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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

SPFBO: Interview with Zack Argyle, SPFBO 2020 Finalist


Order Voice of War over HERE

Author Info: Zack Argyle was raised with a wonderful family motto: don't let the truth get in the way of a good story. He's loved fiction ever since. He spends his days writing code and his nights writing epic stories about family, love, loss, friendship, and pain all intermixed with a heavy dose of the fantastical.

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

Hey! I’m Zack. I live near Seattle and absolutely love the sound of rainfall. My wife has a masters in engineering, and together we have two cute little kiddos. I own way too many dice, I play too much Overwatch, and I can balance pretty much anything on my face, which is a super useful talent.

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

I work as a software engineer building Messenger at Facebook. Previously, I worked on Pinterest and the on-console store for Playstation 4. Writing code has been really rewarding and has given me the flexibility to pursue other things, like writing!

Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influencers?

Anyone who’s read Voice of War can probably guess that I take a lot of influence from Sanderson and Weeks. Their worlds and magic and characters are so unique and fun. I also find myself thinking a lot about Hobbs and Abercrombie while writing, in particular their ability to delve into the mind of their characters.

Serious writing takes not only a story to tell, but the craft of writing to tell it well—can you comment on your journey as a writer? 

I am most certainly an outlier here, but Voice of War was my first attempt at writing any kind of book, which is probably why I had to go through 7 rounds of edits to get it right. I studied engineering in school, but have always loved storytelling, including DMing multi-year D&D campaigns with complex, weaving story arcs. At the end of the day, it really just takes a nutty amount of determination to write a good book, and my stubbornness refused to give up.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

Mostly good, occasionally bad, always well-punctuated.

What made you decide to self-publish Voice of War as opposed to traditional publishing? 

As a first time author, I wasn’t even aware that self-publishing was a viable option. I assumed you needed to go through a traditional publisher if you wanted anyone to read your book. So, I actually compiled a spreadsheet of 130+ adult fantasy literary agents to query (check it out!). In the end, I realized that I was fortunate enough to have the funds to self-publish well, and so I did.

What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is? 

Speed and control. For most authors, traditional publishing is incredibly slow, which, for someone like me, is quite demotivating. My hitting “publish”, I forced my hand at setting a date for book two and was able to stay motivated through positive reviews and acceptance from the community. I also love the control of deciding on the cover, narrator, etc.

On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on?

Honestly, the biggest thing is trust. Being “self-published” is a wicked label and a high hurdle to overcome with most readers. It doesn’t matter how good your book is, there is still that singular blemish that leaves potential readers asking “why”? Oh, and ad budgets. That would be nice too 😅

One of the big challenges with self-publishing is finding readers. Was that your experience? 

Yup! I did a blog tour with Storytellers On Tour which was great and definitely helped get my name out. But, in general, finding readers is a lot like screaming at a room full of children to listen to you and watching them all run about ignoring you.

Why did you enter SPFBO? 

I am part of a writing group—we call ourselves the Fantasy Forge—and 5/6 of us participated in SPFBO this year. It was fun to sweat together, curse together, and celebrate together.

What would you do if you won the SPFBO? 

Honestly, I won’t. I’m not just saying that to be humble, or because the other finalists are so talented, but I am keenly aware of the concessions I made in Voice of War to set up the rest of the trilogy. It hurts the book in a few ways, and the SPFBO judges are smart enough to pick up on it. That said, the rest of the trilogy is going to be epic!

How would you describe the plot of Voice of War if you had to do so in just one or two sentences? 

A slightly insane father meets a slightly reckless girl, and together they fight back against a dark group selling threadweaver blood.

What was your initial inspiration for Voice of War? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea? 

The original idea came from the “chosen one” trope, but from the parent’s point of view. What if you knew your child was special? How far would you go to protect them? From there, I took inspiration from a number of places, especially for the greater trilogy arc, but Voice of War focused a lot on family, trust, and commitment.

If you had to describe Voice of War in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Magical. Intense. Surprising.

How many books have you planned for the series? 

I’ve outlined the series to be a trilogy, so readers can expect there to be a fully satisfying end at that point.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Voice of War’s protagonists?

Chrys Valerian is a thirty-year-old High General and soon-to-be father. Five years before the start of the book, Chrys single-handedly slaughters hundreds during the War of the Wastelands, including his own men, then becoming known as The Apogee. The problem is that he can’t remember the slaughter, and he’s had a dark voice in his head ever since the war. He wants to settle down, he wants to be a good father, and, above all else, he wants to stay in control.

Laurel is a feisty sixteen-year-old girl from a city built atop the Fairenwild, a sprawling, dark forest filled with dangerous creatures. She wants to explore the world, but her people are secretive and controlling.

Alverax Blightwood is the son of a thief who wakes up in a pit of bones after dying. I’ll keep him mysterious to avoid spoilers.

How do you select the names of your characters?

It’s a bit of a mixed bag. For some of the locations, I have a pool of names that I’ve created that have a similar sound and vibe. Other names have significance to the story. For example, the people of Alchea often name children after precious stones. The leader of Alchea is a man named Malachus, after malachite. Sometimes, I just choose a name that feels right for the character (looking at you, Laz).

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

It does! In the Threadlight series, everything in the world is connected. Some people, known as threadweavers, are able to see and manipulate these connections, called threads. Sapphire threadweavers, people with blue eyes and blue veins, can push on these threads, and Emerald threadweavers (green) can pull. A person’s corethread is the connection binding them to the ground (gravity in our world). Sapphires can leap high into the air, drop from intense heights, or redirect enemy projectiles. Emeralds can walk up walls, make themselves immovable, or return thrown weapons back to their hands. From there, the magic of the world expands throughout the story.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Voice of War? 



Yes! I worked with an amazing artist for the cover of Voice of War, and I wanted each of the three covers in the trilogy to feature one of the main protagonists. Book one starts out with Chrys, so he was an obvious choice for the Voice of War cover. I wanted to highlight 1) the family, especially with Chrys as a protective father 2) hints at the magic system and 3) the overall tone of the book. You don’t often see infants in epic fantasy (except for The Vagrant), so I was happy to feature that as well. The book two cover features Laurel, and the book three cover features Alverax.

What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?

There is a ton of foreshadowing in Voice of War for later books, and, while I’m quite sure it’s well hidden, I would love for people to discover them. To make the connections before the reveal. I’m writing this trilogy as one that I hope people will want to reread so that they can discover all of the hints that were left along the way.

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

“Do you want to burn the world, Chrys?”

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2020/2021? 


Voice of War was published in March of 2020, and the preorder for Stones of Light (book 2) is scheduled for April 2021!


Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers? 


I hope you enjoy the story! Reading is something that brings me great joy, and I hope that I can bring a bit of that to those who choose to read the stories I write.

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