How did you get into writing about Mixed Martials Arts?
I have been training in martial arts since I was a kid. Like many my age, I got hooked from The Karate Kid, Rocky and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Anyway, years later when I was about 25 I decided to quit my job and go back to school to become a professional writer.
I needed to work as an intern to complete a unit at University, and back then I was doing a lot of music journalism, so I figured I would do something for one of the music magazines. But simply by coincidence, I saw an advertisement for an editor at Australia’s longest running and most popular martial arts magazine. I didn’t apply for the job, but sent them a quick email asking if I could intern. I didn’t even know if I would do it, but they sent me an email back the same day (a Friday) and told me they needed someone to come in first thing Monday because several people were away on vacation etc.
So I went in Monday and worked my butt off for weeks. I did anything they asked. I wrote thousands and thousand of words for free. Then about a week after I’d finished my internship I got a call telling me that one of the editors was leaving. They offered me the job, and that was it. A year later we started an MMA mag in association with FIGHT! in the US, that became my own, and it went from strength to strength.
And how did you go from magazine writing and editing into books?
MMA and UFC really took off around the same time my magazine came out and there was a lot of buzz. I had thought about writing a guide type book about MMA and I had made a lot of contacts in the industry during my time as an editor. Then one day a guy from HarperCollins contacted me, asking if I’d ever thought about writing a non-fiction MMA book, because they were possibly thinking about publishing one. I got straight back to them and gave them a sample treatment with a complete chapter outline and my image sources and everything. They couldn’t believe I got back to them with all of this information so quickly, and were very impressed. After lots of convincing with the publisher, we got the green light and I wrote my book Ultimate: The Complete Guide to UFC & Mixed Martial Arts.
What was your experience like working with a major publisher?
It had its positive and negative points. Positively, they gave me a nice advance and they printed a book that I thought was fantastic when I unwrapped it. It was full color, glossy and had a matte cover. It was perfect. But a lot of things weren’t all that great. It was fantastic how much control I had over the book, but I could tell I was just another number. I didn’t hold it against the publishers and editors, because I know what it is like working for a publisher myself, but you knew they just had to get the job done to move on to the next. They were great, but like any big publisher, they forgot about me after about two months after the book was released, even thought it did really well.
So, following that, I take it you decided to independently publish your novels?
Somebody actually offered to publish my new MMA fiction novel series Cageside Chronicles, but at the last minute, inspired by Joe Konrath’s writings, I chose not to sign the contract and publish it myself. It suddenly seemed so obvious how much money publishers take from writers, who do all the work. Especially now, where writers are expected to do most of their own marketing as well.
Anyway, I saw a gap in the market and couldn’t believe no one had written any good fiction books set around MMA. There had been a few films that were successful, so I went ahead creating my own MMA world and began with my first release Fighting the Storm.
Tell us about Fighting the Storm.
Well, it is about a Mexican teenager named Tommy, who is a bit of an underdog. He’s beat up most days and is the quiet type. His father was American, and a boxer, but has since passed, and although Tommy knows nothing about fighting, his father’s past begins to emerge and suddenly Tommy is thrust into the fighting world. He eventually crosses the border illegally across the desert and makes his way to Las Vegas. But this novel isn’t simply about fighting. It’s about fighting one’s own demons, and as the series goes on we find more and more and about Tommy and his father’s past, and the plot gets thicker and thicker. You never know who the real ‘bad guy’ might turn out to be.
Do you have more novels planned?
Yes! There are already three books in the Cageside Chronicles series out and more to come very soon!
Thanks for your time, Jarrah.
Author: Jarrah Loh
Jarrah Loh is the author of the HarperCollins book Ultimate: The Complete Guide to UFC and Mixed Martial Arts and is also the creator of the fiction book series that MMA and UFC fans have been waiting for: Cageside Chronicles. He is the editor of Australia’s number-one Mixed Martial Arts magazine, Inside MMA (in association with FIGHT! USA) and also the editor of the world’s leading and longest running kickboxing/Muay Thai magazine, International Kickboxer.This author has published 2 articles so far.