This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with E. S. Furlán. E. S. Furlán is an author, illustrator, amateur chandler and folklore enthusiast who lives in Denmark these days and has no intention of becoming "normal" until someone explains exactly what normal is.
What drew you to self-publishing?
I've been writing with the goal of publishing for a while now, and one thing I've found is that I need to get through each piece pretty quickly and mark it complete so that I don't get too stale and lose momentum. The idea of potentially waiting six to nine months to see my books released, let alone the time spent querying and corresponding, is a little too daunting – my nerves would be frayed and ragged by then! Plus, in my day job, I'm an illustrator, so I like to be able to paint my characters, the covers, maps and everything myself. It's just fun. In light of all that I figure self-publishing works well for me at this stage of my life and my career. To be fair, I never did try to get an agent or find a publisher, so maybe it wouldn't be as bad as I expect it to be. For now, I just want to focus on keeping up the pace of writing, editing and releasing things in quick succession to build up confidence in my ability to complete things. I might look into traditional publishing once I feel I've learned all I need from self-publishing.
What is your least favorite thing about self-publishing?
There isn't really a whole lot to dislike, but I guess needing to do and be everything at once – writer, publicist, marketing strategist, promoter, sales rep, customer service rep – that can be a little full-on. From what I've heard though, it's similar for new writers everywhere; publishing houses are less likely to give contracts to unknowns versus to people who already have a following on social media of some sort. I am not great at talking to people or “networking” or anything like that, so it's daunting, but people like Mark Lawrence holding competitions like the SPFBO helps a lot. There is actually more support for self-published fantasy authors than I think most people would expect, it's a great community, and it sort of mitigates a lot of the stress and terror of starting out into it.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I can honestly say I haven't felt a strong emotion of any sort in about three years at the time of this interview, so I guess read my books and let me know if I can't write? But I used to feel things very deeply, so I do remember what it's like, and hopefully, I will again one day. It's the same with painting though, I don't believe in talent or having a “gift,” I only believe in skill. We're all born as blank slates, more or less, it's what we do with our time that dictates what we'll be good at. People often say I have such a beautiful gift for art, but I think they don't realize I've painted and drawn every day since I could hold a crayon, and I got pretty rigorous about training myself once I hit my teens. No amount of talent or emotion can surpass practicing until your eyes bleed and failing more times than you can count. Those without strong emotions might be at a disadvantage in some areas, but I'd be very surprised if they couldn't find other areas where they succeed more easily than those who do feel things.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I hate writing romances. I absolutely loathe them, and I get very bored reading them as well. I know there's a hefty chunk of readers in the world who adore them, but I feel like I don't understand how they work, and I don't understand the point of them at all. I can write tender moments between long-time lovers easily enough. I can write absolutely filthy smut if the plot calls for it, but I much prefer writing friendships – Cassia and Aldert in The Tainted Shrine, for example, are much more interesting to me than Atham and Kanika's relationship (not that theirs is straight romance, I suppose). I think romantic love and sex are too easy to use as motives for people to be together, but finding an actual bond without any of that attached is beautiful and complex and just so much more real than most romantic relationships I could write. I do have a “romance writing coach” though, so we'll see if I get better at it at some point.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do write under a pseudonym, and I considered a few different ones, but this was the final choice. I've lived in a few different countries, but the place I consider to be my 'home' is in northern Italy, probably because I did most of my growing up there before adulthood. Furlán is a surname specific to the region I lived in, though my initials are the same. I prefer the pseudonym for my writing because my personal circumstances change fairly often, but who I am as a writer changes much more organically and it all started in Friuli.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I don't know about secrets, but I've done my best to foreshadow almost everything I have planned from the beginning of the book, even just in the way some things are phrased. Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt find plot hooks in the first few chapters that don't come to fruition until much, much later. Or at least, I hope they will.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I'd like to create things still. Illustration was my first love, so I'd probably do that. Hell, I sort of still do that anyway, since I'm one of those unfortunates who can't seem to just settle on a thing and do it. I wouldn't mind still being a part of the writing community in that role either, especially for fantasy authors.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It sort of depends. I live with my partner and our daughter, so if I get interrupted a lot, it can be draining and frustrating. The stories are all mostly already planned out in the broader strokes, but few writers live for planning and following the dot points to the letter – it's the sudden flashes of inspiration as you're writing that get you excited and keep you up until the wee hours. If too many of those moments strike and are interrupted before they can be fully explored and fleshed out, it drives me wild trying to remember what I had going. That can be really draining. But overall I find it energizing. The number of times I've started writing after my daughter is asleep just to bash out the rest of a chapter and wound up typing in a wide-eyed frenzy until the sun comes up...
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Thinking everything has to be perfect, and then never finishing anything properly because they're not living up to the standards they set for themselves. There are so many amazingly skilled writers out there, who've published dozens of books and carved a spot for themselves in people's hearts and minds, it's easy to forget that once upon a time they were sitting in front of their first draft of their first book, feeling all the same things as the rest of us when we were starting out. Aspiring writers often seem to have this idea that their first book they write has to be brilliant and it's just not going to happen, the first one is always crap. Sometimes the second and third one too. So by the time you get to publishing, you've probably written two or three novels and scrapped them, and lost faith and doubted yourself and taken massive breaks from writing while you try to reconcile the thing you made with the thing you want to make, then started up again older and sometimes wiser, with new experiences and perspectives. But those first few crap ones are so incredibly important. They're important to write, they're important to finish and edit and rewrite, and they're especially important to keep so that you have a measure of how far you've come. The best thing to do is get them out of your system as quickly as possible, and learn as much from them as you can so that the first book you publish doesn't read like a first book. If you're writing at least in part because you love writing and creating stories, it's unlikely to be as burdensome as it sounds. And if you're writing just because you want to be the next J. K. Rowling or make some easy cash, well... you're probably looking in the wrong place. It has to be worth it even when you're broke and desperate, or it'll be just as soul-crushing as any other job you don't like.
Thanks, E. S.!
Check out these links to learn more about E. S. Furlán and their upcoming projects: