Monday, August 26, 2013

Spider Prince Interview

Legend of the Spider-Prince: REBEL

Wyl is a young rebel whose life of dangerous lies and hidden truths has cost him his childhood and his ability to trust. He is fanatically loyal to the rebel leader, a woman embroiled in a blood-feud with Trascolm's ruling clan. When he’s not away spying, he’s her secret bodyguard—she needs protection from her army of renegades and outlaws as much as from bounty-hunters and assassins sent by her archenemy. But when the rebellion meets with disaster, the rebel leader's strategy changes. Wyl is thrust into a hostile royal court of underage teens—mere children, to his mind. He’s expected to embrace this more civilized way of life, but his brutally-honed instincts betray him, and he makes enemies instead of friends. Wyl—a boy raised by outlaws—is in over his head and must somehow master the subtleties of court intrigue well enough to keep the rebel leader and her rebellion alive, despite the treacherous machinations of her enemies, and do it without getting himself killed.  

About the Legend of the Spider-Prince series In a war-torn land where men have unbridled influence, but women hold the reins of power, a young rebel becomes entangled in a deadly web of magic, court intrigue, and revenge amid an escalating wave of events that will ultimately destroy magic, overturn governments, cause the near-collapse of civilization, even threaten the very existence of life on Eryth—and make him a legend.

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Interview courtesy of Liberty Ann Ireland

 

1.       First off, how has your week been?

These past few weeks that I’ve been published have been the realization of a lifelong dream. It’s been exciting and even scary, knowing that my life has been forever changed. I’ve been a closet writer all my life, so discovering that I have readers seems surreal. The escalation in that readership has been thrilling.

I’ve had to wrestle with finding time for all the things I need to do as an author with a new book published and more books to write, and family and a day job, and the occasional need to sleep. Discovering last Wednesday that a reader had posted my story as an illegal download was a real downer. It’s exasperating to have to put everything else aside to defend my rights against readers who like my writing, but fail to express it in a way that would actually help me write more books for them to read. It really makes me appreciate readers who buy the books they like and share their enthusiasm for them in a constructive way. Focusing on those readers puts my inner world back into balance and makes me eager to get back to work telling stories. 

There’s even been a little serendipity. Years ago, I had a bad riding accident that left me with vertigo. I learned a couple weeks ago there’s been a little progress made in treating it, and for the first time in twenty-four years, I feel cautiously hopeful that some of the effects of that injury can be alleviated, if not undone. If this treatment works, will restoring my ability to indulge in adrenaline-rich activities overcome my awareness of my mortality? Am I older—but wiser—or an unreconstructed adrenaline addict? I hope I’ll get to find out.
All in all, this has been an extraordinary, unforgettable time.

2.      Did you imagine that writing and being published would fall into place the way it did?

Absolutely not! I always imagined I’d try to go the traditional route and probably never get published. I’ve spent all but the last few years of my writing life simply focused on writing stories. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my stories, and I never imagined myself having the patience or persistence to wear all a publisher’s hats—or to come up with the financial resources to delegate them. I figured, if I was cut out to be a marketer, my query letters would have gotten a better response! 

But that thinking was what opened my mind to going independent—I’m a long-form writer, not inclined to short-stories or pithy, catchy Twitteresque masterpieces. Writing a novel or a series isn’t even remotely like writing a sales letter. If it was, I’d have a lucrative day job at an ad agency—and every advertising wiz in the world would be writing bestsellers. 

I don’t think the traditional publishing world has its finger firmly on readers’ pulses. I used to regularly bust my budget buying books, but increasingly, that hasn’t been happening. I walk out of bookstores empty-handed after a matter of minutes, then go home and re-read old favorites. Discovering manga played havoc with my budget for a while, but the ones I like seem to get dropped or are too long-established for me to afford to acquire a taste for them—I learned that lesson collecting Fullmetal Alchemist. Arguably, what I like either isn’t being written or isn’t being traditionally published. 

The game-changer came when I looked closer at the odds against getting a whole series traditionally-published. I mostly write series. I couldn’t accept the risk of being cut off from my own story if the first book were abandoned by its publisher, leaving the others in the series stillborn because I no longer owned the rights to that first book. That kind of thing happens all the time. I’ve invested too much in my writing to risk that happening to me.
So, I’ve had to stretch and learn and adapt, and none of those are bad things. I made the decision to go indie on April 18, thinking I’d publish on October 31, but everything was ready by early July. There seemed no point in waiting, so I published it first on Smashwords, figuring I’d have time to go through the various formats and nitpick before making publication “official.” I was completely caught off-guard when a couple chapter samples were downloaded while I was still fumbling with my Smashwords dashboard. I sold my first ebook within 12 hours. I never expected that to happen, and I feel like I’ve been trying to catch up with my book ever since!

3.      What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part was finding beta readers. After I wore out my family as readers with the earliest drafts, I couldn’t put my hands on suitably-qualified readers with fresh eyes. I was reluctant to try my luck online, but after a few false starts, I found a couple of online critique groups, Critique.org and CritiqueCircle.com, that were enormously helpful. Other authors will spot things a pleasure reader might not, and critiquing others, in return, really sharpened my understanding of the craft. The “rhino hide” I developed from accepting constructive criticism is still handy when putting on my marketing/promoting hat, allowing me to have a more objective perspective on it as a product rather than as my firstborn book.

4.      Did you learn anything from writing your book?

Honest feedback is priceless, and sometimes the hardest to hear is what you most need to hear. 

Write when you’re fresh. I’m a night owl by nature, but comparing what I write when I get up at 3 a.m. to what I write before I go to bed at 3 a.m. has turned me into a serious early-bird, though it’s hard to change a lifetime of night owl habits. I backslide, sometimes, but not as much as I expected I would. 

5.      Is there a part of the story you really liked but had to remove, and if so, could you tell us why?

At one point, the series opened with Helgurdda and her tragic betrothal to Hereres, leading to the start of the blood-feud. But as the story progressed, I realized it wasn’t really her story. Though the conflict centers on her rebellion and the blood-feud with the royal clan, the pivotal decisions that moved the story forward weren’t hers, but rather Wyl’s. I’m glad I wrote those early scenes because they anchored the setting of the story, but they’ll never be published. They belong in the backstory. Part of the craft of writing is knowing what needs to be in the story and what doesn’t. 

6.      Once we finish this book and fall in love with your characters, we are going to want the next book immediately.  What can you tell your readers to help calm their hunger for more?

I’m just as anxious to finish writing it as they are to read it, but I still have that perfectionist thing going, so it won’t be out until it’s right. It won’t take the years it took to write Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL, but that’s because I originally conceived the whole series as a single book, not realizing how much room it would need. I spent a lot of time breaking it apart, outlining what I had, organizing it into a coherent story, and then structuring each book and each trilogy. I couldn’t finish the first book without doing that, but there’s no need to do that again for the rest of the books in the series. After I finished Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL, I completely rewrote it three times before deciding that several third-person point-of-view characters and using past tense gave the narrative the right feel, so that’s another experiment I won’t need to do again. The good news is that finishing Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL left the other eight books in various degrees of completion. With each scene I finish in Legend of the Spider-Prince #2: ROGUE, more gaps in the various character and plot arcs down the series are spontaneously filling-in from their own momentum. All the critical parts of each book are already written, so it’s more about tweaking the journey than deciding on the destination. The more story I put behind me, the more inexorable the later bits feel. I don’t know how long this whole process will take, but my gut feeling is months for each book rather than years—an advantage to self-publishing. This is new territory of a different sort for me, because I’ve never had allot time to the care and feeding of an existing book while writing another, so it means I’m going to have to take time management to a higher level.

7.      Now, if this is part of a series, what’s the plan, and will they all be from the same person’s perspective?

This is a nine book series, a trilogy of trilogies. The first trilogy is mostly written, excepting a few arcs where I’m projecting and testing to see how they’ll play out in the last trilogy. The second trilogy is about half in draft and half in outline, and the last trilogy is in about the same condition, waiting on some decisions I have to make on those 2nd trilogy arcs so I can be sure all the loose ends are tied off. I plan to keep the same format, Wyl as the central character, and include narratives from other major characters and their subplots wherever they seem apt. The tricky part is including enough from other characters’ perspectives to advance the plot without creating a cast of thousands, which I feel dilutes the emotional impact of a story.

8.      What do you do if you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Writer’s block is my subconscious’s way of saying that something in the plot is not adding up. I don’t generally fight with it any more, I just take a break and let my subconscious do its work. What follows is usually one of those Eureka! moments when it dawns on me that the wrong person is telling the story, or something along those lines. The Legend of the Spider-Prince series came from a long succession of those kind of moments. Sometimes a block will come because something needs research, and since I like research, that’s easy enough to fix. Whenever I try to force a block, I end up with a lot of irrelevant material I have to discard later, so this approach is actually more efficient.

9.      What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?

Most of what I write is epic fantasy, but I also have a couple science fiction epics, a Napoleonic/Regency epic, an historical epic set during the Fourth Crusade, a couple contemporary adventure/suspense epics, and even a couple stand-alone Regency romances. Most of my stories have a military angle—yeah, big surprise there—but my interests are more in human conflict and intrigue than in war itself.

Many of my main characters happen to be young, but I don’t specifically write for a young adult or new adult audience. Growing up, I was always reading stuff people thought I was too young to read. A lot of younger readers are the same way—and a lot of adults read YA. I will say though, that not everyone, regardless of their age, has a taste for intrigue or knowing what lies beneath the surface of what goes on around them. I write the stories that have held my own interest over the course of years, despite me knowing how those stories will turn out. That fits my criteria for “compelling stories worth investing the time to write.” Worrying about what category they might fall into for marketing plays no role in writing them. Let the chips fall where they may. Fantasy gives me the greatest range of choices in how to tell a story, and I enjoy world-building, but some stories just don’t need a unique world to play out properly.

One thing I don’t write is short stories—I’ve written exactly two, and they’re the exception that proves the rule. Both are dark and clearly there is nothing more to be said at the end of them. My longer stories are also dark, and when they come to an end, I also feel satisfied that there’s nothing more to be said, whether the characters are alive at the end or not. I like to have room to do justice to a story, so most of my stories are trilogies or longer, but I like character development, so they all build to a conclusion rather than have the characters remain virtually static and accrue endless, maybe pointless, adventures. 

10.  What book(s) are you reading now?

Mark Lawrence’s Emperor of Thorns. The second book in his Broken Empire series, King of Thorns, came out when I was hard at work on Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL. I only read it through once—I’m one of those people who loves to re-read books, even back-to-back—so this little hiatus from writing to launch Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL has given me a chance to re-read the second book and refresh my memory before plunging into Emperor of Thorns. It’s hard for me to read other people’s books when my own is eating me alive, so I have actually quite a few books clambering for attention—most of them from indie authors who are new to me. I hope to gobble up a few of those books before I plunge back into finishing Legend of the Spider-Prince #2: ROGUE.
 

About the Author

I loved fairy tales as a child, but could never get enough of them until I learned to read for myself. I spent my formative years with my nose in a book or playing dungeon master for my sisters long before there were actual games requiring one. Our Barbies fought Klingons, conquered the galaxy—and always had room on their spaceship for horses. I am a horsewoman, an archer, a fencer, a former military officer, and a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism—all useful skills and experiences for a fantasy novelist. I am currently holding down a day job in Mississippi, USA, where I live with my husband and two daughters, and am presently down to one horse, one cat, and one dog—and ‘way too many books.

Visit me on the web at www.margoander.com My Facebook author page is at www.facebook.com/AuthorMargoAnder I have a blog, www.margoander.wordpress.com, where I review books I like by other indie authors. I have another blog, marguerot.wordpress.com, where I blog about writing.

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