Some Thoughts with ... N.J. Alexander

17 Apr 2024

The Author/s

N.J. Alexander

N.J. Alexander

N.J. Alexander is a writer with a business degree. When not writing, he enjoys reading, playing video games, recording podcasts, watching sports, and adventuring for new food. He's from Massachusetts, USA. Fogbound is his debut novel.

The Interview

1.- Could you introduce yourself to Jamreads’ readers?
It would be my pleasure! I’m N.J. Alexander (or Nick if you prefer), and from Massachusetts. During the day, I work a normal 8-5 job, but at night I’m a fantasy author. Think of a not-as-cool version of Batman.
I’m still not quite used to referring to myself as a pen name, but know that my real name is very large and very Greek.

2.- How did you start writing?
I stayed with my grandparents frequently as a kid, and when my parents came to pick me up, I always had a new short story for them to read. Unfortunately, this was before I could use a computer, so they had to deal with my horrendous handwriting. I still remember a story I wrote about a game show that I may revisit at some point. 9-year-old Nick pulled a pretty good twist at the end of that one!
At age 10 or 11 I hand-wrote a (sort-of) novel. It was very Lord of The Rings-esque, with a sprawling adventure and a huge cast of characters. Kids in my classes would draw monsters for the characters to fight.
The larger plot escapes me, but I do remember a wizard named Gilbert and something about the main antagonist being a phantom vacuum cleaner. It was definitely weird, but maybe I’ll see if I can dig up that old draft for a laugh.

3.- What made you choose self-publishing for Fogbound?
 (Un)fortunately for me, I didn’t have much of a choice! Fogbound is technically a rewrite of a book I definitely should not have published in 2011 when I was 19, but I sadly got roped into a vanity press where I published two more books on top of the original Fogbound. In 2020 I decided to rip everything down from Amazon and cancel my contract with the vanity press, and rewrote everything.
So, Fogbound went from a 78k word pile of junk into a 115k pile of words I’m actually proud of.
I thought about querying agents, but one question on submission forms always tripped me up: “Was this book previously self-published?”
Technically yes, but also technically no, since it is so different from that last version. A strange grey area. I decided to play it safe and go self-publishing, though I could have taken a small or indie press route instead. Timing also played a role – I want to get this series out in the world and then move on to other projects, some of which I may turn to the traditional methods. 
I’m very open about this experience, so anyone doing this, feel free to ask me about it!

 4.- What inspired you to write Fogbound? How did the idea evolve from its inception to the version published?
The story of Zercien Volnaire, the main character of Fogbound, changed because of a Facebook post. As I skimmed over above, I considered querying my re-written version of Fogbound, and posted a query letter to the Sub It Club Facebook group, a group where writers seeking an agent can give/request advice for their queries and other submission materials. I posted a draft of my query letter, and one comment stood out to me. I am paraphrasing, but it basically was:
 “Your writing is beautiful. But your main character strikes me a leaf in the wind. He goes where fate brings him, with no motivations of his own.”
And just from reading my query and nothing else, this poster was spot on. The missing ingredient was motivation. Why is Zercien going on this mission? Why does he care? “If he doesn’t go, he’ll die!” doesn’t really count. There’s no personality, no growth. It’s an obligation.
From there, the possession story took shape, and I can’t imagine Fogbound without it.
For everything else, I love the “group of people must come together and save the day” epic quest kind of book. The classic epic fantasy experience. It’s my jam. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are cliché answers, but it’s true that they inspired me so much.
I hinted at it above, but the biggest difference is modern Fogbound is actually good! That first draft was wildly different, and also wildly terrible. It had the info-dump prologue, a head-hopping omniscient narrator, way too many perspective switches – it was a mess. Out of the 78k words, I saved maybe 30k and rewrote the rest, adding even more to write it back up to 115k.

5.- Weapons seem a fascinating part of the world. Could you develop a bit more of the idea?
Aragorn has Andúril. Jon Snow has Longclaw. Cloud has the Buster Sword and Ike has Ragnell. Legendary weapons, passed down through generations or specially forged to a specific purpose, are some of my favorite aspects in all of fantasy. Weapons add to the lore of the world, but also the characters who wield them. Is it by blood, or by circumstance?
Oniro, the world in Fogbound, is no different, and is home to a host of special weapons, like the dragon-sword Kyrios, the rune-engraved bow Imperator, and even the bloodied golden lance wielded by the nameless wanderer.
In Fogbound, the legendary weapons protected the heroes of old from magic, and are heralded as the arms that saved the world. Artist renditions of some of these weapons form the kingdom crests found within the world, though others are more dubious is intention. But now the weapons and heroes are gone, buried beneath the soil or lost to time. Perhaps the resurfacing of some of them will change the path Fogbound’s new heroes follow.

6.- Which character would you say you have a soft spot for? Why?
Fynnian Lovell. Here’s your lovable upstart character. A sweet and sometimes magical boy, he tries his best, but he’s just not very strong. Picture your everyday average guy having to travel with a group of those much stronger than him.
Though he’s attracted the attention of a fearsome swordsman who, for some reason, takes him under his wing as an apprentice.
I definitely baby him. He’s also an important “lore” character, where you’ll learn much about the histories of Oniro and his lineage through his story. But at the end of the day, I love the absolutely useless character trying his best to be strong for everyone.
Also, just because I have a soft spot for him doesn’t mean I’m not going to traumatize the hell out of him. 😊

7.- From all the self-publishing process, could you tell us which phases did you find more challenging and why?
Cover art. I just don’t know what I want. I am fortunate to have found wonderful artists, but whenever I’m asked “so, what are you looking for?” I just stare blankly. I know absolutely nothing about art, covers, or what makes a good one.

8.- What does N.J. Alexander like to do in his free time?
Aside from reading and writing, I love video games and food. You can very often find me and my fiancée trying out a new restaurant or some new cuisine.
I am part of an incredible video game podcast called Goddamn Gamecube, that’s drawing huge reach, impressions, and downloads every month!

9.- What can we expect from N.J. Alexander in the future?
Sequels on sequels! The Echoes of Oniro series (of which Fogbound is book one) will have four books. You can expect book two in late 2024/early 2025. I’m also working on a sort of secret project, where I’m writing something incredibly weird. I’m undecided if I’ll act on that project before finishing Echoes of Oniro, but you never know!

In case you are interested, you can order Fogbound from this link.

Fogbound (Echoes of Oniro #1), by N.J. Alexander