Author Interview – Mark Johnson

Today I’m joined around the campfire by epic fantasy author and another New Zealander (the desire to write fantasy must be in the air down there!) Mark Johnson.


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

Hey Matthew, thanks for having me on! I’m an Epic Fantasy writer from New Zealand. I started writing as I was getting bored with high school teaching, and decided to do something different with my hours off.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I’d say the thing that I like most about fantasy is the ‘mystery’ aspect. Most fantasies have some sort of ‘hidden secret’ the author asks you to consider and predict, and for me, the addition of a ‘supernatural’ element into the mystery is just too alluring.

I also like books that explore other societies and ways of living. How would society change if X technology were considered an everyday fact of life? What would you do differently if you could do X?

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

My latest book is coming up in the first half of this year. It’s called ‘The Engine of Gods’, and it’s the fifth in my ‘FireWall’ series, and second to last of the series. The first book is ‘The Renegade Within.’ It’s about a woman who discovers corruption within her martial society, which is similar to Paladins. The corruption turns out to be the tip of the iceberg, and threatens the life of her god. She finds herself going down a path she never wanted, but must if she wants to save the life of her god and people.

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

I tend to write people who just want to get on with their lives, but find themselves morally obliged to participate in the right action. That’s not really me at all, but I find the question of ‘have I done enough for my conscience to let me rest?’ is compelling to write.

I also like writing characters who learn about the nature of their powers, along with the dangers inherent in those powers. Are the powers truly making their lives better? Do they make anyone’s lives better? Can they keep the powers secret so they can just get on with life?

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

Start with dialogue, and dialogue only. You’ll know if a scene works or not if the dialogue flows.

Start with a mystery. That’ll get you to write until the end of the book.

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

Lol: ‘on track’. I usually start out with an ending and the middle changes completely, meaning that my deadlines have to get pushed out so I can go back and write new things. I try to keep to 1000 words a day, but I usually can’t, because I’m too busy redoing the plot and other scenes.

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

Oh man I’m the worst combo of the two. I start with a plot. The plot gets cooler as I go and I have to go back and change the preceding chapters several times as I go, as well as changing the plot outline. If I’ve written several books in advance of publication (like I did for FireWall), then I go back and touch up a few chapters there, as well. It’s utterly frustrating.

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

I’m currently plotting my sequel series and FireWall’s sixth and final book. My next series is about what the consequences are for what happens after the climax of the first series. An ongoing theme of my books is ‘there are consequences even for doing the right things’, and my characters go to a new place, to find the echoes/ripple effects of what happened in FireWall are continuing to spread.

  • 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 find like stories that reflect the spirit of the times. There’s no clear bad guy and the heroes on both sides and their methodologies and worldviews both have flaws.

I prefer a darker approach to deal with the more complex side of social problems, when the answers to society’s problems aren’t obvious.

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

LotR’s context was amazing for the time, and it deserves the praise it gets. But it also is showing its age and overt simplicity. Harry Potter has much more complexity and nuance, and it’s what people need in these times. The good guys aren’t always obvious.

Don’t get me started on Star Wars.

Follow Mark at-

https://www.facebook.com/MarkJohnsonauthor


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Get the History of Esperia eBook FREE!

Hi everyone, I hope you’re doing well and not letting these lockdowns and general global rubbishness get you down.
 
 One good thing about these lockdowns is the extra spare time I have. For a long time I’ve wanted to put together a book that covers the lore and history of the world in which my fantasy novels are set.
 
 To that end I present you with the history of Esperia companion book! Claim yours absolutely FREE from the link below.


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Author Interview – Sarah Astwood

Joining me around the campfire today is romantic fantasy author Sarah Astwood. We dive into what she loves about the genre and hear about her latest projects.


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

Hi, I’m a wife and a mom of four kiddos, who I homeschool. I live in Oklahoma, USA, and I’ve been writing since I was 18. I love to write because it allows me to tell the stories and explore the worlds inside my head.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The endless possibilities! I always say in fantasy you can make pretty much anything work.

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

My latest project is rapid releasing a four book urban fantasy series. I’ve never rapid released before, and the challenges of prepping manuscripts and getting them ready for publication when you’re raising and homeschooling four children are probably pretty self-explanatory. Especially this year, 2020, when everything seems to have gone haywire! However, Book 1, Ashes on the Earth, released September 2020. Book 2, Down into the Pit, followed November 6th. Fire from the Midst will be available January 2021, and the last book  of the series will probably debut in March or April 2021.

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

I like characters with genuine problems to solve and hard issues to figure out. I would say the part of me that shows up the most in my characters tends to be their sense of humor.

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

Always get plenty of eyes on your manuscript! We’re talking several beta readers, to start with. They will catch many things you never noticed.

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

For me, I work best with a daily word count, be it 500 words a day or 1,000. That sort of routine and daily discipline keeps me on track.

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

Ha, I try to plot, but through the years I’ve learned I’m very much a pantser. I’m pretty much a pantser at life, as well.

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

For the future…after I finish releasing my Stones of Fire series, I plan to return to an epic/portal fantasy series I started a couple years ago called Beyond the Sunset Lands and finish it.

  • 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 like a hefty dose of darkness and realism, but with good triumphing over evil in the end. I know a HEA may not be totally accurate, but at the end of the day it’s what I prefer.

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

Lord of the Rings! Half the reason I’m on Facebook anymore is because of this awesome group called Funny Middle Earth. Seriously, if you like LOTR and you’re on Facebook, join this group. It’ll make you laugh, and I think we all need laughs right about now.

For a complete list of all Sarah’s works and the links to find them, visit her website at www.sarahashwoodauthor.com. To keep up to date with Sarah’s new releases, sign up for her newsletter. You can also follow her on Bookbub, or find her on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Let me know if you have a new release, launch date or promo dates to be added to my monthly newsletter. Spots are limited to 1 per month and will be chosen at my discretion.

Newest future release is Fire from the Midst, coming January 2021.


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January 2021 Update

It’s finally over, the year that felt like it would never end! I hope you all had a great holiday season and ate and drank your fill. 

2020 was a crazy year for all of us and I’m sure 2021 will be rough for many and just as mad, but there is hope on the horizon that one day life will return to normal thanks to the vaccines. (I hate all this talk of a new normal) I for one don’t want to have to wear masks forever and never be free to go to the pub with my mates again. 

Last year may have been tough but I am proud to say that I managed to get book 4 in my Sundered Crown Saga written and released. I hope those of you who have picked up a copy are enjoying it (please leave reviews!).

Anyway, enough of 2020 (boo, hiss), 2021 will be another busy year for me in terms of writing. So far I have achieved my goal of releasing 1 new book a year and in 2021 that will be the sequel to my historical fiction novel Unconquered: Blood of Kings. Book 2 covers the aftermath of the bloody Battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings and will see Osfrid become a rebel fighting to liberate his homeland. 

Other things I’ll be working on are –

  • Book 5 in the Sundered Crown Saga (Aiming for a 2021 release)
  • Book 3 in the Empowered Ones series (Aiming for a 2022 release)
  • Book 2 in the Unconquered Series (Aiming for a 2021 release)
  • A rewrite and relaunch of Terran Defenders: Genesis 
  • Planning for 2 new fantasy novels and a new sci-fi series

Also, I’ve set the Sundered Crown prequel novel The NightBlade to just 0.99p/c on Amazon and have now released it on other retailers. I’ve also republished my Terran Defender stories on wider retailers and Amazon. 

Both are now available on Kindle and other retailers. TDG Amazon – mybook.to/TDG2TDG other retailers – https://books2read.com/u/bzaVyGTDR Amazon – mybook.to/TDRBTDR other retailers – https://books2read.com/u/4EyG9e

Phew! 2021 promises to be another busy year. I hope it will be a great one for all of you as well. 


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Author Interview: C.T Phipps

Welcome back to the campfire. Pull up a seat and warm yourself against the cold, dark winter. Today I’m joined by prolific American author C.T Phipps.


  • Hi, C.T. Phipps, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hi, back! I am 39 years old and from Ashland, Ky. I’ve been writing since I was a child but eventually I got decent around college. I’ve always wanted to tell stories and whether it was table top gaming or fanfic, I was always honing my craft. I eventually decided to write two separate series: The United States of Monsters and The Supervillainy Saga.

The United States of Monsters is now composed of multiple trilogies (Bright Falls Mysteries, Morgan Detective Agency, Red Room Saga, Straight Outta Fangton, and Psycho Killers in Love). It’s set in an urban fantasy universe where the supernatural came out in 2008 and deals with various heroes trying to make the adjustment.

The Supervillainy Saga is a six book (so far) series about a self-styled supervillain named Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain without MercyTM. It’s a comedic series with a serious core about a guy who wants to be the bad guy but isn’t quite evil enough to pull it off. It’s an homage to all the wonderful comic book media I’ve consumed over my life and utterly zany.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I believe what I like most about the fantasy genre is the fact that it is limited only by your imagination. I just don’t feel the same connection to historical or “realistic” settings and I feel like fiction allows you to test the limits of reality far better than something that must stay within the boundaries of the plausible. Despite this, I admit I am fonder of urban fantasy than I am high fantasy or grimdark (low fantasy). Heck, even science fiction, though I have dabbled in that genre too.

One of the reasons I decided to do a superhero universe was because almost anything can happen in them. The Supervillainy Saga was based on the idea of setting it in a world with magic, super-science, gods, demons, wizards, aliens, and more. It’s the ultimate genre mash-up and I feel like you only get to really enjoy a superhero universe if you completely go gonzo with it.

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

My most recently released work is PSYCHO-KILLERS IN LOVE for the United States of Monsters universe. It’s set in 2000 before the 2008 reveal and is a story that homages 80s slasher movies as well as the 90s reinterpretations of them like Scream and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

William and his sister Carrie are the children of an infamous holiday-themed slasher, Billy the Undying. After a Final Girl took Billy down, they were imprisoned for years in an asylum for their father’s crimes. Escaping, they’ve tried to stay one step ahead of the authorities while dealing with their father’s ghost as well as rising supernatural urge to kill. Arriving in a haunted small town with a mysterious cult, they discover a slasher hunter named Nancy that has her eyes set on wiping their kind out. However, William has eyes for her and hopes they can cross all lines of good sense to be together. Can the family that slays together, stay together?

I’m currently working on The Horror of Supervillainy, which is the 7th book in the Supervillainy Saga. I’ve had a real blast writing these and I’m very glad that my fans have continued to follow me through these. This volume has Gary struggling with his recent attempt to go straight and getting lured into a haunted swamp to rescue the President’s daughter from Dracula. It turns out to be a trap and he’s soon confronted with an entire host of past sins coming back to bite him.

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

I confess, I absolutely love snarky and sarcastic pop-culture spewing protagonists. A lot of my characters follow the Buffy, Harry Dresden, Iron Man, Mercy Thompson, and Spider-Man mold. Gary is certainly in that vein and I absolutely love how he reacts as a bundle of weird comic energy through your typical superhero universe. Mostly because if the reader is entertained every second of reading a page then they’ve more than gotten their money’s worth. As for how much of myself I put into books? Well, every one of my characters has a part of me in them. I hope I’m not a budding supervillain or serial killer (of killers), though.

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

Patience. A lot of authors think that they’re going to be an immediate success if they release their book as quickly as possible. They don’t realize they’re going to be part of an ocean of millions. As such, they need to adjust their expectations and build a strong social media presence as well as a following. Completing a book is already an enormous task and that also will require massive amounts of editing, beta-reading, and revising. Basically, this is a marathon not a sprint.

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

I like to immerse myself in the genre of the work I’m writing. If I’m going to be writing the Supervillainy Saga, for instance, I want to immerse myself in comic books and superhero movies in order to make sure that’s where my mind is presently at. Stephen King said that writing was like milk in the fridge, “It tastes like whatever it is left against.” Aside from questioning what exactly is in King’s fridge, it inspired me to keep that in mind.

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

I go for a hybrid. I love to plot out a basic idea of where I want things to go. However, I love letting the characters decide how to get there. Plenty of times I’ve decided to handle things going one way, only for my characters to completely change where I was going to go next.

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

I’m currently planning on continuing to finish off my existing trilogies and works before moving onto new projects. I got a little big for my britches by starting a half-dozen series at the start of my career before focusing on one at the start. Still, this worked out for me as the Supervillainy Saga proved to be the most successful one by far. I have plans for twelve books in that story and that should keep me occupied for some time.

  • 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 a definite fan of antiheroes. People who have their own selfish motivations that may triumph over their better natures but who still have limits they won’t cross.

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

Star Wars remains my universe from beginning to end. I grew up on the movies, loved the Expanded Universe in high school to college, and still manage to pick up the occasional canon work.

Facebook Fan Club: https://twitter.com/Willowhugger

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Willowhugger

Author Page: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13434447.C_T_Phipps


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Author Interview – C.F Welburn

Joining me around the campfire today is fantasy author C.F Welburn creator of the Ashen Levels series.


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

As far back as I can remember I’ve had a passion for writing. Certainly, since primary school when I fell in love with Fighting Fantasy books, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and subsequently, The Hobbit. I was lucky that I had parents that read to me, and some great teachers that encouraged me to use my imagination! I also grew up in the countryside, so playing in the woods and making dens always gave me a sense of adventure!

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I suppose it’s just the sense of magic, danger, adventure. Something that used to set my young mind to daydreaming and these days as pure escapism.

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

I’m currently being torn between two projects. One being a standalone grimmer-darker tale of revenge (TBA 2021); the other being a four book series which will have multiple POVs and be more of an end-of-the-world affair… I’m also working on the narrative for a videogame with my brother-in-law, called The Prison.

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

This would depend on the story. For example, in The Linguist the main character is pretty flawed, and his decisions have led him to a very dark place, which was interesting to write and get inside his headspace. But the most fun character to write by far has to be Balagir from The Ashen Levels. Despite myriad challenges he never loses his dark sense of humour, and ability to outwit most of his adversaries.

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

I’m afraid my advice will likely be the same old spiel… Write what you want to read, enjoy what you do, never be afraid to push your ideas much further than the initial spark. If you’re in a slump go for a walk, travel, listen to music, read, play! Try to write little and often… Basically, have fun! This is your creation, make it shine!

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

[insert manic laughter] Fortunately, I never tell anyone about my constantly shifting deadlines, to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on myself. It’s ready when it’s ready and if that takes twice as long as intended, or the book doesn’t resemble in any way its original concept, then so be it. The creative process is exactly that; a process. Like making a cake when the kitchen is covered in flour and smells slightly of burning. In the end it’s the final product that you put out that matters. If I’m not 100% happy with it, I’d rather sit on it and write something else. With the Ashen Levels I had some loose plot points, but lots of room to manoeuvre, so the story never was on track, because there was no track… Well, perhaps a dirt track, choked with nettles and riddled with ditches. That made it more enjoyable to write, and gave me more freedom to chase surprising ideas.

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

I tend to be a little bit of both. I have general ideas, milestones, situations in mind, and then I begin to see how they might all fit together. Of course, this depends on the project. The Ashen Levels’ first draft was 75% pantsing, whilst the series I’m working on at the moment is requiring significantly more plotting to make sure the magic system makes sense…

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

I want to write a mixture of standalones and series. These days I’m tending to prefer standalones in the way that they feel self-contained and stay in my mind, like the old classics used to. However, Epic fantasy as a genre works really well in series format and it’s nice at times to get lost in something you know is going to last you a while! I have working titles for my next 3 books, but I’m keeping them close to my chest until nearer the time.

  • 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 spite of the current situation I haven’t found that my reading (or gaming/music) tastes have changed. I like stories that have a fun element and quirky sense of humour, but I’ve always been drawn to the darker, tragic side of literature, too. If it’s too happy I don’t feel as much impact from the story. Then again, too much doom and gloom can be a bit tiresome. Think about a dark, dramatic, stormy day with the occasional shaft of sunlight and invigorating breeze.

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

Despite being born in 1977 and my early years being spent with the (original) Star Wars trilogy, I’m going to have to go with LOTR. The book formed a cornerstone of my childhood, and I thought what Peter Jackson did with the films was spectacular! (The Hobbit films, not so much). If Harry Potter is on at Christmas I’ll watch and enjoy it, but I kind of missed the Hogwart’s Express on all of that.

Thanks for the interview, Matthew! My website has just had a facelift which you can check out for a bit more about me and my books. Oh, and Part 1 of The Ashen Levels (Fledgling) is currently 99c. If you want to take a stab at something for the price of a Mcdonalds’ cheeseburger, then you’ve not much to lose. It’s not quite as fattening, but may leave a greasy residue. I also occasionally lurk on Facebook and Instagram.

www.cfwelburn.com


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Author interview – E.V. Everest

Joining me around the campfire today is debut fantasy author E.V. Everest.


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

Hi everyone! I’m E.V. Everest, and I write fantasy and sci-fi books. My debut novel, Seven Crowns, released this year (2020).

A little bit about me: I enjoy the great outdoors. I’m a huge animal lover and have two dogs and two cats. The weirdest thing about me (that I am willing to commit to paper) is that I can play the trombone and ride a unicycle at the same time. Freak flag flying high, ladies and gentlemen!

Though I strayed to pursue a “practical career,” I’ve always loved to write. I can remember shoving several desks together in elementary school to write stories with a friend. Our series featured a cat that travelled to the moon :p

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Fantasy is boundless. As a writer, the only confines are those you set for yourself. It’s a genre where cats can talk, dragons still fly the evening skies, and Elvis *could be* your next door neighbor.

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

I am currently working on a young adult sci-fi series. The first novel, Seven Crowns, was released at the end of July. Blurb below.

A crown is dangerous. A crown split seven ways is deadly.

One year after the death of her mom, sixteen-year-old Anabella Halt is living on her own and breaking all the rules. Life is tough but ordinary.

Until Ana learns her mom’s dangerous secret—she was the heir to a fallen dynasty on a world ruled by seven families. Her family was murdered one by one. Now, assassins are closing in, and Ana could be next.

With the help of a handsome hobo, Ana escapes to the place where it all began—a starflung world where magic and technology coexist. A place where Ana must navigate a tangled web of friends and foes to unmask her would-be assassin before it’s too late.

Travel to a glittering, dangerous world with political alliances and ballgowns, perfect for fans of Cinder and The Hunger Games.

The biggest challenge with the second book (release scheduled for February 2021) is balancing plot lines. I have quite a few threads I want to weave together. Outlining has helped immensely! Overall, I’m really excited to share it with beta readers soon.

  • 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 snarky side characters and villains. Their lines are always fun to write.

None of my characters are exactly like me, but a few contain a little piece of me. For instance, I have a little bit of Samuel’s snark, Ana’s independence, and Ophelia’s love of animals.

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

Ask for feedback early and often. A rule of thumb for accepting critique: If one person says your chapter is garbage, ignore them. If two people say your chapter is garbage, re-read and really consider their feedback. If three people say your chapter is garbage, look for a trash can.

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

In the words of Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

In all seriousness, knowing that readers are waiting for a book, is very motivating.

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

I’m a reformed pantser. Now, I outline. It helps me to build complex, multi-layered plots. I can evaluate the twists and turns BEFORE I get to the editing table. What a time saver!

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

Too many to count! Right now, my first priorities are completing the Bellaton series and building the Coffeehouse Magic series. However, I have a short story that is 70% there. Teaser below.

An out of work architect is desperate for employment. Too desperate. He takes a position redesigning an abandoned nuclear bunker but finds he’s not alone in the deep. Think Night Vale X Twilight Zone.

  • 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?

Like most people, I really enjoy a multifaceted villain with an interesting backstory. However, I’ve been on a light-hearted reads binge. I recently read Meg Cabot’s Avalon High.

That’s also why I wrote The Matchmaker and the Coven. What’s more escapist than a coffeehouse that sits on the boundary between a hundred realms? Or a meddling barista who insists on setting up a water nymph and a mortal?

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

This is a cruel question. I’m also deeply offended that Star Trek didn’t make the list :p I love Harry Potter. I went to the midnight bookstore openings, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I also adore Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Chronicles of Narnia, and many, many more.

My newsletter is very active and goes out twice a month. We have trivia championships, recommended reads, sneak previews, and freebies. I’m doing a November giveaway of The Matchmaker & the Coven to all new subscribers. So, if you enjoy light-hearted fantasy, give it a try.

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/kj4pspb0vs

Website & Blog:

https://www.evelinaeverest.com

Facebook Reader Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2394603750840538

GoodReads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53474078-seven-crowns

Amazon:

Author Interview – Cameron Johnson

In today’s author interview I chat with Cameron Johnson the author of the excellent Traitor God and other fantasy novels.


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

Hello, and thanks for having me. I’m a totally not-middle-aged (expecting 100+ years achieved via a combination of whisky and cybernetics) guy from Scotland who writes darker fantasy, loves archaeology, history and mythology and exploring ancient sites. I was a library kid and I guess I caught the storytelling bug from that, and it evolved from reading a whole lot to wanting to tell my own stories.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Part of it is revelling in the sheer imagination of it all, from floating castles to terrifying monsters, otherworldly places and fascinating characters landed in situations that suck you in. In a way, reading fantasy is like being an explorer of strange new worlds and as that sense of discovery is a wonderful thing.

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

The Maleficent Seven will (probably) be out in August 2021, and let me tell you, writing seven (and a bit) villainous points of view is a pretty daunting prospect after writing two books with only a single point of view protagonist. In the end, I really enjoyed writing those characters and seeing them develop their own unique voices.

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

I like to vary characters so I don’t have a set type, other than perhaps one with a sharp tongue. One thing I do try to do write are characters that are never 100% good or 100% evil – a bad guy might be a good father or love and care for dogs for example. People are bewilderingly complex creatures. As for how much of myself I put in, probably very little – I’m thankfully much nicer than most of my characters.

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

Know that most authors are incredibly self-critical, and what you read has gone through several rounds of editing and rewrites. When you start out, the first draft of your first novel or short story will probably not be good, and that’s OK – many published novels started life on shaky feet. To write well you need to learn to write, and then you have to learn to edit your work so it makes sense and reads smoothly. Don’t despair at your first attempts and give up – you will learn from writing it, and then learn to edit it.

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

Panic? Hot cups of tea? Perhaps the odd whisky? There are no tricks sadly, just sitting down, avoiding the internet and distractions and getting the words down. It’s easy to procrastinate with a million other things you could be doing, but you just need to resist and get to work.

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

-Almost entirely a pantser. I like to know the start and the end of a story, and perhaps a few important points along the road to give it shape, but other than that the characters make their own decisions and write their own story.

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

Oh, lots of plans. Too many, really. The only problem I have is what one I want to explore next. I have a few standalone fantasy novels I want to write so I will probably toss the dice to decide what one I start writing first.

  • 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 noticed a slight preference for less grimdark fiction at the moment, turning to more popcorny adventuresome stories instead. I expect that’s trying to find an emotional balance with the relentless craptitude of 2020.

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

-I’ll go with Lord of the Rings for this one. What a world! That said, I do love The Mandalorian.

Website: http://www.cameronjohnston.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CamJohnston

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cameronjohnston13


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Author Interview – Poppy Kuroki

Joining me around the campfire today is indie fantasy author Poppy Kuroki who has travelled all the way from the land of the rising sun, Japan!


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

I’m a ghostwriter and editor living in Japan. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and a lot of my inspirations have come from music and video games, as well as real-life feelings and tragedies.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

It’s limitless! I’m always amazed with the fantastic original worlds people can build from the genre. I write quite low fantasy, but I read a lot of high fantasy with magic systems and worlds so vastly different from ours.

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

My latest fantasy is Oath: A Black Diamond novel. I wrote it a year or two ago and sat on it for ages, wondering if it was good enough. It’s coming out on November 1st and has had some great reviews so far! I was going through a rough time when I wrote it and a lot of that is reflected in Colette’s story.

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

I love characters who go through some kind of life-altering experience and grow with the bad things that have happened to them. I mostly write female characters as I can identify with them more.

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

About writing, I’d say that there’s always room for improvement. Read a lot, especially in your genre, and be open to criticism. Study what makes good writing and identify and weed out your bad habits. For publishing, take up free courses and ebooks (there are tons of them out there) and watch out for scams; unfortunately there are many of those out there, too.

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

I set a word count goal for myself when writing the first draft. 1,000 words today, and it’s OK if they aren’t good, just get 1,000 words down! If I don’t feel motivated, I start with a goal of 200, then 500, and that’s usually enough to get me into it.

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

Definitely a plotter. If I start writing without any idea of where it’s going, I won’t finish it. I had a lot of partly finished projects when I was younger before I learned that lesson. I respect pantsers though, if you can end up with a finished project without knowing where it was going to go, more power to you.

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

I’m currently writing a series of origin stories for the characters in Oath and how they became assassins. I’m also working on a steampunk novel. It’s my first time writing in this genre so it’s exciting!

  • 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 loved dark or sad stories. If a book can make me cry, it’s an instant winner. I can enjoy happy tales too – I love Disney films just as much as anyone – but sad stories with deep, dark themes resonate the most.

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

Lord of the Rings! Where would we be without it?

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/greatbookswithpoppygroup
Twitter: twitter.com/poppyinjapan
Instagram: instagram.com/poppyinjapanofficial/
Website: https://poppyinjapan.com

Poppy’s new book A Bard’s Lament is out now!


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Author Interview – Cassie Crow

Joining me around the campfire today is YA fantasy author Cassie Crow. Settle in and enjoy!


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

    Hi. I am the author of The Wayward Haunt, the first novel in The Wayward Series, a YA dark fantasy which was released in June 2020. Since I was very young, I’ve been drawn to stories involving the supernatural. I would spend my lunch times at school creating scary stories for my friends to listen to. Barbie and my dolls would often end up some terrible, haunted, fantasy setting of some kind. I think what inspired me to write was that for a very long time, I couldn’t. I really struggled as a kid to read and write. I hated it. Eventually I was privately tutored by a teacher named Mrs Swann who recognised my love for storytelling. She taught me to see that reading and writing weren’t any different. With her guidance, I caught up to my peers in class. I think I chose to become a writer because I needed to prove that I could do it. Now I write because I love to be creative.
  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

    I love to read and write fantasy because it takes me into another world where anything can be possible. Fantasy is always growing and evolving. Every author brings something new to the genre, which keeps the stories entertaining and interesting. You never know exactly what you are going to get when you read fantasy, because rules are unbound by reality. The author’s imagination can be limitless. I write dark fantasy because I’ve always enjoyed chilling, ominous stories. The Wayward Series is set in a war-torn, dystopian world where magic is prevalent and ghosts exist, but the themes and events are very similar to what has occurred throughout our own history. I think fantasy allows authors to write about what is happening in our own world, by exploring it through fantasy.
  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)

    My current project is the second instalment in The Wayward Series and is the sequel to The Wayward Haunt, titled The Four Revenants. It picks up directly where The Wayward Haunt finishes. I am halfway through the first draft, which I hope to have completed by April 2021, with the novel released early 2022 (fingers crossed). Just like the first book, it has come with its challenges. Time being the biggest. I feel like there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything I wish I could do with my writing. I work part time, have to organise marketing for the first book, and write a second novel. Sometimes it’s exhausting and I have to remind myself that I’m human and need to take a break. Sometimes it’s great fun and I enjoy every moment. Funny enough, that happens after I’ve taken a break.

    The second biggest obstacle is the fantasy-world building in my story. There is so much history and detail in the world that I’ve created, that it could easily become overly complicated. My biggest fear is that the reader won’t be able to follow it. How do I overcome that? Honestly, I ignore it as I write, even though its nagging away at me. I focus on getting the story completed. After a few weeks, I’ll return to the story and read it. If the world doesn’t make sense to me, I know there’s a huge problem. I’ll need to edit and rewrite. Once it makes sense to me and I think it’s ready, I wait to see what the beta readers say. Again, if it’s too complicated, it goes through another rewrite.

    I think the best thing about writing the second novel is that I learnt so much from the first book, that the challenges are less daunting. They’re still there, but now their easier to manage.
  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?


I enjoy writing all sorts of character types. The easiest characters to create are the ones that are similar to me, or have traits I wish I had. I like to explore both the positive and negative qualities in a character. My main character in The Wayward Series, Zaya Wayward, is strong, confident, and assertive, but she’s also impulsive, judgemental, and has trust issues. I have worked hard to make sure Zaya is always driving the story. Sometimes she makes the right decision. Sometimes she makes bad ones. Just like in real life, her mood dictates what she does. I also enjoy creating villains because… well, what writer doesn’t love creating a superbad guy… or girl. You can be entirely evil and get away with it. It’s great fun. But I do try to make sure my villains aren’t two dimensional. They have a backstory. They have a motive they believe is right, no matter what the cost or sacrifice. Even in a fantasy world, the emotions and thoughts of a character need to be real and relatable. That’s the part I love developing.

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

    As a writer, I think the most useful thing I’ve learned is to manage time and be realistic with what I can accomplish. Writing is hard. It took me years to learn, and I’m still learning. I am a perfectionist (something I’m teaching myself not to be), and often I’d get frustrated at how little time I had to write. When I finally did have time to write my stories at the end of the day, I was too exhausted. My writing just didn’t flow. I had to learn time management and be realistic with what I could write in that allocated time. Everyone has commitments—family, work, relationships, sport, etc. For wannabe writers out there, I suggest finding a realistic schedule that works for you. Don’t tell yourself you are going to write for five hours a day if you know that in reality it’s impossible. If you can only write an hour a day, do it. If you can spare two hours on a Saturday afternoon, do it. Writing should be fun and enjoyable, not a chore. You will learn and accomplish far more when you are in the right frame of mind.
  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

    I set daily, weekly and monthly goals with my writing. I write and write and don’t care about editing. I just get the story into the computer. The editing comes later. I take a break when I need to, because if I don’t, I will drain myself and achieve nothing. I exercise. Ideas often drift into my head when I’m out on a jog. I take a notebook with me wherever I go. Inspiration can strike at the unlikeliest of places. Some of the dialogue in The Wayward Haunt is directly from conversations I have heard among friends and colleagues. I am realistic with what I can achieve in a day, or an hour.
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I am definitely a plotter. Everything in my stories, beginning, middle, end, scenes, chapters, are plotted out and written down. I find that this helps me to keep focus and to meet deadlines. I know exactly where I’m going with the story. Sometimes, unexpected ideas jump in my head as I write. Strangely enough, they work for the scene or chapter that I’m writing. They are always nice surprises when they occur. So yes, I am a plotter, but I do not object to new ideas coming along halfway through my stories. It keeps things interesting.

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

    The Wayward Series will be a set of four books, so book three and four are in the pipeline to be written and published. I have many ideas in my head for other novels that I haven’t given attention to at this stage, because my focus is on The Wayward Series, but eventually I will delve into those other stories. I want to write a cozy murder mystery, something along the lines of Agatha Christie. Knowing me, it will have an element of horror in it.
  • 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 enjoy both. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something a little darker, scarier, and tragic. Other times I want a happy feel good story, or a story where the hero faces dangerous obstacles, but ultimately triumphs. Life throws unexpected situations at us all the time. I like stories to do the same.
  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?


To watch, precisely in that order—Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. To read, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. I read Lord of the Rings when I was fourteen. It’s a wonderful story. Tolkien is amazing. But honestly, I don’t have the time or the strong mental energy it would require to read it again.

Author Website: www.casecrowe.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/casecroweauthor/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/casecroweauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20457182.Cas_E_Crowe


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