2023 sees the ninth iteration of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog Off or SPFBO (pronounced Spiff-bo). The competition invites 300 #indieauthors to submit their fantasy novel. Ten panels of judges, bloggers & vloggers, review those books to identify their finalist. The ten panels then read each finalist to select the outright winner.
The competition has taken on a life of its own. This year it took just 41 minutes for the 300 authors to log their entry. The competition offers writers additional publicity, to get their work in front of people who may be unaware of it. Finalists can find even greater benefits, some finish up with publishing deals and representation by literary agents.
It’s also a wonderful way for the writing community in the fantasy genre, to support one another. That’s what I’m trying to do here. Let’s find out about our next author!
Brendan Noble is a Polish and German-American author currently writing fantasy inspired by Slavic mythology: The Frostmarked Chronicles. Through these books and his “Slavic Saturday” post series on YouTube and his website, he hopes to bring the often-forgotten stories of eastern Europe into new light. Shortly after beginning his writing career in 2019 with the publication of his debut novel, The Fractured Prism (Book 1 of The Prism Files), Brendan married his wife Andrea and moved to Rockford, Illinois from his hometown in Michigan. Since then, he has published two series: The Prism Files and The Frostmarked Chronicles.
Brendan founded Eight-One-Five Publishing in 2021, wishing to inspire and help authors in the Rockford area write, publish, and distribute their works, regardless of socioeconomic status.
I'm intrigued that, like me, Brendan is interested in mythology and its "repurposing" into his own stories. There's so much material in these stories. I researched Slavic myth for a short story and found it to be a rich and exciting source.
1. Tell us who you are and how we might have read something by you.
My name is Brendan Noble, and I’m the author of two currently published series: my epic fantasy meets Slavic mythology series The Frostmarked Chronicles and dystopian The Prism Files. This is my first year in SPFBO with A Dagger in the Winds, the first book of The Frostmarked Chronicles, and I intend to continue joining into the future.
2. Give us your ‘Elevator Pitch’ for the book you’ve entered into #SPFBO9.
A Dagger in the Winds combines the adventure, magic, and immense worlds of epic fantasy with the demons, gods, natural focus, and three realms of Slavic mythology. It follows Wacław and Otylia, a cursed warrior and a witch forced apart by feuding parents despite their fondness for one another. That fondness has turned to spite after years, but when Wacław falls for the tricks of the winter goddess, Marzanna, on the eve of the day she is supposed to die, he realizes Otylia is his only hope to contain the dark power the goddess unleashes in him. That darkness is only a small part of Marzanna’s greater plot, and together, they must figure out a way to stop eternal winter before it destroys the living realm.
A Dagger in the Winds is the first book in what will be a five book series, the first three of which have been released (along with a prequel novella and a novella acting as a book 3.5) with book four coming out this October. It is also currently free on all major eBook retailers, so now is a great time to start!
3. Tell us about your journey as a self-published author.
I started with some prodding from my wife with NaNoWriMo in November of 2018. She knew I wanted to write, and the challenge to write a book in a month felt like a fun challenge. I have definitely learned a lot since then from plotting to prose to descriptions and beyond. Each book I learn something new, and that is a fun journey in itself. Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula podcast along with many others helped me get going in the self-publishing world, and the rest I’ve learned from mistakes, Facebook groups of authors, and a great group of friends I meet weekly with to discuss our books.
For where I’m at now, it’s hard to say. I really count The Frostmarked Chronicles as more of a first series than my second because I’m planning to stick with the fantasy genre from here on out, and switching genres leads to massively different fanbases often. I’ve steadily been gaining traction, but I would describe that marketing and sales wise, it feels like I’m still merging onto the highway and finding it sometimes difficult to find a gap. My writing is at a place I’m happy with it now, but getting the book in readers’ hands can be difficult, despite the positive reviews I’ve had.
4. Have you tried the traditional route to publishing?
Short answer: No
Slightly less short answer: I honestly don’t think I’d be an author if I had to traditionally publish. The hurdle of querying a hundred times just to try and maybe get a deal terrified me and still terrifies me still. Maybe that’s silly, but it’s where I’m at.
5. What prompted your decision to self-publish?
When I finished that first NaNoWriMo, I realized I knew nothing about publishing. I did a ton of research about my options while working on edits, and I decided the control, ease, and business side of self-publishing was better for me. I liked being able to choose my cover designer, my book title, the pricing, etc. It’s obviously an uphill battle in some ways, but it has allowed me to publish nine books now, and I have no regrets.
6. Writing is a lonely business. Self-publishing even more so. Does this isolation affect you?
I am a rare extravert among authors from what it seems, so sometimes it is difficult not to be interacting with people. Luckily, I get my fun out with things like Dungeons & Dragons and other things with friends, and the thoughts I have about books drive me to keep writing. My wife is also super supportive, along with great friends. That makes a big difference.
Writing and publishing can be the best feeling, taking you to new worlds and giving you great pride with what you created. It can also crush you. Imposter syndrome is real and it hurts a lot when it hits. I want to feel happy every time I see a similar book to mine have great success, but I end up wrestling with jealousy, asking “what am I doing wrong” and “maybe I’m not cut out for this.” The friendly support I mentioned before is big there, along with reviews that have proven to me that my writing is good. A big thing I tell myself is that I love to tell these stories, so they’re rewarding even if no one else reads them. I have the dream of becoming a full time author, but even if I fail in that, I will have created many stories and grown in the process. That thought really helps.
7. Tell us how you manage the range of jobs of a self-published author.
For The Frostmarked Chronicles and beyond, I have hired cover designers and illustrators. This series is actually illustrated by a Ukrainian illustrator named Mariia Lytovchenko (@Marichka__Art on Instagram, check her out), who has been amazing to work with, especial considering the horrific things she’s gone through in the last year and a half. She’s also done interior art for books 2 and on in the series (unfortunately I didn’t think of the idea until after A Dagger in the Winds was published).
I do all my social media, website, newsletter, etc. because I have past experience with marketing elements, but book marketing is a whole different level. I hate selling to people, because I hate feeling like I’m forcing my book upon someone. Comic cons lately have helped convince me that people often do want to hear about the books, though, if done the right way.
My favourite part besides the writing is actually studying sales and marketing data. I’m a business analyst by trade, so that stuff gets me excited when I get the chance to dive in to see what’s working and what’s not.
8. How do you balance writing commitments with other pressures, like your career and home?
I work a full time job, but working from home helps without a commute. I write over lunch often, as well as any time I can find in the evening. My wife is supportive of me writing a lot, but obviously there are things that come first. I can manage an hour of writing to three or even four depending on the day, and I use the productivity app forest to keep me focused for 30 minute sprints, taking breaks in-between. With ADHD, that is huge to stop me from getting distracted and wasting time. I know that if I need to check message or something, I have allotted times to do that in the gaps. I can also do quick chores during those gaps as well.
9. Many self-published authors want to retain control of their work and their IP (Intellectual Property).
That is important to me. Every author dreams of having adaptations of their work, and I want to ensure that if that happens, I have some element of control over it. IP also ensures that in the long run, it’s me and my family that will benefit from whatever success comes out of it. I could rant a bit about the risks of AI because of this, but that’s another topic entirely.
10. What is your greatest success?
My greatest publishing success is definitely the Bookbub Featured Deal I managed to get for A Dagger in the Winds, helping bring it to over 150 reviews on Amazon and over 100 on Goodreads. It’s kept some eyes on the series, and I’ve set it to free for much of the time since, giving people a chance to get into the series for free and then pay from there on out if they enjoy them.
In a broader sense, my greatest success was writing a book in the first place. Doing your first draft ever and then hitting publish after way too many edits is terrifying. That I got over that hurdle was huge for me, and anyone can do it if they give it the time and effort. We all have at least one story to tell.
Here are Brendan's links:
My website: www.Brendan-Noble.com
Links to stores: www.Books2Read.com/ADaggerInTheWinds (includes Amazon)
So many times in Brendan's interview I found myself thinking, "Yeah, me too!" It's reassuring that, as writers, we share so many of the same issues/feelings. We forget that sometimes. We're not alone with these worries. It's one reason for doing these interviews. That said, I wish I had his enthusiasm for data analysis!!