If you’ve been around my blog or my social media for long, you know that I am a huge fan of a group of authors known as the Phoenix Fiction Writers. They’re a collection of indie speculative fiction authors, first started by E.B. Dawson, who help to support each other’s work throughout the writing process and beyond. They’re an absolutely amazing group of people, and I’m super privileged to have had the opportunity to interact with several of them personally, to varying degrees. I highly encourage you to check out both the PFW website and each of their individual websites and their books.
Anyway, PFW’s third anniversary is coming up on the 20th, and I figured an interview would be a great way to help introduce them to those of you who are unfamiliar, or just deepen your appreciation for them (and maybe encourage you to buy their books ;) ) if you’ve heard of them before. I wasn’t able to get answers from quite everybody, unfortunately, but I did get to hear from E.B. (Beth) Dawson, J.E. (Jill) Purrazzi, Kyle Robert Shultz, Hannah Heath, Beth(any) Wangler, and Nate Philbrick. So, without further ado, the interview!
What sparked the idea for the Phoenix Fiction Writers (no pun intended)?
BETH: I was in my first year as an indie author and already realizing the importance of networking when I read an article about a marketing collective of female authors who came together to pool their audiences. It made so much sense to me. But it took six months for me to go from a place of “I would love to be a part of something like that someday” to “I’m going to make this happen myself.”
But even after reading about the idea, I don’t think I would have ever moved forward if it weren’t for the amazing authors themselves. I respect and admire the authors I work with so much. I wanted them to be part of my team, and frankly, I wanted to get them on my team before they committed to anyone else’s team. ;)
That’s awesome! You’ve definitely managed to snatch up a great team. ^-^ How was the phoenix chosen as the PFW namesake and mascot?
BETH: When brainstorming a name for this collective, the options were surprisingly limited. I only had two options I really liked. One was a genre neutral name, which honestly would never have worked. The other was the Phoenix Fiction Writers. I figured a mythical creature would represent the speculative fiction genre well and spark people’s imagination. Plus it’s fun. But most importantly, I have always loved the symbolism of redemption and rebirth behind the phoenix mythos. I believe stories can be transformative.
Absolutely. Stories have such amazing power. What sorts of things does the collective collaborate on?
BETH: Every year we put out an anthology of short stories. Several of us are currently collaborating on a novel and we hope to have more projects like that in the future. But we often give input on each other’s projects including covers, blurbs, manuscripts, and almost anything else you could imagine.
Having a dedicated group of authors as a support system and built-in critique partners sounds amazing. And the PFW anthology is something I look forward to every year! Do any of you have a favorite PFW anthology?
KYLE: Probably Antiheroes, though Of Myth and Monster is a very close second.
JILL: My story in Of Myth and Monster is my personal favorite, but Strange Waters is probably my favorite to date.
BETHANY: I love each one more than the last. At the moment, that means Of Myth and Monster is my favorite.
HANNAH: That’s so hard to answer because they each hold a special place in my heart. However, I love any and all water-based stories so I’ll have to go with Strange Waters.
BETH DAWSON: Strange Waters is my favorite so far, but I have to say…without giving anything away, our 2021 anthology is shaping up to be my favorite.
Of Myth and Monster is my personal favorite (psst, readers, go check it out ;D), but now you have me even more excited for next year’s anthology!
How has being part of PFW strengthened your individual writing processes?
JILL: Writing sprints with fellow PFW authors have kept me writing when I probably would have hit a slump well before now and not recovered. And the tips and tricks, conversations about writing and marketing, and help with critiques and editing have been a life saver.
BETH DAWSON: Every single author is different and getting a front row seat to their creative processes, struggles, and victories has been a game changer. I have learned to take bold risks and to have grace on myself when things aren’t adding up. I have learned more discipline. I have been inspired beyond what I thought I was capable of.
KYLE: The support and encouragement of friends definitely helps my productivity.
HANNAH: Being able to bounce ideas around with fellow PFW authors has been incredibly helpful. I always learn some new way to improve my process. The writing sprints are also great! In the past I’ve found sprints stressful, but doing them with PFW authors is both helpful and fun.
NATE: Being challenged to be more concise with my style! Anthologies in particular have forced me to cut words mercilessly…and it’s opened my eyes to just how wordy I can be when left unattended.
BETHANY: Writing sprints help me find more motivation in the evenings than I otherwise would have. And I have learned so much about marketing and writing craft from these other authors. For instance, I have a much higher appreciation for and understanding of story structure thanks to Jill.
What is your favorite thing about being part of PFW?
NATE: Knowing that I have a locked-and-loaded support system that I can fall back on, both for issues related to writing and other things as well. People I admire as creative professionals and respect as individuals.
KYLE: The unique, hilarious, some-might-say-slightly-insane-but-who-cares-what-they-think dynamic we have is definitely my favorite part.
BETHANY: The people. I love each of these authors dearly. They’ve become friends as well as colleagues, and I can rely on them for laughter just as much as for advice. The community helps me persevere when I am full of doubts or feel like giving up.
JILL: The community is incredible. We support each other with prayers, calls, advice, and more. With PFW I never fail to be reminded that writing and publishing is a world-altering calling.
BETH DAWSON: The group dynamic. Sometimes I joke that I founded PFW for my own entertainment. But if I have to give a more serious answer, my favorite part is getting to brag about our authors’ amazing work. Or just getting to have my work next to theirs on our website, and in our anthologies. Honestly, there are so many things.
Even from the outside, I can see how great a community y’all must have… and I love when those unique and hilarious dynamics come to the surface. XD
What does your PFW role entail, and what is your favorite responsibility within that role?
KYLE: I help people sell things more cleverly and smack them upside the head when they don’t listen to me. Upside-head-smacking is my favorite, obviously.
HANNAH: As the multimedia manager, I organize, schedule, and host our podcasts, as well as the majority of our livestreams. My favorite part is hosting, because it’s a fun way to hang out with PFW members and other creatives while learning all sorts of new information from them. It’s a cool experience.
JILL: I am the “handy-man” of PFW. One of my favorite roles is interacting with other indie authors and keeping an eye out for potential new additions. I also love being able to offer some support to our fearless leader when she shoulders so much. Even if it’s something as little as making a graphic or answering an email.
BETHANY: I’m the Art Director, which means managing adding new merch, working with Grace Crandall and Nate Philbrick to create more PFW art, and creating the visual content for our Instagram. My favorite aspect is making new PFW art, because I get to nerd out about my friends’ stories and be artsy at the same time.
How are new authors assimilated into the collective?
BETH: We are not currently looking to expand right now. But in the past we have kept our eyes open for authors who share our values and writing philosophy, are business and career minded, write a brand of fiction that would expand our audience or fill a gap, and who have skills that would benefit our collective. We get to know them, read their work, and then decide as a group whether or not to reach out to them.
How do you hope to see PFW grow and evolve over the next year and beyond?
BETH: One of our priorities is longevity and sustainability. In a community of entrepreneurs it’s relatively easy to launch something new but much harder to keep it going long term. The fact that this is our third anniversary is a huge deal for us. Just keeping operating month after month is something I never want to take for granted.
That being said, we do have many, many dreams and goals! Most of them I will not voice here. But a couple of things we are looking at for the next few years are direct sales from our website, a traveling bookstore for festivals and comic cons, and more collaborative content like cowritten novels or multiple authors working within one expanded universe.
But one of our simplest goals is to expand our audience every year.
All of that sounds amazing! A traveling bookstore sounds like so much fun. I wish y’all the absolute best with your future endeavors! ^-^
If you’re interested in checking out the entire PFW catalogue, go check out their site. If you need any last-minute Christmas gifts for book-lovers, consider their work. ;) I’ve also reviewed a good number of their books, so if you’re interested in hearing what I’ve thought of some of their books you can check out the list in my previous PFW anniversary post.
Aaaand, if you’re interested in checking out their books for slightly less investment, they’re running an anniversary sale from the 26th to the 28th! This will not only include sale prices on books, but also on merch, so definitely keep an eye out for that. I’ll be posting more details that weekend and encouraging y’all again to give it a look. It’s going to be an awesome sale. :)