Sci-fi author Joseph Malik has not only collected favourable reviews on his first release, but has been selected as an eligible author for the 2018 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction/Fantasy. He published the Dragon’s Trail independently, by setting up his own publishing business, Oxblood Books. We asked him about his experiences on self-publishing sci-fi or fantasy: it is a fascinating read. You can find his bio at the end of the interview.
When did you start writing? Did you have any rejections?
I started writing when I was a teenager. I had sent out manuscripts early-on before I realized that writing a book didn’t constitute nearly enough writing to write a good book, but I didn’t get serious about the craft of writing until my mid-twenties.
Dragon’s Trail went through several versions which would probably qualify as separate books entirely over about fifteen years. I have a folder with 47 rejection slips in it. I am sure I received many more.
The biggest piece of my writing journey, though, is that I set out to write a fantasy novel that did for knights in armor what The Hunt for Red October did for the nuclear submarine. To that end, I did all of my research firsthand. While I was developing my writing and studying the craft, I was learning swordsmanship, horsemanship, mountaineering, blacksmithing, martial arts, pacing off castles and ruins in Europe, building a functional Elvish language, and on and on. I wanted to have the mundane elements of the world correct—if not historically accurate, at least mechanically and functionally feasible—before I introduced the magical aspects of the story. I was told repeatedly by major publishers and agents that this would never work, and that there was no market for a “realistic fantasy.” I finally quit writing fantasy altogether after about fifteen years of rejection.