Thank for being here today, Dean! Please tell readers about your path from writer to published author.
Thank you for having me, Ashley. I started writing “officially” when I was around 11, but had been doing bits and pieces before that. That was when I began a film script, which then turned into a novel, and then got abandoned for other writing projects. When I was around 13 I created the first draft of a novel called Protos Mythos: Dawn of the Dark Age, which earned me an award at Trinity College Dublin. That story eventually, through dozens of rewrites, became The Call of Agon, all these years later. As a bit of a perfectionist I found it difficult to accept the novel as being “done,” which made it hard to ship it off to agents and publishers. Eventually, as I researched more about the industry, and having learned a lot about it as a technology journalist and publisher already, I decided to go the independent route.
The Call of Agon, your first novel, is an epic fantasy. How did the story come about? How many drafts did you write before publishing it?
There was no single thing that led to The Call of Agon. It was a collection of things that inspired me, from books to movies to games, and the story changed dramatically over the years. I think each draft was like a reflection of my own growth as a child into a teenager and then into an adult, each version like a notch upon a measuring board. I don’t really count drafts, but this novel certainly underwent dozens. There was also a lot of gestation time, where I was able to think about ideas and come back to the story with fresher eyes. This helped considerably, but it was also a great pleasure, and perhaps a greater relief, to see the book finally in print.
What is your ideal writing environment? Do you start with an outline or notes, or do you let the words simply unfold on the page?
I can write anywhere, but obviously working at home in my office is the most productive. I usually start with an idea, often the closing scene of the novel, and then come up with some other key scenes, like where the story begins. Sometimes I write this down and loosely plot the chapters, and at other times I simply store the ideas in my head and get working. Essentially I end up with the A and Z of things, but the letters in-between can and often are largely surprising. I think it is important to let the story develop naturally within the confines set, and to let the characters respond naturally to the situations that crop up and experiences they undergo.
What do you consider to be the most important marketing element for an author? What have you tried that you would recommend? What hasn’t worked?
Probably the most important marketing for lesser known authors is book blogs, because they already have a targeted audience of readers, which is what the author needs. They have proven highly influential and have been a major factor in the success of several authors, including E.L. James. One thing I did that I have not seen before is a “Support Dean” page, with a list of things a reader can do to help the author, including sample tweets, places to review, and so on.
I think it is probably too soon to say what has not worked, but my research has suggested that book signings are not as good an idea for new authors as they might initially sound. Generally people go to a signing because they already know and like the author. A new author often just ends up getting family and friends to go, who, I presume, are already supporting the author anyway. A small number of new customers might be gained, but the time and money investment likely far outweighs the promotional gain. It is unfortunate, but it does seem like an author needs more of an established audience before book signings become viable for him or her.
You started early as a writer (age 11!) and are now a journalist and published author. Have you ever seriously considered any other career path?
Not seriously, but I have considered acting, and, casting aside the coat of modesty, I think I would be quite good at it. It is certainly something I would like to at least try at some stage. I am also very interested in music and would love to sing or recite on some tracks. Last year I participated in a group called Eyes of Wood, writing the lyrics/poety and doing the male vocals for a piece called The Challenge. We did another piece about the Sirens luring a sailor to his doom, but it was never released. I expect eventually I will experiment more with things like this, and am open to working with other musicians. I think there is room for a crossover of sorts between the various artistic mediums.
In a recent post on your blog, you discuss your reasons for choosing a website that ended with .com and not .ie, the Irish suffix. Have you found the process of marketing your novel to be different in Ireland versus America?
I don’t think there is a huge difference between the Irish and American markets, but the latter is obviously much larger. With a small population likes ours, most Irish authors try to conquer the UK or US markets, and I think the marketing process is largely the same the world over. It’s all about exposure, letting people know the book exists.
Tell us about Dioscuri Press, the publisher of The Call of Agon? How did the idea come about? Are you planning to take on other authors? If so, which genres and how soon?
Dioscuri Press is already working on several projects with several authors. I am not yet at liberty to say, but I expect we will see another novel by a different author published by the summer. Several anthologies are also in the works, starting with a fantasy one. I’ll leave the details of that for the publisher to reveal.
Is anything off limits in a fantasy novel? What do readers expect to find, and what do they hope to find, when they open a new fantasy novel?
On one hand, nothing is off limits, but on the other the novel still needs to communicate, in a lucid manner, a compelling, relatable story. In order to do this the author will encounter certain natural confinements, like how to structure things and how language should work. The content can be anything, but if the author tries to mesh too many conflicting styles or elements it may alienate readers. I think some fantasy readers like the classic, heroic style of tales, while many now also enjoy the darker, grittier stuff. Some, myself included, fall somewhere in-between, but so long as the author and publisher are reasonably transparent about the style of the book, the reader should have a reasonable idea of what he or she is in for.
If you could snap your fingers and suddenly trade places with the lead singer of any band, which one would it be, and why?
A tough question. Probably Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of alternative rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, as well as the even more alternative Puscifer. The variety of work he has done would make it an entertaining experience, and the high quality of that work would make it very rewarding. As an aside, I’ll have to see what snapping the fingers of my other hand does.
What is coming up for you in 2013?
The biggest upcoming thing for me in 2013 is the launch of Book Two of The Children of Telm, entitled The Road to Rebirth, which is due out in November. This one is bigger and better than The Call of Agon. The first Dioscuri Press anthology should also have a story or two of mine in it, but I am not sure about a release date on that yet.
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