Category Archives: Interviews
I was interviewed by fantasy author Tracy Falbe yesterday and we discussed writing, inspiration and my character Jak Phoenix. Here's a snippet of that interview:
Posted in Interviews
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Fantasy author Tracy Falbe found the time to answer a few questions about her new book and life in general. Take a read - her answers will show you why she’s a writer…
MW: When we spoke last, I found out you had an adventure of your own this spring with a certain natural disaster. Would you like to share a bit about that experience?
TF: On May 29th a severe storm with 100 mile per hour winds hit Battle Creek, Michigan. I personally believe there were tornadoes in the storm but I don’t know if that was officially confirmed. My neighborhood was badly hit. Battle Creek is an old town and most of the neighborhoods are filled with glorious mature hardwoods. In a matter of minutes hundreds of them came crashing down as the storm tore a swath of destruction through the city, smashing homes and taking out utility lines. On commercial streets without the tree cover, businesses lost roofs and many signs were bent over and torn apart. Everyone is amazed and grateful no one died. A person caught outside in the flying debris could have easily been killed.
I think everyone heeded the sirens because of the many tragic deaths farther south this spring. The storm I experienced came incredibly fast and hit like a hammer. The storm did not so much as blow in as come down straight from the sky. Everything went white outside and I could not see beyond my yard as I rushed my kids into the basement. There was a massive roaring sound and I did not hear what must have been the terrible noise of huge oak trees crashing across my street. The storm plastered my house with chewed up leaves and small branches pierced my yard like spears, but otherwise my property was lucky. Four very large hardwoods, two oaks and two maples, directly threaten my home, but bless their woody hearts they stood firm while many of their mates succumbed all around.
What influence will this event have on your future stories? Are we likely to see some reference creep in?
The colossal power of Nature has always had a presence in my writing. I know that my puny humanity and technology are nothing compared to the chaotic might of a living planet. I’ve beheld the towering darkness of an oncoming dust storm in the Mojave Desert. I’ve endured the choking despair of wild fires while ash rained on my home. I’ve been saved from drowning by a stranger when he pulled me from a rushing river. I’ve watched funnel clouds go by and now I’ve cowered beneath one, so, since you asked, I probably should throw a tornado into a story.
This bad storm has also made me reflect on luck. You really can get lucky for no reason. (And doesn’t a hero in an adventure novel need that?) My home was unscathed. Elsewhere in my neighborhood I saw a property where three tall oaks came down and somehow managed to miss that man’s house AND boat as if a loving god were juggling logs for his sake. Across the street from the same place, vehicles were smashed and one house was about cut in half by falling oaks. Anything can happen and there is not much you can do about it.
Rys Rising: Book I is launching my second epic fantasy series. The story is in the same world as The Rys Chronicles but I have gone 2,200 years back in time. I’ve created the ancient civilization of Nufal that was an extinct ruin in my first series, and I’m detailing the early days of the rys and the rise of Onja and Dacian as that race’s Queen and King. Much of the action also involves the western tribal kingdoms and the human character of Amar. This epic was a challenge for me to write because it has three races and two civilizations. Also there is a rivalry between religious sects in Nufal to further complicate things. I’m styling the Rys Rising series as a complex epic told from many angles. It also has a greater emphasis on the bad guy. The fantasy genre for me is about having fun and exploring facets of society even if they are deviant. Rys Rising: Book I has a big focus on outlaws, like the main character Amar. My husband even insists that Amar IS the hero despite his lack of good deeds.
Where does this book fall into the chronological order with the rest of the Rys Chronicles?
Rys Rising is a prequel series, so it is the beginning. Because rys and tabre can live for thousands of years and hibernate, readers will get to meet some of the magical characters from the first series and see their original adventures.
Why did you decide to release this in the weekly serial format?
In addition to making Rys Rising: Book I a free ebook download at my websites, I decided to serialize it chapter by chapter to help market the novel. Every time I post a new chapter it gives me something new to talk about in my marketing efforts. Instead of constantly saying “download my free ebook” I can also say something fresh like “go read this chapter.” I also want to make it easy for people to check out my fiction. Reading a blog post is basically effortless compared to downloading an ebook. People like to read excerpts before committing to actually downloading a file.
I’m also hoping as time goes by and more people read the novel that the blog novel version will serve as a place for readers to comment and discuss the content.
Can you give us a hint of what to expect in the next volumes of the Rys Rising series?
Maybe these hints are best expressed in a tag cloud….adultery, awesomeness, bachelor party, betrayal, burning idols, dancers, drummers, duel, dungeon, enchantments, execution, funeral, magic, monsters, politics, religious war, sacrifice, siege, slaughter, swords, vengeance, wedding…Is this epic enough for you?
What kind of a timeline are we looking at for a release?
I can confidently say that Savage Storm: Rys Rising Book II will be published in October. I wish I could commit to getting New Religion: Rys Rising Book III published in time for Christmas, but realistically it could be January. Book IV that is untitled right now should be out in the last half of 2012. It’s half written.
What kind of format will the next installments arrive in?
Ebooks will be the format of first publication. By far I reach the most readers with ebooks, so digital is my priority. After publishing the ebooks I will develop print-on-demand paperbacks and hardcovers at Lulu.com. I just made the hardcover of Rys Rising: Book I live at Lulu http://www.lulu.com/product/hardcover/rys-rising-book-i/17146690 and the paperback version will be live as soon as I examine a proof copy that is en route to me.
What are you enjoying about your independence in the publishing world?
I love most that I am building a business around my dearest creative passion. I love also that I am writing stories straight from my soul and reaching an audience. This is infinitely better than trying to attract the interest of a publisher, which I wasted four years (2000 -2004) doing. Life is too short to leave my dreams in the hands of others.
Are you writing full time now?
Well, writing for me is not a 40 hour a week thing. If I actually write for two hours in a day, it’s a good session. So maybe that is full time for me. I try to write everyday although right now I am immersed in reading, editing, and proofreading Savage Storm and New Religion. I need to get those two novels fine tuned before I can return to writing the final part. This process allows me to absorb the middle of the epic and ponder the nuances so I can draw everything together in the conclusion. I know from experience that finishing an epic is very hard. Writing The Borderlands of Power: The Rys Chronicles Book IV was very challenging. Plus with every subsequent novel I write I push myself to do better. Although readers will make their individual judgments about each novel, I must always be satisfied that my latest novel is my best yet. An artist must always strive to improve.
What else have you been up to?
I have a ridiculous range of interests. I grow and preserve a lot of food for my family, so I’m busy in the garden and the kitchen. I’m always researching organic gardening and experimenting with plants. My goal is to make my yard as productive as possible, and I’m enjoying a good deal of success with that. I’m also an estate sale addict, which means I go shopping in dead people’s houses. Through the winter I plan to start making some upcycled décor from vintage items. I even have a quilting project.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for the interview and I wish you much success with Jak Phoenix.
Free ebook Rys Rising: Book I http://www.falbepublishing.com/braveluck/free-fantasy-ebook-rys-rising.html
Also 99 cents at these retailers:
Amazon Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005FYSSSC
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Today, Matt D. Williams, author of the Jak Phoenix space adventure novel, is speaking with writer, broadcaster and sometimes professional racing sailor, Mark Chisnell.
MW: Hi Mark. Can you tell us about yourself?
MC: I was brought up on the east coast of England, close to both the sea and an inland network of lakes called the Norfolk Broads, so boats were everywhere. I started racing sailing dinghies, got a degree in physics and philosophy and then worked in a factory for a summer to buy a ticket to Australia, with a vague plan to see some stuff and write a book.
By the time I got home I’d published some travel stories in the New Zealand Herald and the South China Morning Post, and I’d broken into the professional sailing circuit via the British America’s Cup team that was racing in Australia at the time. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between those two things – writing and pro sailboat racing – ever since.
The Defector began as an idea from my philosophy classes – the Prisoner’s Dilemma is a Games Theory concept that was dreamed up by the RAND corporation, the people who brought us the MAD theory (Mutually Assured Destruction) during the Cold War. I wanted to make it more personal than that, and had in mind a game played for life and death stakes, involving a love triangle. The basic idea immediately makes it a genre book, a thriller, and I went for a classic chase story. The psychotic drug smuggler, Janac forces the hero, Martin Cormac to make a succession of escalating, nightmare choices in his struggle to get free.
It took me about three years to get from the idea to a story with characters and a plot, and to get a first draft down on paper. It took another four years to rewrite it and find a publisher. Random House brought it out (called The Delivery) in 1996 in the UK. Then it was republished as The Defector by Harper Collins in New Zealand and Australia – I was living down there for a while for a sailing competition. And it is now available as an ebook via Smashwords and for Amazon’s Kindle.
I had a couple of ideas after The Defector was done. The first was a simple way to fake GPS signals – much simpler than the one used in the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, which came out while I was writing The Wrecking Crew. I’m a navigator on the sailboats, so I was very familiar with GPS. The idea was that spoof differential GPS signals could be used in the same way false beacons were lit in the eighteenth century, to lure unwary ships onto the rocks where the crews were murdered and the cargoes stripped.
The second was another moral dilemma which was not uncommon in the age of sail: men in a lifeboat, days from rescue, and nowhere near enough water for them all to make it. Do you share the supplies evenly and keep your fingers crossed for a miracle, or do you ensure just a minority survive for as long as possible… cannibalism and perhaps even murder to survive?
The key to making those two ideas work together was The Defector’s anti-hero, Janac. And as I liked the idea of a sequel that followed the bad guy rather than the hero, that’s what I went for, and The Wrecking Crew was the result.
Where did your inspiration come from when writing this series?
It’s hard to escape from the moral dilemmas, they are an important part of the inspiration in both stories. The books are entertainment, I don’t think anyone is going to mistake them for grand literature – but that doesn’t mean that the reader can’t be left with something to think about afterwards.
Is there an impression or moral that you want to stick with your readers after they finish these books?
It’s not as strong as taking a moral from the story, I’d rather people were left thinking about the character and their decisions. And perhaps thinking about what they might have done in that same situation – the extreme choices in the books do still reflect on things we do every single day.
Is there a third title planned for this series?
Not at the moment, although I do have another idea for Janac that I might one day come back to…
Which authors or other creative types do you look up to?
I guess there are three or four writers that I loved when I was younger, whose influence I can now see in my own work. The first two were Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean. The latter is almost forgotten now, but he was a hugely successful thriller writer in the 1960s and 1970s, and I could inhale one of his books in an afternoon when I was a kid.
When I was a little older it was books with ideas that took more of a hold – George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm stopped me in my tracks for weeks, I couldn’t think about anything else. And then there was another largely forgotten book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – that was the one that got me studying philosophy as well as physics, so it had a pretty big impact on my life.
You mention that you’re also into sailing and it seems you’ve even written some nautical non-fiction. What have you written in that vein and where can people find them?
After the travel stories I started writing for sailing magazines, and that led to books about sailing. Initially they were technical books, but the more recent ones have been narrative non-fiction about some of the great sailing adventures. The most recent, ‘Spanish Castle to White Night’ was about the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09, and won a prize for the Best Illustrated Book at Sportel Monaco in 2009. I’m hoping to bring out text-only versions of them as eBooks.
There are links to all the books from my Amazon page:
What else do you have in the works?
I have another couple of novels that are close to being finished, I hope to get one out as an ebook this year, and the second in 2012. The first is historical fiction, a spy story set in 1936 and based around a true incident involving Sir Thomas Sopwith, who built fighter planes and racing yachts. The second is about a snowboarding expedition into the Himalayas – and there are no boats at all.
Finally, I have another sailing book due for publication in the UK in 2012, and that will be about the Olympics.
Where can people follow you online?
I have a website with a blog and background on my work and writing the novels, and links to all the ebook retailers:
And of course I’m on Smashwords:
I’d love to hear from people on books, writing, sailing, anything!
Thank you so much for speaking about your work today Mark. Do you have anything else to add?
Only that I hope people will try the books and enjoy them – and many, many thanks for asking me along, keep up the great work, and go the Indie revolution!
Check out Mark’s amazing work on Smashwords, where it is already quite well reviewed!
Tags: action adventure, amazon.com, authors, b&n, barnes and noble, books, crime, crime adventure, ebooks, fiction, fiction authors, fiction writing, free ebook, ibooks, ibookstore, independent, independent authors, independent publishing, interviews, ipad, Jak Phoenix, marine, Mark Chisnell, novels, piracy, pirate, publishing, sea, sea adventures, smashwords, Smashwords.com, The Defector, The Wrecking Crew, thriller, thriller novels, writing
I put Jak Phoenix 2 aside today for the opportunity to speak with Tracy Falbe, an outstanding independent fantasy author. Her work is exceptional and her presentation of everything from book to website is very professional. If you’re a fantasy fan, I urge you to try one of her novels on for size.
Here is the interview…
MW: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
TF: I grew up in rural Michigan which exposed me to nothing exciting. I can’t remember a time when I did not entertain myself with adventuresome daydreams. I was always a princess leading the rebels while dangling over lava pits when I was a little girl. And I always knew that I wanted to write novels when I grew up. When I was in grade school I would draw pictures, write stories on the pictures and then staple them together. I’m a natural born publisher.
After growing up in Michigan I spent most of my adult life in Nevada and Northern California. I earned a journalism degree from California State University, Chico. It’s a good degree for someone who wants to be a writer. Then in 2009 I moved back to Michigan. Living in the Midwest is weird after being out West for so long. I call it rustbelt living. The traffic is light and you can always get a parking space. I sometimes feel like I’m in the witness protection program.
Today I appear to live an ordinary life. I have a husband, kids, dog, and cat. When I’m not writing, I enjoy growing food, bicycling, swimming, boating, and watching depressing documentaries. I read a lot of nonfiction, especially history, economics, spirituality, current affairs, and environmental subjects. Unlike most people I meet, I write novels and sell them on the internet, and I love doing it.
Could you give us a rundown on The Rys Chronicles?
I’m the type of reader and writer who likes characters that are not purely good. Character flaws are interesting. The world is a hard place that is constantly pushing people to do bad things. From this perspective I try to summon characters who have room to improve and then use fantasy adventure to push them into moral dilemmas, like a rebellion needs to be started to defeat evil but many people will die in the bloody conflict.
The two main heroes in The Rys Chronicles are the human warrior Dreibrand Veta and the rys Shan. Rys are the magical race in the novels. The most powerful among them are capable of remote viewing, mind reading, levitation, and even seizing the souls of the dead. The series covers about seven years of the characters’ lives. Dreibrand is a violent man with mighty ambitions but he gradually develops past his pride and greed and tries to accomplish the greater good. Shan ascends to supreme power and is corrupted by it, but eventually grasps redemption.
I try to have each novel in the series tell a story and deliver reader satisfaction while propelling the overall epic. I’ve created a large fantasy world of two east and west cultures that have long been divided by an empty wilderness protected by the enslaved souls of the rys Queen. The Rys Chronicles tells the story of the breaching of this geographical barrier and the resulting conflicts.
The Rys Chronicles is medieval style fantasy, but my primary historical inspirations come from my American heritage. Empire, colonialism, racial tension, slavery, frontier, and freedom all percolated through my imagination as I created the fantasy series.
I make it easy for fantasy readers to sample my fiction and decide if it’s their style of entertainment. The first novel Union of Renegades is always free at www.braveluck.com.
What draws you to the fantasy genre?
I like the escapism. Fantasy worlds aren’t the lame one I live in. There’s magic and I like the ancient or medieval feel of fantasy. In fantasy, the characters get to really confront their problems. They fight the monsters, kill the bad guys, save the villagers. They can take bold action, unlike the real world where your mistakes go on your credit report and you get laid off and just have to suck it all up. I also very much enjoy how fantasy can provide illuminating commentary on real world social ills like slavery, religion, patriarchy, war, tyranny, etc. The characters deal with these burdens and their struggles are heroic.
What type of readers will enjoy your novels? Are they geared toward seasoned fantasy readers or will someone curious about the genre find enjoyment as well?
I think that someone curious about the fantasy genre might enjoy my fiction if he or she was willing to go along with typical fantasy conventions like the world is not historically real and there is a magical race. I believe most of my readers are seasoned fantasy fans, but that’s the audience I market to. What I know of my reader demographics, I can estimate that men and women almost equally read my work. I might skew a little toward the male, but I wrote with both audiences in mind.
What films or books inspired you on a creative level?
When I was a teenager I started reading the Dune books by Frank Herbert. The grand scale of his novels with the multiple characters, multiple settings, and intricate societies impressed me. I emulate his style a little by writing from multiple points of view and weaving together action from various locations. Of course, like most people, J.R.R. Tolkien ignited my love of the fantasy genre, but the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard probably inspired me more because I liked their willingness to be violent and sexy.
I also like the novels by George R.R. Martin although I finished writing The Rys Chronicles before I read his work. I like his gritty style. There’s no sugar coating.
What lasting impression would you like to leave on your readers?
My foremost goal when writing is to create a story that has action and characters people can care about. I want to entertain, and beyond that I hope that people might ponder some of the themes I work with, like lust for power, the temptation to do bad things to achieve good ends, and breaking free of oppression.
How would you describe your experience so far as an independent author? Do you have any desire to make contact with a traditional publisher?
I started publishing The Rys Chronicles at the end of 2005, and it’s been a bumpy road mostly because I did not know what I was doing, but I’ve learned a few things and feel much more confident about my business now. Even in the beginning, I always had sales trickle in and the occasional nice email from a reader. To think that out of all the hundreds of thousands of novels out there that someone chose my work and liked it is just so amazing.
Life as an independent author has become much easier and rewarding over the last couple years because I can now be included at major online retailers. A few years ago, self publishers were not allowed. Now the ebook retailers are willing to let readers decide what they want to buy instead of limiting their online catalogs to only what traditional publishers think is good.
I make no efforts to contact publishing companies. If some big company were to come at me with a proposal, I would certainly look at it. A publisher who could put my books in bookstores might be worth doing business with.
Where do you see the publishing business in the next few years?
I’m not an industry expert, but it looks like in the future publishers will have to get a little more active about finding talent and rewarding it. Authors don’t have to wait around for rejection anymore and humbly place their manuscripts in a closet. Authors can take their works directly to the market and make money if readers find them worth reading. But traditional publishers still have massive market share, so I hardly lay awake worrying about them. Publishers still have broad access to offline retail outlets for print books, so that’s a strength for them. Except for that, it seems inevitable that publishing will shrink a little as an industry as authors weed out middlemen.
Are you able to tell us a little bit about what you have in the works?
I am writing another four-part fantasy series. It is a prequel to The Rys Chronicles set 2,200 years earlier. There are significant historical events I refer to in the first series, so I’m delving into that past. I have three of the novels written and will soon start writing the fourth and final part. When they are all completed to my satisfaction, I will publish the series and then have 8 novels for readers.
My latest update about this fantasy work in progress is at this page:
Where can people keep up to date on your work?
My blog Her Ladyship’s Quest www.herladyshipsquest.com is the place where I’ll announce news about future novels. Until then, I write book and movie reviews, interview authors, feature books old and new, write articles, host blog tours, and try to publish content that readers will enjoy or find useful.
Another option for following me is to join my readers’ list at http://www.falbepublishing.com/braveluck/free_ebook.html. You get to enter a monthly ebook drawing and download Union of Renegades for free too. I won’t send you many emails, but you will someday get an announcement about my new novels.
Thank you so much for agreeing to answer these questions. Do you have anything else to add?
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work, and I wish you much success with Jak Phoenix.
Fantasy readers can sample the first novel Union of Renegades by downloading a free copy from her website www.braveluck.com. Paperbacks available too.
All my fantasy novels are also widely available at major online retailers.
Barnes & Noble Nook http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Union-of-Renegades/Tracy-Falbe/e/2940000720509/
Google Ebooks http://books.google.com/ebooks?id=ifNnT44l-KIC&dq
Tags: authors, b&n, barnes and noble, books, ebooks, fantasy, fantasy authors, fantasy books, fantasy novels, fiction, fiction authors, fiction writing, ibooks, ibookstore, independent, independent authors, independent publishing, interviews, ipad, Jak Phoenix, novels, paperbacks, publishing, Rys Chronicles; female fantasy authors, smashwords, Smashwords.com, The Rys Chronicles, Tracy Falbe, writing
Since the first two interviews I posted on the site were well received, I’ve decided to continue and speak with some other great independent authors. W. A. Patterson recently sent me his novel, Future Useless, and it caught my eye, so I asked him a few questions about it. Here’s what he had to say:
MW: Tell us about your novel, Future Useless.
WAP: Future Useless is the story of Carl Gussman- hospital Janitor from the 20th century- stranded in the 30th century and beyond. He’s an “artifact,” and phobic about the nanotechnology needed for an everyday life in the future. He lacks the education, money, family and friends needed to survive on his own in the future. In effect he is useless in the future.
Instead of accepting this and moving to a colony where religious beliefs make it easier to live a simple life, Carl spends years working to make the universe work for him.
Carl eventually disappears, but after a century, Lissa- the historian that revived him – gets access to his secret journals and starts to find out more about man she thought she knew, and discovers some scary things about him.
Once she’s finished, Lissa fights between feeling pushed to find Carl, and her fear of just what he’s been out doing in the universe for over a century.
Tell us a bit about your main character, Carl.
Carl Gussman is mostly my father and a bit of a few other older men I know who grew up in the 30′s and 40′s. They represent and part and mind-set of the American identity that has been lost in the last few decades. Carl is a man that grew up in a world where a man had no limits, except those he set for himself. These men (and women, of course) never ran into a problem they would not overcome because they were raised to expect problems to be overcome and not road blocks to all progress. Carl mirrors this and is kind of the savant of his generation. He’s got this lifetime of experience and the patience and duplicity to use it as he sees fit.
On the flipside of that, Carl is also part of what I wanted to say about over-specialization that seems to kill this type of individual in the last few decades. I didn’t understand my father half-as-much until Carl came to mind and I modeled him after my Dad. After that it’s been hard to keep notes on all the things Carl wants to do in my writing!
Your novel is written through the journal entries of the main character. Did this style offer any benefits or advantages for you or the story?
The Journal entries were planned since the story first came to me a long time ago. The idea was always that Lissa, and the reader, would get access to parts of Carl’s thinking that no one discovered before. There are also clues and hints of things in the journals that play out in the novel, and will continue to resonate as I write more about Carl and his adventures. The benefit of the journals was that I could just fully channel Carl and it really helped me define and build up this man as a real person to me.
What authors/films/books inspired this story or your writing in general?
A lot of my inspiration came from the old school of Science-Fiction authors such as Clarke, Heinlein, and Asimov, but the story telling aspect really came out of H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy series – where he takes a complex futuristic worlds and boils it down to the basic parts so they don’t get in the way of the story.
What themes did you want to rub off on your readers?
Individuality, tenacity, and self-reliance are the only themes I can think of in all this. Carl is a model of that just like my father was to me and it’s served me well over the years.
You mentioned your father a few times. Can you give us an example as to why he was such an inspiration to you?
My father was a career Army man, then retired when I was young. During that time my Dad taught himself carpentry, cooking, sewing, to fixing old clocks and tin toys that hadn’t worked in 50 years. Anything he could think of, there was no stopping him from teaching himself what he wanted to know. He taught me so much in that time that it took me the better part of 30 years to even begin to figure out how much I learned while we were working on all these things.
What do you have in the works?
I am writing the follow up books to Future Useless. There are at least two more and other stories have been growing for some time. Right now I am writing “Omega Age” a book about a team of people looking to alternate universes to escape their dying world, but their technology is based on a specific type of magic and it complicates things greatly for them.
Where can people find you online?
I’m at Smashwords at: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/wapatterson
And my own website is at: http://www.wapatterson.net/ Both of those have links to whatever social networks I’m using and insights into what I’m working on next.
Thank you for sitting down with me. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks to you and to all your readers who help support indie publishing and writing circles.
Also, when you read an indie book you like, please post a review – even if it’s two words of “good read!” To an author like me, the review is the best part of the process as it rewards us in so many ways for all our hard work.
Tags: authors, books, ebooks, fiction, fiction authors, fiction writing, future, future useless, independent, independent authors, independent publishing, interviews, novels, paperbacks, publishing, sci-fi books, sci-fi ebooks, science fiction, scifi, sf, sf books, sf ebooks, sf novels, smashwords, Smashwords.com, w.a. patterson, writing
Matt Williams, author of Jak Phoenix, had a chance to speak with independent author Brian S. Pratt, who was kind enough to answer a few questions. For those of you who don’t know him, he is probably the most successful independent author ever, with thousands upon thousands of books sold without the help of a major publisher. If you’re an author or a fantasy reader, enjoy the interview below!
MW: Tell us a little bit about yourself:
BSP: I’m just a regular guy whose imagination tends to run amuck now and again. I am a veteran (Air Force), drove taxi, managed a Pizza Hut and even taught teens to drive for a couple years. Nothing in my history would indicate here’s a guy who is going to write a bunch of books. Of course, anyone who knew me from when I was 12 until now would know that a book is never far from my hand. I read all the time, less so now that I’m writing. I live in the country and prefer peace and quiet.
Could you give us a quick overview of the Morcyth Saga?
It’s seven books long, never been edited, written in the present tense, and has sold well over 50,000 copies. A rather unbelievable achievement given that I hadn’t a clue what I was doing when I started. Had I known then what I know now, I never would have written it in present tense. Some people just can’t get over that.
The Morcyth Saga is about a teen who is into role playing and likes to read fantasy novels. He goes for a job, ends up in another world where magic works, and then discovers that his experiences from role playing and reading are going to come in rather handy. The way I figured it, if someone is going to pull someone from our world into another where they want him to do something, become a magic user or the like, then wouldn’t it stand to reason you would want a candidate who was already inclined toward those respects? Make them more likely to believe it’s real and take to it quicker. Thus, James was born.
How about a quick overview of the Broken Key series?
The Broken Key Trilogy is like a role playing adventure. Dungeon delving, treasure hunting, traps, scrolls, potions, etc. It’s filled with excitement and humor. The main characters are-Riyan, who is the shepherd and daydreams about being an adventurer; Chad, who is a miller’s son and hates the family business; Bart, the resident ne’er do well who’s past has given him skills honest citizens shouldn’t possess; and Kevik, a magic user apprentice barely on the path of magic. Lots of action.
Where did your inspiration come from when you began writing?
Mainstream writers were letting me down. Books taking forever to come out. When they did, they were boring. Wheel of Time is a prime example. First several books were some of the finest fantasy every written. Then it bogged down with a myriad of sub-plots, characters, and finally reached a point where a scorecard was necessary in order to keep track of it all. The main characters were hardly seen, maybe 20 pages in a 700 page novel. At some point I wouldn’t be surprised if the phrase”braid pulling” won’t be used to describe such novels.
I figured I could do better. So I set out to write a story in which you followed the main characters almost exclusively, trimmed the descriptives down to a minimum, and had action or something interesting in every chapter. From the response I’ve had, it seems there are many who like those kinds of stories.
What is your main goal when writing?
Be consistent, keep the story moving briskly with exciting things happening all the time. I like the “Rule of Three.” Have three plots going on at any one time. Most times, only the main one is visible while others are going on behind the scenes, encroaching upon the action every now and then. Then at the end, you pull it all together. Sometimes, there’s a “Oh yeah, that makes sense now” kind of feeling.
I also like to throw in random stuff too that are what I call “plot seeds.” Plot seeds are actions or occurrences that I can draw on later when I need to figure out how something came to be. Doing so also makes you as the writer appear clever, when in fact you don’t know what you’re doing half the time.
How in god’s name do you write so much?
Just write. I can write 1600 words an hour, but tend to do more around 1000. If you write 1,000 words a day, that’s 365,000 words a year and my books range around 120,000 words. So that is 3 books a year on just an hour a day. If writing is a priority, then write. The nemeses of any writer are the excuses we come up with as to why we can’t write. And let me tell you, it’s a battle daily to overcome them.
Do you ever look back and wish you could change anything about your earlier work?
Not really. I am doing well now, and to go back and change anything would altar the path I took to get here. Pull one string and it may all come unraveled. It was a struggle, still is for the most part, but I am content.
What is the best piece of advice you have for new authors?
Write. Write some more. Then write a little bit more. Set a goal and stick to it. If you are happy with what you are producing, do not allow the naysayers to tarnish your joy with poison. I say poison because bad reviews are just like that to a writer’s confidence. You begin doubting yourself, second-guessing what you are doing, and when you sit at the computer to type, and fail to do so. I went through this more times than I care to recall. If you want to know what kind of reviews might be in your future, check out The Unsuspecting Mage on Amazon, both US and UK. You are unlikely to ever get worse reviews than what has been posted there. Yet, my books sell, and sell well despite reviews. I don’t put much stock in them anymore. If you’re a writer, then write. When one book is out, start the next. Don’t wait to see if you are a success before starting another. Either you enjoy what you are doing, or you don’t. If not, find something else to do.
What do you think has made you one of the most successful independent authors?
Perseverance. An unwillingness to give in to the chorus (and at times thundering chorus) of those saying my books are horrible, that I’m a hack, that I will never make it. Plus, I kept on writing. I knew that at some point, my books would catch on. When they did, I wanted to have a bunch ready to sell. And I did…now I do.
Are you writing full time now?
Yep. Don’t have any other job. Though writing full time is a bit misleading. I don’t write nearly as much as I used to. It’s difficult sometimes to find the time. After all, there are a lot of demands on my time in regards to my past work, this interview is a good example of that. I love it though and wouldn’t give it up even if I could get additional books out. (don’t tell my readers though, they’re clamoring for me to get on with the next one, he says whispering while his eye dart to and fro to see if he was overheard). I do find time to write daily, if not thousands of words. Then there is editing, reader emails, checking sales, and a hundred other things. Plus, I live alone so along with all this, I cook, clean, play with the dog and of course video games. Love empire building ones.
What are you enjoying best about being independent versus writing for a “traditional” publisher?
No schedules, no demands, and the sense of pride that it was all due to me and me alone. However, I do have a Hollywood Producer shopping The Morcyth Saga around to traditional publishers. He says that if we had the backing of one of them, it would be easier to sell it to a studio. Not sure about that. I’ll be scrutinizing any deal closely before I sign. I like doing it myself.
Where do you see the publishing industry in the next few years?
The Indies are here to stay. Check any online (eBook/Kindle) bestselling list and you’ll see that Indies are up there with the powerhouse authors of traditional publishers. If publishers want to compete, they are going to have to rework their model.
I believe in the near future, traditional publishers will have a whole new way of handling new authors. The best way to test the profitability of new authors is with eBooks. Instead of trying to get new authors into bookstores (which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars), they should instead distribute them as eBooks (start up costs for this would be negligible compared to the return) for a year or two. Then, if their market value proves itself, proceed to books. If not, release them and take on another. Publishers will only be out only the cost of editing. Back in 2005 when I began the less than satisfying and downright hope-destroying “submitting/query letter” process, I would have jumped at that.
When an Indie can write a story, have it formatted for Kindle through Amazon.com, and then all other eBook formats at Smashwords.com for nothing, and then have it available to the world, what do they need with a publisher? Publish your book on those two sites and the first sale is profit. Then like in my above example, if they do well at eBooks, publish their work on LSI (Lightningsource.com) for $87, and have paperbacks available worldwide.
Tell us about your latest work:
There are several in progress, actually. I have about 5 books in different stages of completion. My next book to be completed will be book 2 of Travail of The Dark Mage which is the follow-up series to The Morcyth Saga. After that, probably do another in the Adventurer Guild series. I also have ideas for several other series’ that I have yet to start. But if I publish the first book of another series before I get Travail of The Dark Mage completed, some of my readers have vowed to tar and feather me. J
What is next for you?
Movie deal for The Morcyth Saga. Not sure when, or even if, but one Hollywood producer has a fire in the belly to see it happen. Actually, this is the first place I’ve ever mentioned this outside of a few fan emails. So your readers are getting an exclusive as it were. The Morcyth Saga is being translated into Icelandic. Not a big market for sure, but a second language is going to be cool. And who knows where that might lead. I may have it translated into Spanish next, but that probably won’t start until 2012 at the absolute earliest.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A bit of advice, take it as you will. – If you want to make it big, rely less on the self-publishing companies like iUniverse, Lulu, Publish America, and the others. They are in it to sell the unsuspecting author a bunch of packages they don’t need. They set the price of their books too high, and lay all the work promoting the book (and the cost) to the author. 95% of my sales are eBooks. If I didn’t have paperbacks, my pocketbook wouldn’t even notice.
Do it yourself. I’m always here to offer help and advice as best I can. Feel free to email me with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
About email… Get one that readers can use to contact you. Post it everywhere your book is listed, if it is allowed. At the very least have it at the beginning of every eBook and on the back of every paperback. I have many steadfast, loyal readers who spread the word because I replied back in a friendly, personable manner. Also, turn off spam filters for that email address. Yes, you get a lot of junk mail, but that is a small price to pay to not miss a reader email. A year after I published my first book, I happened to check my spam folder and found a reader email. Angry is a mild understatement to describe how I felt. It was a month old and days away from being deleted. How many others had sent me emails only to have been ignored? For that is what they will feel if you don’t respond. Now it’s set to off and I get a couple a day. Answering them is the highlight of my day.
My website has lots of information for Indies www.briansprattbooks.com.
My above responses contain about 2000 words and only took me an hour and a half (going back and editing took another half hour). Like I said, writing isn’t hard, it’s just finding the time and inclination to do it. Best of luck to you all and remember, we Indies are all in this together!
A very special thanks goes out to Brian!
Brian’s book are also available on Smashwords!
Tags: authors, books, Brian S. Pratt, briansprattbooks.com, Broken Key, ebooks, fantasy authors, fantasy books, fantasy novels, fiction, fiction authors, fiction writing, independent, independent authors, independent publishing, interviews, Morcyth Saga, novels, paperbacks, publishing, smashwords, Smashwords.com, writing
Today, you’ll find something a little different on Jakphoenix.com. Matt Williams, author of Jak Phoenix, decided to sit down (in front of a computer) with Mike Dion, a fellow author who has just started the new site, ‘Book Barista,’ at www.bookbarista.com. You may find value in his site as either an author or a reader. Here’s the interview…
MW: Mike, give us a quick overview on what your site is all about.
MD: Hi, Matt. First I’d like to thank you for taking the time to interview me about BookBarista. It’s a pleasure to be discussing it with you. Basically the site is for authors (commercial or indie), book sellers (new or used), those selling book related items (ie eReaders), and those who offer book related services (ie editing). It’s a place that offers free advertising to book folks. Also it’s not owned by any large corporation so folks can post links to places like Amazon, Smashwords, or an independent bookstore. It’s for everyone, not just one segment of the book world. So the opportunity to sell books can increase as visitors see more options to acquire a book from many places. By the way we don’t take a cut of the sale. We are just an advertising site.
Why did you decide to start Book Barista?
Since the book market is changing so fast with the introduction of the eReader and the acceleration in self-publishing it is clear that there is a lack of advertising for many authors out there; commercial and indie alike. We wanted to create a place where everyone can post their book and even up the playing field a bit. Authors of all types are hungry and they need a place to show off. BookBarista gives that to them.
Being an independent author yourself, where do you see the publishing industry going in the next while?
I see traditional publishers teaming up with online venues such as Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. These companies have created some powerful platforms. BUT publishing companies (the ones with a lot of revenue) can still team up amongst themselves and create their own sites by following an Amazon type model. But the future of publishing is going to be online. I think that is a given. Print books will be around for a long time, especially used books. But the leaner model will take place online. Just look at the way of the VHS, DVD, and old telephones. New technology has taken over across the globe. It’s inevitable that this will happen with publishing as well.
What are you planning for the future with http://www.bookbarista.com?
The near future has us going for traffic and site users. Without users we won’t go anywhere. We need dedication. We need to build a community. Further ahead we have a few plans. But we need to keep our eye on the here and the now.
Obviously you are a fan of literature. What are you reading right now?
Reading is difficult right now. I am working on my books, this site, remodeling my kitchen on a shoestring budget, working my regular job, and taking care of my wife and kids. The last book I read was a Tom Clancy novel a bit ago, Rainbow Six. I was late in getting into his novels. But he has built quite the book empire.
Do you have a favorite author?
You bet! Robert E. Howard. He was a pulp fiction author of the 30′s. He wrote the original Conan books. But he also wrote a ton of other great books and created some incredible worlds and characters beyond Conan. His writing is rich and full of life. He was a great talent.
Where can people follow you online?
For BookBarista we have a blog on the site and we also have a twitter account – BookBarista is the twitter name. As a writer I write under the pen-name, Dodge Winston. The site for my writing is at http://www.dodgewinston.com
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I hope folks give BookBarista a shot and stick with it. It’s a new site so we are all learning what works best. I’m always open for suggestions. I can be reached at email@example.com
Thanks for your time, Mike.
Thanks for having me, Matt. Wishing you success!
Head on over to http://www.bookbarista.com/. Then check back next week for another interview. This time with one of the most successful independent authors, Brian S. Pratt!
Tags: authors, Book Barista, bookbarista.com, books, Dodge Winston, ebooks, fiction, fiction authors, fiction writing, free advertising, independent, independent authors, independent publishing, interviews, novels, paperbacks, publishing, smashwords, Smashwords.com, writing
Today we’re talking with Matt Williams, author of Jak Phoenix.
FQ: Are you a lifelong fan of science fiction? Which authors and books inspired your writing in particular?
I’ve enjoyed science fiction as long as I can remember. The thought of there being more to the universe than the day-to-day operations of our planet has always captivated me. I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek, always craving a large helping of action and adventure with my sci-fi.
Ian Fleming, Douglas Adams and Elmore Leonard are a few of my favorite authors and I would say a healthy dose of each of their influence can be found in my writing. I started writing Jak Phoenix around the same time I was on my second run through of the original James Bond novel series, so much of the action and pacing is heavily influenced by how Ian Fleming would so expertly move the story from calm to breathless. Not an influence you’d expect in regards to a space opera novel, but I think it works. In addition, Shadows of the Empire, a Star Wars novel by Steve Perry, is one of my favorite sci-fi books. Adventurous and fast paced – right up my alley.
FQ: Where did you first get the idea for Jak Phoenix?
Jak Phoenix came about after I decided to buckle down after a night discussing story ideas with one of my best friends. I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth was and do more than talk about how we would change this or that in movies we had watched. Above all else, I wanted to write a story that I would love to read. Jak himself was the guy I wanted to see. The imperfect everyman.
FQ: Jak Phoenix is the kind of guy I think many men wish they could be, or at least, be for a day. Do you imagine yourself, at times, living out Jak’s life?
I do every day. There would be positives and negatives though. The negative aspect of being Jak Phoenix would be the refusal to conform to regular society, even in the very least. In the galaxy of Azore’s Crown he’s a hero, at least among the people he associates with. In real life, the nearest equivalent would be driving around in a shabby houseboat, picking up garbage to make your living. The downside would be the poverty…the upside would be the freedom. Unfortunately, in real life you have to budge, at least a little. One of the things Jak struggles with is what to do with his life. That is something I can say I have definitely thought about more than once.
FQ: What was the most enjoyable part of writing this story? What was the hard part?
The most enjoyable part of the story was the character creation and dialog. Above all else, I wanted this to be dead on. It also became very enjoyable trying to ensure the right amount of humor was being injected at the right time without watering down the action scenes. I wanted to make sure it was funny when it needed to be, but when there was danger, it was serious business.
The hardest part was overcoming my fear of showing what I had created to others. I’ll always remember the nervousness I experienced while waiting for my fiancée to read an early version of my first chapter. Scary, but rewarding.
FQ: Is there one character with whom you identify in particular?
There is a bit of Jak in me with a mix of Baxter in there too. I gave Baxter my technology skills while Jak, for better or worse, inherited my procrastination and slacker skills. Jak’s need to make light of serious situations is something that hits home with me. Life is too short to be troubled too often.
FQ: Which one of the various villains did you most enjoy creating/writing about?
Villain-wise, I enjoyed writing about Murdock the most. Everyone has met that one person who just seems to always be one step ahead. He is smug, pretentious ad arrogant, making it easy for anyone despising those traits to find a common enemy with Jak.
FQ: Jak Phoenix is light and fun. Were you deliberately trying to avoid morals, messages, and metaphors, which are common in a lot of science fiction?
That was the goal from day one. As I started out, more humor than I expected began to creep in, but the goal had always been to take the adventurous part of a story like Star Wars and elaborate on that. In recent years my interest in sci-fi has waned due to the doom and gloom in modern stories that always need to be “dark,” and “gritty.” There is enough of that in everyday life. Other writers are doing an amazing job at this, but I’ve come to the point now where I need something more upbeat. Jak Phoenix is pure escapism and I’m proud to admit it. It’s a pulp space opera tale anyone can pick up and enjoy, even if they haven’t gone beyond Star Wars and Star Trek in their science fiction repertoire. If there is any type of message in Jak Phoenix, it is to be yourself, take things in stride and realize there is more to life than jobs.
FQ: Do you have more adventures planned for Jak?
Absolutely. I am several chapters into Jak Phoenix 2 as we speak. Book two will explore some of the repercussions for the events in the first novel while flipping things around, testing Jak’s friendships and outlook on life. Of course there will be plenty of explosions, gun battles and chases as well.
To learn more about Jak Phoenix please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.
The original interview can be found at http://www.featheredquill.com/reviews/interviews/williams_int.shtml
The book they reviewed is available on Amazon right here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0986526614/?tag=azorscrowpubl-20
Posted in Interviews
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