Interview with K. A. Korstjens

How do you approach cover design?
With a ten-foot pole, kid gloves and a HAZMAT suit. Cover design is one of those things that must be done carefully and with serious thought and attention to detail. Every little thing that is seen on a book cover conveys a message, telling the potential reader something, either subtlely or blatently, about what lay behind that tome's outter shell. The question every author must ask themselves, "Is this the message I WANT to convey or am I saying something I shouldn't?" This is precisely why I let a professional cover designer/graphic designer (Jimmy Gibbs on Fiverr.com, check out his work! It's fantastic!) create my cover. Now that being said, the look and design itself was my own, but that's where it ends. I'm an artistic person by nature, but I don't know enough about graphic design and Adobe Photoshop to be able to generate a professional, attention-grabbing cover. My advice to anyone wanting to be a serious writer/author, hire a professional for things that you should (e.g. cover, editing, formatting, etc.). You're forté is writing, not design, or editing, or formatting, or whatever. It may cost some money, but the result will pay dividends in return.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Honestly, my Samsung Galaxy Note 2. I have Kindle, Aldiko and Google Books on there and between those three... I don't really need anything else.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
To list them for you:

1. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian - if you've read the book (or the series for that matter) you get it. If you haven't... put down whatever you're reading and go read the series! They're amazing! Granted, I'm a touch biased as I'm a bit of a Greek mythology enthusiast/buff so it's right up my alley, but regardless, Riordan is a fantastic author with an amazing ability to tell a captivating story.

2. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet - as the introduction to the cult classic fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and his not-always-voluntarily-by-his-side friend, John Watson, this is an amazing read. I love how things change halfway through in a way that makes you scratch your head because you think you've suddenly began reading a different story and then BAM! Doyle wraps up everything in a neat little package. It's really an enjoyable book.

3. J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - I'm an epic fantasy author, what did you expect? This is kind of a no-brainer. I have to say though, Return is just barely ahead of the Silmarillion, which is why it's mentioned here.

4. Bram Stoker's Dracula - I love, love, love, love, love, LOVE this book! It absolutely fascinates me how Stoker managed to write an entire story as though someone had collected and assembled the diaries, notes, letters, napkin-drawings of all parties involved, and then bound them together to create a chronological retelling of the encounter with Dracula. At first, I'm not gonna lie, I wasn't all that intrigued by the concept, but once I got into the story... I. Was. Hooked.

5. J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion - Tolkien's Bible, as it is so aptly nicknamed, is a feat of sheer brilliance and complete insanity wrapped up into a chapterized piece of prose. The sheer volume of ideological, historical and mythological proponents found in this piece of literature is mind-bogglingly unprecedented in the world of fiction and will probably never be accomplished again. People don't seem to realize how much Tolkien ACTUALLY created. There were countless stories and songs he wrote that never saw the light of day, much less publication. His imagination and creativity were infinitely more vast than this mere mortal can comprehend, and yet he managed to take all of his work and use it to create amazing stories that could easily have passed as non-fiction (provided the wizards, dragons and such weren't mixed in!)
When did you first start writing?
Wow. There's jumping in the way-back machine! I have to think about that one.

Now if we're talking just creatively, then I would have to say elementary school. I used to make up stories all the time for school or for some game my friends and I would play.

Now if we're talking seriously writing, then that would definitely be high school. I really began writing poetry, both long and short, and short stories around that time in my life (along with some other stuff that I won't get into on here, and no, it wasn't erotica of any kind!).
What's the story behind your latest book?
I hope you brought a blanket and cup of something hot cause this could take a while. I'm just kidding!

The Return of the Mydar-Rei'a is the first book in a series called The Vagrant Chronicles which is centralized around a wanderer, Bayomir, who comes to the frightening realization that the world, or Gea as it's referred to, is on the brink of another war. The war in reference is the Hundred Year War, or Great War, that lasted (you guessed it!) for one hundred years and was led by a demonic figure who was hell-bent on making every living thing suffer and perish.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Honestly, it was my second choice. I was originally going to go about the traditional route (query an agent, submit my manuscript to publishers, etc.) but then I discovered something that really turned the tides for me: traditionally published authors still have to do most of the foot work with regards to marketing and promoting their books, but with a far less return. Meaning, traditionally published authors do essentially the same amount of work promoting themselves and their books as indie/self published authors, but have to sit back and watch everyone else take a piece of the pie they baked. That bugged me...a lot! I figured, if I'm going to have to do all this anyway, I might as well make the money for it, right? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not rolling in dough here. I didn't do it for the money, I did it for the creative control. That's far more important to me than the money. Especially since I have created so much with regards to the series (what with creating languages, maps, histories, mythologies, stories, songs, etc.), I wanted the flow of information and the design of it all to be WHAT I WANTED, not what someone else thought it should be. A prime example of this is when J.R.R. Tolkien's publisher told him that the Lord of the Rings was going to be split into three books, and then when Return of the King finally was being published, they came back and told him that THEY were going to name the book The Return of the King. He didn't want that! He said it gave away the end of the book (which it did!) but they went ahead and did it their own way. Can you imagine what Tolkien's masterpiece would have become had he had the same kind of creative control as indie/self published authors?
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
That's easy. Smashwords has contributed in one of the best possible ways - distribution! There is no way I could have gotten my book out so many venues and retailers, and most importantly the readers, on my own. I don't have the connections! Another way they have helped me is by creating and offering all that they do for a big whopping Goose Egg! With all that they offer to indie/self published authors, they could be charging a mint! Yet, they don't. Everything they do they do for free! For someone like me (wife, three small children, rent, bills, etc.), I couldn't afford to spend money on these service, but Smashwords said, "We don't care about your money, we'll get ours. We just want to help put your story into the hands of the readers!"

Thanks Smashwords! You're the reason I can now say, I'm a published author!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Uncovering new things. Tolkien said it best, "I didn't create Middle Earth, I rediscovered it."

I don't feel that I created Gea, Norterland and Thara. I feel they were already there and I merely wiped off the dust that had been collecting for years. I love being in the middle of writing something and I'll have an epiphany and it will mysteriously end up connecting to something entirely unrelated to what I'm doing, yet blend perfectly with the overall layout and history of something. It's really kind of frightening at times.
Who are your favorite authors?
J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Rick Riordan, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Lewis Carroll, Frank Peretti, John Grisham, Tom Clancy... just to name a few.
What are you working on next?
After this I will be taking a short hiatus from writing (just a few weeks, at most) before I drive into the first round of edits for book two of the Vagrant Chronicles
Published 2014-11-16.
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