Feb 13, 2012

Cheating on my Characters for Fun and Profit

For the past few months, I've been in the process of transitioning myself - body, mind and soul - from the series I've spent the previous 2 years writing and developing to a new pair of series of books. It's been in many ways an substantial challenge mostly in ways I'd never expected.

Some of the transitional elements are mechanical - creating new musical soundscapes for the hyperbaric writing chamber, developing out character bibles, and marching out the structural needs of the projects (note to self: I'm overdue on that whole location scouting time, by the way!) - and also establishing something of an autonomous marketing campaign for the books, which is also turning out to be one of the larger and more complex endeavors thus far.

For example, due to the books' tonal comparisons to the Hunger Games books, I'm expecting a few crossover marketing announcements, that sort of thing. I had a recent conversation with a good friend of mine in regards to this whole new world of entrepreneurial authorship, and compared it to a story I'd heard from a man who'd grown up in Wales as a Welsh-Irish lad.

He told me it's a difficult thing to grow up Welsh/Irish - - because the welsh blood wants to make music and make love, while the Irish blood wants to get drunk and beat the shite out of people. "If you want my advice," he said, "stick with the Welsh." (Which, I agree, is great advice. Though, sometimes, getting drunk is fun too.)

But the greatest challenge is going back and forth between the rebellious author side that just wants to be left alone with his storytelling, and the marketing douchebag side that recognizes the need to make this functional and monetized. Do I want to write good books? Totally. Would I like to do this full time, without a "day job"? Absolutely.

The big question then becomes how to do this all without getting my peanut butter in my chocolate - - - or to do so in a way which truly becomes a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Optimist that I am, I've always suspected that this sort of balance was not only possible, but, to a certain degree, essential. Now, bear with me a moment, here.

Some of you are authors as well - either professionally or as hobbyists - and may consider the thought of mixing business and pleasure as a form of creative prostitution. Love and Money. And I suppose there's a bit of that present, yes. But here's the thing. There's that old chestnut about how if you find a way to get paid for doing the thing you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Remember that?

Well, in order for that to happen, one of two things needs to occur, assuming we happen to hit the perfect storm in our writing in that we just somehow write the very sort of manuscript that an agent or editor or publisher is just screaming, barking mad for and it somehow falls magically into their hands (and oh don't we know how that just happens ALL THE TIME) - either we have to massage our writing towards that which is currently selling well, or we have to be willing to wait until that which we write is selling well.

Functionally, those are the only two real options.

HOWEVER, there is a third option which weaves its way around those two. Which is, essentially, learning how to market yourself effectively and in so doing, CREATE the market or affiliate those people who are your prospective readers to your work.

In other words, either wait for the mountain to come to Mohammed, or take Mohammed to the mountain.

Unless you're a corporate-published author - and even if you are - I'm talking to you. If you want to find success in this - or, really, any - endeavor, you have to confront the reality that you're not just a writer, you're also an entrepreneur. This is your business. This, right here. In fact, whatever it is you do, that's what you do, right? So take it seriously. Live it. Embrace it.

A dear friend of mine once reassured me, "you are not your job", to which I add a caveat - "you are only the job you choose to do."

Me, I do many things, but above all, I'm a storyteller. And in this case, I'm an author. It's a fun and liberating thing to say that. Hoo ah.

But as I was saying at the beginning, I'm cheating on my characters. I spent two+ years with them, and now I'm spending time with all new characters. It seems like it should be pretty straightforward, but I keep feeling this strange guilt associated with the process of series adoption. I'm supposing I'm not the first to feel this way - this could explain why Robert Jordan kept getting further and further from ending the Wheel of Time books, for example. But also, the books sold. Why kill the golden goose, right?

Well, fear not. The Chronicles of Aesirium were just the starting point for my adventures in Aerthos. I've got another two trilogies set up, plus I'm still writing short stories and will probably be putting out an anthology of all the stories early next year - so keep following and I'll keep you posted.

But these new stories are a delight as well. The books thus far have really taught me volumes about how I want to tell stories, and hopefully you'll see those lessons learned in the books that will start making their way out onto your ereaders soon.

The first one to be launched will be the first in a series of stories that take place in a very familiar world called Uphoria. The first story, "Lost", should be up quite soon, in fact, with additional stories coming out once or twice a month, all leading up to a full novel to be launched in 2013 called "Dust."

And later this year, I'll be launching the Emissary Files books, starting with book one, "The Old Bones". This series is going to be a contemporary paranormal series, not entirely for the faint of heart. I'm excited about this series for many reasons, not the least of which is because I'll be able to make all those shameless pop culture references that I was forbidden from attempting in the Steampunk series.  

I do love the characters I write about, though. In spite of a certain bit of meta-awareness that I think an author really should try to at least keep in the back of their minds, the characters are who they are because they wanted to be that way. And they taught me as much I hope I taught them, and for that, they shall always be close to my heart, even if I never visit another story about them.

For now, though, I suppose I need to let them live their lives a little while without me. But don't worry, Rom, Kari, Cousins, Favo, Mulligan and the rest of you....I'll be back with you before you know it.

Until then, let's say hello to Takeshi "Talk" Watanabe and make him feel at home. Trust me, he's gonna need all the support he can get. It's a scary world out there, and he just got dragged into it, kicking and screaming.

And if you think I'm not speaking literally there, you clearly haven't read enough of my books.

Talk to you soon!

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