Up next for the Grim Interview is probably one of the nicest authors I've had the opportunity to come into contact with. It seems whatever the subject of discussion, Tim always brings an encouraging, positive perspective. As an author, blogger, reviewer, and podcaster, Timothy is a respected voice in the genre fiction community. His newest title Scavanger: Blue Dawn, the second installment in his Sand universe series made popular by Hugh Howey, is available now here.
Roll call. Name? Age? Where are you from? What do you do when you’re not writing or blogging or podcasting? Hobbies?
Tim Ward, author name, Timothy C. Ward because the guy who published under the former writes Buddhist Erotica. Anyway, off to a fun start. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, raised in suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Right now, I work out, play with my seven month old boy, Kai, my firstborn, and whatever I can to remind my wife that this author wants to spend time with her as well as in a book. I'm waiting patiently for that dream trip to Colorado to snowboard.
Where did your love for reading and writing science fiction and fantasy come from? When did you first begin writing?
I always loved books, but R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books were early addiction reading in elementary school. Middle school and high school was discovering Dragonlance and that I can finish Stephen King books (sorry The Regulators, you didn't work for me.) My first author experience was creating a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic in Kindergarten. But I didn't write fiction/prose until high school, when I started a novel about skateboarding mice in a mansion. It was awesome. Very Secret of Nihm-esque.
Besides fantasy and science fiction, do you enjoy any other genres of literature?
Horror is the first subgenre to come to mind. Not splatter and massacre Horror, but Ronald Malfi type, character driver horror. Aside from his stuff, Post Apocalyptic, survivor Horror is probably my favorite, if done well. I'm still looking for The Walking Dead type character focused zombie fiction. I've read some very good books in that genre, but none excite me quite like the show. Most of my fiction has elements of Horror, even Scavenger 2 has brought in a little Horror to the mix.
Your latest releases, Scavenger and Scavenger 2, is a shared world novelette set in Hugh Howey’s Sand universe. Tell us how this project came to fruition.
Hugh is one of my favorite authors. His book, Wool, is one of my favorites, and is part of the Kindle Worlds, shared world project. That world is a bit crowded with fanfiction though. In reading his novel, Sand, there was a moment where scavengers were described sand diving for survivors of a terrorist attack. I was immediately inspired to tell the story of one of those people and whom they were diving after. The character came to life right away as a drunk holed up in the local brothel who must get over his problems in order to save the woman he loved.
Scavenger was a stand alone novelette, but I’m getting good reviews and encouragement to keep writing, so I’ve already written 18k words on the next part. There is a lot left explored in Howey’s novel, such as the lost city of Danvar, a city of the old world now buried under a mile of sand. There are also a few remaining cities on the east coast, so I have a lot of ideas and adventure left planned. The goal is to put out a novel. At the moment, I’m trying to decide if I should serialize novellas or wait until I have a novel and then self publish that.
When it comes to craft, what’s the most profound writing advice you’ve ever received?
I did a podcast with Hugh Howey and Robin Sullivan on my old show, AudioTim (Episode 33: http://timothycward.com/2012/05/01/audiotim-33-indie-publishing-with-hugh-howey-and-robin-sullivan/). During our conversation about how Hugh and Robin’s husband, Michael Sullivan, hit it big, they talked about how Hugh had written about seven books, and Michael over ten before they had their overnight success. Hugh said he did no marketing on Wool, his breakout title, after having tried nearly everything on previous books. His success was unexplainable. Readers loved the story, told their friends, and he worked his butt off to serialize another four parts to make up the complete Wool Omnibus within a couple months (one of the most successful NaNoWriMo’s). Robin chimed in with the advice that after writing book one, you should spend about 80% or more of your time writing book two, and the rest marketing.
These ideas and examples imprinted on me the importance of a long term vision for my writing. Stamina is a must. Don’t get distracted by platform building and marketing. Write the next book, then the next, etc. and don’t let your hopes rest on that first book being a success cause you to crash when it isn’t. This has helped me develop a mentality of daily writing, counting my success on that production and not on whether or not the few short stories or still unpublished novels will become instant bestsellers.
For new authors looking to get their fiction out there and go the route of self publishing, what general advice would you offer?
Try to find beta readers who are willing to criticize your work. I’ve found too many “yes men” and not enough who have challenged me that my story isn’t good enough. The problem there is that everyone is busy and reading poorly written fiction is a kind of torture I’m apt to avoid. So, you have to practice. Get involved in the community via facebook, goodreads, blogs, etc and when you have friends who are critical readers, ask if they’d mind reading something. Give them the opportunity to stop reading at any time, asking only that they say why, then use that to make the story better and ask someone else. Reddit has an active critique community in the /r/writing forum. Critters.org is another option.
Be warned, editing can be very expensive. I recently shelled out nearly 4k for a novel that the editor did not finish reading and said needed rewritten. Tough lesson to learn after hiring another editor before that one. I thought it was ready to submit and/or needed polish before publishing and this editor had different views. Read books by editors you seek out to see if you like their style of storytelling. The one thousand word sample is not enough to determine if you are a good fit for each other, and by the time they are ten or twenty thousand words in it is likely too late to back out.
Episode 12 of the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast has an interview with editor, Harry Dewulf. I haven’t used him, but his advice is excellent and I really like his method for making sure you are a good fit by reading an extended portion of the work to determine character arcs, etc. (http://rockingselfpublishing.com/episode-12-effective-editing-harry-dewulf/)
Lastly, please, for your sake, don’t put out an ugly product. A poor cover and poor writing is going to kill your chances of selling and building readership. If you can’t afford a quality cover or editing, either wait and keep writing or submit to a quality small publisher who offers at least 50/50 royalties and other rights that are better than what large publishing houses offer. Custom covers aren’t cheap, but some cover designers offer premade covers for a discount. Get a second job or something on the side to help save money for that editor. Some may say publish and let the readers help you edit as you go. I say that time has passed; there are too many other books out there to read to take the time to email the author about why you aren’t going to read their book.
When did you first start podcasting? What was it about podcasting that caught your interest?
I started podcasting in 2010. I discovered podcasts in about 2008 and listened to every one I could find (Adventures in Scifi Publishing, Dragon Page, I Should Be Writing, The Secrets w/Michael Stackpole, Dead Robots Society, etc). Listening to authors talk about writing was the inspirational fuel I needed to push me through writing my first book and beyond. As much time as it takes to write a lot and read a lot of fiction, let your commute and workout time be where you get injections of writing advice and inspiration.
What has been your best experience when it comes to podcasting? Also, what has been your worst experience?
The best would probably be the two podcasts I did with Hugh Howey. I was a big fan. He is incredibly nice and inspired me like no other guest. My worst will be under wraps, but in short, when a guest takes over the show, gives general answers, and is rude, yeah, that’s unpleasant.
Not only do you write and podcast, but you’re also a pretty busy book reviewer. When did you decide to start writing reviews and sharing your reading experiences with others? What do you enjoy most about reviewing books?
I think it was around 2009 when I started noticing blogs and was given the advice to buy a web domain with my author name (www.timothycward.com), that I thought it would be fun to fill it with book reviews and stories about writing. Plus, I wanted to help writers by reviewing their books on Goodreads and Amazon. I enjoy getting free books because I’m poor and don’t like how the library gives me so little time (if I can’t renew it). Plus, I like ebooks better, and the library has been really slow to improve their selection in that format.
I’m struggling with being a book reviewer now because I want to be more critical and harsh on my ratings than I can as a peer to these authors. The closer I get to publishing my first novel, the more I contemplate not reviewing. I have more than enough books at this point.
Can you give us your list of the top 5 genre books you’ve read?
Germline by T.C. McCarthy
Fiend by Peter Stenson
Wool by Hugh Howey
The Explorer by James Smythe
Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (a bit dated at this point, but my first book love experience)
What’s the next project on the horizon?
Aside from writing the novel extension to Scavenger, I’m waiting on beta readers for my novel, Order After Dark, a post apocalyptic fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Any volunteers to help me beta are welcomed. I have a certain small publisher I’d love to submit this to, partly because they are very talented, have a larger reach than I do alone (good boost to an author with no books out), and would save me the upfront cost of cover design and editing. I think the hybrid approach is a smart one, especially when I have multiple books that will be done before year’s end and won’t have the money to pay for covers and editing for both.