Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Interview with JD Franx - Author of Fantasy Bestseller, The Legacy

JD Franx, indie author of #1 best-selling fantasy novel TheLegacy, was kind enough to take time out of his busy publishing schedule to answer a few questions about his writing, editing, and marketing process. Below is a Q&A with yours truly.

I urge you to check out The Legacy. It launched back in October and at the time of this writing, it sits at #2,000 on Amazon. Anybody who has indie-published before through 'Zon knows this is quite an achievement!

EVAN RONAN: Can you describe your writing process? I’m asking this question very literally. Where do you go?

JD FRANX: I normally write at our kitchen table, and sometimes in the summer I write outside while at our bistro set.

EVAN: What’s around you?

JD: Lol. Everything I need. Maps, notebooks of hand written information on Talohna and several flash drives of more information. Talohna's a big world with thousands of years of history. Oh, and naturally either a cup of coffee or a glass of diet Pepsi.

EVAN: Certain time of day?

JD: That depends on how I feel. I like writing in the morning, usually between 9-12, but when it's possible I do write in the afternoon. I rarely write at night, unless it's really late and I can't sleep-after midnight.

EVAN: What do you think about?

JD: When I'm writing I rarely think about anything, I very rarely listen to music and I try to just let the story flow.

EVAN: When you write, do you see the scene playing out in your head?

JD: I wouldn't say so, not really anyway.

EVAN: Hear the people speaking?

JD: Not when writing, no. When I'm not writing, yes.

EVAN: Or is the writing process more a gut feeling, where you know it’s working or not working by how your body is reacting to what you’re doing?

JD: As strange as it sounds, I don't worry about whether it's working until later drafts of the manuscript.

EVAN: How do you come up with ideas?

JD: I hate this question, lol. I've been asked it a hundred times or more and it's one I can't answer. The story is just there.

(I hate that question too, JD!)

EVAN: Do you outline or fly by the seat of your pants?

JD: This question I love, lol. I am purely a panster writer for every first draft I write, though I do tweak and adjust the story in subsequent drafts. I rarely plot ahead, though there are scenes that jump into my head that have to be written down immediately or they're all I think about. I've never had writer's block, so I look at it like this: I often wonder if us writers (or maybe just panster writers) have a 'connection' to the worlds we write. I never have a problem writing, except for motivation some days, lol. I sit down to write and the story is always just there, as if I'm tapped into another reality and this reality is showing me what is happening there in Talohna. I've heard other pansters say the same, so who knows?

EVAN: How do you create characters?

JD: Like the stories, they're just there. Though there are times when certain characters are 'louder' than others so I have to sometimes write their scenes first.

EVAN: Do you have to see, or hear, or feel, or all three before you start writing them?

JD: I do at times see hear or feel what I write, but I don't need to in order to write.

EVAN: Or do they come out organically as you’re writing?

JD: Most of my characters develop organically, though this one aspect I'm trying to improve upon. I have a lot of respect for authors whose characters come alive on the page and I believe I have a long ways to go before I'm happy with my own, if that's ever even possible, lol.

EVAN: Do you consciously think of theme while you’re planning the book, or while you’re writing the book, or does theme happen on its own?

JD: I do not. I have no ulterior themes hidden within, so any kind of religious or political, or any statement for that matter that does pop up is purely unintentional. My only plan or desire is to write a high fantasy world and characters that readers will enjoy.

EVAN: Do you model other authors? As you’re writing, do you say: “I want this book to be like XXX and YYY”?

JD: No. I do have my own favourite authors, like R.A. Salvatore or Tolkien, but I hope to keep my world and writing as unique as possible. Because I don't plot or plan ahead, there's no desire to emulate others, at least not consciously, lol.

EVAN: As you mention on your Author Page and from what reader reviews have indicated, The Legacy turns some tropes on their proverbial heads. I really admire when authors do this, because it shows they’re not afraid to experiment and give readers something new. Being that daring takes guts.

So … how did you strike a balance between satisfying reader expectations of the genre, while also subverting the genre as well?

JD: Personally I love all the old fantasy tropes. My two favourite will always be the portal fantasy and hero's journey tropes. But they have been done to death so I did consciously try to do something different during the revision stages. Most portal fantasy stories have the hero being hidden away in another realm/reality/world in order to hide him/her from the big bad. Instead I flipped the trope and used it to hide the big bad in a different world when he was born—in order to save Talohna from a prophesied apocalypse. As for the hero's journey quest, I often find in other books that the hero is perfect at everything(of which I also love) whether magic, sword-fighting, or whatever they happen to need at the time. In Talohna, it doesn't work that way and Kael spends most of his time screwing up these things and getting into trouble because of it, lol.

EVAN: What tropes were you willing to play with, and what tropes did you hold sacred?

JD: I'm willing to play with any trope that serves the plot or that creates something different, something readers haven't seen. That's what makes for a great story in my opinion—show readers something fresh. For Talohna I wanted to reassert what vampires and werewolves are to me. I grew up on Bram Stoker's Dracula and Lost Boys vampires—predatory killers. And on The Howling and Silver Bullet werewolves—massive beasts that stalked their prey on two legs and were often conscious of what they were doing. Today's beasts have been seriously neutered based on my childhood experiences, though I have to admit that hasn't prevented some incredible stories from being written. These creatures will just always hold a different meaning to me.

EVAN: What I’m most impressed with is how successfully The Legacy launched. This is your first book, so presumably you had no readership, no mailing list, in other words, people weren’t lining up to grab their copy. And yet, The Legacy blasted up the charts when it came out. What did you do to create such a successful launch?

JD: Good question. I have worked extremely hard the last three years to build a small but loyal reader audience. I don't do the Facebook or Twitter 'like for like ladders' and instead I've tried to follow and earn follows from readers honestly interested in my series. It helped.

EVAN: How did you get the word out about this book ahead of time?

JD: Besides what I mentioned above, not much else. I didn't have the resources ahead of time, instead I focused on the release.

EVAN: How did you build reader anticipation prior to launch?

JD: Again, with the exception of my Facebook author page and Twitter, very little.

EVAN: What other steps did you take so to give yourself the best possible chance of a really successful release?

JD: I did spend a bit of money for ads during release week, which helped get me to #1 in Amazon's smaller categories and from there it just continued to climb until it hit #1 on the bigger lists. Kindle Unlimited also helped a lot, especially with reviews and visibility. Readers are a lot more willing to take a chance on a new author when they can read it for free through their Prime subscription. I think KU is a great tool for new authors, if you're willing to monitor it and report any abnormalities.

EVAN: As a corollary to that, the next thing I’m really impressed with is how “sticky” The Legacy is. It currently sits at #2,000 on Amazon and it’s been out for over three months! So … following your launch, what have you done in terms of marketing, if anything?

JD: The Legacy is selling and being read through KU very steadily so my rank and #1 positions now pretty much rely on how other authors are doing, lol. I've been bouncing around from between the 300s-1200s overall since the middle of December. Facebook ads have been my greatest investment. I tried other services and they help a bit, where as my Facebooks often pay for themselves in a matter of days.

EVAN: What actions have you taken to keep the book sticky?

JD: My ads and word of mouth now, along with the willingness to talk and engage with fans and readers at every opportunity, I think.

EVAN: Aside from writing a great book, what other factors do you think contributed to your success?

JD: Besides those I've mentioned earlier, I have no idea. Maybe luck or the cover, maybe it is the story itself—The Legacy has 115 reviews in only 3 months, most are 4 and 5 stars. Or perhaps it's the willingness and ability to spend money on ads. A combination of all the above maybe? Who knows? I guess we'll see how well the following books do, lol. Maybe then I'll have a better idea of what works for sure.

EVAN: And last, but not least, who created that cover? It’s kick-ass!

JD: All my covers are done by a friend, artist Joel Lagerwall. He's an amazing artist and a great guy. I sincerely hope I can have him do all my covers for this series.

***

Thanks again to JD for taking the time to answer some questions and provide insight into his process. It's working for him, as his sales/borrows on Amazon show. Keep up the great work, JD!



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