How do you feel about self-publishing?
Self-publishing is an awesome innovation. It makes writing more democratic by providing a way around the gatekeepers who used to decide what was published and what wasn’t. I’m indie published with a small outfit called Arboreal Press, and they’re the reason I’m published. I went the traditional route at first. I was trying to get published during the Great Recession, and while several agents told me they found my book appealing, none of them felt confident they could sell an editor on it “in that market.” Since no one would take a chance with me, I decided to take a chance with me. Now The Wings of Dragons is selling hundreds of copies a week and getting great reviews.
That said, there’s unfortunately a reason self-publishing gets a bad reputation. Too many authors view it as a crutch to avoid the hard work of really thinking about all the details that make a book great, from cover design to typesetting to basic editing. When I indie-published, I made a conscious decision to make my book every bit as professional as anything that came out of the big publishing houses. I worked with a professional cover designer and typesetter. I went through extensive editing bringing in multiple people to eliminate as many mistakes as possible. I researched all the little details about formatting and creating a great experience for readers. I wanted someone who holds the paperback or downloads the e-book of The Wings of Dragons not to be able to tell the difference between it and a book published by a big house.
Do you know your neighbors?
My wife and I live in a small town in the country, the kind of place where when you go for a walk around the block, you wave at the folks on the porches and often have to stop and chat with them. It’s one more fun part of living in a rural area. We have neighbors who happily watch our home and cats when we go away (though to date, they’ve never seen our cats), and one who loves to bake and will randomly bring us homemade loaves of bread. It’s a great place to live.
How important are friends in your life?
They’re vital! I would never have finished The Wings of Dragons without incredible support and encouragement from my close friends. More than once while writing the novel, I wanted to give up. More than once I did give up. My friends helped me work through those low points and inspired me to keep moving forward.
How many friends does a person need?
I think this depends on your definition of “friend.” I think people need different circles of friends. For instance, I think it’s great to have a large number of folks you loosely call “friends” – those you stay in contact with through Facebook or who you might see every now and then. But more importantly, I prefer having a few really close friends, people I know will have my back no matter what happens. The people I can come to with any problem, no matter what it is, and get an honest, thoughtful, heartfelt answer are few and far between, and I cherish them.
What does love mean to you?
Love for me has two parts. The first is trust so deep that I can come to the person I love with anything, no matter what, and know that she’ll be there to help me through it. The second is partnership. This world is a tough place, and it’s even tougher when you’re going it alone. Love means having each other’s back and facing the challenges of life as a team.
What social issues interest you the most?
I’ve been interested in the environment ever since I was a kid. I went to summer camp several years in elementary and middle school, and I loved getting out in the woods. I still enjoy camping, hiking, and sharing stories around the fire. In my day job, I help farm and forest landowners find ways to sustainably care for their properties. In this age of the Internet and industry, we tend to ignore the nature right outside our windows. Getting others excited about that nature and wanting to protect it is the best part of my work.
When you get free time on the Internet or you go to the library, what do you want to read about?
Whatever strikes me at the time. Sometimes I’ll be struggling with a topic for my day job or in my writing, and then I’ll go in search of a particular topic. Not too long ago I was researching the architectural style of peasant homes in feudal Japan. Other times I just want to get out there and learn. I’ll see an interesting news article or hear a weird fact on Facebook, and suddenly I’m off and going. The journey is far more interesting, and fun, than the destination.
Do you find the time to read?
I’m always reading something. I think before you can be a successful author, you have to be a successful reader. Usually I’ll have one fiction and one non-fiction book going at the same time. More than that and I get confused, especially with fiction. I love going to my local library (how quaint does that sound?), browsing, and finding a random book from an author I’ve never heard of before. I’ve gotten a few duds, but I’ve also found some gems.
What was the last book you purchased? Tell us about it.
Considering my nerdy upbringing on fantasy and science fiction, I’m shocked that I only recently picked up Ender’s Game. In some ways, I’m glad I waited until I was an adult to read it. It goes a lot deeper than much of the science fiction genre, and it asks tough questions about growing up and the military culture. Just as important, the whole book is pure story from beginning to end. If you haven’t read it, or if you’ve only watched the movie, you’re missing out.
From fantasy author Josh VanBrakle comes an epic new trilogy of friendship, betrayal, and explosive magic. Lefthanded teenager Iren Saitosan must uncover a forgotten history, confront monsters inspired by Japanese mythology, and master a serpentine dragon imprisoned inside a katana to stop a revenge one thousand years in the making.
Lodian culture declares lefthanded people dangerous and devil-spawned, and for Iren, the kingdom's only known Left, that's meant a life of social isolation. To pass the time and get a little attention, he plays pranks on the residents of Haldessa Castle. It's harmless fun, until one of his stunts nearly kills Lodia's charismatic heir to the throne. Now to avoid execution for his crime, Iren must join a covert team and assassinate a bandit lord. It's a suicide mission, and Iren's chances aren't helped when he learns that his new katana contains a dragon's spirit, one with a magic so powerful it can sink continents and transform Iren into a raging beast.
Adding to his problems, someone on Iren's team is plotting treason. When a former ally launches a brutal plan to avenge the Lefts, Iren finds himself trapped between competing loyalties. He needs to figure out who - and how - to trust, and the fates of two nations depend on his choice.
"A fast-paced adventure...led by a compelling cast of characters. Josh VanBrakle keeps the mysteries going." - ForeWord Reviews
Genre – YA epic fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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