Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Interview with Briane Pagel, Part Two

My interview with Briane Pagel continues. If you missed the first half, please click here.

What was your publishing process like?

After finishing Eclipse I thought “This should be a book of its own.” So I began sending query letters to a variety of publishers, only to get rejected by the first few I sent out. I don’t have the patience to deal with publishers and agents and queries and all that, and I didn’t want to wait years just to see a book in print, so I decided to go the indie route, and, having previously tested out Lulu.com, I thought they would make a good place to publish Eclipse.

Indie publishing itself is pretty easy, although editing and proofreading is hard; I’m reasonably sure there’s no typos in Eclipse because I really focused on doing that. If I ever get MORE serious about it, I’ll hire a proofreader.

Lulu.com is an okay platform for publishing, but it doesn’t do much in sales. I also published Eclipse to the Kindle, where it’s done better. I’m in the process of republishing it through Amazon’s CreateSpace to try to boost sales.

The HARD part of indie publishing is getting noticed. I have written probably 100 letters to bookstores and libraries and others to get my book on the shelf, to no avail. I’ve sent out so far a dozen or so review copies, but I’m not sure if any reviews got posted. I tried to combine the book with charity by doing something I called “Take A Book For Charity” where I would get people to sign the book and/or do something with it (I asked NASA if they would take the book up on the shuttle, for example)(they never replied) and then auction the book for charity. So far, a band (“Murder Mystery”) and an author (Patrick Rothfuss) have signed the book. Neil Gaiman never responded, and I’ve shelved that idea for now. (Although if someone wants that copy, they should let me know, as I’ll auction it and the proceeds will go to help the Shaw twins, some kids I try to help out from time to time.)

I’ve also made the book available to libraries (it’s on the shelves at my local library, where, due to a feud with them, I no longer go) and book clubs for free or a discount – and that offer still stands, so if you have a book club or are a librarian, let me know that, too.

Who are your favorite authors and why do you admire them?

For horror, Joe Hill is a fantastic writer. I recommend “20th Century Ghosts,” a collection of short stories that has some truly creepy stories in it. His “Heart Shaped Box” was good, not great. I also like Dean Koontz’s “Odd Thomas” but never read anything else by him.

What I liked about both of those authors was that their horror broke the mold – Hill has a brilliant short story about a guy who built a maze of boxes in the basement that still freaks me out.

For science fiction, I’m a huge Robert Heinlein fan; I like that his stories have enough “science” in them to qualify as sci-fi but that they’re far more about the characters and plot lines than the science. I also like that Heinlein just takes for granted that you understand his world, and doesn’t get sidetracked in explanations, while still somehow providing details. “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” is one of my favorite sci-fi books ever.

I’m currently re-reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve probably read that book 5 times; I make it a practice to almost never re-read books but Catch-22 is so finely crafted it makes me feel jealous and inferior: each sentence seems to have been deliberately placed. It might be the best book ever written.

And the most recent find I made was David Wong, who wrote “John Dies At The End.” It’s a book that began as a serial online, and is amazingly funny and weird while also being terrifying at times and is, overall, the most creative thing I’ve read in a long time. The story itself is about two friends fighting an otherworldly invasion of evil, but that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how great it is. I tore through it and will probably read anything David Wong writes in the future – he’s got a carelessly cool style that breezes along.

What other writing projects are you working on?

I’ve got a backlog right now. I’m editing a serious novel I wrote, titled “Up So Down” to get it under 100,000 words, because a publisher a while back thought it was interesting but, at 130,000 words, too long. Once that’s done, I’ve got another novel, the After almost completely edited. the After is about a woman who dies in a plane crash and wakes up in the After, which is kind of like Heaven – everything in the After is exactly the way the person wants it to be, which poses problems if you don’t want to be there. She’s befriended by William Howard Taft and learns that there are people like her who know they’re dead and don’t want to be there, and that starts a race to find The Tree, which everyone believes is the Original Tree of Knowledge Of Good And Evil, and which may, if someone bites the apple again, kick everyone out of the After and into something else entirely.

Beyond that, I’m editing Lesbian Zombies and my collection of short horror stories; I rotate them in among the blogs; and I’ll be doing another collection of blog posts into a book and publishing that.

What’s one of the goals you hope to achieve with your writing?

I want to make people enjoy what they read – whether they laugh because it’s funny or think “I never looked at it that way before” or cry because it’s sad or simply say “well, what was that all about?” and think it over for a while and remember my characters and sayings and thoughts. When someone quotes me or tells me “I remember that thing you said,” it makes my day.

Although it’s nice to get paid for what I write – I make some money off ads on my blogs and the odd book or t-shirt sale – that’s not the driving force. My day job pays enough to pay the bills and keep me set up with leftover pizza, so the writing is just a hobby.

What do you like to do to relax?

Almost anything. I try to exercise, when my health allows me to. I play piano and guitar and I read a lot – mostly The New Yorker, although I always have a book I’m reading. I like to watch TV, but only do that late at night.

Almost every night, I spend time with my twins, who are autistic and therefore present not just a challenge but a tremendously unique way of looking at the world. We take walks and play in the yard and go to playgrounds and I take them almost everywhere I can go. Sweetie and I try to go out on a date every two or three weeks, and we almost always go see a movie – Sweetie’s a huge movie buff. The older kids will come and do things with us, like golfing or just hanging out. I’m almost always doing something – most days, I start going about 6:00 p.m. and don’t settle back down until 9 or so.

What’s something people wouldn’t be able to guess about you just by looking at you?

That I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. When I was 25, I made a list of 25 things I wanted to do before I was 26, and I did them all - -including going skydiving, which was the single most challenging thing I’ve ever done, as I’m so terrified of heights that I get nervous watching cartoons about heights. Seriously. So I decided that I had to skydive to prove to myself that I could do it, and the place my brother and I went to was not a high-budget or very safe-looking operation. They drilled us for about an hour on how to get out of the plane and pull our rip cord, and what to do when we landed, and such, and then we put on our parachutes and went up in the plane. It wasn’t a tandem jump or anything: it was just us, climbing out of a plane and then letting go.

I remember, as I put my legs out of this ridiculously tiny little plane that literally had some things held on by duct tape, thinking “This is the dumbest thing I have ever done,” and then I grabbed the wing strut and then the guy yelled something, so I let go and after about 10 seconds of nearly blacking out from falling, I pulled the rip cord and felt myself yanked by the parachute.

The wind was too loud for me to hear anything on the helmet radio, so I had to remember what they’d taught me, and tried to first slow myself down by pulling on these two handles you have. That caused me to swing forward so far that I was looking down on the parachute behind me, and I swore I wouldn’t do that again.

Then I tried to steer around but that, too, wasn’t working so good. So I focused on trying to get to the flag that was my target. As I was coming in towards the field where the flag was, I couldn’t hear anything. They’d told me they’d radio me when I should pull the brakes again, but I couldn’t tell if they were telling me to or not, so when it looked like I was going to crash, I just pulled down HARD on the brakes, stalling my parachute entirely and dropping thirty feet straight down. I’d have broken both of my legs, but it had rained a lot the day before and the field I landed in was swampy mud, so I sunk nearly to my waist and that’s why I’m not paralyzed today.

Once you’ve done that, everything else is a piece of cake.

Eclipse is available through my store at Lulu:


And on the Kindle:



Rogue Mutt said...

That's a great story about skydiving. I could never do that!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

LOL about your skydiving story! It's sort of like mine, but I landing on my face a little closer to the ground. Turns out parachutes are harder to manipulate than... nope, they're exactly as hard to manipulate as they look!

But I would totally do it again, just for the views!

So being a veteran indie publisher now, what's the main piece of advice you have for those considering that route?

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm just trying to make sure I follow everyone on the blog chain, and I can't believe I wasn't following you!

Oh well, at least I've fixed it now.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

"I landing on my face." Yeah, I'm a writer. Sorry for the typos.

Briane P said...


I wish I had some helpful tips. Rogue sells more books than I do, I think. All I can say is that if you indie publish, you've got to be prepared to put more work into selling your book than writing it, and I'm bad at that.

Oh, and never be afraid to push your book and try to sell it. That's what gets you sales -- big publishers do it automatically, but little guys like us have to learn that it's okay to really promote your books.

Oh, and also, go buy "Eclipse" on the Kindle for just ninety-nine cents!

(See what I did there?)

And, finally: Little guys like us should stick together. Read indie books and talk about them to your friends and on your blogs. Give them as gifts to friends. Suggest your book club read them. At least once a year, buy a book that ISN'T available at Barnes & Noble.

Start with the anthology that Sandra's story appears in.

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