Zack Argyle"..It’s what we do. We compare ourselves to others, for better or worse—usually worse. It can be healthy in small amounts, helping us to learn and grow, but I think most of us struggle to maintain the healthy level of comparison. So we end up feeling like failures...imposters....."
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 very humbled to be joined by the phenomenal Zack Argyle, author of epic fantasy. Zack’s current published works are: Voice of War, and Stones of Light.
P.L.: Thank you so much Zack for participating in this interview. So, you are, early in your writing career, a self-published fantasy star! Your debut, Voice of War, one of my personal favs, has been a Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) and Book Blogger Novel of the Year (BBYNA) Finalist, and won at Indies Today Best Fantasy and Independent Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Battle (ISFAB). Judges, reviewers, and readers alike love your work! What do you think the reason is that your writing has received such acclaim? What’s special about the writing of Zack Argyle?
I…have no idea. It has all been quite unexpected and wonderful, but has also brought with it an odd sense of pressure. To be truthful, with these kinds of competitions, I think a lot of it is just luck. There are plenty of people who don’t like Voice of War, but if you’re lucky enough to have the right people like your book at the right time, then you might just end up with an award.
That said, I do think people have enjoyed the strong theme of family. Not “found family” but actual family. The main character Chrys isn’t alone. He’s with his wife, his mother, and a newborn child. Their relationships aren’t perfect, but they’re healthy, and I think that is refreshing to a lot of people.
P.L.: I loved the element of family in Voice of War and I completely agree, that element appealed to a lot of readers. And I have always admired your dedication to your family, also to your faith. I know you to be a man of faith, a very devout person. Has faith influenced your writing?
Everything that is important to a writer bleeds into their stories. For me, it has absolutely influenced how and what I write. Family is key to my religion, and key to my writing. Forgiveness and faith much the same. That said, one belief I do have as a writer is the importance of subtlety. I have no plans to overwhelm my stories with my personal beliefs, but I do love finding opportunities for characters, in their own world and in their own way, to question and discuss life and death and faith. In many ways, these small conversations are reflections of our own world and the questions we have. In the second book, Stones of Light, there are some clear explorations into faith, and some in ways that I think are both clever and satisfying to both believers and non-believers. One of my favorite conversations is with a man who is immortal, reflecting on his own belief.
“You believe in a god?”
He shrugged. “There is much that it would explain, and many other questions that it would create. What I do know is that we know so very little. We are nine parts ignorance and one part enlightenment, yet we grab hold of that little knowledge we have and pretend that it is greater than it is. The man who is ignorant of his own ignorance holds most tightly to his perception of the truth. Unfortunately, I have lived long enough to know just how little I truly know. And, so, I do not claim to know whether there is or is not a god, only that it is certainly possible.”
P.L.: That quote gave me chills! Very poignant! Just an example of the skillful writing of Zack Argyle! Still, with all your skills and the accolades, is imposter syndrome a real thing for you, despite all the success? Is doubting your abilities and finding it difficult to accept your accomplishments part of what you have undergone as a top writer?
Oh, absolutely. It’s absurd how a single 2 star review can send me into a death spiral, despite the two 5 star reviews that came just before it. What’s even more absurd is that this is a hobby for me! I have no plans to become a full-time writer, and, yet, I often expect my successes to be on the same level as full-time writers. It’s what we do. We compare ourselves to others, for better or worse—usually worse. It can be healthy in small amounts, helping us to learn and grow, but I think most of us struggle to maintain the healthy level of comparison. So we end up feeling like failures…imposters.
P.L.: I feel you my friend! I’m the same when it comes to trying to find the healthy level of comparison! Yet it seems to improve, the longer one is in the writing field, and you become more comfortable in your own writing skin, and consequently your own level of “success”, not defined by the success of others. I must note, your wife is a popular member of the Writing Community as well, including the blogging side. I’ve read posts where your tastes in literature and hers sometimes clash! This must make for some very interesting dinner discussions, when you love a particular book, she doesn’t, and vice versa! Does this happen often?
This question made me laugh, because yes…it’s totally true. One of her favorite fantasy books, Ten Thousand Doors of January, I did not finish. The prose was too purple, and the plot was too slow, so I stopped at about 40%. She, on the other hand, does not drop books. If she starts, she finishes, even if she’s not enjoying it. What that also means is that she won’t read a book if she thinks she won’t like it. So there are plenty of books I’ve loved that she hasn’t read, like books by Anthony Ryan and Brian Staveley that are darker than she prefers. Fortunately, we both love Wheel of Time and the Cosmere. So there is plenty to talk about!
If anyone reading this hasn’t checked out her YouTube channel (@Bookborn), you are missing out!
I wanted to ask how often do you write? Do you have daily, or weekly, etc. writing goals?
I wish I had a better routine for writing, but with my busy schedule at work, coaching my son’s soccer team, volunteering at church, and two D&D campaigns, time is hard to come by! Luckily, I am very driven by deadlines, so the best way to push myself is to set goals. For example, with Stones of Light, I put the book up for preorder long before I was finished. The closer the date came, the more pressure I felt to finish, so I spent many late nights pushing myself to hit the deadline. Doesn’t work for a lot of people; worked for me!
The other thing that has helped is being part of a writing group. We are a group of 6 indie fantasy authors that I met just after I’d published Voice of War and no one knew who I was. We meet every week to critique 2500 words from two people. So every three weeks, at least, I have to have something ready for The Fantasy Forge to review!
P.L.: The Fantasy Forge! That sounds like an awesome name for a writing group! Having a supportive team behind you as a writer is invaluable. “Avengers assemble!” comes to mind when I hear that name. Speaking of Avengers, everyone in the Writing Community knows you to be the embodiment of one of your favourite Marvel heroes, Captain America. You’re a great all-around guy, always helping others, positive, a man of integrity and courage, high moral compass, dedicated family person. How do fictional heroes like Captain America, and those in literature, inspire you? Besides Cap, who are some of your fictional heroes?
Lies! All lies! No, I do try to be a good person, and, if that is the vibe I’m giving off over social media, then I’ll take it! I think more than anything, I believe in positivity. There is always light somewhere, and I want to make sure everyone sees it. Because of that, I tend to love characters who are infectiously positive. For example, I love Adolin Kholin from the Stormlight Archive. He wants everyone around him to be happy, and he’s not taking no for an answer. Everyone needs someone like that in their life who helps bring a little light in the darkness.
P.L.: You are certainly a bright light for many of us in Writing Community, and we truly appreciate you! It has been a privilege to speak to you, Zack! Thanks for joining Six Elemental Interviews!
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I’m an experienced writer, in that I’ve been writing stories all my life, yet never thought to publish them. I’ve written informally – short stories – to entertain friends and family, for community newspapers, volunteer organization magazines, and of course formal papers for University. Now, later in life, I’ve published what I believe is a great fantasy novel, and definitely worth reading, called A Drowned Kingdom. My target audience is those who enjoy “high fantasy”. A Drowned Kingdom is not “dark fantasy”. It’s written in a more idealized and grandiose style that I hope isn’t too preachy, and not too grim. Still, I’m hoping my book has appeal to those who don’t typically read this type of work – those who don’t read fantasy of any kind – because of the “every-person” themes permeating the novel: dysfunctional familial relationships, extramarital temptation, racism, misogyny, catastrophic loss, religion, crisis of faith, elitism, self-confidence, PTSD, and more.
Many of these themes I have either personal experience with, or have friends or family who have dealt with such issues. I’ve had a long professional law enforcement career, undergone traumatic events, yet been buoyed by family, faith, and positivity. I’m a racialized middle-aged man. I’ve seen a lot of life. Ultimately I want the planned series, of which A Drowned Kingdom will be the introduction, to be one of hope, and overcoming obstacles to succeed, which I believe is my story as well. My protagonist, Othrun, will undergo a journey where he’ll evolve, change, and shape a continent. He’s not always likeable. He’s a snob, bigot, is vain, yet struggles with confidence. He’s patriarchal. Overall, he’s flawed. But even ordinary flawed people can change. We’re all redeemable.
Ordinary people can make a difference, not just fictional Princes. I want that message to shine through my work.