Have you read Beyond Redemption? Would you like to know more of the world and what went into its creation? http://michaelrfletcher.com/beyondwiki
Matthew of Smashdragons and I chat about Beyond Redemption, writing, tattoos, and drinking.
I’m nipples deep in editing the Beyond Redemption sequel and unwilling to break away to write a real post. Instead I’ll share this, a new map for the world of Manifest Delusions done by the awesome Judy LaVerde of Brain Circuit Designs.
So it turns out one of the best things about being a writer is receiving free books from other writers. In the mail today I found a signed copy of Anthony Ryan’s Queen of Fire. I have been wanting to read this from the moment I finished The Tower Lord.
I’m in the middle of a Chronicles of the Black Company reread (and if you haven’t read Glen Cook’s Black Company series, you really should) and I am absolutely going to finish it.
As soon As I’ve read Queen of Fire.
Back before HARPER Voyager purchased Beyond Redemption I both heard and read a lot about what it was like to be published by a major publisher. Most of it was bad. Here is the super-fast summary: Unless you are already famous, they don’t care about you, they won’t talk to you, they won’t promote you, you will have no say in anything, you are doomed, you should self-publish, everything is going to hell, fire and brimstone.
I can’t talk for other big publishers as this is the only one I’ve had experience with, but my experience has not been like that at all. I was consulted regarding the art cover, and choice of artists. During the editing David Pomerico (Editorial Director) and I were in constant contact. Now that we’re past that stage I chat weekly with publicist Caroline Perny and we’re still a few months off from the release date when, apparently, things will get really nuts. The staff, particularly Rebecca Lucash, have been amazing about answering my questions (what the heck is a cover mechanical?) and walking me through the entire process. They’ve shared early drafts of cover art and book covers, and even let me rewrite the back of book blurb!
They even took the time to mail me a print copy of the Publishers Weekly issue the Beyond Redemption starred review appeared in! Like, how cool is that!
I know far more about publishing now than I did, and they are the reason. That said, there’s still a lot I don’t know.
This interview was really an excuse to ask a bunch of questions I really didn’t know the answers to.
Who are you, who do you work for, what do you do there?
I’m Caro, I’m a publicist at HarperCollins Publishers, and I work in the William Morrow division on mostly genre fiction. Namely, romance and SFF, in our (extremely excellent) Avon and Harper Voyager imprints. I get to spread the nerd love!
What does the job entail?
This is kind of a broad question. In very general terms, publicity handles things that you pitch, rather than things you pay for, like ads (that would be marketing). I interact with traditional media like newspapers, radio, TV, etc., but also with a lot of online, genre-focused outlets, and a lot of blogs.
The fun does not stop there, though—there’s event planning, too! That goes for anything from a signing at a bookstore, to appearances at conventions. Side note: I LOVE conventions, and getting to attend them as part of my job is the cat’s meow. Then there’s also a mishmash of other things, like coordinating social media stunts, interactive events, and working with our super-readers, to name a few.
I see myself as an advocate for the books I work on. It’s my job to get them out there to the right readers and the loudest voices in the genre. I talk about books to the people who will then talk about them to more people, and get more people to read them.
How many books do you work with at once?
Ermmmm…a lot. In any given month I’m usually assigned to about 4 books, but we work on books for much longer than just their on-sale month, so it varies. When I first started, my boss told me I’d have to learn to juggle—but it’s never boring.
How do you handle interesting books that contain things not for all audiences (you know, like sex-fiend cannibals…) Do you have to change a few tactics in order to cope with less family friendly books?
Generally speaking, I don’t work on so many books that would be considered “family friendly,” whether it’s a choose-your-own-adventure style erotica novel, or a grimdark novel starring a certain infamous sex-fiend cannibal. I always try to pick out what about a book it is that I love so much, what it is that stands out about it. That helps me position it to myself, and figure out what my personal publicity goals are for any given title.
We don’t really do one-size-fits-all campaigns at Harper Voyager and Avon, so I always change my tactics. Media changes every day, and so does the industry, and so should publicity plans. The more I can analyze the book in my head, the more I can mold my campaign to be the most effective. I wouldn’t send a historical romance to an epic fantasy reviewer, despite the fact that I happen to love both.
Do you bring your work home?
Yes. All the time. I have always been a big reader, and that hasn’t changed since I started working in publishing. I read on the subway, when I can’t sleep, when commercial breaks bore me to tears…all the time. It so happens that a lot of what I read is either for work, or related to my work. So in that sense, I definitely take my work home.
Also, publicists can never really be “off.” If I have an author travelling, and she gets delayed for an event, then I need to deal with that. Ditto for a media opportunity. It’s one of the weird side-effects of the internet age that you don’t completely disconnect all that frequently. I do try not to answer emails over the weekend, though.
Do you actually read every book you work with?
You work with authors to promote them. What is the one thing you wish they’d do/say/ask?
There’s one BIG thing: talk to me! The most successful campaigns I’ve worked on, there’s been a lot of communication between the author and publicist. I like knowing who you’re reaching out to, as an author, so that I don’t double-pitch. I like to know if you’ve planned an event on your own, or an interview.
It’s nice to know what the author I’m working with really is looking for, what will make them happiest. I have an author who is especially excited any time she gets local press from the area she grew up in, because it means a lot to her. That’s not to say that I won’t reach out and try to get as much of a variety of press as possible, but prioritizing does help. Talking with my authors also gives me more insight into how they came up with and wrote their book, who they are as a person. That’s helpful in pitching, but I’m just a nerd girl at heart. I like talking to my authors because it’s the coolest kind of backstage pass.
Thank-you Caro for taking the time to do this interview!
Uh…how does one normally end a blog post?
Beyond Redemption just got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Cool, I thought, but what is a starred review and who the heck is Publishers Weekly?
And so, after thirty seconds of googling:
Publisher’s Weekly: (lifted from Wikipedia): Publishers Weekly (PW) is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents.
This is one of the (if not the) main magazines booksellers and librarians look at when deciding what to stock on their shelves. In theory, such a review might result in increased book sales. Here’s hoping.
A Starred Review: (lifted from Publishers Weekly) A starred review indicates a book of outstanding quality.
Whu? My mad little novel, outstanding? Bah ha!
While writing The All Consuming I happened upon Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It struck a chord in me in a way that no other book on writing had. And I’ve read my share. King talked about the need to gather momentum, to ride the wave of inspiration until the first draft of a novel was finished. He said his goal was always to finish a first draft in three months. To me, this sounded like madness.
As I contemplated attempting this madness, a few things became immediately obvious:
- There would be no watching TV/movies during writing time.
- There would be no playing computer games during writing time.
- I would need a lot of coffee.
It took me a year and a half to finish the first draft of my first novel, 88. I spent two years editing and rewriting as I tried to find a publisher, and another year editing and rewriting once I’d signed a deal with Five Rivers.
My second novel, Beyond Redemption, took a year to write and another year to edit. After HARPER Voyager bought the book I spent several months working with Executive Editor, David Pomerico to further polish the manuscript.
My third novel, The All Consuming, I wrote in nine months and I was amazed. It was suddenly entirely possible I could write and edit one novel a year.
And then I read King’s book. Three months. Madness. But everything else King said rang true. Like me he write without much of a plan, allowing the novel to take him where it would. I had to try. I would write When Far-Gone Dead Return, the sequel to Beyond Redemption, in three months.
I set a goal. I did the math. Ten thousand words a week. If I did that, I would have 120,000 words in twelve weeks. Here is what the reality of that looked like…
|Jan 15, 15||3350||5797||2447|
|Jan 16, 15||5797||8879||3082|
|Jan 17, 15||8879||10525||1646|
|Jan 19, 15||10525||12080||1555|
|Jan 20, 15||12080||13763||1683|
|Jan 21, 15||13588||13992||404|
|Jan 22, 15||13992||17000||3008|
|Jan 23, 15||16084||20249||4165|
|Jan 24, 15||0|
|Jan 25, 15||0|
|Jan 26, 15||19050||21987||2937|
|Jan 27, 15||21799||25703||3904|
|Jan 28, 15||25236||28937||3701|
|Jan 29, 15||28669||30491||1822|
|Jan 30, 15||29733||32491||2758|
|Jan 31, 15||0|
|Feb 1, 15||0|
|Feb 2, 15||31956||35424||3468|
|Feb 3, 15||33943||36251||2308|
|Feb 4, 15||35048||37252||2204|
|Feb 5, 15||36881||36881||0|
|Feb 6, 15||36881||38733||1852|
|Feb 7, 15||38733||40355||1622|
|Feb 8, 15||0|
|Feb 9, 15||40355||42800||2445|
|Feb 10, 15||42800||45808||3008|
|Feb 11, 15||45415||47843||2428|
|Feb 12, 15||47320||49949||2629|
|Feb 13, 15||49308||52936||3628|
|Feb 14, 15||0|
|Feb 15, 15||0|
|Feb 16, 15||52173||52173||0|
|Feb 17, 15||52173||55718||3545|
|Feb 18, 15||53466||57559||4093|
|Feb 19, 15||0|
|Feb 20, 15||57559||60301||2742|
|Feb 21, 15||0|
|Feb 22, 15||0|
|Feb 23, 15||58596||60206||1610|
|Feb 24, 15||59981||61701||1720|
|Feb 25, 15||0|
|Feb 26, 15||0|
|Feb 27, 15||61701||64227||2526|
|Feb 28, 15||63170||65540||2370|
|Mar 1, 15||0|
|Mar 2, 15||65540||68654||3114|
|Mar 3, 15||68654||70540||1886|
|Mar 4, 15||70540||73893||3353|
|Mar 5, 15||0|
|Mar 6, 15||73893||76393||2500|
|Mar 7, 15||0|
|Mar 8, 15||0|
|Mar 9, 15||76393||77979||1586|
|Mar 10, 15||77979||78039||60|
|Mar 11, 15||78306||81616||3310|
|Mar 12, 15||81616||81783||167|
|Mar 13, 15||81783||86590||4807|
|Mar 14, 15||0|
|Mar 15, 15||0|
|Mar 16, 15||85988||90003||4015|
|Mar 17, 15||87987||91620||3633|
|Mar 18, 15||90641||94567||3926|
|Mar 19, 15||94567||96104||1537|
|Mar 20, 15||93550||98306||4756|
|Mar 21, 15||0|
|Mar 22, 15||98306||98319||13|
|Mar 23, 15||98319||103197||4878|
|Mar 24, 15||102076||107748||5672|
|Mar 25, 15||106075||108499||2424|
You’ll note it’s a tad shy of 120,000 words, but that I finished in ten weeks instead of twelve. There remain some descriptions and scenes to flesh out a bit (I call that editing, not first draft writing) and I’ll probably write a ‘What has Gone Before’ for folks who haven’t read Beyond Redemption recently. I will also write an Epilogue.
If you really have an eye for detail and actually studied the above chart you will have noticed that some days started with a lower word count than the previous day ended. This is because for this novel I sketched out a rough guideline for the upcoming few chapters before writing them. I planned, but never more than three or four chapters (and this is a ~36 chapter novel) in advance. I wrote over my notes, and deleted them after tallying my daily count. My actual total word count for those twelve months: 121,772.
For the most part I wrote Monday through Friday and weekends were for my family. The odd time they left me home alone, I dashed for the office to squeeze a few words in. During the week the earliest I could start was often 9am, and I rarely was able to write later than 4pm.
Did I hold down a real job while doing this? Uh…no, not really.
Am I happy? Oh fuck yes.
The underlying premise of Beyond Redemption can be found in a song.
It was 2007/2008 and I worked as an audio engineer in Toronto. I spent my nights in shitty clubs–losing my mind and my hearing–and my days playing first person shooters. I hadn’t yet written 88 (or anything) but I was beginning to feel like maybe my life might be missing something. The urge to write was growing, but still I set it aside as a stupid pipe-dream. I had bills to pay, booze to buy, and I’d just met the most awesome woman in all the world and, beyond all expectations, she seemed to be willing to tolerate me.
When not going deaf in stinking night clubs, I recorded an assortment of local bands. Dirty Penny was one such band. While recording and mixing their album, Sage Against the Machine, one of the songs caught my attention. It was called Atahualpa and was about the meeting of the Spanish Conquistador, Franciso Pizarro, and the Incan King, Atahualpa. The song was about the clash of ideologies, the battle between conflicting beliefs in how reality worked. Okay, not really. It was kind of about that. Maybe I read a little into it. I dunno. But the damned idea wouldn’t leave me alone.
Years later, after I’d written 88 but before I’d found a publisher, I decided to try my hand at writing short stories. I will freely admit, I had no real interest in short stories. I saw them as a means to an end. I’d write short stories, gain cred as a writer, and then people would be more willing to look at the novel I’d written.
Yeah, it was going to be that easy.
I wrote a short story, Fire and Flesh, about the conflict between Pizarro and Atahualpa and replaced the Spanish muskets with Manifest Delusions. This was the first time I explored the idea and though the story shared some similarities with Beyond Redemption, a lot changed.
The story (unlike most of my short stories) did eventually sell and can be found in the Arcane II anthology. At some point I’ll put the story up in the Free Fiction section here. Uh…maybe I could do that now. Maybe… Okay, there it is. Done.
A rock song by a local Toronto band was the initial inspiration for the world of Manifest Delusions.
After that I realized I wanted to write something beyond the typical fantasy tropes. I was tired of books with picture of beautiful people with swords on the cover. I wanted ugly. I was tired of oh, he’s an anti hero, but he’s still really a nice guy and has (kinda hidden) redeeming features. I wanted bad-asses who stubbornly refused to learn. I wanted people who would gut you for a nickel. And then I wanted them to kidnap an innocent child.
Nothing ever goes quite as planned, but there you have it, the inspiration for Beyond Redemption.
Hoe Lee Crap! I just finished the first draft of When Far-Gone Dead Return. The novel takes place immediately after Beyond Redemption and stars many of the same reprobates.
Here’s what my next few months look like:
Last week of March: Surface edits on When Far-Gone Dead Return. I’ll flesh out any descriptions I glossed over in the mad rush to write the first draft. I also left myself many notes and comments in the manuscript to fix/rewrite/delete various scenes or fill back-story I decided on halfway through the novel.
April: Before starting WFGDR, I wrote The All Consuming, another Manifest Delusions novel. My test readers have crawled all over it, clawing and biting, and returned its bloody carcass to my front step. It is now time to take their notes and comments and rebuild TAC as a better, stronger novel.
May: By now I should have the feedback from my test readers for WFGDR and will throw myself into editing that novel.
June: Last minute edits and polishing. Try to convince Harper Voyager to buy two more insane novels from me.
July: Do I take a little time off, or start thinking about my next book? Hmm. I think I’ll be itching to write.
Right now I feel gutted. Broken. The ending of WFGDR came out in a mad rush.
I need a drink.