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!
I am extremely pleased to be joined for this interview by an incredible author of epic romantic-fantasy, the reigning Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Champion (SPFBO), J.D. Evans! J.D’s currently published works include: Reign & Ruin, Storm & Shield; Siren & Scion, and Wind & Wildfire.
P.L.: Such pleasure to be able to interview you, J.D.! Welcome to Six Elementals Interviews! And congratulations on the HUGE SPFBO Win! I truly enjoyed your award-winning book, Reign and Ruin! Can you tell us please, what was your SPFBO experience like? Now that you are a few months removed from your victory, with the new contest underway (SPFBO8), and you can perhaps sit back and reflect on how things went for you with a different perspective than the one you had while you were in the thick of things? What do you think?
J.D.: Thank you so much for the opportunity! SPFBO was a wild ride. I was certain I would get cut in the first round, because I went in sure that they leaned heavily toward epic/classic fantasy and grimdark. So I just kept getting surprised. And to be honest, I was not prepared for the stress. You know, you throw your book into a contest thinking you’ll be out in round one, that means you’ll be done with the stress right away. Instead it dragged on for a year, and ramped up. But everyone was so amazing. So supportive and kind. And the friendships that you form with the other finalists are, to me, where the real value is. Also the blogs and reviewers probably need a vacation. I honestly don’t know how you guys do it.
P.L.: How has being an SPFBO contestant, and one of only seven winners in the world to-date, impacted you personally and professionally (with your writing career)?
J.D.: There was definitely a short term boost in sales. My community on social media has grown a bit, mostly with indie authors. Podium contacted me because of the win, wanting to do the audiobooks. That was really exciting, because I wasn’t able to afford to do audiobooks on my own. As far as writing…it’s about the same. You know, they start right back into the next contest right away, so there isn’t a lot of basking.
P.L.: Reign and Ruin winning SPFBO seems to have smashed the theory in some circles that fantasy-romance is not as popular a sub-genre of the broader fantasy sphere. If one accepts the notion that fantasy-romance seems to have a lot of detractors amongst mainstream epic fantasy readers, why do you think that is? Has that changed? Has it become more in vogue, or popular now, as evidenced by two fantasy-romance books (yours and Krystle Mata’s fantastic Legacy of
the Brightwash) finishing first and second respectively in SPFBO?
J.D.: Fantasy romance has always been around in the greater fantasy sphere, it just wasn’t called that. Juliet Marillier, Jacqueline Carey, Mercedes Lackey, Kate Elliot, the list goes on, wrote books with strong romantic plots within the greater fantasy story. I don’t know if it is in vogue, so much as it is now its Own Thing. You can say, “I read Fantasy Romance”, and books are unashamedly labeled and sold as That. Instead of having to hunt the fantasy shelves for a book that might have a romance in it, you can now easily find books within the category. I think we owe a lot of that to the rise of social media – Bookstagram, booktok, etc, and frankly, to Sarah J Maas. She had this large following in the YA book community, who were on social media and talking up their books, creating online book communities. Then she published A Court of Thorns and Roses, initially as a young adult book (spoiler: it is not YA-it is adult fantasy romance) and dragged that audience into the adult fantasy sphere, and their vocal support of “this fantasy and romance mix? Give me ALL of this” really exploded fantasy romance into its own thing. The only circle that thinks fantasy romance isn’t popular is people that don’t read fantasy romance. If one takes a moment to look up from their legacy fantasy, they will see that romance accounts for nearly 2/3rds of the book market. Romance readers are voracious, loyal, and vocal. As far as WHY there are detractors, I’m going to go full feminist on this one. Please put on your safety goggles.
1) Romance is considered a “woman” thing. It is often associated with sad, dissatisfied housewives that want to ooo and aaa over chesty covers. Therefore, it is Silly, and patently Not Fantasy Worthy, which is Serious. Body parts are lopped off and dragons burn women and children, unless they are Women that Aren’t Like Other Girls, and the
only chesty men are covered in plate and their lack of emotions, except Righteous Anger…Which is Not an Emotion. Romance centers and equalizes the feminine experience (and now, even more experiences than just hetero!!!!), it turns them into arbiters of their own fates, not plot devices to spur a Plated, Angry but Not Emotional Hero to victory over the Great Bad. It highlights things western society thinks are Weaknesses (emotions, I’m talking about emotions), having adult conversations, making compromises, and compassion.
2) Fantasy romance is primarily written by women. And women authors in Traditional publishing are still FREQUENTLY published under the label of young adult. That means that a lot of traditionally published fantasy romance is labeled YA, which therefore means its “juvenile” and not Real Fantasy.
3) Fantasy is a broad genre. It encompasses so much that things can get polarizing very quickly. A fairy tale retelling is fantasy, and so is Game of Thrones. They have nothing in common, except maybe a Medieval setting. So its easy to stand on your side and point
around and say what is and isn’t fantasy to you. But that’s the thing about fantasy that I love. There is fantasy for everyone. Any flavor you like. Any subject you can imagine. And they are ALL fantasy.
4) People who do not understand romance think it is about the sex. And certainly, it can be, and there is nothing wrong with that. But the middle ground of romance is not the sex, any more than epic fantasy is the violence. Romance is about the emotional journey. It is the connection. Two people who see each other, accept each other, flaws and all. And in fantasy romance, those love stories can be of epic proportions.
P.L.: Are you able to let us in on what projects you are currently working on? What is in your future writing plans?
J.D.: Reign & Ruin was book one in a six book series, three of which are published, along with a prequel. I’m working on book four, Ice & Ivy. There will be two additional stories in the collection, though they will be separate from the original six.
P.L.: Can you give those readers, who are not aware of your wonderful books, a bit of an elevator pitch as to why they should read your writing?
J.D.: I write epic fantasy romance in an Ottoman inspired setting. The fantasy plot carries through all the books, but each romance is a standalone (different couple) who all come together to save the world (we hope). Elemental magic, beta heroes, intelligent, capable heroines.
P.L.: I understand you were in the military. I truly respect your service, kudos to you in serving your country. How has your time serving your country influenced your writing?
J.D.: I served primarily in the Middle East: Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar. So obviously it inspired my setting. The sexism I dealt with certainly influenced the trials I put my female characters through. I think I have an intimate understanding of war. How it isn’t black and white, what it feels like to lose friends violently and suddenly. I was a military intelligence officer first, and then transitioned to special operations. So I studied a lot about insurgency, which I haven’t used yet, but probably will.
P.L.: Thank you so much J.D. for being willing to be interviewed! I truly appreciate it!
J.D.: Thanks again for the opportunity!