This week, the #SPFBO Author Interview is with Antonio Urias. Antonio is the author of The Alchemist in the Attic and Irons in the Fire and is currently working on the sequel, The Fall of the House of Talis, which will be available this fall. He is a lover of the strange, the weird, and the cursed.
What drew you to self-publishing?
The freedom and immediacy of placing my books in front of readers now rather than at some point in the future. My ultimate goal is to become a hybrid author with self-published and traditionally published titles, but there is a freedom to self-publishing. All the decisions are yours for better and for worse, and I genuinely enjoy that. When I was younger, someone once said that my dream would be: to write novels, do my own covers, and compose my own blurbs. That's self-publishing in a nutshell.
What advice do you have for anyone new to self-publishing?
I’m not sure I’m advanced enough in my career to be offering advice yet, but I will say that the number one lesson I’ve learned is patience. Self-publishing is a fast moving business, and it makes it very easy to do things NOW. That is the freedom and the power of self-publishing, but there is also something to be said for taking a breath and not getting lost in the weeds.
I have rushed each of my major book launches so far. The books were ready, and I had a workable launch plan, so I pulled there trigger. But I should have taken a little more time. Going forward I intend to be more patient. My new plan is to write and release in batches, so I have books ready to be published on a regular and reasonable schedule. That means not publishing every book as soon as its done, which can be hard for me, but I suggest that, unless you are one of those magical people who can produce 12 books a year (in which case tell me YOUR secret) allow yourself to be patient. Wait. Publish when you’re ready, not just when you can.
What is your favorite childhood book?
There are so many that it’s hard to narrow it down. I was always very fond of The Polar Express, and I think more people should read Lucy M. Boston’s Green Knowe series. But probably the children’s book that has stuck the most with me is Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
The honest answer is both. Depending. There are absolutely days where every word is torture, where managing to string sentences together is physically and emotionally exhausting. On the other hand, there is almost nothing more freeing or energizing than when the words are simply flowing. It is a wonderful state of being, and I wish I could capture and bottle it. Better than a shot of adrenaline.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
That’s the knife edge that I think every writer walks, sometimes more successfully than others. I used to be deeply concerned with being “original” whatever that means, avoiding every cliche I could find and every formula. The result was an incoherent mess. Now I try to do both. I always listen to the readers and try to follow where the story leads me.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
At the moment I have one series in the works and one standalone novel. They are not linked by either genre, plot, or character, but I believe they have a thematic and aesthetic connection, partly deliberate and partly accidental. And that is what I’m going for overall. I’m very conscious of building a body of work that makes sense as a whole not on a plot level (although I do have ideas for linked series) but as a style. Whether that translates is ultimately up to the reader.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was 7 years old, my father read Lord of the Rings to me in its entirety. Cover to cover. Twice. When he’d finished the second time, he said to me: “That’s it. If you want to read it again, you’ll have to do it yourself.” So I did. Two years later.
What does literary success look like to you?
There are two answers to that question, and they are both equally true. The first is simply knowing that there are people out there who genuinely want to read my books and stories, who find something meaningful in them that I didn’t always mean. One of my proudest moments so far, was when a reader sent me a note that highlighted certain aspects of my book that I didn’t even realize where there. That’s when I knew I must have done something right.
The other, more crassly commercial answer is being able to support myself solely through my writing. That is the dream: not to have to worry about anything else and simply write.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do. I’m still at the stage where I’m scrounging for reviews and treasuring each one as a victory, even the mediocre ones. A good review can make my day and fill me with confidence. Positive reinforcement is always good, especially since writing is such a solitary pursuit. But I have had a few mediocre to bad reviews, and for the most part, I shrug them off. Occasionally, they point out a flaw which I was already worried about, and that is the worst. But I soldier through. Once I’ve had a good writing day, I get my confidence back, and all is well again. Mostly. There are few a still scars here and there.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Oh yes. And they know.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Starting. It’s a cliche, but the terror of the blank page is very real. I once spent an entire year writing and rewriting the first sentence of a story. I had the plot all outlined, but I couldn’t get past the first sentence. I’ve gotten much better now. I think I needed to get that debilitating perfectionism out of my system, but the blank page is still the first and most difficult obstacle to overcome. That’s when everything is possible.
To learn more about Antonio Urias, you can visit him at: