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João F. Silva Interview

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

When and how did you start writing?

I’ve always written bits and pieces growing up. I used to write very introspective and stream of consciousness pieces for myself when I was in college. In 2015, I attended a short course on fiction writing, which gave me some much-needed tools to attempt writing a contemporary thriller, but due to massive life changes, I never really had the stability in my life to dedicate myself to writing. So, it wasn’t until 2018 that I first tried to give writing a serious try at writing—in English this time, since Portuguese is my native language. The first few attempts at writing a novel in English were a complete disaster, but I didn’t give up and in 2020 I started writing what is now my debut novel.

Tell me about your books

So far, the only book I have published is Seeds of War. It’s a gritty epic fantasy story for adults and the start of a new series called The Smokesmiths. I think it’s a perfect book for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Mike Shackle, Peter McLean and Ed McDonald. It’s a multi-POV story, with alien creatures, smoke-based magic, politics, found-family and flawed characters doing what they can to survive in a harsh world.

What inspired you to write this book and the others that follow?

The original inspiration was my exhaustion of chosen-one and farmboy-to-hero tropes in fantasy books. It seems at the time that every book I picked up had those tropes and while I liked the familiarity, I was… tired of them. So, I decided to write a book with no heroes, just flawed characters who sometimes make very questionable decisions. And instead of a farm boy teenager protagonist, I wanted to split the attention between three main characters: a middle-aged single mother, an elderly man and a chronically-ill younger man. I also drew a bit from my own experience as an immigrant and all the three characters are sort of rootless people, who are struggling in different ways with the concept of ‘home’, although that isn’t super noticeable in the book because I didn’t want the themes to overshadow the story.

Have you planned your series out or are taking it one book at a time?

I have at least three books and one prequel novella planned in this series, but it’s highly possible that I will end up writing more books than that in the series.

What writing advice have you been given that really helped you?

Very early on, before I discovered outlines, I used to try to ‘pantse’ a story with no aim and seeing where it went. But I never ended up finishing them. Then I took a short course where the instructor helped us structure the ideas into something into the shape of an outline, and it immediately clicked for me. It was exactly what I needed. I don’t think I’d be able to finish novels if it hadn’t been for that.

What’s the best thing someone has said about your writing?

I think my favourite comment was from a reviewer who finished Seeds of War and said it was the ‘perfect summer fantasy read’. It will be hard to beat how awesome that comment was!

Has a book really touched you? Made you rethink your views on life? If so, what was it?

Yes. Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell. It’s a gritty and brutal epic fantasy book with three main POV’s, much like Seeds of War. The depth of the emotions of the characters, the hardships they go through and the way they overcome their challenges was just so well done I couldn’t read anything after that for like almost a month. People say the book is brutal and too dark, but I think by seeing how deep the characters dug and how they persevered in such a brutal world when most people would call it quits is… empowering. It gave me hope: if the characters can survive and make it despite absolutely insane ordeals, then I, too, can overcome whatever is in front of me.

What advice would you give other writers?

Always hone your craft, and find your niche, your community. The community can help you in more ways than you can imagine, but you must find it first and cultivate relationships with people. And don’t listen to the opinions of those whose opinion shouldn’t matter to you. This applies when finding beta readers and critique partners: if they don’t read or write in your subgenre, then their opinion is worth much less than that of those who do. So, find them, find your people!

What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

The pipe dream is to be a full-time author and have my current income be replaced exclusively by income from writing. That would mean many people have liked my books enough to support me.

What are your current projects? What should we be looking out for?

I’m currently working on a prequel novella for The Smokesmiths, which I’m hoping will be out by the end of the summer or early autumn. It will be free to whoever subscribes to my mailing list. I’ll also be working on Book Two in the series, which hopefully will be out by the start of next year.


João F. Silva was born in a small town in Portugal but now lives in London, with his three feline co-workers/bosses. He writes Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror and has been on the jury for the 2020 and 2022 editions of the Best Newcomer Award at the British Fantasy Awards. His short fiction was published in Grimdark Magazine and Haven Speculative. His novel Seeds of War is the first instalment in the upcoming Smokesmiths series.


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