One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. In the Finals I’m taking part in the competition as one of the judges in Fantasy Book Review‘s team. As I did with our group’s authors, I decided to offer a spot to the Finalists too to be featured on my blog. You can check out all of our content during Phase 1, and everything that’s happening during the Finals on my SPFBO 4 page!
J. Zachary Pike was once a basement-dwelling fantasy gamer, but over time he metamorphosed into a basement-dwelling fantasy writer. His debut novel, Orconomics: A Satire, won a National Indie Excellence Award for Humor and was a finalist for Fantasy.
A New Englander by birth and by temperament, Zack writes strangely funny fiction on the seacoast of New Hampshire.
Welcome to the Asylum! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice and tell me something about yourself!
Thanks for having me! I’ll have an amaretto sour. I originally began drinking them when I was young and foolish because I didn’t like the taste of hard alcohol, but I wanted people around me to think I was drinking something tough or respectable. Now I’m older, I don’t mind the taste of hard spirits, and I don’t care what people think of my drink. But amaretto sours are still really tasty.
Say, you can live in the fantasy house/lair of your dreams. What would it look like?
Well, there’s still all the normal considerations: access to amenities, nice views, good schools, low crime. But of course, in a fantasy world you also want your home to be inside the castle walls, not haunted or cursed, and far from any unholy costs or auspicious landmarks destined to be the site of epic battles. I’ve connected my real estate agent with a good oracle, but have yet to find the right fit.
Also, waterfront is always a plus.
What is your favorite fantasy creature and why?
I doubt they’d appreciate being called “creatures,” but I’m a big fan of fantasy Dwarves. I naturally gravitate to them when playing RPGs, and I made the protagonist of my books a Dwarf. I think it’s a combination of the luxuriant beards, the gruff exteriors concealing hearts of gold, and the affinity for weapons.
Dragons are a close second. The only reason I prefer Dwarves is because I feel like adding too many dragons to a book cheapens them; Pern aside, too many dragons makes them seem less rare, mysterious, and great. Adding more Dwarves to a book always makes it better. Always.
Why did you decide to become an author and how did you end up choosing self-publishing?
I’ve been writing stories, and honestly this story, since I was a teenager. I love the characters, and the craft, but the idea of finding an agent and wading through seas of rejection emails was intensely intimidating.
Eventually, I saw that indie publishing was working out for a lot of people, and I decided that I’d rather risk failure with the readers than risk failure in the slush piles.
Which author would you say is your greatest influence as a writer?
Definitely Terry Pratchett. I’ve read almost everything he’s written, and I still re-read them. When people point out his influence on my work, I consider it a huge compliment.
Tolkien is a close second. Not in that my books are much like his; just that for many of my formative years, fantasy and Middle Earth were nearly synonymous in my head. I read and re-read his books, played the old Iron Crown CCG, read the RPG guides and the Bestiary and the commentaries. I just steeped myself in Tolkien for years, and I can’t deny how that shaped me.
If you could go back in time and offer any advice to a younger Zachary prior to releasing Orconomics what would it be?
Stop playing so much World of Warcraft and such. Your free time is a treasure, so spend it wisely. In a decade or so, nobody will care what level your wizard was, but plenty of people will wish you were finished writing your trilogy.
What SPFBO means to you? What do you hope to gain (fame and wealth aside)? What are your experiences so far?
SPFBO is a really unique competition. I told people when I joined that it made me a little nervous, because getting cut from the competition is so public compared to other contests an author can enter. But the other side of that coin is that the community is so connected and supportive, and even books that are cut can get some great attention. It’s really unique, and really great.
What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, make deals with the Devil?
I try to avoid deals with the devil; his interest rates are awful. But I do listen to a lot of music. I have mood playlists that I’ll listen to for particular scenes. If I want to make a scene funnier, I’ll watch some good comedy shows or read Pratchett or Douglas Adams for a while. It just gets my brain looking for the absurd and making silly connections.
How do you relax after a long writing/research session? Do you have any hobbies (writing not included :P)?
I play video games. In my younger days, when I didn’t realize what I had with my free time, I played tabletop RPGS, CCGs, and miniature games as well, and I preferred long, epic stories. These days I only have the attention span for short and sweet games. Hearthstone and Blood Bowl II are favorites.
What was the most exotic place you’ve visited? Did it inspire any of your work? How that experience affected you personally?
I took a trip to Germany for a big animation festival they have in Stuttgart, where I had directed a couple of short films that were screening. There were animators around from all over the world, and I got to speak to a lot of them. And this was during the years when the biggest problem the US and Europe were grappling with was Bush’s wars and Congress renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries. As an American, I heard a lot of opinions about those.
Some folks may argue that Germany isn’t exactly exotic, but I grew up in rural Maine. It was really eye-opening and wonderful to encounter so many cultures that were both foreign and familiar. It shaped my outlook a lot.
Which character of your book do you identify with the most and why? Who would you like to live with in an asylum?
I suspect most people would say it’s Gorm Ingerson, as I can be pretty stubborn and bombastic at times, and I value results more than personal style. But I always identified most with Thane, who is very capable but struggles with self-doubt. But if I had to live with someone in an asylum, I’d suppose it would be Jynn. He’s knowledgeable, generally reasonable, and capable of blowing the doors open with magic.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the good or the bad ones?
I read them more than I should, which is to say if you’ve written a review of my books I’ve probably read it. Dealing with the good reviews is easy; I usually just smile and let my head grow a little bit bigger. For bad reviews, I try to learn what I can from them. That’s hard when people leave hyperbolic reviews, e.g. “there’s no plot” or “this isn’t funny at all.” I have enough positive reviews to know that’s objectively untrue; what’s much more helpful is understanding what made a reviewer feel disengaged.
Are there any books that have been/ are being released in 2019 that you are excited to read?
I’m afraid I’m still struggling on the slopes of Mount TBR and haven’t been paying attention to release schedules.
While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you one book – what would you choose?
Well, I suppose Terry Pratchett’s Thud is fun and complex enough to… wait, what?
I’ll take Steven Hampton’s Secrets of Lock Picking, please.
Well then, we hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? *locks door*
How about Alohomora? Alohomora!
If you’d like to get in contact with J. Zachary Pike, you can find him on social media:
Orconomics, book 1 of The Dark Profit Saga series has made to the SPFBO Finals thanks to BookNest.eu‘s team. Get his book by clicking on the cover!