Indie Author Interviews: Jack Fisher
Hi Jack! How’s it going?
Good, thank you. And you?
Not too bad. In Berlin on a slightly cloudy day, but it’s not too bad.
Well, I’m in Manchester on a very cloudy day but that’s quite normal.
Thank you for joining us! You’re our third indie author that we are interviewing for our Indie Author Interviews, which is getting insight and advice on the self-publishing process. You’ve released your new book The Liberty Arms. Can you tell us a bit about it? What can readers expect from this story?
So, it’s set in London, or the UK, after a left-wing revolution has taken place, and there’s been some push back by the ruling classes. We’ve ended up in this kind of unofficial civil war situation. The story follows two main characters, one who would like to do the right thing but is not sure what that right thing is, and another who is absolutely convinced that she’s doing the right thing. She’s a firm believer in the revolution and she’ll do whatever it takes to achieve their aims. The story follows these two characters, how one tries to manipulate the other, and how they work out that conflict. It also goes back in time to explore their pasts and why they arrived at the worldviews they have today.
So, you get some flashbacks into the background?
Yeah, there are three parallel storylines. One in the present then two in their respective pasts. Their respective pasts meet as well.
So, it all intertwines nicely.
Would you say it’s a dystopian novel? Is that a good phrase to use?
I didn’t intend for it to be a dystopian novel. But I decided to set it in the UK – I thought at first of setting it in a country where there has been a revolution – but in this country, I could explore speculatively what might happen if things we see on the news happening in other countries were to happen today in the UK. So, it wasn’t deliberately dystopian, but I guess if you’re in a situation where there’s been a revolution or civil war, that’s probably some kind of dystopia, to most people anyway.
Is that a genre that interests you? Is it inspired by dystopian novels that you’ve read?
It is an interesting genre because well, it’s speculative, I guess, and speculative fiction allows you to explore what might happen, and that’s interesting to me. I would like to write a utopian novel because there is also a lot of dystopian fiction. I think it would be interesting to imagine a better future rather than a worse future. But that’s more difficult because it’s hard for readers to get excited about a character in a world where everything is perfect. And there’s nothing to fight against. But I’d like to do that in the future.
The Liberty Arms is the first book in the New Society trilogy. What are your plans for the next two books? Do you have them already outlined in your mind? Do you know what’s going to go on next?
I have no idea. I actually never have an idea when I’m writing something. I start off with the situation or character and see how it goes. I do have ideas of what I’d like to explore. The second book will pick up where the first part left off and follow the aftermath of what has happened. But it will also explore more the pasts of the characters because I’m interested in exploring how this revolution is taking place and how it has affected people.
And that’s what Rachel’s Story is right? A prequel to The Liberty Arms?
Yes, that’s right. Rachel is the mother of one of the main characters in So we already had a bit of her character in the first book but not from her perspective. I wanted to go into more detail about how the revolution has taken place and how it affected Benson, the main character in the first book, and how it affected his worldview, his childhood.
The first book you ever wrote was quite different, I believe. The title was Hold The Dog! 16 Days In Mongolia. I’m so intrigued. Can you tell us a bit about that? Is it similar to The Liberty Arms?
No, it’s completely different. It’s a real travelogue basically. It’s an account of a real trip that I made in Mongolia 15 years ago. And I wrote the book 10 years ago. So it is literally an account of 16 days in Mongolia. The “hold the dog” refers to the Mongolian way of entering a ger. A ger is like a yurt, a big tent for nomads living in Mongolia. And when you enter a ger, you stand outside and, instead of knocking on the door, you shout out the Mongolian for “hold the dog.” Because if they don’t hold the dog, the dog will rush out and, I guess, attack you as you’re trying to come in. So that’s the reason for the title. Nothing like The Liberty Arms. It’s a humorous, or I intended it be a humorous, description of this eventful trip.
I’m so intrigued about Mongolia and have heard so many good travel stories. I’d really love to go.
It’s probably changed a lot in the last 15 years, but it was a fascinating place.
I still feel like it’s still relatively unexplored by travellers.
I think it probably is. People call it at the land without fences because outside the main city or towns, the land is kind of open. We were travelling around in a jeep and there’re no roads. You just drive across the grasslands whichever way the driver wants to go. Then you end up suddenly at this kind of ger camp and pay $5 a night or something to stay as a guest with the families.
Was that when you first started writing? Or has writing been a big part of your life before then?
It was the first thing I wrote and certainly the first that got published. I didn’t really write fiction until maybe five years ago when I did a creative writing course in London. That was the first time I started writing fiction. I had wanted to for quite some time, but I never had the courage to do it.
Does it come naturally to you? Or do you think that taking that writing class was learning a craft and a skill that you’ve now developed overtime?
The writing classes, even though it was only an evening class for 10 weeks, taught me a lot, just in the basics. It gave me the tools to start doing it. I think it enabled me to think of myself as somebody who could do it. Before that, I always felt like maybe I was an outsider. I’m a chemical engineer by training so it was some way off that. I remember going to the first evening class and I felt really vulnerable and really like I didn’t belong. We had homework every week and the first time I read out my piece and got some feedback, suddenly I felt more like an insider. Like I could actually do it. Not that it was necessarily very good, but I could do it. And that really helped.
So, this is the first time you went through the self-publishing process with a piece of fiction. How was that process? Did you find it easy? Accessible? Difficult?
I think I’d describe it in two parts. The publishing process itself is a series of steps to take and that was kind of comfortable. I just took each step. But then there’s the marketing aspect to get your book noticed and that’s what I find much more difficult.
In the interview I did with Michelle Medhat we were talking about marketing and how it’s such an unavoidable part of the self-publishing process. It’s something that a lot of writers aren’t naturally comfortable with.
That’s probably what separates the really successful self-published writers from most other self-published writers is how comfortable they are with the marketing.
I mean it’s a shame because it doesn’t matter if you’ve written the best book in the world, if you’re not marketing it, no one’s going to see it. So, it’s a necessary thing that you’ve just got to work out as an indie author. But it’s a learning curve. We can all learn how to market a book.
Yes. Anytime you do something for the first time, you’re going to make mistakes.
What do you enjoy most about being an indie author?
The control, I suppose, and decision making, to make all those yourself is nice. Then also control of the timings. I believe, in traditional publishing, you might have to wait two years even if your book is accepted before it comes out. Whereas, in self-publishing, you can just put it out there straight away. You can go online and check your sales figures. Things like that. It’s a more direct link to the process.
Especially when you see many indie authors actively interacting with their readers online through social media and live videos. There’s no barrier really between the readership and the indie author.
That’s right. I guess that’s happening with other art forms as well like music, more of a fusion.
What would you say is the biggest challenge of being an indie author?
Probably the marketing aspect, doing what’s necessary to get your book noticed. And having to do all the different jobs involved in publishing. A traditional publisher would have different people involved who are specialists at different stages – cover design, marketing, etc. Whereas, as an indie author, you can outsource that, but I did everything myself. So that was the biggest challenge.
Did The Liberty Arms kind of flow out of you? Or was it more of a plotting and planning process?
No, it kind of flowed out. That probably implies that it flowed quickly, but it didn’t necessarily. I tend to just write and see where it goes. Then I got to a point maybe two-thirds of the way through when I thought okay I need to work out how this is going to end. And how I can get to that point. Then I had to put some planning into it. I got a spreadsheet out and laid out all the different character arcs. But I did it on the hoof, you might say. I’ve tried before to plot a story in advance but it kind of takes the motivation or enthusiasm away somehow for me. If it’s too planned, I lose interest in writing. That seems to work for me, my most natural way. I guess other people have different ways, but it’s a personal thing.
Do you have any strategy for writer’s block? Do you get writer’s block?
I certainly have times where I find it a struggle. I don’t really have a strategy. Except that I try to force myself to write. The longer that I go without writing, the harder it is to take up again. So I try to write even if it’s just 50 or 100 words or something. Then that makes me feel a bit better. Then maybe the next day it’s a bit more.
So, rite yourself out of it?
Well, it’s easier said than done. I probably don’t follow my own advice very well. I’m trying at the moment to write first thing in the morning because I don’t have the time to think about it or find reasons to stop or doubt myself. Even if I only write 50 words, I think, well, I did something today, that helps.
Who is your favourite author? Who has inspired your writing?
It’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t really have necessarily a favourite author. I think in the context of The Liberty Arms, I remember reading 1984 and that’s obviously a very well-known example of a book that imagines a future. Also, Animal Farm, which is a different way of looking at something that happened in the past. Those are quite effective in making me think about how to write speculatively.
What your plans for the future? We’ve got the two other books to look forward to. Have you started writing those?
Right now, I’m actually working on a completely different novel, which I started writing maybe two years ago and I put down for 6-7 months. I’ve just picked it up again because I’m having a little break from writing about the world of The Liberty Arms. I thought it would be good to have a break, different styles and subject matters, a different work in progress. I think it means that it takes longer to reach the end result for either project. But, for me, it takes the pressure off a little bit from just working out one thing.
So is this other book a similar genre? Or is it completely different?
It’s set in the present day, you might say, or our existing world. It’s about a woman who is a bit lost in life and looking for some sense of meaning. And it’s set in New York. So, completely different.
I think I read some of it in our writing group! It starts with her breakup?
Yes, again I didn’t really plot that out, but it starts with the breakup, and then this character is left in a bit of a situation, not knowing quite how to go forward in life. Then she explores those options.
What advice do you have for new indie authors that are just coming into the scene and maybe need a bit of guidance?
In terms of writing, just perseverance – keep writing as much as possible. In terms of the publishing process, I would say that you need a plan. There’re a lot of steps involved, and I would say to treat it differently from the writing. Write the book that you’re going to publish. Then get a piece of paper, go online, do some research – there’s lots of advice out there – and make a list of the steps that you need to do. Then enact those steps. That’s if you want to actually get your book out there and be noticed. If your purpose of self-publishing is just to get your book published so that your friends and family can see it, you won’t need to do all that. And you can use Amazon’s print on demand, so that’s quite nice. You can order your own book in paperback, have a copy on the shelves, and your friends and family can have a copy on the shelves, and have a physical book.
Is The Liberty Arms available in paperback?
You said there’s a lot of advice out there for indie authors. Do you have any resources you would recommend?
I follow a website called Jericho Writers, which you can join and pay a monthly fee and have access to lots of resources. I don’t pay but they have lots of advice on their website. I get their weekly email newsletters as well.
Great advice, thank you, Jack! I also read some of Rachel’s Story at our writing group as well. That was fantastic. So, I read some of the prequel before I read The Liberty Arms, a bit backwards.
Well, you can actually read either one first. They both stand alone.
I forward to now reading The Liberty Arms. Definitely on my reading list. Thank you!