Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Publication Day!

Happy pub day to Dan!  In celebration of THE CLEARING's release, I invited Dan to be a guest blogger today and answer some questions about his experiences after his book contract was signed.  Like Disney princess movies, I feel like a lot of authors fantasize about seeing their work in print, but the dream ends right after they land an editor, so I thought it might be interesting to hear about the mysteries beyond the veil.  

They all landed their man, but now what?

Without further ado, here is Dan!

For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.

First off, thanks so much for inviting me to do this; it’s a real treat – and a privilege.

I guess for me, writing is a retreat into something I could always do fairly easily – that’s not to say I did it well, but rather I found it less painful than many other things.  I moved around a lot as a kid, growing up all over the world following my father’s career in International Development, so I changed schools a lot.  I suspect writing was a constant that I could rely on from place to place.  I knew I wanted to make a career in writing somehow, but I only really began writing novels about sixteen years ago.  (Yeah – it’s taken that long to get here...)  It’s funny, before the first manuscript, I talked a lot about wanting to write a book, but did little about it.  Finally one day I was visiting my dad and having a beer with him, and I guess he’d heard it enough times.  He said, “If you want to write a book, write a bloody book.”  There’s more sage advice in that than immediately meets the eye.  Anyway, a week later book one, chapter one got rolling.   And a quick sixteen years later I’ve got a bloody book published.  (Thanks, Dad.)

What was your road to publication like?

If I look at it just in the context of this book - The Clearing - I have to say it’s been great fun.  I’m represented by the right person – and that’s important – because you will find that you feed (or starve) off the energy of the people working with you on something like this.  Carrie was (and is) so enthusiastic about the project that I couldn't help but be buoyed up by it – even when she was telling me to get rid of half the manuscript...  And I’m not kidding: The Clearing that you read now is literally half of the original story line.  So having an agent – and ultimately an editor – that makes you feel good about the hours and effort you’re pouring into it is really important.  And hopefully we all get to experience what I call “Woohoo day”: that’s the day Carrie called me to say she’d landed me a two book deal.  And yes, I actually woohoo’d – and right in the middle of a very straight laced corporate office.  You’ve never seen so many heads pop up above cubicle walls.

After the contract was signed, were there any unexpected aspects of the publishing process that surprised you?

The biggest surprise was the copy editing phase.  The copy editors really take a microscope to the manuscript.  They challenge everything – from technical aspects of language to plot to any factual claims you make.  It can be intimidating at first, but once you realize they’re trying to bullet-proof the manuscript, and ultimately make it better, you get onside.  By the end, you really appreciate their detail and respect their craft.  I think it’s important to trust the people involved.  Leverage their experience; heed their wisdom.

How do you think your manuscript has changed since you started working with your editor?

The story shifted a degree, not for better or worse, but it shifted.  They were small but important details, but probably only important to me.  Of course, as the author, you tend to perceive everything they do as heavy handed at first: they’re ripping the arms off your baby.  But a good editor (and I have a very good editor), gets you onside.  And let’s remember: by the time you have an editor, you’re not strictly the sole owner of the novel anymore...  so you need make room for their input.

Did you feel like you were involved in the various stages your book went through?  What kind of input did you have?

Big yes to this.  I felt very involved, from the copy editing review through to the cover design, I think I was really treated well.  The publisher is putting up the money and taking all the risk, so they quite rightly get to make many of the calls, but I feel like my experience was a real collaboration.  There’s probably a few things I’d argue back into the manuscript in a perfect world, but that’s the nature of collaboration... give a little, get a little.

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest?

Getting to see the cover concepts and watching that develop is all kinds of fun.  The whole project takes a giant leap forward the day you see those concepts for the first time; all of a sudden it starts to look like a real book.  That may have been “Woohoo Day, The Sequel.”  I’m pretty sure I did some on-the-spot hopping, too.  The hardest part (for me) is the promotional element.  I think that the part of me that makes me enjoy writing is the same part of me that least likes putting myself out there.  I think I sit alone under a single light typing deep into the night because I quite like that isolation.  I’m no hermit, but I’m very comfortable with myself for long stretches of uninterrupted time.  Suddenly having to hoist a brightly coloured flag and shout, “Look at me! Look at me,” doesn't feel like a natural part of the writing cycle...  but I’m quickly discovering it really is.

What have you had to do to promote your book?  How important do you think social media is in promoting THE CLEARING?

Well, this has been the steepest learning curve of the whole thing.  I've been engaging in a number of Social Media elements, and I've gotten more comfortable with it.  You can catch me on Twitter, but I still find myself conflicted in that I’m there almost solely to create a network of people who might like to read the book – and that feels a little disingenuous.  Having said that, I've also got to know a few folks and that is eminently more satisfying.   It’s not something I think I’ll ever be completely comfortable with as a tool for getting the novel out there, but I suspect I just need to look myself in the mirror more regularly and say, “Hey, Newman – get over it.”

Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences?

If I had any advice at all it would be these two things:  One: if you want to write, if you really want to do it, hunker down, commit to the long haul and persevere.  That’s certainly been my experience.  Two: find someone – or a couple of someones – who are unabashedly in support of you, and to whom you can say, “I suck, I hate writing and I quit.”  To which they say, “Okay, feel better?  Done with your pity party?  Now keep going.”  Those people are vital (and rare).  Thankfully, I’m married to one.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming book launch party!  What has organizing that been like? 

Ah, the launch party.  I’m stacking the deck in ridiculous proportions on that score, filling it with all kinds of folks I know.  And I’m not above mob-style leverage either: if I have dark secrets or compromising photos, I’ll use ‘em to get you to come.  That way I won’t be standing there speaking to three strangers and some poor sap who happened to be there to fix the lights.  That’s my nightmare: no one turns up and it’s just me standing there, book in hand, and four uncomfortable looking people who all wished they were closer to the door...  hang on, I need to go get a paper bag to breathe into.  But no – it should be fun.  I’m having it at a local independent bookstore – a beautiful place called A Different Drummer Books.  It’s one of those book stores that actually look the way you want a book store to be: a welcoming place to linger among the spines.  The launch will be a casual get together with some speaking, some coffee and sweet treats, a bit of reading, and hopefully a few books sold along the way.  If you’re in the neighborhood...

Your contract with Exhibit A is for two books.  Does it feel weird having a deadline to write another book?  Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to read next?

Well, the truth is I do have a sequel to The Clearing almost complete.  That’s been fun – taking the characters on past the conclusion of the last book is quite a satisfying adventure.  I also already knew exactly where those story lines needed to go, which was kind of strange and unexpected – like a movie I’d already seen.   So writing it has been fairly satisfying.  I also have another project that I’m very keen to get into print, it’s one I really believe in.  I’m not sure which of these will be submitted as book two...  I’ll have to have a long conversation with my wily agent about that.  She has proven to have some pretty darn good instincts...

What's a fun fact about yourself?

Well, here’s one:  I’m deaf in one ear.  Now don’t go awww and look at me like I’m some wounded puppy.  It has some huge advantages.  For example, if I don’t like what I’m hearing, I don’t hear it.  “I’m sorry, what was that?”  And if it’s noisy at night when I’m trying to sleep, one roll and it’s all nice and quiet.  Of course, having one also ear means I can’t tell the direction that a sound comes from - you need two for that – so it frustrates the (insert expletive here) out of me when people call out to me at a mall or at a sports field...  I have no idea where they are and I end up looking all around like some damn lost tourist.  Hmm, does this count as a fun fact?  Not sure, but too late: there it is.

Thanks Carrie!

Make sure you buy a copy of Dan's book!