Ethan Fox - mystery extraordinaire!

Firstly, thanks for doing an interview! Tell us a little about yourself and your book, The Scissors and the Sword.

The Scissors and the Sword arose from my own experiences living in both Japan and the UK - both island nations, with proud histories, superstitions and quirks. I've always felt that the two nations have much more in common than most people realise.

The story is an urban fantasy. The main character, a scene-of-crime officer, investigates a murder that provides her an "in" to a world of the supernatural that she would never have previously believed existed. I don't want to say too much more for fear of spoiling the plot, but I hope people will enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Your bio states that you're into anime and gaming. What makes your favorite anime series so good? Do any of those elements find their way into your writing?

The book draws on a series I've always loved, Rurouni KenshinKenshin isn't particularly supernatural, but it has a main character who lives almost to spite the expectations placed upon him (he's an assassin who now refuses to kill people).

In many stories, samurai characters follow a stereotype. They are honorable, strong and fearless. This often extends to how foreigners perceive the Japanese people in real life (stoic, unfeeling, driven by loyalty and familial honor) - naturally this is an outdated stereotype. Beneath that exterior, they're a people who are as kind, emotional and passionate as anyone else.

I wanted a samurai character who was impetuous, and driven by his feelings - and this would not be his "downfall". Instead, it's part of who he is. It's part of what makes him strong.

Do you play any games with a dark atmosphere of mystery similar to your book?

Strangely enough, for a novelist, I'm a peculiar sort of gamer. I prefer games with an arcadey feel, with short play-durations. I'm a big fan of fighting games, for instance, or Nintendo's recent Splatoon for WiiU.

I occasionally get into an RPG, or the latest Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but I always come back to bright, colourful experiences with fast gameplay.

There can be huge disconnects between writing a mystery movie script and writing a mystery book. How do you capture suspense without the aid of background music, lighting, and other theatrical elements?

I'm a big believer in the scene>sequel approach for novel writing; namely that you divide all of your plot threads into scenes that represent either an action or reaction.

Action scenes tend to involve a very pro-active movement on parts of the characters, and usually end with a discovery or a disaster.

Reaction scenes tend to involve the characters reflecting on a prior experience, and using their new knowledge to form a decision.

When you have three plot threads, you can quite easily go "Action A > Reaction B > Action C > Reaction A > Action B" etc., jostling back and forth. This means the reader is always waiting to hear the result of another thread.

This is only a small part of the picture, but I think it's a good example.

What do you have planned next in terms of writing? Any sequel?

The Scissors and the Sword is intended to be part of a series. I intend to write & publish book 2 before the end of 2016, and make a start on book 3.

Which famous writer, if any, compares best to your writing style? Is there any particular style of voice you try to showcase?

Readers have, in the past, compared my work to Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher. That being said, I don't think this is necessarily about my writing style or "voice", but rather because they are giants in the Urban Fantasy field.

One reader compared my work to Rumiko Takahashi, particularly Inuyasha, which was interesting to hear.

I don't consciously try to emulate any particular author, though naturally, like all writers, I'm a product of what I personally have read.

As a self-published author, is there anything you would do differently if you could? What is the best advice you could give to an aspiring author?

The best advice I could give is to make mistakes - at least, don't be hesitant. Writing and publishing are both complex and you're going to make many mis-steps on the way. It's difficult, but you need to strive through those or you're never going to get anywhere. I spent several years worrying about this, when really I should've got started in 2011.

Lastly, where can we find your work? 

My work can be found in many places:

Details about The Scissors and the Sword:



Tumblr and blog:

Mailing List:


The last 3 books I've tried to read have had some serious issues...

I understand that many self published authors have little to no budget for editing and proofing. Many people try to edit their own manuscripts. As you can imagine, editing your own work isn't a great practice. How do you know if you wrote some absolute shit? How can you be sure that you catch every typo and grammatical mistake? I am by no means a flawless editor or writer, but some of these will make you shake your head.

Here are a few examples of things I've read in the past few days. Some of these sentences are worse than others, but all of them should have been flagged by an editor. 

Sentence 1: "Dirt coated the skirts, revealing the age and abuse that this building had survived through."

Where do I begin? Firstly, survived is redundant with through. You could simply chop the last word off and be ok as far as that error is concerned. The second issue with the sentence is one I find in a ton of self published works. The word "this" should be saved for textbooks. It hijacks the reader's attention away from the vivid imagery and reminds them that they are reading a book. I'll probably rant more on that later.

Sentence 2: "He wanted to dip down below and meet this man, ask him several questions."

Not surprisingly, sentence 2 comes from the same book as sentence 1, only a paragraph later. When I was reading, I resolved to keep going after the first glaring sentence, but gave up after the second. Again, "this" could easily be changed to "the" and some sort of connector needs to replace that comma. Perhaps, "He wanted to dive down and meet the man. Maybe he could ask him a few questions."

Sentence 3: "She decided to definitely not mention [character], because any mentions of her always upset [character], and [character] was still considering what to think about what [character] had said."

I took out the character names to somewhat hide the book. A few good rules to follow are such: if a sentences takes longer than 1 breath to read aloud, cut it down. Also, don't repeat large words within the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. Those rules aside, a few other things bother me about this line. Considering what to think about -- so... she is contemplating HOW to contemplate something else? What?

Sentence 4: "As a child, [character] was told about the Bogeyman. It's a fictional monster or entity that laid under the bed. An imaginary creature used by parents to frighten children - to teach them not to suck their thumbs, and generally to deviate from bad behavior."

First of all, you don't need to explain urban legends. You especially don't need to explain the Bogeyman. Saying "monster or entity" is useless. If you really want to make the point that the Bogeyman might not be a *monster*, just say that. Otherwise, you are wasting words. The second half of the section has a redundancy issue as well. Deviating from bad behavior includes thumb sucking. Plus, as mentioned before, you don't need to explain the origins of urban legends! Also, saying that the Boogeyman lays under the bed isn't nearly vivid enough. Unless this is children's horror, that monster needs to lurk. Maybe prowl. Perhaps he could hunt under the bed. Anything except lay there and chill out.


Let's talk about the word this. I performed a few searches on very successful eBooks (I have their pdfs) to see if perhaps I am the only person on Earth who hates the word this. It seems that I'm not alone. Outside of dialogue, several famous fantasy novels don't use it a single time. Sci-fi has the same results. I tested a few others and found the word only once outside dialogue, and it was used appropriately. When I see the word, it jars me. It takes me out of the moment. It makes me instantly hate the author for derailing my journey. In almost every single case, the word can easily be changed to the.


In closing, my advice is to hire a professional editor. Can't afford the $200+ it might cost? Don't publish until you can afford it. Releasing something with glaring mistakes will only make potential readers hate your work and never support you in the future, no matter how skilled you become.  Sacrifice up front and reap the rewards later.