1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?
Hey – I’m Mark Holloway, a debut indie fantasy author based in England, UK.
2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?
The Soul’s Aspect is my debut work. It’s an adult fantasy about a young healer, Kehlem, who catches the empire’s attention, and is forced to become a weapon for the empire to wield. The empire doesn’t realise however, that a sharp knife will just as easily slice the hand of the wielder.
I’d say it has something for all fantasy fans, but particularly those who have enjoyed R.F Kuang’s, Patrick Rothfuss’ and Robin Hobb’s work in the past, in terms of style and theming.
3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?
Kehlem is your classic coming of age protagonist, eager to please, and sometimes, painfully naive. Having to support his widowed father from a young age gave him a strong sense of responsibility that he carries with him always. Kehlem came about conceptually as a reaction to some of the infallible coming of age protagonists that sometimes pop up in fantasy stories. I wanted a character that was internally consistent but not wilfully stupid, and someone who would react mentally as well as physically to the plot that develops around him. No more fantasy protagonists that bulldoze through deep trauma and come out the other end emotionally unscared.
Kehlem’s strengths come from his logical mind – being raised as a physician he approaches his issues logically, and often dispassionately, like a surgeon, which can help him find out-of-the-box solutions. But the flipside to that is that this bullish behaviour can mean he starts a ball moving without considering the consequences of his actions, nor how they could affect those around him.
4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?
Without spoiling, there’s a scene that I wrote that broke my heart. I knew it needed to happen, the story asked for it to happen, but it didn’t make it any easier when I finally wrote it. I hadn’t appreciated it before as a reader, but as a writer you live and breathe these characters, I would often daydream about them thinking up new scenes and how they react. To put my characters through what I did…it was hard!
5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?
I put some feelers out for traditional publishing, but I opted for self publishing in the end for a couple of reasons. Firstly this isn’t my main job, nor would I want it to be. I’m quite happy to have this chugging along as a side job. I also prefer to have as much control on things like this as possible, and it’s quite interesting building something from the ground up.
6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?
Fighting that imposter syndrome! Those first steps are quite hard, and I know I felt self-conscious during the first couple of weeks. The best advice I think is to share, and share often. Also, don’t let your first serious foray into creative writing be a full novel – you don’t want to be 50k words deep only to find out you have some fundamental issues. Take a breath, pause, write some flash fiction, share it in any of the hundred online forums for such purposes and learn. I joined a really amazing community of fantasy writers that really helped me hone my craft and feel confident in my own abilities as a writer.
7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I broke one of the tenets of debut work by starting off with an intended trilogy. The Soul’s Aspect will be part of a series, but the plan will be for the sequel to open things up a little further. I do have a true standalone in development at the moment however.
8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?
There are so many! Philip Pullman was a big inspiration for me. Yes, he writes Young Adult and I’m more focused on adults, but the way he craftly weaves such heavy topics like Gnosticism and spirituality through his books is masterful. Patrick Rothfuss is another big inspiration for me – I think most would agree that his prose is decidedly lovely. Finally, Robin Hobb – I don’t think I’ve been so emotionally invested and devastated by a character’s journey like Fitz. I’ve never experienced anything like it and very much crave for more!
9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?
I wish I knew! In all seriousness, I think indie authors need to be part of the community, and demonstrate that they’re symbiotes rather than parasites. It’s no good rocking up to an already thriving community, dumping a bunch of marketing on them for your book, and then providing nothing else. You’ve got to earnestly, sincerely take part, and help build others up in the same way you would hope to be lifted as well.
10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?
If I have to read one more sword forging scene, I shall scream. It is hard though, because clichés and tropes become that way for a reason. They work. They’re shortcuts to story writing and so many of them bring forward feelings of nostalgia in us all as we’re reminded of the ghosts of books long since finished. I think it’s down to the skill of the author to work in an overused cliché craftily.
11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?
So I’m a fledgling, just starting on my way, but I have been mercilessly torn to shreds in my past, and I lap up any and all criticism. The really nasty stuff is the best – it helps you learn. Tempered steel needs heat, and I will happily be forged in the flames of criticism, good or bad.
12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?
I have to just go for it. I’ll outline some key points, but mostly I need to just commit to paper on page. More often than not, that means I need to do substantial redrafts, but I treat my stories like a garden that needs to grow organically. My final draft bears little resemblance to the original outline.
13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?
Write what you love. I don’t think I would succeed in traditional publishing, because I don’t have it in me to put marketability on a pedestal when I’m writing. I’d rather write sincerely, and about a story that I love. Writing a story is a labour of love (there’s one of those blasted clichés again!), so you really need to love your story to commit to the workload of getting it finished.
14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?
I’m sitting and promoting the release of my debut at the moment, but I’m actively working on a standalone at the moment, which should take me to the end of the year. 2022 will see me working on the sequel to The Soul’s Aspect.
15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:
Thank you very much for the opportunity!
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