Today we’re joined by Jon Auerbach, author of the Guild of Tokens series. Keep scrolling to learn more about his inspirations, thoughts on self-publishing, and what he believes makes for a good story. Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a physical copy of his Urban Fantasy novel, Guild of Tokens!

About the Author

Jon Auerbach’s love of fantasy began at the tender age of six, when his parents bought him the classic 1977 animated version of The Hobbit).

Jon hopes to pass on his stories to the next generation, including his kids, who have their own copy of The Hobbit that they lovingly call “the Bilbo book.”
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We already have your official bio, now we want to challenge you to describe yourself in ten words or less…Go!

Lawyer by day, author by early morning/late night.

Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to writing? Is it a particular author or authors, art, history, culture, current events, something else? How have they influenced your work?

The background concept was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and the hidden underworld of London Below in that book. There’s the saying that truth is stranger than fiction and the more history I read, the more I found that to be the case. Because I write urban fantasy mixed with a dash of historical elements, I get a lot of inspiration by just walking around New York City (where my books take place) or reading random tidbits or history about the city. For instance, there’s an abandoned subway station at the end of the 6-line in lower Manhattan that has vaulted ceilings and glass skylights that’s just about the opposite of what you would expect a subway station to be. So that became the setting for a clandestine meeting later in the book. And then I saw a factoid on one of the digital kiosks that have replaced pay phones that said that there is a door in the Washington Square Arch that has been locked for 100 years. That too became a plot point. It’s fun weaving in interesting real-world places and history with the fantastical elements of the book.

What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?

I love the control and quicker timeframe that self-publishing offers. It also provides room to experiment with different formats, genres, lengths, and distribution methods. On the flipside, it’s a bit daunting to build up your own “brand” to attract readers. Thankfully, the stigma of self-published books has largely faded thanks to the high quality books that are being put out there each month, but there’s still some small amount of resistance that you need to overcome. You need to be able to understand who are your ideal readers and where they are, and build a platform so that you can get the word out about your book. There’s a lot of tools and resources available now to help with marketing and formatting that just weren’t available when I first self-published in 2014, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. I excel at staying abreast of whatever new comes along and figuring out how it can help me get my books out there without getting too bogged down by any one particular tactic. The one thing I struggle with is honing the pitch for my books, since they don’t fit in the traditional mold of traditionally or self-published urban fantasy. 

What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone?  How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!

Pre-COVID, I would drop my kids off at school and then grab a Honey Badger from Gregorys Coffee (cold brew, almond milk, and honey) and then write before work. The combination of the coffee and the video game soundtrack radio on were one part of getting in the writing zone and the other part was knowing enough about what was coming next in the particular scene so that I can get the words out without having to plot too much and waste precious time. One thing that helps with that is never ending a writing session at the end of a chapter or a scene, so you have something other than a blank page to pick up at the start of the next session. Depending on the length of my commute, I may only have 30 minutes in the morning to write, so it’s a race against the clock, but at a minimum, I try to equal my word count from the day before. Since March, I’ve haven’t had that time in the morning, so I’ve had to adjust and write at night, which is much harder.

What do you think makes a good story?

I was listening to a talk recently by a well-known comic book writer, and he said that something he tries to do is introduce asymmetrical moments into his stories, moments where you expect the story to turn one way or a character to make a particular choice, but instead it goes in a different and unexpected direction.  That really stuck with me. I think it’s about creating a balance between what’s expected in a particular genre but presenting in a new and fresh way such that the reader can’t see where you’re leading them until they get there.

Is there one particular platform you find is most beneficial as a self-published author?

I think there are many platforms that are beneficial in many different ways! Facebook Ads help me find new readers, my mailing list helps me stay in touch with my readers, my website provide a central resource to point back to, Bookfunnel helps me distribute my reader magnets and newsletter bonuses, the numerous Facebook author groups I’m a member of provide a fountain of information, and entering SPFBO last year was a great way to meet other authors, bloggers, and readers. 

What comes first, the characters or the plot?

Usually the plot, and then I’ll form the character enough such that they drive the plot forward or if it’s a side character, enough that they’ll introduce new conflict for the main character. Originally, one of the characters was going to be a one-off mini-villain at the end of the first part of the book, and so she didn’t really have any personality other than “she’s bad!” But then I took a break in the middle to write a short story prequel about her and that really added depth that has served the main story well.

Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?

Yes and no. Before I published my book, I felt like I was climbing this mountain that I was never going to get to the top of. The book was the result of several years of starts and stops and baby steps and sidetracks. The lead-up to the release was particularly stressful because I only had a few weeks to finalize my book so I could enter it in SPFBO at the end of June. Now that I’m on the other side, I view it as a normalized part of who I am, but I’d like to get that sense of excitement back as I get closer to finishing my second book and as I work on other writing projects.

What do the words “literary success” mean to you?

“Literary success” to me means writing books I would enjoy reading and finding readers that enjoy them as much as I do. On a more micro-level, there was one particular review I received on Goodreads that just blew me away in terms of the thought and analysis the reviewer put into it and how much they took away from the book. To impact someone like that is pretty incredible. 


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