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“A new threat emerges…Sam is trapped between insidious magic, and human enemies even more deadly. But the darkest demons are waiting in his own mind.”

As a SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off) judge for Before We Go, I get the opportunity and honour to discover up and coming authors and read shiny new fantasy stories. This year I came across Credible Threats by author Daniel Meyer, an urban fantasy following teenager Sam Adams, a fledgling wizard who not only has to deal with a malevolent supernatural force but all the boyhood problems that come with being a 16 year old at high school. I absolutely loved this book and our team thought it worthy to proceed to the semi-finals, a fantastic and worthy achievement in what is a very tough competition.

With his second Sam Adams novel, Rising Shadows due out soon, I wanted to get to know Daniel a little better and delve into the mind of this talented self published author. We sat down for an interview via email, and talked about his journey as an author, his experience entering SPFBO and his upcoming novel, Rising Shadows.

[Luke] Welcome Daniel, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. Why don’t you introduce yourself, tell us about your book and where people can find you?

[Daniel] You’re very welcome, and thanks for the interview!

My name is Daniel Meyer, and I’m the author of Credible Threats, book one of the Sam Adams series, as well as book two, Rising Shadows, which is complete and will have a release date soon.

The Sam Adams series is a fast-paced, action-packed urban fantasy about a sixteen-year-old wizard named (obviously) Sam Adams. Sam’s life is complicated enough navigating his city of Williamsport, a place polarized between the haves and have-nots, and hiding lots of sordid secrets beneath its placid surface. Then all sorts of supernatural threats start crawling out of the woodwork, and he’s the only one who can save the day, getting him in way over his head. Along the way, he encounters a rogue’s gallery of both supernatural creatures and shady humans and begins to realize there’s something at play here far bigger and more dangerous than he ever imagined.

You can find me on Twitter: @dmeyerauthor, as well as at my official website www.danielmeyerauthor.com. (You can read the first chapter of Rising Shadows there, though be warned, it contains spoilers for book one.)

[Luke] One of the aspects I love about Credible Threats was how you placed huge responsibility on Sam Adams, a teenager dealing with grief, amongst everything else a boy of that age has to deal with. Can you tell us about where these ideas come from? Where did it all begin for you?

[Daniel] As a writer in general, I guess it really got started a decade or so ago; I’ve always been a big reader, but that was when I really started going out of my way to find more books to read. In college, I read A Song of Ice and Fire, and I wanted to find more fantasy books to scratch the itch. That was how I found Bernard Cornwell, after GRRM recommended him. A little later, I started reading The Dresden Files and that soon became a favourite as well. All that reading fired up my own creativity, and I found myself thinking about writing more and more until I decided to just go for it. I’d always had ideas for everything from books, to movies, to comic books, to TV shows, but for the first time I started taking my ideas seriously.

I suppose my ideas come from all sorts of places. I can see some random thing and have my imagination go spinning off on a tangent. I can have a concept or a ‘what if’ type scenario pop into my head. I can read about incidents from history or elsewhere in real life and think that you could make a great novel out of it. Sometimes I think of a cool title and try to build a story around it, but that never really works. Or I can read or watch something and think about how I would have done it if I’d been the one writing it. And sometimes, I’ll just discover something along the way as I’m writing. Of course, the trick is to have an idea that’s actually GOOD, which doesn’t always happen. So, there are all kinds of ways, and I don’t really have a hard and fast answer.

As to Sam’s struggles with grief specifically, I have to be a little delicate here to avoid spoilers.

There are some notable plot points that have been part of the plan since the beginning, but early on, I was confounded as to how I was going to introduce them. I finally hit on the idea to introduce a totally new character, Abby Scott, Sam’s childhood best friend turned crush, who died under tragic circumstances months before the story begins, leaving him devastated.

Not to take away from the tragic romance of it all, but it was a very plot-driven decision. And it completely blew the book wide open. It deepened Sam’s character and the story in general, and gave it a certain humanizing, personal quality that hadn’t been there before. It automatically increased the drama and the stakes. In the same draft I introduced Abby, I also came up with a new and better overall premise, and those two things together finally took the story to the next level.

And if you want to know what those ‘notable plot points’ are, you’re gonna have to read Rising Shadows!

[Luke] Good sly sales pitch there Daniel! So what authors have had an indelible influence on you as a writer?

[Daniel] Well, for Sam Adams, Jim Butcher is an obvious one, with The Dresden Files being my series’ primary influence. Joss Whedon and Pierce Brown are probably in there, too, along with other, less recognizable names, like Shane Black, the screenwriter best known for Lethal Weapon, and adventure journalist Robert Young Pelton.

The aforementioned Bernard Cornwell is another biggie; in fact, he may be the biggest one in some ways. His gritty and visceral style of writing action sequences sometimes gets me so enthralled I can practically smell the gunpowder, and his style has made a distinct impression on my own. Of course, he usually writes about historical battles, whereas I have car chases and wizard wars and monster attacks, but the influence is still there, even if nobody can notice it but me. Case in point: I once wrote an (unpublished) horror novel, about teenagers fighting evil forces at their prom, and at one point they’re battling zombies and the whole thing bears a distinct resemblance to Uhtred and the gang fighting a horde of Vikings in a shield wall.

[Luke] Credible Threats is your debut novel, which is brilliant by the way, and was released last year. Tell us what inspired you to write this story and a little bit about your process of creating this book?

[Daniel] Thank you, I’m so happy that you enjoyed it!

My reason for landing on Credible Threats as my first novel was super mundane: of all my ideas, it was the readiest to start writing. The Sam Adams books sprang from a very simple premise that occurred to me, which was a wizard in high school, not some sort of magic academy, but a real rough and tumble, all-American high school.

The process was complicated, probably more so than it needed to be, because I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Early on, the books were a rough amalgam of lots of miscellaneous ideas I’d had for urban fantasies. (At one point, I’d convinced myself that I needed to turn every idea I had into its own novel, but when I got to fifteen with no end in sight, I got horrified and realized I needed to zero in on my best material.) The first two drafts were very different, and I was never satisfied with them for various reasons. I needed a new villain for a new overarching story.

I’m trying to reach back into the mists of time here, and I can’t remember all of my thought processes; I know I wanted a villain that was a little more street level and personal, as opposed to the demonic creatures I’d written at first. I first toyed with the idea of King Death, the book’s villain, being a serial killer. It’s intriguing to wonder how that version of the book might have looked, but very quickly, I set the serial killer angle aside when I hit on the idea of magical drugs. And try as I might, I can’t remember where I got the idea for that. Maybe it was the kind of thing that just pops into your head after turning ideas over and over. Anyway, that was when it finally clicked.

 

[Luke] Yeah, I think the magical drugs angle really gives Credible Threats, that street level vibe that complements Williamsport’s troubles.

What was it like entering Credible Threats into SPFBO? Can you tell us about your experience and what emotions you went through, entering into Mark Lawrence’s growing and esteemed competition?

[Daniel] SPFBO can be nerve-wracking, but it’s still a ton of fun, and a wonderful opportunity for authors. I got all my files in order days beforehand, and hauled myself out of bed and to my computer as soon as the contest was open. I remember thinking that even if there was some delay, I would still have a few hours to get it sorted. Luckily, there was no delay, because the contest filled up in forty-one minutes. We were all lucky to get in. It was wild, and I’m curious to see how the high demand will affect the contest going forward.

That was one of my most fun days as an author. Twitter was in a frenzy, and for once it was a frenzy of positivity. So many well wishes and congratulations. I met lots of great people, and like I said, got some great promotional opportunities out of it, even for my fairly limited involvement. So, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested.

And I made it to the semi-finals, (as you’re well aware!), which felt great. I wanted to believe I could make it past the first round, but I wasn’t sure if I would. I vacillated between optimism and pessimism all the time. After spending years typing away in my little hole with no end in sight, it was a very validating thing. I can’t deny I was disappointed that I didn’t go further but it still feels very good to have hit the semi-finals with my debut novel.

I’m looking forward to doing it again, though to be honest, it’s a relief that that won’t be anytime soon!

[Luke] I think anyone who is among the self-published book community online, is well aware of the hard work and difficulties of marketing and promoting your books, reaching a wider audience. Tell us how you have approached this and what has worked for you?

[Daniel] I find marketing very difficult, and I want to get better. I’ve struggled to get eyes on this book. It seems I’m always too busy or too disorganized to really dig deep into the marketing stuff, especially when I’m worrying about writing the actual book.

My marketing so far is mostly confined to shouting about my books on social media, which isn’t really enough. It has helped me connect with lots of people, though, (including you!) and helped me find opportunities for reviews, interviews, guest posts, things like that, as well as my book tour with the (dearly departed!) Escapist Book Company. I’ve considered Amazon ads, but what I’ve heard about them hasn’t been inspiring, so I don’t know if that’s a wise investment.

And of course, there was SPFBO, which provided some nice boosts in exposure. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for new ideas. Oh, and this seems like a good time to mention that my fellow SPFBO9 semi-finalist Delilah Waan is working on a fun promotional thing for us semi-finalists, and that should be out soon.

[Luke] Ooh, we shall keep our eyes peeled for that, it sounds very exciting!

You are gearing up for the second book in the Sam Adams series, Rising Shadows. What can readers expect from the sequel, and I take it Sam will be put through the wringer once again?

[Daniel] Oh, it’s no spoiler to say he’ll be put through the wringer again. I think we can safely say that’ll happen in every book.

We pick up six weeks later, at Halloween, which adds a little extra fun to the proceedings. Out of the blue, a notorious necromancer called The Doctor appears in Williamsport, so of course, Sam is quickly fighting in a zombie war. And in doing so, he finds himself forced into a very, very uneasy alliance with the wealthy people who run the city and cover up their dealings with the supernatural.

After trying to bury his grief over Abby in the last book, he finds he can’t ignore it anymore. Everything is generally terrible and poor old Sam is just falling to pieces. This really is a relentless book, with Sam being pushed to his physical and mental limits. (So relentless, in fact, that my editor, Sarah Chorn, sensibly suggested I add in a few scenes to give it a little more balance. I took her advice, but it’s still a blistering ride.)

Sam saved the day in the last book, but he has to ask himself how many times he can go out on a limb and survive. He’s confronted with the question of whether he’s going to be consumed by wizardry or if there’s something more for him. The book will resolve some of the mysteries raised in the last one while introducing some new ones, and some of the revelations will reverberate for many books to come.

It was a struggle to write at times; I was stuck and frustrated and stressed out on many occasions, but finally broke through, and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. One thing that made me nervous was the lack of Eressen and Elise, who did so much scene-stealing in the first book, and who my readers seemed to enjoy. So, I tried to make up for their absence by getting Sam’s human friends, Jason and Alexandra, in the mix a little more. It really raises the stakes for Sam; there’s nothing supernatural about them, so they’re much more vulnerable, and he has to scramble to protect them. Plus, Catrick Swayze, Sam’s seven-hundred-year-old talking cat, will be getting out into the field in this one.

And I’m curious and more than a little nervous what people will make of it, as its darker, with fewer moments of downtime, than Credible Threats. I hope people will dig it.

On the other hand, it features a zombie crashing a cement mixer into a historic mansion, and how can you argue with that?

[Luke] It certainly sounds like Rising Shadows is going to be full throttled mayhem for Sam once again.

So then Daniel, to finish off with something a little fun, I thought we would do a take on desert island discs…but with books. Which five books would you want to be stranded on an island with and why?

[Daniel] I’m terrible at these kinds of lists, and no doubt my picks would change all the time, but luckily, I get to cheat on this question, as I actually wrote a guest post on this very subject for the Irresponsible Reader several months ago. Here’s a recap.

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell. It’s one of my favourite books of all time, and Cornwell was on a completely different level with this one. It’s a brutal, mystical, sweeping take on the Arthurian legend, and I suspect it will one day be remembered as a classic. It’s also been a big influence on my fellow fantasy writers, and I love that we’ve basically adopted Bernard Cornwell as one of our own.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Few books have grabbed me and sucked me in the way this one has. I remember a distinct sensation of feeling like I’d been yanked off my feet and physically carried away. These books completely held me in their grasp as a teenager, and they’ve had a special place in my heart ever since, with Katniss standing among my favourite fictional heroines.

Robert the Bruce by Ronald McNair Scott. Medieval Scotland has to be one of my favourite eras of history, and chronicles of that time period don’t get much better than this. It reads like a movie, full of battles, knights, castles, suspense, narrow escapes, and general swashbuckling, and every word of it is true.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. These books have become so recognizable, and the delays between volumes have grown so long, that people have sort of taken them for granted, but these books are still classic. It was reading A Song of Ice and Fire that eventually made me realize I wanted to write an epic fantasy of my own. I couldn’t visit a desert island without some fantasy, and what better fantasy to bring along than the first volume of my all-time favourite?

My John Carter omnibus, consisting of A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and The Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. While dated in many respects, it remains a rip-roaring read. Mars, called Barsoom by its inhabitants, is a fascinating and evocative place, full of all sorts of adventures, and it remains one of my favourite fictional settings. And of course, there’s Woola, John Carter’s beastly, adorable companion.

[Luke] Thank you so much Daniel, for taking the time to chat with me, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

You can currently buy Credible Threats via this link: https://books2read.com/crediblethreats

An interview with Daniel Meyer

An interview with Daniel Meyer

An interview with Daniel Meyer

An interview with Daniel Meyer

An interview with Daniel Meyer

An interview with Daniel Meyer

An interview with Daniel Meyer

An interview with Daniel Meyer

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