An interview with author James Melzer
James Melzer is a new acquaintance of mine but he's one of those guys who make you feel as if you've known him for a long time. He's recently completed a novel and hopes to have it on the market before too long. I caught up with him a few days ago and thought it might be a good idea to share his experience.
James, how long have you been writing?
- I've been a writer for as long as I can remember. It seems that from an early age I was always putting things down on paper, stories and whatnot. It hasn't been until recently that I thought I could eventually make some sort of career out of it.
So is this your first book, or have you tackled others?
- This will be my first book for publication. I've written two other novels but they were more for myself, to actually prove that I could go the distance and write a novel. I don't think new writers realize what a long and difficult process it can be. There's a lot of planning that comes with it and if you're not ready, mentally and physically, you're going to fall on your face. You can't just sit down one day and say, "I'm going to write a novel." It just won't work.
Did you dive straight into a full-length book, James, or did you publish other articles/stories first? I know I tackled a novel a long time ago but couldn't place it. I went for years publishing short stories before coming back to the broader sheet of novels.
- You know, it's funny. When I was younger and I tried to write short-stories they always ended up being like, 50 or 60 pages. I guess I never really had a knack for doing those shorter works. So I never submitted anything anywhere for publication. I've written a handful of short-stories and some of them have made their rounds in online communities but that's about it. One of them, The Vegetarian, which was featured in the Writing.com Horror Newsletter is out there now available for purchase.
What prompted you to write this particular novel and does it convey any 'messages' to the reader? Some writers like to use the novel as a soapbox to air their views, I know I do at times.
- The book I am writing now, Teenage Wasteland (that's a working title, I think), I can describe as Lord of the Flies meets The Book of Revelation. I've always had a fascination with end of the world type stuff and the apocalypse and all the stories I've read or movies I've seen feature adults in those situations, with the children being in the background, I thought it would be interesting to look at all that stuff from the kids' perspective. To see how they would react to something like that and what they would do. There's a hint of the supernatural in it, of course, because that's what I do. As far as any messages it might convey or a basic theme to the book, I guess I'd have to say it's that we don't give kids enough credit. They are much more perceptive than we might think and are pretty resilient. Honestly though, I'm still flushing all that stuff out of the manuscript.
And is it aimed mainly at men or women. What genre would you classify it in?
- I think it's a story that is aimed at everyone. We've all been someones child or have kids of our own, so it will be interesting to see how the kids in my story react to certain things. Would we have done the same thing? Would our children do that? And while the book isn't written with a young adult audience in mind, I think they will get a kick out of it. These kids, in my story, are normal kids. They listen to iPods, use slang, fight with their friends, back stab one another. You know, normal kid stuff. It's a coming of age horror story.
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What About Research?
So how much research was involved, did you have to study anything before you completed the story? Most people think writers plonk themselves in front of a screen and out pops a story.
- I think that as writers, life is much of our research. I have a full-time job and I travel on the buses and subways of the city for about 2 hours each day. I listen a lot, to what people are saying and doing. Kids especially. I pick up on their dialogue and mannerisms, things like that. Hopefully I can convey that in a realistic sense in the novel. As far as the apocalyptic stuff of the novel goes, some of it is taken from the Book of Revelation, but most of it is made up. That's the good thing about writing, you can mix the reality of the world with the reality in your head and come up with a pretty good story. Plus, I just like making shit up.
Okay James, so the book is a hairsbreadth from hitting the shelves. It's nearly crunch-time. People will need to know details like who your publisher is, where your book will be available, and on what date?
- This novel I will be self-publishing through the Print-on-Demand company Lulu. If everything goes according to plan it will be out late in the fall of 2008 and will be available on the Lulu.com website, Amazon.com, Borders.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and through various other channels. I'm working on setting up a website and I have a whole marketing plan laid out as well.
I'm sure a lot of people will be intrigued by this concept. Can you tell us a little about Lulu. Why did you choose this particular vehicle?
- Lulu.com is a basically a print-on-demand company that allows you to upload your creative projects and sell them on the Internet.
I did a lot of research on the various print-on-demand companies out there and decided to go with Lulu because frankly, they are the cheapest. Other companies charge you anywhere from $500-$1000 just to get started. Lulu charges you nothing to upload your book and put it in their marketplace. When someone orders it, they print it, ship it and pay you the royalties based on the price that you determined for your book. Now, if you want to get your book out there, of course you're gonna have to pay. You can choose to buy their publishing pack for $500 and go all out or you can purchase services individually, something I haven't seen from any other company before. So for me, I'll be buying the ISBN's which will get me onto all the major websites and listed in the Ingram database, which is North Americas largest book distributor, and that will allow my book to be physically in brick and mortar bookstores if need be.
And how much does this equate for you?
- All in all, I'm looking at spending about $150. Doing it this way gives me complete creative freedom with my book. It will probably get more marketing than it would with a traditional publisher since I'll be doing it all myself. I have control over the cover, the content, even the price. While traditional publishers are nice, it takes forever to go that way it seems. Between finding an agent, getting a publisher to buy the book, negotiating royalties, and actually seeing the book in print could take as long as two years.
How long will it take to put your book out there?
- Going through Lulu, my book will be on the market from the time I upload it in a matter of weeks. And you figure, most new authors never even see their book on the shelves in their local bookstore anyway and if they do, it's only for 6-9 months. Unless your name is Stephen King, publishers are just not going to give it the marketing push you deserve as a new writer. This way, my book will always be available and will never be out of print unless I choose. If you market it right, it's a win-win situation.
So it all seems to be going to plan, but what about the future. Have you any other books in the pipeline?
- Haha, there's always another book in the pipeline AJ. I have a few ideas for the next one but nothing solidified. Right now my focus is on getting this one done, edited and ready for print and marketing.
Finally, James, If you had one piece of advice to give aspiring authors, what would it be?
- If you wanna be a writer, you have to write. It sounds simple but you would be amazed at the amount of people who dream about being writers versus those who actually do it. I daydreamed about being a writer for years and never wrote a word. Now it's actually happening. So sit down at your computer, your laptop, your empty pad of paper in a coffee shop, whatever, and just WRITE. If you're serious about being an author, you'll find the time.