An Unreal Interview with D. E. M. Emrys

David Emrys is a soldier in the British Army who is determined to pursue his dream of writing. To that end, he self-published his short story “From Man to Man” this past October, but he won’t be stopping there. Emrys is working on a novel, It Began With Ashes, which takes place in the same world as his short story. He certainly has plenty more to say, and was kind enough to accept an interview with the West Coast Journal of Contemporary Fantasy.

1) ‘From Man to Man’ is a short story that is set before your upcoming novel It Began with Ashes. What made you decide to introduce the world through the eyes of Draven, rather than Nicolas’s son as seen in the prequel of the novel included with the e-book?

Well, the world that both stories are set in is almost seven years old in writing. I’ve gone backwards and forwards in time with the stories, adding history and future plans as I go. The story of ‘It Began With Ashes’ is told through the eyes of four characters, two of which being Draven and Nicolas’ son, Astartes. With Draven playing a major part in the upcoming novel, I thought that his past would make for a good introduction to the reader in terms of 1) my style, and 2) one of the main characters.

2) ‘From Man to Man’ is a self-published e-book. What was the self-publication process like for you? Will you do the same for your novel It Began with Ashes or will you send it to a publishing house? What influenced the decision?

Self-publishing is, would you believe it, relatively simple. The steps to ‘publishing’ can be counted on one hand. For me, with ‘From Man to Man’ in any case, I finished the story, and uploaded it to both Smashwords and Amazon (via the Amazon KDP system). That was the easy part.
The hard part? Being self-published means that you aren’t just a writer. You’re an agent, a publisher, a marketer etc. YOU and YOU alone fulfill the roles that you’d find in the traditional publishing house. So for me, the real work began when it came to marketing my story. Imagine going door to door, knocking for sales. Essentially, it’s the same thing, but via the internet. It’s about finding your reader / fan base. I’m getting into the social networking side of things via Facebook and Twitter, whilst trying to carve my own little niche in the ‘literary community’ by targeting sites like DeviantArt and Goodreads.

‘It Began With Ashes’ will be self-published, as will its sequels. Long term, who knows? I’d love to be traditionally published on one hand – it means a hell of a lot less door knocking for me – but on the other hand I like the control that self-publishing affords me.

3) On your website you post entries titled “Creative Writing 101”. What inspired this goal of helping out new and old writers? Do you have any goals associated with this?

My ‘Creative Writing 101’s came about because I believe that everyone can use a little help – even the superstar bestselling authors. That, and at the time I was working in London, and between stops on the London Underground, I often noticed commuters paying particular attentions to ‘How To’ sections in newspapers and magazines. I wanted something like that for my writing, but in a bitesize format that I could read on a coffee break, rather than trawl an entire edition of ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel’.
I’m not an elitist when it comes to writing. I suffer from MASSIVE (see what I did there with the caps?) writer’s doubt. I’ve written stories that’ll never see the light of day, and others that never even saw the ‘Save’ button on a word document. But, with the few stories that have crept through the net, I’ve learned a thing or two—or so I hope. That, and along the way I’ve made a lot of friends who have taken the time to help me out. In turn, I wanted to share my insight with others.
Other goals? I’m not just a writer—I’m a reader. That’s where my love of stories came from. I review novels on my blog, too. From this background, and after dipping into self-publishing, I’ve found myself realising that my dream of setting up my own publishing company could become a reality. It would combine my loves of both reading and writing. Ideally, I’d set up my own indie-publisher to get others’ stories out there, to share them with the world.

4) How did you get into writing? Where do you find your inspiration and maintain that enthusiasm throughout your work? Has your writing taught you anything about yourself?

I was a late bloomer with reading. I didn’t start picking up books (outside of school) until I was eleven years old. Even then I jumped the gun, and started with Adult-reading-level books. Namely the heroic-fantasy tales of David Gemmell and James Barclay. These got me into the genre.
From time to time, I’d find a book that I didn’t like the end of, or in some cases a book that I wanted to continue. I’d pick-up where the book finished off and continue the story. This eventually saw me start writing my own works.
When I was 16 my father committed suicide. Suddenly, the desire to write stories became the desire to write books. I wanted something concrete, something to leave behind not only for me, but him, too. When it came to publishing, I even chose to adopt parts of his name to craft my pen name.

As far as further inspiration that’s down to work, family and friends. I’m a serving soldier for the British Army, and my experiences as part of the military have played a massive part in bringing the kinetic side of my stories to life. Family and friends? That’s self-explanatory, I hope. Earlier, I mentioned my writer’s doubt? That in itself was a wall to be taken down, and all credit for that goes to my girlfriend. She inspires me to keep going, to keep putting the pen to paper, but most importantly, share.
Writing has taught me a lot about myself. I pour myself into my stories. They’re personal – thoughts, opinions, hopes, fears, dreams, experiences. I apply myself to everything I write, in an effort to bring out what I want to share with the reader. This doesn’t help with the doubts mind you, as the fear of negative response isn’t just a critique, it’s something more.

5) Can you tell us anything about It Began with Ashes? Will it be a standalone novel or do you intend it to be a first of a series?

‘It Began With Ashes’ is a heroic-fantasy novel, and the first in the ‘Wroge Elements’ series. It’s part of a much larger world, which I’d like to expand into in the future. A sample chapter is included at the end of ‘From Man to Man’. Rather than ramble on, I’d like to share a quick rundown with you:

“Wroge has not seen war for twelve years, not since the Arneuton invasion. The Arneut rule, the Keltir serve, and the Vikir and Narz remain in exile. The blood of four races belongs to the earth of one land.

But what if blood was to run again?

Draven Reinhardt is a man with a nightmare of a past, dreaming of a better future. He paid his dues in blood and coin, settling for a quieter life, a better life. Gone are the knocks at the door from his past. But what happens when the future comes knocking?

Like any boy, Kale wants to follow in his father’s footsteps – if only he knew what they were. It’s hard enough to find his own feet in the walk of life, without knowing where he came from.

The walk of life is a lonely one for an outsider, Astartes will vouch for that. Raised a tax collector’s son, and born of foreign blood, he searches for a friend who will overlook the divide.

Divided, four races stand. United, someone will fall. Will the past shape the future, or can blood be washed clean?

‘It Began With Ashes’ is the story of how life’s greatest struggle is to accept who you are – a tale of broken promises, bitter grudges, and brotherhoods bound in blood.”

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