Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Classic Re-Hashing

1984 By George Orwell

Orwell's final novel, 1984, is the story of one man's struggle against the ubiquitous, menacing state power (“Big Brother”) that tries to dictate nearly every aspect of human life. The novel is a classic in anti-utopian fiction, and a trenchant political satire that remains as relevant today as when it was first published.

Alan Baxter is the author of the supernatural thrillers RealmShift and MageSign, and also a regular contributor to Publetariat.

Why have you elected to go indie with your books?

My first book was almost published traditionally but fell over at the eleventh hour. Rather than go through the whole submission process again I decided to self-publish it and see what happened while I got on with the next book. I therefore discovered the joys of indie publishing and haven’t looked back.

You’re very active in terms of author platform; which strategies do you feel have paid off, and which have not?

By far the most important thing is to have a website that acts as a hub of all my online and promotional activity. My website is both a blog and a place where people can read all kinds of examples of my writing – I have short stories, flash fiction and a serial novella there, as well as the first three chapters of both novels, RealmShift and MageSign. That gives people something to do there, and I regularly update the fiction pages. When I get anything published in magazines or online I post links and reprint the stories on my site when the publishing rights expire. I blog as often as possible about all things writing and publishing related, not just my own writing. All these things give people a reason to come back and learn more.

That website then becomes the central station of my online presence and all the other things like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and so on are linked to it. That’s what works for me.

Many indie authors view corporate giant Amazon with a mixture of suspicion and contempt, but you’ve been a very outspoken supporter. Why?

Amazon gives indie authors something they’ve never had before – the chance to put their books in the same place as every other book from every other publisher. That’s unprecedented exposure. Amazon certainly have their quirks and there’s a lot about them that I’d change given the chance, but there’s simply no denying that the opportunities that Amazon presents to indies far outweigh any niggles in their professional practices.

Having published both in print and ebook editions, do you find your ebooks selling more, less, or in about the same numbers as your print editions?

Currently my books are selling better on Kindle than any other format, but it fluctuates. I think ebooks are certainly going to become mainstream very soon (if they aren’t already!) and will probably begin to account for the bulk of indie author sales. But there will always be people that love the physical book and POD means that the physical book will always be available. I’ve already had readers that have told me that they originally read my books as ebooks, but then went and bought trade paperbacks to have them on the shelves at home. One format holds up the other it seems.

You’re an Englishman who’s now settled in Australia; are the two cultures very different in terms of writing and writer communities?

English and Australian culture is very similar. If anything, Australia is more influenced by American culture than Britain is, but otherwise they’re pretty interchangeable. The same applies to writers and writing communities. Sadly, Australia suffers from one of the things that makes it so great. There are only around 20 million people in Australia, which is why we have so much space and so much natural beauty, but it also makes us a bit of a backwater when it comes to publishing and sales. Compared to somewhere like the US with around 300 million people, no one is really interested in building up their presence in Australia – we don’t even have an for example. As an indie author, that causes problems, but time is slowly seeing some changes and I’m optimistic for the future. And I also love our wide open land, so I’m not in a hurry to see us have a population like the US or Europe!

In a nutshell, what are your books, RealmShift and MageSign, about?

RealmShift follows the trials of a powerful immortal by the name of Isiah. Isiah is tasked with trying to keep some level of balance between all the gods and beliefs of people. In this instance he has to track down a murdering blood mage by the name of Samuel Harrigan. Isiah needs Samuel to complete a task he began – if Samuel fails to fulfill his destiny it will have ramifications on a global scale. The trouble is, Sam has reneged on a deal with Devil and has gone into hiding, so Isiah has to keep the Devil at bay while he tracks down Samuel and convinces him to finish what he started.

MageSign is the sequel to RealmShift and sees Isiah trying to find and bring down Samuel Harrigan’s mentor, a man known only as the Sorcerer. Isiah is keen to make sure that no new prodigies like Samuel are moulded, but his investigations lead him to discover that the Sorcerer has far more followers than he ever expected and an audacious plan that will change the world if Isiah can’t stop it.

Both books are rollicking dark fantasy thrillers with lots of magic and action, demons, gods, monsters and all that good stuff. You can learn a lot more about them, as well as read reviews and excerpts on my website.

The covers for the books are very attractive. Did you design them yourself, or hire a cover artist?

I’m lucky that I have some ability with Photoshop and a decent eye for design, so I did them myself. I heartily recommend hiring a cover artist if you don’t have the skills though – people really do judge a book by its cover. I’m glad you think my covers are good!

Do you have plans to continue the series? Why or why not?

I originally wrote RealmShift as a standalone novel. During the writing I came up with the idea for MageSign and it was something that I really wanted to explore, so I wrote that too. It turned out to be better than RealmShift in many ways and I’m very proud of both books. I don’t really have any plans to continue with another Isiah book, but a lot of people have asked me if I am. In fact, several people have insisted that I do! I’ll only write another one if a really good idea comes to me – I won’t just churn out another for the sake of it. In the meantime I’m working on a new novel, completely unrelated to RealmShift or MageSign. There may be an occasional cameo or two though.

You’re also a Kung Fu instructor. How does the discipline instilled by this martial art inform your work, or work habits, as an author?

Well, I write good fight scenes! I’ve often been complimented on the fight scenes in my writing and have been invited to present a workshop on writing and the martial arts at Conflux this year (Australia’s biggest speculative fiction convention) which is very exciting. Otherwise, I suppose that I see the path of martial arts and the path of writing as very similar in one particular way – when you study martial arts for a long time (nearly 30 years in my case) you realise that the more you learn, the more you have to learn. No matter how good you get, you’ll never stop learning or improving. The same can be said of writing – the more I write, the more I realise how much better a writer I can become. And just like martial arts, where you have to practice every day to maintain and improve your skills, a writer has to write every day for the same reasons.

Alan Baxter is the author of the dark fantasy thrillers RealmShift and MageSign. Both books are available from indie publisher Blade Red Press through (print & Kindle editions), (print editions), and (multiple ebook formats). Learn more about the author, read Alan’s blog and read lots of free short fiction, a novella and the first three chapters of both RealmShift and MageSign at Alan’s website.

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