This month’s Author Spotlight features E.J Fisch, author of the Ziva Payvan series.
Interview with EJ Fisch
1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, world! I’m EJ Fisch, indie sci fi author, artist, and huge nerd. I first decided to publish almost exactly two years ago, and since then I’ve released three full-length novels, an omnibus edition of that series, and a collection I’ve collaborated on with two other sci fi authors (more on all of that in a bit!). This has been a great adventure, and after spending years being self-conscious and hiding my writing from the world, it’s been incredibly liberating to finally share it with everyone. I’ve loved getting to know other writers and readers from all around the world, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
When I’m not writing, I’m a data analyst in a clinic and an assistant high school volleyball coach. When I’m not doing those things, I’m reading, gaming, or doing something artistic. I live in beautiful southern Oregon and I’m a filthy Dr. Pepper addict.
2. When did you first start writing?
I’ve been writing stories on some level for just about as long as I can remember, but I didn’t start writing seriously (a.k.a. actually putting effort into creating complex plots with character development) until junior high and early high school. I had a couple of solo projects I was dabbling in, but I feel like I really started writing when I was playing this Star Wars roleplaying game with friends around 8th grade. We would act out this elaborate story via AOL instant messaging, sometimes using original characters and sometimes using existing characters from the movies or then-Expanded Universe. Afterward, I would take the transcripts from our chat sessions and “novelize” them. The story was complete nonsense (pizza in the Star Wars universe?) but we just kept building and building on it and it was a lot of fun.
My current main character, Ziva Payvan, actually got her start as a minor character in a couple of scenes of that story – she’d been hired by the Rebel Alliance to track down a criminal, one of my friends’ original characters. I liked her concept so much that I eventually plucked her out and gave her a story of her own.
3. Which authors have most influenced your writing?
I’ve never really felt like I have a definite answer for this question, because I’ve never really had a favorite author, and thus I’ve never really felt like any books or authors have influenced my writing. I think my writing was influenced more by what I was watching at the time. During that period when I really started writing seriously in junior high, I was watching a lot of 24, NCIS, and Third Watch, and thus I was following kind of a team-based police-procedural anti-terrorism structure (I had this one story that was totally a rip-off of 24 and it was absolutely horrendous – sadly I broke the rules of writing and deleted it, although I think I still have a couple of fragments from it somewhere).
Once I started the Star Wars game with my friends, I started gravitating more toward sci fi, and when I started developing Ziva and writing her story, I kept a lot of the team/police/operations elements from some of my early work. There’s actually a scene in Nexus: Ziva Payvan Book 2 that was originally from that terrible old 24-esque story, and I didn’t want the idea to go to waste so I figured out a way to incorporate it.
4. How long did it take you to complete your first novel?
I can never remember for sure, because there was a lot of Ziva’s story that came before the Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1 we see today. I know for sure that I finished it in October or November 2010, and I’d probably been playing with the main story elements for a year, maybe a little less. I started writing several different Ziva stories with the intention of actually making them novel-length; many of them got scrapped, but I kept elements from several of them and mixed them together and some of those ended up in Dakiti. In that sense, I’d technically been working on it for years. But yeah, I feel like the meat of the book took 8 or 9 months. That wasn’t really something I kept track of at the time because I never planned on publishing or sharing these stories with anyone. And yeah, I was adamant about calling them stories rather than books, because books were something publicly available.
5. Tell us a little about your latest novel?
My latest solo release is The Ziva Payvan Collection, which is exactly what it sounds like: an omnibus edition of my series that contains Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1, Nexus: Ziva Payvan Book 2, and Ronan Ziva Payvan Book 3. It also contains fun character interviews and sneak peeks from a couple of my upcoming projects. It’s currently Kindle-exclusive.
I also recently participated in a collaboration with fellow sci fi authors G.S. Jennsen and Tammy Salyer. Since we all write space operas featuring strong female leads, we put together a collection called FORGED FROM THE STARS that contains the first books in each of our series: Dakiti (Ziva Payvan Book 1), Contract of Defiance (Spectras Arise Book 1), and Starshine (Aurora Rising Book 1). It was an incredibly fun project, and G.S. and Tammy are great to work with. This collection is still available for Kindle for only $0.99!
6. What is your favourite scene or part?
Since Ronan is my favorite out of my three books, most of my favorite scenes are from it. Chapters 10 and 14 are two of my favorite scenes. In chapter 10, Ziva visits notorious mob boss Tobias Niio in hopes that he can help her find someone – the tension in this scene was really fun to write. In chapter 14, characters who are about to be executed are suddenly off the hook when their would-be executioners are taken out by a sniper. And then the sequence contained in chapters 37-39 might be my favorite of all. I call it the “Revelation Sequence” (or, for fun, the “Sledgehammer Sequence,” because certain walls start to crumble here). The character interactions were so much fun to write, and readers finally get answers to questions they’ve had since the beginning.
7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their first novel?
- Go for it. Don’t do what I did and hide your work from the world. If you have something worth sharing, share it.
- Do your homework. Read up on the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. indie/self-publishing. Decide what’s best for your story and what’s best for you as the writer.
- Since I’m more familiar with indie/self-publishing, let’s say you decide to go that route. Do more Should you make your book available on all platforms or enroll it in KDP Select? What price range should you consider? How much will cover design cost, or will you design your own cover? There are a lot of different elements to consider.
- Ask questions. I would have been totally lost when I first began to prepare for publishing if I hadn’t gone out on a limb and contacted other authors to ask questions. For example, I just happened to be reading G.S. Jennsen’s first book at the time, so I emailed her to ask about her experience using CreateSpace to print paperbacks, and her feedback was incredibly helpful. Reaching out to other people in the industry can also help you establish connections, which brings me to my next point…
- Establish your platform. I know some people who are adamant about social media being a waste of time, but if you’re not on Facebook and/or Twitter regularly and interacting with readers and writers, chances are you’re going to have a hard time. Networking is SO incredibly important, especially in indie publishing. Start early; establish your presence and make connections BEFORE publishing.
- Be thorough. Not gonna lie – I got too excited and rushed Dakiti’s I hadn’t established a very thorough online presence yet, and I also found multiple typos in the published manuscript that could have been fixed if I’d taken the time to do even one more read-through. Luckily Amazon and CreateSpace make it easy to fix those sorts of things even after publication, and luckily my following was small enough that my close friends and family were the only ones who ended up with that version, but it was still annoying. Take a deep breath. Take your time. Twiddling your thumbs for two weeks before publication is better than rushing and releasing a less-than-stellar product.
- Get feedback, and listen to it. Have beta readers read your work before publishing. And if you’re not going to actually hire an editor, try to make sure at least one of these readers has some sort of editing background. I typically use 5 or 6 people (I only used 2 for Dakiti and they didn’t find the aforementioned typos either). Try to make your beta reader group fairly diverse as well; I like to use both men and women of varying ages. It’s a good way to get different points of view, and one of them might notice something the others didn’t.
- Have fun, and do your very best work. Your book is your baby – take care of it.
8. What can we look forward to next from you?
I’m currently working on the first installment in a two-part miniseries called Ziva Payvan Legacy. It takes place after Ronan, but isn’t technically a direct continuation. Both books should be fairly short (I’m shooting for under 100k) but we’ll see how that goes. I had originally planned on titling Part 1 “Embers,” but now I’m considering pushing that title to Part 2 and changing Part 1 to “Fracture.” So we would have Fracture: Ziva Payvan Legacy Part 1 and Embers: Ziva Payvan Legacy Part 2.
You can visit my site to stay up to date on this project. There’s even an excerpt from the WIP posted there, a scene that will likely be Chapter 1 if all goes according to plan.
Thanks for having me, Shari!
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Excerpt from Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1
“Lieutenant, come in. What can I do for you?” Emeri Arion rose from his desk and beckoned for Aroska to come closer. He’d been the prime director of HSP – ranking even higher than the other directors at the agency’s regional offices – since before Aroska had been employed there. He was generally well-liked and respected, despite the fact that he was rather reclusive and rarely ventured beyond the walls of his office. In spite of that, he knew all the operations agents by name and kept close tabs on all their major missions. As always, he was impeccably dressed in his HSP dress blues, and the two turquoise stripes that ran through his graying hair were combed perfectly into place.
Aroska politely declined when Emeri offered him a chair. He felt numb again, unsure how the director would respond to what he was about to say. There was a good chance he could lose his job or even be imprisoned because of what he knew, but if he chose to stay quiet, the only way to successfully avoid working with Payvan would be to resign anyway.
Might as well get on with it, he thought. He crossed his arms and took a step back from the director’s desk. “Ziva Payvan?”
A flicker of uncertainty flashed across Emeri’s teal eyes. “So you received your assignment.”
“She killed my brother.”
If Emeri was shocked, he concealed it well. He was completely silent for a long time, his mouth a straight line as he stared Aroska down. Finally, he cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his back. “Lieutenant, you know as well as I do that the identity of the Cleaner assigned to carry out a death sentence is kept confidential. What makes you so sure it was Payvan?”
Aroska sighed and, with much reluctance, explained how he had overheard the director’s conversation on the day of Soren’s murder, carefully avoiding the fact that he’d told Adin. Emeri stood with closed eyes, massaging his forehead for the duration of the story.
“Soren was innocent!” Aroska cried, recalling Adin’s warning about losing his temper. “I submitted the evidence that proved it!”
“Evidence you weren’t supposed to have,” Emeri said, voice quiet but firm. “You were benched from the investigation because of your relationship with the convict. On top of that, his grace period was up. You missed the deadline. A Cleaner could have struck at any time.”
“But HSP received my data before Soren was killed!”
“Yes we did, but—”
“So Payvan killed him even when she knew he was innocent! That shouka murdered my brother, and she tried to kill my father!”
“At ease, Tarbic,” Emeri snapped. “You don’t know as much as you think you do. She’s the best operative HSP’s got.”
Aroska began to reply but was cut off when the office door burst open. The woman from the elevator stormed into the room, face contorted with frustration similar to what Aroska himself was feeling. She bristled and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw him there, silently regarding him with those striking red eyes. Her presence made his stomach churn, but now it wasn’t out of excitement as it had first been at the elevator. Thinking back on Adin’s reaction and taking her current behaviour into consideration, he was beginning to wonder if she was…. She isn’t, is she? The office fell totally silent as the two of them held eye contact.
“I’d appreciate it if you’d knock, Lieutenant,” Emeri finally said, unimpressed.
Aroska’s heart sank. I should have known. This powerful, attractive creature who had briefly distracted him from his troubles was also the ruthless monster responsible for the death of his brother. If not for the fact that he was paralyzed by rage, he would have lunged across the room and strangled her then and there, even with Emeri watching.
Maintaining her rigid posture, Payvan slowly began to move in a wide circle around them, looking Aroska up and down as she went. She was certainly solid, with strong arms and long, powerful legs. Her jet-black hair was pulled back into a tight braid, and she bore a long scar beside her left eye that Aroska somehow hadn’t noticed earlier. She finally shifted her penetrating gaze to Emeri, who was looking rather chagrined.
“Welcome home – I trust your missions were successful,” he said, adding a sharp nod in Aroska’s direction. He knows. “I’m sure you remember Lieutenant Tarbic.”
“I do,” she replied in a gravelly alto voice that sent chills down Aroska’s spine. She turned toward him again, though she was clearly still addressing Emeri. “I must say he looked better through my rifle scope,” she said, tracing invisible crosshairs through the air with her fingers.
About EJ Fisch
I’m a huge sci fi nerd. Star Wars was my first love, and you could say it’s what got me into writing in the first place. Writing Star Wars fan fiction with friends in junior high was how I got my start, and I’ve been developing my own characters and worlds ever since. When you’re writing science fiction, the possibilities are endless. Mix that creative freedom with a good story and memorable characters and I’m SO there. I’ve always tried to follow that recipe with my own stories.