I was interviewed one time…
A year or so ago I was asked by a German magazine, Die Novelle Zeitschrift für Experimentelles, to do an interview.
It was written as Shadows was close to release and Sara asked me some great questions. She was gracious enough to allow me to share it here with you.
Here is the interview if you care to take a read it…
Q1: The “Game is Life” series seems to be the perfect lovechild between “The Matrix”, Tad Williams’ “Otherland” and all those contemporary YA-dystopian novels like “Battle Royale”, “The Hunger Games”, “Divergent”, etc. What and who inspired you to start the story, which books and movies?
A: I think the concept has been slowly forming in my brain for years, details mixing and adding as I watch different movies and read different books, but the two strongest influences are “The Matrix” and “Ender’s Game”. I still remember watching “The Matrix” in the movie theatre when it first came out. In my head, a voice began to say, “yes, yes, yes!”. “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card and “Midnight at the Well of Souls” by Jack L. Chalker (where they talk about a giant computer that runs the universe) are also long-time favourite books.
Ancient cultures also fascinate me, specifically references to life being a dream or simulation. Ancient Vedic scrolls from thousands of years ago talk about this, as do the ancient Toltec teachings. And of course there is the children’s song, “Row Row Row Your Boat”. “What if these are messages which have been forgotten over time?”, I began to think, “If this life that we live in is simply a virtual reality game, how would I explain it?”
That is what I set out to do in the story in a very simplistic way.
Q2: On Facebook you have this amazing cover photo of the boy slouched in the corner of a room, totally immersed in whatever he is experiencing behind his goggles. Your comment on this photo is:
“Why would this poor soul ever want to unplug the headset and leave their paradise? This thought is always in my mind …”
Tell me about your experience with virtual realities. How excited are you about the possibility of full immersion in virtual realities in the near or far future?
A: Since I first sat in front of a brand new game of “Pong” and stayed up all night long watching a white pixel bounce from one side of the screen to the other, I have loved video games. Years later, I was excited to stumble onto a game called “Everquest”, which combined my love of fantasy and gaming. It was incredible, and millions of other players around the world played as well. Next came “World of Warcraft”, which continued my adventures in the digital world.
I love all kinds of video games, but one always puzzled me. “The Sims” is an extremely popular game where people pay money to log into a virtual world and do exactly what they do in real life.
I still wonder why so many people play a game that mirrors life. I think it’s silly, but millions love it!
With that being said, if it were possible to plug into “World of Warcraft” and totally immerse myself in that world, I would do my very best to get signed up for that.
Will it be possible to get full immersion in the near future? I would have guessed no a decade or so ago, but look at how exponentially fast we are advancing with technology. Big companies are buying up small companies that are developing this type of thing, and I would like to think that before I check out of this world I could plug into a virtual world. Of course, I have about a dozen ideas for stories where that exact thing does happen …
Q3 While reading ,“The Game”, I just couldn’t stop thinking about what a perfect film material this book is. I actually said to my boyfriend: “You just wait and see. I’m so absolutely positive that in a few years by the latest this will be the Next Big Thing, and will get hyped all over the place, just like ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’.” Did anybody approach you yet about the filming rights? Would you be excited to see it on screen? Have you been visualizing any specific actors yet?
A: When I read, I see the story in my head as a movie. It turns out that when I write it is the same. I watched this story unfold as if watching a movie or television show. When I paused, the show paused. It came out well as a book, but I agree with you and the hundreds of others who say that this would make a superb series or movie.
Of course, the difficulty is getting someone in movies or television to actually take the time to look at it. They have mountains of offers and never the time to look at them all.
No one has approached me about filming rights, yet. I do my best to think positively and hope that soon such an offer comes my way. I would also like to meet an artist and make it into a graphic novel.
I would be very excited to see it on the screen. I do have a few actors in mind, but fans of the series are of differing opinions. I like Leonardo DiCaprio for the role of Brandon Strayne, and Jewel Staite (Kaylee from the show “Firefly”) to play the role of Danielle. I do have specific traits in mind, so perhaps unknowns will audition and be better still for the parts. These concerns would be wonderful to have …
Q4: Regarding the Seraphim and the Eternals/Infernals … you seem to have incorporated biblical wisdom as well.
I have a lot of questions regarding the Eternals, but I fear I can’t ask them openly, they may lead to spoilers. So I’ll just ask what the reason was that made you choose elements of the Abrahamic religions, specifically the seraphs and archangels.
Do you believe in a monotheistic world order – did you use Brandon as a symbol for God? Did you experiment with other religious teachings?
A: I’ve always been interested in all types of religions and mythologies. Society after society includes accounts of powerful beings that share many similar traits and qualities. If we are living in a computer simulation, why would such beings exist? What would be their purpose?
I chose to call them Eternals and Internals and, since “The Game” was set in the western world, it made sense to have them be like angels and demons. I think if we were watching “The Game” in Asia or India the Timeless (the name for Eternals and Infernals) might appear more like the religions of that area.
I did not intend for Brandon to be a symbol for God, there are other characters that might come closer to approaching that role as the story progresses.
Q5: I‘ve never played “World of Warcraft”, because I’m extremely afraid that it might get me addicted beyond repair. Video games or the fantasy/sci-fi genre in literature/movies … they are extremely cool mediums of escapism, and once you go there, it’s very hard to get back to the actually quite bleak everyday life with bills to pay, work to do, dishes to wash.
How important do you think escapism is for our sanity and well-being, do you think escapist people are happier?
A: I don’t know if escapism is important for our sanity, or if it’s the reason why most of us are not as sane as we would like to be. We rarely seem happy with our lives, and by that I mean we always want more. Yet, this characteristic has also driven us to achieve more than any other creature on the planet.
Games and books and movies allow us to quickly leave our reality and have grand adventures with very little effort. We seem to be about escaping reality to inhabit more interesting and exciting places. I think the medium affects the level of happiness. There are drugs, gambling, books, movies, games, sports, and so many other ways to escape. I think the key is to find ways to escape that allow you to come back to reality refreshed and ready to face what needs to be done. That is one of the extreme dangers that come with true virtual reality. If you could live inside a simulation that was better and more fulfilling in every way, why would you want to leave?
Q6: You publish your books via CreateSpace Independent Publishing. Did you actively decide to go independent, or are you in contact with publishing houses and agents? You offer the first book of your series for free, a strategy which seems to have worked out absolutely perfectly for you. You have over 100 reviews on amazon.com, and you are beginning to conquer the German market as well.
What exactly is your marketing strategy?
A: Whenever I begin something new in my life, I spend time researching it. Five years ago, self-publishing was expensive and not a good way to get in front of readers. Then e-books appeared. Amazon started their Kindle program, Apple began iBooks, Kobo appeared. Many authors became very successful by self-publishing to these platforms, and I am doing my best to follow their advice and slowly build a fan base. I was approached by a mid-sized publisher last year, but with the way the industry works at the moment I am happy to be independent. Many famous big authors are going out on their own as well. It’s a very exciting time to be a writer!
As for my marketing strategy, the whole thing would be long and boring to hear about. In general, I want to keep writing books and improve in my ability to tell a good story. I recently promoted “The Game” on Bookbub, which was an incredibly great experience. I guess the first book was good enough to make readers want to buy the second book, which tells me I am on the right track. Book three and four also sell equal numbers, which indicates that people who start my series finish it. That is a very cool thing as a writer, because so many books start strong and finish weak. No one complains that mine do that.
I am extremely excited that the German market is interested in me! I love the German readers, and hope that they continue to discover me. I’m not sure how or why so many readers are trying me out over there, but I’m very happy that they are! I think I’m number one in Sci Fi and Dystopia in the free category on Amazon in Germany?
My goal is to find someone who can translate my books into German for a reasonable price so that I may continue to increase my fan base.
Early on a very nice lady named Susanne Weigand promoted “The Game” to the German market when it had a free day. This did result in initial exposure and as far as I can tell, it has been the most important factor for my exposure to the German market.
Q7: The internet is an awesome place, right? How awesome do you think it really is?
A: The internet is amazing! I sit in Canada and all over the world people find my books and read them. It is so cool to get an email at 3 a.m. from a soldier stationed overseas who has just read my book, or a young girl in India who is saving her allowance to buy book three because she can’t wait to see what happens next! Of course, I sent her book three and four immediately for free, and I am pretty sure I was just as excited to meet her as she was to get the free books. Without the internet, maybe a few cities close to me would have read my stories (actually that’s not true, almost no one close to me knows about my books), but tens of thousands of people in over 35 countries (so far) have my e-books on their reading devices. The internet is beyond awesome!
Q8: Do you like comics and graphic novels, who are your favorite authors and illustrators? What about computer-animated movies and series?
A: I love comics and graphic novels! It’s exciting to see how many comics have been turned into movies. I think “The Game” would be a great graphic novel.
As far as my favourites:
For authors: Neil Gaiman, Mark Waid, J. Michael Straczynksi, Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Kurt Busiek, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Joss Whedon, and so many more.
For artists: Jim Lee, Alex Ross, John Romita Jr., Mark Millar, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Marc Silvestri, Todd MacFarlane, Steve Dillon … and so many more =)
Q9: I’m a very big fan of Neil Gaiman as well, his „Sandman“ universe still remains unrivaled and incomparable to any other comic or graphic novel I have ever read. I have his quote “Write. Finish things. Keep on writing” hanging on my wall … it’s the simplest, yet most important advice for writers.
I love Robert A. Heinlein’s rules as well, which you post as your inspiration on your website. How hard is the process of finishing for you? How long did it take from the first idea which sparked“The Game” to the first e-book and paperback?
A: I totally agree about the Sandman universe! There are story lines from that series which still pop into my mind at random moments. I also agree that finishing is key to any endeavour a person might have.
I began the Game and then stopped writing about 5 chapters into it. Things always seemed to pop up and stop me from continuing. Two years passed before I realized … that two years had flown by! I have worked hard to understand myself during my life, and most of my success with finishing tasks comes from “fooling” myself into it. I am a people pleaser, which means that I will do for others what I will put off doing for myself. Knowing this, I posted the first five chapters to my blog and invited friends and family to read the story and share it with their friends. I sent the request to 150 people. After one week there were over 750 views of my blog. Knowing that others were looking forward to reading new chapters forced me to “find the time” and write daily. From that point, it took me three months to finish and e-publish the first book. I completed book two in three months, book three in two months, and book four in four months. Twelve months from start to finish for the series, which I was pleased with.
Q10: What was the worst setback you have ever experienced in writing? How did you cope?
A: I first released the book in digital format and promoted it for a five day free session where people could download it for the low price of zero dollars. I had given it to many people, five of whom were English majors, and asked them to proofread it for me. I thought the grammar was fine, but it was not. Over the course of the five day promotion, over 10,000 people downloaded it, and then began to leave reviews about the poor grammar. I quickly found an editor and had it proofread (a new clean copy was posted less than 4 days later).
I struggled for a long time to fix this, but believe that my newest editor is doing an awesome job. She has been with me since Book Five of the Game and the bad editing reviews have disappeared. I continually strive to produce the best, most properly edited versions for my readers!
Q11: Authors like you serve as a role model and a mentor to all the aspiring writers. What was the most important thing you learned regarding marketing your books, what advice would you like to share?
A: That’s kind of you to say, but I am just a little fish swimming on the edges of a big pond trying to avoid getting eaten so that I may grow bigger.
If I were to share advice it would be this: success leaves clues. Look for people who are successful, and do what they do. I spend a portion of my time listening to, reading, and learning from others who are experiencing the success that I hope to someday achieve.
I think that if you can write a book that makes people want to tell their friends about it, and they tell their friends, and they tell theirs, then that is the best way to succeed.
The other key is getting noticed. In today’s market place there are millions of books and authors all hoping to be noticed. I am one of those authors, and perhaps I will write books that are interesting enough to garner attention. I will certainly keep trying.
Q12: “Success leaves clues” … that’s one of the principles of Canfield’s teaching. Or was it Robbins? I have just recently started reading self-improvement books, and some of them – especially Canfield – really blew me away with their sheer awesomeness. Which other inspirational people do you recommend?
A: Good for you! I am a big fan of self-improvement books and listening to them on digital while driving in the car.
If you only ever read one book in your life it should be “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
“The Greatest Secret” by Earl Nightingale is a classic audio as well. I have always been a fan of Anthony Robbins. I enjoy his style and energy, but there are so many wonderful authors out there in that field and I recommend you read as many as you can! Oh! “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino is a must read also. Very short and powerful regardless if you are in sales or not.
There is another fun book that people seem to enjoy which focuses on delivering outstanding customer service. It is called “The Gold Apples”, and it is written by … okay, it was the first book I wrote =). It has had some very good response and some large companies have purchased multiple copies. I don’t want to name-drop (Ford, Estée Lauder …).
Q13: Which five fictional figures would you love to hang out with on a regular basis and regard them as your best friends?
A: I would love to hang out with Neil Gaiman’s incarnation of Death (if she could assure me that she hadn’t come to claim me). I should like to meet Ender Wiggin from “Ender’s Game” and attend a family supper with his brother and sister. Kvothe from “The Name of the Wind” is one of the best characters ever and I would love to hang with him. Everyone should have a best friend who is a vampire. I would pick Marius from Anne Rice’s world. I’m a huge Wolverine fan. I doubt he would have much use for me, but there could be no better best friend than Logan.
Q 14: Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you, Terry. Wolverine is already taken, he’s MY best friend already. But because I’m nice and kind, I’ll let him hang out with you every once in a while. Now seriously, how come Wolverine is such a big hit? Is it his raw no-bullshit attitude? I guess so. Remember that extremely cool scene in “First Class” where young Xavier and Magneto come into the bar and begin introducing themselves to Logan and he just shoves the cigar into his mouth and says “Go f yourself”. What do you think of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine? Did you watch the X-Men movies?
A: Oh yes, I have watched them numerous times! The last box of my comics that I will sell is the Wolverine one, likely. He’s Canadian, tough as nails, with a real fun attitude … who couldn’t love Wolvie? That’s so cool to hear he is your favourite as well. Wolverine is a powerhouse. He sees a problem, says something clever, then pops his claws and attacks.
Of course he has a soft centre under that adamantium shell, which I think is a big the key to his character. He doesn’t take crap, and stands up for the little guy. I think Hugh Jackman did an awesome job as Wolverine. The first time we meet him in the very first X-Men movie, when he is fighting in the cage … perfect. I’m not a fan of some of the scripts, the last one did not excite me too much (a movie all about wolverine where he has no powers? I guess, but that’s not what I waited twenty years as a fan to see.) Still Hugh Jackman is awesome in the part. He’s what? 50? Gives me hope that if I lift some weight I can get into better shape!
Q14 Which movie caused a huge paradigm shift in your life, swept you away completely and redefined everything you ever thought about movies?
Which song and which music album?
A: I couldn’t pick one song. “Star Wars” was the first movie I saw that had effects on the screen which started to approach the kinds of things my mind would produce when reading, so it was a definite big moment.
“The Matrix” I have already mentioned. “Forrest Gump” is just one of those movies that I watch whenever it is on. Same with “Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile”. I’m a movie nut. Name it, and there is a decent chance I’ve seen it. I love so many for very different reasons.
When it comes to books, there are also too many to pick one. I love when a book makes me feel as if I have no business putting words down and pretending to be a writer. “The Long Walk”, by Stephen King. Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” is spiritual and entertaining. Same goes for “Dune” from Frank Herbert. Terry Goodkind’s book “Faith of the Fallen”, Guy Gavriel Kay’s books (all of them), George R.R. Martin, Brent Weeks’ “Night Angel” trilogy. They all make me feel that way. One book that really jolted me, made me sit up and say, ”Whoah!” was “The Time Traveller’s Wife”, by Audrey Niffenegger. I don’t know why, but I still think about the characters from that book, and I read it when it first came out (12 years ago? More than that?). For me, it was a great story with time travel in a unique way of doing it. More important than that, I have never seen two people love each other more completely than in that book. Maybe if I read it again I would not see what I saw back then, but that’s how I remember it.