I'm still a big tactile person, for writers I do know I buy the hardcover before getting my hands on an ebook and often that's the fastest way to read new releases.
For writers I don't know, I find them through friends or search results. There were a few blogs and websites that I enjoyed, but they tend to self-destruct over time...which has happened a few times to me.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Grade 6 English class, I challenged my teacher because I was getting bored writing based on her prompts. It was driving me crazy because she was single and having trouble finding nice guys on the dating scene, so it always seemed like we were being asked to write a jaded love story.
Anyway, it was the first time I'd ever spoken up in class beyond the usual distracted talking with friends. It was also the first time I was sent to the Principal's office for something other than a fight on the playground. I laid out my issue to the Principal who then called in my teacher. They had a long talk behind a closed door and then invited me into the room. They told me that I could write about whatever I wanted this time. If I blew them away, I could always write outside of the prompts, otherwise I had to obey my teacher and behave.
I wrote a fantasy story about a pirate captain who was a jaded woman. She'd given up entirely on finding love, and treated men like disposable playthings. A thief joined her crew and she hated him. By the end of the story she started thinking of the thief as a lovable rogue and he became a trusted friend.
It was very much the work of a child trying to tell an adult how to behave like an adult and I didn't understand prose and pacing at all. Still, she gave me a hug the day after I'd handed it in and I got an A. It wasn't the last time a creative studies teacher challenged me, but it was one of the most memorable.
What is your writing process?
I start with a protagonist. This is the essential character that drives the story forward. If your audience can't empathize with your main character, reading becomes a chore. It doesn't matter what genre you're writing, without an engaging character you might as well be writing a textbook.
I then brainstorm a story arc. What will my main character do, what trials will s/he overcome, what failures will they suffer, what life experiences will change them...etc.
Once I have a character and an idea of what I want to do with them, I outline in bullet points. Typically I only pace out the first chapter or two, by then I have a strong foundation and the story begins to take on a life of it's own. I'll outline 80-90% of the book, the reason being that I don't want to foreshadow too much. If I know how everything ends, I find myself dropping hints and easter eggs that give away my twists and turns.
By the time I'm done 20% or so, the story has come alive in my mind and sometimes my arc and outlines are completely thrown out because I've stumbled into something fantastic and I want to see how it's going to end.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Technically my father read it to me. I was six years old and up until that point I'd been reading mostly comic books. I think he was annoyed that I wouldn't read anything without pictures, so I bought me a leather bound copy of Treasure Island that had a picture or two in every chapter. I'm sure he thought this was a brilliant way to get me away from comics and into traditional literature.
He was only half-right.
Some of my happiest memories were of him reading Treasure Island to me before bed. When we finished that book, he got me a library card and we borrowed all of the classics. The Time Machine, 2,000 Leagues, Muskateers and so on. By the time I was ten, I was reading the books out loud while he corrected me.
It became pretty clear that fantasy was my genre of choice and for my thirteenth birthday he bought me The Hobbit. I finished it in a weekend and with the rest of my birthday money I bought the Lord of the Rings books.
When I think back though, it's odd. All of the books I loved so much left so much to my imagination and yet my father enjoyed more detail from the writers he liked. He was a big Stephen King and Tad Williams fan. When I went off to college I began reading Raymond E Feist and finally had a modern writer I enjoyed and could wait on pins and needles for the next novel from.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm fairly talented at graphic design, but I can't draw or color to save my life. I find artists to do my covers and then I add the font and lay everything out. Once I have a draft, I show it around to my friends, family and some fans who have contacted me over the years to get an idea of what is working and what needs adjustment.
I give my artists very broad direction because I don't like stomping on their creative process. I give them just enough information to have an idea of what I need. For Draconis' Bane, I asked my artist to give me a silver dragon protecting a warrior on one knee and I described the armor, sword and shield. I told him a storm was blowing around them. What he came up with was amazing. For Deadly Intentions I literally told my artist to recreate the hero from the first cover, add a red dragon and have them on a volcanic landscape.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
(no particular order)
Archangel by Sharon Shinn - The way she described music opened my eyes and mind Silverthorn by Raymond E Feist - It gave me an appreciation for a larger story with a myriad of implications The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien - I got lost reading it and couldn't put it down Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - Pirates. Do I need to say more? The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling - Her best work in my opinion and the twists and turns had me on the edge of my seat
What do you read for pleasure?
In an effort to not steal ideas I stay away from fantasy books (except Feist). I tend to read a lot of biographies these days, usually of people I admire or am curious about. I find that people come from two places when writing biographies, they either think they have been misunderstood or they want a platform to give their opinions without being interrupted.
Neither works out well and most of them are pretty transparent, but I find it all highly educational and it does help me create more full-fledged characters with deeper personal stories.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
iPad, though I tend to use the Kindle app more than the Apple reader. Not quite sure why if I'm honest.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
If I'm brutally honest....none of them.
Most ways to market indie/self-published books don't target your audience. Twitter mentions do very little as the post is lost in a timeline moments after it's posted. Facebook ads are fine, but they don't target specifically enough for writers. When 4-5,000 people have seen your add and 1 ebook is sold in the next week, it's hard to rationalize the cost. Amazon reviews take advantage of their system, but in order to get anywhere you have to either join a "review group" where everyone gives each other 5 star reviews regardless of the quality of the book, or purchase reviews and risk the stigma attached to that practice.
In my experience, making myself available in every way possible seems to be the only way to draw new fans and keep current ones. I have a facebook fan page, twitter, pintrest and google + accounts. Most of the time my posts get very little attention, even with "promotions". Offering free copies on Amazon is hit and miss in my opinion.
At the end of the day, you're establishing yourself as a brand. People will either like you, be ambivolent to you, or hate you. On Amazon the latter is always entertaining.
I make sure my readers know that I appreciate their support, I invite them to contact me if they have comments or questions and I generally just put myself out there. Not everyone will like everyone and it's pointless to obsess about it. You can't control others, but you can control how you allow yourself to react to it.
Turn out quality work, try to ignore the haters, be consistent and people will come around and spread the word.
Describe your desk
Super organized. I have OCD issues, everything has a home. My bookshelf is arranged by size. Yes...it's that bad.
When I'm writing I try to keep my muses close at hand, for Daughter of Vengeance I had a weapons textbook next to me the entire time. For the Blood Feud books I had numerous books with dragon imagery, some figurines, and my desktop wallpaper was an image of the main dragon. Anytime I didn't know where I was going, I would stop and stare at something until an idea struck me.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Full disclosure...I love this question. It reveals so much when you answer it.
The honest truth is that I couldn't get published traditionally. Every single one of my stories has been submitted a dozen or some times and all of them had the same response which drives me crazy.
"We love your book, but it's just not right for us."
This can mean a lot of things to different people. Some people feel like this is a kind dismissal, others a politically correct way of saying they don't like it...but no matter who you ask, it's always negative. Because it's easy to beat yourself up.
With the advent of ebooks and the ease with which sites like Smashwords makes publishing them...everyone and their grandma is writing and publishing their work.
It's a double edged sword.
First, some of them are amazing and if you do happen to find an author you like in the indie scene...support them. Most of them are making very little and treat it like a hobby that doesn't cost thousands.
Second. Some of horrible. Really horrible. The writer has something to say, but it's unintelligible. I know some people toss fanfic in here too, but good fanfic is as rare as finding that indie author you love and support. I've never published any of my fanfic, but I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't written any. We all have, either on paper or in our heads. That's not a rational argument...even for the erotic stuff.
I became an indie author because I love writting, I love sharing my stories and I'd like to make that a career. It'll probably never happen, but that's why it's a dream. Here and now, I write and publish my work and hopefully it resonates with some of you.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is great, no...that's not glad-handing. It gives me the ability to list my ebooks on multiple readers from one place where I can then track everything easily. I like to spend as much of my free time as possible writing, not marketing or posting or chasing around download stats. I just want to write and this website makes that possible.
What do your fans mean to you?
Without fans, there's really no point. Honestly, how many books can you write to adorn your own bookshelf before it gets boring. Their reactions, both good and bad, are always awesome to hear about.
What are you working on next?
Another novel set in the world I created for the Blood Feud books. I don't want to give away too much, but the main character and his youngest daughter head into the Great Expanse under questionable orders to settle and colonize the north.
Who are your favorite authors?
Raymond E Feist, Jennifer Fallon, Sharon Shinn, Andre Dumas, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tolkien and Rowling.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The alarm clock.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Watching movies & docs, TV shows (Justified, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, The Following and Almost Human), hanging out with my kid...went to my first con this year, that was awesome, oh...and my guilty pleasure is pro wrestling. I do a weekly radio show about it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
The Canadian prairies. Don't get me wrong, I love it here...but it lends itself to developing an active imagination.
When did you first start writing?
Twelve. Mostly short stories, fanfic, efed content (wrestling thing most of you wouldn't know or care about) and flash fiction.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My main character from the Blood Feud novels, Tristan, is sent north to pacify and make the land ready for colonization. Unfortunately, there's a threat that has kept hidden for centuries that will threaten the peace the Seven Kingdoms have enjoyed the last eighty-two years.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Creating. I could wax philosophical, but what's the point? Creating.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.