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Before you were published, what were you doing to scratch the writing itch?
I started writing pretty young. For most of my youth I wrote song lyrics and poetry because I was in a band. I would often start short stories or create characters and plot ideas, but I didn’t think I had the chops to attempt a full length story. It just seemed daunting to put so much work into it and never be as good as the authors that I loved and admired because I have always been a big reader and loved losing myself in an enormous novel. I just didn’t think I could ever create that kind of experience for another reader.
It wasn’t until my ex-wife introduced me to fanfiction (specifically yaoi) that I attempted to write a full length story of my own. I messed around in various fandoms for several years before I began writing for online slash RPGs, and eventually collaborating with Ais to write In the Company of Shadows.
How did you end up getting your first book published?
My first solo novel, After Midnight, was self-published. I thought about submitting it to a couple of places but ultimately decided that I would self-publish any story that takes place within the In the Company of Shadows universe. After Midnight is a standalone, but it still takes place in the ICoS world so I wanted to have creative control.
Was the process anything like you imagined? What fit the dream? What was different/surprised you?
The idea of self-publishing had seemed extremely overwhelming for a long time because I had no idea where to start. There were so many different things that came into play that I felt very lost. Formatting for Smashwords and Amazon, marketing, the cover, getting rights to the image for the cover…there were many steps involved. Luckily, I had extremely talented and supportive people by my side who are way savvier when it comes to those things, so I had a lot of guidance and help.
That was pretty much what surprised me…just how many different aspects there were to this task. Sometimes people act like self-publishing is the easy way out, but it was actually really fucking hard and time-consuming and stressful. Another surprising thing was how hard the formatting was for Smashwords. Without my friend Daniel, I don’t know what I would have done!
What fit the dream was pretty much having my friends help me and having support. I couldn’t have done it without them. It’s kind of special to have this raw product in my hands and then have all of these different people get involved and turn it into something I’m proud of in terms of editing, proofing, the cover, the formatting, and the marketing.
How long did it take you to write your first published book?
I originally wrote After Midnight in the summer of 2011 as a stress relief while I was in an intense teaching fellows summer program. I was burned out on writing, working, and life. I wanted something easy and fun so I was writing chapters by the seat of my pants and uploading them to AFFN right after I finished the final sentence in the chapter. A while later, I realized that people really liked it despite the fact that it was messy and badly in need of editing, so I decided to take it down and whip it into shape.
So in terms of writing I would say the first draft was completed in 6 months (with some breaks in between), but the multiple rounds of betaing, editing and proofing took me several months to a year.
What’s your advice to unpublished authors trying to get their work read?
This is a hard question because I’m an anomaly in some ways. While I just officially published my first book this past year, I already had a small base of readers from In the Company of Shadows so some people already knew my work and my name, and I already had friends in the genre who were willing to help me and promote my book.
Many people stress a variety of tactics about the best ways to get read or get attention, but honestly I can’t recommend the usual stuff because it doesn’t work for me. I’m not someone who is good at networking or marketing because it gives me anxiety. However, what HAS worked for me is being a genuine person who shows interest in my readers and their opinions, as well as trying to maintain the little bit about me and my writing that is different.
There’s a lot of pressure to follow trends and go with what has worked in the past as far as plotlines and even in your author persona and marketing, but being yourself and keeping your uniqueness is always going to be the best thing you can do. You’ll never stand out if you write and act like everyone else. But that’s the advice of a relatively un-ambitious dude whose goal isn’t necessarily to be mainstream or a best seller, so it’s probably not the best! Don’t listen to me!
Is writing not as fun/as fun/more fun once you have your first book published?
Ahhh, another hard question! This is tricky because I’m in a terrible slump, but it’s a coincidence. I did feel more stressed in some ways after AM came out, but at the same time I felt more inspired. The book had an overall positive reception and I wanted to write more about those characters, but also I wanted to work on new stuff and dabble in other genres. I think once you have this big accomplishment and you get your feet wet, you’re like “yes! This is the thing I want to do! All the time!” and you just want to keep going and going. So, I got stressed but at the same time, it made me realize that I love writing so much and I really do think it’s the one thing I will never tire of or want to give up on even if I take breaks.
What’s next up for you?
I have a ton of plot ideas and a couple of WIPs. My goals for 2014 are to complete the third draft of a paranormal novel I’ve been working on for over a year now, finish writing a contemporary drama about gay teachers in NYC, and start working on the skeleton of After Midnight’s sequel. And there are always my ICoS specific projects that I work on in between. :)