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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

From Games to Books: Interview with Fantasy Writer, Tom Fallwell

You came from a career as a software developer and programmer. Was there anything in that work that helped you in new career as a writer?
I guess you could say, due to my programming career, that I became accustomed to spending hours on end sitting at my computer. That definitely helps when writing using MS Word.

What drew you to writing fantasy?
I had actually started writing before I began my career as a software developer. Back in the late 80's, when there was a huge boom in the comic industry, I was writing a story for a comic book called Dark Regions. Without financial capital, that venture did not last long and I went into programming. 

I have always wanted to write fantasy and science-fiction stories, always. I have been a fan of the genres ever since I can remember, but it was The Lord of the Rings that really fired up my imagination. The release of the movies recently just spurred that even more. I also spent a lot of time playing Dungeons & Dragons, table top role playing, as a DM or Dungeon Master. I would create adventures for the other players to experience. I have always had a good imagination.

When did you actually start writing your first book?
My first book, Dragon Rising, was something I had in my head for a few years. The idea actually came to me while playing a game. I had created a character for the role playing game, Skyrim, and the idea of the story came to me then. It wasn't until the Spring of 2014 that I decided to start writing it down.

How long did it take to write your first draft?
With Dragon Rising, I was still learning to write a novel. I had never done so before. So I didn't actually write a first draft. I kept revising as I went until I had what I felt was a complete story. I have learned much since then, and now do a complete draft before I go back and start re-writing and revising.

How many re-writes do you think you did?
I changed things many times throughout that first book as I wrote. The central plot never changed, but I went back many times and re-wrote sections, sometimes entire chapters. I really don't remember how many times I did that.

Who encouraged you along the way?

I have a wonderful, long-distance friend who lives in another state from me. She was a great source of encouragement throughout the whole process. The first book is dedicated to her. Her name is Jeri.

Are you active with any writer’s critique groups?
I am active mainly with several author groups on Facebook. They have been a wonderful source of encouragement and inspiration. I recently setup a beta reader group who are now my main critics and help me with my current project. I also have a wonderfully talented editor who has been absolutely essential.

I see one of your early publications was for a short story called A Strong Tower. Did you do this to test the waters as a writer to see if you could sell your stories? 
That was written before any of my novels, and was a spring board to my confidence as a writer. I wasn't sure what I was writing, as I simply began to write down an idea I had. It took on a life of its own and within a few weeks I had a short story. My friends said it was good, so that gave me confidence to begin a full novel. 

Whether or not my stories sell has never been as much of a factor as just the fact that I am writing them. I don't focus on the financials of writing, at least not heavily, but on the pure joy I get from doing it, and the great feeling of accomplishment when someone tells me they liked what I have written. That is the most important part for me.

Each of your books are indie-published. Did you first try the query route with agents and publishers? What type of research did you do before you chose your source to publish?
I spent many hours researching how to submit manuscripts to agents and publishing houses, and on the self-publishing tools and avenues available. I decided to self-publish because I did not want my stories sitting in some agent's inbox, never being read, or being read by one single person and rejected. I wanted my stories available to people who enjoy reading. So, I chose the Indie route and have been absolutely satisfied with that decision.

Other than completing your novels, what was the most difficult aspect of publishing for you? 
The most difficult thing for me is marketing. There is a huge field of writers out there, and getting noticed among them is not an easy task. However, I found they are not my competition.  I actively promote other writers on my website and Facebook account, because we are all in this together. So, I focus more on fun. If sales come, they come and I am pleased. I don't focus on sales over simply enjoying writing and talking with other writers.

What has surprised you the most about getting published other than the joy of seeing your book in print?
My biggest surprise came when my father, who is 86 years old and never reads books, read my book ... and liked it! That was not only a surprise, but an awesome boost to my confidence and joy in writing. Seeing a printed copy of my book was also an awesome experience. Now that A Whisper In The Shadows, my first book in my Rangers of Laerean series, is out as an audio book, it was another fantastic and beautiful experience to hear my story and characters come to life. It was very exhilarating.

What do you know now about publishing that you wish you knew sooner?
I learned a great deal with my first novel, but the main thing was I was not an editor. A writer, yes, but not an editor. There were many mistakes, but the editor I have now helped me correct much of it. I have used him to edit my books ever since. He and I seem to operate on the same wavelength, and work very well together. Finding a good editor and a good cover artist, I believe are essential for someone starting down the self-publishing path. I am still learning more each day.

What’s been your best promotion for selling books?
I have had more success doing events that promote other authors, but I am still getting my feet wet in the realm of promotion. I am in the planning stages for more live events to come, but I also keep doing Facebook events. I have had a great time doing that, and have found many kindred spirits among other indie authors. I will continue learning how to market myself and my books.

What advice would you give someone who wants to indie-publish? What is the best advice you’ve been given or learned?
Indie-Publishing sounds good at first, because people may think there is no cost. That is not the truth. If you intend to self-publish and make money, you are going to have to spend money. For editors, artists, marketing and more. It is not free. With that said, if you simply enjoy writing and sharing with others, without focusing on being financially successful, then you can find a lot of enjoyment and fun with indie-publishing, as I have. However, anyone planning to enter the realm of indie-publishing needs to be aware that there will be costs - both time and money.

What other works do you have in the process?
I am currently working on Book #3 of the Rangers of Laerean series, The Shadow of Narwyrm. This will complete the three-part story I have been telling, but I plan to write more books in the series. Additionally, I am starting a free monthly installment series, exclusively for my mailing list members, that will tell the history of the world in which the Rangers of Laerean takes place. 

I have some ideas for other books and genres besides fantasy. For now, I am focused on The Shadow of Narwyrm and completing the story I started with A Whisper In The Shadows. Some have asked if I any more plans for the characters in my first book, Dragon Rising. I had not planned that, although it is possible I may write another story for those characters in the future.

Any last words you’d like to add?
Just thank you for talking with me and allowing me into your own list of readers.

That's all for today's interview. If you're a fan of fantasy and are looking for a new read, here's how you can find out more about Tom's writing...

You can also subscribe to his mailing list to keep up-to-date on events and book releases, and read The Chronicles of Hir, in free monthly installments.

His books can be found on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and other online outlets. 

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