Within the Indie Author Hub, you can learn about other authors, their thoughts and opinions, what makes them tick and how their writing process works for them.
This week I interviewed Erik Morland. Have a look at his profile and books here.
What inspired you to become an author? When I was sixteen I was thinking about what I should do with my life. I thought I should set my goals very high and decided then to become a famous writer. At the time I didn’t realize that how higher the goals are, the more difficult it is to reach these goals, but I have absolutely no regrets about this, my writing has given me a huge amount of enjoyment. I am now Twenty years further down the line and I have reached only one of these two goals. I am a writer, I feel that my knowledge about writing and my writing skills have reached a level in which I can compete with anybody, what I am actually doing because my first novel is now out on the market.
If you couldn’t be an author then what would you like to be? I have a very powerful imagination, but I cannot imagine a life without writing. If I wouldn’t be writing then maybe I would be making paintings or cartoons, I don’t know.
Do you write full time? Luckily not, I think that sitting inside a house all day, with nothing else to do then to sit behind a computer, is not my idea of a healthy lifestyle. Besides writing I make a living as a postman. I think it’s a great job especially when the sun is shining. It’s not so nice when it’s raining or snowing, but everything has its advantages and disadvantages, and in this day and age it’s good to have a job at all.
How do you fit writing into your routine? I have agreed with my spouse that I can sit behind the computer every evening for two hours between eight and ten, plus a few hours on Monday morning and a few hours on Friday afternoon. It’s good that my time behind the computer is limited otherwise I might forget that I also have a real life.
Where do you write? I have created a small office in the attic of my house.
Before writing, do you plan your books to the last detail? I think that planning ahead is extremely important, when I have an idea for a story I will write a synopsis of about two pages with a lot of emphasis and detail on the beginning and the end. I find those two parts the most important parts of a story everything else is there to connect the beginning with the end. I will then try to use the three act story structure or elements of the three act story structure to further develop the story. The three act story structure is an instrument which is used to give screenplays for movies structure. I find this also a useful tool for books. However I do think that the three act story structure is flawed because it doesn’t give enough emphasis to the beginning and the ending of a story.
How do you decide on your characters and what they will be like? This comes natural to me, the characters simply appear in my imagination and develop as the story develops. I take the description of the characters very serious, for instance, if I want to write about a bar, it’s okay to describe what the bar looks like, but at the end of the day nobody really cares that the barstools are worn out and smelly, but if I would write that the barmaid has a black eye and her hands are shaking a bit, this will immediately trigger somebody else’s imagination. People identify with other people even if they are fictional characters. When a reader feels concern for one or more characters that’s when I know that this person has been captured inside my imaginary world. I sometimes like to tease my readers a little with a few lose ends about some characters, it gives the story something mysterious, I don’t feel that as a writer I have to explain everything, and when people are left wandering about what happened to this or that character, then hopefully the story will stick to their memory.
How do you get over the fear of a blank page? I assume that you mean writers block. It should never happen if you properly plan a story then you always know exactly where you are at, and where you want to go next. I think that a writer who has writer’s block should take a step back and review everything that he has done so far, maybe the work needs to be restructured. When a writer writes half a book and then thinks to himself; “Now how am I going to give this story an ending?” he or she will not only have writers block several times but will probably end up with a silly story.
How do you target your audience effectively? There are women who enjoy science fiction but there is also a large group of women who don’t like science fiction at all. Nevertheless, I did try to make my story more appealing to women by adding female heroes and themes that are interesting to women, like marriage, babies, love, etcetera. I definitely wrote a story that will appeal to most men because there is a lot of action and drama in the story. I think that variation is key, if there is too much action it becomes too much of the same, an action writer can add quit some blood and violence to a story before it becomes too much, but the goal is to entertain people not to terrify or sicken them, so this should remain in healthy doses. Tempo and rhythm is very important to a novel, its okay to slow things down sometimes, only to once again pick up the pace. In other words: the best way to target an audience is by writing a very good story.
What ways do you promote yourself online? I have a website and am constantly working hard, to improve this site and to make it more visible on the web. I am sure that when you post this interview and place a link to my website, that this will be a big help.
How much time do you spend promoting yourself in social media? I was extremely happy and proud when I managed to get my story out on the market, but soon after that happened I was confronted with two huge problems, one: How do I get my book noticed? For instance, when my e-book came out on amazon.com it was released that month together with thirty thousand other e-books that were also science fiction novels. And two: How can I convince anyone that my book is worth buying? I know I wrote a great book, but is that enough to be successful? Maybe not, so in my free time, I am completely focused on promoting my first novel.
What’s been your most effective way of promoting yourself? I used to have a small business and based upon my own personal experience in marketing I believe that all forms of marketing might help a little but won’t help a lot. So it is my strategy to try everything but to keep it low budget. I don’t know why some books go viral, but I honestly believe that my book has a chance of going viral because it is a once in a lifetime reading experience, it’s nothing like anybody has ever read before or ever will read again.
What offline promotion do you take part in? I wrote a flyer and am planning on bringing it house to house, however I don’t live in an English speaking country, and my novel is in English as is the flyer. It speaks for itself that this kind of advertisement would have been a lot more effective if I had been living in an English speaking country, nevertheless I will disperse this flyer hoping that it will help.
How did you publish yourself? I submitted my novel ‘To the Edge of the Universe’ to Aventuraebooks.
What do you think the future of traditional publishing will be? I think it will be great. It’s a good idea to first publish a book as an e-book it gives the writer an opportunity to make a name for themselves, when the book is then published physically it has a better chance of being successful.
Is there a place for the traditional publishers anymore? Things have changed, to publish a physical book is a financial risk, imagine a publisher printing eighty thousand books and only selling five hundred, the publishing company is then stuck with seventy nine thousand five hundred books and a lot of expenses. This risk is less great with an e-book, although my publisher did have to invest some money, they had to hire somebody to read my book, then to edit it, and then they hired a professional illustrator to make a front cover which looks amazing, however, this cannot be compared with the financial investment necessary for a physical publication. Because of this it has become a lot easier for a writer to get published, consequently there is a vast amount of e-books out there, the quantity increased but not necessarily the quality. I have spotted an e-book on Amazon that wasn’t even finished yet. They said: ‘buy this book and read it as it is still being written’. That is absurd, a novel should be written, re-written, near perfect, and then edited before it is published. And because of this huge quantity of e-books on offer, it has become more difficult to get noticed.
Is it necessary for authors to have agents these days? If you are an extremely famous writer whose name is known by everybody then it is not necessary, but for people like me, is a good agent a blessing.
How do you deal with rejection or a less favourable review? The original story of To the Edge of the Universe was first written in Dutch. The book was as thick as a phone book, between seven and eight hundred pages, and had taken many years to write. It was turned down by all the Dutch publishing companies. Science fiction is not published in the Netherlands at all, if I want to read science fiction I have to go to an English book store and read an English book, or e-book. The book then lay on the shelf for a couple of years, until I realized that I had always seen the story in my imagination as a movie, so I set out to transform the story into a screenplay. I wrote the screenplays in English and ended up with enough material for four movies. I then made a vast amount of query letters and send them to Hollywood agencies. I would also call them up by phone, and on one occasion I actually convinced a Hollywood agent to take a look at the screenplays, and guess what happened?… she took a quick look at them and turned them down. I was then approached by a screenplay consultant. I paid him some money and he reviewed the first two episodes and sent me six pages of feedback. This prompted me to completely rewrite, reconstruct and downsize the screenplays into a trilogy. When this was done I couldn’t find anybody to take a look at these new screenplays. Then I thought: This is a great basis for a new and improved novel. So I wrote a new and much shorter version of the story and this time I wrote it in English. I then found Aventuraebooks and they published it. I think it is very healthy to have ambitions, and writing has given me a lot of excitement, but rejection is part of this lifestyle. Whenever you are rejected you should try to figure out the reason for this rejection and then bounce back to another place.
How do you keep yourself motivated? This is not a problem at all, I love to write, to build my own imaginary world, and to go on an adventure in that imaginary world is exhilarating to me. The fun and exciting becomes greater as my writing improves.
What’s your top tip for science fiction authors? The mistake that I spot the most when I am reading science fiction from other authors; is that they will invent many new words without properly explaining the meaning of those words, and then use those words to create complicated and confusing sentences. Sometimes in science fiction it’s necessary to invent a new word, for instance when the writer wants to introduce an alien specie or an invention, but the writer should then immediately explain in detail what that new word means. A reader wants to constantly understand every sentence, otherwise he or she might disregard the whole book as confusing
Thank you for being part of this interview.