Interview with Kristan Cannon

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do, although I barely remember the details of either of the plot or the characters. I think I was nine years old when I wrote it but I definitely can't say it was something worth standing beside anything by the top authors. However, it did spark something that would set off the writing fire within. That one story saw the creation of other stories and each one progressively improved.
What is your writing process?
I always start with a very vacuous and vague idea, or for some reason this 'stranger' that will become either a main character or a major supporting character will 'insist' I write their story. I should point out that these characters don't actually exist -- my stories and books always stem from the characters which means the idea itself revolves around someone... and the story then grows from there.

It usually comes at me by way of this character introducing themselves with little more than a name, occupation, gender and very quick history of what brought them to the point they are now. Sometimes... I end up with more than one profile and the link between these people is what drives the story.

After that idea pops it's up to me to research, very carefully, their exact life story and the circumstances they found themselves in... and then what they would realistically do -- depending on the situation -- to resolve it. It's at this point I sound like a crazy lady talking to myself or to someone not really there, and then taking notes on that. The people don't exist -- and obviously I don't really *see* people unless I've based these characters off of real people I might actually know (usually with their knowledge) but I'm much like a method actor... I guess that would make me a method writer... I have to feel it somehow. I have to get inside, get involved.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I unfortunately don't. I started reading at a very young age. You could say I've read too much to actually remember everything I've read until I happen to read it again.

The first story that I can remember, however, was a story about a boy who ran away to live on a mountain in an old hollowed out, but living tree, like his grandfather had. I can't remember much more of it than that. There was no magic, no science fiction... just the fact that this young man decided he didn't like living in modern society and became his own kind of mountain man... and we're talking modern as the eighties saw it (or perhaps even the seventies).
How do you approach cover design?
With a very open mind. I always have an idea of what I'd like to see and I'll definitely suggest it but in this case it's usually better to let the professional designer do their thing. However, when it comes to wording -- by way of quotes, bio and the meta content -- I'm very, very particular.

The cover is the first and, often, the only impression the book has a chance of making when it comes to selling it. If the cover falls short in any small detail the project is dead in the water.

The first thing I do, once the first draft is done, is (if I've decided to go 'indie') send off the synopsis and cover idea to my cover artist so she can get a head start on conceptualizing the cover. That way both the manuscript and the cover can start to go through the same editing and drafting time line. Once everything inside starts to be finalized the cover gets finalized as page count and different print editions are set.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read mostly non-fiction as my life is one of mostly research for my writing... although I have a deep, secret love for fan fiction as well... especially good fan fiction.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My computer and basic Adobe PDF, or my Blackberry Torch & basic PDF sized for the smaller screen.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
The traditional methods with a modern twist: Book clubs, readings, signings and book tours. Word of mouth and Social Media... but social media is more about not always selling the book, or yourself. I can't always talk about my books and beg people to buy -- it will turn a reader/fan off faster than it takes to unlike a page or unfollow on Twitter -- so I'm always posting about things that catches my eye. Ironically not mentioning the book, except rarely and only when something, truly, spectacular happens to warrant the announcement, sells more books than begging for sales. Take a page from RDJ and George Takei -- built the following and get your name known in a grassroots way. The sales will come after.
Describe your desk

It's very portable and able to be moved around. I live and breathe on the ability to set down my briefcase, pull out my laptop at a handy cafe with internet, or the library... or someplace (anyplace)... quiet but yet prime for people watching so my 'desk' constantly changes.

It would be far easier to ask what my current desktop theme is, which right now is clean -- no icons outside of the Window's Recycling Bin -- no add ons, no bloatware. Very few icons on my taskbar; Google Apps Launcher, Google Chrome, Trillian for networking, Mozilla Firefox and Windows Explorer. I pay to use Google Business, so it's vital the Apps Launcher is easily accessed. The theme itself is a cycling collection based on the "Love of Books" theme, but I sometimes change it to one about sailing and the outdoors, or a mix of the three... or it doesn't cycle at all.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada, and it definitely influenced my writing. Especially at first. Northern Ontario, particularly a few of the cities, is not as metropolitan as it likes to advertise itself to be. However it's honest in its beautiful and quiet spaces. My early writing was heavily influenced by survival and the solitude of the wilderness.
When did you first start writing?
As soon as I was taught to use a typewriter, which was right about the time I was old enough to hold a pen and write my name! Thankfully this evolved to using a computer but I don't think I will ever be able to tap-tap-tap on a touch screen. It just doesn't sound right to my ears or feel right unless the keys do something...
What's the story behind your latest book?
After Oil is about the survival of a community when civilization falls apart around them, and what they need to do to rebuild something out of the ashes. It's about Derek and Marissa who are caught clear on the other side of a major city and away from their home with little else but what was in their SUV and their overnight bags with no way of returning. It's about Russell and Adrienne who were thrown together, but at least Adrienne knows the area she's in... Russell isn't a stranger to it but it's just not home. It's about a mayor who has found herself in the position of being both disposed and as a rallying point for others to use in order to hold on to hope.

And it's about Sheridan and Terrence, who, despite being lucky enough to be at home and in the position to keep that home intact now have the tenuous responsibility of protecting their family, their neighbours and anyone else lucky enough to survive and make it to their farm.
What do your fans mean to you?

Within reason, of course, but the reality is that without anyone to actually read my books I'm in dire straits. Writing isn't just a hobby for me -- it's a way of life and how I make a living. No fans means literally no roof over my head.
What are you working on next?
I have a few things I'm working on right now. I'm researching and planning the sequel to After Oil, as well as another (completely unrelated) novel tentatively called "Letters of Marque" which is another post-apocalyptic novel with a distinctly nautical theme. I also have a few other projects on the go under my pen names, so, yeah, there's quite a bit being worked on.
Who are your favorite authors?
Off the top of my head: Tom Clancy, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon, Anne Rice and Margaret Weis but, truthfully, my library is huge so there's far more than just those five rounding out my collection.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Oh man... I have too many interests so that's quite a question. I sail, as well as maintain my own boat and help around our club, so you will often catch me -- particularly during the summer months -- in and around the boat, the dock and the Toronto Islands (Lake Ontario) as well up in the North Channel (Lake Huron)... and a host of points in between. I play badminton, golf and I read. I also have friends with horses so I'm sometimes mucking out the barns or riding too.

*touches finger to thumb*

And this is, again, only a very small sampling of what I do when I'm not writing. I will admit that what I do outside of writing does influence what ends up in my writing.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Randomly or as suggested by strangers. I have been known to pick up and read new and unknown writers just as easily as the better known ones.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1) Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon. I loved this one because she combined two things I loved, and then got right into the details of both. Space navies, a futuristic royal line... and an English Manor WITH fox hunting and horses? Okay, here's my money...
2) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Again, it was the detail of everything. The movie really, really did not do this justice and while I didn't really approve of the whole scandal that came from it -- in fact it leads to another two well loved books -- it did get me into another love which was the Geisha and Japanese folk culture. Unfortunately, after getting into these and doing more research I fell out of love with the novel.
3) The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. Again, detail does it for me.
4) Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey. I literally read this until the spine came apart and the cover fell off.
5) My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. You did see what I write, right? This book is another one I couldn't stop reading when I was a kid and it still sits on my shelf today.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
That moment when you see someone's eyes light up after picking up one of my books and cracking open the cover. The minute they read it and their favourite character is there, waiting, for them to jump back into their lives. It's knowing I that--I wrote something for someone else to get lost in--that gives me the most joy.
Where did the inspiration for After Oil come from?
A few years ago my friends, most of whom are avid, avid, avid role players and gamers (I think it was either Chris or Noah) brought this new game from Palladium called Dead Reign... which is an RPG in a world with the same zombie problem as "The Walking Dead". I wasn't really interested as I'm just not a zombie fan. No pun intended but I was so sick and tired of something 'done to death' by this point that it just didn't hold any interest for me. However, the survival aspect did. A few months later I was watching a docu-drama on TV (I think it was Discovery) and it was called "The End of Oil." I remember watching and thinking, "That's it--that's the setting I'd like to see."

The game was born from there.
So, After Oil is based off a house role playing session?
Actually, it's based off a series of sessions. The original sessions and characters aren't all necessarily in the books but there are a few who are composites, and some of the plot lines were hinted at. However, the setting remains the same. I also still use the Palladium rules for creating new characters. I find it helps organize who can do what by setting their abilities and limitations.
Published 2015-07-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Series: The Rangers of Walden. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 102,790. Language: Canadian English. Published: November 2, 2017 by KCEditions. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
Derek Moss is alone and far behind the enemy lines controlled by Colonel Harnet. While he's not lost--it's hard to be lost when he's managed to find his own, if old, backyard in Garson itself--he finds himself cut off from the Rangers of Walden and without allies as his own have presumed him dead. But he knows one thing Harnet doesn't... and that's how to win even when the odds are against him.
Between Silence and Fire
Series: The Rangers of Walden. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 99,290. Language: Canadian English. Published: November 2, 2017 by KCEditions. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Western
Four years ago Derek Moss formed the Rangers of Walden to protect the last spark of civilization from those who would see it all vanish into dust. Now, Colonel Harnet has encroached into the borders. He has one aim on his mind--taking the last barrier between him and total control over the whole Region.
The Last Iron Horse
Series: The Rangers of Walden. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 105,690. Language: Canadian English. Published: November 2, 2017 by KCEditions. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Western
Their biggest test is hurtling towards them ... ... On steel rails. ​With the corrupt Colonel to their east, and the slavers to their west, determined to both call Walden’s rich resources their own Derek, Sheridan, and Garrett have to act quickly to make sure their home isn’t the next to fall to the pressures from outside… and within.
Ashes in Winter
Series: The Rangers of Walden. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 112,240. Language: Canadian English. Published: November 2, 2017 by KCEditions. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Western
(5.00 from 1 review)
The residents of the small town of Whitefish are no strangers to snow. Used to being forgotten and having to dig their own way out, no one thought anything of it during one of the coldest winters on record when help just never came. But as fuel runs out and raiders press in on all sides, Derek, Sheridan, and Garrett it's not just the snow they need to dig their way out of...