John Hartness is an award-winning author and publisher. As a brilliant and hard-working man I was surprised that he found the time to indulge my questions, but he did! This Fallstaff Books publisher has not only answered my questions, but gave me an inner look into his company and his life with every question he has answered for me. Known for his comedy horror books Bubba the Monster Hunter works and the Quincy Harker books his talents have brought him hardcore readerships and fans, even including well-known names.
I first learned of you as an author, but quickly learn thereafter you are the publisher at Falstaff. What came first for you? Where you an author first or a publisher that then continued as a writer?
I started out writing. I published my first novel, The Chosen, in 2009, followed by Hard Day’s Knight later that year. I self-published and worked with an indie press, Bell Bridge Books, until 2016, when I founded Falstaff Books. I still publish The Black Knight Chronicles through Bell Bridge, Tantor Audio publishes the audiobooks of several of my titles, and the rest come out currently through Falstaff. So I still write, something in the neighborhood of 3-4 novels and 4-6 novellas each year.
A shift is beginning within the indie world of more virtual attendance and appearances due to social distancing, how has it affected you? What are you doing different now, work wise, to keep moving forward?
At Falstaff, we typically appear at over twenty conventions in a year, so losing the entire spring and summer so far has been a big blow to our business. We’ve lost six conventions so far, and I expect more to follow. So I’ve shifted a lot of our focus to YouTube, creating author interview shows, doing video and audio readings, and as much other content as we can generate. I feel like YouTube and video is a largely unexplored space for authors, and the people who can plant their flag there first will have a marked advantage.
You have written so many things as a novelist and promoted so many of your Falstaff authors’ work, do you have anything new coming out? Any new work coming out of Falstaff?
I pretty much always have something new coming out. I released Snatched: Grandma Annie and the Cooter of Doom, a comedy horror parody novella on May 1. I’ll be releasing a new Bubba the Monster Hunter novella later in May. I have a new Black Knight Chronicles novel coming later this year, and there will be a new Quincy Harker novel coming in July.
As for Falstaff, we have new releases pretty much every week, if not multiple releases in a week. So people should pop over to our website at www.falstaffbooks.com and sign up for our newsletter to get notifications of all our new releases. Or they can join our Facebook Group, The Misfit Toys of Fiction.
One of the first things visitors can see when they go to your website is a really interesting quote; “Quincy Harker – demon killer, monster hunter & kin to Dracula. Yeah, this is who I want protecting the world! I love these books.” Whoopi Goldberg Academy Award Winner. I remember when you spoke about that happening on social media. How has life been after such a large endorsement? Has it changed at all?
It sells a few books when people see Whoopi’s name on the cover, and it makes for a great conversation starter, but nothing huge like a Netflix deal or anything. It’s very gratifying and surreal when someone like Whoopi, who I’ve grown up watching on stage and screen, reaches out to you out of the blue and endorses your work. That was a really cool moment.
On your blog you did something I have not seen done very much; you shared many chapters from a story entitled Raptor. What inspired you to share so much? What can you tell us about this story?
Raptor was a divergence from the norm for me. It is a military sci-fi novel, near-future, and the tone and style are pretty different from what I usually do. So I knew the book was a risk. So I put parts of it up on my blog to keep me accountable for continuing the book. Plus, I knew I wasn’t going to try to shop it around to other presses, and since I own the publishing company, I don’t have to worry about my publisher getting pissy about me sharing too much.
From YouTube to publishing and so much in between how did you get started? What was that moment like for you when you realized you were about to be published novelist?
I wrote my first novel just to see if I could write a novel, honestly. I’d been writing feature articles for websites for several years, and blogging, and I wanted to experiment with long-form storytelling. So I wrote a book. Then I put it in a drawer for about a year, and I studied the process of getting a book published. I still made plenty of mistakes, but since I self-published that book, there wasn’t really that moment of “I did it!” Now, when I sold The Black Knight Chronicles to Bell Bridge, that was pretty awesome. It was a vindication of the several years of hard work I’d put in up to that point, that someone saw something in me and my work that was worth the investment of time and effort.
Many writers are also heavy readers, when they have free time, to help them develop range and stay active with literature, is that something you do as well?
Of course. I read all the time. I joke that whatever I’m currently reading is “what’s on submission,” but that’s not true. I read all the time. I’m not as voracious as some folks, but I usually go through about a book every week. Writers who tell me they don’t read worry me. I don’t believe you can stay abreast of current trends and styles if you don’t read, and read current literature. How would you know that prologues are out of favor in urban fantasy right now if you don’t read urban fantasy? How would you know that head-hopping POVs is out of favor in high fantasy right now if the only high fantasy you read is 30+ years old? You have to read to stay current, and to stay creative.
One last question, a literary pilgrimage, ever thought of doing one?
No, it’s never occurred to me. I like to go places, but there’s no place that my books make me want to go, or that I feel like I need to go because Shakespeare wrote there, or because Anne Rice lived there. That’s cool if people get inspiration from trips like that, rock on. Take inspiration anywhere you can find it. Just not my thing personally.
Check him out more here:
Website: www.falstaffbooks.com Website: https://johnhartness.com
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