Ian Healy Dishes on the The Archmage

It pleases me to see so many discover the Ian Thomas Healy's Just Cause Universe. Ever since the first book, Just Cause, came out last year, people have been buying it up, and I have a feeling that will only continue with the release of the second book in the series, The Archmage. The books are exciting and fun reads, and they're damn hard to put down once you start reading. I first read it when Healy finished writing it a few years ago, and I immediately fell in love with the different twists and turns the plot takes in this book. There is time travel, magic, and Nikola Tesla, and as we all know, Tesla is win.

I had Ian answer a few questions to tell everyone a little more about this book, the future of the Just Cause series, and his latest venture in starting his own publishing company, Local Hero Press. Afterward, pick yourself up a copy of The Archmage wherever books and ebooks are sold. If you order directly from Local Hero, you can get signed copies in either digital or print! You'll also find purchase links at the bottom of the interview. Ian will be on the 9/6 episode of the Creative Commoners podcast to talk more about the book and his other exploits. Don't forget to tune in! 

1. Congratulations on the release of The Archmage! What new things does this next volume in the saga bring to the table? 

The Archmage continues the story of Mustang Sally as a still-new-but-not-inexperienced member of the Just Cause superhero team. She's still got some growing up to do--after all, she's still only 18--but her relationships with other members of the team are strengthening and changing. Her relationship with Jason, especially, is going through some growing pains, related to a new member of the team who has some history with him. All this is set against the backdrop of a powerful wizard who is making a play to conquer the entire world, and it seems like not even the might of Just Cause will be enough to stop him. As big as the threat of Destroyer was in Just Cause, the Archmage had to be even bigger and scarier.

2. Without giving away a lot of spoilers, I will say that this book does involve a lot more fantasy and magical elements than the other stories. What was your main reason behind going in this direction? Are there other stories that inspired you? 

I spent a lot of time in my teens and twenties playing tabletop roleplaying games, and I always had a lot of distaste for certain types of games and characters. I wasn't ever a huge fan of fantasy games, and magic tended to irritate me. Let's say that The Archmage was my way of dealing with both magic and fantasy in terms that I found comfortable and acceptable. Magic is a huge trope in superhero tales, and characters like DC's Dr. Fate or Marvel's Dr. Strange have been around for decades. I figured that the Just Cause Universe needed its own magic-users, so I expanded upon the idea of Stratocaster. The character of Stratocaster, by the way, was strongly inspired by Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series, which is great, goofy fun.

3. Compare the writing experiences between the first book and this one. It's widely known that Just Cause, being the first of the series, went through a lot of changes before it became the book that people are buying now. Did you go through a similar strenuous editorial process with The Archmage? Did you submit it to agents as well? 

The Archmage sat half-finished for a much longer period of time than Just Cause had been shelved. I finished the first draft of Just Cause in 2004. I started The Archmage in January of 2005, while I was querying Just Cause. Several months later, when I'd grown discouraged with the veritable shitstorm of rejections, I just flat-out stopped working on The Archmage altogether and moved on to other projects. I honestly don't recall exactly when I picked up The Archmage again to finish it, but I know you were involved in that process, so it had to be at least 2008 or 2009. That's a long time for me to leave any project unfinished. I did query it, but I didn't have much hope for it, as it was Book 2 in a series that the first book hadn't sold.

4. Now, some might notice that you've gone through some changes in recent months regarding publishers. You've re-released Just Cause under your own imprint, Local Hero Press, and The Archmage is also under this label. Can you talk a little bit about what led to this decision and what your goals are with Local Hero Press? 

Ultimately, Local Hero Press was about me keeping better control over my self-published work by unifying it under a single banner. Just skimming through the variety of novel-length fiction I have available for sale, there is superhero, cyberpunk, fantasy western, urban fantasy, sports fantasy, post-apocalypse, and science fiction. That's a pretty diverse collection, and it provides a lot of avenues for people to discover me. By tying it all together under the LHP emblem, there's a second aspect of consistency besides just my name. Using an imprint also gives me avenues of distribution through CreateSpace that aren't available without it. And finally, should I ever decide to take on the considerable challenge of publishing other authors' work, I would need a company to do that, instead of doing it all under my own name. So let's say that LHP could just as easily stand for Loaded Hot Potential, because there's a lot of potential directions I could take it in the future.

5. Since you're doing all of this on your own now, tell us what all went into the production and promotional aspects of The Archmage? Feel free to break it all down. With bullet points, even! 

  • I made a commercial for it with the help of Corbin Gill of Two Filmingos Productions, spoofing a DirecTV ad campaign. You can watch it here.
  • I hosted an ARC giveaway with the help of Jeff Hebert and his HeroMachine graphic character creation app. Three people won that one, with the grand prizewinner getting a signed ARC from me. He lives in Portugal, by the way, so that's the furthest I've ever sent anything.
  • I also hosted an ARC giveaway on Goodreads, with an amazing 400+ entrants and five winners, three of whom lived in Canada. Whazzap, Canada? *high five*
  • I've Tweeted and Facebooked a lot about the upcoming release, probably to the point that some people have quietly stopped paying any attention to me. I hope they'll come back someday after reading my work and tell me what they think.
  • I should have some blog tour posts going up concurrently with this one, and hopefully that will also generate some interest.

6. What would you advise someone who had the chance to sign with a micro-press, as you previously did? Would you suggest they create their own imprint and going about things the way you have with The Archmage? 

I don't know if my experience with a micropress was typical, or better, or worse overall than most people's. Considering the amount of work I had to do to promote myself and my work, I don't think I benefited from it overall. Essentially I signed a contract that didn't change anything I would have done without the micropress on board, except that I gave up a portion of my royalties to them. No matter what, my advice to anyone offered a contract is to read it carefully, and have an attorney look over it as well. If a micropress doesn't pay an advance or provide significant marketing support, it's not really worth signing with them, because if you're going to be doing all that work yourself, you may as well reap the benefits yourself.

7. I know The Archmage just came out and everyone needs to have a chance to enjoy its awesomeness, but any chance you can tell us what's coming up next in the Just Cause Universe? What other non-JCU projects are you working on right now? 

The next JCU novel is tentatively scheduled for March 2013, called Day of the Destroyer. It's the origin story of Destroyer, and features characters touched upon in the first two JCU novels, like Mustang Sally's mother Pony Girl, John Stone, and Tornado. The story takes place over 21 hours preceding and during the New York City Blackout of 1977. I'm hoping to release one more JCU novel before the end of 2013, although I haven't decided whether it will be one of the ones I've already completed or one which I'm working on now. Ideally, I'd like to release JCU books about every six months. I'm also considering the possibility of putting out a JCU fanfiction anthology at some point, once LHP has enough working capital to be able to pay contributors for their stories.

As far as non-JCU projects, I'm down to two active projects at the moment: Making the Cut, which is a young adult novel set during a televised cooking competition between recent high school graduates, with tuition to a culinary academy as the prize; and Starf*cker, which is a send-up of space opera along the lines of my prior funny books like The Milkman and Blood on the Ice, starring an aging male porn star who has the chance to help a dying alien civilization rekindle their breeding. I have other projects in the pipeline, both completed and on submission, completed and awaiting release, or nowhere near close to finished. It's an addiction, this writing thing. I just can't stop doing it.

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