Hello. As a two-times entree in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off or SPFBO (you can find more details about that at Mark Lawrence’s website here), I am inviting other authors who have entered the 8th SPFBO for a spotlight on the blog. The first spotlight feature is Amy Campbell, who entered her ‘weird western fantasy’ debut, Breaker. I’ve read Breaker (unlike some of the books and authors you will see being featured; I assure you, I can’t read all 300 entrees every year, for various reasons), and in fact, I’ve read all of Amy’s Tales of the Outlaw Mages up-to-date.
First, let’s introduce you to Amy’s book, Breaker.
Unless this outlaw mage tames his magic, everyone he cares about will be crushed by the enemy.
Blaise Hawthorne fears that all he’ll ever be is an outcast, stuck living with his parents for the rest of his days and unable to realize his dream of working in a bakery. Born a Breaker, his unbridled magic wreaks havoc with a touch of his hands. When an enemy Commander storms into his town in a cloud of dust hunting for spellcasters, Blaise escapes and flees the only life he’s ever known.
While on the run, Blaise’s chance encounters with a pegasus and a surly gunslinger set him on the path to a new life where he’s accepted for who he is. But things go awry in his new town and Blaise is suspected, forcing the terrible choice between taking the blame or running from the only people who embraced him. When his chosen family is threatened by the Commander he thwarted, can Blaise find the grit to harness his volatile magic into a saving grace, or will his most dangerous challenge be his last?
You can get Breaker wherever books are sold here.
And now, onto the questions!
As a Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) Entrant, you’re not just independently as opposed to traditionally published, but self-published. Can you start by explaining a bit about why you chose that route and how it’s been for you?
This is a great question. Every author’s journey and reason are different, and I had a couple of reasons behind this. First, I’m not a spring chicken anymore, and after seeing that some authors query for years before being picked up–then waiting a year or two for their book to come out–I knew I didn’t want to wait. I had a sense of urgency, too, because of the pandemic. It was an excellent reminder that life is fleeting and we need to make the most of it. I need to publish on my calendar and not someone else’s. Second, I wanted to retain full control over my intellectual property. I didn’t want to be held hostage by publishing contracts that might stifle what I could do with my own characters and world. And last but not least, even though it’s a significant investment, I appreciate that I don’t have to split royalties with anyone but the storefronts (and I guess the IRS when I make enough for that.)
That one’s a goal! A lot of your reasons are virtually identical to mine. What artist wants to give up control of our ART?
On a related note, why did you enter the SPFBO contest? A number of people have related that they find it pretty stressful. How do you feel about it so far? Or has it not affected you much?
The blog that has Breaker hasn’t posted any reviews or cuts yet, so for now I’m not too stressed. That might change when they start making cuts! I entered Breaker for a few different reasons: I feel like the characters are compelling enough to potentially capture a judge’s attention. The setting, too, is unique–there are other weird westerns entered in SPFBO, but from what I’ve seen a lot of them take more of a grimdark or horror aspect. And another reason is to just get more eyes on the book. I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t have a lot of confidence in how solid it is. It’s hard for indie authors to garner attention, so this is part of doing what I can for that aspect.
I enjoyed how Breaker deals with trauma and tough things, without ever leaning into Grimdark or Horror. I hope it gets a good chance!
Book titles. Why did you choose the title you did for your book? Take this wherever you want; an analysis of how it fits your book (if that’s not a spoiler you’d rather not share); the inspiration for your title; how the title makes you feel. As short or as in-depth as you like.
I agonized over the title of Breaker for so very long. I didn’t like the title for the longest time. I wanted something more…fantasyish, if that makes sense. But all the titles I tried didn’t work. Breaker was the only one to really stick, since it’s the type of magic that the main character wields.
LOL. I think Breaker is a pretty cool title, and I like how it meshes with your series title: Tales of the Outlaw Mages. Now that one’s grand!
I won’t ask for your favourite scene since I know some people don’t have those (wink wink), but can you share a scene you really like and you just can’t believe how awesome it is every time you go back to re-read it, that you don’t consider to be a spoiler? Alternately, you can share something about a character you really like. Or both, if you want.
Favorite scene in Breaker: there’s too many. Sometimes I flip through the paperback and distract myself! I love when Blaise uses his magic to first save Emrys and he realizes his gift may not be so bad. And when poor Jack tells Blaise his sob-story of a life against his will and Blaise is mortified the entire time. And when Jefferson reveals how he feels about Blaise. And when Jack interrupts the card game in Fort Courage. See, too many.
Something about a character I really like: Jack was never supposed to be a POV character. Jefferson, too, for that matter. In fact, Jefferson was supposed to be an antagonist. He vehemently disagreed with my plans.
Bonus fact: I haaaate the name Jefferson and tried so hard to change his name that it became a plot line. (The jerk refused to accept the name change!)
I love all those scenes, too! Especially the first one, with Emrys!
Same sort of thing as with the last question, except this time what about a quote? One to five lines or so, but this isn’t math. You don’t need to count the periods (or question marks, exclamation points, or other sentence-enders).
Blaise bowed his head. “Sometimes it’s not about who I am, but what I can do.”
“It’s always about who you are,” Jefferson shot back. “And you’re more than a Breaker. You have a good heart.”
I loved this one too, and I’ve found similar themes to be a hallmark of your books and short stories that I’ve really enjoyed! Speaking of Amy’s short stories, you can sign up for her newsletter and get some of them free!
Now for a few more personalized questions.
I love pegasi. I especially loved Emrys. Can you share some of the inspiration behind the pegasi or what it was like writing sugar-loving loyal Emrys?
I’ve always loved horses, so whenever I write I try to have equines feature in the story, if I can. Blaise as a character is actually quite old–I first started writing about him more than 20 years ago! Even then, he had Emrys (though he was a magic horse, not a pegasus). When I decided on the concept for this series, he got an upgrade with a pair of wings. Unfortunately I haven’t owned horses of my own for many years, but a lot of the things he does are memories from my own time with horses. (There’s a scene in book 3 where Blaise’s shirt gets covered in pegasus snot. That happened to me, too.)
I’m also a big fan of the magic animal friend trope, so this scratches that itch, too!
I like the magic animal friend trope, too!
Speaking of Blaise, Blaise is a main character who’s not just a reluctant hero: he’s very soft and sweet. That’s not unique, but there aren’t that many of those around, main characters who just want to bake and never hurt anyone no matter what. Would you like to speak to what it was like writing that or why you chose to do so?
Since Blaise is such an old character, he’s always sort of been that way! (Well, the baking thing is a recent addition, which he is quite happy with.) He’s always had a kind heart and has never been the testosterone-filled hero coming in to save the day. It adds a dimension to writing him that can be a challenge–I have this character who is really quite powerful, with magic others fear. He could use it to dominate others, but that’s just not his nature. So when the time comes and he HAS to use his magic, he tries to do it on his terms. But it’s always a last resort for him, which is interesting because it’s never the last resort for some of the other characters, like Jack.
I know I could write him to where he loses that part of him, but that’s something Blaise fears–he doesn’t want to lose that bit of who he is. He doesn’t want to ever become the monster that people think the Breakers of old could be.
I don’t ever want to see Blaise lose that part of him!
In the world of Breaker/Tales of the Outlaw Mages, mages each have a specific specialty. Breaking things (like Blaise), or fire, or ice. What inspired your magic system?
I’ve always loved the really niche magics. The first book I remember reading this type in was Graceling. I was intrigued because it puts some limitations on what these otherwise powerful characters can do. Sometimes it’s hard to think of these really nice magics, though!
I can see that thinking of all those magics can take some thought!
It doesn’t show as much in Breaker, but as we continue reading your series, your world is so full of mythical creatures and unique takes on magical beings, from kelpies to grasscats, wizards of Ravenchan to elves. Some of them are only briefly mentioned so far. How do you manage a world so full of these things? Do you have plans to show us more of them, and can you share a little about which ones, and any inspirations you’d particularly enjoy talking about?
Some of it is inspired by our world–there’s such a diverse amount of creatures in our world, I figured that it should be the same in the outlaw mage world (only with mythical creatures). I also wanted to use creatures that aren’t often on the forefront of fantasy–pegasi instead of dragons, knockers instead of…I guess, elves?
I have plans in the works for another series in the same world, though different region which will potentially give a peek at more creatures. Specifically, dragons! The dirty first draft also features an aralez (winged dog) and opinicus (like a griffin but a little different) but I’m not sure they’ll stay in the story. My drafts tend to change quite a bit from first draft to final!
I liked the knockers! I also really liked the knossans (for those of you who haven’t read Breaker: those are humanoid cows, and there are lots of other cool races!)
Amy Campbell is an independent author and librarian. She grew up in Houston, which she still calls home. Amy writes epic fantasy novels about men and women who are unapologetically true to themselves (and throws in the occasional pegasus or chupacabra to keep it interesting). When not working at the library or writing, Amy is chasing after her two busy young boys. The third book in Amy’s Tale of the Outlaw Mages series, featuring Blaise, Jack, and Jefferson just came out nine days ago! You can find Dreamer here, and you can catch up on Effigest here!
And Breaker is free to celebrate June, so there’s no reason not to grab it here and give it a try, if any of this has caught your attention, which I hope it has! You can also check it out on Goodreads.
Find Amy at: