In this occasional series, authors I have made contact with in various ways will be answering a set of questions I have devised. Not all questions are relevant to all authors of course but…
The questions are as follows:
- Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?
- How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?
- How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?
- What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?
- How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?
- How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?
- Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?
- Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?
- Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?
- What is the best piece of advice you were given that you could pass on to aspiring writers?
My first author is Jon Rosenberg who has written a fascinating book called:Pantheon of the Dead – see my review on GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/490688156. This is book 3 in the Hidden Academy series. I have also read The Unicorn Crisis which is the first book in this series and the Digital Wolf which is the second, so I am familiar with this author and really like his writing style.
Jon says in response to my questions:
I’ll do my best answer this set of questions, though some of them aren’t exactly applicable to my situation (eg. I’m still waiting for a publisher to accept my work). I any case I’m happy to explain, as best as I can, my writing habits and methodology.
1. In regards to my Hidden Academy series in general: I wanted to write about the notion of Summoning and how such a talent might be managed in a somewhat near to real world scenario. There are other urban fantasies out there and some are very good, so it’s very difficult to point to one or two aspects of my books and say, ‘that’s unique’. Perhaps the fact that due to some odd circumstances I ended up studying Engineering, Law, History and Renaissance Art as well as Literature means that I tend to have a somewhat peculiar perspective and I suspect that comes out in my writing.
As to Pantheon of the Dead the reason why I choose that topic is that I always felt sorry for Persephone. There’s a picture by Dante Gabriel Rossetti of Persephone holding the pomegranate and I remember seeing it a gallery when I was young and someone explained the story to me and I felt such a sensation of sorrow and rage that it always was going to be one of the topics I covered in this series.
2. The question as asked presupposes a great deal more structure than I have when I first come to a story. In many cases, such as I described with Pantheon above, they’re things about which I’ve been thinking, on some level, for years. I am obsessed by what Jung called archetypes, those myths and legends which shape how various societies understand the world about them and their own place in it.
When it comes to starting an actual novel I tend to write the draft of a first chapter. I’ll writer several times until I feel that I have the basis of a good story. once that’s in place I’ll already know some of the more important scenes that I want to include later and so I’ll have what I think of as signposts which will help point me in the direction I want to explore.
3. Again, as I said above, the chance are that I will have been reading about, studying and thinking about a topic for years before I actually sit down to write about it. The book I’m currently working on covers some of the personalities and events which led to the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire, which is a subject I have been reading about for two decades or more.
4. The internet, various libraries and, sometimes, specialist bookshops. I have a fairly substantial collection of works on myths already, but if I can’t find the information I want or need close to hand there always ways to find it.
5. So far this hasn’t been an issue.
6. I’ve not kept count but a lot. It’s still not been accepted by anyone. The truth is rejection by print media is no longer the be all and end all that it used to be. The internet and outlets such as Amazon have changed publishing entirely. I suspect that the print giants have yet to realise just how superseded they’ve become. Of course, because of their size and wealth, it’s possible that they will be able to adjust to the new market before they are completely swallowed up. However, if anyone out there thinks that they are invulnerable to the changes that the new technologies have brought, just go and look at what happened to Kodak.
7. Yes and I still do.
8. Absolutely. Though I would still suggest trying to get your book placed with an agent and a publisher. For all the advantages the new media offers, things like the overwhelming majority of the literary prizes and the best opportunities for publicity are largely controlled by the publishing houses. If these things matter to you then getting your book printed by one of the major houses is vital. However in the meantime writing and self publishing is both very easy and profitable. Putting an already finished novel on Amazon is the work of minutes. And, quite apart from any money you might make from the sales of your work, the feedback you can get from the potentially wide array of readers is vital. Your friends and family may well share your own preconceptions, putting your work out into the world is the real test as you will encounter all sorts of views, advice and criticism that will only serve to strengthen your future efforts.
9. The best answer I can give to that is a conditional one: it can. After all, what is a living? Are your needs covered by your sales? In this it is like any other form of self-employment and, as such, you have to be hugely disciplined with yourself and with your work habits. You also have to understand why you want to write in the first place. If it is a hobby and you enjoy it as such, then stick to that, however if you see yourself as a writer, then treat it like you would any other full time job and know that if you don’t work you won’t eat or make rent.
10. This ties back to my answer for the last question, though with a different underlying thought.
Regardless of whether you are trying to make money out of your writing, or you see it a hobby, or an art form if you want to be a writer, then you have to write. There are no real excuses. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer. There’s no point waiting around for a better moment, or till you’ve learned more about it, or when you have more confidence: sit down and get on with it. You may write well, you may write badly, but if you don’t write at all then there’s no point in even discussing it.
I hope that this gives you what you were looking for. If there’s anything which is unclear or in need of greater clarification please don’t hesitate to contact me.