Author Interview with Fire in the Dawn Author Justin Fike

Hi, I’m  Justin Fike, and I’ve been hooked on stories since my grandma first starting tucking me in with tales of her life on the South Dakota prairie swimming in my head.

I grew up in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, and was blessed to have a mother who didn’t complain when I came home from the woods covered in mud and burs, and a father who told me the stories that sent me out there in the first place.

I have a Masters in Creative Writing from Oxford University and am the author of Fire in the Dawn, Book 1 of the Twin Skies Trilogy, and the co-author of the Stetson Jeff Adventures, a quirky 80’s inspired action comedy series.

I’m a Martial Arts aficionado, a gaming nerd, a classics geek, and a list of other classifications both pejorative and praiseworthy, and I love in Colorado with my amazing wife Mindy and wondermutt Chino.

You can learn more about my work at justinfike.com and Facebook.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

It would be more accurate to say that I have always been fascinated by stories. I was drawn to books before I learned to read. I remember memorizing the words of The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junkfood after having it read to me approximately 2057 times, so that I could pretend to read it to myself. As a middle schooler I refused to wear anything but cargo pants, so that I would always have a pocket big enough to carry a paperback with me.

At first the world of stories felt like an endless horizon, but once I had made my way through most of the classics and all of the good fantasy, science fiction, and history books that my library carried, I started to feel like I was running out of stories I loved. That was probably the first time I started to dream about writing the kinds of stories I wished I could find more of. Today, the question “would 15 year old me have loved this?” drives my writing and editing.

Good stories have this incredible ability to capture our attention and actually reshape our thinking and our sense of self in powerful ways, and those are the kinds of books I aspire to write.

Tell us about your book, and the story behind writing it

Fire In The Dawn is an epic fantasy, full of cultural conflict, political intrigue, and more than a few swordfights and battles. One reviewer described it as “Game of Thrones in ancient China, without all the smut and gratuitous violence,” which pretty much made my week.

It takes place in the world of Tiira, which was heavily inspired by Chinese and Japanese culture and mythology. I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history, drama, and pageantry of East Asian cultures, and I tried to channel as much of that as I could into my setting. I think it makes for a fairly unique read, especially for those fantasy fans out there who might be getting a little tired of the same take on elves, orcs, and wizards.

The story follows Kyren e’Cania, the last son of a fallen House, who was raised in secret in the shadows of the city his family once ruled.

Trained by his father in the ways of a nobleman, Kyren has avoided the notice of the tyrant who murdered his family by never giving anyone reason to suspect he is anything more than a nameless peasant.

But when an ambitious noble sets dangerous events in motion, Kyren must find a way to reclaim his heritage and unite his people, before everything he loves is swallowed by fire and sword once again.

What’s the biggest challenge about being a writer?

Maintaining a positive mental state. There are a lot of challenges and obstacles that lie between that first blank page and a finished manuscript, and then once you finally do reach that point you realize how much work is involved in helping your book find an audience. Often times it feels like your efforts aren’t bearing much fruit, and it can be tempting to give up.

Always remember that giving up and stopping is the only way you can be absolutely sure you won’t achieve your goals. If you feel like you aren’t seeing the kind of success you want, take a step back, reevaluate, and take a new approach, but never, ever give up entirely. If you can master your state of mind so that you stick with it and continue to grow as a writer and self-publisher, you’ll eventually achieve what you’re pursuing.

Do you have a specific writing space?

My wife and I both work from home, so I have a desk set up in our office where I do most of my writing. I have my reference books on a nearby shelf, and I find it really helps me quickly re-enter the flow of writing to sit down in a space that is entirely reserved for productive work. If I’m at my desk, I’m writing or working, and if I need a break I get up and take that break somewhere else.

What’s your number one piece of writing advice?

Take advantage of the vast wealth of training and teaching resource we have available to us today. You could read a new book on writing craft, self-publishing advice, or other related topics every week of the year and not run out for a long, long time. It always amazes me to talk to other writers who say they want to write professionally, but haven’t invested the intentional time and effort to improve their skills and their understanding of the industry. You don’t even need to go to school for this anymore. I’ve written an extended series of articles to walk people through the process of crafting their own “At Home” MFA program, and you can find the first one here if that sounds useful to you: Skip the MFA , Part 1: The DIY Guide to Growing As a Writer

What books do you currently have on your bedside table?

The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. China’s Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty by Charles Benn. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Who have been your biggest writing influences and why?

The author whose work is most similar to mine is Guy Gavriel Kay. He writes these wonderful, rich fantasy novels sit in worlds heavily inspired by places and cultures from earth’s history, and I’ve read and loved every single one.

My favorite author to read is Jim Butcher, especially his Dresden Files series. They are pretty much the only books that I pre-order in hard back so that I can get my hands on them as soon as they come out, and then block out a full day to sit down and read the whole thing in one sitting. Butcher is an absolute master of complex characters and page-turning plots.

I’m also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, C.J. Cherryh, Ursula LeGuin, Tolkien (of course), Patrick Rothfuss, and Robin Hobb.

How do you market your writing?

This has been a big learning curve for me. Up until now I’ve mostly marketed through friends, family, and other word of mouth. I’ve seen moderate success using Amazon’s ad system, and I’m trying to expand my audience now by listing Fire In The Dawn with book newsletters like This Is Writing. At first I wasn’t sure it would be worth the time and effort, but so far I’ve been really happy with the results. This is a great resource for new authors who don’t yet have an established audience.

Lastly, something fun. What’s something our readers might not know about you?

Hmm, well I’ve studied martial arts on and off for the past ten years or so. I’m a certified scuba diver, I sang A Capella in college, and when I was 8 I was playing in a tire swing and hit my head against the tree so hard that I had mild amnesia for a few weeks, which my parents tell me was really freaky.


 Fire in the Dawn: The Twin Skies 

By Justin Fike

A prince in hiding. An empire in turmoil. A gathering storm.

Kyren e’Cania is the last son of a fallen House, raised in secret in the shadows of the city his family once ruled.

Trained by his father in the ways of his people, Kyren has avoided the notice of the tyrant who murdered his family by never giving anyone reason to suspect he is anything more than a nameless peasant.

But when an ambitious noble sets dangerous events in motion, Kyren must find a way to reclaim his heritage and unite his people, before everything he loves is swallowed by fire and sword once again.

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.