Q: How did you get into fantasy?
It’s been a lifelong passion, truth be told. Back when I was a kid there were these Fighting Fantasy books with bright green spines, and I bought as many of them as I could out of an insatiable desire to experience the wonder and magic contained within their covers. They were like Choose Your Own Adventure books, but replete with ruins, demons, haunted forests, bizarre dungeons, cruel magi, horrific monsters and so much more. Combine that with my love for the board game HeroQuest, and I was pretty much doomed at a young age to love the genre.
The first real books that swept me away however were David Gemmel’s Drenai Saga, and they made such an impact on me that I ended up writing my college application essay on their themes. Those early influences indelibly marked me, such that when I realized I wanted to be a writer, there was no question as to what I was going to write: my highest goal is to inculcate in other kids the same breathless joy I felt as I turned those pages so long ago.
Book 4 of my Chronicles of the Black Gate! It’s called The Iron Circlet, and is the penultimate book in the series. I’ve been thrilled with how well it’s been received, and while discussing it might prove too spoilerific for those who haven’t yet checked out Book 1, suffice to say that everything’s moving deliciously into an endgame, with characters getting tested to their limits (and in some cases being broken) while world threatening menaces emerge to do battle. It’s called epic fantasy for a reason, right?
Q: What fantasy book are you reading now? Are there any new authors that have caught your attention?
I’m currently making my way through Josiah Bancroft’s ARM OF THE SPHINX, book 2 in his TOWER OF BABEL series. It’s brilliantly written, with a precise, poetic language that makes following the adventures of his headmaster-cum-pirate captain a true delight.
Q: What are your favorite fantasy tropes? Which ones do you wish would die?
Let’s see, how about one of each? One of my favorite fantasy tropes is the well-executed learning montage. Whether it’s our hero first learning how to wield a blade or being taught how to weave magic, those first lessons always give me a thrill.
As for a trope I wish would die? I’m pretty tired of the Big Bad Evil coming out of the frigid north.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you want to be commercially successful, don’t think of writing as an art but rather as a craft. You only get better through constant practice, and waiting for inspiration to strike will leave you waiting forever. Sit down, get your hands on the keyboards, and write. It’s fine if your first draft is awful – you can refine it. But if you don’t get that first draft down, if you never commit yourself to telling your tale, you’ll never be able to call yourself an actual writer.
There have been plenty of challenges, but the toughest was figuring out how to get my books in front of readers. It’s not enough to simply upload your book to Amazon these days and hope for the best. I did that for years and got nothing out of it other than self-doubt.
I overcame this obstacle by stumbling upon the Writer’s Cafe at Kindle Boards. There was a wealth of advice and experience being shared there at the time, and I profited immensely by reading about what successful authors were doing. That’s where I learned the importance of paying for a professional cover, workshopping your blurb to death, how to use keywords to your greatest advantage, how to control the length of your Look Inside sample, and how best to use promotions to tickle the Amazon algorithm so that it would do your marketing for you.
Q: What is the next project you’re working on? When do you hope to have it available?
I’m almost done with Book 5 of the Chronicles, and I hope to have that out by the end of July. Then it’s on to finish the Godsblood Trilogy, which should be done by the end of summer, and then? I’ve got a bunch of ideas swirling around in my head, but I’m not sure yet which one I’ll be tackling. I can’t wait to find out, however.
Thank you Phil Tucker for participating in this author interview. You can find Phil’s books on Amazon.