I’ve known Martyn Stanley for quite a few years now, since before he published his first book in the Deathsworn Arc Epic Fantasy series. And no, we didn’t meet at GoodReads, I had no idea the platform existed at that time. Martyn has always been a Fantasy fan and we met through an extinct digital art forum, where he spotted some of my first works as professional Fantasy illustrator – before that, I was a professional graphic designer and illustrated as hobby. Then he contacted me and from there on, we have been working together ever since. I have made the covers for his book series and I am very glad I had this amazing opportunity.
Below you read a short interview we did for my blog:
1- Now that you have several books on your back, how’s your writing and editing process? Has your publishing process changed over the several titles you have published?
As the series has progressed I’ve found it harder to keep track of continuity points. I have some characters with overlapping histories that go back hundreds of years. Everything has to make sense. I used to simply re-read my books several times and I’ll still have to do this from time to time, but I’ve started making a wikia for the series to help me keep track of what happened and when. Also what people have said! I wrote the first two books very quickly and probably released them both too early. Now, I’m more inclined to take my time and make sure they are right before I release them. The books have also gotten longer. The first two were only 65,000 words roughly, the second two were more like 82,000 words. Book 5 is looking at being 100,000 words or more, largely because the plot is getting more complicated and I’m following more separate story lines. The pain is still publishing the Smashwords and paperback versions. Publishing to the Kindle is a doddle. A four year old could do it. The other platforms can be a bit of a faff though. I still write very much as did before, I just edit and plan a little more. I’m still in between a pantser and a planner, but I’m now a little bit more of a planner because I have a stronger feel for where the series is going. I know how it ends, but the details of how to get there are getting filled in as I write each book.
2- For new readers, what can they expect of your Deathsworn Arc series and which is your favourite book?
The Deathsworn Arc is fantasy, but it’s quite different to most fantasy. The magic often references real-world science for example. A big theme in Deathsworn Arc is Brael Truthseeker’s ‘Truth’. Part of the story is the exploration of experiencing a dramatic loss of faith and the effects of atheism on individuals and society. The books are quite feminist in nature too. Many of the characters are strong, independent women. The first and second books are almost an anti-damsel in distress tales because Vashni effectively keeps the party alive much of the time. There’s even a society in Torea, which has become a strict matriarchy, as a reflection of the medieval patriarchy. It sounds absurd when you read it, but if you imagined the gender roles swapped it suddenly looks a lot like medieval society in our world. One thing many readers DO compliment me on is how the characters and their relationships grow and develop. They meet as a band of strangers in book 1, but by book 4 they are becoming quite close. Many readers hate Vashni in book 1, then like her in book 2 and love her in books 3 and 4. Why? Because she wasn’t entirely being herself in the first book. She’s acting a certain because she doesn’t entirely trust her new companions. One thing about the series that makes it so interesting, is that every book has a very different feel and flavor. My favorite book so far is book 4. It’s more complex and introduces two of my favorite characters in the series. A dark elf woman called Vexis Zaelwarsh and a young human girl called Fox Fletcher. They have big roles in book 5. I suspect book 5 will be my favorite when it’s done, as long as I can get it right. It’s even more complex, at one point following five separate story lines and it explores new locations and cultures. It’s also got more impressive magic being thrown about than the earlier books.
3- Do you have any writing rituals?
I always start by re-reading and editing my last chapter. I also often imagine how the next scene is going to happen when I’m lying in bed at night. I don’t write ideas I have at night down, my view is if you forget them, they can’t have been that great ideas anyway! As for the actual writing, I tend to write a little, often. throwing a paragraph down when I can. Sometimes, when I get really into a scene – I can’t stop! That happened when I wrote Vexis’s ‘Low Priestess of Avanti – Dream sequence’ in book 4. I love my dream sequences! I think they are some of my best bits.
4- How do you keep inspired?
I read constantly, not just fantasy either. I try to read a variety of genres. I think as an author, to develop your own voice you have to appreciate as many other authors voices as possible. I also watch films and play video games. I’m playing ‘The Witcher 3’ at the moment. It’s got some really nice scenery and settings, as well as sub-plots. You have to be mindful of plagiarizing elements directly, but when you transpose ideas from other sources into your own world and context it often changes them anyway. I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan, always have been. So I have a copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Myth and Fable. When you’re writing fantasy it’s often the absurdities of our world which give you inspiration.
5- As an indie author, which are your biggest challenges?
I still think indie authors don’t have the prestige of traditional authors. My paperbacks are available, but I hardly sell any and make no money on the ones I DO sell. I will always keep Deathsworn Arc indie I think, but I will try to get some of my other projects trad published. If I ever make it as a trad pub and become reasonably successful…. Well, at that point I can probably look harder at getting my paperbacks in stores. For me that’s a life goal. I will always feel something of a fake until I can walk into a store and see my books on the shelf, in the fantasy section. Aside from that, as an indie you have to do literally EVERYTHING yourself. Writing, formatting, publishing, marketing… It can be draining and take you away from what you really WANT to be doing! WRITING! Many people criticize me for wanting to be trad pubbed and extol the virtues of being self-published. I can see their point, but being traditionally published can open some doors which self-publishing will never open.
6- How do you market your books and connect to your readers?
I use a number of strategies. I regularly promote the first book, which is perma-free everywhere, using email subscriber lists like Free Booksy and Booksends. I try to be active on Goodreads and if I write a review I sign it off with my author profile and one of my books. You don’t want to look spammy, you don’t really want to shout about yourself! It’s very un-British. I’ve actually hardly told any of my friends I write, many of them probably have no idea I’ve sold thousands of books around the world! The bottom line is it’s very hard. You need to make people aware of your work, but in a way which isn’t pushy. Again this is one of the reasons it’d be nice to be traditionally published. They’d probably be much better at the whole marketing thing than me and might actually have some sensible advice for me. It IS a lot easier to promote a free book. It feels less vulgar as well, to ask people to read your free book. If they like it and want to read on, then that’s great!
7- What are you working on at the moment and do you have plans for new novels?
I’m currently working on Deathsworn Arc 5: The Temple of the Mad God, but it’s a slow process. At 55,000 words I’m probably about halfway through the book! It’s also the hardest book to keep time inline properly. Lots of different things are happening in separate places. On the back burners I have a black comedy about static caravans on the go and a dark, paranormal thing which has a flavor of the occult about it. I might try and trad publish these when I’m done. I also want to write a subscriber exclusive which is a prequel to Deathsworn Arc: The Last Dragon Slayer. I started one of these about Korhan on Wattpad, but I wanted to do a subscriber exclusive which explains what Vashni was up to and how she ended up in Trest. I know what happens but I haven’t started it yet! If my readers have read all the Deathsworn Arc so far and want to read more of my work, there’s always my Lambton Worm and Return of the Wormslayer short stories!
Title: The Last Dragonslayer
Genre: Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery
Synopsis: Saul Karza, wizard of the Empire, has been given a quest by the Empress herself: To find and slay a mythical ‘noble dragon’ – said to be near invulnerable.
Instead of leading a large band of soldiers, archers and spell-casters; he sets out with two immigrant dock-workers and a homeless dwarf.
What Saul needs is the legendary ‘Last Dragon Slayer’ on his side, because on this deadly quest, it’s not only Saul’s favour with the Empress that’s at stake – but also his life.
The series sequels:
Click on the images to enlarge them.