Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
1. I’m Justin Fike, and I’ve been hooked on stories since my grandma first starting tucking me in with tales of her life on the South Dakota prairie swimming in my head. I grew up in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, and was blessed to have a mother who didn’t complain when I came home from the woods covered in mud and burs, and a father who told me the stories that sent me out there in the first place.
I have a Masters in Creative Writing from Oxford University, and am the author of Fire in the Dawn, Book 1 of the Twin Skies Trilogy, and the co-author of the Stetson Jeff Adventures, a quirky 80’s inspired action comedy series.
I’m a Martial Arts aficionado, a gaming nerd, a classics geek, and a list of other classifications both pejorative and praiseworthy, and I love in Colorado with my amazing wife Mindy and wondermutt Chino.
I was drawn to books before I learned to read. I remember memorizing the words of The Bearenstein Bears and Too Much Junkfood after having it read to me approximately 2057 times, so that I could pretend to read it to myself. As a middleschooler I refused to wear anything but cargo pants, so that I would always have a pocket big enough to carry a paperback with me.
At first the world of stories felt like an endless horizon, but once I had made my way through most of the classics and all of the good fantasy, science fiction, and history books that my library carried, I started to feel like I was running out of stories I loved. That was probably the first time I started to dream about writing the kinds of stories I wished I could find more of. Today, the question “would 15 year old me have loved this?” drives my writing and editing.
Good stories have this incredible ability to capture our attention and reshape our thinking and our sense of self in powerful ways, and those are the kinds of books I aspire to write.
You can learn more about my work at www.justinfike.com
Tell us about your books.
1. Fire In The Dawn is an epic fantasy, full of cultural conflict, political intrigue, and more than a few swordfights and battles. One reviewer described it as “Game of Thrones in ancient China, without all the smut and gratuitous violence,” which pretty much made my week.
It takes place in the world of Tiira, which was heavily inspires by Chinese and Japanese culture and mythology. I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history, drama, and pageantry of East Asian cultures, and I tried to channel as much of that as I could into my setting. I think it makes for a fairly unique read, especially for those fantasy fans out there who might be getting a little tired of the same take on elves, orcs, and wizards.
The story follows Kyren e’Cania, the last son of a fallen House, who was raised in secret in the shadows of the city his family once ruled.
Trained by his father in the ways of a nobleman, Kyren has avoided the notice of the tyrant who murdered his family by never giving anyone reason to suspect he is anything more than a nameless peasant.
But when an ambitious noble sets dangerous events in motion, Kyren must find a way to reclaim his heritage and unite his people, before everything he loves is swallowed by fire and sword once again.
How did you go about getting published?
After a lot of research and deliberation, I decided to go the self-publishing route. I was actually in conversation with two agents at that time, so it was less an issue of not believing I could make it as it was of wanting to maintain more creative control over my work and eventually develop a full-time writing income. I decided that since I was going to need to develop my social media presence and work on building an audience either way, I would rather earn 70% royalties than 10%. I honestly think that self-publishing offers the best, most dependable path to a full-time writing career for authors who are prepared to treat it like a business and work hard to get their books in front of readers who will love them.
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
I prefer writing in the early morning. I find it a lot easier to write freely, and tend to get better results. When I’m in a big productivity push I’ll wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 am so that I can get several hours of quiet writing time in before the work day starts.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
My wife and I work together doing digital content development and creative consulting to pay the bills. We have one ridiculous and adorable dog named Chino, whom we adopted from a rescue shelter while living in Mexico after we got married. I enjoy computer and tabletop gaming to unwind, along with settling in for a good, long read and going hiking. I’ve also studied martial arts for the past ten years or so, and we love to travel and explore new countries whenever we can.
Any advice for authors about book covers?
Two things: First, unless you actually have design or arts training, find a professional designer and let them lead the process. Get two or three options, and test them by sharing them on facebook to find out which one people respond to most strongly.
Second, before you look for a designer spend some time researching covers on Amazon. Look at the covers of the top ten or twenty covers in your genre and try to spot any common elements or style factors that they share. Do most of them have people on the cover? Are they illustrated? Try to see if you can come up with a general description that could apply to most of the covers at once, and then use that as a starting point when talking to your cover designer. Even better, start a new board on Pinterest and save twenty or thirty covers from your genre, then share that board with your designer to give them a direction to pursue.
Remember, a cover isn’t just about “looking good.” A book cover is the first and quickest way to communicate with your reader about what the experience of reading your book will be like. Readers will be more likely to try your book if they have a strong sense of what to expect from it.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
Be courageous. You never know if a major review blog might feature your book if you don’t ask them. The worst they can do is ignore you. Think about all of the ways you might encounter a new book. Ask your friends and family how they discover new books. Then think creatively about how you can get your book to show up in those places.
What’s your favorite book?
If you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick just one then I’d say American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
What are you reading now?
China’s Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty, The Deaths of Tao, and The Name of the Wind for the second time.
What’s your next book project?
I’m currently working on a short guide to the history and culture of Tiira that I’ll offer to readers who are curious to learn more about the world. Once that’s finished I’ll dive into Freedom in the Waves, #2 in the Twin Skies Trilogy.
I’ve also started working on the 4th book in the Stetson Jeff Adventures with my co-author. We’re aiming to release it in June.