This year, I’m doing a new series: Fantasy Focus. Each month will have a week-long focus on a different fantasy subgenre- fantasy is as varied as its creators’ imaginations! If you’ve missed them, there have been fantasy focuses on comedic fantasy, grimdark and romantic fantasy. This month’s focus is on high and epic fantasy, the subgenre that comes to most people’s minds immediately upon hearing the word “fantasy”.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to be able to chat with A.C. Cobble, author of several books including The King’s Ranger series.
Thank you for being willing to talk about high fantasy and epic fantasy with me!
Will you introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is AC Cobble. I’m a full-time fantasy writer living in the Houston, TX area with my wife, three boys, and two dogs. I enjoy eating and drinking, gardening, traveling, more traveling, and of course writing books!
Can you talk a little bit about your work?
Yes, I’ve completed three series called Benjamin Ashwood, the Cartographer, and The King’s Ranger. There’s a fourth coming soon, and I’ll share more about that at the end! The Cartographer is pretty dark and sexy, while Benjamin Ashwood and King’s Ranger are fun adventure tales. Think small parties going on epic journeys and facing impossible odds. They’re a good match for fans of Raymond E Feist or Michael J Sullivan.
What are some obstacles to writing high fantasy?
We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and sometimes it’s difficult to do so in high fantasy while also delivering a new and exciting story. Said differently, high fantasy readers have firm expectations, so how do you deliver on those in a surprising way?
What are some successes?
For me personally, I really enjoy taking the ideas I grew up reading about, and spinning them in a more modern and interesting (to me) way. My books don’t feature a Chosen One, for example, because in my experience no one is the secret daughter of the king, or a grandson of the most powerful wizard, or whatever. Heroes aren’t made that way, but there are heroes! A lot of my work toys with the ideas of what real life good and bad guys might look like in a fantasy setting.
Can you explain what high fantasy is?
<coughs uncomfortably> Maybe? I’m not one for hard definitions on subgenres, and I think there is plenty of overlap in the fantasy ones, to the point no one really knows for sure, which makes the categorization pointless if we can’t all agree on it! But to me, the most important elements of high fantasy are a fictional world and a lot of magic. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is the archetypal high fantasy. Most of the books I’d categorize as “what I grew up reading” or “classic fantasy” are high fantasy.
I’ve heard the terms “epic fantasy” and “high fantasy” used interchangeably. Do you see them as two separate subgenres?
I use high and epic fantasy interchangeably as well, and books are frequently both, but I think there are some different implications to the terms. And it’s worth noting that in some areas important to authors and readers, like Amazon categories or bookstore shelves, you only get one choice. Amazon doesn’t list high fantasy, for example, so if I’m talking to an Amazon shopper, I say epic even if it’s not necessarily an epic tale.
If so, how is epic fantasy different from high fantasy?
Epic fantasy usually is high fantasy, but it involves large consequences. World-shaking events, the end of times, or just everyone dying in some terrific bloodbath. And because the stakes are big, the books are normally big, and come in long series. Said differently, you can write a book and call it high fantasy, but when you add eight more to the series, it’s epic fantasy.
What drew you to writing high fantasy?
It’s what I read the most of growing up, so it was a natural fit when I began writing. I’ve stayed in the genre because it lends itself well to a deeper exploration of themes. Literary snobs might be clutching their pearls right now, but in high fantasy, you craft the world, and you can set the stage however you like. We can look at real, important issues, while still having a bit of fun with it.
The King’s Ranger looks at family and was heavily inspired by my own experiences as a father. Benjamin Ashwood examines what it takes for an individual to rise up and battle against an entrenched system. The Cartographer is about someone of privilege turning their back on that luxury, fighting for what is right, and the sacrifice that entails.
I know most people don’t read my books for the themes. They want the swordfights, and fireballs, and dragons, and I’m Ok with that, but it’s important for me as an author to craft a deeper layer. High fantasy is a blank canvas which allows me to do that however I want.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Okay, I’ll give you a little more. I start out with an outline that looks like a list of the chapters with one to three high level bullet points. X Character goes to Y Location and fights Z bad guy. I generally stay true to that structure, but all of the details in between are pantsed.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I think Josiah Bancroft has the most interesting prose of working authors. China Mieville has the biggest imagination of anyone I’ve read. P Djeli Clark, ML Wang and Fonda Lee are on my most watched list because I think they’ll take fantasy in exciting new directions. Will Wight is busy opening doors people didn’t know were there and has amassed a seriously rabid fan base in the process. Alec Hutson, Phil Tucker, and TL Greylock are writing books similar to what I want to write. Michael J Sullivan’s books are ones I love to kick back and relax with. Robert Jordan is probably my biggest influence. And I could go on for several more pages…
What/who inspired you to start writing high fantasy?
True story, several years back I was reading a book that was so horrible I thought I could do better. I can’t remember the author or the book (which is probably for the best), but I honestly thought if they could do it, I could do it too. I’d always been into D&D, Magic the Gathering, etc, and I loved imaging stories, but I’d never really told any of them.
So I sat down and got to work. I spent about three years on that first book, and no one but my wife knew I was writing it. Hit publish, then when it was live, announced I was a writer. Still not sure if I managed to surpass that forgotten author, but it changed my life giving it a try!
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time was my single greatest (positive) influence, but the political climate in the US at the time informed the conflict in my new world, and my travels gave it shape. That’s still what drives me; blending real world inspiration into a fantastic story.
Do you have anything on the horizon that you would like to share?
I’ve started work on a new project called Conspiracy: Wahrheit Book 1. I’ve finished the first draft already, and truly, I think it’s my best work yet. There’s a Kickstarter for it which ends April 22nd, but the project is already fully-funded and we’ll be able to offer some of the rewards until close to the retail release in August. These will be big books with interior illustrations by Felix Ortiz, available in ebook to read on any device, signed paperbacks & hardbacks, and audiobooks narrated by Travis Baldree at half the cost of retail! I tried to balance each offering so it’s better for both me and the reader to get the book via Kickstarter rather than the retailers—but for those who want it the old fashioned way, it’ll be available that way too!
The Wahrheit series is similar in tone to my Benjamin Ashwood or King’s Ranger books, but BIGGER. Think multiple points of view, big battles, coming of age, spies, assassins, more in dept research, ancient mysteries, world-spanning conflict, and in a first for me, dragons! I’ve got artwork and several sample chapters up on the Kickstarter, so if it sounds interesting at all, go check it out!
About the author:
AC Cobble is the author of The King’s Ranger, Benjamin Ashwood, Cartographer, and upcoming Wahrheit series.
Wahrheit is a giant, sprawling epic fantasy. It features political intrigue, spies, assassins, world-spanning conflicts, huge battles, intricate characters, and dragons! It’s for fans of Benjamin Ashwood and the King’s Ranger, but MORE.
The King’s Ranger is a clean, action-packed adventure. Rew, the titular ranger, wants only to manage the wilderness he is responsible for, but the arrival of three youths in his jail cell force him to embark on an epic journey. To protect the youths, he’s forced to confront a darkness in his past and join a swirling conflict that will envelope the entire kingdom.
Benjamin Ashwood is AC’s take on the classic farm boy with a sword fantasy story. It starts much like they all do, but in Ben’s world like the real world, heroes are made not born, and the good guys don’t always win. Try it today and find out why this series has sold hundreds of thousands of copies!
The Cartographer is a little sexier and a little darker, but has the same sense of fun and adventure as Benjamin Ashwood. Think world spanning travel and exploration, occult rituals, dark seductresses, bodies dropping like flies, and bar fights. Fans of Rhys will love Oliver and Sam. Join the adventure today!
AC Cobble’s books have been published in English, German, and Polish. For series artwork, maps, the newsletter signup, the blog, and more, head over to: https://accobble.com/.