SCy-Fy: Rob, the last year has been a hectic one for you in terms of online genre activity. Take me through it.
RM: My story is probably a little different than other bloggers. My main internet stomping ground is a Facebook group I created last summer called “Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers”.
SCy-Fy: That was where you and I first made contact.
RM: That’s right. I’m a huge fan of Grimdark: authors like George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, R Scott Bakker and many others (basically dark fantasy with grey characters and a side of grit). What I found last summer was that the Grimdark community was somewhat underserviced as far as social media was concerned.
I also found that most Facebook groups with an emphasis on genre fiction suffered from the same malady. I call it “spamicitus”. Basically most groups I joined had a consistent barrage of self-promotion, with little to no actual conversation taking place about the books I liked to read and the fiction I liked to write. And to my surprise, there were no actual groups suited specifically to Grimdark. So I created the group, and I wanted the emphasis to be on actual, meaningful interaction between writers and fans of Grimdark, with a heavy limitation on spam and self-promotion.
RM: I’m happy to say that in about a year since its inception, the group has grown to over 500 members, and it’s a thriving community with a fantastic group of folks, from authors and writers to bloggers, artists, and just everyday folks who love to read Grimdark and other types of fantasy and science fiction. There’s a constant stream of conversation, discussing books and articles and blog posts, writing and craft, and we talk about things like what’s going on in the industry, self-publishing, submissions, cover design, and there’s usually a steady stream of fantastic artwork that folks find from around the web to share with others.
Really, I want the group to be a place where folks can go to have great conversation with like minds, without distraction, and hopefully come away having learned something, or having found inspiration to go and create something, anything, be it fiction, or art, or what have you.
SCy-Fy: You haven’t stopped at Facebook, though.
RM: I really wanted to get into the minds of the terrific people I’d come into contact with, and ask questions I think other fans would want to ask. So I created a companion blog, Grimdark Fiction, to be a venue for the interviews I conducted. Mind, I’ve never had any formal training in journalism, but I do have a degree in broadcasting and media, and I have a huge passion for great storytelling. On my blog I’ve hosted a string of interviews with authors and publishers, and also hosted a short fiction writing competition which was a huge success. Since creating the companion blog, I’ve seen a steady stream of traffic, and to date have over 9,000 hits from readers all over the globe.
SCy-Fy: Great! What’s next?
RM: It’s interesting, this process over the year has been very exciting, and as it continues to evolve, I’m glad to say we’ve taken the next step and started a podcast. It’s called The Grim Tidings Podcast, and I’ve decided to simply position the show as “Your podcast for all things Grimdark”. With my background in broadcasting, and with the help of my co-hosts, we were able to launch the show about a month ago, and it’s been a lot of fun.
I’m excited to be joined by author Philip Overby and blogger Ross Evans, and right now we’re working on delivering one half-hour show per week, discussing Grimdark and related media. Topics like Grimdark video games, including Witcher 3 and Bloodborne; we’ve talked about the Hugo awards controversy, books we recommend, the David Gemmell awards, A Game of Thrones, amongst others. We also have a few guests lined up to join us on the show, authors and writers and others in the genre fiction community. It really feels like the podcast has been the culmination of the group and the blog, and I’m excited for what the future holds.
SCy-Fy: Based on your experience over the past year, what advice would you give?
RM: First, make sure your online presence is more than just you being a blogger and always talking blog. Blog, blog, blog! Social media is a place to be social (I know, shocker), and if you’re only “talking shop”, then people get turned off. Be a real person, interact, support, engage, joke, converse, be social, and be genuine.
Second, it takes work to get traffic to your blog. Find places where you can share your posts with people who are interested in the subject matter. The old line goes, “if you build it, they will come”. Sorry, just because you started a blog doesn’t mean people will show up for the party. Get hip to using things like Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook, and other platforms to engage your Readers.
SCy-Fy: Which of those have you found most useful?
RM: Reddit. Reddit. Reddit. Did I mention Reddit?
SCy-Fy: What has been your most popular post so far?
RM: The most successful blog post I’ve had to date was for the Grimdark short fiction writing contest I held last summer. It was a pretty simple and straightforward contest: write some short fiction based on a cool piece of fantasy artwork, and submit your work. Thanks to the great folks over at Ragnarok Publications, the winners would receive an eBook of their choice. So it took very little expense or promotion to get started, and I was amazed at the response. I received a lot of traffic and submissions, and I even had a couple pro authors submit some short fiction as well.
It was quite the undertaking to go through all the entries, but I compiled a cool little PDF of all the top entries and made it available for free for folks who wanted to read some badass short fiction. I am very much looking forward to hosting another Grimdark writing contest soon, and the wheels are in motion to get another one started this summer.
SCy-Fy: Where to next for your favourite sub-genre?
RM: Being a fan of Grimdark authors and a writer myself, I’m always looking for the next step in the evolution of the genre. I think a few authors people should keep an eye on would be Luke Scull, Peter Newman, and Kameron Hurley. These authors are doing some amazing things in their fiction. Someone who isn’t Grimdark but more mainstream fantasy is author Ken Liu, who is doing some very exciting things with his storytelling as well.
SCy-Fy: Which books are you most looking forward to?
RM: Of course, I’m looking forward to The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin, even more so now that the television show has seemed to go off the rails a bit. I think it mainly has to do with the fact that GRRM is a master story teller, and the showrunners are not, and it’s starting to show. I’m also looking forward to the Red Sister Trilogy forthcoming from Mark Lawrence; it’ll be great to be introduced to a new story world and a female protagonist.
SCy-Fy: Anything else to add?
RM: Life is short. Love people. Give more than you take. Read good books.
SCy-Fy: Thank you, Rob.