In November 2019, returning home from the launch event for my first book, I had the feeling that life would never be the same again. Three years on, here are some reflections on how that has, and has not, proved true.
That launch event for the Call of the Mountain, my first book to get published, was one of the proudest moments of my life. It was the culmination of half a lifetime of working towards my dream of becoming a published author. I’m even more proud now to be the author of three published books, the Call of the Mountain, Rite of Passage and Power Unimaginable combining to form the Oron Amular trilogy. It’s wonderful to have them out there, to have had so many positive reviews and to know that they’ve been enjoyed by hundreds of people. I’ve had a lot of good publicity and a lot of encouraging feedback.
Publication has also transformed my writing life. Getting published unleashed my creativity and gave me a huge impetus to write more and continue building the World of Astrom. It’s exploded in size, depth, complexity and authenticity since then. I’ve done more writing, planning, map-drawing and imagineering in the last three years than in the 20 years before that. I’ve developed greater belief in myself and greater discipline and focus when it comes to writing. So far, so good…
But it hasn’t all been good. Starting out as a new author is hard. Building a brand is difficult, and getting cut-through in a crowded (perhaps saturated?) market is nearly impossible. Only once published have I discovered that achieving success as an author is much more draining and demanding than getting published in the first place. Actually writing books is a walk in the park compared to persuading others to buy them and invest their time reading them.
Not only that, but the Call of the Mountain came out just three months before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, when bookshops shut and the economy nosedived. Selling books in that environment was even harder, because people had less disposable income and bookshops were less willing to take a chance on an unknown author. Looking back, although I haven’t sold as many books as I had hoped at one point, I’m amazed that I’ve sold as many as I have.
And the momentum of publication has pretty much petered out now. Sales are few and far between, reviews like gold-dust. All the excitement and novelty has faded away, leaving me with just the daily quest of putting the hours in and persevering towards my next goal. Getting published was just the first of many dreams. I have many more books I want to write, and I want to be able to write them faster, as a full-time author. That’s a long way off, and recent experience has taught me to temper my expectations of when I might be able to achieve it.
So here I am, in the desert, between the oasis of one dream and the next. All I can do is write. Otherwise, the legends of Astrom will just remain in my head and never be told.
Fortunately, I have a lifetime’s experience of perseverance. Publishing my first book took me 17 years after writing it, so I know how to hang in there and work towards a long goal. So that’s what I’m doing again. I’m writing and working towards the next one, striving and praying for the next breakthrough, whether that’s finding a literary agent, getting an amazing publishing deal, or my existing books suddenly taking off.
It’s not easy. I never have enough time to write, and finding the right balance between writing and spending time with my family is both delicate and precarious.
It’s hard work, it’s demoralising at times, but I have to remind myself that timing is not important, and that I’m not writing for fame and money. I’m writing for the joy of it, because I love telling these stories. I’m writing not for my glory but for the glory of Him who gave me this gift in the first place. I trust that one day I will be able to share more of my stories with a wider audience.
So what am I working on now? Among many Astrom projects, the biggest ones are writing, editing and narrating. I’m writing my next book, I’m editing the previous one to improve it, and I’m narrating the Call of the Mountain ready to turn it into an audiobook. Starbane is my latest labour of love. It is the sequel to Oron Amular, the epic tale of what follows after Kulothiel’s magical tournament. It’s planned as a four-part series, and each part is bigger than the whole Oron Amular trilogy. It truly is epic. I’ve finished writing Book I, which runs to over 800 pages, and am editing the early chapters. I’m also six chapters into Book II, as well as planning ideas, structures and character arcs for Books III and IV.
These are projects that will dominate the next few years of my life, and it may not be till 2030 that the whole quadrilogy is ready. See what I mean about playing the long game?
In the meantime, I’ll keep blogging whenever I can, but the best place to follow and support my work is on Patreon. By becoming a patron of World of Astrom, you’ll not only support and encourage me as a writer, but you’ll also gain access to a growing library of unpublished content. There are chapters and drafts of Starbane, character portraits, elven histories, maps, explainers, chronologies and more. I’d love for you to read them and uncover all the hidden wonders of Astrom.
So why not become a patron today? The more patrons I have, the sooner I’ll be able to bring these writings alive as published books. Thank you, and happy reading.