An interview with YA author, Nathan Hopp

Welcome to the latest in my series of interviews from around the world. This afternoon we find ourselves in North America and I am delighted to welcome the talented writer, Nathan Hopp, author of the recently published historical fantasy novel, The Adventures of Peter Gray. It has been fascinating to hear about Nate’s journey as a writer and his route to publication.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Nathan Hopp, and I’m a college student/author born and raised in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. I’m a big nerd when it comes to topics such as history, anime, the furry fandom and I love exploring new places wherever I go. I mostly write short stories, but I’m pleased to announce my debut novel, The Adventures of Peter Gray, was recently published earlier this year.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m either biking, studying for / attending university classes or meeting new people such as your good self, on the Internet.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Unfortunately, yes. At the moment I’m an associate at Walmart, and while the pay is good it doesn’t beat the thought of waking up one morning and doing nothing but writing!

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve loved reading ever since I was in kindergarten, but I guess you can say writing my own stories began somewhere in my high school library. One day I decided to write poetry, this led to short stories and eventually I hit the hard stuff and completed my first novel by the time I started college. A year later, and here I am.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
When I first started, I wrote short stories geared towards fans of serious science fiction. The Adventures of Peter Gray is a historical fantasy; two genres I hadn’t attempted at that point. As such I needed to undertake an extensive period of research and cherry picked features from each genre that best worked for me. As for plot ideas, most of the time they just come to me in moments of inspiration, but they can come from anywhere and at any time. I just have to keep a notebook handy!

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
My God, who doesn’t? Some days I feel unable to write a single sentence, and the next I’m hastily writing entire paragraphs of a story on the back of a napkin or scrap paper taken from the Walmart break room. On those days, I’m terrified of forgetting these ideas and additions to a story.

7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Where do I start? There’s too many books that influenced me, but I can tell you the writers who shaped me. There’s classic authors like Stephen King, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury and the like. Then there’s Marie Lu, Alex London, Kyell Gold, Scott Westerfeld, Anthony Horowitz, George Orwell and countless others that would need an entire book of its own.

8. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I am lucky enough to have been traditionally published but it has been a tough route. From my point of view, taking criticism was probably the hardest part of being traditionally published. I signed my contract thinking my manuscript was the finished article. Far from it! I think I’d have found the process much easier if I’d started knowing my first draft was about to undergo a substantial period of revision and editing. It is an essential step when it comes to publishing any book, not just mine, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when you receive your first set of notes from the editor. The side I enjoyed and therefore found easiest was the promotion side. It helps that I’m currently attending college and my minor is in Marketing, but I’ve loved the creative side and the myriad of ways you can put yourself and your work out there in public and on the web.
Coming back to the process itself, aside from developing a thick skin, patience is a virtue. There is so much waiting once the various edits leave your desk and return for reassessment. I believe the average time to publish a book is a year but it can be much longer. To cut a long story short, my editor and I knew each other back when we were in high school. During our first professional encounter she read the first couple of paragraphs of a short story I’d written and turned to me to say, “If this were a book and you asked me, I wouldn’t publish it after reading the first sentence.” That cut to the bone!
So I worked hard. I practiced and practiced, honing my writing skills, taking on-board any criticism thrown my way – learning from it instead of getting upset. I made sure I grew as both a person and a reader before writing the first draft for, The Adventures of Peter Gray. Five years later, I told her about the concept during one of our email correspondences and she was intrigued by the pitch. I sent her the manuscript and the rest is history!

9. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I mostly utilize online and local sources. Given my book is about an anthropomorphic wolf who lives in a historical setting, I already know my audience is the furry fandom, that makes it much easier to pitch in arena’s and on sites where I know this type of book will thrive.

10. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Tough question – yes and no. There is another related project I’ve been itching to complete, but both life and my current publication have served to delay it. I will certainly go back to it and I’m hoping my new and existing fanbase will support it once I breathe life into it over the coming months.

11. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Absolutely! The Adventures of Peter Gray is a historical coming-of-age fantasy set in 1899 New York City. My protagonist is an anthropomorphic wolf who lives a life of mischievous shenanigans & adventure on the Manhattan streets. Think of, The Adventures of Peter Gray, as a crossbreed between Disney’s Zootopia and a work of fiction by either Mark Twain or Charles Dickens.

12. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Given it involves childhood, I have taken some aspects of my own and implemented it into the narrative. You’ll have to read it to start guessing which parts though!

13. What project are you working on now?
Mmm, it’s a bit of a secret, but let’s just say Peter’s story isn’t finished yet.

14. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
There are, especially in the fictional world of my novel. As for themes, I don’t shy away from tough issues and indeed prefer to embrace and explore them; most recently I’ve run with themes such as diverse as economic inequality and prejudice.

15. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
J.K. Rowling and Stephen King didn’t become famous by imitating others. It is great to be inspired by others, but don’t let that be the only thing you’re known for in your writing career. Surpass your role models, take and assess the criticism you receive, and be unique in every way you can.

16. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much for all your support, I really appreciate it.
The Adventures of Peter Gray is a coming-of-age tale that will invoke nostalgic memories of your childhood and bring it back to life. The novel is available on Amazon, Goodreads and at any Barnes & Noble store you can visit. Please leave a review if you enjoy my work, not only will I be very appreciative but it is the only way to nudge the Amazon algorithms into life!

Please join me in thanking Nathan Hopp for engaging with me and discussing some of the finer points of life as an author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Nate via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out Nate’s work on Amazon:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Peter-Gray-Nathan-Hopp/dp/173205116X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531410182&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Adventures+of+Peter+Gray
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Peter-Gray-Nathan-Hopp/dp/173205116X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531410278&sr=8-1&keywords=the+adventures+of+peter+gray+by+nathan+hopp

Social media contacts:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HoppNate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NathanWHopp/
DeviantArt: https://www.deviantart.com/domus-vocis
FuAffinity: Userpage of domusvocis — Fur Affinity [dot] net

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An interview with YA author, Christopher Galvin

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the talented author, Christopher Galvin, creator of the children’s fantasy novel, Strings. Christopher has selected the self-publishing path and it has been interesting to find out his take on the positives and negatives associated with his experience.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Co. Offaly in Ireland. My background is in TV and film. I have a BA Hons Degree in Video. I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was very young, whether it was short stories or plays or comics. I write short films which seem to do reasonably well on the film festival circuit – the last one was called Stuck. I really enjoyed writing and co-directing that one.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Marketing my book! Pushing it on social media etc. But I’m also a videographer so I edit videos etc. too.
3. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, but my first book… I recently finished the third draft of my first novel, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic, which I’ve begun to submit to agents. Although ASQM is technically the first book I completed, Strings, is the first book I published. It’s a children’s fantasy book which I’ve self-published on Amazon and came out earlier this year.
4. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’m not sure I have a genre as such, but there’s usually something supernatural added whether its monsters or ghosts etc. but I wouldn’t classify it as horror. Maybe drama or comedy with a hint of the unusual about it.
As for where I get my ideas… Sometimes they jump out at me from nowhere. Other times they have been developed from something else. For example, Strings came about because I read about a competition for a story which had certain ground rules (i.e. the protagonist had to be a certain age and had to meet certain people). I simply started writing the requested scene and a couple of hours later I created the basis of a story around a young girl, her imaginary friend and their discovery of a mysterious puppet theatre materialising in her room. After writing that piece I started thinking about what would happen next, so I just continued to write and finished it in a few days.
5. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes. The way your head goes blank. It’s frustrating but it can be overcome. Either by sitting there thinking it through, or by walking away and going about your business. Usually when that happens the ideas eventually start flowing again.
6. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. Most times I’ll have thought about it a lot, building the story in my head, but when I sit down, I simply write. I can edit out the bad bits later. I’m a great believer in just letting the words flow, especially with a first draft.
7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I suppose the author or authors that stick out are Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. Their styles, while miles apart, really appeal to me. King’s strength is in his great build up of suspense and the horror he can unleash. Pratchett’s is his wonderful way with world play and his characters. Imagine combining those styles together!
8. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
When I wrote Strings I thought, well I’ll self-publish it. This was on the basis the experience would give me a better understanding of the market and the process if I decide to self-publish, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic. Publishing it on Amazon was fairly straightforward and went well. The decision on the size of the paperback was a challenge and the cover design certainly had its issues (although I’m pleased with the result). Sales went fine for the first few days (family and friends buying it) but there comes a time when you have to reach out to an audience of strangers and say, ‘Here’s my book – I think you’ll like it!’ I’m still trying to figure out how to do that effectively.
9. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I post about it on twitter and Facebook. I have a Facebook page for Strings and an Instagram account for it too. I made three short trailers for it (I think the last one got the most response) and I had a one-day sale where the digital version was free for the day. I haven’t cracked the market by any means but I’m constantly researching and plugging away.
10. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Well, I mentioned Strings which is about a young Irish girl who has trouble making friends. She ends up creating an imaginary friend who helps her through her ups and downs. But some malevolent force has detected she is unhappy and initiates a plan to lull her into the magical town of Puppet Town. Now, Puppet Town is great, has marionettes and shadow puppets and hand puppets etc but if she stays there for 24 hours she will become a puppet too and can never go back home. The remainder of the tale follows her journey to do just that.
Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic is a bit more complex and is aimed at the YA market. I’ll talk more about that when it’s ready to go.
11. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely imaginative?
One or two little pieces that reflect my own life but mostly pure imagination.
12. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
The toughest I think is that I’m very much in a hurry to get things written and done. In the past my first drafts were ‘it’. I didn’t bother with editing much. But that has changed for the better and I’m more patient. You kind of have to be. It makes your writing better. My greatest compliment is probably that I tend to make things very vivid – if you read my stories you can really imagine what the characters are feeling and the worlds they inhabit.
13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
This is hard as I’d still describe myself as an aspiring writer. That said I guess my advice would be firstly to take your time and don’t rush a project. Give as much time to perfecting your work as you can. Secondly is simply to keep writing – don’t wait for inspiration to arrive before writing, it won’t! You have to work at your craft, inspiration rarely just appears and if you simply waited you’d be staring at a blank page most of the time. Finally you must engage with those willing to help. Let people read your work; if you are lucky enough to be friends with someone who can edit, don’t be shy about passing over your manuscript! They are a huge help and can improve your writing. If you have writing heroes follow them and keep reading. Sometimes going to a book signing can push you to want to have one of your own. *takes a deep breath and ends answer*
14. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Please pick up a copy of Strings and take a look. While it’s a kid’s book, it’s also not. I would imagine a lot of adults now might feel some of what Mary is feeling and enjoy her adventure. And if you do, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Not only is It a huge boost when you read about someone loving the story you have told but reviews are the life blood of a self-published author and essential if new readers are to discover our work.

Please join me in thanking Christopher for the insight into his publication journey and for sharing his more general writing experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Christopher via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out his work on Amazon:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981099468

Social media contacts:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisGalvin1981
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stringsbook/

Previous publications:
http://www.fishamble.com/fishamble-diaries/playsonatrain-my-lovely-molly-by-christopher-galvin

Editing (the Atlantis Deception) with Professionals

This is my first post in a while for which I apologise. As many of you will know, I am in the lucky position to have found a publisher (Unbound) willing to take my book and polish it towards that elusive goal of publication.

I have been writing the book on and off for several years, self-editing the manuscript around four times now, each time thinking it was perfect. I was very wrong. I knew it was good as it managed to get through a couple of rounds of the Amazon breakthrough contest but something was definitely lacking. On the verge of ditching the project, I happened upon the Unbound crowdfunding model. Initially I dismissed it any another way of labelling vanity publication but the more I looked into it the more I was convinced this could be the route for me. They had published a number of big names including one of the Pythons and that (along with their distribution contract with Penguin) convinced me to submit my manuscript. After reading they only accept around 10% of applicants I wasn’t expecting much, but two months later I received a contract and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now I am a fair way into the editing process I thought I’d share a few of the insights I’ve received along the way. They are only snapshots, but I believe emphasise the need for professional help at this stage. Within a month of funding I received an editorial report comprising 6 pages of rhetoric essentially ripping my work (or rather what I perceived was ripping my work) to shreds. It took me three days before I could read more than the first page – I’d experienced critics before but never at this level of detail! It took my partner to metaphorically, talk me off the ledge. She told me that I needed to detach myself emotionally from the project and just treat it as a piece of work – work that has now been marked and now needs improvement. Eventually I took this on board and implemented a whole host of changes. As an example of the critique I was given, I have included a brief extract below:

Editorial Report

Basically, I think you have made negative decisions regarding point of view. Usually, in a mystery story, (mystery in its broadest sense), we follow one point of view, the detective-like character, as they uncover the clues and the plot.

Now, perhaps this main detecting point of view can be augmented with the point of view of an antagonist, and/or a sidekick. But still, we are pretty squarely, and most often, with our hero.

But here you have elected to pursue the points of view of your hero, Hunter; a copper, McInerney; then a second copper, Tom; the antagonist, Hans; the sidekick, Sarah; the priest, Nathanial, and the bodyguard, Darren. Plus a few others whom we waver into briefly.

As a result, we are not often enough in the cockpit of the mystery, experiencing it, uncovering it, as your detective figure experiences and uncovers it. If we had pursued only Hunter as he unravelled the mystery, then the mystery would have been pressing and close. As it is, he does not carry the burden of the uncovering substantially. He does not shoulder the protagonism, and we are not with him enough – feeling, sensing, hoping, empathising, closing in on the mystery. Instead the protagonist’s role is split between at least himself and Sarah, at times also Paul and Tom.

Basically, the main protagonist whose point of view we follow in a story like this is the reader’s proxy, our psychological avatar, who uncovers the mystery for us. But you have split the protagonism across characters, and therefore blunted, for me, the dramatic effect of the mystery.

But in sum, each time you jump from one point of view to the next, you risk blocking the experience of the reader and knocking the reader out of an immersive reading experience. The consequence of your narrative decision is that you undercut our sense of empathy with your main character.

Once I’d worked through the points raised in the Editorial Report and implemented a whole host of changes, I submitted a fresh draft for closer examination by the same editor within a structural edit. The manuscript was returned mainly with comments and a limited number of tracked changes. The edit challenged the way the book was written – what I could delete and where the plot needed to be thickened. Another rewrite resulted which I completed in conjunction with the editor, asking questions and gaining an insight into why things didn’t work – particularly when I thought they did. The process certainly opened my eyes to the difference between seeing things through the eyes of a reader and a professional. The novel is certainly much tighter as a result and even if self-publishing, I’d advise taking this route. It is expensive but there is a reason for this, and in the end it will make you work infinitely more saleable.

My final brush with the professionals came at the copy edit stage. Unbound provided me with a different editor (and fresh pair of eyes) which initially filled me with dread and a little fear. What if he disagreed with all the changes and asked for yet another rewrite? After a month the report dropped on my desk and certainly didn’t disappoint. The copy editor probed the manuscript with what might be described as a finer sieve, delving deeper into the minutiae of my work. Again, as an example of what one might expect please find an extract below (keep in mind this arrived alongside the manuscript and hundreds of tracked changes):

edit tracked example

The Copy Edit

My main issues with the text are: 1. Sentence construction – more specifically, how you use clauses. More specifically still, commas and semicolons. There are many instances of what is known as ‘comma splicing’, where you use a comma to join what are effectively two separate sentences. Sometimes this sort of thing can be used for effect (all rules for this sort of stuff can be broken under some circumstances), but here it generally seems to be an error. Conversely, you also use semicolons wrongly a lot, usually where a comma is needed instead (before a clause rather than a complete sentence). In general, semicolons should be used sparsely anyway (if you’re interested, the book The Bestseller Code suggests there is some evidence that readers are put off by them, in this sort of genre at least). I have tried to fix all of these things. 2. Overuse of capitals. Again, I have hopefully fixed this. Sometimes there are cases where they are needed (I’ve kept them for the Order, unless referring to ‘an order’ more generally; I’ve kept ‘the Pyramids’ for the specific monuments, but not for more general references to a pyramid or pyramids). I’ve tended to use lower case for the sun, as that’s common modern style. Generally, things like capitals snag the eye a little, so are best avoided unless needed for sense. 3. Occasionally overdone or slack expressions. A particular persistent example is things like ‘He appeared to be pulling at something and something heavy.’ – I’ve favoured simplifying where possible, with just a handful of cases left as they were for effect. 4. There are a number of places where ‘he’ is confusing, so I have tried to sort those out too. 5. It’s a shame, as I like the name, but I wonder if you might want to change the name of Lucien Knight – something made me google it, and I discovered a Lucien Knight is the hero of a series of erotic bestsellers! 6. Chapters in parts 2 and 3 needed renumbering – perhaps some chapters were cut? In a few places there are some abrupt transitions – I’ve attempted to suggest solutions in the comments. 7. There’s quite a lot of adrenaline surging (no capital needed, by the way) – you might want to chop a few instances, but up to you.

I have still a couple of hoops to jump through before my elusive publication date is announced but so far the opportunity to work with Unbound has been amazing. I cannot thank the professionals enough for their time and effort spent with me. I have certainly been through the ringer emotionally speaking but come out the other side without too many scars and all the better for the experience. I do not know what the future holds but whether Unbound choose to publish my next novel or not, I will be seeking the advice of professional editors in the future. They are invaluable in creating a creditable and professional persona for an author’s work. I’d previously hoped to skimp on aspects of the edit when considering self-publishing – now I know this is where the bulk of any budget should be spent. There’s no point building a house if you haven’t got strong foundations.

If you are interested in the Unbound model, please take a look at Unbound.com.

In terms of my own work, hopefully my next post will detail cover creation and why books (of new authors at least) are always judged by their covers!

 

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