Interview with Ross Harrison

What motivated you to become an indie author?
Like, probably, all indie authors, I didn't intend to be one. I was in too much of a hurry to get my work out to agents, and so ended up sending out the novel before it was ready. That resulted, naturally, in rejections. In turn, that led to me considering self-publishing.

It isn't that easy a decision, as the world of self-publishing brings a different set of difficulties to traditional publishing. Not least of all a suspicion and mistrust from readers. But eventually I made the decision to follow that road.

At that point, I had left the novel to sit for quite a while, and I knew I had to go back for another thorough edit. That edit - with the added, looming thought that real people would be reading these words - turned into a full rewrite. I made huge changes and improved the book drastically. To the point, in fact, that a well-respected agent read a good portion of it online and sought me out to ask for a full read. By that time, I was less than a week from publication, so I said no, but it was encouraging.

It's quite hard work if done properly, but I sold about 400 books in the first handful of months and got a lot of very good feedback, and have never felt like I did the wrong thing. I've since published a second novel and a short story, with my contribution to a sci-fi/fantasy anthology about to be published in the next month or so.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Possibly the escapism. It's like having a job title of Daydreamer. It's one of the reasons I write science fantasy, primarily. In science fantasy, I can do whatever I want. It's my universe, with my rules, and it can be whatever it needs to be.

Another joy, perhaps on par with that, is when the story and the dialogue just flows straight out of my fingertips without me having to particularly think about it. When things progress all by themselves and all I have to do is keep up.
What do your fans mean to you?
A lot. Apart from anything else, they are proof that I'm producing novels that people actually want to read. And they give me a clue as to what aspects may be working better than others, and what directions future books should take, and so on. I have already found myself stopping to think if fans would like a particular thing I've just written.

There is also an indefinable pleasant feeling, knowing that people are reading and enjoying my work and wanting more.
What are you working on next?
At the moment, I have a noir-ish thriller finished and sitting gathering dust. It's set in the same universe as my main series, NEXUS, but isn't a part of that series. It a much more grounded, reality-driven novel, and the sci fi aspect has little relevance. It just happens to be in the future.

While I wait for movement on that, I have returned to book 3 of the NEXUS series. I had already written a good portion of it, but I have taken a blank document and started a complete rewrite, using what I already have as merely a template. So it will still take some time to get that finished, but I think readers will enjoy the new perspective on these particular characters.

As I mentioned earlier, I am also participating in a sci-fi/fantasy anthology, being published by WyrdStar. That is currently scheduled for publication in September.
Who are your favorite authors?
Terry Pratchett. Douglas Adams (Dirk Gently far more than Hitchhiker's Guide). Iain M Banks. Peter F Hamilton.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I don't know if it was the first story I ever wrote, but the first one I can remember was, I think, some kind of horror. It involved a house on top of a hill, a stormy night, a little girl, and red. Possibly a red dress. That's all I can remember, other than the fact that family told me it was good. Naturally.
What is your writing process?
Usually, I sit and stare at my screen until something happens. It's different each time though. Sometimes I'll have something to base it on.

I'll take my (as yet untitled) thriller as an example. I had an idea that I'd quite like to write something noir. Then I decided that actually I'd just like to write something with a noir feel. I had a portion of a book I'd been writing years ago, but lost the majority of thanks to computer corruption. I decided I was going to rewrite that in a first person, noir-ish way.

My intention was to start writing it after I'd finished book 3 of my NEXUS series. One evening, however, I had the overwhelming urge to open a new Word document and write the first line. The line came from nowhere, and had nothing to do with the opening of the original draft I'd be working off. But it has remained the first line throughout the writing and rewriting and editing processes.

After writing the first line, I didn't seem to be capable of stopping. I wanted to know what was going on. Why my first person character was in a bar and why he was hitting someone. So I then sat and wrote the rest of the chapter. And then the next chapter. And then I was able to go to bed.

After that, the thriller became my focus, and I put book 3 on hold until I'd finished it. The first half flowed out easily, and it became apparent that it was not a rewrite of that original draft, but something completely new. The only similarity was that this new character had stolen the old character's name. The second half was harder going, with less flowing and more sitting planning what would happen next, but at least I feel like I worked hard to get it written!

And that's how it usually is. I start with a rough idea of the story and setting and characters, and let it flow from there. I do very little planning - partly because I know it will end up nothing like the plan anyway.
How do you approach cover design?
I have some experience with design, having done some computer games development and web design, so my initial thought for each cover is 'Can I do it myself?' Usually, the answer is 'No'. For Shadow of the Wraith, I have two covers. One for the ebook, and one for the paperback. The latter I did myself. I'm not entirely keen on it, but feedback tells me it's good and intriguing, so that's the main thing.

The ebook cover was done by an artist. Likewise, the covers for Temple of the Sixth and Kira were both done by an artist. The latter two were done by Yuan Cui, while the first was done by Mark Williams. Yuan I have now taken to calling 'my artist', as he is the only one I would want doing my cover art. That said, I have been doing a few concepts myself for the thriller.

The way we work it is that I have a concept in my head and I do a rough draft of it myself so he can see the way I'm picturing it. Then he'll go away and paint it. Then between the drafts and the finished version, I try very hard to get him to change small unimportant things to make it exactly what I'm seeing in my head. Then I put in the text (and in Kira's case, the little plaque) and it's done.

It's arguably not a great way of doing things because a good piece of art and a good cover are not the same thing. But I think that, so far anyway, it has worked well. Very well, in fact.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle. I can't read on my phone because it hurts my eyes. I don't read on my computer because then it feels like work. And it hurts my eyes.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I didn't do a huge amount of marketing really. I should have. For the first book I posted here and there in two or three forums (two of them Kindle specific), as well as Facebook and Twitter. The only other marketing was indirect, in the form of review bloggers. I'd have a review and/or interview with some, and some of their followers would go and buy the book.

The effect of this marketing was most noticeable by it's absence the second time round. I did very little with book 2 in comparison, and that reflected heavily in sales. So next time I will not be so lazy!

The only thing I wouldn't really bother with all that much is Facebook and Twitter. Ok, your followers/likers may retweet/share your posts, but very few do in reality. And on those platforms, only those existing followers will see your marketing efforts. So as platforms for generating more readers, I don't see them as being particularly helpful. I wouldn't abandon them though.
Describe your desk
The desk itself is a curved corner type thingy. On my left monitor I have my three book covers, and on my right I have this browser window, which is sadly obscuring my view of the lovely Juni (one of my characters). Beside my keyboard at the moment, I have a cup of not entirely pleasant coffee, a bottle of water, 3 soft mints, an empty cup that this morning contained even more unpleasant yesterday's coffee, and a white chocolate and raspberry cookie. Other miscellaneous items include pens, scissors, post-it notes, an art pad, a picture of a 3D HMS Victory I made years ago in Max, a Michael Crichton book and a James Patterson book. Neither of which I've read, and neither of which are mine. And I'm unsure of the origin of either.

It also now sports a small puddle of cooling coffee and the stains of tears.
Published 2013-08-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Kira Part II - Horizon
Series: Kira. Price: $1.70 USD. Words: 14,130. Language: British English. Published: December 10, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Steampunk & retropunk, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
Their town is gone and their people dead. Kira has a new responsibility: keep the boy alive. When they reach the horizon, she realises that might not be so easy.
Temple of the Sixth
Series: NEXUS. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 99,250. Language: English. Published: December 13, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Adventure » Action
(5.00)
A race to rescue a kidnapped god and stop a fifty thousand year old evil dominating the galaxy... Too much for a failed private detective?
Kira
Series: Kira. Price: $1.70 USD. Words: 13,400. Language: English. Published: September 30, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Steampunk & retropunk, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
(4.33)
24 hours in the life of Kira, a Wastelander trying to survive the harsh realities of a post-apocalyptic land ruled by the brutal, oppressive Government.
Shadow of the Wraith
Series: NEXUS. Price: $4.49 USD. Words: 130,060. Language: English. Published: August 2, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
(5.00)
A ghost ship terrorises the galaxy. Can a team of inept soldiers exorcise the stars and bring an end to an even greater threat?