Dan Fitzgerald is a fantasy author living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When he is not writing, he might be gardening, taking photographs of nature, doing yoga, cooking, or listening to French music. The Maer Cycle is his debut trilogy, with Hollow Road and The Archive on several book bloggers’ best-of lists for 2020. His sword-free duology, The Weirdwater Confluence, includes The Living Waters (out now) and The Isle of 1,000 World (January 2022). All books published by Shadow Spark Publishing.
Find out more about Dan and his books at www.danfitzwrites.com, or look him up on Twitter or Instagram, under the name danfitzwrites.
Hi Dan, welcome to my blog on a very special date for you – launch day for your latest book The Place Below. Congratulations!
What made you decide to publish your books independently?
I queried Hollow Road to a lot of agents, with very little response. I was pretty sure the book was good enough, but it just wasn’t hitting anyone’s sweet spot. After an added round of revisions, I decided to focus on querying a few small presses that looked like a good match. I’d heard they were more likely to take on a project that didn’t fit neatly into a publishing box, and it turns out I had heard right. Shadow Spark and I clicked right away, and it’s been off to the races ever since. I signed a contract for the whole trilogy in March 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and six months later Hollow Road came out, followed by The Archive in December, and The Place Below follows in March 2021.
That’s great that you found a perfect fit for your books and the way you like to work. What are the benefits of being an indie author?
Working with a small press has been a dream come true. I get a lot of the freedom of self-publishing, but the support of a team to bring out the best in my books. I choose the titles, I write the blurbs, I have considerable input into the covers, and I get final say on every word in the manuscript. But I also have two fierce and talented editors in Jessica Moon and Mandy Russell, a crack cover team in Jessica and Chad Moon, and a squad of fellow Shadow Spark writers who support each other and problem-solve together. This publishing family makes us all better writers, because that is the bottom line. We work together to write and publish the best books we possibly can.
One other benefit of being an indie author is the incredible support of the bookish community. I follow and interact with a lot of book bloggers on Twitter and Instagram, and they consistently seek out and uplift new voices, especially self-published and small-press authors, as this spotlight shows.
I love hearing about all the support so-called Book Twitter gives people. That has been a consistent theme in all of these interviews.
What challenges do indie authors face?
Working with an indie publisher means more responsibility on the author’s shoulders. It is a partnership, and you have to hold your end of the bargain, and that means marketing, maintaining a social media presence, and developing relationships with fellow writers, bloggers, and other bookish folk. I was surprised at how much I enjoy these aspects of writing. I have met some of the most interesting people, had some great and informative conversations, and read books I never would have heard of otherwise. But make no mistake: this all takes time and energy, which must come from somewhere. And you have to learn a number of skills you never thought you would need, like graphic design, making videos, and website maintenance, to name a few.
What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?
Explore all options. Listen to authors who have been traditionally published, listen to agents, listen to publishers, listen to small-press authors, and listen to self-published authors. Watch what they do, and how successful they are at it. Learn from their successes and their mistakes, and find your own niche in this complex publishing world.
But most of all, write your damned book, then write another, and another. You might not publish that book you’re writing now, but you’ll get better by writing it. And when you do publish a book, you’d better have the next one ready to go not too long after. As an indie author, you need to build momentum from humble beginnings. Your first published book probably isn’t going to be a breakaway bestseller, but if you generate some interest, and you keep writing good books, sooner or later your audience is going to find you. We all work at our own pace, so find the one you think you can sustain, and be steady. And write more books.
That’s sound advice – never give up! What have you learned from being an indie author?
One of the hardest things to handle is reviews. You’re going to get them, and they’re not all going to be glowing five-star raves. And as a new unknown author, you tend to sweat each review as if it’s the defining moment in your career. It’s not. Hopefully each review is one small piece of the puzzle for readers looking to connect with books they will like, and it’s great when that book happens to be yours. But you want a career that spans multiple books over many years, and individual reviews will not make or break you, even for your very first tender book baby.
You can choose to read them or not (I do), but know that not everyone is going to like your book, and that’s okay. And readers may not trust a book with only five-star reviews, because they’ll assume it was all just friends and family who wrote them. That three-star (which is a good review by the way, not a bad one!), that two-star, even that one-star review, which you’ll get sooner or later if you write enough, they are all reviews, meaning someone took the time to tell other readers about the book. Because that’s who reviews are for: readers. And yes reviews can sting, but they also help you sell more books, because your book has more reviews, therefore potential readers can get to know it better, and make an informed choice. And maybe, just maybe, you can learn something from the less than stellar reviews that will improve your next book. I know I have.
And finally – what can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?
I am beyond excited for 2021. The Maer Cycle will be complete on March 4 with the publication of The Place Below, and it is an amazing feeling to bring this cycle of stories to a close, though I will miss the characters dearly. But there will be no time for tears, as I have a new contract with Shadow Spark for a duology of linked standalones called the Weirdwater Confluence, beginning in October 2021 with The Living Waters and continuing in January 2022 with The Isle of a Thousand Worlds. This duology will be high/weird fantasy, with watery themes, a meditation-based magic system, and a couple of nice little Easter eggs for readers of the Maer Cycle.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog and for the support you show for indie authors! I offer in thanks this picture of a Cooper’s hawk preening on a branch, one of my favorites from my Instagram, where I post far too many nature pics for anyone’s good.
You are very welcome, Dan. Thank you for visiting and taking part today – and Congratulations again on your book launch today!
The Maer Cycle (trilogy)
Legends describe the Maer as savage beast-men living in remote mountains, stories to keep the children indoors at night. Three companions taking a friend’s body home for burial encounter the Maer, and are soon spun far from the world they know. They discover the Maer have their own legends, such as the fabled Archive, the Wild Maer, and the dreaded Skin Maer. There are dark secrets buried beneath the Silver Hills, and they will soon be brought into the light.
Purchase link for all books: https://shadowsparkpub.com/dan-fitzgerald
Some legends are true. Others have been twisted.
Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits.
It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion.
This is the story of their return.
Carl, Sinnie, and Finn, companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever.
Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted.
Buy Hollow Road here:
Add Hollow Road to your Goodreads To Be Read pile here:
Love is love. Death is forever.
In Hollow Road three companions discovered the monsters of legend were all too real…Rumors among the Maer tell of an underground library called the Archive, which houses a wealth of knowledge and terrible magics that could be used to start the biggest war seen since the Great Betrayal. A mixed group of humans and Maer set off on an historic quest to find the Archive and protect it from those who would use it to destroy everything they hold dear. As the cold of winter bears down upon them, they trek through forbidding mountains beset by dangers they could have never imagined. They follow a set of ancient clues deep into the Silver Hills, forging surprising alliances and making new enemies.The humans and Maer are linked by more than their quest to find the Archive and stop an insidious war. A mystical surrogacy may bridge the gap between two peoples, and many hearts entwine as their adventure hurtles toward its bloody conclusion.
Buy The Archive here:
Add The Archive to your Goodreads To Be Read pile here:
The Place Below
Some secrets are better left buried.
It’s been twenty-five years since the Battle for the Archive. Peace reigns over the Silver Hills, and humans and Maer are preparing to sign their first trade agreement. Even warring tribes of the Free Maer have set aside old quarrels.
Sasha is a young scholar of mixed Maer and human parentage, traveling throughout the Maer lands collecting stories of the Ka-lar, the buried Forever Kings. She finds a reference in the Archive to a Ka-lar named Kuun, a scholar in life, who was laid down in an ancient brightstone mine, beneath a mountain said to be the home of the fabled Skin Maer. The lure of the tale is too strong to resist. Joined by some old friends, Sasha sets out to uncover secrets that have lain buried for over a thousand years.
In The Place Below, the Maer Cycle comes to a close as the darkest mysteries of the Maer are at last brought into the light.
Buy The Place Below here:
Add The Place Below to your Goodreads To Be Read pile here:
Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?
Lisette Brodey was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. She spent ten years in New York City, and now resides in Los Angeles. In addition to her nine novels and one short story collection, two more of Lisette’s short stories are published in an anthology.