Friday, March 13, 2015

Interview with YA Fantasy Author Samuel Ferguson

I was surprised recently to learn that a colleague of mine from work (when I was in Budapest) also writes fantasy. He's been quite prolific, in fact, with seven novels out. His books are aimed at Young Adult Fantasy lovers, and his most recent will be especially interesting for anyone who loves dragons!
Author Samuel Ferguson with one of his sons
Sam, I’ve only known you as a colleague at work. What can you tell us about where you live? Anything about yourself you are willing to share?
 Sure thing Ted. First, allow me to say thanks for doing this interview, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule. I was born in Houston, lived in multiple cities in seven different states growing up. Outside of the U.S. I have lived in Latvia and Hungary previously. At the moment I live in Yerevan, Armenia. I am married, have six sons, and when I am not writing or spending time with my family, I am usually in the gym throwing some iron around.

We are practically neighbors, with me in Azerbaijan and you in Armenia! Will you only write fantasy or do you plan to write in other genres as well?
I am a fantasy lover first. Most of the books I read for pleasure are fantasy, and so are almost all of my stories. I do have a couple of ideas that fall outside of fantasy, but those are far down on my to-write list.

What were your major influences?
That is a very good question. I have many authors that I enjoy, and each has taught me something about either the mechanics of writing, or the imagery one can achieve in story-telling. Among the authors I can readily name would be R.A. Salvatore, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Terry Goodkind. My first fantasy novel that I read was the Dragons of Autumn Twilight in the Dragonlance series. I believe I was in 3rd grade at the time. I was hooked on fantasy ever since. In my writing, I am not trying to be the next Tolkein or Martin. Instead, I write stories that I would like to see more of. As I write them, I try to incorporate the best of what other authors have shown me. For example, I find Goodkind to be a nearly perfect writer in terms of mechanics. His books are long, but there are no wasted pages. Every thing he introduces plays an actual role in the story, even if it is hundreds of pages later. I admire that. I also love the way Le Guin weaves her stories with excellent imagery that is not overly verbose. While I do not hold myself in their company in terms of talent, I do try to emulate what those great authors have done by improving my own style, voice, and mechanics.

I so love Le Guin's Earthsea novels. Some of the best fantasy ever written, and it's a shame that many young people these days are unaware of them. My youngest son loves Salvatore's work, and I enjoyed Goodkind and the Dragonlance books myself when I was younger.

How has your publishing experience been so far?
It was a long road. Long, and very bumpy. I submitted my first book to a publisher that shall not be named. They accepted it, despite the fact that it was a rough draft. That was my introduction to vanity presses, and I was in for a very sharp learning curve! Afterward, I got discouraged. It was my wife who pushed me to continue writing despite the setbacks we experienced. As the years drudged on, I wrote a few ideas down. I expanded some and discarded others. I took some writing courses, and joined the League of Utah Writers. I submitted a couple of short stories to Writer's Digest competitions. I never won, but I placed in the top ten. Then, I won a few awards for stories and full length manuscripts. Yet, it seemed no publisher wanted to look at my manuscripts. So, like many authors I turned to Kindle and Amazon. I published my own work and enjoyed good success. Reviews were almost all positive, and the few negative reviews helped me sharpen my skills. My first book, The Dragon's Champion, was a good hit in the YA fantasy genre. It, and the three sequels that have been published since, have all spent several weeks on Amazon's Sword and Sorcery top 100 list as well as Amazon's top 100 Epic fantasy list. Now, I am with Dragon Scale Publishing and I am optimistic about the future. One day I would love to write full time, but until then I count myself as successful as long as people enjoy my books and it helps my children break away from video games for a bit.

What were your writing influences? Did you always want to write, or was there a catalyst that made you suddenly decide to go for it?
I had been interested in stories and poetry since I was young. I entered a couple of elementary school competitions. The big catalyst though was a friend I had in Colorado named Jeremy. Jeremy had the idea of writing a fantasy novel and showed me his draft. I would say that is the moment that I caught the bug. I have been writing books ever since.

Do you have a goal with publishing?
I am really enjoying the ride. It is always fun to watch people's faces contort into a bewildered and excited grin when they come over to my home and see a shelf of books only to discover that I wrote the series. Also, it gives me a very gratifying feeling when I see my own children pick up one of my books. I guess that's it really. If I can give readers an experience that they would choose when there are so many other things in this world clamoring for their attention, then I win.

Do you have a particular target audience for your books? What books are out there whose readership might love yours?
I aim most of my books at the YA market. I would like to think that anyone who enjoys Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance books would thoroughly enjoy mine as well.

You just published a new book right?
It's called The Dragons of Kendualdern: Ascension. For this one I tried to break away from some of the more mundane fantasy tropes. I wanted to explore what a dragon society might look like, and how it might operate. I also included dwarves, but in this book they are not only allied with dragons, they serve them. I don't want to give away all the details, but I think this book has quite a few new and intriguing ideas in it for dragon fans.

You sure have some standout covers! What is the crux of the story?
The book centers on Gorliad, a dragon prince who is destined to one day carve out a kingdom for himself. Unfortunately, while the dragon is still young, there is a battle with a rival dragon challenger that leaves Gorliad crippled and rips his heritage away from him. Gorliad is left with a choice, lie down and accept his new life, or rise up and develop into his full potential. In the book, dragon society is very strict and class-based, so if he chooses the latter he will likely be shunned or expelled. Throughout the book Gorliad struggles against his physical handicap and the draconian traditions placed upon dragons. He literally risks all that he has in order to follow the yearnings of his heart. I think it is a great read... but then again I am a bit biased.

Thanks again for inviting me to have this interview with you, and may I take the opportunity to wish you great success in your own writing endeavors.

It was great having you here, Sam, and I'm looking forward to following your writing career!

Dragon Scale Publishing:
Learn more about Sam and his YA fantasy books on his Goodreads page!

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