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  • Writer's pictureG R Matthews

Indie Author: 10 Quick Questions with J P Ashman

Welcome to J P Ashman, author of Black Cross, the first book in the Black Powder Wars, and thanks for being the guinea pig, boldly going where no one has gone before! (Has any country ever launched a guinea pig into space? I digress). On with the questions!

GRM: Tell us about your book.

JP: Argh! I'm terrible at this. Okay, here goes: Black Cross – First book from the tales of the Black Powder Wars is an epic fantasy, both in terms of number of characters and the scale of the war to come. In this, the first book, a mysterious plague sweeps the city of Wesson. Factions move on their age old enemies and unlikely friendships are forged. Gritty, brutal combat between men-at-arms and witchunters is mixed with powerful mages and the common folk of Wesson. Elves and goblins and kobolds, monsters, ships and assassins all take part in this, the build up to a continent-wide war where black powder makes its mark on the peoples and creatures of Brisance. If you enjoy complex, political fantasy in a medieval setting that's inspired by our own bloody histories then this series is for you.

And... breath. Writing a book is easier than writing a synopsis. Fact!

GRM: Where did your inspiration come from?

JP: Everywhere. I've played fantasy, read fantasy, watched fantasy and re-enacted the medieval period, specifically the Anglo-Welsh and Anglo-Scottish wars. From all these things have I drawn inspiration. History is wonderful for it, but so life experience, be it scuba diving, snowboarding, hiking and wildlife or good ol' drunken nights out... lots of those in the past. I did grow up in Blackpool.

As for Black Cross specifically, it's a world that's been trying to bust out of my head for a long, long time. I just let it out.

GRM: Why did you choose to go Self-Published?

JP: I had a story to tell and it was huge. I'm well aware agents and publishers

generally shy away from tomes when you're unknown, but it was a tome I had to write and there was no compromise there. My editor may have chopped pages and pages of scenes from Black Cross, but it's still a hefty weight. I wanted to do it my way, simple as that.

GRM: What was the hardest part about taking this route?

JP: The learning curve, much of which you stagger through with your first book. You've no agent or publishing team to guide you. I made mistakes, lots of them in fact, but I got there and I'm enjoying the continuous challenge and learning curve that continues on into the production of my sequel: Black Guild.

GRM: Morning, afternoon or evening writer?

JP: Morning and/or afternoon preferably, evening commonly. I get tired quick when I write at night, but with a little one it's often the best time. It's evening as I write this. Black Cross was written mainly during the day, Black Guild mainly when I can, Poppet permitting.

GRM: Architect or Gardener? Planner or Pantser?

JP: Haha... hmm... planner then ignorer, then digresser, then stresser and finally go with the flow'er. I make rough arcs for the book, for each thread so to speak. I follow some, ignore others, find a few lead me on their own and then there's the characters that write themselves. Longoss, Sears and Biviano, just for example. They surprise me as much as they do the readers.

GRM: Silence, music or what when writing?

JP: Preferably silence, occasionally music, but it has to be something like a soundtrack to an epic movie such as LOTR or Robin Hood (2010 – I love that movie, despite its unpopularity as a Robin Hood movie). Songs tend to trigger visual scenes in my head, but when I write I tend to have quiet. When I edit said scenes, however, I do like to return to the song that inspired the scene to make sure it still gets me in the feels. It's surprising what sources trigger what scenes; Imagine Dragons to the Harry Potter score, Linkin Park to Classic FM.

GRM: What’s the weirdest fact or piece of information you had to research in order to write the book?

JP: Good question. There's been all sorts I guess. Travel times by foot and hoof, although I imagine that's common for our genre. Bubonic plague symptoms is likely the winner. I enjoyed ship research a lot, caravels and cogs and the like.

GRM: To steal (paraphrase) from Rod Stewart, what do you wish that you know now, you knew when you started the journey to a finished and published book?

JP: I wish, and I'll say this a lot, that I'd hired an editor from the start. I was naive and published Black Cross (eBook edition) initially without doing so, then quickly remedied that (post SPFBO) and haven't looked back. Huge thanks to Jeff Gardiner there. Editor, mentor and friend.

GRM: You’re on a deserted island with enough food and water to survive. There are no building materials around so you must wait for rescue. What three books would you have with you, to help you pass the time?

JP: Three I've never read before, but from authors I know and trust. I'm not a re-read guy, I'm just not. There's so many books out there that I don't want to waste time (for want of a better term) re-reading, when there's many I'm yet to read. I've re-read one book over the years: Legend of Huma by Richard A Knaak, and that was decades after I first read it. It did not disappoint. As for the island, likely a book on survival skills by Bear Grylls or some such, despite the supplies, and then one of Steven Erikson's latest books about the Malazans. Finally... emerged, choices, choices. Something from SPFBO 2. I'll wait to see who wins, eh? ;-)

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This is the first in, I hope, a series of interviews with indie authors. I'll be starting with those I've known a long time, just to test it all out, and then I'll be seeking out some of those in the SPFBO (#1 and #2).

As an indie, self-published author it is hard to get visibility, to get your name known and your book talked about. When Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO, it was all about the visibility and having been on all sides of the fence (entrant, reader, reviewer and judge - OK, it is a multi-dimensional fence) this seems like a little thing to do. I hope it helps.

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