Author Interview Tahani Nelson

Getting to meet my fellow indie fantasy authors is one of the perks of the job. In this author interview I sat down with Tahani Nelson to talk about her books and latest release due out on November 16th.


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

I’ve always loved fantasy, but growing up I had trouble finding heroines that I could connect with. Women in classic sword and sorcery are often love interests or damsels in distress, and I grew tired of that quickly. Even when I could find books featuring strong, amazing heroines, it never seemed to last for long. You’d get halfway through a story and the protagonist would meet a guy and that would become her sole ambition. Even 14-year-old me couldn’t stand love triangles anymore. So, I started writing all the characters that young me looked for. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only person searching.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Anything is possible in fantasy. Any creature or world or society you can think of is within reach. There’s magic that can bend the world to your will or twist the very threads of fate. It’s amazing. I love the freedom and magnificence of fantasy and the ability to face real-world issues in new settings. It’s empowering and beautiful.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)

I started the Faoii Chronicles back in 2017 and hit every snag possible in the indie publishing scene. Scams, delays, imposter syndrome and a general lack of knowledge really keep me from hitting my stride for several years. But I have the most amazing army at my back, and together we’ve overcome every obstacle. Now the final book in the series, Faoii Ascended, is releasing on November 16 and I can hardly believe it. It’s been such an honor to tell these stories. I can’t wait to share the end with all of you.

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

I specifically write female-led military fantasy and I love it. I love women leading armies and wearing armor that covers all their vital organs. At this point I don’t know how much of myself I’ve put in my characters and how much of who I’ve become is because of them. But I’ve definitely changed in the five years since I began writing. I call my readers the Faoii Army and am honored to lead them. I wear armor to all of my events, readings, and signings. I’ve built something grand from nothing, and I think my characters would be proud… once they stop hating me for everything I’ve put them through.

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

Don’t compare yourself to other authors. Especially the parts of other authors you can see on social media. That’s a fast train to despair.

Listen: There will always be people who write more than you each night or who have more books out or more reviews or higher royalties. Social media accounts are cherry-picked highlights and your rough draft/blooper reels will never compare the way you hope they will. And that’s okay. Because there’s a version of you in the past who never thought you’d get this far. Who would be so amazed if they could see how far you’ve come. They’d be so proud of you.

If you must compare yourself, then focus on that person you were a year ago. Or five. Or ten. You’ve done such amazing things since then. Imagine what Future You will think of Current You if you keep going. I can’t wait to see.

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

This is probably going to sound like the opposite of an answer, but I make smaller goals. Tiny goals. Goals that other people laugh at. But I also hit them every single night and that adds up.

I write 200 words a day. That’s it. 200 words. A lot of people think that that’s so small that it shouldn’t matter. I’ve heard many, MANY times that I should be writing thousands of words each night. But those big numbers are intimidating, and often seem impossible. I used to aim for the big word counts. The giant goals. 2,000 words. A 7-book series. A movie deal. Whatever. And often, those giant goals were so intimidating that I wouldn’t even start. So I broke them down. 200 words a night. And I hit it consistently. Sometimes it’s enough to break the dam and I’ll write entire chapters. Sometimes I only hit the 200. But my word count is always better than the 0 it used to be, and this has gotten me through three 100k book and an additional anthology. Small goals work.

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

Panster. I often don’t even usually know what’s going to happen until three paragraphs after it’s over, and then it’s a surprise for everyone. But I like it, too. I don’t have very much control over my characters. I can only present them to the world around them and then try to keep up as they do their own thing. It makes the writing process a lot of fun, though I often have to erase entire chapters after they get themselves killed.

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

I don’t know what I’m going to do now that the Faoii Chronicles are finished. This series has been at the center of my existence for years now, and I never really considered what would happen when that wasn’t true. I’ve learned a lot about the publishing industry—mostly, that I knew nothing about it before. I might take a break from writing. Or I might start a series about dragons. Who knows? The world—many worlds, actually—are open to 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?

Both. I like seeing people stand up against demons and societal issues and to watch them drag injustice into the light. I like that idea that maybe things might be okay; that we still have a chance at turning things around. But I also feel like we’ve passed the time of a knight in shining armor slaying a dragon. Our demons have shifted, and they wear our face. Stories have to be darker for us to relate to them, because we live in a darker world. But I also like to see that darkness being banished.

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

I like all of these for different reasons. I think out of the three listed here my favorite would be Lord of the Rings.

Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series is probably my all-time favorite series, however.

Get in contact with Tahani through social media –

http://www.TahaniNelson.com

Facebook.com/TheLastFaoii

Twitter.com/TahaniNelson

Instagram: TahaniNelson

TikTok: TahaniNelson


Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

The October Update – History, Writing and a Book Sale

Some of you may remember that years ago I wrote a historical fiction novel. My first one in fact! Well, finally after years of being distracted with other genres I am close to finishing book 2.

However, because it’s been years since the first I’ve decided to rewrite it and the new book content to it as well as give it a brand new cover. Behold the new look and soon to be re-released Unconquered: Blood of Kings. (Don’t worry I’m still working on the fantasy stuff too). If you want to be an ARC reader for the book send me an email at matthewolney9@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my growing ARC team.

The new look Unconquered: Blood of Kings will be released later this year!

A Halloween Book Sale

It’s October, which means we’re gearing up for Halloween. To celebrate this spooky time of year I’ve put the Crimson Blade (if you love assassins and evil witches) you’ll love this book on sale for just 0.99p/c from now until the end of the month! Get your copy from the link below.

Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

Author Interview: Kimberly Hennessy

It’s been a while since my last author interview, but I hope to get back to posting more of these again! Anyhow, today’s interview is with Kimberly Hennessy, author of She Runs with Wolves.

  • Hi, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write? My name is Kimberly Hennessy, and as far back as I remember I’ve always been telling stories. Before falling asleep I’d imagine these worlds and rehearse the same snippet over and over in my head. Growing up I loved writing papers, and poems but I didn’t think I could do it as a living. After completing my BSc in psychology, I travelled, did the odd job here in there and realized that I love to write, which is something I could do while raising my children. I started writing screenplays, and after earning my MA in screenwriting I started on my first book. She Runs With Wolves
  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre? What fascinates me the most is the possibility.
  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? My novel She Runs With Wolves is a scifi\fantasy dystopia. It is a book near and dear to my heart. I wrote a book that I wanted to read, that included woman empowerment, kick ass fight scenes, wolves, Artificial intelligence, and a post-apocalyptical world that needed re-building. The challenges were putting all those ideas together 😉 I joke, but it’s true. I had a good idea of what I wanted, how I wanted the story to flow, and like many writers the beginning and the ending were particularly clear to me, but how to get there was very blurry. I’m not one of those writers that writes a whole book in a single sitting. I add, delete, add some more, and go through that process a thousand times until I have a book. The book is available on amazon.com now.
  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them? I’ve noticed from my screenplays, and my last two books, I love to write vulnerable characters, real people that completely unravel and descend into  hell without necessarily finding their way out of that hole, but accepting their fate and composing with that fate.
  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned? That your first draft is not a book. You will re-write that sucker at least twenty more times.
  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track? I’ve dubbed myself the Slow Writer. Deadlines aren’t my strong point, but I do make of habit of writing everyday. I use prowritingaid to help me keep my stories lean and the sentences varied, which helps a lot during the editing process.
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)? I am a planner, and I love to try and get my whole story down into detailed outline, but often times I’m not sure if an idea works or not until I have worked it out on paper. I will try to stick to my outline, but at some point I let the natural flow of the story evolve otherwise it stunts my creativity and I get writers block.
  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres? I still have to write part 2 of She Runs With Wolves, but I’m also working on a historical fiction under a different pen name set in the early 1900 of Ireland and Canada. I’m also set to write three screenplays this year, so I will be very busy.
  • 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’m doom and gloom gal. I really love dark stories, and often times I turn to scifi dystopia, but the truth is I love all sorts of books like murder mysteries, rom-com’s, and historical. I turn to these when I want to unplug.
  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars? This is like asking me to choose between my children. They all offer something different. My gut reaction would be Star Wars 1-2-3, but I can’t even tell you the number of times I went to see Lord Of the Rings at the movies (it’s embarrassing) I’m currently re-reading Harry Potter with my son, and rediscovering J.K Rowlings incredible talent.

I love to chat about books, movies, book to screen adaptations and Netflix. People on my newsletter are always quick to talk about some film or other they want to discuss and it’s such an amazing community. https://kimberlythennessy.com/

I post a lot about daily events on my facebook, where again people comment and shoot the breeze with me. Most recently how we can’t wait to see Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. https://www.facebook.com/kimberlyThennessy

And on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kimberlyt.hennessy/


Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

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.


Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

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/


Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

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.

Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

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


Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

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


Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

SPFBO Author Interview: Joanna Maciejewska

In my fifth SPFBO author interview I spoke with Joanna Maciejewska the author of the Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series, book 1 By the Pact is her entrant into the competition.


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

Hello, nice to meet you all. My name is Joanna. I grew up in Poland, and after college I moved to Ireland. I stayed there for over 8 years, but then winds of adventure and romance carried me overseas to the US. Since then, I’ve already bounced from Arizona to Virginia, so it seems that I’m a bit of a nomad… who loves to spend all her time at home, among her books, writing, and video games.

I think writing was always a part of me. I learned to read very early, and I always entertained myself with weaving stories (growing up in a communist Poland meant little access to other entertainment) and creating rhymes. Then, as a teen, I discovered fantasy and science fiction and wanted to write my own stories, so it seemed like a natural outlet for my creativity.

At the same time, there are two people to whom I should give credit to when it comes to inspiring me. The first one is Piotr Schmidtke, a friend who was the first person to publish my stories on an online platform. The love he gave my writing over twenty years ago (and still generously gives it) likely put me on that path for good. The second one is Inq So, my husband, who encouraged me to write in a second language. Without him, I’d likely never have tried writing in English.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

As a reader, I love the sense of wonder that is inherent to the genre. I want to experience the magic and the adventure without the risk of being eaten by a dragon, losing my limb in an epic battle, or having to commit to one world for longer than it takes to read a book or a series.

As a writer, I’m fascinated by how different worlds and settings can affect humans and their culture, and how people might make different choices in such circumstances… while at the same time all the things that make us human, good and bad, still remain.

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

I always chuckle at such questions, because I tend to work on many things at the same time, so it’s hard not to ask “which latest project?”. But let’s focus on Pacts Arcane and Otherwise, my epic fantasy series, which gets the most of my attention at the moment. Before I first started writing By the Pact, I had a bout of feeling uncreative, and my husband said, “let’s play video games and get inspired”. I spent two weeks playing Skyrim again, and thinking not only about what I loved in the game, but also about elements of fantasy, epic fantasy in particular. In most classics, there’s always the great evil to conquer in order to save the world, and that got me thinking: what if you had to free the great evil to save the world? I combined it with a few other ideas that seemed to go well together, and the story slowly took shape.

The biggest challenge for me is always writing itself: English is my second language, so there are times I struggle to find the right sentence structure or words to convey what I want to say. That also makes me a rather slow writer.

Another challenge was the story as a whole. It’s an epic fantasy with many characters involved and many interwoven plots spanning four books, so I have to keep track of all of them. Particularly in book 3, Shadows over Kaighal which I’m finishing at the moment, characters move around quite a lot within a limited time span, so I had to make sure they are at the right places at the right time. I ended up making a spreadsheet to keep track of their whereabouts.

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

I like characters who act smart. I’m that person who you would see yelling at the tv when characters ignore the knowledge they already have, and in the past, repetitive unreasonable behaviors of protagonists made me abandon books, so I try to avoid it in my own writing. I love good banter too, so my characters tend to have a lot of witty exchanges. I suppose many of my characters have a titbit of my personality, and in general, I try to model them after how real people behave. Sometimes I have fun with it too: one of the projects I’m working on is a contemporary fantasy series set in Dublin altered by a magical war, and I thought it would be fun to make the main character an immigrant from Poland. This way, I could draw from my own experiences and add the authenticity to how she perceives Dublin. At the same time, even though we share some of the background, she isn’t me, and I’m not sure if I’d make the same choices she makes.

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

I think the two most useful things are: embrace “good enough” and learn to move on. I think many beginner writers get stuck in making their first novel perfect, revising, altering and polishing it… and wasting years with little progress. While it’s important to revise and edit, there’s only so much you can learn from the same novel, and sometimes being close to it makes you unable to see its flaws, perhaps even the fatal ones that might make the project unsalvageable. Distance and perspective of another book and then another and another not only helps to see the first project for what it is, but it also gives you tools to go back and fix it if you still love it or believe in it.

That isn’t to say that anyone should settle for mediocre or unpolished projects, but I think it’s important to know when to stop. It’s better to have 10 good books or 5 very good books than 1 near-perfect book that will be ready as soon as you make those final changes—especially that which you consider your best book and what your agent, publisher, or reader considers the best might be very different.

Besides, looking realistically, if you want to be a writer, you have to have more than one story to tell. And if you want to make a living as a writer, you have to, well, write more and faster. It doesn’t necessarily mean a book in a month, but trust me, you won’t have 10 years per book.

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

I try to avoid setting deadlines. If I could, I’d make sure that I have everything ready before I even have to set one, which really translates to setting generously distant deadlines that account for “everything that could go wrong” and not taking on more than I can handle. Other than that, it’s just the discipline and knowing which tasks to prioritize. That’s why I always deliver my freelance projects before the deadline and—so far—release my books on time, but not always win NaNoWriMo or respond to an email.

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

I consider myself a plotter as I don’t feel entirely comfortable not having any idea of where I’m going. At the same time, I don’t really outline: my plotting consists of the general idea of the plot and key things that have to happen. I fill the rest in as I develop the setting, the characters, and the story, and then while I write, some things naturally fall into place… or out of place. I suppose that puts me somewhere in between the hardcore plotters who write detailed outlines of each chapter and true pantsers who need as little as “there is a person in a room” to start writing.

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

I plan to finish Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series first. It’s meant to be four books with possible continuation or spinoffs in the future. Book 2, Scars of Stone, will be released on July 10th, 2021, and I’m wrapping up book 3 for a 2022 release. After book 4 is done, I’ll likely focus on my contemporary fantasy set in Ireland, since I’ve already made progress on the first three books in that series. Beyond that? Anything is possible! I have some other fantasy series in the works, and I also have a several ideas for science fiction books. There might be a few fantasy and science fiction romances along the way too… In short, I’m too slow of a writer for the amount of the ideas I have.

  • 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?

In general, regardless of the current state of the real world, I prefer my books to be on the brighter side, but as a reader, I don’t shy away from darker themes, as long as there’s at least a glimmer of hope or a satisfying conclusion—not necessary a happy ending, but a fitting one. Darkness for the sake of shocking the reader doesn’t appeal to me.

As a writer, though, it seems I’m incapable of writing darker fiction. In the end there’s always some banter or friendship. I might have once written a novel that you could summarize with “everybody dies at the end”, but when I was thinking about a possible sequel, it turned out hardly anyone actually died.

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

Now that’s an interesting question. Am I allowed to say none? Having grown up in Poland, in the times of political and social changes, I wasn’t as exposed to Western pop-culture as much as people actually living in it. Because of that, I’ve read Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series (waiting for the author to finish writing each book) before I discovered Tolkien. I watched Star Wars quite late in my life and I enjoyed it but didn’t get hooked. And while I also enjoyed Harry Potter, it first released in Poland when I was approaching my 20th birthday and I’ve already read speculative fiction broadly and voraciously, so it didn’t have that formative effect on me. So, in the end, none of these franchises enchanted me enough to side with one.

Instead, my vote would go to The Witcher, based solely on the fact that I’ve read the whole saga at least a dozen times in my late teens and early twenties.

You can connect with me via:

Website: http://melfka.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterJoannaMaciejewska/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Melfka

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melfkathewriter/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/melfka

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/joanna-maciejewska

You can get By the Pact at all major online stores:

https://books2read.com/ByThePact

https://www.bookdepository.com/By-Pact-Joanna-Maciejewska/9781734606720


Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

SPFBO Author Interview: E.L. Haines

The SPFBO competition is well under way and the reviews are started to flood in from the judges. To help raise awareness of some of the entrants I’m interviewing them! This time it’s the turn of E.L. Haines, author of Stranger Back Home.


  • Hi E.L. Haines, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I’m sure I’m not the only one here who is coming from an RPG-playing background! When you’re running a campaign, there’s something thrilling about leading an audience through conflicts and a setting that you have prepared for them, especially if they keep coming back for more each week.

When my roleplaying group broke apart a few years ago, I was suddenly overwhelmed by all of the unrealized plots in my mind that we had never played out. I also had a treasure trove of unique characters that was going unused. I decided to write a short story for my players to enjoy, and they loved it so much that I wrote more, produced a novella, and self-published.

At the same time, I was living in the Middle East and travelling around Europe and the Mediterranean region. I was experiencing a lot of local folklore, and it naturally made me question how our characters would react to some of the historic events that I was learning about. So I wrote a second novella while in rural France (Episodic Sleep Disorders, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SM95JR6/), about the Beast of Gevaudan and the Strasbourg Dancing Epidemic.

Now, everywhere I travel, I absorb some of the local culture to include in my books. I’m currently living in Egypt, which has nearly limitless potential for inspiration.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

My personal theory about the fantasy genre (and I’ve given this a lot of thought) is that it offers readers the thrill of discovery without the rigors of academia. This means:

Learning about ancient civilizations without drudging through boring history texts

Learning about fantastic beasts without dissecting frogs in a smelly lab

Understanding how the magical forces of nature work without performing those oft-unsuccessful scientific experiments and data analysis

Fantasy allows each reader to become their own Einstein, their own Steve Irwin, their own Howard Carter, and much more.

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

I’m in-between projects right now. After submitting my SPFBO 7 entry, Stranger Back Home (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B094616VSX/), I’m soliciting reviews and creating targeted ads (I think those are the challenges that all indie authors face the most).

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

My protagonist, Sparrow, is a self-insert. I have no problem admitting that. Hopefully he is relatable and likeable. If not, then don’t bother coming to my next birthday party.

Of course, he differs from me in several ways: he’s short, has less social anxiety, and maybe has time-travel abilities…

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

You’ll never be a good writer unless you’re a good reader. I read a lot of indie fiction and interact with a lot of indie authors, and I can tell the ones who don’t make time for recreational or educational reading. If you are struggling to move past a plot point, pick up a book and see how other authors do it. And don’t think that your favorite Netflix series or video games will teach you the same thing—you’re working with words on a page, and you need exposure to that exact medium to learn how to do it best.

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

What’s a deadline?
I’ve heard that other authors dedicate themselves to a few thousand words each day. That’s never worked for me. I’m a big fan of the day-dreaming style of writing, where I just meditate on my story each night before I go to sleep until I give myself insomnia, sit up, and get back to work.

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

50/50. I try to figure out the setting first, then the main conflict and resolution at the end, and I jot down notes for all of the minor elements that I hope to include in the book. Then I just write, and I plan a few chapters ahead when I can.

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

Actually all of my books so far have been dips into other genres. My upcoming plans include a murder mystery set in an Egyptian palace, an interactive fiction for kids about dolphins and sunken treasure, a spy thriller on a Persian Gulf cruise ship, and a time-travel sci-fi about assassinating Hitler.

  • 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’m not sure what this ‘way of the world at the moment’ is. I feel that the vast majority of the tragedy shown to us in the media is more fictitious than my books, though, and I’m envious of their narrative storytelling success.
I love reading darker elements in fiction, but sometimes the author makes the entire book about the darkness, and that’s like preparing an entree made entirely of salt.

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

I see three franchises that have been expanded far beyond their respective authors’ original scope in order to exploit their audiences. But I’ll give each one an award anyway in the three important categories:

Character development—Luke Skywalker

Setting—Middle Earth

Plot—The resistance against the emerging Death Eater rise to power

Follow E.L. Haines –

Website: https://www.theshortstoryteller.com

Facebook: https://facebook.com/sparrowtheshortstoryteller

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/E-L-Haines/e/B07KX888RG/

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18860518.E_L_Haines

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/e-l-haines



Follow me on Facebook,  and Instagram, and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.