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Interview: Andrew Noakes, Founder of Fictive Pursuits

A great service for historical fiction and fantasy fiction readers and writers!

A few years ago “The History Quill” popped up on my radar, and as I looked into it, I became intrigued. This was a new service being offered to both historical fiction writers and readers. I joined both as an author to check out some of their resources for writers, but also as a reader, so I could get historical fiction book recommendations that were tailored to my particular interests. I loved the fact that this was very much a niche service, directly targeted to historical fiction readers and authors.

I quickly found the services offered to authors to be immensely helpful, both in promoting my own books and growing my email list, and as well in educational experiences, from excellent blog posts on the how-to’s of writing historical fiction to Masterclasses taught by seasoned historical fictions authors. Recently I joined the community, where I am enjoying getting to know fellow authors and cheering each other on as we write our books.

 I thought that readers of my blog might like to know more about The History Quill and its broader parent company, Fictive Pursuits. Today on the blog I’m really pleased to invite Andrew Noakes, founder of Fictive Pursuits, to learn more about it and the other services his company offers to historical fiction writers and readers, and to authors of other genres as well.

Hi Andrew! I’m really pleased to chat with you today. Thanks for taking the time to do this with me.

My pleasure! This was an easy yes for me, as we’ve enjoyed working with you over the last few years, and I always welcome the opportunity to share more about what we do.

 Let’s start off with learning a bit more about you. Give us a brief idea of who you are and what led you to starting The History Quill.

 Like so many things in life, starting The History Quill was a happy accident. I was working as a freelance editor, primarily to support myself while I was writing my historical novel. Of course, I specialised in editing historical fiction, since that’s my passion and area of expertise. The editing work really took off, and I found I was unable to keep up with demand. That led me to take on other editors, and before I knew it, my side-gig had turned into a full-time business! We rebranded as The History Quill soon after that, and we’ve been steadily growing ever since. Before all of this, I worked in politics; safe to say I enjoy what I do now much more!

 Having been a member of The History Quill from very early on, the care in which you have taken to ensure that the services you offer are actually helpful to both readers and writers has impressed me. I’ve summarized what the service is, but can you expand on exactly what you offer? Maybe start with what you offer readers and then talk about what you offer to writers.

For readers, we have a reader-facing brand called The Niche Reader, which was originally called The History Quill Book Club. At the moment, the main activity on there is our advance reader program, which enables readers to read certain books for free, usually before they have been published. These are divided into ARC projects, where we invite the reader to leave an Amazon review at the end (if they want to), and beta projects, where we ask for feedback to help the author improve the book. We also used to offer curated book recommendations, but these are on pause for now, as we’re experimenting with other ways of connecting readers with new books and authors.

For writers, we have two brands: The History Quill, for historical fiction writers, and our newer brand, Fabled Planet, for fantasy and science fiction writers. The History Quill offers editing, coaching, a beta reader service, and promotional services. We also have our membership, which includes monthly masterclasses, an online community, exclusive blog content, and member-only discounts on some of our services. In recent years, we have run an annual virtual convention as well, and we hope to continue doing this. Fabled Planet is similar, but as it’s newer, we’re focusing on a smaller number of core services, with plenty of scope for expansion in the future.

I’m so glad you have expanded into the fantasy/sci-fi genres! I’m looking forward to seeing what you will have on offer there, too! It looks like Fictive Pursuits is growing steadily, which is great. But I’m sure there have been hiccups along the way. What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Our approach is genre-focused, hence The History Quill and Fabled Planet, rather than one big brand covering all genres. This gives us some major strengths in terms of the depth of our expertise and the unique nature of the brands, but it necessarily limits our room for manoeuvre when we’re looking to expand. It creates a complicated balancing act, but I enjoy the challenge!

The other challenge, which I enjoy much less, is the reality of being a small business that operates internationally. We have all the regulations and bureaucracy that a large multinational would have to deal with, but without many of the same resources. Keeping on top of several different (and constantly changing) tax systems at once is difficult, but we manage!

 Yes, I can see that would be a challenge. Conversely, what do you think are your biggest successes?

 It’s a corny answer, but it’s true: my team. Once a business gets beyond a certain size, you can’t run it effectively without an excellent team behind you, and my biggest achievement has been finding and selecting the right team to run the business at scale.

 Do you see any trends developing in historical fiction? What are fans of historical fiction eager to read right now?

Women’s historical fiction is huge and only getting bigger. Re-imagining myths is another notable trend.

I was a little worried when you took the leap to expand The History Quill beyond historical fiction and developed The Niche Reader. I was afraid the specialized services offered to historical fiction authors and readers would get lost or watered down. But so far, I don’t see that happening, phew! Tell us about the Niche Reader, and how it’s going so far.

 So was I! It was a big step into the unknown for us. We decided that ultimately it would be impractical to create new genre-focused brands for writers and have a genre-focused book club attached to each of them. It would just be too much work to manage each book club on top of everything else. So we decided to keep expanding with new genre-focused brands for writers but make the reader-facing brand multi-genre. It’s a compromise, but so far it’s working. The Niche Reader hosts our very successful advance reader program, and we have more plans for the future that I can’t yet divulge!

 Exciting! What are your big dreams for Fictive Pursuits?

 We aim to create more genre-focused brands covering other writing niches. One day, hopefully there will be a Fictive Pursuits brand for every major genre, but it will take time!

Aside from these business pursuits, I know you are writing a historical novel yourself. Tell us about that, and about how you fit in writing with all the other things you do!

 Oh, I wish I could! I have a very on-off relationship with my historical fiction writing, as my business pursuits have taken so much of my attention over the last few years. It’s a historical mystery novel set in England during the Napoleonic Wars. Lots of intrigue, espionage, and action! It’s really fun to work on it when I can.

 Now for some fun questions: 

You said on your bio at The History Quill that your “desert island” historical fiction books would be Dissolution by CJ Sansom, and A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. But what about music? What would you have to have on the desert island?

 Music, I can live without. But I couldn’t live without my endless Frasier re-runs and the multitude of fantasy and science fiction TV shows I’m into. I would also have to take my dogs to the desert island (and obviously my wife, in case she reads this).

Now you’ve touched on my other lover, that being fantasy, so I have to ask: What are your top three fantasy/sci-fi shows you’d have to have on that desert island (which obviously comes equipped with power, lol).

I’m a Star Wars nerd, so definitely The Mandalorian at the moment. I think Foundation and The Wheel of Time are both incredible and really overlooked, so check them out!

Hamburger, pizza, or taco?

 Hamburger. I have a Five Guys problem.

 Where is the most unusual place you have done writing in?

 Sneakily under my desk at the day job I used to have.

 What is the historical fiction book you’d most like to read that hasn’t been written yet?

 My own! It’s been five years now. I need to get a move on!

Thank you so much, Andrew, for joining me here on the blog today. Please tell us where readers and writers can sign up for all the things Fictive Pursuits offers!  

Absolutely! For historical fiction writers, you can join The History Quill’s email list here. For fantasy and science fiction writers, you can join Fabled Planet’s email list here. And if you’re a reader, you can join The Niche Reader’s email list here.