You have used Red Adept Editing for several of your books. What made you choose Red Adept Editing?
Stefanie was my first editor. The experience was actually a lot of fun, although, admittedly, I have an odd view of “fun.” I spent the last five years or so of my military career editing others’ work. In my previous field (intelligence), the ultimate goal was to produce the best work possible. It’s never about the individual; it’s about the intelligence branch and achieving and maintaining credibility. Poor writing, spelling mistakes, bad grammar, or a badly articulated argument will destroy credibility in an instant. So, coming into the fiction/editing business, I already had an appreciation for anyone who could improve my writing. So all this is a long way of getting around to the fact that when I received my very first sample back (a short chapter), utterly marked up with track changes, it didn’t bother me—it excited me! After working so hard on my first book, I had found someone who could take my writing to an all new level. This was a revelation for me, and probably the best money I ever spent. Most people simply don’t understand what’s wrong with their writing. They don’t know what they don’t know, and they have no basis for understanding how a great editor can vastly improve a manuscript. At best, they think “maybe there’s a few spelling mistakes that Microsoft’s word spell checker didn’t catch.” But they don’t think about the hundreds and hundreds of cases of passive sentences, weak word choices, dangling modifiers, showing vs. telling, point-of-view errors, or parallel structure, as well as many others. Also, some mistakes you simply cannot see for yourself, no matter how many times you look at a manuscript. NOTHING improves a book like a good copyedit, and Red Adept has a wonderful group of editors. Every single time I’ve worked with a new editor, I have come away happy.
I read as widely as I can in as many different genres as I can. I’ll even look for the most shocking, gruesome, and exploitative books I can find, even if they’re hard to stomach. It’s all about experience and honesty. If you want to write, you have to read, and you can’t look away during the hard parts when you’re the writer. I also read differently than I did before. Now, I study great writers. For example, when Bernard Cornwell writes a particularly good descriptive passage, I highlight it in my kindle and save it for later study. Writing has changed the way I read, and not always in the most fun way, but certainly in a necessary way. Some of the innocence of just reading a book for pleasure is gone now and has morphed into work, but I still enjoy great reading. I just enjoy it differently now.
Are your books standalones, or do they need to be read in order?
My first book Black Monastery is a standalone. Now, though, I write in series. I currently have two ongoing series. I’m finishing up a three-book dark fantasy series, The Vampire Queen Saga (think Vikings vs Vampires), and then I’ll be getting back into my primary series, The Dark Elf War (think Black Hawk Down meets the Lord of the Rings). I think The Dark Elf War will be at least three books but possibly as many as five. I also have some fun ideas I’d like to try next on another series.
Sure. It may not be the best business sense, but it’s important to try new things. If I do start writing, say… romance or erotica, I’ll probably use a different pen name, though. For now, I’m focused on fantasy, dark fantasy, and a touch of sci-fi—all blended with horror aspects—but that’s just what I personally love. Things change.
What part of self-publishing do you enjoy the most?
Not the first draft, that’s for sure. First drafts are pain-filled exercises in self-doubt and misery. The best way to handle a first draft is to make a plan and get through it—fast!
I like editing a second or third draft, or even the last draft (sometimes that’s five, six, or maybe even higher) because it’s always felt like “bringing out the awesome” in a book. I also really, really love when cover art starts to come together. That’s a special moment, when very talented artists capture something on a cover that’s only ever existed before in your head. That moment alone is almost work the cost of blood, sweat, and anguish that it takes to produce a book good enough for readers. I also love it when fans write me and tell me that they’ve enjoyed my stories. And that’s probably the best reason to write, to share a story with someone who’s really into it. It’s certainly not about the money; there’s damned little of that—yet.
Your books definitely show your knowledge of history and weapons. Do you draw on your personal experiences for that, or do you do a lot of research?
Research, research, research. As a former intelligence officer, I understand the critical importance of facts and data. It’s been drilled into my head over the course of thirty-two years in uniform. You can’t do enough research (well… if you’re ONLY researching and not writing, then that is too much). I also like to apply my background in martial arts and a lifelong interest in medieval combat. Also, sometimes you can apply your own life experience to abstract matters—even if you don’t think it would apply. For example, I’ve had readers tell me how believable the Vikings are in my books, how they seem like real fighting men, especially the gallows humor. I’ve never been a Viking. I’ve never been on a raid in Wessex, but I have been a soldier around other soldiers, and I know how men tend to act in certain situations—especially when the womenfolk aren’t watching. I can extrapolate what I do know of men and warriors to a fantasy or historic setting to capture the interest of readers. The rest is about blending in just enough of the research to make your story interesting while not boring readers with facts. That’s way harder than you’d think. I’m a black belt. I train with other black belts. I’ve spent a lot of time in dojos. If I didn’t control myself, I would put in way too many technical details in a fight scene, and that would bore most readers to death. Once again, a little detail goes a long way.
My first two books were created by Scarlett Rugers Design, a wonderful and very talented lady who, I believe, lives in Australia.
Scarlett put me in contact with the amazing Jade of Steam Power Studios. Jade not only created the beautiful cover for Black Monastery, but also creates the maps for my Vampire Queen Saga. I think Jade also lives in Australia. Funny, my book formatter, Polgarus Studios, is also based in Australia. I think I may be employing most of the country.
The contract for the covers for the Vampire Queen Saga were awarded through 99Designs, my new favorite artist site. Isabel Robalo created the ebook covers for Blood Fiends’ Bane and The Shield of Serl Raven-Eye, while Mirela Barbu created the paperback cover for Blood Fiends’ Bane. Both are stunning. That’s the problem with running a contest on 99Designs: the work is so beautiful, it’s impossible to pick a single winner…so I didn’t. I used both of the two best covers (I may be a bad businessman).
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I love exercise. I lift weights and run with my German Shepherd, Thor. I train in the dojo. Soon, I’ll be taking my first longsword class, so that should be exciting. Otherwise, I enjoy the odd video game and novel, maybe some quality television or a movie. Pretty much the same as everyone else. Far too much Netflix, I’m afraid. It’s not my fault, though—television is just too good these days.
What advice would you give to a new author?
Read and write every day. Hack out the time necessary to do so and jealously protect that time. I spent years getting up at 2:30 a.m. to write for a few hours before putting my uniform on and going in to work. You need discipline and good habits to build a book, not inspiration or the muse. You have to do the work.
Where can readers find you?
Amazon profile page: https://www.amazon.com/William-Stacey