SpecMusicMuse: Spirit of Fire Blog Tour Interview w/Stephen Zimmer
And now for an interview with one of the best small press authors since, uh, that other Scott guy….
1) What got you interested in Epic Fantasy? Who were your inspirations?
Epic fantasy interests me because it gives you the broadest possible range to tell a story. It allows a story to be viewed from inside a character’s head all the way to a cosmic level, and everything in between … and it works. The fantastical dimension gives you even more range.
Epic fantasy lends itself very well to weaving in all the layers and intricacies of real life from an individual to a societal level, from the forces of politics and religion, to the flow of history within a world. It has depth and a real sense of how things fit together and influence each other, and gives the reader the perspectives to appreciate those kinds of dynamics. It really takes in the essence of a world, its cultures, and history.
Take Middle Earth for example, from the Silmarillilon to the Lord of the Rings, you have everything from a creation mythology, to a world’s entire history, to invented languages and a wide range of very engaging characters, as well as the tremendous stories told in books such as The Hobbit and the trilogy itself.
This kind of complexity can be challenging, but for storytellers and readers it can be immensely rewarding too. I can cite many examples of richly developed series, from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire to Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen novels.
As far as inspirations, the big two for me were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and since then there have been many more, including Guy Gavriel Kay, Glen Cook, Clive Barker, R.A. Salvatore, C.S. Friedman, George R.R. Martin, and others. I have been inspired by each for different reasons, as all of these authors have a distinctive style and particular strengths.
2) What’s it like being a small press author? What are the advantages/disadvantages compared to the big press?
Life as a small press author is very tough, make no mistake, but I think it is very tough for any level of author in this weird publishing climate that we have right now. Don’t forget that many major press authors still have to work day jobs to make ends meet. This is one of the hardest sectors in the entertainment world to make a living at, without question.
You also have to wear many hats these days. Managing and growing your online presence is a full-scale task in itself that authors in past decades did not have to worry about, yet it is a necessity in today’s publishing atmosphere. Can you even begin to imagine C.S. Lewis sending out daily tweets for example? Can you imagine J.D. Salinger making a status update on Facebook?
The big pluses of small press are that I really get to work closely with my editor, and I get to be involved in the art phase with Matt when it comes to the covers and interior illustrations. I also feel much more connected to the promotion phases of new releases, and have been able to support my work as much as I possibly can, with activities such as this large blog tour I’m doing right now.
The minuses are the difficulties in getting shelf space in bookstores, without question. This is becoming less of a factor overall with the continual rise of ebooks in terms of market share, but wherever I’ve been given a chance to be on a shelf, and had individuals in the store familiar with my work, I’ve seen new readers emerge. I think that there is going to be a solid place for independent bookstores in the future, and I hope to work with more and more of them in the future. Hopefully as the market shifts further from chainstores to eBooks and independents, the barriers to shelf space will ease up a little more as it won’t be one national buyer rendering a decision but instead the individual stores themselves.
I have talked to quite a few chainstore managers, including some who already read and buy my books, who would be glad to carry them on the shelves but could not due to corporate policies and buying controls from higher up. I know it will be nice when individuals like that, in the context of independent bookstores, will be able to bring the titles into the store without hindrance.
3)If you could summarize Spirit of Fire in one sentence, what would it be?
When darkness shrouds the world and all seems impossible, reach within and find the spirit of fire inside!
4) So, what’s the death count at in this book? lol!
Pretty massive, but not in the George R.R. Martin way, as far as main characters go. I won’t go so far to say that they are all safe, but I’m not into killing off my strongest characters en masse! Haha!
However, I do have some pretty large, vivid battles, and I don’t pull punches in them. A great many die in these clashes, and the battles carry a realism that reflects combat in medieval times. When you are using swords and axes, the results are not nice and clean. I don’t feel I go over the top in conveying these realities, but neither do I shirk from them.
5) Your novels tend to provide a good balance between characterization/setting and action/pacing? what are the ways you manage that balance, to make sure the story doesn’t get bogged down in detail or end up with scenes that flash by too fast?
I am always trying to improve in this regard, keeping a nice balance between action/pacing and characterization/setting. I feel my book three’s in my two series, The Seventh Throne in the Rising Dawn Saga and Spirit of Fire in the Fires in Eden series, show good progress in these areas. Of course, the book one’s of my series are perhaps a little heavier on characterization/setting by default, as they are the foundational titles for the entire series and really need to set the parameters for the worlds the stories are set in. I don’t forget that I am a reader too, and if I see areas that I would get bogged down in as a reader, I work to address to those sections.
I am careful about the ordering of my threads as well, and try to be sure that threads that follow each other are not of similar types. Sometimes there is a need for slowing the pace down in a big story for a moment, but you don’t want to stay there overly long.
6) What’s it like writing a series? How different is it from writing separate novels in separate worlds? Easier? Harder?
I enjoy writing a series, and having room to work in layers and depth, planting seeds for later harvest, in a sense. I don’t think it is necessarily easier or harder than writing stand-alone novels in separate worlds, but I do think there is a specific art to crafting a full series. Each title of a series, in my view, has a specific purpose in the overall story being told. The unique challenges in writing a series is to make sure that each title achieves its own goal while simultaneously serving its proper role in the context of the series as a whole.
7) Anything you’d like to tell potential readers?
I am an author that understands that without readers, an author is nothing. Seems like a simple concept, but not all authors seem to understand that reality. I am not the kind of author that will leave readers waiting years on end for a new title, nor will I come out with a title in a series where nothing really happens.
As a huge, lifelong fan of epic fantasy, I do understand what frustrates readers and what makes epic fantasy exciting, and I will do my best to bring you series that grow and deliver more and more with each new title. I feel strongly that both of my series reflect that kind of progression over the course of the first three books of each. Not every reader is going to like my work, and that’s fine, but for the ones that do, you will have the commitment of an author that puts every last bit of energy he has to give you as much as he possibly can.
Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker, whose literary works include the epic urban fantasy series The Rising Dawn Saga, as well as the epic medieval fantasy Fires in Eden Series.
The Exodus Gate, Book One of the Rising Dawn Saga, was Stephen’s debut novel. It was released in the spring of 2009, with The Storm Guardians following in 2010, and The Seventh Throne in August of 2011.
Crown of Vengeance, Book One of the Fires in Eden Series, was released in the fall of 2009, with Book Two, Dream of Legends, following in December of 2010. Crown of Vengeance received a 2010 Pluto Award for Best Novel in Small Press.
Stephen’s short fiction includes the Harvey and Solomon steampunk stories included in the Dreams of Steam and Dreams of Steam II: Bolts and Brass anthologies from Kerlak Publishing.
As a filmmaker, Stephen’s film credits include the supernatural thriller feature Shadows Light, the horror short film The Sirens, and the recent Swordbearer, a medieval fantasy short film based upon the H. David Blalock novel Ascendant.
Further information on Stephen Zimmer can be found at:
Twitter Page: http://www.twitter.com/SGZimmer