Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’ve worked the last ten years as a creative consultant, life coach, and digital content developer, but I’ve been hooked on stories ever since my grandma first starting tucking me in with tales of her life on the South Dakota prairie swimming in my head.
I grew up in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia and was blessed to have a mother who didn’t complain when I came home from the woods covered in mud and burs, and a father who told me the stories questing knights, trolls, and faerie castles that sent me out there in the first place.
I’m a Martial Arts aficionado, a gaming nerd, a classics geek, and a list of other classifications both pejorative and praiseworthy. I live, travel, and work in various parts of America and the world at large with my amazing wife Mindy and wondermutt Chino.
I have a Masters in Creative Writing from Oxford University, and I just released Fire in the Dawn, Book 1 of the Twin Skies Trilogy. I’m also the co-author of the Stetson Jeff Adventures, a quirky 80s satire action comedy series.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Fire in the Dawn is a book that I’ve been working on for a long time. Like, 15+ years. I essentially learned how to write by working on it. The earliest versions were monumentally bad, but I was fascinated with the world and the characters, and that really drew me into studying the craft of writing well.
The book is set in the world of Tiira, which I created by drawing heavily on ancient Chinese and Japanese history, culture, and mythology for inspiration. I’ve always been interested in East Asian culture and history, which I studied in college as part of my History degree.
I love the process of shaping a world from scratch, taking a few familiar elements or interesting ideas and then thinking about what all the other elements of society would look like based off of that one thing. It’s time consuming, but also a lot of fun.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
When I get stuck on a plot point or continuity issue I’ll write all the answered questions I’m wrestling with in really big letters on a piece of paper and tape it to the wall. Then I’ll pace around and talk out loud, arguing with myself and coming at the problem from lots of different angles until I figure it out.
I’m a verbal processor, so I’ve just come to accept that sometimes I need to shout at the wall to get anywhere. The neighbors give me weird looks when I take out the trash, but what can you do?
What authors, or books have influenced you?
The author whose books are closest to mine is Guy Gavriel Kay. He writes incredible, rich fantasies set in worlds based on cultures and periods in our history, and I love all them.
My favorite author to read for fun is Jim Butcher, especially the Dresden Files series. His books are basically the only ones that I will pre-order in hardback just to make sure I can read them the minute they hit the shelves.
I also love Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, S.M. Stirling, Ursula LeGuin, Hugh Howey, C.J. Cherryh, and Robin Hobb. I could keep going, but then this interview would take up way too many pages.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a short “Visitor’s Guide to Tiira” to offer as a free giveaway to anyone who wants to know more about the setting of the book. I’m writing it as a historical essay by a famous scholar from that world’s history, and having a lot of fun experimenting with a new voice and style.
After that I’ll dive in Book 2 of series, which I aim to publish this time next year. I’ll also be working on Book 5 of the Stetson Jeff series with my co-author next month.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
The most valuable thing I’ve done so far is joining and participating in a few great writers groups on Facebook (shout out to all the Ninja Writers out there!). It’s been a great resource and encouragement, and I’ve been able to do some cross-promotion and review exchanges with other authors I’ve connected with.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write every day.
Seriously, even on Christmas. It can be just 50 words if that’s all you have time for, but the momentum that you build up over time by keeping your brain engaged in your writing is incredible.
Also, draw a very big line in your thinking between draft writing and editing. When you’re writing a draft the one and only thing that matters is getting words on the page. Quality isn’t even something you should be thinking about until you have a complete draft and you’re ready to start editing and polishing.
Finally, take advantage of all of the amazing resources out there to help you learn and grow as a writer. We have such a wealth of books and other materials on the craft, challenges, and disciplines of writing and publishing. If you want a headstart I’ve written a blog article listing 10 books that I know will make you a better writer: https://medium.com/@justinfike/skip-the-mfa-part-2-10-books-that-will-make-you-a-better-writer-767a2a620734
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Write as if you’re the only one who will ever read your stuff.
What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading The Name of the Wind for the second time, along with a biography of Chin Shi Huangdi (the first emperor of China).
What’s next for you as a writer?
The next big learning curve for me is getting better at social media and connecting with readers. I’ve always been a bit of a grumpy old man when it comes to Facebook and Twitter (even though I’m only 32), so I’ve been trying to play catchup by blogging regularly on Medium and such.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny, because it’s amazing and also friggin huge so it would keep me busy for a while.
Fortress in the Eye of Time by C.J. Cherryh, because I loved it as a kid and have been meaning to go back and read it again.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, because Tolkien.
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