Author Spotlight: R. A. Fisher

Welcome to next edition of the AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT & BOOK ALERT series. Today, we’re sharing:

Robert Fisher, an author who created the world of Eris, writes within the steampunk and science-fiction / fantasy genres, and publishes under the name R. A. Fisher, is today’s guest. Curious to know more about Eris or what these genres mean? You’ll have to read on to find out more. When we sat down to chat, R.A. began by telling me about his upcoming novella due out in November, Within a Name. Although it takes place in Eris too, it’s unrelated to his Tides trilogy or his debut novella, The God Machine. To give you a snapshot at the bigger picture, he’s written three books so far. Today, he’s sharing an excerpt from one of his books and letting readers know it will be FREE from 10/18 @11AM EST through 10/22. You can download The Kalis Experiments for FREE here on those dates. He’ll also tell us a little more about the upcoming release and answer ~12 questions where we learn a whole lot more about him. But first, just who is this writer in his own words…

About the Author

Robert Fisher has lived in Hiroshima, Japan with his wife and five-year-old son since 2015, where he occasionally teaches English, writes, and pretends to learn Japanese. Before that he lived in Vancouver, Canada where he worked in the beer industry and mostly just cavorted about, getting into trouble and eating Thai food.

Key Links:

Overview of Book (s)

The first book we’re gonna chat about is from his Tides series: The Kalis Experiments.

Overview:

Syrina is a Kalis: a master of disguise, assassin, and spy. Her kind has served the High Merchants’ Syndicate for a thousand generations. She receives a surprising gift from her master, and she realizes something isn’t right. The High Merchants don’t do anything without a reason. When things don’t add up in an otherwise normal investigation, she follows the trail to the steam-powered city of Fom. There, she learns of a machine that could end civilization a second time. Will Syrina stave off disaster, or seek revenge?

***

The second is a new novella coming out in November 2019.

Overview:

Ranat Totz has spent most of his life robbing the tombs of the dead for enough tin to buy his next drink. But after he decides to loot the body of a wealthy priest he finds in an alley, he’s arrested and convicted of murdering the man. Realizing he’s got nothing to show for his life, Ranat begins a desperate gamble to solve the crime he didn’t commit, so he can clear the only thing of value he has – his name. And maybe have another drink on the way.

***

Interview: Questions & Answers

What is your location?

  • I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and lived for many years in Vancouver, BC. I live in Hiroshima, Japan since 2015.

How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles?

  • My first book was a dystopian science fiction novella titled The God Machine, published in 2011 by Blue Cubicle Press. I’d written a series of 4 short stories for their First Line Magazine. The editor, David LaBounty, didn’t think they worked as shorts, but liked the story, so offered to publish them as a single book if I stretched them out a bit. The first half follows the life of Walter Dodge after he starts questioning the insatiable god-computer that’s stripping the world of all its resources. The second half follows a teenage girl, Sara, as she navigates the post-apocalyptic wasteland that Dodge left behind.
  • My recent book, The Kalis Experiments, is the first of a steampunk/post-technology science fiction trilogy called Tides. Although technically science fiction, it’s got a fantasy feel to it—swords, crossbows, riding weird creatures, etc. The first book focuses on Syrina, who’s the product of thousands of years of selective breeding, and foremost spy and assassin for a member of the High Merchant’s Syndicate, who control everything from the shadows. But certain discoveries and a vicious betrayal make her question her loyalties. The next book in the series, The Black Wall, follows not just Syrina, but also Albertus Mann, a general in a theocratic empire, a pirate named Ves and his crew, and Pasha and Anna, a brother and sister who are trying to get back what Mann stole from them.
  • Besides Tides, my novella Within a Name is coming out at the end of November. It takes place in the same world as the trilogy, but is entirely unrelated. It’s the story of an old alcoholic grave robber who’s trying to clear his name after he’s accused of murder.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

  • I was lucky at first when it came to getting published. Like, really lucky. The first thing I ever submitted was a short story called The Catalogue to the Vancouver Courier  literary contest, and I got 4th place—enough to get it printed (in a shameless plug you can read it on my woefully neglected blog). The God Machine was the first story I ever submitted to a magazine, and it got published as a book. Then, when I submitted The Kalis Experiments to the Canadian publisher, EDGE, they accepted it.
  • All that fortune didn’t prepare me for the realities of publishing, and I ended up waiting for over eight months for EDGE to send me the promised contract (three months past their own deadline), before finally pulling it and trying elsewhere. What followed was the standard no-replies and rejections from both agents and publishers I think every writer is familiar with, until I finally found a home with Next Chapter. Although I knew from the beginning that’s what publishing is like, those rejections hit me harder than I know they should have.

Some authors like to make an argument or address an issue when they write. Is there an issue that you’re addressing with your book?

  • I think there’s a lot of character growth with Syrina in The Kalis Experiments as she develops a conscience that had been conditioned out of her at a very young age, but the theme that stands out for me is the question of, what is love? I mean, it’s really just a chemical reaction in our brains, but is that all that it is? Does it matter where love comes from? As events unfold, those are questions Syrina thinks about a lot through the first two books of Tides.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

  • I love the creating stories, then cleaning them up in the first few edits. I love deleting stuff that doesn’t work. For me, writing SFF is like trying to remember something that happened somewhere else  in the universe. They’re not my creations so much as histories of another time and place I’m trying to write down as best I can.
  • But I hate the promotion side of it. I dislike social media as anything other than keeping in touch with real life friends, and I sort of hate interacting with people in general. I’ve always been anti-social, so forcing myself to self-promote, ask for reviews, whatever, feels vile. It’s a nightmare for me, but it can’t be helped, as the Japanese like to say. I don’t mind interviews like this, because I’m just writing the answers, but I think doing something like a newsletter is beyond me. I have a hard enough time posting on a blog.

When did you know that you wanted to be an author?  What things, if any, influenced that decision?

  • My mom has a picture of my trying to write stories before I knew the alphabet when I was 3-4 years old, and I used to hammer away at an ancient, manual typewriter, so I think since I knew writing stories could be a thing, I ‘ve wanted to do it for a living. Later, big influences were my mom reading me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was in elementary school. That eventually led me to Dragon Lance  and playing D&D, so I’ve been a SFF fan since the beginning.

Do you work from an outline or plot or do you just see where the characters take you?

  • A little of both. I make outlines that range from meticulously detailed to something like “MC goes somewhere, does some shit, gets info.” But as I write, things happen that I don’t expect, and I go with it without worrying about what I had in the outline. I’ll still refer to it to make sure I get to all the major points along the way, but I’ve never felt the need to go back and change something because it doesn’t fit my original plan. The one exception was Within a Name, because I originally wrote it for the 3 Day Novel Contest, so I only had a beginning and an end jotted down before I started. That ended up working out pretty good, but I don’t think I could do it with longer stories or more than one plot line.

Do you read your reviews?  Do you respond to them, good or bad?  Do you do anything special to get those reviews?

  • I usually don’t respond to reviews, though I have to a few, if they’ve offered some helpful suggestions, just to thank them. I’ve gotten around to reading them all eventually, though I’m too nervous about what they might say to jump all over them as soon as I seen one is up. So far they’ve all been positive, but I’m sure that will change.
  • To get reviews I’ve just resorted to begging. Whoever said it’s harder to get people to leave reviews than it is to write a novel was dead on. I think most readers don’t realize how crucial reviews are for writers. I didn’t until I started trying to promote myself (see second half of my above answer on how I feel about that).

Please give us an insight into your main characters.  What do you think makes them special?

  • Syrina, from The Kalis Experiments, has supernatural abilities, like being able to move unseen, or faster than the eye can see. She’s also a master of disguise, and dons many different personas throughout Tides. However, she’s also flawed. When she starts to question her lifetime of conditioning to kill and obey without question, it results in her growing a conscience. Unfortunately, circumstances force her into the same life she’s always lead, so it builds up an ever-growing pile of regret and remorse that she doesn’t know how to cope with. Not to mention she starts to hear a voice in her head.
  • Ranat, from Within a Name, has spent sixty years or more robbing graves for his next drink, and in all that time never bothered to think much beyond that. He’s long ago come to terms with the fact that the theocracy he lives under would condemn him to death for his crimes against the dead if he were ever to be caught, but when he’s accused of murder, he can’t take it. Not the sentence itself, but the fact that he was accused of something he didn’t do. He’s not trying to find the real murderer to save his life, but to clear his name. That’s a distinction that’s important to him. Unfortunately, he’s also an alcoholic, and his addiction is constantly at odds with his more lofty goals, and it bites him in the ass more than once.  

Do you write full-time or part-time?

  • I’m lucky enough to write full-time now, but only because I moved to Japan with my wife and son so my wife could work in airport management. Now I stay home and write and be a dad, and teach English a few hours a week on the side.

Name 3 influential authors on you and tell us why.

  • For 3 authors, I would need to say for the classic one (because you always need a classic one, right?), Samuel Beckett. I grew to be a huge fan of his absurdist dystopias, especially after I realized all the ways they could be interpreted. For example, I always read Waiting for Godot as a comedy, but when I saw the play when I lived in Ireland it was presented as this really depressing, nihilistic story of the pointlessness of life. I was taken aback and impressed at the same time. Endgame is the same way. It’s darkly comic, but also utterly bleak.
  • Next I would need to say Ian M. Banks. I love how he managed to make The Culture this society at the pinnacle of the whole galaxy, while at the same time keeping it so messed up and ultimately human. And some of his stories are so dark that they can blindside you. One minute you’re laughing about a spaceship/AI named Just Read The Instructions,  and the next you’re thinking “oh my god I can’t believe that happened.” Plus, I heard he liked to blow things up, which is always a plus for me.
  • Finally, I’m a huge fan of Steven Brust. I love how the Vlad Taltos stories are interconnected without actually being a series. And, while so much science fiction and fantasy takes on problems of global, world saving proportions, Most of the Vlad Taltos stories are about him getting by as a human assassin in a world of elves that live thousands of years. Not that there’s anything wrong with saving the world, but sometimes it’s nice to see the smaller-scale stories too. Plus, since most of them are in first person, you get a really good feel for the character. First person PoV is sometimes hard to get right, but Brust really pulls it off.
  • But really, the reason I like questions about favorite and/or influential authors is that if I were to answer next week, I might list three completely different people.

Wrap Up

Thank you so much to R.A. Fisher for joining us this week in the Author Spotlight series. Please be sure to bookmark the link for his FREE download of The Kalis Experiments beginning on 10/18 at 11am EST. You’ll have thru the 22nd to get your copy… but if you’re still not sure, why not read an excerpt from the book to decide for yourself?

***

Excerpt from The Kalis Experiments Prologue

The sky was red on the last day of Xereks Lees’s life.

Calveeni’s dangled from the biggest mangrove tree at the western tip of Maresg, its wooden beams dappled russet by the sun squatting on the hills behind it. Whitecaps dotted the ocean and sighed up to blend their murmur with the hum of conversation. The emerald hills, like Calveeni’s famed balcony, were the color of rust in the bloody light cast between the remnants of a storm that trundled out of sight to the east.

The restaurant was three stories tall and as shapeless as the rest of the buildings of Maresg, built at an angle in the fork where the trunk of the tree split into two great branches. The top floor leaned over the water, supported by more giant limbs, and the balcony jutted out even further, held aloft by a snarl of frayed ropes and wooden chains tied higher in the tree.

Xereks Lees, once one of the most powerful low merchants in Skalkaad, now one refugee among thousands who hid among the branches of the tree city, entered from the Walk with his five bodyguards trailing behind him, and pushed his way to the front of the queue. He was broad without being fat, and jowly. His silver-gray hair was pulled back in a taut, slick ponytail. His beard was a wiry dull gray, trimmed to a point and a little unkempt.

“My table, if you please,” he said to the frowning host, in a pleasant voice that didn’t reach his eyes.

The host, a gaunt clean-shaven man with a handsome middle-aged face, pressed his lips together and glanced at the grumbling queue behind Lees.

“It’s fine today,” Calveeni’s tired voice called through the closed kitchen door, a moment before the proprietor himself appeared with a slight bow to Lees.

He was a lean, balding man with a black mustache that drooped to his chest, and he was a head taller than the host he stood behind. He wore a long white chef’s coat, rumpled and stained with brown blotches.

“Please have a table brought up from the dining room for Mr. Lees.” He turned toward the former merchant. “You prefer the south side of the balcony, do you not?”

Lees gave a little smile and nodded. “Indeed. Along the rail, if you please.”

Calveeni tapped the host on the shoulder. “You heard the man. Don’t keep him waiting.” He gave Lees another bow. “Thank you for joining us again, Mr. Lees. I apologize for the delay. I hope you enjoy your meal.” He smiled slightly behind his mustache and turned to walk back through the open door to the kitchen.

Lees pressed his lips together in an expression of thanks, and followed the host up the spiral stairs, to the upper dining room and the balcony beyond.

The balcony was always crowded, but a small table was rushed up and placed in Lees’s preferred spot on the southern corner, with mumbled apologies to the patrons that needed to move their chairs to make space. The busboy set it down near the low railing and waited for Lees’s curt nod of approval before scurrying back inside. When Lees looked out, it was as if he were suspended above nothing but a few stunted mangrove trees and the dark, ever-changing nothingness of the Expanse, seven hundred hands below. When Lees sat here, he was free of Maresg.

He moved his chair so that his back was to the sea, where he had the best view of the sunset without suffering its light in his eyes. Two of his bodyguards and his valet, Orvaan, took their places around him, careful not to block his view, while the other two stayed behind to hover by the door that led inside.

He stared into the horizon for a while, lost in his thoughts, letting them mingle with the shifting static sound of the distant water. He thought of his home—his real home, north in Eheene, and wondered for the thousandth time if he was a coward for hiding here. Maybe that’s what they all called him now, and maybe they were right. That’s the thing about being a fugitive. Too much time to think about everything he’d lost. Too much time to think about everything.

The breeze grew cool. As the sun dipped lower into the Upper Peninsula and the ruddy green of the mountains on the horizon deepened to a black silhouette, a pair of Calveeni’s errand boys emerged from the kitchen and began lighting the oil lamps that ringed the balcony with long candles. Lees realized he’d been sitting there for a half an hour without being served so much as a glass of wine.

Several patrons in his immediate vicinity had cleared out, leaving him in the center of a ring of empty tables. There were probably still a dozen people downstairs seething to get a seat, but Calveeni had apparently learned when to give Lees his space. Too much space, for that matter. Lees was hungry, and more than that, he needed a drink.

He saw one of his usual serving girls—a tall, pretty, black-haired woman with a hint of the desert folk around her eyes—bring a round of cheap beer to a table of N’naradin merchant marines on the far side of the rail. Lees’s scowl deepened. He was just about to tell Orvaan to get her attention when another girl he’d never seen before emerged from the swinging door and headed in his direction. She had a pitted complexion and a round, flat face. She was so short that she was only a head taller than him while he sat, and her body was lumpy and shapeless under the tight yellow and black dress Calveeni made all his girls wear. A portly, pocked-faced bee. He grimaced. Her left hand was a mangled claw, the index and middle finger torn away, the rest rutted and twisted with burns. She was altogether too grotesque to be working the balcony, except for maybe her eyes, which were large and slanted and brilliant green, and too sharp for Lees’s liking. He would make a point to say something to the owner on his way out. Even in Maresg, there had to be standards.

“The usual,” he spat before she had a chance to say anything.

He turned his attention back to the view. The sun was behind the Peninsula now, the sky above a blazing pink, easing first to red, then to violet overhead. To the east, a few stars began to twinkle.

She laughed a nervous laugh, which she probably thought was charming. “And what would that be?”

His scowl grew, and he turned back to her with an exaggerated sigh. “It would be what I’ve had the past twenty times I’ve come here. Exactly the same thing. If you’re too incompetent to know what that is, I’m sure there’s someone here who can help you.”

She seemed unfazed and blinked down at him with a condescending smile. “Wouldn’t it be easier for you to just tell me what you want, rather than going and being a pain in the ass about it?”

Lees’s expression darkened. “I’m being patient because you’re new,” he said, in a low voice. “Everyone should be given a chance. You’ll find I’m nothing if not fair-minded. However, I’m an important man who should be treated with respect, and I don’t—”

“I know exactly what kind of man you are.” Her voice dropped to match his, her tone etched with sarcasm.

Her blank smile had transformed into a sneer. The bodyguards grew tense.

“Yeah, I’m new at Calveeni’s, but I’ve been in Maresg long enough to know your type. You were important, or at least you think you were. Skalkaad, if I know accents. Probably Eheene. You’re the city sort. A real citizen. Some big-shot until you pissed someone off and you had to hide here. Think you’re unique? You’re not. Half the people in this city are hiding from someone else. People like you never learn. Here, you’re nothing. And as long as you’re here, that’s all you’ll ever be.”

Lees made a last look around the balcony for Calveeni to reign in his girl, but it had cleared except for three or four tables on the north side and the drunk merchant marines along the opposite rail. Everyone avoided watching whatever was going on at his table, and in his anger, it didn’t occur to him that the balcony was never this empty.

He sighed and inclined his head to the right. “Orvaan. Please.”

The man on that side, balding and pear-shaped, moved more gracefully than it looked like his body would allow. He took one step forward and grabbed the girl by the wrist.

“Take this whore down to the bridge and educate her,” Lees said.

The girl’s eyes grew wide. She screamed and bent her knees, struggling to wrench her arm from the big man’s grasp. Her panic made her stronger than Orvaan was expecting, and she almost slipped from his grasp. They grappled. An empty chair toppled. She spun around until her back was to Lees and she stood between him and his bodyguards. Lees stood, his chair clattering into the polished wood of the waist-high rail. His face was white with anger and painted pinkish-red by the evening twilight. His bodyguards by the door took their first step toward the scuffle.

The waitress finally managed to wrench her wrist free from Orvaan, and she staggered backward. Her flailing arms slammed into Lees’s stomach. He doubled over with a grunted cough. She tried to straighten, holding her bruised wrist with tears in her eyes, but the back of her head collided with Lees’s face. The girl cried out in pain and tripped over her own feet, lurching into Lees again, who was already off balance, now grasping his broken nose. Her fall knocked him further back, and he tumbled over the guardrail with a yelp. The girl screamed again and spun to peer over the edge of the railing, sobbing, rubbing the back of her head. Lees plummeted through the dim, pink light. He yelled something lost in the sound of the sea, then cut off as he smashed into a knot of mangrove roots exposed by the retreating tide. His body lay broken and motionless for a moment, then slid into the Expanse and vanished into the black water.

“Heaven forgive me, Heaven forgive me, Heaven forgive me,” she muttered through choking sobs, backing away from the railing.

Orvaan and the other bodyguards tried to grab her, but they were slow with shock. She shrieked and darted toward the kitchen, dodging around the two who’d stood by the door, now halfway to the table.

The whole incident began and finished in a few seconds, and heads on the other side of the balcony were only now turning, curiosity overcoming empathetic embarrassment.

* * *

The Eye was up, almost full and filling the sky overhead, flooding the bridges of Maresg with reddish purple light. The rusty, angry oval of its pupil was wide tonight, looking off somewhere beyond the western horizon.

It wasn’t late, but Calveeni had closed early. Too much excitement today, and he wanted to go to bed. He was latching up the cash box under the boards beneath his desk when there was a soft knock. He froze. He’d locked up everything before retreating to his office. Even the balcony. He stood, smoothed the small rug over the hatch in the floor, and went to the door.

It was the flat-faced serving girl, Nola, still wearing her black and yellow dress, now with a light leather jacket buttoned against the night breeze. Her green eyes were rimmed red, but she wasn’t crying. Calveeni nodded and pushed the door open wider, and she ducked under his arm into the office.

He slid the bolt closed behind her. “I guess Lees’s people didn’t find you.”

She smiled and produced a gray velvet bag. It was small enough to fit under her jacket but big enough that Calveeni was surprised it hadn’t bulged more while hidden there.

She dropped it on the desk, where it settled with a metal clatter. “Thanks for the job.”

He frowned at the sack, chewing on one end of his mustache, and shook his head. “Lees was a bastard, and in the month you were here you did a better job serving tables than half the girls that’ve worked here for years. Keep your tin.”

Nola’s shook her head. “It’s not my tin.”

He looked at the sack again and opened his mouth to protest further, but then nodded. “I guess I won’t see you around here again.”

“Nope.” She turned and strode to the door, unlatched the lock, and softly closed the door behind her.

***

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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