This week on the IWU Blog Tour, my special guest is indie fantasy novelist Steven R. Drennon, author of Rise of the Raven and Three for Avadar. Steven was born in Lawton, OK (holla!), where he first started writing poetry at the age of 15. Since then he has collected nearly one thousand poems that he has written over the years. Those poems have recently been released as six separate volumes of poetry. He has also recently added two anthologies which resulted in nearly all of his poetry being available to the public for the first time ever. In addition, he has written a number of works of fiction, and he is just beginning to publish those works.
Steven published a fantasy novel titled Rise of the Raven in the spring of 2011. He then released another fantasy novel titled Three for Avadar in the summer of 2011.
Currently, he is working on a series of suspense novellas that will first be released individually, and then offered as a collection. Each of these will be released during the early fall of 2011.
He is also working on a series of thriller novellas that will chronicle three separate serial killers. All three will be available towards the end of 2011 as individual titles as well as a combined collection, expected to be titled Serial Thrillers.
Currently Steven lives in San Antonio, TX with his wife and two youngest children.
JWG: Hi, Steven. Kick things off by telling us about your book.
SD: “Rise of the Raven” is a fantasy novel that tells the story of three separate travelers who are brought together by chance as each travels to a kingdom called Avadar. The first is a soldier for hire who is seeking revenge for the murder of his brother and his family. The second is a princess who is trying to find herself while keeping the others from knowing who she is. The third is a sorceress who is trying to recover a mystical crystal that was hidden away by her father before he was murdered.
The story is a standard swords and sorcerers tale of good versus evil, with perhaps a little more romance than most people would expect. Interestingly enough, some of the reviews have been negative because people felt there wasn’t enough romance, while others felt that it distracted from the story. It’s definitely not a “typical” fantasy novel, but thankfully there are several who have truly enjoyed it!
JWG: What first motivated you to become an indie author?
SD: Many years ago I first started shopping around a manuscript for a book which would eventually be known as “Thrust of the Raven”. It seemed like such an uphill battle and a constant struggle. There were a couple of editors who expressed interest in it, but each wanted pretty major rewrites. Even after the rewrites, however, they were still trying to change the story. It finally reached the point where I just gave up on it.
Then about a year ago I stumbled across Joe Konrath’s blog, and I decided right then and there that I was going to publish my own books. I made several revisions to that first book, and then released it under the title of “Rise of the Raven”. Since then I’ve just kept writing!
JWG: What has been the biggest challenge for you when it comes to self-publishing?
SD: Absolutely, hands down, the promotion aspect. I have a lot of experience in sales and marketing, but I was not prepared for the amount of effort that would be required to draw attention to my books. I finally decided to just step away from that aspect for a while and concentrate on writing more books. I’m definitely much happier with that!
JWG: Has any aspect turned out to be easier than you expected?
SD: The formatting had me intimidated at first, but I have gotten a pretty consistent process down cold. I can pretty much fly right through the formatting process without any concerns!
JWG: Do you take a strictly DIY approach, or do you hire help with things like editing, cover art, etc.
SD: I have done almost everything myself. For my first two fantasy novels I did all the editing and formatting, but I hired someone to do the cover art. For my poetry books (six volumes and two anthologies) I did everything, including the covers. I have already purchased the covers for my next few projects, but I recently discovered that two of them (sadly, including my favorite) was being used for someone else’s books. After that experience, I decided that I will most likely do my own in the future.
JWG: How has the decision to go indie turned out for you? Overall, are you happy with the choice?
SD: So far I would say this decision has been a very good one. I am so pleased to be able to say that I have completed the books that are out there, and it has really motivated me to keep working on others. I’ve had so many story ideas that have built up over time, and it feels very liberating to now be working on getting them out there.
My greatest satisfaction has been the reaction I have gotten from my children. My main reason for publishing my poetry (almost 1000 poems total) was so that I could make them more readily available for my children. When they saw that I was actually selling quite a few, they were so impressed! My two youngest kids are still in high school, and they have been bragging to their friends that their dad is an author, and that is cool beyond words!
JWG: Are there any stand-out lessons you've learned about self-publishing that you'd like to share with my readers?
SD: Absolutely! First of all, if you are going to hire someone to do your covers for you, make sure that they are not using stock images that are not modified or just barely modified. I was completely devastated to see two of the book covers I purchased show up on other books. They were almost completely identical except for the titles and the author name. Both of these covers were premade covers, so I guess I should have expected it. Make sure you work with your cover artist and make it clear that you want something unique for your book.
Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t have the time, money, or energy to spend on details such as editing or formatting, then ask someone to help you with it. There are a lot of new writers out there who are struggling just like you, and many of them are willing to work out a deal in trade or are willing to answer questions when you need it. Don’t settle for just having written a story, make sure it’s polished and presentable.
JWG: What are you working on now?
SD: Currently I am working on a trio of suspense novellas. I plan to release each one individually, and then I’ll offer all three together in a collection. The first one should be published in early fall of 2011.
The cry came from directly ahead, where the road began to curve to the left. It was the unmistakable cry of a woman in distress, and as Bengar spurred his horse forward, he began to detect other sounds as well.
Accompanying the piercing screams of the woman he could now hear the distinct clashing of swords in combat, and that sound alone made his heart pound with excitement. This solitary soldier of fortune had travelled many days through this desolate forest, and his body ached from the weary ride. Now at last he would find a task at hand that was worthy of him, and which just might provide a reward as well.
As he rounded the curve in the road, he pulled up on the reins of his coal black steed, taking a brief moment to survey the scene before him. Directly ahead it appeared as if a number of bandits had set upon a small travelling party that was passing through the woods. At least seven men on foot were attacking two horsed soldiers who were struggling to defend their female companion.
And so begins the adventures of three separate travelers:
A princess trying to find her way back home, while finding herself along the way.
A sorceress trying to retrieve a sacred crystal that was secreted away by her father before he was murdered.
A warrior seeking to avenge the death of his family, who finds himself sidelined by two very different, yet very attractive women.
Drawn together by chance, all destined for one place . . . Avadar!