Interview with Andy Peloquin

AC Cobble:Hi Andy, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. First, I think my readers are most likely to know you from your Hero of Darkness (Darkblade Assassin) series. Can you tell us a little bit about that one, and what else have you written?

Andy Peloquin: There are two answers to this question…

The first is that the Hero of Darkness series is an epic, action-packed novel about a bad-ass immortal assassin. If you love heart-pounding fight scenes, breathtaking worlds, fascinating cities, and neck-tweaking plot twists, this is the story for you. Hero of Darkness follows the Hunter as he journeys from his city, wandering the world in search of answers about his forgotten past, his true identity as a half-demon. Though he begins his journey as a mostly amoral killer, he ends up a slightly more moral killer who ultimately is the “hero” who saves the world.  

But my real answer, the one that feels more genuine, is that the series is the story of an outcast seeking a place in a world where he doesn’t belong. As an assassin, he has to conceal his identity from the world, but that means he’s concealed HIMSELF from the world. He’s not human, so he can’t really relate to human problems. No matter where he is or who he’s with, he finds himself alone. 

For people like me—and so many others—a character like this is very real and relatable. I spent most of my childhood and teenaged years as an outsider (courtesy of my Autism Spectrum Disorder and my varying “odd” interests). The Hunter’s journey of self-discovery came at a time in my life when I was learning more about myself—I’d just been diagnosed ASD, so it was an emotional and psychological journey to understand exactly what that meant. Being able to walk this fascinating, complex, tortured character through many of the same difficulties I was dealing with was a way for me to understand myself and the world around me better.

AC: Your books sometimes delve into the darker side of human nature. What is it that intrigues you about that darkness?

AP: That stems directly from my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. When I was diagnosed ASD, I found myself diving into the realm of psychology and neurology to understand why my atypical brain made me different than my wife, kids, and the people around me. 

As I did that, I found all sorts of fascinating links to conditions and diseases where the brain affected other people in other ways—psychopathy, sociopathy, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, Williams’ Syndrome, and the list goes on. The more I researched, the more I realized that these conditions are very common among not only real-life people, but characters in fiction. That was when I started incorporating them into my stories—both so I could better understand them, and to help readers understand them as well.

AC: A lot of us write characters that have odd tics, but mental illness is rarely explicitly dealt with in fantasy. Do you have any favorite books where the topic is addressed?

AP: Almost every one of my books deal with mental illness in some way. Different, Not Damaged is a collection of shorts focused on autism, PTSD, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, and other physical disabilities. The main character from my Hero of Darkness series is an assassin with schizoaffective disorder, which manifests as voices in his head that drive him to kill. 

Everything I write deals with the psychological effects of violence, death, loss, sorrow, trauma, and abuse. As I mentioned above, my diagnosis of Asperger’s lead me down the rabbit hole of psychology and neurology, and now I write it into everything I create.

AC: Does that explain why you love assassins so much?

AP: It’s because they’re just so damned much fun! They’re a sort of “wish fulfillment” character. We’ve all had bad days when we want to murder someone: that nitpicky boss, that irritating “friend”, the ass**** who cut us off in traffic, etc. Assassins actually DO it, and there’s a sense of justification and vindication when they do.

Of course, the elements of sneaking, cunning, clever planning, and wicked action scenes just make them so much better! 

AC: If you were to assassinate someone - let’s assume they were properly evil and deserved it - how would you go about doing it?

AP: I’m a battle-rager/barbarian type, so I’d probably go about trapping them in someplace and blocking off all exits, then going straight up the middle with heavy armor and a greatsword or battle axe. It’s just my personality type to have head-on confrontations.

AC: I heard you have some martial arts experience. Can you tell us about that, and how it influences your writing?

AP: I studied a mixture of Karate, Kung-Fu, Taekwondo, Hapkido, and MMA for about 18 months, got halfway to black belt (6 of 11 belts). You can see it reflected a lot in my earlier works, as I wrote those while I was still practicing. Seeing as I was very focused on learning each move, each sequence, and each technique, I wrote those into my books in greater detail.

Training in martial arts gave me a much better understanding of the human body, physical mechanics, muscles, joints, and the way weapons interact with our movements. My fight scenes no longer get into such great detail, but they still move the way a sparring match or training bout does. A lot of back and forth, ebb and flow, each person sizing up their opponent to find openings in their guard. 

AC: In my writing, I’ve found cultures that I experienced through travel provided a huge influence in my books, sometimes in obvious simple ways, sometimes in very subtle adjustments to the way people behave. Can you tell us how your own experiences with different cultures has bled into your stories?

AP: So, I was born in Japan, lived there until I was 14, then moved to Mexico, where I traveled around the country (and the US) and lived in 10 different cities for the next 16 years (before finally moving “home” to Canada at the ripe old age of 30).

I will say there are two huge influences resulting from this:

  1. My characters have no sense of “home”. I realized this as I was writing my second series, Queen of Thieves. All of my protagonists have been uprooted from their homes, have lost their parents, were raised as orphans, or had something else happen to take them away from their home. That’s definitely the result of my traveling around to many places where I don’t truly belong. Even in Canada, the country that should be “mine”, I don’t fit in because I spent so many years living among other cultures and people. My characters’ journeys reflect that—they always find that sense of “home” with people that matter, causes and missions that make them feel like they matter.

  2. My stories are varied and include elements from around the world. I love writing memories from my past and favorite places I visited into my stories, as well as places I’d like to visit in the future. Traveling around so much has exposed to so many amazing things, and it’s a thrill to share those with people through my stories.  

AC: How’d you get into writing?

AP: It’s all thanks to a passionate grade school teacher! He loved science and the arts (odd combination, but he was and still is a wonderfully odd man), and he would include a lot of extra-curricular activities in our classes. We’d go on nature walks and write poetry about a weird-looking tree, or we’d throw elaborate science fairs with all manner of crazy projects.

I come from an artistic family (musicians, writers, artists, graphic designers, etc.), but I had no art of my own until I discovered a penchant for the written word. It was my way of turning on the tap to let out the innate creativity within myself. Now, it’s such an ingrained part of my life that I can’t imagine living without it.

AC: What is your best experience as an author, or as a reader?

AP: As a reader, it’s being sucked into a book or series so completely it becomes an addiction. That hasn’t happened often in the last few years—maybe because I’m more cynical as an adult and a writer. But there are a few series I can think off off-hand—Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards, Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives, and David Weber’s Safehold,to name a few—that make me forget the world around me until only this fictional world remains. That’s a breathtaking feeling that I can never get enough of.

As a writer, it’s always nice to get those five-star reviews and comments saying, “I loved the book!”  But the real joy is when I hear people saying things like, “Whoa, I totally felt the Hunter’s loneliness and depression—it’s exactly how I feel” or “This character you wrote is exactly like me, or she embodies the qualities I want to have.” That connection with people is the reason I got into writing. I have a hard time in social situations, but being able to connect through my writing is the most rewarding feeling of all.

AC: What did you do before becoming a full-time author?

AP: English teacher, salesman, balloon artist, and copywriter/blogger. All fun jobs, but nothing close to writing!  

AC: Tell us something no one knows about Andy Peloquin?

AP: I’ve been dying to start a podcast/webshow where I read erotic scenes from romantic novels and utterly RUIN them—with the wrong voice and accent. I did it at a conference I attended in 2018, and I nearly suffocated laughing so hard. It was the most fun I’d had (and a terrible drinking game when attending a romance-heavy conference) and something I’d love to do more often.   

AC: Why were you at a romance conference? Any pen names you want to share with us…?

AP: No pen names, sadly. I just happen to write articles for the magazine that organizes the event, and I was up for one of their awards. The first year I had so much fun that now I go back every time. They’re just such wonderful, kind, friendly people—and many of them with utterly filthy minds! Endless amounts of laughter and fun there.

AC: Now that Hero of Darkness is complete, what’s next on the agenda?

AP: By the time you’re reading this, the new series, Heirs of Destiny, is already releasing. Heirs of Destiny is a sequel spin-off to both Hero of Darkness and my other series, Queen of Thieves. It follows the young (secondary) characters from both series, teaming them up on a mission to save a new city from evil creatures, corrupt politicians, bloodthirsty death cultists, and ruthless criminals. 

As that series is releasing (all five books are written), I will resume work on another series: epic military fantasy. Think Black Ops/Rainbow Six, but set in my fantasy world. A team of soldiers are handpicked to join the “Grim Reavers”, a team of special operatives given the most dangerous missions that could put an end to the century-long war gripping their continent. I wrote the first two of six books in 2018, and it’s going to be one hell of a fun series to both write and read!

Find Andy Peloquin’s Darkblade Assassin HERE or his new book in the Heirs of Destiny series, Trial of Stone HERE. That’s all, and happy reading!

AC

Dark Territory: Benjamin Ashwood Buch 3 auf Deutsch!

Dark Territory: Benjamin Ashwood Buch 3 (the German edition) is live! Apologies it took so long to get this version going on this book. We had a terrible string of luck that led to almost 2 months of delays. It will be worth it (I hope)! And good news, Book 4 is already in translation, and the contract is signed for the rest of the series. They’re on the way, and I hope we can get it turned around a little faster on those. In the meantime, you can find Dark Territory: Benjamin Ashwood Buch 3 HERE!

Dark Territory: Benjamin Ashwood Buch 3 ist live! Entschuldigung, es hat so lange gedauert, bis die deutsche Version dieses Buch veröffentlicht hat. Wir hatten ein schreckliches Glück, das zu fast zwei Monaten Verspätung führte. Es wird es wert sein (hoffe ich)! Und gute Nachrichten: Book 4 ist bereits in der Übersetzung und der Vertrag ist für den Rest der Serie unterzeichnet. Sie sind auf dem Weg, und ich hoffe, wir können es etwas schneller herumdrehen. In der Zwischenzeit können Sie finden Dark Territory: Benjamin Ashwood Buch 3 HIER!

Interview with Dyrk Ashton

Excerpts from this interview were included in January’s monthly newsletter. Check it out for behind-the-scenes insights about other authors, news about AC Cobble, and FREE short stories.

Dyrk Aston - yes, that’s his given name - is a really fascinating author for me. His books are a kind of bonkers contemporary fantasy thrill ride that is absolutely jam-packed with detail and mythology. It gets compared a lot to Gaiman’s American Gods, and I can see why, but as you read Paternus you’ll realize it is wholly unique. If you want something different, this is for you. And as you read, don’t stumble over the initial mythology. As the book continues, it transitions into a really crazy action tale. It’s cinematic and fun, I think largely due to Dyrk’s experience in film. Find out more in the interview below!

Dyrk’s website: https://www.paternusbooks.com

Dyrk’s Twitter (I thought we were all on Facebook!?!): https://twitter.com/UnDyrk

Dyrk’s Facebook (there we go): https://www.facebook.com/paternusbooks/

Paternus: Rise of Gods

Paternus Wrath of Gods

AC: You’ve been deeply involved in the film industry, can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

DA: Hi AC, thank you for having me. Yeah, I lived, ate, breathed film for a long time. Got my undergrad and masters degrees in film and video production from Ohio State University, where I produced the first feature film ever made there for part of my masters ‘thesis’. I then worked my way up from a production assistant and grip to producer and production manager on commercials and industrial films in Columbus, OH. Buddies of mine and I also made short films and a feature film during that time (of which I acted in a bunch, actually). We had our own production company for a while and developed screenplays and made a spec pilot for a cyberpunk TV series, which we pitched around Hollywood for a time, but could never really get anything to fly. I then moved to Los Angeles and worked in a ton of positions, including location sound recording, editing, and set construction. Mostly, though, I made my living as a SAG/AFTRA actor. I’m in Men in Black for about 4 seconds, was in a bunch of commercials and music videos, got some one scene appearances in some other features. The biggest part was a co-starring role in Rudyard Kipling’s The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo (longest movie title ever!). I was writing screenplays the whole time I was there as well, and got one of them read by several big companies, including Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Productions and New Line Cinema. Also had a proposal for a TV series championed by American Zoetrope Television, Francis Ford Coppola’s TV division, but it got turned down eventually by the financiers. A whole lot of almost-made-its!

AC: How did your background in film influence your writing?

DA: My background in film has definitely influenced my writing. I’m a very visual person, and tend to ‘see’ the locations, staging, and movement as I write, as well as ‘hear’ the dialogue as if it were on the screen. I also think in terms of how scenes tend to open, progress, and close in films, and how confrontations, tension, and outright battles are ‘directed’ when I write, and sometimes ‘edited’ as well. I also enjoy the immediacy of present tense, and the freedom of third person omniscient narrative storytelling, which I’ve learned how to hone from writing screenplay. All that said, though, I have been reading books and writing in a narrative style all my life, so I don’t consider myself a film guy who writes books. The two have been been weaving out of my process forever.

AC: Paternus is filled with rich detail and incredible depth. How much of it is “Dyrk’s Mythology” and how much of it is based on real world mythology?

DA: I’ve been a big mythology geek since I was very young. I’m also fascinated by the process of mythmaking as well. That includes both how ‘real’ myths have developed and how masters of creating their own mythologies, such as Tolkien, mine from existing mythologies and create their own. Nearly every mythological character and many of the stories of their backgrounds come from actual legends, fairy tales, or myths. I definitely put my own spin on a lot of what’s in the books, though, and some of them are, in a great part, mostly made up and just loosely tied to any existing ancient stories.

AC: Who is your favorite character in Paternus?

DA: That’s a really hard question, because I like them all for one reason or another, or I wouldn’t put them in the books. Some of it is the whole “love to hate” thing too, of course. If I have to choose, it would be Fi’s Uncle Edgar, which I never would have guessed when I began writing. I find him a really interesting character with a conflicted background but who is trying to do the right thing. He’s often the most fun to write. They really are all fun to write, though, for me.

AC: You’re an experienced hand on the convention circuit, can you tell us which ones are your favorite, both from the perspective of a creator and a fan?

DA: Yeah, it is really difficult to separate my creator side from my fan side. I think all of them are great for both, though. DragonCon may be my fave con as a fan, though, and ConFusion as a writer. I’ve had great experiences at SFWA/Nebulas, WorldCon/Hugos too though, and will definitely go again.

AC: What’s your favorite thing about being a published author?

DA: Interacting with other authors and fans, definitely, though to be honest, can’t shake a stick at being able to make a little money doing something I love.

AC: Tell us something readers don’t know about you?

Hmm. My great-great-grand Uncle on my father’s side was John L. Sullivan, the world heavyweight champion boxer, and my Grandfather on my mother’s side was a medic in Begium and France in World War I--he rode a horse (and I have his saddle :)  I also like Funko Pops and babysloths... wait... everybody knows that...

AC: One of my favorite parts about writing is the community of authors. People are there to help each other out. One contest I want to give some recognition is the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO). The incredible Mark Lawrence serves as a sort of spiritual guide, and a dedicated team of bloggers review hundreds of books every year to sift out the wheat from the chaff. As someone who’s been both a participant and now a judge for Team Booknest, tell us a little bit about the contest.

DA: Very happy you posed this question, AC. Mark and the SPFBO bloggers deserve all the praise and thanks we can dish out. I first heard about it about a month before my first book came out, through an AMA on Reddit Fantasy (which I had just joined) with the top three placing authors the first annual SPFBO. I hurried and completed the final production phase of Paternus and submitted it the day it released on Amazon, May 1 or 2016. They only allowed 300 entries, and I believe I was entrant number 298.

I had no idea what to expect, except I was sure my book would be out of the contest very quickly. I was shocked every time I learned it hadn't been cut, each step of the way. I had known absolutely no one in the industry prior to that--that's not entirely true, I'd met a few at ConFusion in Michigan the January of that same year--but it was through that first year as a floundering, flopping about, fledgling author that I met most of the folks in the industry I know today. And anyone else I've met, I can probably trace to a connection with someone I met through the SPFBO. Many of these people have become incredible friends and compatriots. Many of these people are authors, but there are also quite a few bloggers and industry professionals of other sorts. I was completely blown away when I found out I'd become a finalist, the final 10 out of 300 entries, and to come in 3rd was absolutely amazing. It became a little stressful at times, but it was a thrilling experience all the way through.

This year I had the honor of being a guest judge for Booknest in the first round. My task was to read five of the thirty books they were assigned and then forward my pick as one of their six semi-finalists. I got very lucky in that all of the the books in my batch were damn good, and a few of them truly great, in my opinion. The book I picked was Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike. It's going to be a lot of fun watching the remainder of the contest and rooting for 'my boy' from the corner of the ring :D  Having been in the contest, I trust to review each book kindly and fairly. I've never come at reviews with the idea that what I enjoy is actually great, or that what I don't like is somehow bad, and brought that same sensibility to my judging in the contest.

AC: When can we expect the third book in the Paternus Trilogy, and what comes next after it?

DA: The plan has been late summer, and it still might be that, but I'm considering a Kickstarter to fund the production and release of hardbacks for all three books, which I've never had, and even a special limited edition hardback box set, among other things. This would have to be done well before release, of course, and Kickstarters are very time consuming, so that could push release back into the Fall (hopefully early Fall at the latest). Quite a few author friends and readers have been rallying for the hardbacks and support it whole-heartedly, so it's becoming more of a reality. I want to get the first rough draft of the entire third book done before I really decide and dive into it, though, so I have a better grasp on the time frame.

As far as what might come after, I have a number of ideas. The highest on the list at this point, though, is probably a five to six book series of more straighforward UF like readers are more used to. They would also be shorter, 80k to 100k words instead of the ~140K (book one) to ~180k (book three) of The Paternus Trilogy. Faster moving as well. They would take place in the same primary world as Paternus, but 20 years earlier, and follow a single protagonist who's a bit of a vagabond-mercenary-rōnin-warrior type. Some of the characters from Paternus would be involved as well. That said, my plan is to make it a standalone series, so anyone could read either the original trilogy or these books first. The idea is that if you read the trilogy first, there are things you'd pick up on that readers of only the series, wouldn't, and vice versa, but these things would enhance the experience rather than spoil anything. So, that's the primary project as of now, but don't hold me to it, you never know what could happen :)

AC: You have a magic touch when it comes to snagging high-profile blurbs. First, here’s your chance to sell us, which one is your favorite? Second, aside from having an awesome book, is there any advice you can give new authors trying to get recognized by influencers?

DA: I have been very lucky when it comes to having high-profile figures and traditionally published authors read my books (and, to my never-ending astonishment, actually like them). I can't say I have a favorite, because it would actually be a lie, because I cherish them all.

As far as advice, number one, any author, but especially a new author, should never, ever, expect other authors to read their books. To have someone accept your book, whether they read it or not, is a great privilege.

1) First, you have to have some relationship with them, whether it be several positive conversations online or having met them (more than once, preferably) at a convention. Having worked in the film business and gotten to know some very high-profile stars, I learned that you have to treat them like real people. Don't gush and pee your pants, but don't be afraid either. Be you. Be an author. Be a professional, but a real person yourself. Don't hover and don't stalk. I'd also add, never ask someone to read your book if you've never read one of theirs. That's just, well, asinine.

2) Ask the right way. Never contact someone cold. Never walk up to someone you haven't talked to, or who probably wouldn't remember you, and hand them a book. If some sort of relationship has been established, if you do contact them, thank them for the conversation or whatever it was, and tell them it's absolutely alright if they say no or don't want it, but you really respect their work and you'd like to send them a book (print is always better than ebook--they may ask for ebook, but always offer a print copy if you can). You completely understand if they don't get to read it, and even if they do, no strings attached whatsoever. If they do read it and don't like it, no hard feelings at all (and mean it). If they accept, the only follow up you should do is to check to make sure it wasn't lost in the post. Don't check up on them. Ever. Unless, they very specifically ask you to.

Yes, I have some great blurbs, but many of those came a year or more after those authors had the books in their hands. Remember, no one has any obligation to read your, or my, shitty book. That goes for bloggers as well. Leave them alone, and never grip. To get a review or a blurb is an honor and a privilege, not a right.

Anyway, that's what has worked for me. I hope it helps!

AC: Thanks Dyrk! Hope everyone found this interesting, and was as surprised as I am that the man who wrote Paternus is so shockingly sane when you speak to him 1 to 1. If you have any interest in contemporary fantasy, then I highly recommend you take a look at Dyrk’s books!

That’s all I have for today. Happy reading!

-AC

FREEBIES from Cobble Publishing!

You may know I run a small press publishing house on the side. I don’t share too much about it here because I assume you’re interested in Benjamin Ashwood, and not everything else. That’s cool, but there is one offer I thought you might be interested in. We have two of the small press titles on sale for FREE today! These are limited time offers (as in, make your move TODAY), and this is literally the only time I’ve ever offered books for free. We’ll see how it goes… Before I decide it was a bad idea, I suggest you check them out ;)

Mark E Lacy’s The Ban of Irsiri

This is a standalone, epic style fantasy. It’s chock full of action and imaginative magic and mysticism. I chose to publish this title because the vivid prose brings the characters and world to life. Seriously, Mark is an incredible writer, and I wanted to be a part of it. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants a rich, epic fantasy feel, but doesn’t have time to chew through several books of history and side quests. Of the two, this one is closer to the style of Benjamin Ashwood.

Tanya Schofield’s Awaken: Melody’s Song Book 1

A young adult fantasy for adults. Tanya’s tale is quick-paced, and filled with action. The characters are based on old D&D characters Tanya and her friends used to play, and over the years they’ve grown and shifted, until this story formed around them. I chose this one to publish because of the quick pace. I also love the female protagonist, which is all too rare in fantasy, as well as Tanya’s concept of her magic. While is is written in a YA style, there are adult situations, so be warned! As an added bonus, Book 3 in this trilogy JUST released! No waiting, just reading.

Oops - Book 6 is out!

Oops… I just realized I have forgotten to mention that Weight of the Crown: Benjamin Ashwood Book 6 is out now! Sorry, I am atrocious at keeping this blog updated. Perhaps you should follow me on Patreon, the Newsletter, or Facebook ;) Keeping the blog updated is on my list for 2019, but since we’re not there yet, I’m giving myself a pass.

Anyway, since we’re late to the party, I have some stats to share:

WotC debuted at #88 in the overall Kindle Store

WotC spent several days at #1 in the Kindle Swords & Sorcery category, topping that fellow George RR Martin’s history book

WotC had over 2,000 pre-orders, and that number has been blown out by personal record setting sales on release day and throughout December. The entire Benjamin Ashwood series has over 180,000 copies sold now, and I’m confident it will easily cross 200k - which blows my mind

WotC is getting, by far, the best reviews I’ve ever had on Goodreads.com. As we speak, it’s 4.62 stars there, which is REALLY good. So good, in fact, that I only know of one other fantasy author with, say minimum 100 reviews, that has a similar average (Will Wight, if you’re looking for the next read)

Yes, WotC really is the end of the Benjamin Ashwood story arc. Yes, it is possible that there will be a spin-off. Yes, it would feature the person everyone keeps asking about. No, it is not next on my agenda. Next, I have a brand new trilogy planned. That one is going to be quite a bit different than Benjamin Ashwood, but it should be just as appealing to BA fans. I think it will be better, actually. Whether or not it is, we shall see, but believe me when I say I wouldn’t start writing it if I wasn’t incredibly excited about the potential.

Now, if you haven’t already gotten Book 6, and you bothered to read through all of that, you clearly enjoy my writing - perhaps more than is healthy. Instead of blog posts, you should get the book! Find it on Amazon HERE.