Hello, Lovely Readers.
Having a good weekend? If you are looking for a short break from all the merrymaking, fun, and frolic, read this amusing and entertaining interview with one of the Fantasy Hive busy bees, J.P. Ashman, the author of Black Powder Wars series.
Dyrk Ashton, the dashing author of Paternus, described Mr. Ashman’s series as “hearty-epic-buddy-flintlock-pirate-fantasy-adventure.”
Jonathan doesn’t write for the fainthearted and the weak-bellied. His books are grim and dark, spares no detail in gritty violence, and the man is adept at playing with your emotions.
He calls it a tome and a tome it is. Massive, sprawling, mind-boggling novel of I-can’t-even-remember-how-many-words, Black Cross has been one of the most impressive self-published debutantes of 2015-16. You will soon see an entirely made over version of the Black Cross shortly, along with the next few books in the series. Here’s my review.
Did I mention the bookworm in his book? It’s true. Go check it out.
Jon has also written two short pieces Black Martlet and the Dragonship (I was beginning to think he has a thing for Black). Both are amazing and widely praised by reviewers. I have read Dragonship and loved it. Here’s my review.
Jon is working on the rest of his tomes when he is not glazing glasses for his customers or running after wee Poppet, that adorable little Norse Goddess of his, also known as Freya.
Men and women, gentle or not, without much further ado, I present before you the J.P. Ashman.
Hello, Jon. Thank you for joining us today. How are the dragons?
They’re decidedly vicious today, thanks. And thanks for having me on your site!
[My pleasure, really.]
Let’s talk about your tomes.
How did the Black Powder War happen? Don’t sweat it, I mean the book not the actual war. Geez!
A lifetime of an overactive imagination at play. Sticks and skinned knuckles as a child, miniatures and acrylic paints, coupled with fantasy books read to me by my parents and movies watched. The Dark Crystal, Willow, Ladyhawk and other greats that pulled me in during my youth – and still do.
A fantastic foundation for a life of a fantasy author, no? Well, it didn’t flow so smoothly from one to the other. Several years of life got in the way, what with clubbing/partying, motorbikes, rugby and the like. But my interests in history remained, and I ended up joining a medieval re-enactment society for a few years. What fun! What knowledge to be had!
Years after that and all the pent-up fantasy and medieval ideas and imaginings poured out from a world I’d had stored in my head. Out and onto paper it came. Literally. I wrote most of Black Cross before I typed it!
[BTW, I saw the make-over-cover-work-in-progress, and it is super duper cool. No, I won’t give away anything for a thousand dragon eggs.]
How did you perform the research for this series? You have a diverse cast of races, characters, bookworms, creeps, all things awful and awesome!
Life. Historical research played a part, from my dozens of history books to Google, and my days as a re-enactor. Life experiences big and small, from fisticuffs in bars as a youth to hiking in the Lake District and Scotland. Everything plays a part. Family and friends are great for bouncing ideas off, and the world as a whole gives us much. Watch the news or research random facts about wildlife, industries or… anything! It can all spark ideas.
I love Longoss. Who inspired Longoss? What about the others?
Haha… He is popular, it seems. Longoss came from good old cause and effect. An arcane plague swept Wesson and when that happened, it forced me into the taverns of Dockside. In one of those taverns, I found myself writing a rough-arsed brawler shivving a bigger guy at the bar. I hadn’t planned it, or him. He just happened. As did Sears and Biviano! Their stories then worked their way into the main plot and, in all honesty, stole it. And stole the show.
Falchion, on the other hand… He was planned. He was plotted and designed and… sighs …causes me more trouble in writing than any other. I think I wanted him to be my favorite so much, that he isn’t. He couldn’t be. He’s too known to me and doesn’t excite me because I know what he’ll do next… that is, until part way through Black Guild 😉
Tell me about Black Martlet.
An Altolnan based little story about a baron and his boy. More about the boy, truth be told. I wanted a brief look into life in Altoln, but away from the main story, albeit loosely linked. That and a look into the life of a noble-born young lad in a medieval setting. Not the sort of young teen we see today, but the sort of young teen that lived in a harsh land, whose adulthood comes much quicker than it would today. Whose daily routine includes servants and responsibility and SWORDS!
I’ve had comments on the age of Black Martlet’s young protag. Comments about how a lad that age wouldn’t act like that and how an enemy would not respond to him in the way his enemy does in the story. All I can say to that is that my young protag is based on a historical figure in English history. A powerful figure who stood alone against a peasant army at a young age and commanded them to down their weapons and leave the field; they did. Want to question the actions of Black Martlet? First, remember how mind-boggling history can be.
Why is everything black in your series?
Good question! Black Cross came about because of the main plot in the book. They whack black cross’ on doors because of, what is in effect, the black death. I was always going to have a Black Prince (book three) because of the awesome Prince of Wales of old that so many of your readers will know about. And of course, this is – what someone else named – flintlock fantasy, so it had to be the Black Powder Wars. Samorl’s balls, this shit writes itself! The black came with the story, it seems.
I loved Dragonship. I know you have a thing for black. Why did you tell us you love a green dragon? Do you have a pet dragon? Is it green?
Firstly, thanks! That’s the perfect start to a question. Secondly, I only said I love green dragons. You shouldn’t believe everything an author tells you, for we excel in tall tales 😉
My brother, Martyn, has a bearded dragon called Draco and yes, the ten-year-old agama inspired a lot of points in the story. The third, heat sensitive, eye and the basking for warmth, etc. He has two leopard geckos too – so cute – and Wifey, Poppet and I have a corn snake named Bella. With such a love of herps, it was only a matter of time before I wrote a story centered around the most amazing lizards any of us have ever been awed by. The fact that they’re not real means nothing to me. In here… taps head …they are!
Ahem. Sorry for drifting away for a bit. A daydream about dragons, you know. So, tell your potential new readers about Dragonship.
It’s a short story aboard a red dragonship. Not a Viking ship, mind, but a ship aback a red dragon! Need I say more? Okay, a little. Think about what I just said and add a wild black (shock) dragon to the equation. Oh, and the dragons are of opposite sex. I’m sure you can imagine the fireworks.
…and if you do… you’re a weirdo (and will fit right in around here)!
[Why does that thought make me happy? Right, because I am a weirdo. But he means you, sweet readers.]
Who should read your books and why? Are you offering green dragon eggs if we buy your books?
Everyone, obviously. But fans of epic fantasy, steampunk (Dragonship), flintlock fantasy, grimdark, etc. etc. Fantasy in general, let’s say.
[He dodged the question on free eggs. Clever guy.]
Black Guild! I’m running through the final changes before sending it back to my editor for him to give the thumbs up, or down. Gulp! I’m also writing two short stories based in Brisance (Black Powder Wars setting) for anthologies I’ve been invited to write for. Watch this space! AND the awesome artist that is Pen Astridge is working on a recovering of Black Cross, before moving onto the cover for Black Guild. So incredibly excited about that.
How will it be different from the previous book?
Black Guild covers a lot more of Brisance, from its people to its places. Whereas Black Cross was centered around Wesson, in Altoln, Black Guild explores much more of Altoln itself and then goes further afield, to Sirreta, Eatri and the Tri Isles. It includes many of the characters from Black Cross whilst introducing new characters from across the realm, be them human or elf, goblin or demon! And one thing to remember is… sadly… no one is safe!
Do you have any suggestions for new writers? Do you believe in engaging in discussions with your peers regarding the craft? With newbies?
Absolutely. Join groups and ask questions and be yourself. Put in as much, if not more, than you want to get back out. It’s only fair. But don’t be afraid to come say Hi!
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Trying to do it all at once. Trying to write a best seller first time around when it’s highly – highly, highly, highly – unlikely to happen. Just write and enjoy it. Write some more and keep on improving. Get beta readers who’re honest and an editor, because you’ll learn more from them than from yourself because they read our story in a way we cannot.
Let’s talk about reviews.
In what way do you think they can help/harm you and what do you look for when you offer your newborn as an ARC? How do you handle negative criticism?
I think they should offer the feedback sandwich: a negative/s (if any) comment/s sandwiched between positives. Make it personal to you (Mark Lawrence told me that one and he’s right), ie, why it made you feel X, Y and Z. Follow those rules and the review, no matter the star, will inform potential readers as to your experience. I think folk ignore 5* and go straight to 1* because that’s what people do. However, I don’t think they take 1* seriously, so it’ those 2-4 that count, for better or for worse.
What do you suggest your fellow authors do with the review and ratings?
I chunner, and I leave it be. Don’t reply. Just don’t.
What do you do to get book reviews?
Not enough. I offer ARCs to review sites/blogs, authors, and readers with followings.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Not very. I’ve not done a great deal, but am hoping to do more for Black Guild, so if you want a digital ARC of that, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org Bear in mind, it’s a couple of months away, but you can’t ask early enough. After all, you need to read Black Cross first, if you haven’t already. For big review sites, I’m happy to send physical ARCs.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
Not much of one, but I’m hoping to remedy that with a cool group I’ve been invited to. They rock! But shhh… they’re a secretive lot 😉
Time for a tittle-tattle on others.
Who’s your favorite author? Choose a few names from classics and a few contemporary (already big and some rising in the horizon).
Tough… There’s so many, so I’ll just throw out some names off the top of my head: Mark Lawrence, John Gwynne, Peter Newman, Miles (Christian) Cameron, Steven Erikson, Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, Jen Williams, Ben Galley, Laura M Hughes, Dyrk Ashton… the list goes on (and I’ve likely forgotten loads because it’s late and I’m shattered, as usual).
They write stories that grab your imagination and heart.
Which books do you want to read again and again?
I don’t… hides behind shield I genuinely don’t tend to re-read books, ever. I’ve read Legend of Huma by Richard A Knaak twice and… that’s it. There’re too many others out there to be re-reading those I’ve read. Maybe Red Queen’s War series, Malazan Book of the Fallen series or the William Gold series (historical fiction by Christian Cameron).
Let’s talk about publishing.
What should an author keep in mind before jumping into self-publishing? What are the do’s and don’t s?
It ain’t a walk in the unicorn filled park! It ain’t the easy way.
Do get help, ie, beta readers, editor, formatter, artist, etc. Don’t spam us with your book links!
What’s the best way to market your books?
That’s the $1,000,000 question right there. shrugs
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I don’t and can’t say I’ve ever thought about it.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
I’m the wrong author to ask. Perhaps look at an author you admire that nails that subject and emulate their methods?
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Most of it, heh…
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
I offered a free book to a reviewer… and then realized they were in the Philippines. Pricey postage, that one. Ouch!
A rapid-fire round.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The Penitent Assassin by Shawn Wickersheim.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Only about five.
What does literary success look like to you?
Me personally? Being able to write full-time and support my family, while still enjoying it – so I ain’t writing no bleedin’ textbooks!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Everything. You lot are weird! It’s like you’re from another planet. You know? Venus or something 😉
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
The time I was in a war against goblins and demons and adelt and the like. True story. Honest! Trust me. I’m a writer.
[Trust a writer. Imagine that!]
How do you select the names of your characters?
I could tell you, but I’d be breaching data protection…
What do you think makes a good story?
And colorful, believable characters. To a certain extent, anyway. This is fantasy, after all.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Not sure one has, apart from through laughter. Movies make me cry more. I’m very visual. Although anything, where children are harmed, may result in something getting stuck in my eye.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Teehee… Maybe I do, and maybe I don’t 😉
What is your favorite childhood book?
Not sure? Don’t really have one. I know, weird, right? The Hobbit, probably, although it was read to me, rather than by me.
How does your family support your career as a writer?
With great gusto.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
In my dream world, I’m writing full-time from home. Would love that.
What draws you to your genre of work?
A lifetime of reading, watching and playing fantasy and medieval history.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Not sure, but I’ve oft thought of Tom Hardy playing Longoss. Yay, nay?
[Oooo yeah, yay yay yay! jumping up and down waving pompoms]
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
No one famous. Just my dad again.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Nada. You’ve thoroughly revealed me, matey 😊
How can readers discover more about you and you work? Please share your links here.
They can email me at email@example.com or visit jpashman.com and follow my blog. I’m also to be found – too often – on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads, and r/fantasy, although not as much lately.
[Visit his blog for this super entertaining interview series: Samorlian Inquisition]
Where can we buy or see them?
Got a little scoop for you, my lovely readers. Black Guild, Black Arrow, Black Prince, Queen, ministers…What not’s…will be released sooner than we had expected. Mr. Ashman is hard at work and his lovely and very talented daughter, little Miss Ashman is helping him a lot.