Interview with Sarah Cawkwell

Author Sarah Cawkwell found some time in her crazy busy schedule to talk about the writing process.

Author. Mother. Secret hetwoman. Sarah Cawkwell.

Author. Mother. Secret hetwoman. Sarah Cawkwell.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?

Sarah: One word… hmm. It’d be a toss-up between ‘exhilarating’, ‘frustrating’ and ‘fun’. Because it’s all three of these things at once.

For me, the writing process consists largely of finding time to do any at all around a full-time job and running a full-time family.

The life of the full-time writer is not mine, alas, and so I have to find those spare hours in a day that already could do with having twenty seven in it!

 

“Flaws. I like characters to have believable flaws. I can’t bear Perfect Heroes.”

 

He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

Sarah: Anything without lyrics. Usually, I tune in and turn on to Streaming Soundtracks or listen to film music. If I listen to something with lyrics, I end up accidentally typing them in.

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

Sarah: I have quite a few favourite characters in literature in general. In my own stuff, the hapless hero Gilrain, from The Ballad of Gilrain in the Tales from the Nun and Dragon anthology published by Fox Spirit is probably at the top of the list. Correlan, the Techmarine from The Gildar Rift is also rather fun to write, being decidedly sarcastic.

The Gildar Rift, by Sarah Cawkwell

The Gildar Rift, by Sarah Cawkwell

I love Garro and James Swallow’s Garro audio dramas are utterly wonderful.

He2etic: What are your strongest influences when it comes to character creation?

Sarah: Flaws. I like characters to have believable flaws. I can’t bear Perfect Heroes. Where’s the scope for learning? Where’s the room for improvement?

I like to at least try to create characters people care about. Even if it’s just to say ‘I hate him. I hope he dies in a gory manner whilst people point and laugh.’

He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? Not just those in the Warhammer universes, but in other franchises or even of your own make?

Sarah: Star Wars. I’d love to write something in the Star Wars EU. I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since the age of about seven years old and it’s never quite gone away. I have written a few little stories in the Doctor Who universe as well.

“My advice is to read anything and everything, particularly if it requires you to step outside your usual genre comfort zone!”

 

He2etic: What are your favourite drinks, both alcoholic and not? Do you occasionally partake while writing?

Sarah: I’m not much of a one for alcohol. Generally if I go out anywhere, I drive, so I don’t drink at all. If I do, it’s usually wine of some description. (I prefer red over white, and for a change of pace, I *love* real ales).

Valkia the Bloody, by Sarah Cawkwell

Valkia the Bloody, by Sarah Cawkwell

He2etic: What is it about Warhammer and its 40k brother that you love the most?

Sarah: The hopelessness of it all. The lack of happy endings.

The background itself is so richly detailed and utterly enjoyable to work within that I frequently feel remarkably honoured to be allowed to build my tiny sandcastles in the Black Library sandbox.

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

Sarah: Nobody. Absolutely nobody.

I really don’t like the idea of casting people from my books. Weird, perhaps? Yes. But I much, much prefer the pictures I have in my head as to how people look. There’s nothing worse than seeing a film adaptation of a book and going ‘but that’s not how xxxx looks in my head!’ It’d be so horribly disappointing.

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Sarah: I have a few ‘back burner’ projects going on in my own universes, but I only add to them when I have yet another half hour in my by-now thirty hour days.

He2etic: Are there any novels you would consider required reading?

Sarah: I have a few favourite books that I consider to have great re-read value. They are The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas (my favourite book of all time), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, American Gods by Neil Gaiman… actually, my advice is to read anything and everything, particularly if it requires you to step outside your usual genre comfort zone!

Tales of the Nun & Dragon, from Fox Spirit Books

Tales of the Nun & Dragon, from Fox Spirit Books

He2etic: Are you working on a new novel for the Black Library? More Silver Skulls perhaps?

Sarah: As ever, I’m not allowed to discuss Current Projects [tm]. Suffice it to say that something of a silver nature may be floating somewhere in the system…

He2etic: On writing Space Marines, what runs through your head when you have moments where a Marine interacts with a human? What defines the dynamic for you?

Sarah: Awe. Absolute, incredible awe. If it was me meeting a Space Marine, I’d be completely blown away by the majesty of them.

He2etic: Do you find yourself preferring to write in Warhammer or 40k more? And why? Or what aspects do you prefer about either universe from a writing standpoint?

Sarah: I have no real preference. As a long-time fantasy reader, I think that WHF gets a massively raw deal in terms of readership. There’s some pretty quality stuff in that universe, but it gets shoved aside in favour of the big lads.

Follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio.

Interview with Raw Dog Screaming Press

Today’s interview is with John Lawson, the co-founder of Raw Dog Screaming Press. RDSP has been in the publishing for a decade and has released works from no less than 38 authors. They’re here today to share their insight on the publishing business.

John Lawson and Jennifer Barnes of Raw Dog Screaming Press.

John Lawson and Jennifer Barnes of Raw Dog Screaming Press.

He2etic: I usually start with a qualifier. Can you tell us how many years experience you’ve had, what you’ve published and what publishing companies/free lance work you’ve done?

John: Our publishing company, Raw Dog Screaming Press, is celebrating its tenth year in business. During that time we’ve published over a hundred titles ranging from paperbacks and hardcovers to limited editions, along with numerous chapbooks.

The company’s focus has been to release work that other publishers won’t handle because it is difficult to categorize and market, so we’ve handled collections and novels in a wide range of genres, be it from mass market authors or first-timers.

“…in recent years marketing departments are starting to decide what books get signed, as opposed to experienced editors being able to choose what material to work with.”

 

I have edited six anthologies for a number of companies, in addition to doing freelance editing for the National Lampoon book line and sports biographies. Jennifer has edited two anthologies, and together they ran a literary journal called The Dream People for four years.

Additionally, Jennifer and myself are authors in their own right working in fiction, poetry, and freelance articles.

Play Dead, by Michael A. Arnzen

Play Dead, by Michael A. Arnzen

He2etic: Do you face a lot of story ideas that are just too common? Stuff that, even if well written, is pending rejecting just because it’s overdone?

John: The most common stories we receive–either in short fiction or novel format–involve an author losing their mind, or a serial killer story. And while some of them are original and compelling… there’s just too much of it already.

For some reason we don’t receive zombie fiction, but judging from what the other publishers are putting out it seems that is reaching the point of being overdone as well. Somewhere out there somebody is reading this and thinking, “I’ll write a story that combines zombies, a writer losing their mind, and a serial killer!”

And hey, it might be great. Who knows.

Usually it’s more in the telling of the story than the story itself. We’ve taken plots that, in less capable hands, would certainly have just turned out to be “the same old thing.” We’re lucky to work with very skilled authors.

He2etic: What’s your opinion on the value of literary cliches versus something that’s too original (ie, kind of out there)? Any advice on striking a balance?

John: Well, a reader generally seems to need “the familiar” as a point of reference. And when it comes to advertising departments the more familiar the better–in recent years marketing departments are starting to decide what books get signed, as opposed to experienced editors being able to choose what material to work with.

“Here’s a secret: publishing is a battle of attrition. The people who are around in ten years become “the people”–know what I mean?”

 

Anyway. The main thing is that a story should be grounded in some kind of internal logic, which is generally borrowed from familiar situations such as cliches. We work with a lot of surrealism and absurdism, and when you dissect it that work all maintains an internal logic.

Otherwise it just becomes exhibitionism and you lose the reader because they feel you’re either making fun of them or telling your parents off in the form of a novel. So, there’s a fine line. You can pretty much get away with anything and make people love it if they feel as though there’s a “reason” for why things happen, even if the reason isn’t immediately clear.

He2etic: What’s the single biggest mistake most budding authors make in your opinion?

John: They give up.

Odd Men Out, by Matt Betts

Odd Men Out, by Matt Betts

Now, there are many varieties of giving up. They stop writing, they stop pushing themselves to increase their abilities, they stop listening to their own voice and chase after imitating others, they stop listening to others and get lost chasing the sound of their own voice.

In other words, things get out of balance. There’s no clock to punch, there’s no job full of workmates and supervisors structuring your time, providing guideposts.

Figuring out what your next move is can be confusing, and it becomes easy to lose your way. Most people who make a splash in the writing scene disappear after two years.

All that momentum, lost, presumably because they don’t achieve Stephen King’s wealth in that amount of time and lose hope.

“You have that exact moment… when you realize you’re no longer reading as work but have engaged in leisure reading.”

 

Now consider all the people who don’t even reach the point of “making a splash” in the scene (getting published in the independent magazines, anthologies, and so forth). Here’s a secret: publishing is a battle of attrition. The people who are around in ten years become “the people”–know what I mean?

Stick with it while all the others fall away, and soon you’re considered an old pro with everybody looking to see what your next story is.

He2etic: Do you ever have that golden moment while reading a manuscript or draft that just screams, “I have to have this”? Any patterns in it?

Red Horses, by Donna Lynch

Red Horses, by Donna Lynch

John: Yes, that has happened before! When Jeremy C. Shipp sent me his debut novel Vacation hoping for a blurb. Sitting there reading the manuscript it became clear we couldn’t permit anyone else to get their hands on it.

You have that exact moment described in the question above, this epiphany as your are judging a contest or reading submissions or evaluating the work of an associate, when you realize you’re no longer reading as work but have engaged in leisure reading.

The manuscript is advanced enough that you’re not stumbling over things to edit/fact check/rewrite/etc. The reading has become a matter of fun, the way it’s supposed to be as a reader! Which is often rare while on the job as an editor.

Is there still editing work to be done? Sure, there always is, usually minor stuff, but you tend to be seeing characters and situations that feel entirely real, and the plot moves quickly enough to be entertaining regardless of genre.

He2etic: A number of authors are working on their first novel. Any advice?

John: Finish it!

Not turning out how you intended? Doesn’t matter if it’s not finished! Not fun anymore? How much fun is looking back on it years later only to say you invested time in writing a book, but stopped with nothing to show for it.

Hysteria, by Stephanie Wytovich

Hysteria, by Stephanie Wytovich

And writing the novel doesn’t mean that you finished it. Fixing all the sentences, ensuring scenes make sense to readers who don’t see what you conceived first in your head, eliminating or adding bits to improve the flow or compensate for other issues…essentially, going through revisions, no matter how heavy. That is seeing things through to the end.

Getting opinions from readers and writers about how it reads (without flipping out on them!), and reaching a point where you can let it sit without doing more editing… that’s finishing it.

I’ve watched authors waste years over-editing their first novel. That’s no good. It’s safe to stop, to let go, to begin the process with another project.

That’s all the time we have for today. Special thanks go out to John Lawson and Jennifer Barnes of Raw Dog Screaming Press for their great advice! We’d also like to give a very big thanks to freelance editor Hanna Gribble (@HannaEdits, and on Facebook).

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio. The author can be followed @He2etic, or on his blog.

Interview with David Guymer

Today’s interview is with David Guymer, one of the newest writers to join the ranks of the Black Library author roll. Part scientist, part writer and all nerd, he’s here to answer some questions about the creative process that goes into word craft.

David Guymer, because being the lord of the rats never sounded so good.

David Guymer, because being the lord of the rats never sounded so good.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?

David: Fraught.

Some people might enjoy a whispering muse at their shoulder. My writing is accompanied by buzzing neurones, lack of sleep, worry, doubt, and then I print off what I’ve done, cover it in red and do it again. And again.

It’s not a method I’d recommend but it gets the job done, and anything that can survive three or four lashings of the red pen probably deserves its place in the final draft.

He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

David: Basic rule is not to listen anything with lyrics but the precise choice varies from project to project. I find music useful in setting the right mood for a piece and (probably for fantasy and horror more than anything) if you get the mood spot on then you can get away with a lot.

“I’m a gamer first and a writer second, but I love the fact that this is a world that enables me to do both.”

 

For Headtaker that was the Dragonball Z soundtrack with a bit of Final Fantasy: Advent Children. Big fight music for big fights! For City of the Damned I needed something more eerie. I started off juggling between The Killing and Mass Effect 3 soundtracks before ultimately settling on the soundtrack to the old computer game, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines.

The Karag Durak Grudge, by David Guymer

The Karag Durak Grudge, by David Guymer

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

David: It’s hard not to work with a character every hour of every day and not become attached. There are actually very few characters that don’t pop into my head from time to time to demand a little love and attention. I’d originally intended to produce a small list of a selection of my favourites but, for the reasons noted above, I’ll just give you my standout, except no alternative, favourites. And that is…

Sharpwit.

The reasons are many. He’s delightfully devious, intelligent, but also vulnerable in a way that’s relatable to a human being reading about rat-men. I also think he’s quite unique amongst the skaven currently out there, surviving well into old age on the back of his wits and cunning. Before the plot for Headtaker was settled, Sharpwit existed. His full backstory and arc needed padding out, but the character was there right from the beginning. He’s my little contribution to skavendom!

As for other authors, that’s tricky too. What with their being so many. When I close my eyes and just wait for a character to spring to mind then (surprise surprise) they’re all members of the Tanith First!

Unseen, by David Guymer

Unseen, by David Guymer

I don’t know how he does it, but nobody writes characters quite like Dan. It’s doubly amazing given that his books tend to feature so many of them. The very first that came to mind were Rawne and Feygor. I couldn’t even tell you why as it’s so long since I read them, but that just goes to show how powerful they are.

He2etic: What are your favourite armies in the Warhammer and 40k universes?

David: I have a skaven army, naturally, that’s waxed and waned through the years ever since I first picked up a box of mono-posed plastic clanrats when I was twelve. We’ve fought some epic battles down the years and they’re the favourite to which I always return.

Most other armies have had my eye run over them at some point or other down the years. Wood Elves and Tomb Kings attract a lot of covetous glances. Writing Headtaker made me desperately want to collect dwarfs, but I do yearn for the chance to field some cavalry for once.

With 40K it’s more tricky. I did have a bit of Imperial Guard, but my school friends and I didn’t really play it. Necrons, Dark Eldar and Tau didn’t even exist when I last properly played 40K!

That said though, an Imperial Guard army is my current project because I do love tanks and big guns. What I *really* wanted though is Eldar or White Scars. I love them for the background and the feel of them, but neither suits the way I play. I’m a ‘sitting on my hill clustered around my war-machines’ kind of guy.

He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? Not just those in the Warhammer universes, but in other franchises or even of your own make?

Curse of the Everliving, by David Guymer

Curse of the Everliving, by David Guymer

David: Ikit Claw was always my favourite character, so I’d always love to write about him. The great thing about Warhammer and 40K though is there are so many great characters, settings and possibilities that it’s a pleasure to write for any of them. I’d never fielded Queek in my skaven army, for instance.

And I didn’t think much of King Kazador in the old dwarf army book either. He was basically a dwarf lord with an extra point of strength and a hatred of greenskins.

But when you look past the stats, immerse yourself in the background, then you see that there’s so much character to them both.

If, however, we’re talking other franchises then I’d love to write a Star Trek story as I grew up as (and still am) a massive Star Trek fan.

I’ve also threatened to write a Ms. Marvel screenplay if no-one else looks likely to do it!

He2etic: What are your favourite drinks, both alcoholic and not?

David: I consume vast quantities of milk. It’s good for you, although in these doses probably less so. With alcohol, you can’t go too far wrong with a good cider. Out of regional pride, I like to get Aspall’s Suffolk Cider. So if anyone sees me dry at the Weekender, you know what to get me.

He2etic: What is it about Warhammer and its 40k brother that you love the most?

Gotrek and Felix, Lost Tales, from the Black Library

Gotrek & Felix: Lost Tales, from the Black Library

David: I’m a gamer first and a writer second, but I love the fact that this is a world that enables me to do both. When I think about what I want to write it’ll be cool stuff from the game that comes up. I want to see what happens when a doomwheel charges a giant, or when rat-ogres get shot by an Anvil of Doom.

If they let me loose on 40K, I’d want to write about a fleet battle in an asteroid belt or hundreds of battle tanks blowing the crap out of a titan.

I like that these are worlds where big things can happen, where there are heroes and villains and a whole lot struggling along in between. And I like that one will always be trying to stab/poison/blow up the other.

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

David: I’d be terrible at this. I’d just want to put Star Trek and Buffy actors in everything. Will Wheaton as Felix Jaeger? No… no, I don’t think so.

“It’s hard not to work with a character every hour of every day and not become attached.”

 

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing?

David: They don’t come much longer term than my ‘first’ novel, which I started working on well before I first submitted a story for Black Library. It’s a fantasy story about wizards that (stop rolling your eyes at the back) draws quite heavily from my love for Dragonball. It’s about two-thirds done. Occasionally, between projects, I’ll edit the opening paragraph for the zillionth time and then it’s back to the hard drive. I do plan to finish it one day.

It’s a long term project!

Closer to fruition, I’ve got plenty of irons in the fire with Black Library to keep me going for the near future. So I’m afraid you’ll not be seeing the back of me just yet.

That’s all the time we have for today! Thanks David!

Follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio. The author can be followed @He2etic, or on his blog.

Interview with Nick Kyme

It’s a red letter day for the people here at the Bolthole. Our blog has recently been improved aesthetically, thanks to the amazing work of artist Manuel ‘Forjador’ Mesones! And we’re working to improve the consistency of our content as well. So what finer way to celebrate than with an interview with Nick Kyme, editor for the Black Library and author of the Salamander series of Warhammer 40k books?

Nick Kyme, the primarch-editor himself.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?

Nick: Ha, ha – in one word? Arduous, probably. Especially novels. Don’t get me wrong; I love writing, I wouldn’t do it otherwise, but it’s hard.

Really it’s just the amount of time and extra effort on top of a full time job. It’s regular – every night, and all day on the weekends when I’m up against a tight deadline.

I find it takes me about 30 minutes or so of procrastination in an evening session, which can run from 6pm up until 9.30pm on some nights, before I actually get started. The weekend is better, I usually work more productively in the morning, so tend to get into the work straight off the bat and usually mould my day around two to three sessions.

“It makes me laugh that nowadays there are writers and tweeters that use ‘grim dark’ to describe a sub-genre of fantasy.”

 

He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

Nick: Classical mainly, and more often than not, soundtracks. For instance, I’m working to Man of Steel at the moment, which is suitably moving and epic. It suits 40K/HH very well. I have a vast iTunes archive of soundtracks, actually. Thor is a popular one too, so heroic and dramatic. It stirs the blood and the creative juices all at the same time!

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

Salamander, by Nick Kyme

Salamander, by Nick Kyme

Nick: For the Salamanders, Tsu’gan is definitely the most fun to write. He’s an angry, uncompromising character. I can empathise at times. I also like Fugis, too. He gets overlooked a lot as he doesn’t get much of role in the novels until later on, but he’s been one of my favourites since the beginning. Vulkan is a fascinating character to write about, a real challenge too. Morgrim in the War of Vengeance novels and Ranuld Silverthumb, in the same series.

As for other authors, I think Aeonid Thiel is fantastic, one of Dan’s best creations (I got to play with him a bit too in the audio drama, Censure). A little farther a field, Jack Reacher from Lee Child and Charlie Parker from John Connolly are particular favourites too.

He2etic: What is your favourite Chapter and army?

Nick: Necrons are far and away my favourite army. I love the sleek and terrifying look of their troops and war machines, plus they’re hard as nails on the tabletop. Chapter, I’d say Salamanders. Genuinely. Writing about them has fostered an empathy for them that transcends the novels. As well as Sisters of Battle (admittedly, a bit fringe), these are the armies I have for 40K. For Warhammer, it’s Dwarfs all the way

He2etic: What do you think of the cover art for your books?

Promethean Sun, by Nick Kyme

Promethean Sun, by Nick Kyme

Nick: Stunning. I’ve been blessed with some fantastic covers. My jaw dropped when I saw Neil’s work on Vulkan Lives, Promethean Sun and Scorched Earth. They’re masterpieces worthy of all the accolades they garner. Clint’s done some amazing covers for me, so too have Jon Sullivan and Cheol Joo Lee (he does all of my Salamander covers). I feel very lucky.

He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? In other franchises or even your own?

Nick: Well, I am a huge fan of the DCU, particularly the Dark Knight. I’d love to write a Batman novel or even short story.

I even dallied with the idea of writing a screenplay for a pilot for Gotham Central, the excellent series written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka.

As for my own, I have a crime novel that’s about 16,000 words old that I need to finish. I did write a Sherlock Holmes ‘elseworlds’ style story for a book called Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, and would certainly love to return to that mythos.

“It’s nice to know there are people out there who like what you’re doing as a writer and want to show that with a gift that reflects what I’m into or enjoy.”

 

He2etic: What’s your favourite drink?

Nick: Alcoholic or non? Alcoholic, I do like a nice real ale or red wine. I think my tipple of choice would be SoCo, however. I blame my eldest brother, Rich, for that. I’m not much of a drinker, to be honest, but it’s nice to be social once in a while… 😉

And non? Hmm. Purple grape juice, as lame as that sounds. I keep fit a lot and run three times a week, so don’t tend to go in for Coke or whatever. I do like root beer, a throwback to a family holiday many, many years ago visiting relatives in beautiful Canada. Oh, and coffee. How could I forget that! It’s probably the fact I drink so much of the stuff it’s more like my actual blood than a drink per se…

He2etic: What is it about Warhammer and its 40k brother that you love the most?

The Great Betrayal, by Nick Kyme

The Great Betrayal, by Nick Kyme

Nick: It’s the grimness. It makes me laugh that nowadays there are writers and tweeters that use ‘grim dark’ to describe a sub-genre of fantasy. It came from Warhammer, so it feels a little disingenuous and more than a bit cheeky to co-opt it for this purpose, but that’s the strength of the idea. I love the Britishness of it all, it really speaks to my culture and sense of national pride.

He2etic: Do fans give you gifts at the conventions?

Nick: Occasionally. I’ve had Hobnobs a few times (always gratefully received, I LOVE Hobnobs). Some fans bring me Lego, which I also really appreciate as I’m a proper AFOL when all’s said and done. I’ve had Batman memorabilia (thanks, Stealth Budda) and even got a quill-pen once too. It’s nice.

I certainly don’t expect it, but I really do appreciate it. It’s nice to know there are people out there who like what you’re doing as a writer and want to show that with a gift that reflects what I’m into or enjoy. I strive to respect that appreciation by writing the best stories I can.

He2etic: Last question. If you could pick any actors to play the roles of Tsu’gan and Vulkan, who would you choose?

Nick: Hmm, that’s a tough one, though I have done some thinking on this. When I first starting fleshing out the characters for the Tome of Fire trilogy, I used IMDB to find actors who I felt would best reflect their characters, at least in terms of how they look. It made it easier to cement them in my own mind.

For Tsu’gan, I’ve often said he’s a little like Kratos from God of War in temperament, but the actor I’d choose to play him would be Djimon Hounsou. And for Vulkan (wow, that’s tough), I’d say David Oyelowo or Sammi Rotibi. Honestly, I would’ve gone for Idris Elba but I also thought of him as more like Ko’tan Kadai or Adrax Agatone.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio. The author can be followed @He2etic, or on his blog.

Interview with JukePop Serial

For today’s interview, we have Jerry Fan from JukePop Serials. JPS has a unique approach to publishing. You submit the first chapter, and if they like it, they will host it, allowing you to keep writing and for readers to vote on their favourites. Their vote-driven, technological approach to publishing is an innovation to watch in the digital age.

Jerry Fan, changing reading habits everywhere.

Jerry Fan, changing reading habits everywhere.

He2etic: We always start with a qualifier. Obviously we know that you’re with Jukepop Serial, but you can also mention other publications you’ve worked for, work you’ve done, a dash of shameless self promotion.

Jerry: One thing I always like to tell people is that we’re a technology platform first, publisher second.  Our core team have very deep technology experience and when you pair that with our friendly editors (none of that attitude expected of publishers but all the same experience) we consider ourselves your humble, friendly, publishing partner.

I’ll also be talking about us on a Litquake digital media panel “Needle in a Haystack: Discovering New Digital Content” June 29th in San Francisco.

“Did you know that most readers don’t get past page 18 of a book they’ve purchased?”

 

He2etic: Jukepop Serial has a fairly unique approach to publishing. Where did the idea for it come from?

Jerry: The idea came from many different places actually. Historically speaking fiction was published chapter by chapter, but books became more popular because books got cheaper to make (book binding was a key technological advance) and distribution of books became more convenient.

Werekynd - Beasts of the Tanglewild, by Robbie MacNiven

Werekynd – Beasts of the Tanglewild by Robbie MacNiven

But with the advent of ebook technology and self-publishing services, authors still face one big problem. Will readers like my story?  The “old” way of finishing a book then trying to get it published is painful and is equal to problems start-ups face when developing a product in “stealth mode”. Spending 1-2 yrs quietly working in a garage means you could be wasting time when quickly testing the “product” concept could’ve told you to tweak the product in a different way or work on something else entirely.

That’s why we only accept the 1st chapter, so authors aren’t bogged down with finishing a manuscript before publishing. It is also why our publishing policy is so flexible and implicitly trusting, even though we pay for 1st chapters, we don’t hold our authors to any obligations to continue. (Shhhh…don’t tell everybody!)  We provide the incentive for authors to start, motivation to keep writing, but in the end authors need to hook our readership through their writing.

“The thing with trends, is that some are predictive of lasting appeal and some are just blips of passing interest – but nobody knows until the trend is over.”

 

He2etic: When it comes to rejections, what are the most common reasons for turning down a potential new story?

Jerry: Quality.  We’ve seen the first chapter as highly predictive of an authors craft and appeal to readers.  Did you know that most readers don’t get past page 18 of a book they’ve purchased?  Something happens in the first few chapters that gets readers to commit to finishing the book or put it down and never come back.  I have so many books on my shelf that’s in that category. The reviews look great, but after reading I just can’t commit myself to them.

Plum, by Paul Whyte

Plum by Paul Whyte

Even though we’re trying to be objective in our acceptances, it’s admittedly still highly subjective.  That’s why we’ve recently launched a new program called Aspiring JukePop Authors. It’s one step closer to dealing with our inherent subjectivity and making sure we give deserving authors a shot.  The Aspiring JukePop Authors program is still curated, but are candidates to become a JukePop Author.

We want the community to help us decide whether they want to read these types of stories.  For the author to become a JukePop Author, their serials need reader +Votes and current JukePop Author Endorsements to become a JukePop Author.

He2etic: Jukepop Serial’s focus tends to be geared towards increasing the “grip” of its tales, trying to grab the reader’s interest from the start and keep them wondering “What happens next?” Do you ever worry that some great stories might have passed up because their start was a bit too slow?

Jerry: Absolutely. This is why we’re always trying to find new ways like the “Sandbox” idea to take us out of the equation as much as possible.

He2etic: I would suspect, based on JukePop’s approach, that it may have an edge over other publishers because it’s dynamic can allow for flags of current trends. Any hints or thoughts on what is currently or growing in popularity?

Jerry: The thing with trends, is that some are predictive of lasting appeal and some are just blips of passing interest – but nobody knows until the trend is over.  Take a look at our JP 30 serials and you’ll find it surprising how many serials are just off the beaten path but are main stays month after month.

Multipocalypse by Greg Leunig

Multipocalypse by Greg Leunig

He2etic: Any other advice you can give for budding authors?

Jerry: Write a story you’d want to read.  Don’t worry about the ending because the plot tends to develop on its own, and it’s much more fun and freeing to write that way.

He2etic: Are there any subjects or genres that just get too much literary attention and thus are commonly rejected? For example, too many zombie stories?

Jerry: The world can definitely use more zombie stories – one of my favorites on our platform!  We don’t reject serials based on genre at all, we only accept based on quality of writing and the community tells us which genre is currently popular.

He2etic: Can you think of any JukePop Serial success stories? Amateurs going onto becoming professionals, or even starting their own, traditionally published novels from their initial JPS story?

Jerry: Almost too many to name.  Plenty of authors have found confidence and success on our platform and have decided to take their serials and make them available on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. Woman King by Evette Davis is the most recent one that comes to mind, we attended her book launch party up in San Francisco last month.  We’re also trying to urge authors forward where we can by working with our contacts in the media & entertainment industry to pitch some of our serials for production in other forms of media.

“Don’t worry about the ending because the plot tends to develop on its own, and it’s much more fun and freeing to write that way.”

 

He2etic: Finally, what is your personal favorite story on JukePop Serial?

Jerry: Wonder Heroes 4.0 (superhero genre), Multipocalypse (zombies!) are a couple that I’ve followed we launched. There are new serials that are up and coming, Radio Silence (crime), Hobson & Choi (crime), and The Waters of Life and Death (adventure) are making wishing the authors write faster.

So there you have it. Keep an eye on JukePop Serial’s innovative and unorthodox approach to publishing, and expect more great things from them soon!

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