The Twelve Worlds Anthology is on Smashwords now. Go check it out! Today I have an interview with fellow Twelve Worlds author, JE Medrick. JE Medrick is the author of the Icarus Helix series, as well as Shackled. As someone also trying to write a series, I thought I'd pick her brain on how it's going—and I'm sure others will want to know, too. In addition to writing awesome stuff, she is also an active blogger and the founder of the Travelling Author Stomp Tour.
So, JE, first: what got you into writing? Tell us about yourself.
It's hard to imagine a life where I was not a creative person. Before I wrote, I blabbered stories, usually to myself because I was an only child without many kids in my neighborhood. In a vain effort to make me more girlish, my mom bought me Barbies - I used to tell dramatic stories about He-Man abandoning them and going to live in the sewers with my Ninja Turtles and How Much Fun They Had without those Stupid Girls. I didn't see sidewalks and a single tree in my yard. I saw forests, jungles, wildcats, Amazons, dragons and giant "Heroics Needed!" signs everywhere. I think my world has always been more colorful. Even as an adult, I tell silly little stories to myself wherever I am. Sometimes I pretend my car is a spaceship and the highway lanes are star lanes.
So I answer you question with a question - How could I -not- get into writing?
When did you decide to self-publish? Why? Have you submitted works before?
I decided to self-pub, or Indie Pub (as I prefer) around last November. I'd picked up stories for my Kindle I saw a big name author (whom I will refrain from naming) making ridiculous sums on terrible shite I wouldn't line my cat box with and went, "Really? I can do better than this..." So I drug one of those longer stories up from the murky abyss of my imagination and sat down and wrote my first fully-finished novel in about 3 months. It's titled "Shackled" (link:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004OEINV6) and I think it's a pretty good time. The feedback I've received has been amazingly positive. Lots of people have a hard time putting it down. I think it may start a little slow, however, so the conversion from sampling hasn't been as great as I'd like.
As for submitting to "Legacy Publishing" (LP) as I guess all the cool kids are calling it now... no, I haven't. It's a depressing cycle of which I didn't want to be a part. It's not just the fear of rejection - it's the endless waiting. I'm probably not best known for my patience.
Besides, my stories are my own. I'm fiercely independent. With both of those in mind, mix in my BBA (Bachelor's in Business Administration) and it just makes sense for me to take the plunge on my own. I have control over where the stories go, what the cover looks like, the title, and if I ever want to quit selling (as opposed to being prematurely pulled like many short-term-vision LP's do.)
How are you finding self-publishing?
I find joy and success in every single sale I make. The real-time results (or 3-day lag results COUGHB&NCOUGH) are immensely gratifying. I can also write on my own schedule, or even decide to do something episodic, like my Icarus Helix series.
The Indie community is absolutely amazing, though I find a shocking number to be very... innocent, shall we say? It's not as cut-throat as, say, the beverage industry, but there is a certain amount of competition for the consumer's dollar. I worry about the "Race to $.99" as lots of new authors sacrifice their first baby to the altar of Indie pubbing, all for the sake of trying to build rank...
I am also sadly aware that Indies will never completely lose the stigma of bad writing, precisely because there aren't any hoops like in the LP world. All I can do is write my best and hope people give me a chance.
Also, my sales in March were 225% of my sales in February, by units. Is that not incredible?
But overall, I love it. I absolutely believe it was the right decision for me. If I were offered a big print deal, would I take it? Well, it would certainly be hard to say no, but I would have to think very seriously about what I expected from that deal before jumping in.
What made you decide to write a series?
Wait, you can write just single stories???
I almost always read series (as in, my book cases are full of them, only rarely broken by single stories), and most of the ideas that I have are epic in proportion. I am only recently mastering the craft of the short story. I think "Insomnomancer", my piece in the up-coming Twelve Worlds Anthology was the second short story that I finished and actually felt proud of - like the story was OK to end right there. The first was 9 years ago... I wrote a story the other day in 90 minutes that I have tentatively named "Hooded". It's about 2400 words. I literally danced around my room when I finished it. I was so proud to finish a short piece like that. I think it ends a little better than "Insomnomancer", because I condensed Inso... down into a short story from a novel idea. I'm proud of both.
I have a couple of motivations for the Icarus Helix series. Some are selfish - such as, there is a rumor going around that more "e-Shelf Space" has a chance to increase your readership (makes sense). A series that drops an episode each month will target a voracious audience. They'll know it's coming, they'll anticipate it. Hopefully, they'll spread the word. I have more titles, more exposure.
It also lets me break this ENORMOUS idea (Synopsis: 140 kids injected with an experimental genetic compound gain Super Abilities, shenanigans ensue) into little, manageable bits so I don't overwhelm myself. I can't write 140 stories at once. I CAN write 1 at once, with a timeline that keeps everything in order when they make guest appearances.
It also keeps me writing, which is the most vital lifeblood of the dedicated author. You should write every single day, even if it's only ten words - make them the best ten words you can possibly squeeze out of your brain. You cannot perfect a craft in which you never practice.
Can you tell us about the Icarus Helix series? Will the episodes—can I call them episodes?—revolve around one character or, as I intuit from the first bit of the description on Cheat, many?
Yes, they are episodes, and yes they focus on one character at a time. Right on both counts! The Episodes are also broken into Seasons. Season 1, Episode 1 (01-01), Cheat (link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004RR0WQO), dropped on March 13th. 01-02, "Liar" drops on April 15th (ahem, it's available. I guess when I was supposed to post this interview. My bad -KGorman). 01-03, "Coward" will release May... can you guess about which day? That's also the first time I've publicly announced the name for 01-03. You're welcome :)
As well as super powers, the kids have to deal with YA issues, as it is a YA series. Peer pressure, lying, friendships, the three D's (divorce, drugs, drama), et cetera. It's interesting because so many kids go through these things, but each one has a different tolerance, network of friends, family support and so forth.
Here's a little bit of a spoiler on the set-up:
Episodes 1~3 cover three characters who interact in each episode.
Episodes 4~6 cover three OTHER characters with a relation.
Episodes 7~9 cover three OTHER OTHER characters...
Episode 10 covers the story from the Bad Men perspective.
Each Season of IH has 10 episodes, so the Bad Men part will be the Season Finale, if you will.
By carefully spying out the wordcount meters on your blog, I see you shoot for around 20, 000 words per episode. How did you come to that length? Careful experimentation? Animal testing? An odd game of darts?
I'm writing an episodic series with a bit that drops every month. Anything longer than 20k would probably explode my brain... but no, that's not the entire reason.
Here is what I asked myself:
What is shorter than a novel? (A: A novella.)
How long is a novella? (A: About 20k words.)
What is a price the YA audience can afford month to month? (A: About a dollar?)
Do I feel comfortable charging $.99 for this length? (A: Yes)
So far, I've found this a truly ideal length. I get in a few major plot points for each character - things that define them and who they are, so you can become attached to them. You can decide if you want to root for them, or if you don't like who they are/are becoming.
The audience can pick up the episode for a dollar. They can read it, probably in a day, a complete package. They can stew on it for a month until the next episode comes out :) (They can hopefully tell their friends about it!)
How long does it take you to write an episode of the Icarus Helix?
I'd like to answer this with a little insight on my thought process for the schedule of IH. I first decided I wanted to write an on-going episodic series. I decided to release on a monthly schedule, novella length. I considered how long it would take me to write 20k. At a writing goal of 1k/day, 20 days, or a little under 3 weeks. That would leave me enough time to edit before release, assuming a 4-week month.
But the truth is, if I wrote one story for the rest of my life, I would quickly become bored and depressed with it. My actual goal is to write the episode in about 2 weeks (My thinking here: If screenwriters can write a whole new script every week, I can do 20k in 2)... giving me a week for editing (and with overlap) two weeks for "other" writing.
I'd like to say "It takes me 20 days to write an episode". It actually takes me 6 or 7 GOOD days of about 3k/day. Sometimes I blow out 5k because the story is just right at my fingertips. Sometimes I drag a few days between writing. I can say - I never stop in the middle of a chapter. I always finish my thought before moving to a different project or stopping for the night.
So first draft, I would say, it takes me about 20 days, but I don't write all of those days (but I may still edit.)
My English teacher said that Icarus is a symbol of young, male rebellion. The whole "going against authority and, more importantly, fatherly advice" thing. Is this what you were going for in the name? More importantly, how did you come up with the name? It's awesome!
Since I was in grade school, I have always been fascinated with Icarus. He had all the freedom in the world... but did the ONE THING he was told not to, and lost everything. I was a really good kid growing up. Before sixth grade I only remember disobeying my mother once - and I was caught, and severely punished.
Icarus stands for choice, for me. In the story, he flies too close to the sun and melts his wings, falling in the ocean (and maybe dying, depending on the version). But, what if that was just one of those stories they told kids to keep them in line (like the Boogeyman)? What if his wings held, and he actually flew away, never to be seen again, free as free could be?
Everyone has to choose their path in life. The kids in my story have extraordinary trials because of their altered DNA - a double helix with radical pairs of proteins. Maybe they'll be quiet and hide their powers, never to fly. Maybe they'll fly, their wings will melt and they'll come crashing to the earth.
Or maybe, just maybe, they'll transcend the sun and dance among the stars in an ecstasy of exploration and discovery.
That is the power of the Icarus Helix.
Liar comes out April 15th, correct? Are you excited?! **It's out! I'm just late in posting this! Click here for the Amazon link!
I am so excited. Out of the blue, the book bog Man Eating Bookworm reviewed "Cheat". He really liked it and is anticipating "Liar". Just KNOWING someone out there wants more... it brings waterfalls of joy cascading through my soul.
I wasn't actually planning on releasing "Liar" until May. I had "Coward" (01-03) slated next. But, "Cheat" is a boy's story. There was worry I would lose a lot of the female crowd with 2 boy-heavy first episodes. I moved "Liar" to 01-02, as it centers on a girl. It's been a little hard to write because I had "Coward" in my head and had to switch gears to "Liar". I've drug my feet a little, but it's almost finished and looking really good.
Anything else you'd like to say about the Icarus Helix?
I would absolutely encourage anyone of any age to give it a shot. Worst, you're out a dollar. Best, you've found a new author/scheduled release story to look forward to. And, when it becomes wildly famous, you can say you were in on the ground floor ;)
Please consider giving it a shot and I appreciate the support!
I would also like to throw out a shout to my amazing cover artist, Jeroen ten Berge (link: http://jeroentenberge.com/). The covers he's made for the IH series are absolutely stunning. He also did "Shackled" which is very creepy and perfect. He's been a blast to work with and I'm very grateful for his artistic support!
Moving on: What made you decide to join Twelve Worlds, our awesome 80, 000+ words-for-$2.99-author-profits-go-to-charity-science-fiction-and-fantasy Anthology?
It IS awesome. At first, a little bit of selfish-awareness - I wanted more e-Shelf Space to pimp my work, more exposure. I also followed Derek's blog and numbers closely. I thought if anyone could bring in some good readers, it would be him. Plus, it was another chance to test my limits and write - the dreaded short story!
Your story, "Insomnomancer"—what's it about?
There is a stalker, who follows a man. But what glitters isn't always gold, and he stalks for a very singular purpose. The target develops insomnia, the stalker collects points and it all leads to a startling conclusion that may leave you shocked!
What gave you the idea for "Insomnomancer"?
A question: What if insomnia was created by monsters who ate your sleep?
I know you had named your story "Sleep-Eater" before, what made you change the name? (Other than to make me think twice about the spelling of "Insomnomancer"?)
I felt Sleep-Eater didn't have the power I wanted. It doesn't sound scary, or particularly monstrous. I needed something magical, other-worldly and dark. Insomnomancer fit those criteria.
Anything else you'd like to add about "Insomnomancer" or Twelve Worlds?
I think Twelve Worlds will be an amazing romp for the shocking price of $2.99. The buyers are getting a real bargain, if not just for big names, like Derek J. Canyon's story! Plus, it all goes to a great literary charity, which I fully support. Insomnomancer is more of an adult piece. If you're not interested in my YA series, consider picking up my novel, "Shackled", an adult work.
So. Now what?
Now I get back to work on "Liar" and everything else I'm doing. Oh, and video games, because life is duller without them. And books. Yum, reading!
Release Blog: http://jemedrickbooks.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/J-E-Medrick/183974841649360 (new)