“Wednesday Writer” – Jason Eric Mills

I’m kicking off my weekly “Wednesday Writer” series by interviewing not a published author, but a writer (perhaps) in embryo–my eighteen-year-old son.

Given that he was the inspiration behind A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, this won’t be like all my other author interviews (though I will ask him about his own writing at the end). Instead, I thought it would be interesting to get his take on the story he inspired. You see, he was about the age of Eric, the ten-year-old boy in my novel, when I had my first ideas for this tale. At the time, we were finally getting a handle on his Asperger’s in terms of helping him make friends at school. This interview was also my first opportunity to see what he thought about me being a writer.

Me:  Do you remember how old you were when you first became aware that I was writing on a regular basis? And what did you think of that?

Jason:  I’m sorry to say that I don’t exactly remember how old I was when I first became aware that you were writing on a regular basis. I do, however, vaguely remember you being on the computer all the time back in Riverside. (We used to live in Southern California.) But I think I truly became aware when we moved to Richland and you actually let us know that you were writing a novel. As for what I thought, I think I was like, “That sounds pretty cool. Maybe she got inspired by J. K. Rowling.”

(Not really. Don’t misunderstand. I love the Harry Potter series, but Barbara Kingsolver is more my style.) 

Me:  What was your first reaction when you learned I was writing a novel in which there would be a young boy with Asperger’s? Did it make you nervous at all? If so, why? If not, why not?

Jason:  To tell the truth, I was excited that you were writing a novel based on me. I thought it was only natural for you to write about that particular subject matter since you’ve done so much research on Asperger’s. The more I thought about it, I realized that it would be really important for you to write A NIGHT ON MOON HILL because it explains many things about AS, and I think tons of mothers with children who have AS will learn a lot from it. So, to answer your question, no, I wasn’t nervous in the least. (In fact, I was rather flattered!)

Me:  I offered to let you read the finished manuscript more than once but you always refused. Why did you want to wait for the actual physical copy of the book to arrive before reading it? What made you give in and read the Kindle version?

Jason:  I guess I wanted to wait for a physical book because I’m a freak like that. I just think it’s so much more satisfying to actually open a book, turn the pages, and be transported to another world. When you’re reading from an electronic device, I think it’s a little less satisfying because you can’t turn any pages, you don’t physically open anything, etc.

As for the second question, after Dad read it and practically raved about it, I thought to myself, “Well, if Dad really liked it, maybe I should just read it on Mom’s Kindle.” And boy, am I glad I did; otherwise, I wouldn’t have noticed that little mistake in Chapter 18. In fact, I’m surprised Dad didn’t catch it! (A mistake, by the way, which the publisher has thankfully rectified . . . so, unless you read a very early Kindle version, you will never see it!)

Jason finally getting his hands on a physical copy of the book

Me:  What did you think of Daphne, the main character, at first?

Jason:  I definitely noticed some similarities between me and her (e.g., love of swimming, neat freak, slight outdoors hater, etc.), and I also loved how brave she could become if someone she cared about was in danger. She’s practically the textbook definition of an “unlikely heroine.”

Me:  What was it like to read about Eric and the way he interacted with Daphne and others? Did it feel at all familiar or were there enough differences to set him apart from you?

Jason:  I fell in love with Eric the instant he was introduced. The conversations between him and Daphne were brilliant, and I could tell she was impressed with this boy who knew so much about angels and other things. I think there are some differences between us, like how he loves being outside while I don’t like being outside for too long. Some of his quirks felt very familiar (like how he prefers his food done “the right way” and his high soprano voice), and I thought you did a great job on his character. (Aw, thanks. Jason, by the way, had a lovely high soprano voice when he was Eric’s age…now he sings bass beautifully but has a wide range.)

Jason and I when he was about ten or eleven

Me:  Without giving anything away, what did you think of the book? What did you like most and what did you like least?

Jason:  I thought A NIGHT ON MOON HILL was very well-written and the characters were enjoyable, particularly Daphne’s agent, Judy (I thought she was the most hilarious character in the novel). I liked the whole conflict with Morgan and you did a really good job making him . . . (Okay, I don’t think I should include the rest of that sentence . . . spoiler.) I, of course, loved the relationship between Eric and Daphne, but I wish there were more descriptions of Eric’s activities with . . . (Sorry. I can’t print the rest of that sentence either. If you read the book, you’ll probably be able to guess what Jason was about to say.) But, on the whole, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL is, in my very honest opinion, your best novel yet.

(Now that I can print!)

Me:  Finally, I’m aware you’ve written a story or two . . . mainly of the fan fiction variety. Did reading my novel increase your desire to write fiction? If so, what would you like to write a story about next?

Jason:  It’s true I’ve written stories–a Lion King/Alice in Wonderland crossover fanfic, 2 “Gargoyles” fanfics, and a Wile E. Coyote fanfic–but writing an entirely original novel is pretty daunting. I don’t know that I ever could because all the good ideas seem to be taken. I am tempted to take one of my Language Arts assignments back in my freshman year in high school (about “Wicked”) and expand it. So if I do any writing in the near future, that’s probably what I’d focus on.

I’ll be certain to let you know if Jason follows through on that. In the meantime, if you’re interested, beginning next week I’m posting every other Friday about my son’s progress post-high school as he journeys toward independence.

And next week I’ll be featuring an interview with author GG Vandagriff with many of the usual and some not so usual questions.

Originally posted 2012-09-26 22:12:53.

It’s Available!

A NIGHT ON MOON HILL is now available for sale at the Kindle Store! Here’s the link. What a wonderful early birthday present! It would be amazing if it became available on Amazon ON my birthday, which is tomorrow. Not likely, but amazing!

Remember, if you buy it, read it, and like it, I would LOVE for you to post a review there on its Kindle page…as well as on Goodreads. (Later, it would be great if you would copy your review to the Amazon page once it’s finally up there.)

If you REALLY want to help guide people to my book, hit the “Like” button near my name and then scroll halfway down the Kindle page to the part that reads: “Tags Customers Associate With This Product” and click on “Agree with these tags.” The more agreements I get, the more likely those tags will pull in readers interested in those things.

Thanks for all your support!

Originally posted 2012-09-08 17:36:14.

“Moleskine Mondays” – “E” is for E-reading

Present word count of WIP:  56,585 (Yes, I’ve cut and revised some)

I love my Kindle. I love my iPhone and iPad with iBooks and the Kindle app (as well as a few other e-reading apps like Stanza, DB Bookshelf, etc.) I have a brand new Nook all set to give away as the grand prize at my book launch next month (date still to be announced). So I’m definitely a fan of e-reading.

I’ve gained a lot ever since I began accruing digital books:

1) I’ve gained a LOT of books because it’s so easy and quick, not to mention cheaper.

2) I’ve gained space because I’ve been able to downsize my physical library (though I still feel a bit sad when I see the new roominess on the shelves downstairs…more about that in another post).

3) I do a lot more reading because I take my iPhone or Kindle everywhere and if I find myself waiting in line or something, I can pull out my book.

But what have I lost in the process of switching to e-reading?

Two things:

1) The physical delights of turning pages, smelling the paper, and the grounded feeling of knowing exactly how far into the book I am and how far I have yet to read. (I have been reminded of those delights lately since I’m having to borrow many books from the library to get through my “Thriller Thursdays” list.)

2) Privacy.

My whole family has access to my Kindle library since each of them has a different kind of device (though Allison can’t access hers for the next year and a half), but it’s not them I’m worried about.

It’s the e-readers themselves.

As pointed out in this article by Richard Lea in The Guardian, published July 5th, they’re spying on us. Really.

I don’t know about you, but somehow I’d prefer to be the only one doing the “reading.”

What do you think about your e-reader device gathering intel on your interests as you read? Are you going to think twice the next time you’re tempted to highlight a passage? Or is this one more freedom you’re willing to let slip through your fingers in exchange for market convenience?

Perhaps I should divert from NPR’s “Thriller” list this next week and, instead of reading James Patterson’s Kiss the Girls, pull a book from their Science Fiction/Fantasy list…

Say, George Orwell’s 1984. From the library, of course.

Originally posted 2012-07-16 14:12:40.

Do Free PDFs Work?

Present word count of WIP:  43,781

I’m almost over my cold and hoping my chapped nose (I knew I was blowing my nose too much!) will have recovered by Sunday. Oh, and if anyone out there can tell me why, all of a sudden, I lost all my Google Followers, I would appreciate it greatly. I don’t think it was because they were afraid I was contagious. Seriously, what’s up with Google (besides that whole privacy issue)?

In the meantime, here’s Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

14. Consider the free PDF alternative. Some have gotten millions of downloads. No hassles, no time wasted, no trying to make a living on it. All the joy, in other words, without debating whether you should quit your day job (you shouldn’t!)

I don’t know about you, but offering free PDFs of my stories would be problematic for me. While I got on the Kindle bandwagon early, offering THE RECKONING on Kindle shortly after it came out as a paperback on Amazon, I didn’t do the actual formatting. I paid the people at BookSurge (now CreateSpace) to do it for me. As a result, I don’t have a PDF version of the final manuscript, formatted for print with all the chapter headings and fancy images.

If any of you know how I might get hold of such a PDF version, I might be interested. But then, you come to the question of the value of your work. How many readers value that which they get for free?

Personally, I’ve purchased some 200-300 books on my Kindle and I’m having a tough enough time getting them read, let alone any free books I may come across. Which books do you imagine I’m going to value more and read first? You got it. The ones that cost me money.

In my opinion, money earned from a book is a lot more meaningful, in terms of gauging your fan base, than the number of downloads. While the idea of no hassles and no time wasted is appealing, it’s not very realistic. True professional authors have to work hard to make a living at what they do…but the reason they continue to do it is because they love the writing.

I stopped myself today in the middle of writing a scene that ended up taking me in a whole new direction and thought, “This is just too fun! I am so glad I can do this!”

Sometimes, Godin thinks too much about the money/marketing end and not enough about the joy of writing.

Originally posted 2012-03-02 13:47:31.

Publishing’s Paradigm Shift – Effects on Publishers

Perhaps most anxious about all the brouhaha over e-books have been the publishers. Traditional publishers are worried, perhaps even afraid of all the change, while self-publishing companies (including POD, or print on demand companies) have visions of greater revenues. In any case, I see the main effects as follows:

  • The more adaptable traditional publishers will survive and even thrive after a few bumps in the road
  • There will be more specialized publishers aimed at niches
  • There will be more and more self-publishing
  • Cost of entry for future publishers will be minimal
  • Among the big publishing houses, there will be a devolution from complex, centralized management to semi-autonomous editorial units
  • 50% digital royalty rate may be inevitable
  • Despite all the change, the greatest value of traditional publishing will remain–the editorial process–ensuring their survival

In the latest self-publishing development, Barnes & Noble has now launched their own digital self-publishing platform called PubIt to compete with Amazon’s Create Space. (They’re also coming out with a color Nook to try and take down Amazon’s Kindle and compete more evenly with the iPad.)

As an example of the devolution that is beginning in traditional publishing, in early 2011 Simon & Schuster will reorganize into “small teams of editors, publicists, and marketing specialists.”

According to their new head, Jonathan Karp, each team, comprised of 2 editors, 2 publicists, and a marketing specialist, “will propose, develop, and execute their own publicity and marketing plans, from the moment of acquisition through paperback publication…”

“The chief objective is to create the publishing environment most conducive to focused concentration on our authors,” he continued. “Those who are present at the creation are more likely to bring a greater depth of understanding and experience to the publication of these books. Our authors will benefit from having a dedicated team working on their behalf early in the process.”

Such a development can only be good for writers, who, at times, have had to kowtow to unknowns in the large marketing or sales departments in order to get their books even approved, however lauded their work may be by the editors.

These were the main effects I could forecast from all I’ve read. If you foresee any others, please comment.

My next post will deal with the effects on agents.

Originally posted 2010-10-25 14:01:50.