These are questions a student sent me and my answers to same. I thought it might be of some interest to the readers of this blog, so here goes:
1: How long did it take from having the idea for your first book to actually writing it and having a finished book?
About three months but I’m an extremely unusual case because I write significantly faster than most novelists. At this point it takes me 4-6 months to write a novel while the industry average is around a year.
2: After having it finished, how long did it take to find a publisher that would publish your first book?
I still haven’t found a publisher for that one. My first published book was the the fourth one I wrote, WebMage. It took about 14 months to write (the longest it’s ever taken me to write a novel). I started it about 2 years after the short story of the same name. I finished WebMage the novel in 2000 and it sold in 2005.
3: Do you think that being a previously published author of short stories helped to get your books published?
Absolutely. My first published book involved the same characters as my first published short story. It even incorporated the short story into the first couple of chapters. Most importantly, selling short stories made it much much easier to interest an agent in my work.
4: Was there a driving force that pushed you towards becoming a writer, a specific event or defining moment?
I quit theater. From the age of 11-22 I worked on and in theater, that’s where my BA is. Then I met my now wife, and decided I’d rather have a life than an acting career-they’re basically incompatible-and I needed something else to do that touched on the same artistic interests as theater. I’d always enjoyed writing, so I sat down and wrote a book and fell in love with the process.
5: Is there a specific author who’s work influenced you towards becoming a science fiction writer, and if so why?
One, not really. Half a dozen, yes. Tolkien, Asimov, Shakespeare, Zelazny, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, H. Beam Piper, Tim Powers. They all gave me experiences as a reader that I loved.
6: Did you ever doubt that your work would never be finished and published, and if so what kept you going?
Any number of times. Absolute iron in the bone stubborness. Once I started down the writing road I refused to stop for any reason. I liken the publishing process to knocking a brick wall down with your forehead. As long as you remember that your forehead will heal and the wall won’t, you’ll be okay.
7: Your books, WebMage and Cybermancy, fall under the science fiction category, but no previous books fall under the same type as yours. Was that helpful or hurtful towards getting them published by creating a new sub-genre within science fiction?
Both. It made it harder to sell them initially, but has made it much easier to attract attention from reviewers and readers once they came out. That in turn makes it easier to sell more books in the series and to keep a career going. I’m actually having the same issue with selling a couple of other books that I’ve written that aren’t quite like anything anyone else is writing, and I hope that once my agent finds a publisher for them the end result will be similar.
8: Were you daunted to become published along authors such as Jules Verne and H.W. Wells who arguably created the entire genre of science fiction?
Not really. One of the coolest thing about being a professional author, particularly in science fiction and fantasy is that the writing community is quite small and friendly. I’ve gotten to meet and make friends with a number of authors who I look up to.
8: What would be your advice towards first time authors, trying to finish a work and starting the daunting task of trying to find a publisher who will take the risk and publish them?
The most important thing you can do is write. Everything else is secondary to getting words on the page. That’s number one. Number two is to understand that no two writers use the same process or follow quite the same road to being published. There are 1,001 and one way to write a novel and every one of them is right. Third, hang in there. It’s a long slow process and most writers don’t sell their first book, or even their second, but persistence pays off. Fourth, learn how the industry works. There are a lot of people in publishing who blog about the process and that’s a huge resource that wasn’t there when I was getting started. Use it. Learn. Then write and write well and everything else will follow.
(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog April 3 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)