Jacob Sannox is a 37 year old writer from the sunny climes of Bedfordshire, England. In his spare time he is generally writing, thinking about writing or berating himself for not writing.
He loves to play the acoustic guitar, but wishes he was better at it, and he has recently taken up Dungeons & Dragons. This is dangerous, as he has a propensity for disappearing into fantasy worlds. Nobody saw Jacob Sannox between 2000 and 2010, during which time he was LARPing.
Do not judge him.
CONNECT WITH JACOB
Welcome to SPFM, Jacob! Since we already have your bio, describe yourself in three words.
Inquisitive, obsessive, Gemini
Summarize your book, Dark Oak, using one gif.
If you could recommend three self-published books, which would you choose and why?
I would recommend We Men of Ash and Shadow by HL Tinsley, A Ritual of Bone by Lee C Conley and Hall of Bones by Tim Hardie.
HL Tinsley writes beautifully. Her descriptions and characterisation are first rate, and she pays attention to details, bringing scenes to life in unexpected ways. And, man, she is brutal.
The structure and style of We Men of Ash and Shadow is a talking point in itself, with an omniscient narrator who initially paints the city in what feels like a series of vignettes.
John Vanguard is a broken man, an old soldier, walking the gutters of D’Orsee, a sprawling city that reminded me of both the 18th and 19th century, made up of zones differentiated by the class of their occupants. The brooding, menacing story follows its haunted protagonist as he begins to see the bigger picture. HL Tinsley does not give information to us on a platter, does not give it all away at once. She lets the tension build until the exactly the right moment.
I bought the book on Kindle and, before I had finished, I knew I was going to be a fanboy, so I bought the paperback too, something I am trying to avoid doing due to space constraints.
We Men of Ash and Shadow is totally immersive, evocative and, at times, challenging. It is reminiscent of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe, Assassin’s Creed, Sherlock Holmes and Les Miserables!
Eerie and gruesome, A Ritual of Bone should not be read in the watches of the night if you are of a nervous disposition!
Arnar, a land of warriors and simple folk, is on the brink of an arcane disaster. The dead are rising. But how? Why?
Follow several different POV characters through a sprawling story which begins ominously and continues apace with a secret, brooding intensity. Everyone is in peril – the reader knows that – and there is a sense of impending doom throughout as the extent of the spreading malice becomes apparent to the characters.
I felt as if I was being watched while I read this book. Maybe I was? I’m getting my axe.
Hall of Bones, the first book of The Brotherhood of The Eagle, is set in a Norse-inspired region of a wider fantasy world; a region perhaps a little naive in retaining its warrior culture when there are so many sophisticated threats not so very far from their borders. The book has got warriors, clans, love, family, politics and magic, all artfully put together.
Despite not really being drawn to Norse books, this one had me at hello. It immediately drew me in, and I swiftly became emotionally invested.
The early chapters, told from the perspective of Rothgar, the younger son of the Reaveburg Clan Chief, tell the tale of his latter childhood and adolescence within his father’s keep, in a style that reminded me very strongly of Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, but, I felt (no disrespect to Hobb – she also had an ability to draw me in) more authentically portrayed. Those chapters have a warm feeling, conveying the strength of the family connections with a hint of bittersweet nostalgia, as it is apparent the first-person narrator is looking back on a time when his home was stable and secure; a childhood idyll that would not last. Sure enough, life begins to take its toll when a rival clan steps up its raids and strife within Rothgar’s own clan threatens his family’s position.
Hardie’s writing style is natural, warm and welcoming. I slipped into the world he has created with ease and tore through chapter after chapter, pleasantly immersed, but worried what would come next!
What is your favorite part, and your least favorite part of self-publishing?
My favourite part of self-publishing? It’s a tough choice between two options: First – the moment after typing THE END, in which I sit back in disbelief while the mind turns to seeking both celebratory alcohol and pizza. Second – after all the hard work is done, when I sit down, upload the manuscript, double check the cover file and then hit publish! The relief! The book has broken free from Earth’s gravity and is off…out there!
My least favourite part is resisting the temptation to sit on my Chromebook all day hitting F5 to see if I’ve sold many books! Well, failing to resist the temptation…
What’s the first story you ever wrote?
It went something like this:
“Dave was walking down the street. He found £10. He was rich. He bought a car. The end.”
The first (incomplete) book I ever wrote was an attempt at epic fantasy that I later incorporated into the second book of The Dark Oak Chronicles, Age of the Dryad, 21 years later. Look out for Tolucan, Feran and Dun. I first wrote about them when I was 16.
The first complete book I ever wrote was a modern sci-fi thriller about a bloke who was trying to get away with a murder, only to have his car stolen with the body inside. Oops.
What’s your process for creating fully fleshed out characters?
I don’t plan out the characters in detail before I start a story, but I do have an idea of their function and their arc i.e. how they will develop throughout the story or, if they won’t change, what that says about them in light of events occurring around them. In terms of fleshing out my characters, I suppose my approach is something akin to Method acting, whereby I try to put myself in the character’s position, feel what they feel and respond accordingly. I add touches as they come to me, such as nervous ticks, habits, fighting styles and approach to life. It’s a cliche, but I try to let my characters come to life on their own, and I follow where they lead, even if that means adapting my plan for the story. It’s a wonderful thing when your characters start heading off in a new direction. Roleplay at its finest!
I try to ground my stories in realism, acknowledging actual human psychology and limitations – not many characters in my books come out of a battle unscathed! I do not write about superheroes. I also prefer not to have good and bad guys, as that’s far too convenient and people are infinitely more complicated than that.
What’s your writing ritual/routine like?
You know, I used to be a night owl. It felt very dramatic ‘working’ into the wee hours, but I didn’t really start to make headway until I started working in the morning.
I’m at my best when I wake up at 4 or 5am, get a mug of black coffee, put on some ambient music and crack on with the work. I like to hit my writing target before the family wakes up, so it’s done and I can enjoy the rest of the day! I tend to achieve this idyll for short periods a few times a year, and it’s usually when I’m working on later drafts. First draft routine? I mostly cry and write nonsense, muttering “fix it later, just keep going”.
You feel uninspired and you’ve sat at the computer for an hour without conquering any words. How do you get your creativity flowing?
This isn’t very literary of me, but I’ll often immerse myself in a television show or film with a similar vibe to my work in progress. It helps me get into the mindset. Once I’m into what I’m watching, my mind turns to my own ideas, and I’ll rush back to the keyboard.
A better answer, from a writing perspective, is that if I am getting bogged down, I will sometimes abandon the bit I’m working on and jump forward to a scene I am excited about. These days, I will more often acknowledge that if I am struggling with a particular scene, then perhaps I need to throw something more interesting in there or come at it from an unexpected angle. After all, if I’m bored or slowing down, that could mean the reader will have a similar experience. I’ll try to liven it up and pique my own interest!
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Others will disagree, but I think doing anything but keeping moving forward puts one at real risk of stalling or getting perpetually stuck on Chapter X. I don’t go back and tinker with chapters, even if something happens late in the book that requires changes in the beginning. I’ll deal with that in the next draft. Press on! Get to the end! Draft at your leisure.
That’s my take on it, anyway. Plenty of others will work and rework a chapter until it’s perfect.
We all have to work out how we operate best as individuals!
If you could have any superhero power, what power would you have and why?
This is going to sound lame. As much as my first instinct is to go in the badass direction, I think I would want the ability to heal both myself and others, both body and mind. I’ve got this far without any superpowers, but I would damn well like to have been able to have brought more people farther along on the journey. That’s a morbid answer to a fun question, eh?
Do you ever take random writing breaks to dance or sing? If so, when do these breaks generally occur?
Absolutely not. I have, however, put a helmet on, picked up a sword and slow motion acted out the last moments of a character’s fight before they are struck down, on one memorable occasion, accompanied by Fields of Gold by Sting. And I was wearing a dressing gown/bathrobe. Allegedly.
About Dark Oak (The Dark Oak Chronicles #1)
Humanity has finally defeated the Dark Lord, but Morrick fought on the wrong side. Though he was a slave, he is branded a traitor and must earn the trust of new lords in order to return to his family – if they are still alive…
Now that their common enemy is dead, the nobles begin to forget old loyalties, and Queen Cathryn’s realm looks set to plunge into war once more. But there are older and more terrible powers dwelling within the forest, and when they are awakened, Morrick will decide who lives or dies.
An SPFBO 2018 Semi-Finalist