It was an honor to interview Galactic Mage science fiction and series author John Daulton. There is more at his Daulton Books website at: http://daultonbooks.com and also on Amazon author page. For now, enjoy the interview below.
TD: Your first title in the series, The Galactic Mage, has been described as a combination of two genres – fantasy and science fiction. Was that by design or accidental?
Totally by design. Many stories out there have blended the two genres, “science fantasy” if you will, stories going way back to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars (the whole John Carter of Mars series), and even farther back to writers like Mark Twain with his A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court . Aside from the obvious disparity in writing skill between those guys and me, the blending of the two genres is similar in many fundamental ways. One big difference is that in The Galactic Mage series, I keep the medieval-style magic of the fantasy distinct and very true to the Sword & Sorcery type fantasy that emerged post Dungeons and Dragons and, of course, Tolkien while keeping sci-fi elements as close to contemporary popular sci-fi as I can. By not changing the “expectations” of the two genres, yet putting them together anyway, I ended up with something new enough to be very cool and widely accepted by readers. In truth, it’s not completely “never been done before” though, despite what a lot of reviewers have said. In the early 80s, Piers Anthony did something similar in the Apprentice Adept series, at the very end of it at least, and I loved it.
TD: What inspired you to write your novel and how much research went into it? Without the obvious of space travel and other worlds, any personal experiences?
The original inspiration was a 1999 movie called October Skies. It’s about a kid who saw something that everyone else was missing: rocketry. So he pursued it and made something amazing, an industry, an enterprise, a way of thinking. It was such a beautiful and simple (and true) story, that it stuck with me. The Galactic Mage is a fantasy version of that movie, at least in part.
As for research, it’s pretty insane how much I did. It seems like every time I tried to say anything, I was like, “Crap, I don’t really know how a laser would work; are they actually powerful or just old ideas? And what the heck is in ion cannon anyway?” Stuff I have read about in other sci-fi, stuff I knew readers would accept, I just couldn’t use myself without understanding it better. I read so much astronomy (and watched tons of documentaries). I read a lot on genetics, bio-engineering, bio-printing believe it or not. I actually read two books just on squids and octopuses, plus tons of medieval and feudal society and household info, and just out of control physics. The more I wrote, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. I read Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell when I got started, thinking that would be enough, and I ended up taking a semester of college physics before I could feel comfortable saying anything I wrote at all. I still feel grotesquely unqualified to say much, and I’m sure I have lots wrong, but the story is totally, in terms of its sci-fi element and even more so in the underlying principles of magic (actually more important, believe it or not), steeped in reality as closely as I can fathom it anyway.
TD: How do you write? Do you outline and follow chapter by chapter, or do you wait until the story’s magnitude can’t be contained in your mind and you have to pour it out on paper?
Combination of both. I get to the point where the ideas are stacking up on one another, and I know there’s a story there. So I start outlining in as much detail as I can. I don’t hold that outline as gospel, though.
TD: Stephen King says “you only have a season (3 months) to write a book” after that, you should abandon it and work on something else entirely, then come back 6 weeks later, re-read, and start revising. Do you agree? How long does it take to write a good story?
I think assigning a time frame like that is totally arbitrary. Everyone is different. Before The Galactic Mage blew up on Amazon, I was working a day job and had zero expectation of ever being a “full time writer.” How could I possibly have written a whole novel in 3 months?
So, you have to take Stephen King’s advice with a grain of salt. He has the advantage of being a multi-millionaire and anything he writes will 1) be published through traditional channels, and 2) make money. The rest of us don’t have those guarantees. That means we don’t have the luxury of assigning ourselves three or four months to write something. Before TGM, I had to write when I could, and with whatever energy I had left after a long day. So, to crank out a novel in three months just wasn’t reasonable, especially not a first or second novel, where even believing I was capable of finishing one was a whole emotional journey, well outside craft and discipline. I have that luxury now of having developed my “writer’s muscle” as they say. I can write 80,000 to 100,000 words in a month when I do it full time. I’m sure Stephen King can too. Probably more. Most of the guys in the NFL can bench press 300 pounds. But I’m pretty sure they didn’t just decide to “get to 300 pounds in a season.”
So, writing in a season is great for those tiny fractions of the writing universe who don’t have to teach or edit or do something else of the day-job variety to keep the wolves at bay. I guess basically my opinion of that “season” advice is that it doesn’t really speak to anyone outside of the outliers and the very, very lucky. Most people are going to have to do what they have to do to get it done. The Galactic Mage took me eight years.
However, that said, I do agree that you do need to finish and then let your story sit for a few weeks or months before you reread it. It’s amazing to discover both how awesome you can be and how terrible all in the same piece, so you need distance from both your pride and your self-loathing.
TD: Do you have a book to which you constantly go back and from which you constantly draw inspiration? If so, which is it and by whom?
Artistotle’s Rhetoric. Everything you ever need to know about the human experience is in that book. It’s more sophisticated than anything else I’ve ever read, despite being 2,500 years old. Mind blowing.
TD: With the flood of self-published authors, small presses, and vanity presses, I feel like the “big houses” have a lot of competition. They are very selective and often end up kicking their butts for not signing someone special. Do you know of a book/author that has been under appreciated and everyone should read his/her book?
Everyone? No, I don’t know of any that everyone should read. But I can say, I know some great story tellers who don’t get the love they deserve. T.R. Harris is one. He’s got these awesome, simple shoot-em-up science fiction books. They are so honest, so unpretentious. They don’t pretend to be anything other than fun. You can blow right through them so fast. But they are just brilliant in their simplicity. It’s a shame some publishing house didn’t see it and hook him up with some high-end editors and an awesome marketing team. They could have sold a hundred million copies. But that’s fine. He doesn’t care, I’m sure. He’s done fine all on his own. Like, really fine. So, whatever.
TD: And on another note, there are books whose reviews and bestseller lists rave greatness, but the story, the characters, or the premise is either a copy cat of something really good or it sucks all together. Do you know of a book like that?
Yeah, I can think of tons of stuff I didn’t like. But, I’m not going to harsh on someone’s story just because I didn’t like it. Hell, chances are I didn’t like it because I didn’t get it. And yes, lots of stuff is generic and cliché, but if there are people out there who get joy from it, that’s all good—I mean, maybe it’s cliché to you and me, but what if it’s the first time some new reader saw that idea, you know? There are always new people, young people, whatever, coming up to consume the latest publications. Really, in the end, there aren’t any new ideas anyway. They’ve been saying that for thousands of years already, too.
TD: What do you think is more important: A great story, a great cover, or a great promotion?
Great story. If you write a great enough story, it will go viral despite your crappy cover and feeble promotions. People share what they like. You only have to give something amazing to one or two people, and the rest will take care of itself. Writers should never forget this. Get over yourself and write the next one. (But don’t skimp on your cover, your editing, and for God’s sake, start a mailing list on MailChimp or Constant Contact or something. Just do it.
TD: And speaking of promotion. It has become the author’s worst nightmare as they have less time to write with having to promote so much since the book world is a business after all. What is your strategy? Have you found a promotion tool that works every time?
If you are doing your own promotions, get a mailing list (you may have noticed I mentioned that above). MailChimp and Constant Contact and several others have freebie programs for small mailing lists. Get one. I could go into why you should, and I have covered it on my blog, but, short answer: if you put out a book and even ONE person likes it so much that they want to read the next thing you put out , you should make it easy for that reader to know when the next one comes out. So, beyond that, I won’t explain more. Get your MailChimp account. Put a link to your sign up form on the front page of your books and ebooks and put it in again on the last page. Do that first, before you start thinking about Facebook ads or any other dumb stuff that will waste your money. Get a mailing list. Period. Seriously.
TD: And finally, do you characters take on some qualities of people you know?
Totally. We can only write the world we know. The people around me ARE the world. If I didn’t tap into the real people I know, all my characters would be wooden prototypes that I averaged onto my pages from other stuff I have read. It would be too boring to write, honestly. Exaggeration and commitment to it provides the rest.
TD: What else should I know about this novel, or your others, that might not be evident from its cover blurb?
My series is a search for God. All seven books (the 6 main series and the prequel) are really born of my grappling with faith, divinity, science (especially physics), philosophy and humanity. Like, that is literally the spine of the series. I realize that, given what they are on the surface, how the covers are done for the purpose of appeasing the market, nobody will ever think about my books as deeply or even read them enough times to see what I am trying to do. Which is fine. I did it for me.
TD: What else should our readers know about you?
I’m just a regular guy. Writing books is not mystical. If you are my friend, you don’t have to apologize to me if you haven’t read my books. In fact, that’s actually the worst part of having a bestseller out. People you love come up to you after having not seen you in a while and feel obligated to lead with, “Hey, great to see you. Man, I’ve been meaning to read your book.” You don’t have to read my book. In fact, if I’m being honest, if you put out a book, I probably won’t get to it either. Life is busy. The “to read” stack is tall. It’s all good.
TD: And last, please tell our readers where we can buy your books.
They’re all on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Google Play (the first one is on iTunes too, but don’t get me started on why the rest aren’t on it). The front page of my website shows all my books, and you can click on any of them to get links to all the major outlets for each: http://www.daultonbooks.com
TD: John, thank you for dropping by for the visit and for your answers and advice. There is a lot here for our readers and other authors.
THE DOC ~ Revised Edition
Copyright © 2014 by Tim Desmond
Cover Design by Jackson Cover Design
All cover art copyright © 2014
All Rights Reserved
Print ISBN: 978-1-626941-44-1
Timothy J. Desmond
Amazon author page at: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00694KQQO
The Doc page and Writing at: http://timothydesmond.wordpress.com
Art at: http://artbydesmond.wordpress.com