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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

SPFBO 2017 Winner Announcement + Q&A with Rob J. Hayes (by Mihir Wanchoo)

So with all hoopla and fanfare, SPFBO 2017 came to a close last Wednesday and we had a winner. WHERE LOYALTIES LIE by Rob J. Hayes beat 299 other entries to claim the Selfie stick for its writer. I’m sure Rob was over the moon and considering what horrid experiences he had to go through to get these books published (read more about it over HERE, HERE, HERE, & HERE). I can only imagine this must be a sweet sort of vindication.

I was glad to first discover Rob back in 2013 when I happened upon his debut trilogy titled The Ties That Bind. 2013 was a tough year for me personally as my dad’s cancer spiraled into a lot of complications. Things were pretty crazy for months and I wasn’t able to read anything during that stressful time. One weekend though I happened up a book titled The Heresy Within, it had a horrible cover but the excerpt hooked me and I bought the book. By the time Monday rolled over, I had finished the trilogy and was actively hunting for the author, an unknown dude by the name of Rob J. Hayes.

Since the last five years I’ve only gotten to know him better and watched him write amazing books. He’s had some rough dips thanks to unscrupulous smalltime publishers but he’s bounced back (with some lingering headaches) but this win is an immense one.

I asked Rob if he would mind to answer a few questions and he graciously agreed. So read ahead to know more about Rob’s pirates, state of mind and which titles really had him biting his nails:

Q] Many congratulations on winning the third edition of the SPFBO contest Rob. It must be a wonderful feeling and I’m very happy for you. How did you hear about the SPFBO contest, and what made you decide to enter it?

A] Thank you. It's quite a rush to have won something, and I think I'm still quite shocked by it. I first heard about SPFBO during its first go round, but had no books eligible at the time. I follow Mark on social media, and when he first announced it I could already see it was going to be a big deal for self-published authors, and also a big deal for readers wanting to find some quality fantasy. I actually entered the second SPFBO with my steampunk thief caper, but that novel didn't make it past the first round. So when the 3rd SPFBO was announced, and it coincided so nicely with my release of Where Loyalties Lie, I decided I couldn't pass up the chance. At the very least I knew I'd get a new review out of it, and that would be well worth the (minor) effort of submitting.

Q] You entered Where Loyalties Lie which won this edition. What made you enter it rather than your debut book since they are both set in the same world?

A] You know, I never even considered entering The Heresy Within. I published that book back in 2013, and it's now been released twice as self-published, and once with a small press. I just never even thought that it could be eligible. But saying that, Where Loyalties Lie is a better book in many ways. Like any skill, you get better the more you do it, and I've learned a lot since I first started writing. Also, people love pirates.

Q] Talking about your FBR group of 30 books, which books among your competition really had you worried?

A] All of them. I never really thought I'd make it out of the group stages. With competition like A Threat of Shadows by JA Andrews, and Winter's Reach by Craig Schafer, I was fairly certain my pirates would scuttle themselves on some rocks. And it very nearly went down that way. With 30 books to review, many of the blog sites employ multiple reviewers, and there was some discussion as to which book to put through. Luckily for me, Where Loyalties Lie was saved from being cut and then eventually picked as the finalist.

Honestly there were some truly brilliant books entered this year (there have been every year to be fair), and I've read quite a few of them myself. Some absolute gems worth checking. So if anyone is wondering, I can heartily recommend Chaos Trims My Beard by Brett Herman, Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, Faithless by Graham Austin King, The Woven Ring by MD Presley. And many more as well to be honest. I'm still working my way through the TBR pile I built up from this SPFBO, and it's only going to grow when the next one kicks off.

Q] Reaching the finals, how was the entire process from selection to the eventual decision? How did you manage to calm yourself with the ebb and flow of the points total and the reviews?

A] Rum. I calmed myself with rum... and bourbon. It was nerve wracking. I checked out every review and kept a watchful eye on the scoreboard. The race near the end with Sufficiently Advanced Magic had me biting my nails. The two books were neck and neck for so long. And then Crimson Queen had a sudden surge of high points towards the end and suddenly it was a three book race. It's not for the faint of heart.

Q] This was your second time within the contest and you won it in your sophomore entry. Are you planning to enter it in the future?

A] Definitely. Assuming the contest keeps going, and I truly hope that it does from both an author and a reader stand point. I'll be skipping this year though as I have no eligible books. It's been sequels and sci-fi for me this past year.

Q] When’s your next book release going to be? Can you tell us about the book and what genre will it be?

A] My next release is called City Of Kings and is releasing on August 6th of this very year. It's another fantasy title and it's set in the same world as Where Loyalties Lie, but it revolves around different characters and a different part of the world. The book centers around a siege, but is told from the perspective of the attackers rather than the defenders, and explores the turmoil and violence that surround a regime change, while also building on the longer running saga of the world. For readers that have read my debut trilogy, there's a few returning characters from those books; and for new readers, it's a standalone novel that requires no prior knowledge about the world or any of its inhabitants. And it has a gorgeous cover.

Q] Thank you again for your time and congratulations once again. What advice do you have for the authors for the next edition of SPFBO?

A] Don't enter with expectations. The SPFBO is an amazing opportunity to meet people (bloggers, readers, and other authors), and even if you don't get the signal boost you're hoping for, those connections you can make through the contest can more than make up for it. I've certainly made some new friends from this year's.


Fee Roberts said...

I haven't heard of this author. Thank you for the introduction!


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