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!
This is a distinct honour and pleasure, in that I have the fabulous fantasy author Palmer Pickering! Palmer is a 2 X SPFBO Semi-Finalist, and multi-award winning writer!
Palmer’s published books include: “Moon Deeds” & “Light Fighters” – Books 1 & 2 in “Star Children Saga”, and “Heliotrope”.
P.L.: Palmer, thanks again for joining Six Elementals Interviews! First of all, massive congratulations on becoming an SPFBO semi-finalist (in the current SPFBO 9) again, for “Heliotrope”!
“Heliotrope”, in my opinion, was an amazing novel, but also somewhat under-the-radar, prior to recently. Your book has begun, I think, to get a lot more buzz in the self-published writing community, particularly on the heels of your Semi-Final berth in SPFBO.
I know why this book was so amazing for me, but why do you think “Heliotrope” has resonated so much with its audience?
PALMER: Hi P.L., thanks for having me on your channel. Yes, this is my second time getting a semi-finalist slot in SPFBO, and the best part about SPFBO for me has been participating in such a passionate and vibrant indie fantasy community. It’s the best community I’ve found out there. The contest attracts so many sub-genres and interesting people, and it’s a great vehicle to bring attention to indie books.
I’m so glad you enjoyed “Heliotrope”. For me, the most compelling aspect is the plot line and related character development of the main character, Teleo, who loses his family to the war and forms a new family with others who have also suffered loss from the conflict.
The prose style I used for this book is very immersive and descriptive, but very accessible. The story builds in a slow-burn, with plenty of slice-of-life scenes. I enjoy reading that style myself, and readers who like that style will appreciate this book.
In addition, the trope of the older protagonist, especially one who is a gritty but big-hearted warrior called back into service, is one of my favorites. Other aspects that are fun include all the animals, the discovery of lost magic systems, the crafting/tradesman aspect, wuxia-style training and fighting scenes, and the reluctant assassin trope.
I wrote this story for fun, as a break from the massive project of my science-fantasy series, the “Star Children Saga”. That saga is so enormous in scope, with multiple POV’s, several inter-twining plot lines, other worlds, some difficult themes, and is a genre mash-up. “Heliotrope”, on the other hand, has a single POV, a linear plot, a pure genre, and is an easy read, despite its length. It’s intended to be a feel-good story, while at the same time pulling on heartstrings and amping up the tension with some pivotal battles.
P.L.: I am looking forward to reading the “Star Children Saga” too! Besides your own work, what are some of the more hyped and lauded self-published books out there that have caught your eye, and any other reason besides the notoriety that draws you to these works? Or are you more inclined to read more “under the radar” books? Do you succumb to “so many people like this book I should probably give it a try”?
PALMER: I get so excited when I see indie fantasy books, that I buy a ridiculous number of them. I blame Booktube ;-). I have a much larger collection than I know what to do with at this point. I also am an extremely picky mood reader, and pretty much only finish books that promise to be 4-5 stars for me. I have the attention span of a gnat, and if the book doesn’t hook me, my mind wanders off. I am constantly trying to recapture the addictive experience I had with my favorite series, “Wheel of Time” and the “Farseer” books (“Realm of the Elderlings”). In fact, Fitz Farseer was a big influence for the Teleo character in “Heliotrope”.
I’m currently reading Alec Hutson’s “Umbral Storm,” (while simultaneously reading Janny Wurts’ “Ships of Merior”). I am a very slow reader and I like chonky books, so it can take me a while to get through my stack. Next up in my indie queue is “The Wickwire Watch,” by Jacquelyn Hagen (a SPFBO9 Finalist). I plan on reading all the SPFBO Finalists from this year and some from past years, as well as some other semi-finalists that have piqued my interest.
P.L.: Awesome reading choices! I am a HUGE Janny Wurts fan! Can you speak a little bit about your writing journey please? How long have you been writing, what inspired you to write, and what made you elect to publish via self-publishing rather than seeking an agent and a book deal with a “Big Five” traditional house?
PALMER: I’ve been writing all my life, from short stories as a child, to poetry, travel memoirs, and several unfinished or unpublished novels. I always wanted to be an author. I did try to get an agent and a book deal with a big trad house, for many years. I attended cons, took workshops, networked, queried, speed-agent-dated, etc. I created some rewarding relationships but got tired of a long string of rejections.
I have worked professionally in the publishing field (editorial, desktop publishing, graphics production, and marketing), so I knew what it involved. I finally just decided to bite the bullet and do it myself, and I haven’t looked back. I actually love the self-publishing process, and more than anything, I have been delighted by all the great people I’ve met along the way.
P.L.: Yes, definitely a LOT of amazing people in the self-pub community! “Moon Deeds” also placed as a semi-finalist at SPFBO (2019)? Can you tell us a bit, please about that book, its sequel “Light Fighters”, and the “Star Children Saga”?
PALMER: Sure, “Moon Deeds” was a semi-finalist in SPFBO5. It was in the same semi-finalist batch as “Sword of Kaigen.” Needless to say, I was knocked out of the running by that phenomenal book.
I like to say that “Moon Deeds” is fantasy in a science-fiction setting. Magic in space. It’s about a dystopian, near-future Earth that is being taken over by an alien-backed world army, and one of the few remaining free places is the moon. The only force capable of fending off the alien technology is magic.
The “aliens” are actually our cousins, since several planetary races are all descended from the same ancestors. It is the epic task of the protagonists (the Star Children) to reconnect with our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy, in order to save humanity from an endless war between the races and a downward spiral into permanent darkness.
The magic systems in this series are many, but tend towards the shamanic variety, including plant spirit medicine, shamanic trials and journeys, and dreamwalking. There are also sentient crystals, clairvoyance, energy manipulation, etc.
The arc of the first trilogy involves trying to secure control of the moon from invading forces. I explore some dark and disturbing themes, including human trafficking, exploitation of and violence against women, substance abuse, and the struggles of PTSD and recovery, paths towards healing, and counteracting corrosive aspects of human societies. “Light Fighters,” in particular, has TW content, but most people feel it is handled well.
Be prepared, “Moon Deeds” ends in a wicked, abrupt cliffhanger, so you’ll want to read “Light Fighters” if you liked “Moon Deeds.” “Light Fighters” is longer but faster-paced than “Moon Deeds,” and is a nail-biter.
This series is also written in an immersive, descriptive-heavy style, but the voice is very different from the tone of “Heliotrope.”
P.L.: This sci-fi series of yours sounds incredible! Can you tell us a bit please, if possible, about what projects you are currently working on?
PALMER: I’m currently working on “Anaximenes”, the third book in the first trilogy of the “Star Children Saga” (which will be a multi-volume series). I’m still on the first draft of that book. It is a challenge. But I can do it! (Pounds head against desk.)
I’m also at the proofreading stage of a totally different book, which is the first of a very long series called “Tales of Temerity”. This first book is called “Dark Town”, and is a fun, light-hearted, (not-so-descriptive and not-so-long as my usual), LitRPG/Epic Fantasy book. Not sure exactly which sub-genre it falls into, but it’s Epic Fantasy featuring gaming mechanics (but without the stats listings), inspired by “Legends & Lattes” and the games “Final Fantasy 14 “and “Witcher 3”. It features a tavern wench and house goblin who descend into a parallel world, which is a game created by dragons. The book covers Level One of the Dragon’s Game. “Part cozy. Part bloody. All fun.” My latest estimation is that it’ll be out around February, 2024. If I can submit it within the anticipated thirty-second entry window, I plan to enter it into SPFBO “X”.
P.L.: Fabulous! Best of luck in SPFBO 10! You’ve been at the self-published writing game for a bit. In your estimation, how has the scene changed since you first entered SPFBO, to today?
PALMER: I’ll tell you a couple of my favorite stories. First, I heard about SPFBO at the Nebula Awards conference in LA a few years ago from Dyrk Ashton (SPFBO Finalist, “Paternus”), who raved about the great community. At that same conference, I met another indie author, JL Doty. I was sitting in the audience, listening to a panel of trad publishing folks. They were extolling the virtues of traditional publishing over self-publishing, and to prove their point of trad’s obvious superiority, one panelist stood up and asked the audience, “How many of you are self-published?” Several hands went up. “How many books have you sold?” he asked, and randomly chose a man with his hand up, who turned out to be JL Doty. “Thirty thousand,” Doty replied.
The folks on the panel froze in stunned silence, followed by embarrassed grumbles about rare exceptions or how even a broken clock is right twice a day or some such nonsense. The panelist sat down, fumbled around a bit, and rushed on to the next topic.
Around the same time period, I discovered Hugh Howey, whose Silo series ran through the reading community like a brush fire, all fueled by word of mouth. (Hugh Howey has since co-sponsored the SPSFC self-published science-fiction contest.)
It was then that I knew SFF self-publishing had come into its own and could legitimately compete with the trad houses.
Regarding SPFBO, I can see over the span of the past four to five years how much the reading community has evolved and matured around that contest, and indie publishing in general. It used to be that there were very few support systems for self-published fantasy authors. Now there are indie contests, bloggers, reviewers, cover artists, etc. The community that has coalesced around SPFBO, either as authors, judges, or readers, reflects the growing quality and quantity of self-published speculative fiction. Indie authors are enjoying the freedom to experiment, break new ground, defy the “rules”, and are putting out some really good stories. Readers are appreciating the diversity and creativity, and the love they show the SPFBO contestants is really astounding.
Thank you, PL, for participating and contributing to the indie fantasy community, as an author, reader, blogger, and SPFBO judge.
P.L.: Thank you for the kind words! The pleasure and honour to be part of the community has been all mine!
Palmer, I have truly enjoyed our chat and I really appreciate you joining me on Six Elementals Interviews! Thank you so much!
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