It wasn’t always a dream for Filipino-Malaysian author, Nazri Noor, to publish a novel. In fact, he finished college with a minor in advertising and had only worked in lifestyle journalism and public relations prior to self-publishing the Darkling Mage series. “I thought that I would end up working in lifestyle forever, maybe become an editor,” he says. “The whole fiction thing kind of snuck up on me, but I’m glad it did. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else these days.”
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While he never really thought of pursuing a career in fiction, Noor’s life has always revolved around writing. “My parents encouraged the habit by constantly keeping me fed on Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton books, and later, a ton of fantasy books. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and also worked for an organizational magazine in college. I remember having a crying breakdown shortly after graduating because I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I wish I could go back and slap some sense into my younger self. It was writing, stupid. It was always writing.”
True enough, Noor ended up going back to his roots—his love for fantasy books at an early age would later serve an even bigger purpose. After stumbling upon a feature on Amanda Hocking’s success story as an independent publisher, Noor decided to pursue a full-time career as one himself. “Someone had proven incontrovertibly that independent publishing was a feasible, realistic way of making a living. That article encouraged me to research the industry inside and out. I was fascinated by the business then, and its fluid nature keeps me obsessed with it to this day,” he says, describing the exact moment he made the choice that would land himself on Amazon’s Best Seller list.
Today, Noor has published six out of the nine-part series of the Darkling Mage. Although his books deal mainly with supernatural themes, they are still heavily influenced by his heritage. “Family is such an important pillar in both Filipino and Malaysian culture, and a lot of the themes in the books revolve around that. So many of the characters are motivated by love for their families. At times, in the case of villains, that love can be misguided, toxic, even destructive, as it can be in real life,” he shares.
Noor refers to his newfound success as “deeply satisfying, and vindicating.” He adds, “When I first started publicly talking about pursuing indie publishing full time, I remember people’s eyes glazing over. You could see on their faces how convinced they were that I was talking out of my rear end, that it was just a pipe dream. I’m a petty creature. It’s too much work to go back to rub that in everyone’s faces individually, but I’m glad that all the recent media coverage has done the job for me.”
But that isn’t the only thing that makes all the hard work worth it for Noor. “It’s the knowledge that I can spin a story that’s at least believable enough to take a reader away from their problems for a few precious hours,” he shares. “I regularly receive messages from readers, but one stuck with me. She said that my writing had helped her cope with the stress of dealing with her husband’s cancer diagnosis. I teared up when I got that email. I’m not writing deep, artistic literature here, I’m only out to provide some entertainment. If I can give someone a little vacation from their woes, no matter how brief, then I’ve done my job.”
How do you find the balance between coming up with original content and providing what your readers want?
Interestingly, I don’t feel like I’ve had to work very hard to bridge that gap. It helps that I’m in close, constant contact with the most vocal of my readers. We have a private Facebook group where we talk about the series, recommend books by other authors, or just post memes to laugh about. And even though it hurts, I do sometimes wade into the boiling lava pit of my reviews on Amazon, to see what people like and what they very, very violently hate.
I pick up hints from everyone about which aspects of the books they’ve enjoyed, and in most cases, those actually mesh wonderfully with what I had planned for the stories, anyway. We all seem to operate on a similar wavelength. In some ways, I feel like I’ve found my tribe with them. I don’t know how we all found each other, but I couldn’t be happier.
Are your characters based off people you know in real life or do they all just come from your imagination?
I’d say that the overwhelming majority of my characters are imagined. I do incorporate bizarre or humorous experiences and encounters I’ve had in real life, but for the most part, the people in my books are just my imaginary friends.
Congratulations on the release of your sixth installment. What can readers look forward to from the next three books?
There’s a story arc for every set of three books in the series, and I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the last three will focus on the apocalypse. I think everyone knew this was coming, and perhaps it’s stereotypical to say that an ancient evil will be awakened, but… an ancient evil will be awakened, and the challenge for this arc is to stop the universe itself from ending. I’m pretty sure people are going to die. We’ll see.
What’s the next step for you? Any plans of dabbling into other genres?
I’ve got one or two secret projects up my sleeve for the year. One is not so secret, and that’s the new series that I’m planning to drop before December ends. The other is a collaboration with a few other authors I admire, and I’m really excited for both. I’m planning to stick to urban fantasy for the foreseeable future. It’s my first love, after all.
For more information, visit NazriNoor.com.