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Monday, December 7, 2015

Let's Talk Writing with Gerald Dean Rice

Recently I had the pleasure of discussing the art and business of writing with Gerald Dean Rice, a prolific writer from Michigan who has a number of novels and anthologies available on Amazon. 

When did you get interested in writing? 

Sometime when I was a child. I wrote a story when I was in second grade about two witches and I think I tried to write a "Ghostbusters" story back in eighth grade. I didn’t really start writing until high school when I penned a bunch of really one-dimensional horror stories that were more weird than anything else.

Was anyone else in your family interested in writing?

I’d like to think my mother was a writer, though if she ever wrote anything she never shared it with anyone.

I notice that among your books you write about vampires and zombies. What is your favorite subject between the two? Which do you find easier to write?

Zombies. Definitely. I want to write more about vampires and I have an idea I think is pretty cool, but I have several zombie stories ahead of it.

You seem to publish primarily on Kindle. Which format (Kindle or paperback) do you prefer and why?

I don’t have a preference, per se, but Kindle is a lot more convenient. I can write a story, get a cover made and upload the whole she-bang in a week.


You're very prolific. Your Amazon page shows a lot of books, primarily horror, but with a lot of variety in plot. Have you ever had a problem with writer's block and if so, what have you done to clear it up? 



I’ve had writer’s block exactly once. About ten years ago I was let go from my job and the stress was so intense that I couldn’t write a word. I fell asleep every day at about 7 o’clock.


Have you ever run across that one project that you just can't finish for whatever reason? Or perhaps you had to really force yourself to finish because one thing wasn't working but you liked the concept in general?

I have a novelette I started two years ago, finished last year, but for some reason it just isn’t ready to be published. I don’t know what’s keeping me from pulling the trigger on it, but I just can’t.

Do you need inspiration to write or can you simply sit down and begin to write?

Both. I can push myself into an idea, but most times something just hits my fancy the right way and I note it.


You actually wrote a book about self publishing. What sort of feedback have you gotten from authors following your advice?

I actually have done workshops on self-publishing. Authors have been pretty receptive. Quite a few didn’t know about Smashwords or the free promotions Amazon offers for exclusivity. I ran into a woman who came to one of my workshops and she was asking when I would be doing another. 

The business end of writing and what it takes to market a book (and ones self) can be quite an eye opener for those starting out. What do you feel is the most important thing for people to keep in mind when starting out?

Don’t be discouraged and don’t expect to sell books (right away).

Would you ever work on a project outside of the genres you feel comfortable with?

Actually, I’m looking forward to doing that. I have a couple sci-fi ideas I’m kicking around in my head.


Which of your books would you most like to see made into a movie?

Hmm. Probably Vamp-Hire. My heroes aren’t typically ‘hero-ey’ so they wouldn’t all have that big-screen appeal. Nick is a loser’s loser at the beginning of the story and has a huge upswing by the end.

You have a few short story anthologies out. Which are you more comfortable writing, short stories or full novels?

I’m comfortable with either, really. Short stories are a pleasure because they’re easier to write. Fewer working parts and the pay-off is a lot more immediate and can sometimes be more powerful because the best ones stick to the reader.


I'm sure you love all your books, but which gave you the most satisfaction after completion?

The Ghost Toucher. I had never learned to plot and whenever I tried to work on a novel I’d write myself into a corner and quit. I just picked up a notebook one day and took about two weeks to write a plot—probably not in any proper manner, but in a way I understood—and used that as the skeleton to write the book.

On a second or third read, did you ever come across a subtext that you hadn't realized was there before?

I have a bad memory. I probably have and just don’t recall. I have thought of new directions for a continuing story to go on second and third reads.


What authors have inspired you early in your career and now?

Easy. F. Paul Wilson and Stephen King. I learned the basis for my writing style from Wilson and King is King. I saw "Creepshow" when I was in kindergarten and the first adult book I read was Eyes of the Dragon back when I was in seventh grade.

You seem to write primarily in the horror genre. What is it about that genre that attracts you?

Early exposure. Sure, I might have watched a lot through my fingers, but I was watching horror. Regular life is boring; I absolutely couldn’t write that and have nothing but respect for those who do.

When you come up with a plot is it born from your own fears or from a simple attempt to figure out what might give people the chills?

Both. I want people to freak out reading my stories but it’s also cathartic to put something that bothers me on paper and give it to the world.

The debate of which being more important, character or plot, comes up occasionally. I find that clich├ęd characters can ruin even the best story, but strong, interesting characters can often save a poor story. Where do you stand on the issue of which is more important (provided you think the importance of one outweighs that of the other)?

I think a plot, no matter how strong, is dead on the table without strong, supporting characters. Take The Ruins, for example. I thought the idea was awesome (saw the movie, not the book). I hated the characters, though and couldn’t care less when each of them died. I was actually rooting for the locals to kill them.

What's up next for you?

I’m about to start redrafting a zombie story with Santa Claus. Well, not Santa Claus, but a Santa. Then I’m either going to write a revenge ghost story or a novel describing the daily lives of Jason Voorhees/Freddy Krueger type mass killers. If that goes as well as I’d like it should be a series.

Where can people find out more about your work?

You can always find me on Twitter @Geraldrice, my websites www.razorlinepress.com and www.geralddeanrice.com, or my Facebook fan page. You can also visit my Amazon page www.amazon.com/Gerald-Dean-Rice/e/B0043GCYOM/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ujaali Prologue

I've recorded myself reading the prologue to Ujaali. Hope you like it. 


Ujaali is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

To Touch the Sun is also available on Amazon in both formats.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ujaali Book Trailer

Well the new book trailer is here for Ujaali, the second book in the Chicago Vampire Series and I think it turned out pretty cool. Take a look.




The photos of Chicago are from a talented photographer named Matt Tuteur who has a great eye for this gorgeous city.

You can check out more of his work at his blog Matt Tuteur Street Photography.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Simon Oneill Sighting

Here's an interview with my friend Simon Oneill, author of the Phantom Bigfoot Series, a paranormal fantasy series. Simon hales from Wales, the birth place of Dylan Thomas, Ken Follett and Gwyneth Lewis among many others.

When did the writing bug bite you? 

About 2000 my wife and I started writing screenplays. From there a film company asked us to create a paranormal TV show. Nothing happened but we were stuck with 22 paranormal episodes. So we are now converting them to novels. 

When did you take the step to serious publishing?

 2013 was when Phantom Bigfoot was born and from then joined Author's Social Media Support Group (#ASMSG) those guys are so awesome and they taught me how to self-publish. Haven’t looked back since.

Where did the title Phantom Bigfoot come from?

Where dreams are made, I guess. Just seemed the right phrase for a teenager altered by aliens to protect Bigfoot from hunters.


What is the plot of the book?

The Phantom Bigfoot Series follows teen superhero Duane as he strives to make a tribe of Bigfoot invisible to hunters and searchers and along the way he has crazy adventures and solves mysteries in the most ludicrous way possible. 

What was the inspiration for the plot?

My own skewed sense of humor and films like "Harry and the Hendersons".

When I was growing up in the 70s, I loved reading about creatures like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc. Does Wales have any Bigfoot-like legends?

They do now, Phantom Bigfoot was spotted shopping in a local supermarket, but it was only me, LOL. There have been news clips of wild men living on Brecon Beacons, a vast wilderness where SAS train. 


The famous still of a "Bigfoot"
Any special research into Bigfoot or similar legends?

I watched the usual news feeds on the Internet which never revealed more than a blurry image. The rest I invented as I went along.

What is your writing process like? Do you have a set pattern or ritual or do you write when the inspiration hits you? Any music that puts you in the mood?

I write when I can, not easy though as my time is gobbled up by looking after sick parents. The song that inspires Phantom Bigfoot is "These Bigfoot are made for Walking" by Nancy Sinatra. She follows me as she is an avid animal rights activist too. Thirty percent of all sales of Bigfoot books go to Cats Protection.

What do you do to market your books?

Muddle through Facebook, Twitter, join groups and event takeovers, make fans, but it isn’t easy getting my name out there.


Any public appearances?

I have had a few book signings, but it is so expensive to organize.

Do you enjoy the marketing process?

Not much, I’d rather be writing. If marketing actually worked then I would put more effort into it.

What do you like about writing and what do you dislike about it?

I love entering a special world of my own creation and for Phantom Bigfoot that’s the wild forest full of beautiful creatures who depend in him. Editing can be frustrating but is a necessary step to releasing a good book.



Who are some of your favorite authors? What is it about their writing that grabs you? Has any influenced your style of writing?

Stephen King and Graham Masterton are the two authors who have strongly influenced me. I often have a chat with Graham, wish I could say the same for Stephen. I live in the hope he might friend me one day, LOL. King has a way of drawing the reader into his terrifying world and loving every second of it. Masterton does the opposite, he makes the reader squirm and suffer every gory page. Love it!


How about television shows or movies? Do you have any particular favorites? 

Well, for TV I like "Dexter," "Walking Dead," "Poldark," "True Blood," "Star Trek," "DS9," "Star Gate: SG1." Among my favorite movies are "Some Like It Hot," "Butch and Sundance," "The Wild Bunch," "Jaws," "The Big Lebowski."

Are your books self published and if so, what are your thoughts on self publishing?

All selfies and self-publishing is so liberating as you can release your novel whenever not like with traditional publishers who might take at least two years to get your book out and by then it will not resemble your novel anyway.

Have you ever written anything that you might not have picked up during writing but after reading through it kind of surprised you? Perhaps a context that you didn’t expect?

I often reread during my wife’s editing process and say, “Did I actually write that? I can’t remember?”

Does anyone else in your family enjoy writing? 

My wife writes with me and edits all my work.

What advice would you give someone just starting out about the business of writing?

Don’t wait to get an agent or trad publishing, if the novel has been edited then get it out there and make sure you have a good following on Twitter and Facebook first.


Can you imagine your books being turned into a movie or perhaps a TV show?

No need to, my novel Flip Side about a gangster haunted by his father is in the hands of Hollywood and Magic Is Murder my horror comedy about witches and ghosts will be filmed next year. And it has an awesome link to TV series "Dexter."


Would you ever write outside the fantasy/horror genre? Perhaps even do nonfiction? 

Can’t see me doing that, but stranger things have happened.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Hot In Bigelow; Sizzling will be released Nov. 7 and is my alien erotica version of Start Trek meets Some Like It Hot with an overload of Viagra.

What do you think you’d do if you ever actually came across a Bigfoot, phantom or otherwise?

Have a few beers with him.

Where can we find your work and more information about you?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00SN9TNAI 

http://twitter.com/simoneillauthor

http://facebook.com/simononeillauthor


Thanks for stopping by, Simon. Say hello to the big guy for us. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Drawing Out Charles Butler

Today, we discuss the art and artistry of Charles E. Butler, a talented artist whose written and illustrated a number of books about vampires in films. 

Where are you from?

I was born in Leeds in the UK. Apparently, I am a Welsh, Irish Yorkshireman with me stuck in the middle.

You’ve built up quite a shelf of books examining vampires in film, beginning with The Romance of Dracula and continuing. The books feature artwork created by yourself.  Which interest came first, art or writing?

Art came first. I was fascinated by comicbooks very early on and tried to draw the characters and make up my own comic strips. I’m actually a comic book artist wannabe.

Which are you more comfortable with?

Drawing. But I wanted to use my skills in tandem. To integrate writing and drawing and my love of fantasy and cinema. The Romance of Dracula helped to bring all that to the surface.

Do you have formal art education or this a skill you’ve always had and developed on your own?

I’ve always been able to draw. I left school with 3 O levels; Art 16+, English Literature and English Language. The terrible trio.

What is it about vampires that strikes your fancy?

I’ve always been a fan of Dracula since picking up my first comic book – Dracula Lives UK No. #2. He is the greatest fantasy character ever created. I like stories that stay in the Stoker tradition of the vampire tale. Like the movies I watch, I like them to be entertaining without leaving a bad taste afterwords. The vampire itself is open to a myriad of different interpretations. They live forever, have amazing strength and power, in fact the only downside is the blood-drinking thing.


Explain the books you’ve written and how you were inspired to write them?

The books are my own journey through the many vampire movies of the cinema. I write the text and illustrate the chapter headings. It began with The Romance of Dracula – originally meant as a private undertaking and not as a publishing venture – that chronicles the 14 major adaptations from Bram Stoker’s novel. I had read a really bad review book about a major Horror film studio that had very glaring errors that would insult any fan of the genre and I decided to write my own. 

You’ve self-published the books. What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

The pros – to me – are getting sales when someone hits your link and buys one. The cons are the tiring promotions that you undertake that sometimes never result in anything. You do this on your own time and – in some cases – with your own money. You just have to fight against the frustrations and believe in the work you do. And it can get very frustrating.

Any advice for someone thinking of self publishing?

Yes. Think long and hard about it. Do not think of the financial rewards and expect to be a millionaire overnight. My rule of thumb? If something isn’t working, bin it and start again. If you decide to publish, have a 100% total faith in the work and be prepared for long periods of frustration. If you like it, chances are that others will too. But once you start, never give up.

What is your take on the marketing process?

I hate marketing. I was a salesman for nearly ten years and made a lot of money for others. But everything is marketed differently and trying to do the same for your own work can give you crazy thoughts. I keep going by thinking things like; ‘My books are in someone else’s home! And they paid for them!’ This still strikes me as very surreal.




What are some of the things you do to market your work?

I started really marketing five years ago – 2010 - when I published The Romance of Dracula. I was writing blogs for internet sites and magazines. I was networking through social groups and author pages. I was even giving copies away. TROD did well on its first two years and it pleases me that people still pick it up today. It has made its way into overseas libraries thanks to some amazing friends and I now market just by adding my links to social media. I have pages dedicated to all my books and various horror characters that are managed by my sister! She works lovingly on them every day. Another friend in Australia has placed my first three books in the State Lending Library of Southern Australia! And still another friend manages the bulk of my twitter account. These people are really God-given and I wouldn’t be without any of them. I can only offer my gratitude to them as they have shouldered two and a half years responsibility for my work – and they are STILL talking to me.

What do you like or dislike about that side of the creative process?

As above. The friends who help are amazing and it certainly pays to an extent to network and blog. I’ve never been comfortable with blogging or discussing methods as most of my ventures happen through happy accident or emotional frames of mind. The Romance of Dracula had it all in there. It is a very raw book in that respect. As I say, I do hate marketing and wish that everyone just pressed on my link and bought a book. How easy that would be.

What’s your favorite vampire movie?

"Nosferatu" (1921) without a doubt. It will never be beaten.


What’s your favorite vampire book?

Dracula, Bram Stoker.

Were others in your family creative?

Apparently, my dad had some creative drawing style going on, but never pursued it – he had eight kids after all! But all my siblings have their own distinctions. I am the only one to venture outside the box in the family and I like to think they are proud of my efforts. In reality, I only have myself to please and if I am pleased, then it has been a good day.

Are there any rituals you follow before drawing or writing?

Unless it is a commission, no. With a commission, I try and see what the customer sees and hope that we agree on the finished work. My own published works are written with myself in mind. Again, if I like it, chances are others will too. I have thrown more work away than will ever see publication.



Do you have any music that puts you in the mood?

No, I like all kinds of music and films. My biggest foe is procrastination and self-doubt. These are the obstacles I imagine that many creative people confront. I keep going by reminding myself that if I stop, everything stops.

Do you have any hobbies?

Funny thing, my hobbies are drawing, writing and acting! Life is a hobby.

You also have acting experience. How did you get involved with that? Do you still do it? 

I started acting with local theatre groups twenty years ago. I’ve trodden the boards of many venues. Appeared in TV shows and again, written and directed my own plays and short films. One of the films was showcased in New Orleans in 2011! I’m really proud of that.



What’s the next project you’re working on?

I have several writing projects at the moment. All indie publishing. I have some drawing commissions to fulfill. My latest is actually a collaboration to illustrate a book on the major film adaptations of A Christmas Carol that I should have started by the time this interview goes to print. Plus, I am trying to get some graphic comic book ideas literally down on paper. My next book on the horror cinema should be hitting online shelves next year – mid-March (2016) – and it is chronicling werewolf movies throughout the years.


For information on Charles and his books you can visit his Amazon page.

Thanks for stopping by, Charles.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ujaali is Here

Ujaali, Book Two in the Chicago Vampire Series has finally been published and is available in paperback and Kindle formats.

After the events of To Touch the Sun, Book One in the Chicago Vampire Series, Narain Khan is finding his life returning to normal—or as normal as life can be for the chef and owner of one of Chicago’s premiere restaurants who also happens to be a vampire. And yet, as the romance deepens between him and microbiologist Cassie Lambert, and investors approach he and business partner Dom Amato to open a London restaurant, Narain can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is coming. 

Something he’ll be totally unprepared to deal with. 

Indeed, something terrible does come as the consequences of a careless action taken decades ago come back to haunt him. It forces him to lie to Dom, a friend he’s never lied to before, and puts at risk the relationship he’s built with Cassie after a blackout causes him to do the unthinkable one night. 

To save those he loves, victims of his mistake, Narain must turn to his greatest nemesis for help and agree to the harsh terms that Reg Jameson is only too glad to put forth.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Gangsters and Vampires: A Chat With Brian McKinley

Today I'd like to introduce you to Brian McKinley, an author from New Jersey who's written a novel with an interesting take on the vampire genre.

In Drawing Dead the world of the gangster is written very well. The two worlds (gangster and vampire) merge seamlessly. Had you done a lot of research on the gangster culture of the time?
Thank you, first of all. To answer: yes. I’ve always been a fan of gangster movies and novels, and had wanted to write a gangster movie about the 20s/30s that was more reality-based and factual than most were. Faolan was actually going to be the main character in that story as a human mobster.

Which came first: The desire to write a vampire novel using gangsters or a gangster novel using vampires? In other words, were the two separate interests that merged or did one inspire research on the other?
Well, Faolan began as the antagonist of another novel called The Chermasu and, the more scenes with him that I wrote, the more I liked him and didn’t want to kill him off. So I started changing the plot to allow him to live, but that still wasn’t quite enough. Then a friend of mine suggested that I write a novel about Faolan and I decided that I wanted to start from the beginning. That started the idea of making a series about his rise to power. So I suppose the vampire came first, but the attraction of telling Faolan’s story lay in his gangster roots.

When/how did you become interested in vampires?
Wow, probably back when I was very young. I used to watch the classic Universal movies on TV and loved them (though at the time my favorite was Frankenstein’s Monster). I don’t think it was until I read Interview with the Vampire in high school that the idea of a vampire protagonist really hit me. I still didn’t start writing about vampires for many years later, when I started being inspired to use some of my roleplaying characters in my fiction.

In terms of the genre, what book do you consider over rated and what book do you think should have more popularity?
I’m going to avoid the obvious Twilight, because that’s too easy. I actually don’t think that much of Dracula as a novel, considering the cultural impact that it’s had. The characters are iconic, but the book itself is badly-paced and episodic. As for which book I think should be more popular (aside from my own!)...

Who are some of your favorite authors?
George R.R. Martin, Jim Butcher, P.N. Elrod, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Thomas Harris.

When/how did the writing bug bite you?
I remember writing stories for my grandparents from the time that I could put sentences together. I always loved making up stories and creating worlds.

Anyone else in your family interested in writing?
Not really. I have a few relatives who read, but I seem to be a bit of a rarity.

You have in the past mentioned your battles with depression. Can you explain how this has affected your writing (alternatively, if writing has helped with the depression)?
It’s definitely effected my writing, but mostly as a detriment. My depressive episodes tend to sap my energy, focus, and motivation, so I might think about my story, but I don’t get any writing done. Occasionally, I’ve managed to force myself to write while depressed and I usually feel better afterwards, but that never makes it easier to get started.

Would you ever try writing outside the vampire genre?
Absolutely. I started off writing psychological thrillers, but I’ve always had an interest in historical fiction as well as sci-fi. I have an idea for a sci-fi series, but I’ve been sticking with the vampire books for the moment because I feel like I need to establish myself in one genre before expanding into others.


Is Drawing Dead the first book in a continuing series or only one in a set number of sequels planned?
As I mentioned, I plan it as the first in a series that will span the 20th Century and up to the present with each book taking place in a different decade. I want to try to reflect what’s happening in America with what’s happening with the characters.

What is Drawing Dead about?
In essence, it’s about a terrible human being who, by turning into a “monster”, actually becomes a better person. That’s contrasted by his quest to be a success in the vampire society, despite tremendous odds against him.


You have another novel out there, don’t you? What's the title and plot of that one?
Well, Ancient Blood is only out there as an audiobook currently, but I’m planning to re-release that one. AB takes place in the same universe as Drawing Dead, but in the modern day. It’s the story of Avery, a vampire fanboy who becomes a real vampire, and is forced to deal with the ruling council and their politics.

Do you have any sort of routine for when you write: Favorite music you listen to, a particular time you prefer to write?
I try to make myself write whenever I have time, but it seems to work best if I isolate myself away from TV or the internet. I do a lot of writing in restaurants, especially a truck stop near me that has a good buffet and no internet. I also like music and I tend to create playlists for different characters that help me get into their headspace. I don’t have any real writing rituals, though.

What are some of your favorites in books, movies and TV?
I’m watching a lot more TV shows than I used to, since it seems like the quality of cable and even network dramas are improving. "Penny Dreadful," "Game of Thrones," "Hannibal," "Walking Dead," "Rome," "Boardwalk Empire," "Blacklist," and all those CW super-hero shows. Most of my favorite movies are older now, things like "Goodfellas," "The Godfather," "Silence of the Lambs," "Princess Bride," "Young Frankenstein," "Pulp Fiction," and such, but I like a lot of the new Marvel movies, too.



Have you ever written anything that afterward surprised you? Perhaps after a reading it you recognized a hidden subtext that you didn’t realize was there?
I can’t really think of anything, because I tend to obsess and struggle over every scene as I write it so everything in there is usually deliberate. However, I have still been surprised sometimes by things that other people will see in my writing. Sometimes I see what they mean afterwards and sometimes it baffles me because it wasn’t at all what I intended.

Who would you like to see play the characters in a movie.
Is it ridiculous that I think about that stuff a lot? It’s kind of a difficult decision because I know enough about the movie business to understand that who I’d want and who would actually be possible to cast are very different. A lot of the actors I originally pictured in these roles are now way too old to be appropriate. Then there are certain actors who might perfectly capture the essence of a character but not look anything like what I describe in my novel. I may open this up as a contest in the future and see what others think.


What do you like best and like least about the marketing process?
You’re kidding, right? I enjoy doing interviews like this and talking casually about my work, but I absolutely hate trying to “sell” it. Even though I believe in what I’ve done completely, I’d much rather have other people say good things about it. I’ve still never done any sort of ad or post about my books that didn’t make me feel a little cheesy.

Any future projects you can tell us about?
Sure. Right now I’m working on the sequel to Drawing Dead which will probably be called Drawing Thin. I’ve got a bunch of pages written for the sequel to Ancient Blood, but I still have the second half of that to write. I’d also like to revisit The Chermasu and try to make that work.




Friday, September 4, 2015

A Trip to the Stars with Jex Collyer


Today I'd like to feature an author from England whose first novel has gotten some great reviews. Zero by Jex Collyer was released Aug. 15, 2014. The sequel, Haven, is due out Oct. 24.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Shropshire in the midlands but now live in Lancaster in the North West.

When did the writing bug hit you?

I’ve been scribbling stories since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I used to fold paper in half and staple it together to make books and wrote stories about trolls and pirates. When I started my Creative Writing degrees was when I first started getting serious about learning to write and being determined to get somewhere with it.


Do you have any authors or works that inspired you?

My biggest influences were actually fantasy writers and anime series from the nineties. Robin Hobb, fantasy author of the "Farseer Series," showed me exactly what sort of fiction I wanted to write: character-driven, emotive and epic but with buckets of other-worldliness. I also grew up with "Star Wars" and watching Japanese TV shows and movies like "Akira" and "Patlabore": these had a big influence on the style of setting and story types I enjoy.

Had you published prior to Zero: An Orbit Novel?

I have had a few short stories published in various anthologies, including Dagda Publishing’s Tuned to a Dead Channel and All Hail the New Flesh. My short stories tend to be science fiction, though I have had a horror story published in online E-Zine ‘Sirens’ Call’ also.

Zero is a science fiction novel. Is that the genre you feel more comfortable writing in?

Absolutely. I veered hither and yon with genre when I was doing my degrees. I tried literary, supernatural, general, horror. Secretly, I always thought I’d end up writing fantasy like my hero Robin Hobb. I even planned and started a fantasy novel. But then I was given a deadline for Zero and it brought roaring back everything I loved about "Star Wars" and the anime I grew up with. Never say never but I strongly suspect it will be SciFi and SpecFic from here on in.

Would you ever try anything outside that genre?

If I got an idea that just had to be done I probably would. Not many story ideas come to me these days that don’t have a scifi setting or element to them. My other great author hero apart from Robin Hobb, however, is Anne Rice. Old-style, decadent vampire fiction will always by a guilty pleasure of mine and I may have to try my hand at it one day.

What is the plot of your Zero?

Zero is set in the not-too-distant future of our own world and follows the story of Kaleb Hugo, a conservative, well-born soldier who holds a high rank in the Orbit-wide military establishment known as The Service. He is publicly disgraced after disobeying orders but is secretly re-assigned to captain the Zero – an undercover vessel engaged in smuggling and espionage charged with feeding underworld intelligence to the Service. He sees it has a demotion, especially after meeting the rag-tag crew he is to captain who look to their sardonic and wry commander, Ezekiel Webb, for leadership. But together they stumble into Orbit-wide conspiracies and revolutionary threats. Hugo will have to decide which side he’s on to prevent disaster. 

Zero is part of a series. What’s the title of the sequel and when is that due out?

Book 2 in the Orbit Series is called Haven and is released this October on the 24th.  The advance copies have gone out to a few reviewers already and feedback so far has been good. It continues the story of Hugo and how he deals with the aftermath of the events in book 1.

What if anything inspired the Zero?

I think my biggest influence for the setting was an Japanese anime TV series called "Gundam Wing" that was on in the nineties. However, the characters and narrative are inspired by a hundred different things I’ve read, watched or listened to. A lot of people draw comparisons to "Firefly", but I have never actually watched it. Given its premise and popularity, however, I certainly don’t  mind this comparison.

I really like the cover for Zero (and what I’ve seen of the follow up, Haven). Did you have any input on the artwork for the cover?

I was lucky enough to choose my own cover artist and was able to confer with him directly on the art, but it was all down to his talent. His name is Matt Davis and he works for Rock and Hill Studio. You can find his company online rockandhillstudio.com and he is well worth investing in. He’s doing the art for the next two books too.

Do you have a particular writing routine that you stick to? Perhaps you prefer to write at night, or you outline the book before writing it, etc.?

I have a full-time job so I have to be pretty strict with my writing routine to ensure I meet deadlines. I usually write after work, every day, for a few hours, but I prefer sinking bigger chunks of time into it. I take time off my day job as regularly as I can and often go away for a long weekend at a B & B to make a decent amount of progress on whatever project I’m working on. I always outline a book before I write it. I embellish and deviate from the plans usually, but I have to know where a plot is going before I start writing it.

Were other members of your family interested in writing?

My mum is a big reader – I got my love of fiction from her. My brother reads a lot too, and is creative in other ways, but I’m the only writer in the family. 


Have you ever written anything that, once you were done, sort of took you by surprise? For example, as you were writing you didn’t realize there was a subtext there that you caught later?

I’ve often written things that have surprised me with the direction they’ve taken. I always have an idea about what sort of thing I want to write and where I want it to go, but I often find the characters surprise me as I discover more about them by putting them in different situations. Sometimes they reveal significances about themselves that it never previously occurred to me they would have. I can’t say a subtext has ever taken me by surprise, but readers may find ones in there yet that I didn’t realise were there.


What are some of the books considered classic that you like?

I steered clear of classics for a long time. I was often bored, intimidated or mystified by them and didn’t find them an enjoyable experience growing up. However, I have continued to explore in the name of informing and improving my own writing and have since discovered that I love Wuthering Heights, Gone With the Wind, Rebecca  and To Kill a Mockingbird. It has proved to me that you should never write anything off in fiction: you never know what you might end up falling in love with.

Do you have any favorite music that inspires you or that you listen to while you write? 

I listen to a lot of film soundtracks when I write. I find they are great for producing emotion and mental images of action and drama so I find them very inspiring. My favourites are "Lord of the Rings," "300" and the "Troy" soundtracks. I also have a favourite band, mind.in.a.box, that have a very SciFi feel and they, too, help me get ideas and generate mood.



What author (living or dead) would you love to meet?

I would love to meet my favourite authors Robin Hobb, fantasy writer who I’ve already spoken about and Anne Rice whose "Vampire Chronicles" had a major influence on me as a young reader.

Have you seen a marked difference in your writing since you started? Not necessarily in quality but perhaps direction? Do you perhaps approach it differently than you once did?

I approach it with more discipline and with a perhaps more sensible attitude than I used to. It used to be something I did just for fun and was all dreams and premise and plans. It’s still a hobby, and I love it, but it’s now something I’ve invested a lot of time, effort and money in to get to the point where it’s at. I’d now really like to see it go somewhere, so I’m sensible about making sure it gets the time, dedication and commitment it needs to get books written, promoted and sold.

As for direction, I still do it for the love of it and for the love of having people read my stories. That direction is still the same. It’s just now I feel like it’s actually starting to happen rather than just a distant dream.

Do you have any hobbies?
Apart from writing I love, probably predictably: reading, walking, going to gigs and listening to music.


What are some of your favorite TV and Movies (and have any helped inspire your writing)?

I’ve already mentioned some of the Japanese anime that had a big impact on me and still does to this day: "Gundam Wing" which was a SciFi TV series for teenage boys, "Akira", the classic dystopian 80s anime movie and "Patlabore" which is another post-apocalyptic futuristic Japanese SciFi. As far as current entertainment goes, I like anything I find well-written which has depth but I tend to get drawn to things that are Scifi, Fantasy of Supernatural. I do enjoy a good whodunit too. My favorites are "Supernatural", "Gotham", "The Mentalist", "Midsomer Murders", the "Alien" films, the "Predator" films…all pretty obvious choices probably!


Who would you like to see in a movie version of your novel?

I’ve thought about this a lot. What writer doesn’t? One of my favorite pastimes. But have yet to decide absolutely who would be best in the leading roles, though I’m leaning toward Idris Elba or Colin Farrel as the moody, conservative Hugo and Cylian Murphy as the sarcastic, wry-humoured Webb. Would also love to see Charlize Theron, Lena Headey, and Judi Dench in there too.

I have a friend who told me that marketing a book can be a full time gig in itself. I now know of course how right he was. Yet there are particulars to the marketing process that I happen to enjoy. Do you have any marketing tips to share with fellow authors? Also, are there aspects of marketing that you like and aspects that you really would rather not do?

Marketing is definitely a big job and works best with professional input and budget it too. Of course, not everyone has access to a professional marketing budget or manager, so it really is worth investing time in that which you can do yourself: set up a Twitter, a Facebook page and a Goodreads account. Get a blog too (I use wordpress) then sling content up and do it regularly. 

My biggest tip is don’t use these platforms to just say BUY MY BOOK. It won’t work and you look desperate when you probably aren’t. Put up book reviews, thoughts on the writing process, announcements, articles that interest you or advertise events you’re attending or support. I enjoy all these things, though they do take a lot of time. So be realistic about this: it needs to be done and it takes time and people will engage if you’re enthusiastic. My favourite form of marketing is attending conventions. I get tables at cons and SciFi festival and local comic days regularly to sell my books and meet new fans and readers. The personable approach is very effective and is also a lot more fun. Of course, this costs money and time. Again, be realistic.

I don’t mind doing any of the things I do (all of the above). I do wish I had more of a budget to invest in events, conventions and getting on booklists and websites, but going through an independent publisher means swings and roundabouts. I may not have a professional budget to sink into things at this stage, but having the control of my work that I do as well as the hands-on approach to marketing and the great support of an enthusiastic publisher more than make up for it.

Do you have any advice, words of wisdom, suggestions for other up and coming and authors? Also, was there anything that surprised you (positively and negatively) about the writing game once you were immersed in it?

The best piece of advice is: write. It may seem obvious but I’m constantly surprised by the amount of people I meet who want to be writers, but then don’t actually write anything. I understand in some ways: the idea of writing a whole novel is daunting. What if it’s no good? What if I run out of ideas? What if no one reads it? What if no one wants to publish it? These are understandable doubts, but they are not helpful. You squash them all buy just doing it. When you write and write and write, bang, surprise surprise: you have material. When you have material, you can then work with it, get advice, feedback and progress and BAM, you have a PRODUCT. This carries on forever: never stop wanting to get better but never stop going. This means you leave books, stories and readers and a growing audience in your wake.

The only thing that surprised me, and it was in an immeasurably pleasurable way, was that, good Lord, I could actually write a book. And, even better, that people enjoyed reading it. Having done that, I feel I could do anything.


Any links people can use to find information on you and your work?

Absolutely!

My wordpress for publication and eventt reviews and announcements: http://jcollyer.wordpress.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jscollyer
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jexshinigami
Booklist on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8331150.J_S_Collyer

Look forward to connecting with anyone and everyone who likes fiction/scifi/writing!

Thanks Jex.