In honor of National Library Week we would like to take a moment to brag on our own Derek Adams. Derek is steadily one of our top salespeople each month and somehow in his spare time has been able to write, not just one, but three fantasy novels. The first two novels, Spell Sword and The Riddle Box, he was able to self-publish through Amazon. His third novel, Asteroid Made of Dragons, he actually won a contest to have published through InkShares. Not only are we extremely proud of Derek, but we could not be more excited about this new endeavor he is beginning. I sat down with Derek to ask him a few questions regarding his novels, writing tips, inspirations and how he found the time to do it all.
A. I’ve been an amazing dork for a really long time – stories about dragons, wizards, enchanted rocks, and explosions were my earliest sort of mental fodder. When I try to make sense of the world it just tends to have elf ears and a glowing broadsword.
A. My mother, absolutely. She was an avid reader, and all of my early exposure to great fiction came from things pulled off her shelves. Many a pleasant hour spent sitting across the living room for her, quietly reading.
A. Only regularly and seriously since 2011. Before that it was just some occasional stuff for college courses and the sporadic bit of spot writing for various creative projects : plays, songs, skits. I’m definitely not one of those writers who ‘always knew’ and has been scribbling away since I was thirteen. It never even occurred to me that I could write something as long as a novel until I got heavily embroiled in a group writing project (AKA huge nerd thing) for my then-current Pathfinder campaign. Over two years me and the other players wrote over a million words – and when I did the simple math that a ‘novel’ is only 50,000, it seemed silly not to try. So I did!
A. Accepting that my audience is small and that allows me to take lots of risks in format, tone, structure, etc – and knowing that when I fall on my face there’s not that many people watching. It makes it tremendously satisfying to devote yourself to a weird, mutant idea and seeing it through without having to worry. Lots of little experiments, great and small – some of them worked and some…did not. But the freedom to attempt them is delightful. And in no small way, essential. I love that I can decide to write an Agatha Christie murder mystery with fantasy characters, or have major plot points revealed through weird poems, or have my characters earnestly engage in conflict with frog-men on steam powered roller skates. There’s all sorts of weird, wild stuff out there – it’s fun to be able to go look for it.
A. I’ve worked as a high school English teacher, a radio DJ, a blacksmith’s assistant, and various retail drones. You would think that teaching English would have impacted me the most as a writer, but all it really did was cement my lover’s quarrel with grammar.
A. For me, self-imposed deadlines are the only magic. When I’m working on a novel, I set a goal of either 5 or 10 pages a week. Generally this means that I’m writing 8 pages on Friday every week, but it keeps me accountable to something. If I have a good week and write above and beyond my goal, that doesn’t ‘earn’ me free pages the following week, I just add on another 5 or 10 pages the following.
This was massively important on my first novel, because I didn’t even believe that I could finish the darn thing so my schedule was a security blanket. I found in my second novel that after I got about 50 pages in the deadlines weren’t really needed because I would get caught up in building things. For The Riddle Box I wrote the last 60 pages of the draft in just over a week. My third novel I was actually under contract to my publisher, so I had just over a month and half to write 60,000 words – I only went a week over and made it.
Time? HAHA. I’m the least disciplined person there is, but it’s purely a matter of taking the time you have available. I get a lot done on lunch breaks and evenings, but it always comes down to me putting my butt in front of a screen and hammering it out. It helps that I have no children and have terrible sleep habits.
A. I’m terrible at self-promotion. I use the standard methods like Twitter, FB, my blog on WordPress, etc. I’ve also used free promotions on Amazon Kindle that have been reasonably successful, but so far I’ve only had middling success. Which is fine! Most of my research shows that self-published or ‘indie’ authors you need to get 4-5 books deep before you really start making traction with a regular online campaign – more books are more roads to lead people to your other work.
After my first book I devoted a ton of time to self-promotion –mostly because I felt like I was supposed to. In a very real way, if you don’t publicize yourself – no one else will. But I soon found that most of it made me feel really hollow and awful. We do tons of sales stuff here at InkHead, so it’s not like I don’t understand the process or the skill set required. But I made a decision that what made me happy about doing this was writing more books and that was what I would devote the majority of my creative time to. I still put in effort to publicize and promote myself, but whenever it comes down to a decision between real creative work or self-promotion – creative work wins for me every time. Probably unwise, but hey.
Q: Hey! Isn’t an asteroid just a thing floating in space? If it’s falling to the planet shouldn’t it be a METEOR Made of Dragons?
A: It’s always funny using ‘real’ terms and words in a fantasy world – are they speaking English or what? And how come all the magic words just happen to be Latin, eh? So, already a bit of weirdness using an actual term like that in a new setting. In the book, most of the scholars on the planet only have a limited understanding of space travel and cosmic bodies. So when the giant THING appears in the sky to crush the planet, they name it an asteroid. In their world, asteroid means something that looks like a star, but isn’t. From a writer’s standpoint, I’m going back to the Latin roots – aster = star, oid = appearance. Also, meteor just isn’t as satisfying a word phonetically as asteroid.
You’ve made your InkHead family proud! Congratulations!