Hello everyone and welcome to our latest author interview for the 7th annual Self Published Fantasy Blog Off! I’ve been working on reaching out to each of the authors who have landed in our batch of books for the competition to see if they would be interested in being interviewed or contributing a guest article in an attempt to drum up a little extra excitement for their book and (hopefully) get to know them a bit better.
Today, we are joined by the author of Fall Into Darkness, James Pyne!
Thank you so much for joining us for this short Q&A! Before we get going, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Thanks for having me! Not much to say about me. I live a lowkey life in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia where I forklift at a production plant with a wonderful mix of coworkers that are like a second family to me. Like most in the craft, I’ve been writing much of my life. I’ve done some traveling where I ended up getting myself in Mr. Bean situations. But overall, I’m a chill dude who keeps to himself.
I want to start things off by asking: what is a great book that you’ve read recently and why should we give it a go?
C.S. Friedman’s Black Sun Rising. Just recently finished that one off and can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Uniquely dark.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of reading/writing? Do you care to elaborate?
I want to say yes but I’d be lying.
Tell us about your road to writing. What made you want to become an author?
Like most writers I know, I started reading books at a young age and fell in love with the craft. In my school years, I would write short stories involving friends and classmates. This led to me entering an event that was being held in every school in the county. All the students were to write a short story or poem. My short story was one of the ones picked to represent A.G. Baillie Elementary School. We would travel to each other’s schools and read our stories. Mine was horror and titled THE MANSION OF BLOOD. A Canadian author was doing a tour which I believe the contest was inspired by. She stopped in to chat with all those chosen by their schools. When I was done reading mine, there was total silence, with many giving me ‘what is wrong with you stares.’ What really got me grinning, though, was the author’s astonished expression and how she slowly looked over at my principal who shrugged his shoulders with no explanation. That day solidified my love for getting a reaction through my writing. It’s one of my favorite incidents that led to me becoming an author.
Writing is a hard and lonely affair in the best of circumstances, but it can be even more so as a self-published author. How do you achieve a good work/life/writing balance?
You know, some days it is brutally lonely but most days I am in my bliss when writing. I don’t do much else. It is easy for me to achieve a balance because I have no children. Or anyone in my life—it’s not easy finding someone who will tolerate my writing tendencies which I totally get but I’m not changing who I am to accommodate someone else. I did that once. I hardly did any writing. It was the most depressing three years of my life.
Is this your first book? If so, what lessons have you learned from writing it? If not, what lessons did you learn from writing earlier books that you brought into this one?
Fall into Darkness is my first self-published book, but I have written at least ten before it. I have learned so many things from earlier manuscripts to make up another book. I have never done anything the easy way, let’s put it that way. If I had just read a few books on writing, like John Gardner’s Art of Fiction, or even the Elements of Style, my path would have been blazed quicker. Something I have learned since publishing my first two books, it wasn’t easy letting either go. I think a writer could keep “improving” their books for eternity if given the chance—that also has a nightmarish scenario to it.
Do you usually write to background noise, music, etc. or do you prefer silence?
Yes. Up until my final draft, I listen to classical and epic music from movies. I also enjoy myth-themed heavy metal.
Is this your first time entering SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
First time! I was searching for fantasy contests to enroll Fall into Darkness in, and I wasn’t finding much. It’s funny because at first, I didn’t know what SPFBO stood for. I thought it was a new emotion-themed acronym like “LOL” that I wasn’t hip to.
What made you want to write in the fantasy genre? Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I feel most at home with writing dark / grimdark fantasy, but I do dabble in other genres like literary, horror, and western. I believe we should be able to write in any genre for the sake of our characters and for the enjoyment of our readers.
There are so many roads to releasing a book these days (which is wonderful!). Why did you decide to self-publish?
Fall into Darkness had been originally published by Dead Light Publishing. Once they folded during the early months of Covid, I decided that no one was going to put the time and effort into my books more than I would. Publishers have their own lives, as well as other authors to tend to. I’m glad I took this route instead of seeking another publisher. The friends and fans I have made while taking this path would never have happened with any other road taken.
Are there any advantages or disadvantages to self-publishing rather than going the route of the traditional or independent presses?
I believe so. I have free range to include what I want in my books. For example, my last publisher could not afford illustrations and maps, but I’ve always wanted to see drawings inspired by my writing. I loved books with captioned illustrations in them from back in the day. That’s where Jeffrey Kosh (cover artist and map maker) and Luke Spooner (illustrator for the paperback version) made my dream come true. I hope they continue to do work for Mothman Publishing.
What is one thing that you love about the current state of fantasy and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?
The possibilities are endless in the fantasy genre. As the Big Cranky series unfolds, it will have no limits and will be taking readers to places they haven’t been. I believe there is still uncharted territory and hope more of us explore those regions yet discovered. I’m not one of those who believe there is nothing new under the sun.
Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influences?
In the fantasy genre, that would be Clive Barker. As well, Anne McCaffrey, Robert E. Howard, and C.S. Lewis influenced me during my youth. Overall, my greatest influences are Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov), Margaret Atwood (The Robber Bride), John Gardner (Grendel), and anything by Nikos Kazantzakis.
What do you think characterizes your writing style?
No nonsense in your face.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. I write in fragments, then piece them together.
What are your favorite types of characters?
One that is a mix of good and bad. Which is why the antihero is one of my favourite kinds of characters.
How much of yourself do you write into your stories?
I would think there is a little of me in everything I compose . . . which is kind of scary, considering some of the things I write about. 😉
For those who haven’t read Fall into Darkness, give us the elevator pitch.
A failed god determined to succeed with a fresh generation hungry for his throne.
Describe your book in 3 adjectives.
Mythical. Dark. Emotive.
What do you think is the overarching theme?
As I unearth other fragments in the series, I would say the overarching theme is no matter what race we are, we are one, and if we don’t get on the same page soon, well, it’s not going to be pretty. Something I picked up while reading mythologies throughout the world is that we have the same stories. To me, this is proof not so long ago we came from one tribe and branched off.
Were there any specific challenges with writing Fall into Darkness? Or did you find anything to be easier?
When you have a six-book series in mind, it’s even harder to let each one go. Especially when the other remaining books are in various stages. You only got one chance, so if a new core idea comes up, it might be impossible to use it due to previous releases in the series.
They say to never judge a book by its cover and maybe that’s true in the philosophical sense, but it certainly happens with books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Fall into Darkness?
First off, I want to give a shout out to my cover artist, Jeffrey Kosh. I can’t recommend this dude enough. When it came to the covers for this series, the only thing I wanted included was lightning in the background to symbolize Zeus’s growing strength. Other than that, I asked Kosh to surprise me with covers for the first five books. And did he ever wow me with them all. The serpent on the Fall into Darkness cover is symbolic of Lucifer, who is one of the main characters as the series unravels.
Kosh also added his own theme to each cover by making the first four books symbolic of the elements with the first one standing for fire. The second book, A Surge in Power, is symbolic of air and Quetzalcoatl.
One of my favorite things is highlighting quotes that really resonate with me and sharing them in my reviews. Do you have a favorite quote from Fall into Darkness that you can share with us?
I don’t know, that seems more like something a reader should do so here is a quote a reader tagged me with: “Every day, every hour, every minute, every second we’re changing. Everything we saw yesterday will be a little different next time we see it, though we might not notice because we see those things every day.”
What can you tell us about what’s coming up next for you?
With the second book in the Big Cranky series released, I am now working on getting the third book ready (Torn to Pieces) for a holiday release. I am also touching up the fourth book (Road to the Future.) And fleshing out the final two books, with one loosely titled: Lake of Souls. I am also working on a novel centering around a vampire finch and its owner.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! I always enjoy this little peek behind the curtain. Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?
Thank you for this wicked interview!
There is something I would like to talk about. I get so many questions about the title of the series from fans, as well as lots of flak from peers. The Big Cranky name started back in 2013 when I began posting fragments on my Facebook profile of this mysterious universe populated with familiar mythology characters, along with a photo inspired by them. Back then, I didn’t envision a novel. I was just showcasing my writing, gauging what people thought. A dear friend of mine, Elle Zelicz, wheelchair-bound and on dialysis from a car accident, started commenting on my Facebook page how much she loved them. I kept posting these fragments, mostly for Elle, who would get up in the morning and have some tea while reading the latest fragment I had posted the night before. Elle would tell me what she loved about it and let me know it brightened her day, motivating me more.
Now Elle was in bad shape at this point. Early March 2014 she ended up getting an infection that almost killed her. We had a talk one evening where she did not feel she would be around much longer. Elle was very blunt about things like that. She always told me what a blessing it was to have gotten those extra years with her family and friends.
Somehow our conversation ended up in the topic of my writing, specifically the Big Cranky fragments. Elle asked me to promise to keep the Big Cranky name and publish it as a novel. I didn’t see a book. She insisted there was one and so I conceded and vowed that I would. Hours later she passed on from the infection that had almost killed her days earlier. The Big Cranky series is my covenant with Elle, one I will not break. Even though many have insisted that I scrap the name Big Cranky, it’s not going to happen. Done deal.
About the Author
James Pyne is a Nova Scotia based author of mostly epic dark fantasy, though he sometimes strays into other literary realms. The last few years he has seen his work in over a hundred magazines and anthologies. A blue-collar worker his entire adult life, he tends to keep to himself but on occasion he will visit other countries and get himself into some misadventures— Japan, Argentina, Spain will never be the same. Add him on any of the social media platforms and shoot him a message. He loves hearing from the fans so don’t be shy!
Author Website: https://www.mothmanpublishing.com/