Interview with Andrew Ball

What do your fans mean to you?
A fan, for me, is someone that tells me what I wrote meant something to them. That's vital for me as an author. It's validation of what I'm doing. When something I've written evokes honest emotion, I consider it a success. It means I'm doing something right.

I appreciate my fans intensely because they take time to appreciate me.
What are you working on next?
Right now, my main ongoing project is Prisoner, the sequel to Contractor.
Who are your favorite authors?
Iain M. Banks, author of the Culture series, is a favorite of mine. I'm also a big fan of Terry Pratchett, of Discworld fame, and L.E. Modesitt Jr., who penned the incredibly detailed and expansive Saga of Recluce series. An old standby for pure action-adventure would be R.A. Salvatore.

More recently, I've been reading Brandon Sanderson after he, in my humble opinion, did a great job finishing up the Wheel of Time series. He's got fantastic characters - he isn't afraid to meander inside their heads, and he manages to and I like that about his writing.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The desire to turn off my alarm clock.

I am not a morning person.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Family is very important to me, especially now that my grandmother is getting a little older.

As far as hobbies go, I read extensively and play plenty of video games. I'm also very invested in current events; I follow politics closely. I think it's important to stay informed.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Vividly. It was total and absolute crap!

Despite never having written a word in my life, I had a huge vision for my first series. It was like trying to jam twenty cookies into my mouth. Most of it ended up as crumbs on the floor, but I definitely gave my jaw a workout.

The difference in my skill as a writer between starting that story and stopping was incredible. I remember going back to the start to edit and being completely horrified. I wasn't structuring grammar properly - not adding quotations in the right way, not starting new paragraphs to indicate a new speaker. The most basic mechanics were all over the place. I spent days just correcting the skeleton of the story, let alone doing any real editing.

It was so much that I decided it would be easier to set it aside and write it from scratch at a later time. I was having other ideas; I had other stories I wanted to write. The core concepts are good, the themes are there. Inside the rough block of marble is a statue waiting to emerge. Someday, I'll go back and hash it out.

It was a big lesson for me. Writing is like anything else - practice makes perfect.
What is your writing process?
I start with a concept and write until my head gets stuffy.

At that point, I actually go back and look at what I did. The burst-start usually gives me some solid ideas about what I want the middle and end of the story to look like, and I'll create a vague outline with some major plot points arranged in sequence. I'll also take the time to list all my characters and make biographies. The character bios vary from exquisite detail for major characters - down to their favorite foods - to a few lines for characters met in passing.

It's chaotic, but it works for me. I write best when I have an open table and a few big benchmarks to act as guide posts.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first book I truly remember was Frog and Toad Together. The vignette about will power sticks out in my mind. "Will power" - the mysterious force that allows people to resist temptations. I decided it was very important and tried to have a lot of it.
How do you approach cover design?
I don't like covers that feature people, as appropriate as it may be in some circumstances. Too often I find that the image of a character on the front doesn't match what I have in my head. On top of that, it's boring. Almost any book can have people on the front.

I prefer something that's unique to the book - something that wouldn't be found elsewhere. Something with bold colors, maybe a pattern, something that hints at the genre without giving too much away, an image that evokes emotion or curiosity. Those are the ideas I had in mind when I designed the cover for Contractor.
Describe your desk
It's a big flat table with no drawers. My desk is over forty years old; it was originally used as a kitchen table, and then by my uncle as a study space when he lived with his grandmother. When he heard I was looking for a desk, he passed it on to me. It's a fantastic piece of wood, and has plenty of room for my computer and any number of books.

You gotta have a good desk. It's valuable thinking space!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Florida; I moved to Ohio when I was 3. I then moved to New Hampshire when I was 9. I've lived there ever since, though I spent four years at college in New York state, and had a good three-month stint in Vancouver, Canada.

I didn't notice this in my writing until I realized a shocking number of my protagonists live in Ohio. Ohio just always seemed like the right spot for them; the obvious link to my personal history never occurred to me until after the fact.

My characters never stay in Ohio. Ohio is quaint, almost boring - and it represents a launchpad, a state of transition. It's the moment before adventure.

Boston, the closest major city to southern New Hampshire, often features as the metropolis of choice in my stories.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Contractor is about a young man that doesn't want to be a hero getting forced into it anyway. Daniel finds that being a hero is just about as much a pain in the butt as he figured it would be.

The real story of the book is Daniel's growth and development as an adult. Daniel begins shut off from the world. He disconnects himself from his surroundings because he is bitterly unsatisfied. He is absolutely determined to change things, not for any love of his world, but out of a nursed grudge, a sense of being wronged. I wanted to write a protagonist that doesn't prioritize self-sacrifice; a man that doesn't really like people.

The story of Contractor is the story of that man.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
First, I write because I enjoy it. Reading is such a different experience that they can't be compared - but in a way, I started writing because my mind could never let go of "what if". That is to say, what if the story went -this- way, instead of -that- way? Writing lets me dictate what happens, and I love that sense of creation, the feeling of moving bits and pieces around a world that I've created.

Going indie has different benefits. There is, of course, the joy of public validation. Next to that are the financial opportunities of even modest success. If my hobby can earn me a little side income, then why not?

There's a part of me that wants people to see my story. I want people to read what I've written. I want to know what they think - how do they see these characters? How do they view the world I've made? Ultimately, when people read what I've written, they are seeing a part of me, and evaluating it. I suppose I crave that evaluation. The positive reviews make me feel good; the negative increase my resolve to do better next time.
Published 2014-08-11.
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