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J.E. Daniels (BDCharles) (1 Viewer)

Our author interview for July is with newly minted author, J.E. Daniels (BDCharles). His first novel 'The Story of Echo' is due for publication on the 31st of August 2021 and is now available for pre-order.

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Please tell us a little about yourself and your writing background.

Hello. Argh, this is nerve-wracking. My personal bio is in the book, at the back, where you have to buy it to see it, hehe But suffice to say, I live in Yorkshire, in the UK - God's Own Country, if the inhabitants are to be believed. Writing background? Before SOE, I really don't think I had one, other than little phrases and ideas knocking about and taking up brainspace. Some of those go way back. So maybe I've always been "going to write" but only in the last seven years actually did it, thought: to hell with that, I've got a book inside me, people. Since then, it's been the occasional short story, comp entries and so forth as you will know, plus three additional pieces which are starting to look a bit novel-ish.

I've dabbled in songwriting, as I do a little music on the side. That's a whole different method. It demands a different energy. There, you have to make the same point over and over and there's no steering clear of cliched expressions or repetition, and very little going literary unless you're Art Garfunkel or Dylan or someone. To paraphrase Allee Willis, songwriter for acts such as Earth Wind and Fire, on NPR: never let a lyric get in a way of a groove. Yay!, woo!, etc. You can get away with stuff like that - but it still has to have a musical purpose and to fit and to bring some sort of uplift to the party.

The Story of Echo is your first published novel. Will it be part of a series, stand-alone, or one-off?

Thus far, it is the first part of a two-parter. I'm about 100K words into the second part, whose working title is, for no apparent reason, The Direqueen. It's the first draft though, and will need a good go-through for flow and sense, even though I edit as I write.

Who or what was the inspiration behind the main character (protagonist), Echo?

The inspiration - okay, this could go horribly wrong - the inspiration was/is an ex-partner. Sad perhaps, but I suppose something in me clearly wanted to keep that memory alive. Sometimes I wonder what I'd say or do if she ever found out, and asked. Maybe she'd wonder if I still think about her. Then I'd either crawl into a hole, or say "well, funny you should ask..." Fundamentally a very gentle person. Too gentle in many ways for this world, and for whom the requisite toughening-up took a toll. I try and capture that.

Are you a Plotter or Pantser?

Pantser at heart. I just love pantsing - there's the joy of discovery, the free flow of exploring where the story goes. But my God, pantsing can burn up a lot of time. I've had to learn plotting just to stop the whole thing meandering on forever self-indulgently, and try and shoehorn a bit of cohesiveness into proceedings.

In terms of general process, my stories, be they novel material, or flash, or whatever, start with something tiny tiny tiny. A phrase, a snip of dialogue, an image or short scene, maybe something misheard or misread, or perhaps a name that makes me go: oh, I want to explore. And so I do, in writing. I'll start a bit, leave it for a bit, have some unrelated thought weeks later that I can't get rid of until I realise it has a ready home. There tends to be no big what-if moment. Earlier I asked my daughter what if there was a hot sauce that you could eat and it would make you breathe fire. Some people could make a story out of that. I could make a paragraph out of that at best.

Did the story evolve organically or did you have an ending in mind?

Being a pantser, the whole thing is mostly organic, but I did try and make it adhere to some semblance of storyishness, with an inciting incident, and a denouement and raising of the stakes and whatnot. Still, any planned stuff in there I live in worry will stick out like a sore thumb, where you can really see the joins. The plot is not particularly groundbreaking, but hopefully readers will enjoy the journey and the company.

Which genre best describes The Story of Echo?

Fantasy, broadly. I guess technically it is epic fantasy because it is set in another land with no underlying connection to the world we know, which would be the case in urban fantasy. But it's a little - if I may be permitted a toot of the horn - different from traditional genre fantasy. It's more human and relatable. The number of times I've woken up in the middle of the night thinking there's not enough magic, or I need less humans. I did have dwarves, though they've since been re-edited - I gave them horns and no longer mention the D-word, unlike the highly punchable (to me, anyway) antagonist. I want to say it would perhaps fit in alongside something like The Name of the Wind, or the Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso, but evidently some agents didn't agree with that assertion, hehe! Silverfish will be more traditional in that sense, conventional fantasy stuff, but there I have used a more obvious 'voice'. I like the idea of cosy fairytales reworked into high fantasy shenanigans, huge battles raging outside Miss Tiggywinkles' teashop and so on, which has been something of a driving motivator for all this.

By the way, when I wrote 'teashop' there I mistyped and typed 'teaship'. I now want a steampunk teaship to travel on. Perhaps little Hexatina in Silverfish will have one.

What is the story about?

Themes, you say? It tackles the big philosophical conundrums (or is it conundra?): what happens when fantasy dragonland collides with nascent industrialisation? Why do troublesome people do what they do, how do they get away with it, and what can the rest of us do about that? What happens when you drop bombs on fairyland? A young woman is driven to defend her homeland and as she stumbles over the answers to those puzzlers, learns it's none of it a consequence-free endeavour. It's got massive dragons, leaky magic, and quests in it.

How important do you feel a book cover is to attract potential readers' attention?

I've had it, ahem, illustrated to me that it's the most important thing ever, even more important than clean air. The cover art community is brutal. Here in writers' land, everyone supports everyone and everyone is nice but when it comes to covers, they use all the holds. But in fairness I do think it is important. I see a lot of covers that are reasonably good, if a little generic - I'm thinking swirly Cinzel Deco font with a woman and a wolf and some elaborate bordering, which seems extremely à la mode right now - and a lot that are somewhat cheap looking. At a lizard-brain level, in those cases, I want to reach for the first, knowing at least some care has been taken somewhere at least, some thought has gone into it.

I love your book cover, who designed it?

My supercool kickass cover was designed by this dude that calls himself sigmadog. Yes, you may have seen him hereabouts ;)Seriously though, it was the perfect confluence of events. I love Steve's designs for the monthly comps, have gushed publically to this effect, could totally buy a coffee-table book of them. Then when he said he was branching out into cover design and was setting his prices accordingly as a new entry in that world, I was straight in. The universe spoke. Ideas and comments went back and forth, and I frickin' love it. Would absolutely use him again.

You chose to self-publish. What prompted that decision?

I've sent out maybe thirty queries for SOE and the only non-standard reply I got was one saying that agenting is subjective, one person's no is another person's yes, and so forth. It was very appreciated, but I was just not getting any real feedback. So over time I became aware that I was chewing through effort and months on something that really had no guarantees. And why? What then? Even if I got through those gates I'd have to fit both the MS and myself to a market. Sure, I know that JKR sent a billion queries before Harry Potter was picked up, and SK's wife fished Carrie from the bin and so forth but I'm not willing to count on such fortuitous moments. I'm not that lucky. There's no benevolent hand coming to point at me and saying "that's the one" and I'd rather carve out my own opportunities. And ... maybe I'm cynical but I suspect that what is en vogue right now is a new type of author - and your bog-standard middle-of-the-road Gen-X guys are not it unless they are in some way different or very very good. And that's fine. We had our time, and honestly, I would hesitate to say that I'm that good. I'm okay. I'm happy with my output and a modicum of others appear to derive some joy from it, which is enough for me. So, I will self-publish and have a ton of fun guerrilla-marketing the heck out of it all.

As a new author, how are you going to market your book?

I signed up with Instagram the other day! I know, I know. Insta-what?! Actually, I had an account there before but it was just personal stuff. This is all business. And it's been quite responsive. Got some interactions, which is more than I can say for Twitter, where I sometimes feel I am shouting into a void. Still, I have 1100 followers on the bird - one of whom is Tad Williams' wife, don't'cha know - and I have stepped it up a little there and on FB, while hopefully not being too spammy. I also have a website which I think is kinda sexy.

I have to watch myself though. I had visions of making my website a Kafkaesque minefield of ever-changing dead-end links, random quotes and disconnected passages of text, where if you're lucky you might stumble on the Amazon page. The sort of thing people might discuss in hushed tones down dark alleys and illicit coffee parlours. And it is a little bit like that, but not quite that user-hostile. Hmm, what else? I've been in touch with some reviewers and sent them advance reader copies, with a view to having them review SOE on Goodreads and their blogs and so on (while assuming a high degree of non-activity). I've discovered booktubers. I've signed up with some promotional accounts and sites. And I'll fling a bit of cash at some of the better-known. Just taking opportunities. And yes, this interview is a part of it too. God, I sound like a tool. What I'd love to do is guerrilla marketing, as I said above; slide mysterious cards into comparable texts with the URL and a secret code or something like that, make a right old murder mystery out of it. But that's probably not practical.

What are you working on next?

I have three other novels on the go, with the one being the follow-up, while another is a sci-fi piece, as yet unnamed, in which, ahem, "a shy service robot roams the rain-drenched streets of a futuristic city, searching for the man she loves." The third is a fantasy story called Silverfish, in which a young girl randomly becomes a witch and must deal with the fallout of that. Those latter two are something like 30,000 works in, and Silverfish was a short story contest piece that then got nano'ed.

Where can people buy your book?

Right now, Amazon, on pre-order, to be released August 31st.

Don't forget to follow J.E. Daniels on Instagram and Twitter
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Good interview, BD! There was a lot of interesting stuff in it. After reading, for some reason I can't shake the image of you dressed in nothing but camouflage gear and peeking your eyes above the tallgrass, then leaping out shouting "GUERRILLA WRITER! HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM! STORY OF ECHO IS OUT NOW!" :D
Good interview, BD! There was a lot of interesting stuff in it. After reading, for some reason I can't shake the image of you dressed in nothing but camouflage gear and peeking your eyes above the tallgrass, then leaping out shouting "GUERRILLA WRITER! HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM! STORY OF ECHO IS OUT NOW!" :D
That is only bloody GENUIS!
Question from me.
I have been in love from the start with your story "The LED in my basement" which is more a psychological thriller than anything else. Do you intend to write a psychological novel somewhere in the future?

(I hope your answer is yes, I would buy it immediately)

Thank you, DW:) I love stories of a psychological nature so I'll write anything that comes up, if I have suitable characters and setting and what I think of as key set pieces to go with it. Never really tried anything of that ilk in a longer form though...we shall see
Hi @bdcharles I've just spotted under marketing you said: 'I've discovered booktubers' This sounds different! What is it exactly and what success have you had so far?
Hi @bdcharles I've just spotted under marketing you said: 'I've discovered booktubers' This sounds different! What is it exactly and what success have you had so far?
Booktubers are people who review books on youtube. But I've not massively followed up this avenue though TBH, as it is quite time-intensive to approach individuals. There are sites where you can sign up once and get reviewed by a wider audience, so instead I've been using some of them. Still, I'll keep those booktubers in my back pocket:)
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I love the cover. I'm not a fantasy reader, but I like your style, so I will look inside and see if something grabs me. Good job.