Interview with Rayne Hall

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
When I was six, I told the teacher that the stories in the school book were stupid and I could write better ones. She challenged me to write a story about a letter's adventures from writing to delivery. When I handed it in, she was startled that a six year-old could write so well. Of course, she didn't know I'd had the help of my older sister. From then on, when the other kids had to read the dull pieces for their homework, she often assigned me to write stories, and I soon learnt to do it without my sister's help.
What are you working on next?
I always have a dozen writing projects in progress.

Right now (31 August 2013) I'm working on these:
A steampunk horror short story about a werewolf in a funicular railway car.
A quirky fantasy story about an introvert dragon.
A horror story about unrequited love turning into hatred.
A dark historical story about Smugglers in Regency England.
A sequel to my dark-epic fantasy novel Storm Dancer. The sequel's working title is Flame Bearer.
Another book for my bestselling Writing Craft series for authors. The next book in the series is Writing Dark Stories.
I'm also writing the introductions to the next two anthologies of which I'm the editor: Dragon: Ten Tales of Scaly Beasts, and Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk.

... and more.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love every aspect of writing - coming up with new ideas, shaping ideas into stories, developing characters, creating atmosphere, revising, editing, polishing and more. Working with artists who paint the book covers also gives me pleasure, and getting tweets and emails from fans is great.
What do your fans mean to you?
I value my fans greatly, and I try to respond to every mail or tweet I get.

Self-publishing and the internet both help with communications between fans and authors.

Years ago, when I worked in traditional publishing, many publishers had a policy never to forward fan mail to authors, because hearing from fans might make the authors conceited. In retrospect, I find this attitude shocking, but at the time, writers put up with it.

With indie-publishing, there's no middleman intercepting mail and communications. Fans can email me (my email address is at the end of every book) or tweet me @RayneHall.

In the old days, replying to fan mail meant carefully composing a letter and retyping it until it was error free. Most authors didn't do this, because it simply took too much time.

With Twitter it's quick. When someone tweets me that they've finished one of my books and love it, I tweet back and ask them about their favourite character or which chapter they liked best. I love this communication.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Once upon a time, fiction authors really needed publishers in order to market their books. But in this new era, authors need a publisher as much as they need a tape worm in their guts.

I've had thirty or so books traditionally published, and about the same number indie-published.

I'm a trained publishing manager ("Verlagskauffrau" in German) and worked for many years in the publishing industry, mostly in editing, but also design, production and marketing. I know the business inside out. Having published other writers' works, it made sense to apply the same skills to my own books.

I like the control indie publishing gives me, for example, choosing covers that actually suit the book's content.

Another factor why I went indie is that the publishers I signed with frequently got sold, went bust or closed down, often before the book was actually published. This left the rights to some of my books in limbo - a frustrating situation for an author.
Who are your favorite authors?
As an avid reader, devouring several hundred books every year, I have many favourite authors.

I like the Edgar Allan Poe(psychologically intense), Amelia Edwards (creepy atmospheric settings), Jane Austen (charactersisation and witty dialogue), Tanith Lee (dark, with fluid boundaries between good and evil), Dave Duncan (exciting epic fantasy), Gene Wolfe (intelligent fantasy novels which can be enjoyed at different levels), Charlotte Bronte (intense passion created through understatement), Marion Zimmer Bradley (the reader experiences different cultures through individuals who live there), Lisa Gardner (nail-biting suspense)... and many more.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I enjoy reading, gardening, and going for long walks along the beach. I also like visiting historical places, especially castles and stone circles.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I buy several hundred books per year. With ebooks, this is much cheaper and more convenient than with print books.

Whenever a book peeks my interest - perhaps because I've corresponded with the author on Twitter, or because I'm browsing that genre on Amazon - I can download the samples before I buy.

A quick glance at the first few paragraphs is enough to tell me whether I would enjoy this book or not. If yes, I click "buy now" and get it at once. If not, I've lost nothing, and can simply try the next book.

Typically, I download samples for ten or twenty books for every one that I actually buy.

In the past, when I bought mostly paper books, I had to wait until the book arrived, and then the contents often disappointed. Nowadays, because I sample first, my book purchases almost always delight me.
What is your writing process?
Although I don't have a regular schedule, I'm almost always writing. When I'm not at my laptop, you can find me in a coffeeshop, scribbling in a hardback notebook, or walking along the seafront, plotting the next scene.

I rewrite most of my fiction many times, and I value critical feedback from other writers at every stage of the process.
How do you approach cover design?
I commission artists to paint the illustrations. Seeing them interpret the brief is exciting, almost like a collaboration between artists, a writer and an illustrator.

I prefer original artwork over stock images. This way, the picture is exactly right for the book, and the same picture won't appear on other people's book covers.

Working with a cover artist is fun, and the constant exchange at every stage of the process can be exhilarating. ("Can you make the hero's eyes darker and his shoulders broader? And open two more buttons of his shirt...")

Sometimes, the illustrators do the overall cover design as well, although usually I do the design myself. Years ago, when I worked in book and magazine publishing, I learnt to design covers that sell. These insights stand me in good stead now, even though design trends and technology have changed.

In the old days, designing a cover involved a slide projector and tracing the picture on paper against a wall. To scale an image, you had to place it into a big clunky machine in a darkroom and crank the lever, and then there were the complicated processes of retouching lithographs with red paint on transparent plastic films. Today's GIMP and Photoshop have made this much easier.
Describe your desk
Published 2013-08-31.
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