Below is my interview with the author of Tyrmia, Ken McConnell !
JS: Thank you Ken for giving me the chance to interview you. How has life been? Can you tell us about Starforgers?
KM: I’ve just finished the most hectic months of the year for me – youth baseball season. I help coach and umpire for both of my son’s teams. It was also when I wrote the lion’s share of my next novel, Starforgers. So there’s a lesson for wannabe writers there. Everyone’s life is busy, if you really want to write that book, you will find the
Starforgers is the prequel to Starstrikers, my first novel. I pulled a George Lucas, and started in the middle of the series. But unlike the Star Wars films, my novels are separated by 500 years. So the time period, technology and cast of characters are different for each book. What ties them together is a millennial war between the good guys and the bad guys. In Starstrikers, the war was in full swing and wefollowed the adventures of a Special Forces team trying to get their
hands on new technology that promises to end the war. It was prettymuch a guns blazing, Military SF novel.
Starforgers takes us back to the beginning of the Great War between the Alliance and the Votainion Empire. We see how the war is started and how it changes the politics and the people of that time period. Starforgers is a true Space Opera. It has politics, military action, intrigue and lots of fun characters like an insane space pirate android, a tough as nails Stellar Ranger with her heart set on revenge, and a villain who is obsessed with finding his people’s ancient home. Good stuff. I had more fun writing this novel than anything I’ve done before. I was sad to see it come to an end. But I’m already hard at work on the outline for the final book in the series – Starveyers. I think that’s helping me cope with the end of Starforgers. The challenge of course is to have even more fun writing the next book. So far, I’m off to a good start with that.
JS: Sounds exciting! I trust this prequel series won’t have Jar-Jar Binks? 🙂 When is Starforgers coming out? How many ebooks have you sold? And what do think about John Locke’s recent success?
KM: Nope, I’m afraid there are no comedic aliens or droids in my stories. Starforgers is scheduled to come out this Fall. I don’t have an exact time yet as it has to go through many more stages until it reaches your Kindle or Nook. My Beta Readers are going to get first crack at the manuscript in July. Depending on how many things they find wrong,
I should be sending it off to my editor in August. Allowing her time to rake it over the coals and me time to fix it up, it should be heading to my interior designer in September. That would mean you hopefully can expect it to be available in October of this year. That’s based on how things shook out for Tyrmia.
To date I’ve sold nowhere near the number of books Mr. Locke has sold. I believe Starstrikers has sold around 1,500 ebooks and the other books and short stories might total fifty combined. I’ve spent these last few years learning to write better books and not marketing them much at all. I think the marketing will take care of itself as more books come out and my craft improves. I read John’s book about how he sold a million ebooks with great interest yesterday, so who knows,
maybe if I use some of his secret sauce my books will start selling better. But to tell you the truth, one does not become a writer to get rich. There are far easier ways to get rich. So I’m told.
JS: Can’t wait to buy it. 🙂 Most published writers tell me its not about money, its about having fun doing what you love. Even harder to get rich self publishing. Why did you start self publishing? Did you send Starstrikers off to publishers beforehand?
KM: I self-published Starstrikers initially because I could. Technology eventually got to the point where anyone could be a publisher. Until that moment in time, it cost too much to do it yourself. I didn’t self-publish when that definition meant that you had a few dozen boxes of your book in your garage and were peddling them to everyone you met. But when I could upload a file to Lulu and seconds later order a real book, that was enabling technology. Now with ebooks, it’s even
But just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. The first drafts of Starstrikers were horrible. Eventually, I realized that I needed to do some rewriting and spend some time learning how to write. I wrote dozens of short stories and then took another crack at Starstrikers. Then I had it read by other writers and trusted readers
and made further changes, and finally, I paid to have it edited. Only after all of that, did I have something worth selling.
Somewhere in that process I also sent it to publishers and agents. It was rejected by all of them. A few of these people took a few moments to offer suggestions to me. I swallowed any pride about it that I had and made their changes. As a result the book is better than it was. But it’s still a first novel and some would say that it will never rise above a certain level of quality. I can live with that.
JS: What is the driving force that inspires you to write? Also, what is the process you go through when writing a novel?
KM: It has been said that writers are a little crazy. We have these stories in our heads and we seek to write them down so that others can read them. Normal people don’t do this, so I’m told. I’ve always been like this, so I wouldn’t know what is normal. The need to tell these stories is the driving force for why I write.
When I set out to write a novel the first think I do is write down the original concept or theme that inspired me. That will be the focus for the project. I usually have a cast of characters figured out at the time I write the plot outline. I don’t start writing until I know the motivations of the main characters and where the story is going. I usually know where the story is heading before I write.
My outline gets filled in a few chapters at a time, as the scenes get worked out in my mind. I usually think about the story on my commute to work and back. I usually try to follow the narrative structures common to all stories; three act play and Hero’s Journey are the big ones. I do most of my writing early in the morning before my family gets up. The house is quiet and I can concentrate on what I’m doing. But I also write at work during my lunch break.
The secret is to keep going. Don’t stop. I stopped halfway through Tyrmia and it took me weeks to get my head back into the story. I stopped for a month during Starforgers too. Not good for productivity. So keep going and don’t worry how bad it is. First drafts are allowed to suck. Besides, the novel is turned into a readable story only after lots of editing. But you can’t edit a blank page.
JS: What was the fan reaction when you wrote the mystery Null Pointer? What was it like to write in a different genre? Also, do you have any plans to dabble in more genres?
KM: Everyone who has read Null Pointer has loved it. Trouble is, not many people have read it. I just relaunched it under the pen name of Johnny Batch this Spring. I decided to use the pen name so that people discovering me from the Mystery genre would not be confused when they came to my website and saw all the Sci-Fi novels. I would love to write more Joshua Jones mysteries, but as of right now, there just are not enough sales to justify it. But I had fun a few years ago writing Null Pointer. I purposely set the novel in my home town of Boise, Idaho and needless to say, the locals love that.
It’s good to test the waters of other genres when you are starting out, because you never know what might turn out to be a hit. I think if I spent time promoting Null Pointer and wrote more books in that series, it could take off. But right now I’m concentrating on the Sci-Fi books and trying to finish the Star Series. As for other genres, never say never, as they say. I suppose if I really wanted to have a best seller I could write a Thriller, but for right now I have no interest in that. I do have a vampire story that I would like to write someday.
JS: What is your favorite Sci-Fi book and/or series? And why?
KM: I don’t have one favorite Sci-Fi book, but I do have favorite authors. Asimov of course, but also Alan Dean Foster, Tobias Buckell, Cherie Priest, Gareth L. Powell, Larry Niven. All of those authors write Space Opera or similar fiction, so I’m definitely writing what I like to read. I try and read current things as well as the older stuff. But I also read outside my genre and I read a bunch of non-fiction. I think every writer should read broadly.
JS: Here’s the last question. What piece of writing advice would you give a younger Ken McConnell?
KM: If I could go back in time to when I first started writing stories as a teenager, I would have told myself not to quit. If I would have stayed with it, I would probably have been published sooner in life. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my forties. That’s too many years of lost time. Probably explains my drive to write now. I’m making up for lost time.
JS: Thank you Ken for your time! 🙂
KM: Thanks Jake, it was a fun interview.
About the Author
Ken McConnell is a writer of Speculative Fiction novels and short stories. He works as a Software Release Engineer by day and writes fiction in his spare time. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and
two boys. You can follow his writing misadventures at: http://ken-mcconnell.com/.