Vanity Publishing — You Don’t Have To Do It!

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A little over three years ago…

It was a different time (obviously) in many ways. In the summer of 2012, I went back to work at my old stomping grounds of the smalltown newspaper in Albion, IL (The Navigator & Journal-Register). Their sports editor had left and they had a pressing need, so I stepped in for a couple months while I wasn’t teaching. I learned a lot during that span and I believe much of it helped form the writer I became. Within three months of leaving the newspaper for that stint, I had started my first novel. There is a lot that went into that that I’ve discussed in other blog posts and other areas, so I’ll leave the Hugh Howey inspiration out at this time (mostly — it seems as if the spectre of Howey looms over most indie publishing stories).

Anyway, going back to the summer of 2012, I hadn’t yet put pen to paper for my own fiction adventures, but I had long held a dream of doing so. I had started following Hugh Howey, but was still ignorant on most things when it came to writing and publishing a book. One day an assignment dropped in my lap. We’d gotten a press release that a former local resident had written and published a book. He had graduated from a local high school a few years previously, but had moved out east since his teenage years. I would mention his name, but you’ll understand in a little bit why I don’t. Let’s call him Reggie.

Now at the time I knew some about publishing (like I said, I was starting to really get into Howey’s blogs), and I was a fan of books, so I felt I knew some things. I even was aware of vanity publishing, but for some reason, that concept didn’t dawn on me with this fellow until later. The press release had an email address for him, so I zipped off a quick email to Reggie and we set up an interview. I called Reggie one night and we talked about his book — a sci-fi romp of sorts. It was an interesting interview, but something he said at the end of it tipped me off. I don’t even remember what exactly Reggie said, and it probably didn’t even matter. But something clicked in my head and I realized one important thing. This guy didn’t publish a book. Not how Isaac Asimov or John Grisham did, at least. Reggie used a vanity press.

I finished the interview and published the feature on him, leaving out that one fact.

What is a vanity press, exactly?

If you just type that question into the Google search box, it brings up the Wikipedia definition, which reads:

vanity pressvanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a term describing a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. Additionally, vanity publishers have no selection criteria as opposed to other “hybrid” publishing models.

Reggie paid someone to publish his book. Ultimately I don’t know what he paid, but whatever it was, it was too much. What did Reggie get for his work? Not much.

I went back and checked out the book today on Amazon. It is still available and it has a ranking for the hardcover version of the book. If you know anything about Amazon rankings, the lower number the better. His book ranked around 7 million — meaning: at least one person bought his book, but it has been a VERY long time since that happened. A VERY LONG TIME. On a whim, I checked out the Kindle version. No ranking. Which means no one has ever purchased the ebook version.

Not only that, but the book is just…not great. The cover is literally a box and the contents. For a story where the main character interacts with aliens and has a grand adventure. Not only that, but there is little to no editing. Believe me, I’ve seen worse, but I did the “Look Inside” and found an error in the first few paragraphs. It was rough.

That was three years ago. About six months after I conducted the interview, I began writing my own novel and I fully intended to SELF-PUBLISH. I had immersed myself in the world of Hugh Howey and his blog followers and I realized self-publishing was the way to go. I never had intended to use a vanity press. I’d learned my lessons about them from an episode of The Waltons.

That’s right. The Waltons. John Boy and his family living on Walton’s Mountain, Virginia in the heart of the Great Depression. One episode John Boy gets a letter from someone offering to publish his novel. As a writer, you dream of this day. That a publisher will think your novel is special. That it is worth publishing. That it can be the next great thing. John Boy falls for it as well and accepts the contract. Soon John Boy is losing money, getting frustrated with the “publisher” and is on the hook to sell the copies of his own novel. All the same things people are still falling for today.

Earlier today I saw an article linked on The Passive Voice originally from The Hartford Courant. (I’m not linking the original due to a paywall.). In the opening few lines of the article, it talks about a woman who became a “self-published” author. In fact, she became a vanity press author.  From the article:

She has self-published her book. “Travels with My Son: Journeys of the Heart” debuted on Amazon in June for $15, and in mid-August she sold more than 30 copies at a book-launch party in her hometown of Branford.

She hopes to sell upward of 500 copies, which would cover the costs of “on-demand” printing and the $5,000 she paid a firm that helps writers like her.

Now, I hate to put a damper on her published book dreams, but selling 500 copies of a book is TOUGH. Even from your so-called friends, very few actually read books and even fewer will want to read Your book. But that $5,000? At this point, we’ll call that a publishing fee that she will probably never recoup. It’s sad to say, but it’s the lesson John Boy learned decades ago on TV and its a lesson people are still learning today. Vanity presses still exist and the costs are high — in monetary and emotional terms.

So…what can be done? Research for one. Get to know the self-published greats. Obviously I learned to publish thanks to Hugh Howey, but there are tons of great resources and tidbits of advice for the prospective author. Here are just a few. If you want to be a traditionally published author, go for it. Submit to traditional publishers all you want — more power to you. But, if you are like me and are thrilled to just get your work out there, self-publishing is a wonderful avenue for that. (And I’ve never spent anywhere close to $5,000 even with two novels and about a dozen short stories and novellas under my belt.)

So this lady…or Reggie…you can still self-publish and for a lot cheaper than doing it through vanity publishing. To all those out there who need advice, the following is for you —

LINKS (I will add more as they are suggested):

Hugh Howey’s Advice to Aspiring Authors

JA Konrath’s Resolutions for Writers

Susan Kaye Quinn: Author of The Indie Author Survival Guide

 

 

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Free Book Today – Baking With Swords

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The short story collection I published a few months ago with my brother Paul and my sister Betsy is now available for free for a very limited time (just one more day!).
You can pick it up at no cost and enjoy three separate and different short stories. Paul’s story, The Price of Greatness, is about man’s eternal search rivaling the ordinary of daily life. Betsy’s tale, Flutter, tells about a mother and her daughter, who is undergoing inexplicable changes. My story, A Whimper, is an end-of-the world tale through the lens of one person and society’s dependence on technology.
To get it, just click on the large cover image above!

Author Interview: Ann Christy

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ann christy mugOn Wednesday my friend Ann Christy releases her novel Strikers. She’s written a few short stories recently in Synchronic and the upcoming The Robot Chronicles, but Strikers is her first full work published outside of Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe. I’ll have my review up on Wednesday, but I really enjoyed it. The cover itself will sell a lot of books, but the story itself is well worth it.

In anticipation of the release of Strikers, I decided a small interview with Ann would be great as an introduction to the book and a little bit about what Ann is going to be working on next.


 

Where did the idea for Strikers come from?

I’m a dystopia fan and a huge fan of good YA fiction. But one of the problems with a lot of dystopian fiction is that it is hard to believe it would ever occur like that. Occasionally, the science is really…*really*…bad, as well. What I wanted to do was create a dystopia where the seeds of that dystopia already exist (if not in practice, then in popular thought). Then I wanted to take it out to the point where the good intentions had become so corrupted it was a dystopia. That is what Strikers is and I think it worked. The readers will tell me if it did or not, though. They are the ultimate deciders of that.

strikersWhat’s different about writing for Young Adult as opposed to Adult?

Young Adult is a lot like regular Adult fiction. It’s all in the focus and the newness of experience. Things we tend to take for granted as we get older…like the thrill of sitting close to someone we like or the frightening nature of being on our own for the first time…are still vivid in the YA world and need to be accounted for. I want readers to feel all the thrills and chills they deserve in a book.

For me, it was difficult to write YA. Far more than standard adult fiction. I couldn’t just resort to a curse word or anything like that. I *had* to find the correct way to express what needed expressing. In the end, I think it’s a much better book for having worked that hard to do it right.

Also, I absolutely adore the characters. If I were anywhere between 14 and 18, I would be scheming for a way to go out with Jovan. No question. I like them all, though. And the romance aspects of this story made me smile. I’m not a romance writer in general, but this part of the story turned out to be the most difficult and the most rewarding aspect of it.

This is the first trip out of the silo for you — how is going?

Well, it’s not truly the first trip out of the silo. It’s just the first full length novel out of the silo that I’ve published. I’ve got two other nearly complete novels…about 180,000 words worth…that I just haven’t finished yet. And there are two (or three?) non-silo stories in anthologies out there.

But, you’re right that this is the first non-silo novel I’ve felt ready to put out into the world. It’s scary and I’m keeping my coveralls close by so that I can run back into the decon station at a moment’s notice.

You’ve been included in a few recent short story anthologies as well. What has that experience been like?

My first thought after being asked for the Synchronic anthology was…”Uh, why are they asking me? Aren’t these people all famous?” For the second one, I felt a little less weird, but still completely intimidated. After all, The Robot Chronicles will also feature Hugh Howey in it!

Short story creation is actually really hard work. Essentially, you have to go to all the same work to create a new world you would in a book, but then tell the story in about 1/12th to 1/15th of the length. It’s like walking a high wire. I love it though! It’s the kind of challenge I enjoy. I’m thinking that I’ll probably do more of those.

What’s next on the docket?

After Strikers is released on the 16th of July, I’ll mostly be useless for a little while because I’ll be watching for reviews and seeing if people like it. I have another story for yet another anthology to create…no, make that two.

You and I will be together again in a book, don’t forget. Another LOOW anthology about superpowers. I’m excited about that one!

I’m already working on book two of the Strikers series, but readers should not worry about cliffhangers. I hate cliffhangers. Strikers is a complete novel. That world is a big world though and there is a lot to explore in it.

Also on the back burner, getting simmered to soak up all the flavor, is a series of medium length works I’m calling Good News Gone Bad. Each will be a stand alone story/novella that turns what might have been a good news story into something very dark, dystopic or apocalyptic instead. The first one is called, Young Blood. It’s my dark telling of the recent discovery that GDF11, something found only in young blood, reverses many of the effects of aging on brains in older people. Oh…yes…you can see the dark future there, can’t you?


 

(Full disclosure: Ann and I are both members of LOOW, a writing group that includes writers who have all published in Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe. Her first Silo 49 book was coincidentally published the same day I published my Silo Saga book The Veil.)

2013 — A Great Year to be a Reader

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What a year.

I will always remember 2013 for a number of reasons. I finally decided to write (and then publish) my first novel. In fact, since late July, I’ve published a novel, three short stories and a novella. Along the way, I’ve learned a TON about writing, publishing, and marketing…I’ve learned about myself…and I’ve become friends with loads of new people whether fellow authors or readers.

As I looked back on the year, I also realized how many books I read. Just looking through my Kindle, I realized I’d read over 50 books just through Amazon and another 10-20 in physical copy as well. True…many of the Kindle books were what we might call short stories, but I’ll call them books nonetheless. That many books was pretty amazing, especially considering the time I have to spend working on my classes for school and the time I spent writing doesn’t exactly lend itself towards reading.

With all those books, I felt compelled to write a Best of the Year List. I don’t want to rank them, necessarily, but I’ll just say these are the ones that really stuck with me. When I think back on this year, these are the books I’ll really remember reading.

dustDUST by Hugh Howey

I’ll remember this because it was the epic conclusion to Howey’s ground-breaking WOOL Saga. Not only did he finish his story, he nailed the landing. There are a lot of stories that have difficulty on the final leg, but fortunately Howey didn’t succumb to the general rule. It seemed like I waited a long time for the story, but in all actuality, Hugh puts his stories out so quickly that I read WOOL, SHIFT, and then DUST within two years’ time. The book landed on Kindle on my birthday and the best present I received was time from my family to read DUST from cover to cover that day.

lgmLITTLE GREEN MEN by Peter Cawdron

I’d heard about Cawdron through Facebook posts by Howey earlier in the year, but I hadn’t read any of his works until LGM, which came out right before Labor Day in the U.S. I had a splurge in the three days of the holiday weekend and LGM was one of the books I read. The Jason Gurley designed cover catches the eye of any reader and quickly brought me in. Cawdron dedicated the book to Philip K. DIck and you can definitely see influences of PKD as well as Asimov and Heinlein. So good, I bought it in paperback and gave it to my father for Christmas.

pa2PENNSYLVANIA 1 & 2 by Michael Bunker

Why do you torture me so, Bunker?! Okay…so I count Michael Bunker as one of my friends, but even with that admission, I’ll say that both PA1&2 blew me away. Just fantastic. That said…I’d really like to read PA3 to see how this story ends. I said how LGM reminded me of sci-fi masters…well Bunker nailed Heinlein in Pennsylvania. Bunker calls it his “Amish Sci-Fi story” and that really drew me to it. My wife doesn’t read much beyond Amish romance and I love sci-fi — something I’d threatened to write for years. Bunker beat me to it, but that’s alright. He knocked it out of the park.

the sowingTHE SOWING by K. Makansi

Who is K. Makansi? Before I read The Sowing, I assumed it was just another ambitious sci-fi author and my assumption took me towards the masculine. I was wrong. Three times. K. Makansi is a mother and two daughters who wrote the book together and boy…is it a good one. The Sowing reminded me a lot of reading The Hunger Games for the first time — discovering a diamond in the rough. Reviewers compare it to both Hunger Games and Divergent, but I thought it was better than DIvergent. In fact, I read all of the Divergent trilogy this past year as well, including the finale, Allegiant. I wrote a two-star review of Allegiant and one of my complaints was telling the story first-person, alternating the chapters between the main characters Tris and Four. Makansi was able to pull this off between a male and female protagonist and make it feel like two separate people with very opposite lives and goals. Well done — looking forward to Book 2 in 2014.

ImageSTEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson

Speaking of The Hunger Games, there have been countless stories written by Young Adult authors since Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic tale came out that tried to mirror the story. Sanderson managed to make his own futuristic tale with a unique twist — what if super powers existed, but everyone who had them abided by Machiavelli’s principle that men are self-centered. Anyone in the Steelheart universe is either super-powered evil-doer or plain old human. Fascinating and riveting.

ImageTHE SCOUT by Eric Tozzi

I’d first heard about Eric through Michael Bunker and once his book was released late this year, I purchased, read, and loved. It is a great story that jumps off the page like it was designed for the screen. Tozzi tells the story of a man, faced with the personal story of his parents’ mortality, confronted with a possible alien invasion. Tozzi does phenomenal in his debut novel and I’ll be among the first to get whatever he writes next.

ImageGREATFALL by Jason Gurley

I’d read W.J. Davies’ WOOL fanfic The Runner and a few other smaller WOOL stories, but when I finally dove into Greatfall this past summer, I was stunned by how well someone could write a story set in someone else’s universe. This story probably really set me on course to write my own WOOL stories and in fact, Gurley’s work as a cover artist helped me out a ton as well. I’ve had a sneak-peak at Gurley’s book Eleanor, which he should be releasing some time in 2014 and it is already drawing comparisons to Neil Gaiman’s The House at the End of the Lane — and for good reasons.

I suppose we’ll go with those as my Top 7, but I’ll give a few others as Honorable Mentions:

Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, Ben Winters’ The Last Policemen, Hugh Howey’s Sand 1 & 2 (we’ll see how Sand plays out in 2014), Carol Davis’ Blood Moon, John Scalzi’s The Human Division (which I read in 13 installments early this year), and CyberStorm by Matthew Mather.

There were so many books I loved in 2013, but I’m betting 2014 will be even better. As always, check back here from time to time for my progress. As of late December, I’m probably 90 percent done with the rough draft of my sequel to Dead Sleep. I’ve also got a couple fantastic ideas cooking in my noggin. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

A Conversation with Logan Thomas Snyder

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A couple weeks ago, I was asked by Logan Thomas Snyder if I would be interested in joint interview. Snyder is the author of one of the latest WOOL fan fiction stories, titled The Disappeared: Part 1, a mystery which looks at the seedy underbelly of silo life. Since I released The Veil back in late July, I’ve been welcomed into the WOOL world and have been blessed in my journey. What follows is a back and forth between myself and Logan over the past few days where we talk about each other’s books, favorite authors and the writing process among other topics. It is a great conversation if I say so myself. With that said – enjoy!

WS: Tell me how you came to write a WOOL story:

LTS: For me, I think, it was the challenge. Obviously I love WOOL (the omnibus was the very first thing I downloaded to my Kindle when I got it last year), but it’s not like I finished and started right away on my story. In fact, I wasn’t even aware there were other Silo stories until I saw Hugh gushing about WJ Davies’ The Runner. So I read that, then Jason Gurley’s amazing Greatfall series, and that’s really when the gears started turning. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that before The Disappeared I had zero experience in quote-unquote fan fiction. I just never felt comfortable writing for other authors’ characters in their worlds. Because of the unique nature of the silo system, though, I realized I could take a silo and run with it. So that was appealing, the challenge of taking an established, closed setting and imbuing it with an original story and characters. Throw in Hugh’s blessing to attach our stories to his world, and it feels like what we’re doing is almost semi-canonical. Or maybe ‘canon lite’ is a better way of describing it. Either way, for better or for worse, we’re all connected now, and that’s exciting.

Same question for you, with a follow-up: What, if anything in particular, inspired your story, The Veil?

Well, obviously I can’t answer that without saying Hugh Howey and WOOL. Just like you and so many others, I fell in love with Howey’s futuristic world after I finished the WOOL Omnibus. But, it wasn’t until I looked him up and started following his blog that I really thought, “Hey…maybe I can do this, too…”

I had planned to write a novel forever, but it was Howey — a man just a little older than me — who really inspired me. I wanted to honor that and pay tribute to his world, especially when I saw WJ Davies’ The Runner and other Silo stories in the early part of this year, but I pledged to finish my novel first. Once I did, I worked on The Veil. But, what directly inspired the story of The Veil? It was my sister. She had written for a newspaper in Grand Rapids about her trouble conceiving and with miscarriages. A line just jumped out at me where she talked about her circle of friends leaving her behind and her being an outsider with no kids. If you’ve read The Veil, this is a part of Mary’s life about halfway through and I basically built a world around that small little scenario, except in a silo.

I will also say really quick, that I had never written fan fiction before, either. I had always dismissed it, but Hugh added a sense of legitimacy to it with his endorsement. Now that I’ve done it, I’ll say it is sometimes more difficult that penning your own work. Instead of framing your own world, you have to follow the guidelines set out by someone else. It isn’t easy and I believe it actually helped my writing by forcing me to be more disciplined.

Next question: The Disappeared is your first work, right? How’s the rest of the story coming and when can we expect them? 

That’s incredible, although I think in retrospect I sensed there was something more personal lurking between the lines of that transition in Mary’s life. There was something very intimate about it that I think most people would be hard pressed to imagine cold, without the life experience underpinning it –- which, of course, is where the best stories often come from.

dis_cover_1As for The Disappeared, it’s actually my first published work of fiction. Up until about five years ago, I was a dedicated biographer and all around nonfiction article writer. Then I just hit the wall and decided I wanted to tell my own stories instead of other peoples’. So, like you, I embarked on my first novel. Unlike you, I failed miserably. I hit a point where I just didn’t know what to do with it. So I scrapped it and started on another one. Same result. That was when I realized I needed to think smaller. The result of that was my first novella, This Mortal Coil. I viewed it as more of a personal project, so I didn’t publish it, but just seeing it through gave me the confidence to return to the novel form. It took a little more than a year, but I finished my first full-length novel, The Lazarus Particle, a few days before my thirty-first birthday.

About a week later I emailed Hugh with a very lengthy pitch for The Disappeared, and he quickly emailed back with his blessing. I started on Part I the next day. As for the progress, it’s going great. Part II is the better part of done, and I’m about halfway through Part III. Part II should be available in early October.

Next question: Let’s talk a little bit about characters. What do you think is the worst of the secrets Mary carries with her? Or, if not the worst, maybe the most potentially damaging? Feel free to interpret the question as you see fit. There’s so many, I can certainly think of a few, but I’m curious as to your view on the subject.

I don’t know that I succeeded where you failed. I had many starts and re-starts over the last 10-15 years, but I wasn’t able to have the endurance to finish until I saw Hugh’s story.

As for Mary (SPOILERS AHEAD FOR The Veil), I’d identify two as damaging. Obviously if you’ve read the story, you know that the entire tale is centered around all the secrets Mary keeps from her family and the rest of the silo. The first of which is certainly one I could lead with. When she decides to reject the lottery as a newlywed and then keep that fact from Jacob, it sends her on a downward spiral. Ultimately the argument could be made that each and every one of her mistakes from that point on were a direct result of the initial secret she kept from her husband.

Veil_Part1On the other hand, the worst and longest-lasting secret would be when she indirectly sent her friend Chelsea to clean. By aiding Ari Green by betraying her best friend, she sided with IT over Chelsea, her mother and even her father’s legacy. But even then, it is really the secrets and the heritage of secrets passed down from her mother that led to it all in the first place. If Mary’s mother had told her earlier about her father, perhaps Mary might have made a different decision at the end of The Veil.

Next question: Was there something specific that led to the ideas behind The Disappeared? If we start wading into spoiler territory for the sequels, just say so.

I thought you might mention that first one and I have to agree. I remember reading her denial of the lottery and thinking it was almost a kind of reverse original sin. She’s presented with this unexpected gift, and instead of taking it, she refuses it, only to continue to come back to that moment, and how much different her life might have been if not for that rash decision and everything that follows. It’s a powerful statement, how people fool themselves into thinking secrets will eventually wither and die, when really it tends to be the exact opposite.

As for The Disappeared, sadly I didn’t have to look too far back into recent history for a real-world analogue. For those of us that don’t have a background in history (it would seem we’re pretty well steeped, you being a history teacher and me being a history major and biographer), Latin America experienced an incredible period of turmoil as a proxy battleground of the Cold War. During the late 1980’s, so many political dissidents went missing in Latin American countries that a new slang term was coined by necessity to refer to them: los desaparecidos, loosely translating into “those who were taken/went missing in the night” — also known more simply as the disappeared.

So to answer your question, my specific motivation for The Disappeared was examining crime and punishment in the silos, in particular what other options there are for someone who isn’t sent out to clean. The other side of the coin, so to speak. And from there it just fell into place, the combination of missing girls as part of a deeply disturbing conspiracy that overlaps our own modern-day concerns about government surveillance and overreach.

Next question: Tell me a little about [your first novel] Dead Sleep. I’ve got it on my Kindle and it’s a strong contender for my next read. Without giving too much away, what should I look forward to?

I think it’s great when we can harken back to a historical event or even to modern-day issues in our writing. The Latin American angle is clear when you explain it, but I can also see parallels to modern-day slavery, similar in some ways to the Liam Neeson movie “Taken.”

So…Dead Sleep. It was my first story, even though the short story Perfect Game was published about a month earlier. I started the book back in January of this year after I had been at a funeral for a friend’s mother. While I was in line to see the family, I kept thinking of a character waiting to see someone who had died. Then, the concept came to me — what if she wasn’t really dead?

As all stories do, it took a lot of different shapes early on, but within a month or so, I pretty much knew where I wanted to go with it. The trick was to finish it. Teaching high school at the time, I was able to work on it alot in the evenings, but I had to stop here and there, once for over three weeks. But…I kept on writing and that’s the trick.

Dead Sleep 3 medI’ll tell you something… the blurb on Amazon references that the main character, Jackson, has the ability to see his future. While that sounds supernatural, there is so much science fiction in the story. Kristina, the girl he thinks is dead, has nanomachines running through her body and later they are pursued by a team of androids. While there are a lot of questions answered at the end of the book, I’ve got a lot planned for two sequels to complete a trilogy. In book 2, we’ll find out a lot more about Jackson and his abilities and book 3 will really showcase Kristina’s talents.

Right now, I’ve actually got a new cover in the works and it may be done by the time this interview goes live (it hasn’t — stay tuned). With it, I’ll also have a print edition for the first time.

Next question: Who are some of your favorite authors? Who do you think you write like?

I was wondering when someone was going to mention Taken in connection with The Disappeared. Not that I disagree with the comparison the way you made it. You’re absolutely right, there are definitely points of overlap. It was one of the first things I had to get past mentally. But, I mean, ultimately, Echo is no Liam Neeson. She can’t fight and for the most part she’s completely out of her element. I mean, as much as she doesn’t understand the word ‘quixotic’ by the end of the story, that’s sort of the irony. What could she ever really have done for Shim on her own, the way she set out about it? And yet, be that as it may, no one could have ever talked her out of her search — as we’ve seen — and so we come to Part II, with her… well, you’ll see.

As for favorite authors? Wow. I’m going to say right off the bat, A.C. Crispin, who sadly passed recently but also wrote the absolutely amazing Han Solo origin trilogy that I read waaay back in high school. I haven’t read it since, but I remember that being sort of a touchstone of science fiction for me, in love with Star Wars as I was at the time. More recently, though, William Gibson, Iain M. Banks (again, another recent passing, so sad), Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Carsten Jensen, so, so many more. Oh, and all my fellow Woolwrights, of course! We strive for excellence in all things. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Boy, that last one is a killer, though. I don’t think I write like anyone. Not to say that my style is especially unique; I’ve just never really thought about it, I guess. I’ve had such a weird, circuitous journey to fiction that I feel like I kind of had to work it out for myself in large part. Trust me, if you saw how bloody red some of my pages run after a good long editing session, you’d see what I mean.

Same questions.

Wow…just goes to show how many influential authors are out there. I’ve read some of Crispin (Star Wars geek myself back in the day) and a little of the others, but most of the writers you cite I haven’t really read. I’ll have to tap into some of them someday.

As for me, I really have to credit my dad. He is a huge science fiction and fantasy fan and had a lot of classics for me to read through the years. Overall, my main influence in childhood was Isaac Asimov. His robot stories and the Foundation novels really informed my writing a lot. He had a way of advancing the story in a very concise way. Not too flowery for the sake of inserting adjectives into the plot. Robert Heinlein as well…Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, and Frank Herbert for sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and J.K. Rowling for fantasy. Writers I like to read today include Hugh Howey, Lee Child, Vince Flynn (RIP), Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Clive Cussler.

I would love to think I write like Asimov. I did a lot of research into him when I was younger and he said he wouldn’t rewrite. He would write what he wrote and he rarely went back to re-do anything in his books. I think in many ways, I’m like that. But, I also have tried to pattern myself after modern-day writers like Dan Brown, Stephen King and Clive Cussler in terms of pacing and action.

Next question: What do you do for a living and when and where do you write the best? How do you find the time to write?

I’ve worked in the incredibly uninspired field of advertising and marketing for a little over three years now. It’s no coincidence that I started really writing in earnest again right around the time I took the job, mostly because it’s so lacking in creative stimulus that I needed some sort of outlet. The best thing about writing, unlike say something like painting or music, is that I can brainstorm and write in my head while I work. Even better, and really the best part about the work, is that I can more or less make my own hours, so if I have a sudden flash of inspiration, I can usually put it aside and get whatever just jumped into my head down on paper. As for where and when, I’ve got a nice little home office that’s pretty much my writer’s nest; I’ve never been one of those people who can peck away in a coffee shop or whatever, I definitely need to have control over my environment and that’s where I tend to find the most inspiration.

Speaking of occupations, one of the things I found most interesting about the world of Wool is how precious little the characters know about the world that came before the silos. As someone who also has a background in history, do you think your background as a history teacher gave you a different perspective or insight into the series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own story?

That’s a fascinating question. Initially, that was one of the things I was really skeptical about in Hugh’s stories. How can a group of people so easily forget their own history? Obviously, he takes care of that with the medication dosed to the people of the silo, but it still has a ring of implausibility to it.

That is, until you look at history itself. The Middle Ages — sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages — was a period just like this. The Roman Empire existed and was the dominant force in the world. They ruled with an iron fist and provoked all their enemies in every direction, eventually suffering at the hands of the Visigoths and Vandals because of it. In WOOL and SHIFT, you can see a similar thing happening. The United States has so much power that it is very much like the Roman Empire in the latter stages. While the Romans had the Germanic tribes to worry about, the U.S. has foreign powers like Islamic extremists and Russians.

DUSTAfter Rome fell, the knowledge they had built up virtually vanished within a generation. All the Greek philosophers — Aristotle and Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras — all the learning just went away. The world was “controlled” by the church and the bubble it established over the entirety of Europe, but eventually knowledge was re-discovered and Europe emerged stronger than ever. Obviously some stayed behind in the ignorance of the Catholic Church, but for the most part, Europe and the rest of the world were able to break free of the silos — I mean the “darkness” of the age. 😉

Next question: There is a lot of fanfiction out there now for WOOL. How much have you read and what is your favorite? Why?

I definitely see the parallels on the macro level when you put it like that. As a reader, my reaction came more at the micro level. At first I felt a bit of a thrill, realizing I knew considerably more than the characters. That’s an interesting position for me as a reader, because it sets up the internal question of “Well, what happens when the truth comes finally comes out? How will people react, what changes will it elicit?” etc etc. But the further I pushed into the series, the more I realized the gulf of knowledge separating reader and character was not nearly as wide as I initially thought. What more do we really know that they don’t? Granted, we have the benefit of several thousand years of recorded human history to study, but even with that knowledge at our fingertips we’re no more capable of answering the questions that define the human condition to this day: Why are we here? What else is out there? Are we alone? At the end of the day, we’re all basically Lukas, looking up at the stars and wondering what, if anything, lies beyond. That was a powerful realization for me, one that made it a lot easier to relate to the characters and their unique situation.

As for the wealth of Silo stories now available, I have to confess I’m fairly far behind. For a while I was keeping good pace, but it seems like there’s a new one just about every day now! Greatfall continues to be my frontrunner favorite, I think, purely because of how shocking the subject matter was. The Silo Archipelago series was also intriguing to me, primarily because of the parallels with other underground movements throughout human history. As for the rest, my Kindle cup overfloweth with Silo fiction, so those two will definitely have some competition in the weeks to come as I finish up The Disappeared and have more time to kick back and read for a bit before resuming work on The Lazarus Particle.

Aside from your own personal favorite Silo fanfic, one last question: Based purely on your own parameters, which of your works are you most proud of and why? 

Greatfall is amazing. Jason Gurley really knocked that one out of the park. Boy, I’ve read so much of it, it really is difficult to say which is my favorite — they all have different flavors with each author bringing their own perspective on silo-life to the table. Bunker did great with the Archipelago, of course WJ Davies’ Submerged series (The Runner, The Diver and The Watcher) all have a great place, simply because they were really some of the first and Davies managed to end his just after DUST so they were really the first to incorporate facts learned in DUST into the narrative.

There are some great new authors coming up because of WOOL as well — Carol Davis, Brigid D’Souza, Ann Christy and Fred Shernoff to name a few. I’ll read just about anything they have to write, simply because of what I’ve already read from the WOOL universe.

As for my own books — that’s like asking which of my children I love the most!

Nah…not really. Right now, I have four published works (I just published Ant Apocalypse yesterday) with two short stories, a Silo novella and my novel. I think my best writing so far was in the Silo Saga novella, The Veil. I really worked hard at keeping the details clear and concise and fitting that into Hugh Howey’s universe.

However, which one am I most proud of? My novel, Dead Sleep. My writing (and finishing!) it, I proved to myself I could do it. Before I became a teacher, I’d worked for a newspaper and I could write 500-2,000 word articles all day long. But…a novel? I didn’t think I could. Once I learned about Hugh and his process…then found out that he endorsed “shorter” novels with as few as 60,000 words, I really decided to go for it. It wasn’t easy, but I persevered throughout a six-month time period to finish it. The book will always have a special place in my heart, in spite of some flaws in retrospect.

fin.

DUST (Not a Review)

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DUST

This is not a review of DUST.
I wish it was, but I haven’t yet laid my hands on the last in Hugh Howey’s WOOL stories. I could have ordered a physical copy and read through it already like some have done, but I figured with school starting for me, I wouldn’t have time to read it before Aug. 17 anyway.
For me, the last WOOL book is significant in a few ways.
1. WOOL and more importantly, Hugh himself, inspired me to write. I read WOOL back in early 2012. I loved it and started following Hugh’s blog. I learned he was just a little older than me and was an independent author. I saw a lot of the same things in him that I hoped to do myself one day. And so, about a year later, when my work schedule lessened a bit, I started to write. After a great summer publishing my first few pieces, here we are, anxiously awaiting DUST to finish Hugh’s fantastic story.
2. One of the stories I’ve written is set in a silo. The Veil is in Kindle Worlds and is a Silo Saga story. I didn’t necessarily write it to make a lot of money (although I won’t mind at all if I do), but really as a tribute to the man who inspired me to start this journey. I’ve met some amazing people through the experience of penning a WOOL story and continue to lean on them for their support and experience as I continue writing.
3. My birthday is on Saturday, Aug. 17. That’s right — somehow Hugh knew about my birthday and made the publication date for DUST on that day. I can’t wait to read it and find where the story ends. Hopefully in a week or two, I’ll have a review in this place, but until then, I’ll be reading about Silo 1, 17, 18, and any others that Hugh decides to venture into in this story.
Thanks for writing and inspiring us Hugh — I’m proud to call you a friend.