An interview with Science-Fiction author, Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi

Welcome to the second in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the Romanian writer, Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi, author of the science fiction thriller, The Restoration. Andrei has selected the self-publishing route and I enjoyed hearing his take on the ups and downs of the experience.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello and thanks for having me. To begin, my name is Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi, friends call me Andrew. I was born in August ’77 therefore I chose my nickname ACE977. I do not use a pen name. I live in the European Union (rubbing it in for your English readers – Ed.), Romania – best known as Dracula’s homeland more recently, Simona Halep, the world number one tennis player.
My goal is to become a professional writer and my dream is to have one of my books turned into a movie.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Like every good writer, I spend most of my downtime reading (particularly books in the science fiction and fantasy genres), but also enjoy a good film, gaming, travelling, cooking, nature, wildlife, geography, history, astronomy, science, space exploration and weird phenomena (UFOs and USOs (unidentified submerged objects) – possible alien vehicles or living fossils like Megalodon). I listen to epic music when I write. I like Two Steps From Hell, Audiomachine, Lindsey Stirling & Peter Hollens, Hans Zimmer and Jan Chmelar.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I work as IT Engineer and write novels in my spare time.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
Once I was a consumer of books. I watched movies and I played video games, but one day I decided I’d had enough of imagining the creations of other authors and sat down to create my own Sci-Fi universe. I write my novels with the reader in mind and always try to see my work through the eyes of a potential consumer. As a result, the project named Starship “Apple of Discord” was born. Labelled as a space opera, I completed the first three volumes (350K word count) towards the end of 2017. I’ve spent the time since querying the concept and I’m awaiting answers from several publishing houses from the US, UK, Canada and European Union. I know nothing happens fast in the publishing industry and I’m developing a thick skin while I’m awaiting. I’m just worried the project is a little large in scope for a debutant author – but hey, even Stephen King was a debutant once! If you know any agents or publishers, don’t be afraid to put in a good word and send them my way!

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’ve been writing seriously since August 2016, and chose the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre simply because I love it and wanted to share my stories with people. I get my ideas from science stories appearing in journals and books and websites around the world. It helps I have an untamed imagination!

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I certainly have but learnt how to deal with the issue. When I am exhausted or have no inspiration, I simply leave my writing desk for a while and recharge my batteries with a completely different activity – walking, swimming etc. It seems to work for me!

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I always start with a title. Then I create a short plot outline which will form the backbone of my story. I add characters and details on the fly as they come to me. I like to allow my ideas to flow and not restrain they with an overly detailed outline. The feedback from my beta readers seem to confirm this works. I create my own book covers using GIMP and other free software. I try to include as many subjects as I can in my stories – physics, mathematics, biology, psychology, genetics, history, geography, computer science, chemistry, astronomy and xenology – the sky is the limit (or not) when I’m in the creative phase. In my genre inventing new names a even language is part of the draw. I now have a massive database of information otherwise I’d lose track!

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
My favorite Sci-Fi books are:
Roadside Picnic by Arkadi & Boris Strugatsky
The Men in the Jungle by Norman Spinrad
Dune by Frank Herbert

My favorite Fantasy books are:
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Rune Swords by Clayton Emery and multiple authors

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Although working on Starship “Apple of Discord”, in the spring of 2017 I decided to take a break and learn more about Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Therefore, I created a Sci-Fi story named The Restoration. The initial impression was favourable and The Restoration received 4.5 stars. Unfortunately, later, Amazon decided to change the rules in the middle of the game and removed all reviews posted by people who received free books on promotions. This happened to The Restoration. Now it has 3.5 stars, because the person who posted this review said that this is a great book but complained about my English skills. My English was rough when I started to write, but the more I write, the more my style is evolving.

10. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I am trying to raise the awareness about my writing mainly through self-publicising myself on social media. Marketing is my kryptonite. I’m trying and hope it clicks for me soon.

11. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Yes, Starship “Apple of Discord” but I’m trying hard! As I’ve said, I’m still waiting for a reply from several publishing houses. In Starship “Apple of Discord”, I’ve created a number of interesting alien species, worlds and technology and love describing the numerous space and ground battles littered through the books. I’ve spent hundreds of hours carefully sculpting my Sci-Fi vision and hope the readers will fall in love with the series as much as I have. I’ve certainly been told it has all the ingredients for a successful book and perhaps even a movie…

12. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
I published a revised edition of The Restoration in the summer of 2018. This book is available on all Amazon websites.
I am only couple chapters away from completion and intend to release a Sci-Fi novel called, SS Vagabond, during the autumn/winter of 2018.
SS Vagabond: In a distant dystopian future, Captain Edward Turner is struggling to survive, transporting goods and passengers with his freighter, SS Vagabond. Eileen, the second in command and Edward’s lover, urges him to accept a risky yet lucrative mission to Mars.

13. What project are you working on now?
Once SS Vagabond is complete, my plan to write a fantasy novel and aim to publish sometime around Christmas 2018. Ideally I’d like to add another volume to my Sci-Fi book series Starship “Apple of Discord “.

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?
I am in my comfort zone writing science fiction. I enjoy writing Fantasy, but I find this more challenging. IMO there is little room for manoeuvre in the Fantast genre and you must create genuine stories if you want to hook the readers. Plus competing with the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, and Clayton Emery isn’t easy!

15. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The weirdest rejection I received was the first one. This came from a publishing house from my country. They responded me that my book Starship “Apple of Discord “, I quote, “it doesn’t fit in our editorial line”. This publisher is also a retailer and sells Sci-Fi and Fantasy books among others. Unfortunately they promote only well known foreign authors, like Isaac Asimov and G.R.R. Martin, and they don’t encourage local authors like me. This was the reason I first began to write in English.
People who bought The restoration and my beta readers said only good things about my books. This encouraged me to keep writing.

16. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write, publish, repeat.

17. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I hardly believe that it’s been a full year since I became a published author.
I want to thank those who read my first chapter and asked for more. You gave me the courage that I could really do this.
I want to thank those who purchased my book, The Restoration and helped me through my fear that I wouldn’t sell any.
I want to thank those who recommend my work to their friends and continue to spread the word about my writing.
I want to thank those who continue to encourage me through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Deviantart, Linkedin, Google+)

To all of you, I promise I will publish more great books soon.

Please join me in thanking Andrei for his honest assessment of the industry and for sharing his experiences and the problems associated with writing in a second language. My hat goes off to him – I certainly couldn’t do it!

If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Jon via the following links. Please show your appreciation by checking out his work on Amazon:

Social media contacts:
Website: https://sites.google.com/view/cosutchi/about
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ACE977

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An interview with fantasy author, Mike Brooks

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the gifted author, Mike Brooks, creator of the Science Fiction / Fantasy novels, Dark Deeds, Dark Run and Dark Sky. Mike is traditionally published although experienced a few setbacks before securing the writers equivalent of the holy grail. It has been interesting to find out his take on the positives and negatives associated with his journey.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gladly! I’m Mike Brooks, I’m 36 years old, I was born in Ipswich, Suffolk but came to Nottingham for university and stayed here when I realised it was far more interesting. I’m married, we have two cats and two snakes, I’m disabled (hearing loss), and bisexual.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I like to go walking: the Peak District is just over an hour away in the car, which is lovely. I also play guitar and sing in a punk band (no, that’s unrelated to the hearing loss), play tabletop wargames, and DJ wherever anyone will tolerate me.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I do, although I have managed to drop my hours from five days a week to four as a result of income from writing, which is very welcome. I’ve worked for a homelessness charity in Nottingham since 2004; I used to be a support worker in hostels, but these days I’m a Housing Officer so I deal more with buildings, repairs, and legal issues like tenancy agreements and anti-social behaviour.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing about as soon as I could actually form letters. I won a prize for Best Long Story at primary school (the prize was the book Fog Lane School & The Great Racing Car Disaster, I can remember it clearly), so I had the intent from early on. However, I spent my teens and much of my twenties messing around jumping from one idea to the next and never getting anywhere. At the end of 2008 I sat down and told myself that I was going to pick one and either finish it, or admit that I simply couldn’t finish a novel. It took me just over a year, was stupidly long and probably not very good, but I managed it, and it went from there.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I write science-fiction and fantasy, and their various sub-genres, and I chose it because that’s what I like to read and watch. Working with homelessness gives me all I can stomach of the “real world”, so I value escapism. As for where I get my ideas, I can give no better answer than “everywhere” – so many things can spark off an idea for a setting or an event or a character, from a news article to a piece of art to a documentary. The trick is taking something and putting it into your work as something new and interesting, that fits your own setting.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not yet. Not really, anyway. Sometimes words don’t come easily, but I keep putting them down and it works through to a part of the story that’s far easier to write, and then sometimes I can go back and tidy up when things are flowing more easily. I mean, some days it just won’t work and I’ll give up and go play a computer game or something, but that’s isolated: I’ll get up the next day and it’ll be back to business as usual.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I’ll usually start writing with a vague idea and see how things develop. If I feel that what I’m writing has legs, I’ll generally then sit down and start planning out much more fully. However, I always discover new things as I write, as new ideas come up or I realise connections that I hadn’t made until that point, and the plot links together in new and interesting ways. I don’t think I’d be able to write out a plot and stick to it with no divergence.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
“Influenced” is difficult. I love Terry Pratchett, but I wouldn’t say my writing style is particularly influenced by his. However, I do very much admire how he used the Discworld series to write whatever he wanted to write, but framed with that consistency. I maintain that science-fiction and fantasy aren’t really genres so much as settings: you can’t write a “science-fiction novel” or a “fantasy novel” unless it’s really conceptual, and incredibly tightly focused on the science or the fantasy element. I view it more as a way of saying “this novel is a certain type of story, but set in a place where physics/biology/chemistry, or our abilities to manipulate them, differ in some way from what we understand to be true”.
As an example, my Keiko series of novels are what I call “grimy space-opera”, and are certainly science-fiction, but if you read them you’ll see other genres there too. The first two are essentially thrillers: in Dark Run, the crew of the Keiko (a spaceship) are blackmailed and framed, and have to outwit a powerful adversary to survive. In Dark Sky, they end up trapped in a subterranean mining city during a rebellion and accidentally end up on opposite sides. On the other hand, the third one, Dark Deeds, is very much a heist movie, but on another planet (with a sub-plot that’s a gangster movie).

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I’d written an urban fantasy novel and managed to get an agent. He liked my writing, and liked the world I’d created, but told me that we wouldn’t be able to sell the novel I had. I went away and wrote a new novel, with the same characters and in the same world, and honed that. Then we took it to publishers. One publisher was very interested and it got to the final yes-or-no meeting… and the answer was no. It wasn’t that it wasn’t good enough, they said, it was because they’d just taken on three urban fantasy novels and didn’t want to take a chance on any more until they saw how well those did. But let us know what you write next, they said. So it was back to the drawing board.
I think some people would have been crushed by getting so close but not succeeding, but luckily my mind worked more on the basis that I would have got a contract had I only got there a little sooner, so I wasn’t going to give up now. My agent asked me what I was going to write next, since we had definite interest from a publisher. I thought about it and said that I had several different ideas I could write about, I just wasn’t sure what to concentrate on. My agent talked to the publisher about what they might be interested in and came back with a list of broad things they were looking for. One of them matched up pretty well with an idea that had been kicking around in my head, so I got to work and, with not much more than a title, a vague concept and two pre-existing characters, started writing what would become Dark Run. The urban fantasy I’d been working on for years never found a home – the space opera I blasted out in six months got published.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I think there probably are, there always will be, but I’ve found that I’m good at saying “You know what; that’ll do” and just leaving a novel be, rather than tinkering endlessly. I would have liked to introduce more and stronger LGBTQ themes in my first two novels, but at that point I wasn’t sure what sort of reaction I was going to get from my publisher, and wanted to get my feet under the table, as it were, before I started pushing boundaries. These days I’ve found my writing voice far more, and I’m happier to throw in whatever I want to be there.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I don’t do a great deal of marketing myself, since I’m lucky enough to have my original work published by two of the “Big 5” (imprints of Ebury and Simon & Schuster) so any marketing I could do would be dwarfed by their reach. Similarly, I’ve started writing for Games Workshop’s Black Library and their connection with their readers is far more efficient than anything I could do. However, I can track sales of my novels (to varying degrees of accuracy) and it is interesting how certain events can spike sales. As an example, a website review that compared my Keiko novels favourably to the Firefly TV series got cross-posted to a Firefly community (possibly on Reddit, I think) and I saw my book sales jump by about five times the week after!

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I do like my urban fantasy, although looking back I think it’s probably good it didn’t get published. I’d still like to publish that, and do the series I had planned, but I’d certainly be rewriting it. I’ve developed as a writer but also as a human since I wrote it, and I have a greater understanding of various issues now that I perhaps handled a bit clumsily back then.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Dark Deeds came out at the end of last year, and (as I mentioned above) is essentially a heist movie on another planet. The crew of the Keiko need to pull off a big theft to save one of their number, which sets up a lot of scams, treachery and, it has to be said, tragedy.
I’ve also got my first novella for Black Library coming out towards the end of this year (I know the release date but I don’t think I’m allowed to make it public yet). It’s called Wanted: Dead and is set in the world of Necromunda, their recently revamped and re-released tabletop skirmish game. This was incredibly exciting as Necromunda was my favourite game as a teenager (and to be fair, I’m a big fan of the new version too), and the dark, gritty-but-futuristic feel of it (I always described it as “Wild West meets prohibition-era gangs meets Blade Runner”) was a big influence on the tone I wanted to evoke for the Keiko series.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Very little of the Keiko series is based on my real life experiences as I’ve never flown a spaceship, shot a gun or pulled a heist. Similarly, Wanted: Dead isn’t based on my experiences as I’ve never been a lesbian gang member fighting for survival. However, I like to think that my characters are realistic and relatable, and – by and large – that’s the feedback that I get. And I do try to do research where I can. Some parts are science-fiction, and the fiction is stronger than the science. However, for the parts that do have some relationship to real-world stuff, I like to make sure that it’s as accurate as I can get it.

15. What project are you working on now?
I’m currently writing my first full-length novel for Black Library, about which I’m contractually obliged to say nothing other that it’s in the Warhammer 40,000 part of their universe, and touches on an area of the background that I don’t think has really been explored much yet. I’m also working on a fantasy novel of my own.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
As I said above, Wanted: Dead is coming out towards the end of this year. Dark Run should also be coming out in French at some point before too long, although I’m not yet sure when. It came out in German in May this year, and it was a real thrill to be published in another language. I also have another Black Library short story called A Common Ground coming out in issue 1 of the relaunched Inferno! magazine, which is another thrill as I grew up reading that in its former incarnation, and I’m in there with some fantastic authors.

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I find my writing littered with characters that I introduce as bit-parts and which suddenly get their own personality and I find hugely interesting; which can be distracting, but is far better than feeling that they’re flat and lifeless. I could happily write about several of them. As for themes and ideas I’d love to work with, the fantasy novel I’m working on at the moment is doing just that. It features conflicts, but the main themes are around learning tolerance and understanding, and appreciating the diversity of others, and it’s given me a place to play around with my own understandings of sexuality and gender, as well as religion and belief systems.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I have quite rigid mental processes, so criticism can be hard to take – my immediate reaction is that the other person must be wrong, because this makes sense to me, so why doesn’t it make sense to them? I’ve learned to work around that though, and to appreciate that other people have different perspectives that are just as valid to them as mine are for me, and crucially, might be shared by more people than share mine. I think I did get annoyed by one reader review which said that my characters were two-dimensional and the dialogue wooden, as I genuinely feel those areas are one of my strong points as a writer. However, they’re perfectly entitled to their opinion, and it seems that it’s not one shared by many others, from what I’ve seen.
The best compliment is probably a tie between “Great fun… Golden Age chic!” from Stephen Baxter and “If Firefly and The Expanse had a love-child” from BookRiot. Both of which ended up as pull quotes on the covers of my books, because my editors are no fools.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t be a dick. Apart from that, pick and choose whatever advice seems to work for you. Any piece of advice from anywhere will be contradicted by someone else. People will say ‘write what you love, don’t write what you think will get you published’, but I loved my urban fantasy and it didn’t get me published, and then I wrote Dark Run because I thought it would get me published, and it did. I mean, I enjoyed writing it – the Keiko books are a blast, tremendous fun to write – but I only picked that idea because I thought it would work. So you know, do what feels right.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I am honestly, truly touched that you were and/or are prepared to take a chance and spend money on stories I make up in my head. Thank you.

Please join me in thanking Mike for his open and candid responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his experiences and journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Mike direct via the following links.

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

Dark Run – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Run-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/0091956641/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530916179&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+run+mike+brooks
Dark Sky – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Sky-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/009195665X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916325&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+sky+mike+brooks
Dark Deeds – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Deeds-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/1534405445/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916342&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+deeds+mike+brooks
Inferno! Issue #1 – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inferno-1-David-Annandale/dp/1784967335/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916371&sr=1-2&keywords=inferno%21+games+workshop

Social media contacts:
http://www.mikebrooks.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/mikebrooks668
Twitter: @mikebrooks668
Instagram: @mikebrooks668