This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with Nancy Foster. She was born in Minneapolis Minnesota and established in Mexico City when she started 4th grade without knowing a word of Spanish and assumed her newly found country was going to be a tropical city covered with palm trees. She grew up with the culture clash and economic crisis of the 1990’s and a passion for Japanese animation, figure ice skating, and cats.
When she’s not practicing medicine or fixing busted typewriters pro bono, she is traveling to foreign countries to see spectacular nature, hard to reach pyramids and the occasional military museum. Who knows, perhaps you will bump into her in a youth hostel in Tokyo or a whale shark snorkeling tour.
What drew you to self-publishing?
I've always been the sort of person that does things alone and on their own terms. Call it stubbornness or perhaps even close-mindedness but I kind of like to do things my own way. I also live in a country where English isn't the official language and therefore finding traditional publishing houses that would publish my work would be difficult, to say the least. I also liked the idea that I had more control over royalty payments and avoiding dodgy deals where a publishing house goes under while retaining the rights to my work and my book ends up in limbo land.
Why did you enter #spfbo?
I am an active member Briane Ferrence's facebook author group, and Mark Lawrence showed up in May and placed an ad asking all fantasy indie authors to sign up for the contest. I only scantly noticed SPFBO lists on Goodreads but I didn't know about the huge importance of the contest when I signed up. I said, hey, this guy sounds like he needs some contestants and it seemed like not a lot of people signed up at first. I even invited a friend with a book that qualified, but he declined. I began to think Mark was going to cancel the contest this year but suddenly a ton of people started to sign up and the list became filled within less than 1 week. Whew!
What advice do you have for anyone new to self-publishing?
I suggest the person first accept positive criticism of their work. You are not born to be the next Da Vinci. We all make dumb mistakes when we start writing, but the only way to phase out of that is first to write a lot, learn what newbie mistakes you unconsciously make when you write and then learn to correct them. Be open-minded towards the suggestions of well-meaning Beta readers, they could have found a plot hole that you need to fix or suggest you should move the story in a different direction that will end up making the book a lot better.
Learn what kind of book you will write and learn what the competition is writing. You want to stand out, but not too much with something so bizarre that nobody will read it. Try to aim mainstream at first and once you have a strong fan base, experiment a little.
What is the first book that made you cry?
My dad read to me a Christmas themed book when I was a kid that starred a cute girl that dies at the end of the book from illness. I can't remember what book it was, but the powerful yet sad ending seriously caught me off guard. I want to cause that same feeling to my readers, and I think I've done it for at least some of my novels.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I'm not fully sure. Every writer has their own tics, and not everyone is a native English language speaker. It's important to find another pair of eyes to read your book and locate bloopers. I think my writing improved a lot when I started to focus on spotting my tics in drafts and eliminating them quickly.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
A little of both. I loved LOTR, but I wanted my elf society to be as unrelated to that series as possible and made it heavily influenced by Japanese society. I'm a huge Saint Seiya fan, and the character interaction and drama in the series is heavily influenced by that anime which is hugely popular in Mexico.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
It's sort of funny. One of the first memories I have is when I was in kindergarten writing the text of a small booklet featuring grasshoppers and other insects. I still have the handmade book somewhere in a box. I wrote and drew a child's story of a red duck when I was in 3rd grade. The book was sort of silly featuring a duck that painted itself bright red to confuse bypassers while it stole stuff when they weren't paying attention. It was sort of a bizarre tale that I cooked up, and the teachers at the school loved it. I don't know what happened to that book, but I always imagined crazy stories in my head nonstop when I became bored at school growing up.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The kind of magic in my elf fantasy series consists of summoning a sort of familiar called a phantom beast. They don't have a mind of their own, and each phantom beast has a specific ability. Call me crazy, but I like Tioja's Lehart a lot. His phantom beast is invisible 99% of the time (it takes the shape of a blue/white aura that can turn into minuscule white spears). His ability is so frightening because you cannot see or sense it, but he can see everything via their shadow in a 300-yard radius and blow them into pieces with his mind. I find the destructiveness of his ability and how it caused a lot of interpersonal problems growing up to be fascinating. Everyone was scared to death of his sorcery, but they eventually realize what an invaluable asset it was when he learned how to fully control it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have a finished medical manual book that is fully copyrighted, but I am iffy if I should publish it. Out of the Ominous Book Series, the 7th novel is around 65% written, and I have around 30% of a potential 8th and final novel written as an initial draft. I have tidbits of three short stories in the Ominous Book Series universe. The one that has the most text written is one surrounding Spaulding's initial life as a ranger, but I left it hanging because it needed more conflict. I have realized the book isn't working because Spaulding and Nahar have to hate each other at first instead of instantly being friends.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I write mainly fantasy, but I do read some background on things. I scourged falconry forums for ideas regarding Lord Damantin. I love it that Damantin purposely wants the guards to refurbish a dungeon so that he can sleep in the same room as his pet falcon. I was laughing almost as much as the guards were when they first heard his bizarre request.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Almost all of my book reviews have been positive. Some reviewers disliked the ending of the first novel which I fully understand. I've always had thoughtful reviews made by well-intentioned people. I haven't gotten any 2 or 1-star reviews. It seems like I must be doing something right.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
My books are filled with little breadcrumbs. Small things such as the fact that autumn is the rainy season in western Ayrtain carries a huge importance in the 5th novel. The reader discovers elves celebrate a 5 day New Year celebration, but we don't get to see what at least some of the religious celebrations are like until the 4th novel. The other rituals appear in the 6th and 7th novels. The books become filled with more and more secrets as they advance. The story of the exiled clan is filled with countless backstory possibilities.
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