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Six Elementals Author Interviews will introduce prospective readers to some of the best writers in their genre you may, or may not, have heard of, via a series of six questions. I encourage you to check out the work of these phenomenal creatives! Links to their websites and purchase links will always appear, accompanying the interview. Check them out!

A special treat with this interview, in that I have the multiple award-winning fantasy author, Jacob Sannox joining me! Jacob’s currently published works are: “The Ravenmaster’s Revenge”, “Agravain’s Escape”, “Dark Oak”,  “Age of the Dryad”, “Tristan’s Regret”, and the short story “Liver” in the anthology “The Anatomy of Fear”.

P.L.: This is a very special moment for me Jacob to be able to interview you! Thank you so much for joining Six Elementals Interviews! You are a two-time (and two years in a row) Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) semi-finalist, for “Dark Oak” and “The Ravenmaster’s Revenge”. Having read both books, I can attest to your amazing talent, and that the accolades are well-deserved! Can you tell us about your experience in the high-pressure, yet very prestigious contest that is SPFBO? What inspired you to enter in the first place, what was it like to go through both competitions, and how did it feel to be so successful in back-to-back campaigns?

Jacob: Thank you, sir. I’m honoured to be here!

Before SPFBO, I was really going it alone. I had pitched “Dark Oak to various agents and decided, eventually, that independently publishing was a better option. Nothing I write ever seems to fit neatly into a particular sub-genre, and the benefit of indie publishing is the freedom it offers the author in terms of what you can put out into the world.

I had one or two successful indie author friends, who had persuaded me that indie publication was viable, and, in many ways, was preferable to trying to get a book deal, but other than them, I wasn’t in any way a part of a wider writing community.

A bookworm colleague introduced me to Kitty G’s Youtube channel, and I was introduced to SPFBO by watching her videos in 2017, I believe. I decided to throw my hat in the ring in 2018, and I am so glad that I did, even though, as you will know, the early stages are absolutely mentally draining, as you wait to find out if you will face humiliation, high praise or anything in between. I got to know other SPFBO authors, mostly while seeking moral support, and ended up chatting with great folks like Lee C. Conley and D.P. Woolliscroft. I was fortunate enough to get to the semi-finals with “Dark Oak”, which was a lovely surprise and something of a relief, as well as, I guess, a bit of reassurance and validation.

After that, I immersed myself in the writing community and really turned my attention to writing with indie publishing in mind. I met great people, learned so much, and I ended up publishing “The Ravenmaster’s Revenge: The Return of King Arthur (an intentionally short book for the indie market) in time for SPFBO 2019. Once more, I was fortunate to get to the semi-finals, and Janelle Garrett’s review, for Book Nest, opened my eyes to some areas of my writing that I could improve, in particular, my tendency to ‘head hop’ in both “Dark Oak and “The Ravenmaster“. This was a product of my desire to present tales like a storyteller narrator, but my style needed to develop a little more. I feel both second in series were an improvement, thanks to some of the SPFBO feedback.

I saw a jump in sales, I met the wider community and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the SPFBO family ever since, even while living vicariously through the living torture of others experiencing the first round!

I felt reassured to get semi-finalist status two years running, but I am under no illusions. I am still developing as a writer!

P.L.: We are all developing, and need to keep improving, but I can attest after reading your work you are an awesome writer! I definitely feel the Tolkien vibe in your writing, and I find “Dark Oak in particular to be Tolkien-esque! Was J.R.R. one of your influences? Which iconic writers influenced your work?

Jacob: Oh boy, where do I start with this one? Tolkien means so much to me. My mother read me “The Hobbit at bedtime. I remember pondering his initials, and I wondered what he was like; I had no idea that he was already dead, and I was picturing someone far younger.

I listened to the BBC radio play version of “The Hobbit on long car journeys, and my first attempts at my own stories were always pale imitations of “The Hobbit”.

If I died and woke up in Wilderland, on the foreshore of the Long Lake, from where I could see the clouds swathing The Lonely Mountain, I would be more than content. I dwell there! It dwells in my heart!

I have two Tolkien tattoos; his monogram and “day shall come again” from “The Silmarillion, in Elvish.

I wanted to write an epic tale in a classic style that evoked what I feel when I read Tolkien, but I didn’t want to use anything of his, I didn’t want to write Tolkien fan fiction, so I abandoned writing fantasy at about 18, in favour of historical fiction. I only chose to return to it when I had a story that needed to be told and themes I felt I must explore. “The Dark Oak Chronicles is that story.

A major difference between my world and Middle-Earth, is that I could never love mine or want to live there. If you’ve read them, you’ll have your own opinions. But, I didn’t write them while misty-eyed and fantasising about a wonderful secondary world. No, I had dark themes I wanted to explore. But, there’s hope in there too, it’s just a very difficult time for nearly every character!

I can’t imagine many people would want to live at the Overlook Hotel either, but I’m not sure Stephen King was aiming to make people feel nostalgic and fuzzy with The Shining, if you get what I mean?

P.L.: I totally get what you mean! That said, in thinking about the world you create particularly in “Dark Oak“, it feels fully realizes, just like Middle-Earth did when I first read Tolkien! So, next question, what for you is the most difficult aspect of being an independent author?

Jacob: If you want to be a successful indie published author, you also have to be a business person. I don’t claim to be successful yet, and I don’t write full-time, but I do think having a head for marketing and business generally are a must. Thinking about sales strategies, putting yourself out there via social media while writing books, getting the covers designed and working out how best to launch, takes a lot of mental energy. I want to build an engaged mailing list, full of those who are happy to hear from me and to be alerted about my releases. I don’t want people to sigh when they see my emails! It’s a difficult balance in terms of both time and mental energy, trying to write books, publish them and build a readership.

P.L.: What you said is key, you do have to be a business person, not just a writer, to be successful in the Indie game. I agree, it’s all very challenging, but you are doing it so well, and now you’ve been doing it successfully for a while, so you should be proud! What can we expect next from Jacob Sannox? What projects are you currently working on?

Jacob: I’m working on “Tristan’s Regret“, the third book in my Arthurian fantasy series, “The Return of King Arthur“. I’m about 60% through the first draft. After that, I need to complete “The Devising, the third and final book of “The Dark Oak Chronicles.

With the two trilogies complete (assuming King Arthur STAYS a trilogy), I have an epic flintlock fantasy in mind!

P.L.: Ohhh! Epic flintlock fantasy sounds amazing! Can’t wait to delve into that one when it’s released! Do you consider yourself a plotter, a pantser, or something else in terms of how you write your novels?

Jacob: I’m a bit of a mix. I tend to pants a first chapter based on an idea, a concept, a feeling or a situation that occurs to me. I will then work out a loose story with a beginning, middle and end, writing one line about each chapter on a spreadsheet.

That rough outline gives me an idea of what I’m facing and how I might tackle it. I’ve likened it to looking up at a mountain and picking out where you think you’ll put your hands and feet before you set off.

I tend to pants the characters though, so they create themselves as I write, and if they take me in an unexpected direction, I will then rewrite my outline. This usually happens continuously until I reach the end.

This approach means I don’t lose heart, as I can see the way ahead, but it still allows for spontaneous creativity and a degree of roleplaying my characters.

P.L.: I wish I could pants more, I’m a hopeless plotter. I admire the spontaneity of part-time pantsers such as you! Do you have any advice for fantasy novelists looking to break into the game today?

Jacob: It depends on so much. What do you want out of it? Do you want to be traditionally published or are you looking to go indie? Whichever route you take, there are so many different approaches. I suppose the best generic advice I could give would be to get involved with the writing community, ask questions, listen, but don’t accept or reject advice too readily. Try things out.

For instance, I used to follow Stephen King’s approach, but he is a pantser…that doesn’t work for me. I would stumble out of the cabin, down the lamplit steps and into the dark, only to find I had no idea where to go.
I prefer to take a torch.

There are authors who swear by advertising and turn their noses up at the idea of building a social media brand. I know others who have the same degree of success through using social media and who never advertise.

There is no single RIGHT way to write books or to publish/sell them.

And even the right way for you will change month to month. The writers I know are incredibly friendly, supportive and willing to share their wisdom. Sit down and write, as regularly as you can, but, in between sessions, talk to the rest of us! We’ve got your back.

P.L.: Great advice, and I concur, writing community is awesome, and we have each other’s back! Jacob, I truly appreciate you joining me on Six Elementals Interviews! It is so wonderful chatting with you!

Jacob: Thanks for having me!

Buy Dark Oak here.

Buy The Ravenmaster’s Revenge here.

Buy Agravain’s Escape here.

Buy Age of the Dryad here.

Website: www.jacobsannox.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jacobsannox
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jacobsannox
Instagram: www.instagram.com/jacobsannoxwriter  

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