the best author experience, but plotting creates the best reader experience. Always write with your reader in mind. That’s not to say, you can’t pants your heart out between the major plot points, that’s when you discover some of the choicest story morsels and plot-twists. Aaand, what is an outline, if not to be changed when it best suits the story?

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

Right now, I’m concentrating on “Baal.” It’s an exciting action-adventure story with an interesting plot-driver. My personal deadline for the first draft is sometime this fall, but every time I look up, it seems the calendar has lost another page. After that, it’s back into “Tapestry” full time and straight on through ‘til morning. I’ve got 450k words (!) in that series that need a deep re-write and re-edit. I hope to add another 150k in the process and make six books out of it. There’s also a seventh book in outline form that will finish the series.

  • 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?

I’ve always preferred a bit of darkness in my heroes and in my stories. Not that good doesn’t triumph, but the very concept of “good” can be somewhat slippery. As far as the world goes, I concentrate on things I can change and try not to worry about those things that I cannot. With that said, I find our very language morphing into something that is difficult to use. Gender neutral pronouns and inclusiveness for instance. I get the objectives, but I’m not sure how to implement them in my writing. My editor had issue with the word “oarsmen.” Okay, I went with “rowers,” sounded better anyway. But then she flagged “doormen.” “Doorpeople?” “Doorers?” “Dooropenersandclosers?” I’m sure it will all work out, but again, write for your readers… they’ll understand.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

What’s this? Matt has just handed me a live grenade with the pin conveniently removed [inserts a bent nail through the firing mechanism and passes the grenade back to Matt]. I would ask, which versions, films, books, comics? Which story/episode/volume? Maybe more important, better in what way?

LotR was my first epic fantasy read (had a few Lord Dunsany stories before that, but), so there’s no way to compare with “Harry Potter” that started out as a horribly edited YA story (with a brilliant concept) and evolved into a much more complex series. And Star Wars? I’d followed Lucas since “THX 1138,” (lived a few miles from his studio) so when the original movie came out, I’d been waiting for like, months… and it was manna (they had me with hydraulic oil running down the Millenium Falcon’s landing legs). However, there were no SW books until much later. So, only pick one? Can’t. Sorry.

  • Any Social Media links?

I’m mostly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbmatson, feel free to check my profile and follow if you like my feed. Or not, that’s cool too.

Somewhere out there I have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/christopher.matson.98892. It’s poorly maintained and seldom visited (don’t get too excited now). Whereas Twitter is like the county recycling center’s trash sorting line, I find Facebook to be like trying to furnish your home from the county dump. It’s all there somewhere, but do you really want to dig through that mess? Okay, not very nice. I also have a totally dysfunctional web site: https://cbmatson.com/ that will tell you nothing at all (but someday it might, so keep checking). If you actually want to read some of my stuff, then go to my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Matson/e/B094YT15YM


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