Accomplished Indie Writer Jamie Sedgwick has graciously given some of his time away from writing to answer a few questions for us. This is the result of an email interview that took place over December.
Jamie’s books have been featured here on Chilli Tween Reads before look for links at the bottom of the interview.
Your stories are quite unique, you seem to be able too mix differentstory elements together with great success (like high fantasy andsteam punk). Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I’ve been trying to think of a way to answer this question without getting too convoluted, but I don’t think I can. The simple and direct answer is that the books I’ve read and the genres I’ve enjoyed in the past have influenced me. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.
Part of my writing style stems from my slightly ADD personality, which I’ve discussed in my blog. My approach to writing is to do everything in my power to keep the story interesting to me, and hope that my effort pays off for readers as well. A number of reviewers have mentioned that I pack a lot of story into a book -a lot more than most authors do- and hopefully, that makes the stories pack a punch, so to speak. So far, it seems to work.
Before I start writing though, I usually start with the character. When I began writing “The Tinkerer’s Daughter” I had no idea where the story was going to go. I just knew that I had to tell the story of this poor orphaned girl who didn’t have a chance at life. The entire world was against her, but she was pure and dedicated, and a little naive, and because of that she overcame everything the world could throw it her. I knew that the time and setting would be the verge of an industrial revolution, but the political revolution that came with it was completely organic. To be honest, I was probably influenced by Japanese anime more than high fantasy or steampunk, but I followed Breeze and that was where her story took me.
In my newest novel, “Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre,” I thought about the character for several years before I finally wrote the book. I just had this character stuck in my head. He was a big, green hulking figure in a trench coat and fedora, like Mike Hammer or Dick Tracy meets The Incredible Hulk. The character was there, but I didn’t quite know what to do with him for a long time. Eventually that evolved into something simple and unique: A fairy tale murder mystery.
Most of my books are like that, to some extent. They draw on things familiar, but become something new and different in the process.
Your stories do have a universal appeal to them across age groups and sexes but is there a particular reader that you are aiming for when you write? I know I often misjudge how seemingly more grown up the younger generation are today. They are not the same readers we were when we were young. Enid Blyton's Famous Five is a stark contrast to the Twilight books they read today, how do you stay connected with today's readers?
It’s certainly a different world than it was when I was growing up. I must admit that I have a little extra insight into the young adult mind because I have children, and lots of nieces and nephews. I do pay attention to the books they read, the movies they watch, and the way they interact with each other. And yes, I do keep them in mind when I’m writing some of my novels. Having said that, I’d also have to say that the way we define literature has changed just as much.
When I was kid, there were three sections in the library: Children (Dr.Seuss, etc.), YA (Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew, Where the Red Fern Grows, the Hobbit, etc.) and Adult. At first, I presumed the Adult section of the library was full of terrible and inappropriate things and I avoided it for fear of the consequences. Eventually, when I had exhausted everything in the YA section and I knew Middle Earth and Pern like the back of my hand, I courageously ventured into the Adult section. I half-expected alarm bells to go off and some terrifying library policeman to arrest me. Instead, I just found a bunch more books. I found James Michener, James Clavell, Zane Gray, and Stephen King, along with the rest. And some of them were the same names I’d seen in the YA section!
There was a middle ground there somewhere; a magical place occupied by science fiction and fantasy writers like Tolkien and H.G. Wells and Robert E. Howard, and that was where I always felt the most comfortable. In those days, genre fiction wasn’t for adults, yet it often contained subject matter that was quite mature. I didn’t mind. I’d found my place.
Today, we have a lot more to choose from: Children, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Tween, Teen, and so on. I can’t even remember them all and I couldn’t begin to tell you where one ends and the next begins. I think it started as a marketing tactic, but ultimately it just became a caricature. Today we have women in their twenties and thirties reading so-called YA fiction so voraciously that publishers can’t keep up with demand. And many of the teens I know roll their eyes when the subject comes up. I’ve never met a young adult male who has the slightest interest in sparkly vampires, and yet I’ve worked in office buildings full of women who have families, full-time jobs, and run business who can’t get enough of the subject. So, why is the YA section full of sparkly vampires? Why not the Adult section? Are we pretending, or somehow being politically correct by telling teens they should only be interested in one thing? Or is it just another marketing strategy? Either way, it’s shrewd business.
But regardless of how the market has changed, I think we all still really just want the same thing. We want a pleasant fiction, an exciting story, a temporary escape to a world more interesting than our own. I try to keep that in mind regardless of what age group or genre I’m writing.
Publishing has changed a lot in the last ten years. Where some fantastic writers were overlooked because their content wasn't current, today anyone can publish anything. How do manage as an indie writer in today's market?
In some ways, this new digital marketplace is fantastic, but in others it's extremely challenging. Like many Indie authors, I turned to self-publishing because the industry wasn't interested in my product. When I made that decision, I took on a lot more than just writing. I became a publisher. I formed a small business. I've had to keep track of profits and expenses, purchase and create art for covers, and seek editorial assistance. It's a lot to juggle, but I think the rewards are there for those who tough it out.
Competition has always been stiff. The number of titles at places like Amazon.com has grown exponentially, but so has the market. Thanks to the low cost and instant gratification that comes with e-books, more people are reading now than ever. That translates to a huge opportunity for those of us who never had a chance in the collapsing legacy system.
I see you mention some of the great old masters in writing as influences, greats like H.G Wells, and Julies Verne, whose writing was so far ahead of its time in imaginative content.... What do you think they would be writing about if they were alive today?
I've been thinking about this question for a week and I'm still not sure. It would have been easy if you'd said Tolkien, because that man was so in love with his world that he never wanted to leave it. If J.R.R. Tolkien was still alive, I have no doubt that we'd still be learning about Middle Earth. But H.G. Wells and Jules Verne... that's tough.
In a way, these two authors were really products of their time. They witnessed the industrialization of the world and it sparked their imaginations. That's not to say that their writing was less than brilliant; I consider them both literary geniuses, but in those early days of the genre, science fiction was as much fantasy as science. Some of the things they imagined we still haven't achieved.
I'd have to guess that they would still be pushing the limits. In our modern world, I can imagine Wells and Verne conducting massive amounts of research and then pushing the boundaries of what we understand, much in the way that Michael Crichton did. Having done a little research, I suspect they might have used their persuasive talents in fields outside literature as well, such as politics, though I wouldn't dare speculate about what they might think of our current political landscape.
I too struggled with the H.G.Wells question and finally decided that they would probably writing the exact same stories because as you say, most of it is still sci fi. Aliens haven't invaded, and people don’t run around at 20,000 leagues, and we don’t have time machines. So final question for you Jamie. What are you currently workign on and when can your fans read it!"
I'm finishing a new novel in the "Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre," series, but I won't be publishing it for a few months. My next release will be "Shadow Born II: Shadow Rising." It's the continuing story of my young adult assassin Gabriel Frost. It's a very exciting sequel that reveals the truth about Gabriel's past and the origin of his special abilities. His friend Jodi develops some unusual powers of her own, and I think the story goes in some very unexpected directions. I wrote it last summer, but I try to keep several months between my first draft and publication. It's too easy to overlook amateurish mistakes on a new work. I find that allowing a few months between the first and final draft lets me see the story differently. I've forgotten many of the details, so when I come back and re-read, it's not so familiar. That's when the mistakes really start to appear and I can see where changes in pacing and plot structure might help the story.
Do you have anything you would like to add in summary? Or say to our readers?
A: I'd like to wrap it up by thanking you first of all, for your patience and generosity in putting all of this together. I'd also like to thank the readers who've taken time out of their lives and money out of their pockets to give my books a chance. When I hear from someone who's loved my stories and passed them onto friends, that's huge. It validates everything that I've been working so hard for. It's tough to be a writer. You spend thousands of hours creating stories that people might never read. You don't know if anyone will like them or if you'll ever make a penny. But you keep writing out of love for the craft and the dream that you just can't let go. Right now, I'm virtually unknown in the publishing world, but when people leave positive feedback, send emails, and comment on my blog, I know that I've succeeded. Regardless of how small my audience, my stories have connected with people and that means a lot.
Thank you Jamie for your thoughtful and candid answers. I’m sure I speak for all our readers when I say we can’t wait to read Shadow Born II: Shadow Rising. I’m sure we can beg an ARC out of Jamie to give readers a preview before it goes live (wink, wink) or maybe even a giveaway!
Now go and read the reviews of The Tinkerer's Daughter and The Darkling Wind if you haven’t already. Then stop by Jamie's blog to check out his other books.