Today, we’d like to introduce you to another great writer we’ve had the privilege of getting to know in the cyber-world of fantasy authors, Anthony D. Farr. We like that he is choosing to do things a bit differently in his writing journey, while still staying true to his convictions. Anthony has a published short story, Entertaining Angels, as well as a four-part serial novella, To Tread the Narrow Path, and another short story included in the fantasy anthology, Den of Thieves. You can also tune in to his Youtube series, #TalkingBooks. We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Anthony.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how your books and stories came about.
Thanks so much for giving me this spotlight. I enjoy reading the posts that you all put out, and I’m so thankful you reached out with this opportunity.
I guess I’ll begin at the beginning. I am a transplant from Georgia to New England. I grew up in one of those families that knew everyone out to my fifth cousin. That close knit family definitely feeds into my stories and have helped shape my characters. I am a Christian, and my faith shapes both my life and my writing. Curiously enough though, I stray away from labeling myself as a “Christian Writer.” I feel that to label myself in that niche would limit me creatively. As it is now, I just write whatever comes to me and let my writing determine the genre it belongs in. I don’t try to force everything I write to fit into the Christian fiction mold. I look to people like JRR Tolkien and Stephen R Lawhead as examples of how to do successfully integrate your faith into your art without compromising either.
As to more of me personally and where I am in life: After living in the south for the majority of my life I needed cooler climates, seasons, and snow (especially the snow- this warm winter is not doing it for me this December). I couldn’t handle the heat. So, we moved up here a little over a decade ago and haven’t looked back. I am a husband and father, and my wife and daughter are my life. Each of my works are dedicated to the both of them and I am eternally grateful to the encouragement and inspiration I get from them. Fun fact: my little girl actually served as the template for the character Elen in my short story, Entertaining Angels.
My stories and ideas started springing when I was young. I loved making up stories for myself, acting them out with toys, solo, or with willing participants. Despite my proclivity to reading and my overactive imagination, I didn’t actually start writing until well into high school. Once I started putting pen to page though, I didn’t stop. The bug had bitten me. Not that I’d actually want to read any of my stuff from back then, but it was a start. I’m not much of an architect when I write. I tend to fall more on the gardener approach. I write as it comes to me without a bunch of planning going into it. Which probably accounts for the different genres I write. I write whatever comes to me to write. My stuff encompasses religious fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more. I just write.
For a while I just wrote for myself and considered being published a pipe dream, but in my heart I never really gave up on that dream. About three years ago, I had event happen in my life that sort of shook my world and made me realize I needed to step up and pursue my dream if I ever wanted to make it happen. I discovered that I could make it a reality instead of a “maybe tomorrow” type of thing.
Three years ago, I set myself three goals to accomplish. The first was to self-pub a short story (Entertaining Angels). The second was to publish my novella (To Tread the Narrow Path) in serial form. My final short term goal is to traditionally publish my novel Lighthouse at the Edge of Forever. I’m approaching the final chapter of my serial and will be able to check one more off the list very soon.
2. What helps you the most in your writing?
Setting goals. My writing doesn’t support me financially. Since I have a day job, it’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing writing as a hobby or side activity to life. Not that it actually is, but the procrastination parts of my brain convince me it is in the moment. So, I set goals. Short term and long term. Where do I want to be in three years? Where do I want to be in an hour? Never too big or too small. I make the goals push me to complete it like a task.
3. In a bit of departure from the usual, To Tread the Narrow Path is a serial novella released in four parts. What drove your decision to go that route?
In retrospect, to be honest, I wouldn’t do it this way again. Amazon’s system for updating the book on people’s devices isn’t as seamless as I was led to believe.
But, as to what drove me to my decision? Well, I’ve always loved the idea of serial books and episodic fiction, and thought Narrow Path would be a good fit for a serial distribution system. The Kindle (in theory) offered a great platform to distribute a serial.
It has been fun, and I’m glad I tried it, but I think I’d only do it again with two caveats. I’d want to have the book 100% written and edited at the start and I’d want to ensure the delivery/distribution system worked as promised.
4. In addition to your writing, you have a series of Youtube videos #talkingbooks. Do you see yourself focusing more on social media in the future? How does it affect your creative process?
One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is self-marketing. When I was first dipping my toes into the waters of social media marketing and self-promotion I pushed my link out on Facebook groups offering a “like for like” environment. It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago I realized how flawed that mindset was. I was marketing to the wrong people. I was pushing my online brand in front of those in the same boat as myself. They weren’t the people who were going to buy my stuff or engage on my public Facebook profile. In my paradigm shift I rebranded my Facebook page and my website. I started producing content that would have a wider reach than just indie writers. I looked to successful writers and social media mavens for examples. I mean, you don’t see Stephen King posting Facebook post about the characters he is currently writing or word count goals, and you don’t see established authors with “Writer” or “Author” after their name.
I had to find my niche. I had to find what my personal brand is. I started posting about things I cared about, writing and sharing posts about things close to me, and occasionally posting a promotional link. The results were cool. I saw an organic growth on my Facebook page, not generated by pushing myself in a group of fellow indie writers, but true organic users who clicked the like button because I said something that engaged them. Since that time, I’ve seen my Facebook page double in reach and engagement, and my Twitter presence has grown exponentially as well.
#TalkingBooks is an extension of that mindset. I had wanted to start a web series for a while, but couldn’t quite come up with a concept that struck a chord with me. I brainstormed many varied ideas; some may find their way into the channel in some form eventually. The idea for the series is best seen in the video for the Dark Tower and Dark Knight Returns. Sometimes, I come away from books and I have “two minds” about the story. This series lets me voice both of those minds.
One thing I love about doing this series is how easy it is. Between filming, editing, and uploading, I can have a new video done in thirty minutes. It’s a great exercise creatively and keeps the juices flowing. All the while, I can continue with my regularly scheduled writing because it doesn’t take up a great deal of time. So, while this is a fun new endeavor, I don’t see me leaving behind my words on paper any time soon.
5. How do you generate ideas for your stories and videos?
I used to describe my creative process as a Banner/Hulk transformation. I would have long dry spells and then the words would come, I would stay up for two days straight just writing; having a mind dump onto the page. At the end, once everything was down, I’d go back and do my self-editing.
Thankfully, my process had matured along with my writing. The goal setting has helped with that.
I still consider myself a gardener in writing. I imagine my writing as a garden and I am tending it and watching it grow as I write. If I do any planning or outlining it is very limited. The other side of the coin from me are what I have heard described as the architects. They have to plot and plan every minutiae of their stories. As much as I’ve tried, that’s just not me.
My stories come from what I’m interested in. For example, To Tread the Narrow Path started its life as a historical fiction short story. I wrote it for a contest at college back in 2002. It was set during the Japanese civil war during the seventeenth century. The story followed a lone ninja in his quest for redemption amidst the fall of the Imperium and rise of the Shogunate. I wanted to continue the story and expand upon its scope, but kept running into the pesky problem of history. With that in mind, I rewrote the entire story as an eastern inspired fantasy. The first part of the novella, The Tale of the Little Bird, is the original short story. Everything after that is new.
Other things I’ve written draw from my interest and life. Entertaining Angels is a religious fiction story steeped with Christian themes and motifs. This story was written for my wife when she challenged me to write outside of my normal box of fantasy and sci-fi.
As far as my videos go, I try to do a mix of books so that I’m not always going to be doing just a straight review or promo for a book. I want to do videos that showcase the duality of opinions that comes with a lot of the books. As I said before the best examples of the goal of the series are the Dark Tower and Dark Knight Returns videos. Although, to be honest, my favorite video so far is the most popular video on my channel currently, Fifty Shades of Grey. That video was done purely for the laughs.
6. Are you planning more projects and if so, will you stick with the same themes?
Yes. Once Narrow Path is finished I will begin work on my next novel, Lighthouse on the Edge of Forever. It is a horror/fantasy story set in Maine and an otherworld. All my works have similar thematic keys that I hope to carry over. I’ve also got some short stories that I’m submitting around and hope to get picked up.
One thing that I do that I’ve found to be common is to have throwbacks or callouts to other works. For example, the characters from Entertaining Angels have a role to play in Lighthouse, and some of the events of Lighthouse will have an impact on my in progress hard sci-fi novel On the Shore of the Cosmic Ocean (on deck after Lighthouse). I love the concept of a shared universe of characters, events, and themes, and I hope to be able to continue that with as much of my works as possible.
With the web series, as I get more content out there, I hope to start using it to showcase other independent writers. As I’m coming up on the end of my planned season one, I want to focus season two on more unknown or little known authors. I’ve been fortunate that some of the people I’ve connected with online have given me a platform to share (like you three), and I want to be able to do the same for others.
7. What are you reading now? Who is your favorite author? In your opinion, what constitutes good writing or conversely, bad writing?
Currently, I’m reading a few things at once. I’m reading the first Harry Potter book to my daughter at bedtime. I’m rereading The Skin Map by Stephen R Lawhead. And finally, I’m rereading the Earth X series on my Marvel Unlimited app on my phone.
My favorite author… I’ve actually got two. Stephen King and Stephen R Lawhead. For the longest time I wouldn’t read King because I wasn’t into horror, but one day I picked up the Gunslinger because my grandfather gave me a copy. From the moment I read the first line, I was hooked. I was a Tower Junkie and there was no turning back. I’ve been a fan of Lawhead’s much longer. I remember in elementary school, sitting in the library looking through the fantasy section, and the librarian approached me and asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. When I said “No,” she pulled out a copy of In the Hall of the Dragon King. I devoured that book in about two days. Since then Lawhead has only gotten better and his Raven King books and Bright Empire books stand out as some of his best.
Good writing or bad writing? Tough question. I remember when I worked in a high school, I presented the rules of writing to students as absolutes. Concrete laws unable to be broken. The hardest part of that was that I knew that you could look to successful critically acclaimed authors that didn’t adhere to the rules. Run on sentences, fragments, adverbs, and more abound in some of the “best” authors out there.
I think the good writing part comes from the story. Is the story worth bending the rules for? Are you bending the rules because you didn’t know them to begin with or because it fits the story? I think we are more forgiving of grammatical errors when the story is good.
I am a harsh critic of grammar and there have been times I haven’t been able to read a story due to the mistakes, but I realize that sometimes fiction is like food. We all have our taste, and what is good to you may not be good to me. There are books out there that I consider horribly written and plotted, but I know others that love them. The term good writing is such a subjective idea that it is really a fluid concept.
That being said, I don’t think that gives us carte blanche to write poorly as long as we have a good story. I believe that as writers, we should strive to do the best when we put ink to page. Learn the rules. Learn proper grammar and spelling. Then bend the rules when it works for the story, not because you never cared to learn the right way to do it. Do the best you can. Present the best possible story you can on all fronts.
8. What advice can you give to first time authors?
My favorite bit of advice to give when asked this is for all authors.
“Get your hands dirty.”
Too often, especially with indie writers, we try to write without knowing. My advice is to get out from behind the screen and live life. We think with the all-encompassing knowledge available online, we have no need to actually learn the skills. We feel that “head knowledge” is just fine in lieu of practical knowledge.
Is your character a gardener? Don’t just google “How to garden,” get out there and get the physical visceral tactile learning of actually gardening.
Is your character shooting a gun? Go take a gun safety course. You will know how your character will feel holding one.
If there isn’t a way to do the task in real life, find an analogous activity. Be creative with it. If you can’t actually do the activity find someone with the hands on experience and talk to them. That’s still better than reading about it online.
Disclaimer- In no way am I advising you to commit crimes, hurt others, or to hurt yourself, just to get hands on experience. Please don’t be stupid.
I’ve found that by using the internet I can create activities for myself to get similar experiences to what I want to research. Often for free or cheap (an indie author’s favorite words). So, go out and get your hands dirty. You’ll be better for the experience and so will your writing.
My last bit of advice to first time authors- Don’t undersell yourself. Know your worth. There are many online that prey on indie authors with promises of publication and promotion for steep payments. There are some that are on the up and up that work on that model, but do your research. Read every line of a ToS or a contract. You need to protect yourself and your writing. Know your worth.
Thanks again for the chance to share all of this. Truly an honor.
You can find me online sporadically updating my blog (www.adfarr.com). Connect with me on social media- www.Facebook.com/AnthonyDFarr www.Twitter.com/AnthonyDFarr www.google.com/adfarrwrites Find me on Amazon- http://www.amazon.com/Anthony-D-Farr/
And please be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and let me know what you think about the videos. I’d love to get more ideas of books to review. https://goo.gl/BhW7O9
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Anthony and that you’ll take the time to check out his writing and his web series.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Anne, Nancy, and Eric