Interview with John Champaign SPFBO 9 Edition

Interview with John Champaign

For SPFBO 9 I’m returning to my old tradition, where I offer to the authors in our batch a spotlight on Queen’s Book Asylum. While in previous years I created a new feature, this year I let them choose between all of my available ones: What the Hungarian?!Tales from the AsylumStuck in the PagesParty with the StarsTo Be Continued…, as well as the regular author spotlight options of an interview, and a guest post.

John Champaign, the author of Endless Seas, chose an interview and so, we sat down for a chat!

Meet the Author
John Champaign

John Champaign grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada. He’s worked
as a software developer and computer science professor and lives with
his beloved wife, frequently moving.

Connect with John Champaign

About the Book
Endless Seas by John Champaign

Captain Joseph Baxtor and his crew on the sailing ship Phoenix cross dimensions through underwater portals on behalf of ‘The Pantheon’, a collection of cultures each led by their own created god.

On their maiden voyage, they are sent to establish diplomatic relations with the El-Fax, a recently discovered, friendly culture. Rather than being the routine voyage expected, everything may not be as it first appears.

Interview
Welcome to the Asylum, John! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice, and tell us something about yourself that’s not in your bio!

After retiring early, writing had been my “retirement hobby”.  Like many avid readers, I always wanted to start producing books and not just consume them.  It’s been fun doing that! 

I break most writing ‘rules’ from advice books, articles, and forums.  Writing different genres under the same name (my own), keeping expenses firmly in check, and exploring different styles rather than adding books in a single series has been my approach.

Welcome to SPFBO! Is this your first time in the competition? If yes, how did you learn about it? What are your expectations/experiences so far? How do you plan to cope with the stress/waiting? If this isn’t your first time, what advice would you give to first-timers? How did the competition treat you so far?

This is my first time in the competition.  I learned about it a couple of years ago, I believe, when I read “Orconomics”, which was the 4th SPFBO winner.  

After studying stoicism, I try my best not to get anxious waiting for things that are out of my control.  I remind myself that my submission is complete and can’t be changed now.

The competition treated me wonderfully!  All of the associated attention (such as this interview) has been wonderful and it’s very kind of the people contributing it.

Have you read any other books that entered into SPFBO9? Or are there any that caught your attention? 

They each look interesting in their own way and it gives an idea of the vitality of the indie writing community to see the 300 entries, which were submitted within 41 minutes.

I’m waiting to read some reviews and see the semi-finalists (and finalists) before I start seriously digging into any of the books.

Tell us about your self-publishing journey! Why did you decide to take this path? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of it? What advice would you give to someone who is considering to self-publish?

I started writing a novella with the conceit that it was about a group of university professors playing D&D.  Each chapter would switch between the players talking around the table and the characters’ adventures, described like a fantasy novel.  My writing skills at the time weren’t up to the demands of the story and I’ve since unpublished it.

Since then I’ve explored fantasy in a couple of subgenres (urban fantasy and nautical high-fantasy) as well as non-fiction in the form of how-to guides.  I wrote regularly as a graduate student and professor and was a contributor to a well-regarded Canadian personal finance blog for years.  My recent focus has been writing fiction.

I love the absence of gatekeepers and how many facets of self-publishing can be done by the writer.  Marketing and finding readers seems to be a challenge for all of us, and that would certainly be my least favorite part.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that all writers need to figure out things for themselves.  Every time I read advice or instructions that people have created for other writers, I find problems with it.  Best practices should be regarded as “here’s something to consider trying” rather than “this commandment must be followed”. 

There are many things in life people can teach one another, but how to become a writer doesn’t seem to be one of them.

I’m more of a journey than a destination guy, at least with regard to my writing.  I want to write things people want to read, so I’ll probably keep following readers’ interest in what I write.

What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, make deals with the Devil?

Most of my writing comes from “what if” ideas that I can’t shake, or mash-ups between existing stories.  Endless Seas:  Never Meet Your Idols (my #spfbo entry) could be described as Roddenberry’s Star Trek meets Scalzi’s The God Engines with a dash of Patrick O’Brian.  It took on its own life after those ingredients were mixed together.

Is ENDLESS SEAS your debut novel? If yes, is there anything you’ll do differently with your next book? What were the biggest lessons during the process? If not, was your approach to this novel different to any previous one? Has it gotten easier or harder to write books?

Endless Seas is my debut “novel”, but I previously wrote two novellas before it.  It’s the fifth book I’ve released.

For this book, I followed a convention, somewhat similar to Drew Hayes’ “Fred The Vampire Accountant,” where the book was made up of stories within a larger story.  Each of the eleven chapters is a separate adventure following the same group of characters.  Later stories build on elements of earlier stories.

Writing books gets easier with each one, but there seems to be endless new things to learn.

What was the main inspiration for the story? Which aspect of the book was the most challenging to write and why?

Each part of the book had a different inspiration and the tone moves in different directions, getting closer to horror, action-adventure, or military history at certain points.  

The final chapter, which pulled together connections between the different characters and their history together, was probably the hardest to execute.

Which character of your book do you identify with the most and why? Who would you like to live with in an asylum?

Radiance, the ship’s elementalist, is probably the character I identify with the most.  I was glad to read, in a recent review, that the reviewer’s favorite character was the third captain Albert Reeves.  I wouldn’t want to have shoved Radiance down every reader’s throat.

Sinclair Foran, the ship’s healer, would likely be the most pleasant roommate if I was trapped in an asylum.  Hopefully, the other characters would come to rescue us.

If you could launch a release party with your MC(s) present, how would that go down?

Quite well.  They all know how to behave at a party, would be appropriately appreciative of any tasty treats or adult beverages provided, and would be engaging conversationalists with the other guests.

If you were a character in your series/book, how would you be described? And what your profession/role would be? How long do you think, you would survive in that world?

I’d be someone the characters would meet in their adventures and they’d likely find me an unassuming landlubber.  Perhaps I’d be described as ‘mostly harmless.’  I would steer clear of the dangerous life the characters have chosen, likely as a scholar or priest, depending on where in the worlds I lived.  Like most of the people in their worlds, I’d likely crave to escape but realize it’s impossible.  I imagine I’d make the required compromises to survive, and hopefully wouldn’t get unlucky.

What are your plans for 2023? Any particular events you plan to visit?

My wife and I are in the middle of moving to Edmonton and are condo hunting there.  I’m hoping to publish a non-fiction book soon after the move and am looking forward to getting into my next writing project.

I’m a somewhat solitary writer and haven’t clicked with the writers’ groups I’ve attended in the past.  I haven’t done any writer events, but perhaps I should.

While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you to invite one visitor (fictional and otherwise) – who would you invite? And no, they can’t help you to escape.

I’d invite my wife, but encourage her not to join me for an eternity of confinement.  After she (hopefully) declined, I’d invite Gary Gygax and play a never-ending game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Well then, it was a pleasure to have a chat with you! Please allow these nice attendants to escort you out. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? 

Tell the crew of the Phoenix to rescue me.  Please?

*locks door*
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Grab a copy of Endless Seas by John Champaign!

Endless Seas by John Champaign

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