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TBR: You're an experienced writer, what made you choose to go Indie? What is your advice to other authors that may not wish to go the “legacy publishing” route?
SM: That’s always the big question, isn’t it? I honestly got somewhat bored and disillusioned by traditional publishing routes. I did the whole routine – careful adherence to submission guidelines, query letters, try to get an agent, wait 6-8 months for a response, rinse, repeat – and after a few years of not getting anywhere with that, I had pretty much given up on trying to make anything out of my writing.
This was after I’d written 3 novels, but also well before the notion of being an Indie author was really a viable option. For a time, the only way an Indie author could make it was to front the money to print their own books, which was never really an option for me. I sort of lost touch with the industry for awhile, but then I heard about Amanda Hocking.
Now, I never thought to myself “I can sell 40 billion books too!”, but hearing about what Amanda accomplished did open my eyes to the world of Indie publishing. This is something that even a few years ago wasn’t even possible, and now has been made pretty accessible.
Take care and make sure that your book doesn’t add any fuel to the misconception that Indie books are low quality. Take your time. Edit. Edit again. Edit some more. Even after you’ve thrown your book away and taken up drinking, edit it again. You’ll be glad you did.
Also, listen to the advice that successful Indie authors give. Don’t assume that any one person has all of the answers, but be willing to listen. We’re all making this up as we go here, and we have to learn from each another.
TBR: Where did you get your idea(s) for your novel, Blood Skies?
SM: Nothing in, “Blood Skies,” came from just one place.
The central magic system – wherein a witch or a warlock bonds with an arcane spirit – actually derives from an incredibly vivid dream I had a couple of years ago. (Most of the interludes in Blood Skies, in fact, are snippets of that same dream.)
The post-apocalyptic landscape came from another, older dream that I was never able to fully shake. (I don’t remember many of the dreams that I have, but the ones that stick with me are usually pretty creepy.)
The world in Blood Skies came about as a result of an event called The Black, wherein Earth merged with other worlds during a magical catastrophe. The notion of several worlds fused into one was an idea I came up with when I decided to discard my original plan of making Blood Skies a steampunk novel. I wanted a world where I could use some modern elements of Earth (the weapons, clothing, language, etc.) and place them in a fantastic setting, but I still wanted the setting to make some degree of sense. World-building has always been one of my strengths, but I was particularly pleased with the way this setting took shape.
The addition of vampires as the primary antagonists in Blood Skies was largely because I wanted to see some vampires who weren’t automatically starring in a paranormal romance (not that I have any trouble with that genre, per se). Vampires have pretty much been taken out of horror, and while I don’t consider Blood Skies a horror novel, I wanted to give bloodsuckers a chance to be truly frightening again. I’ve always loved the Vlad Teppich imagery from Francis Ford Coppola’s film version of Dracula, and I imagined what Dracul would have looked like decked out with exotic firearms and riding a giant wolf. I’m a bit strange, that way.
TBR: What type/style of a writer are you? Seat-of-Your Pants? Outline King? Master Plotter?
SM: I’d have to say I’m somewhere between all three. For me the greatest joy of writing is the creation process, the thrill of carrying along with a story when you don’t necessarily know where it’s going to end up. I need to have a fairly set plot (“Soldiers chasing traitor witch”, for example), and I’ll brainstorm specific scenes or images that I’d like to see appear in the novel. I’ll use those scenes and then jump right in, writing and adding outline notes as they come to me. I usually have the major events mapped out by the time I’m a quarter or a third of the way through the novel, but I’ll still improvise and add things as I go.
I don’t like excessive outlines. Even if I know the Beginning, Middle and End of the story, I want the freedom to fill in the gaps with other stuff that will surprise me as I write it.
TBR: Did you model any characters after real-life people? Is there a character that resonates with you?
SM: I try not to model characters after real people, but there are certainly traits I steal away from both myself and people I know and have known. I do tend to steal dialogue from real conversations I’ve had or overheard, which was a habit I developed in college.
There’s probably a bit more of me in Eric Cross than I’d care to admit, but not necessarily in a bad way. Cross’ primary character arc involves him having everything stable in his life ripped away, at which point he’s forced to come to terms with what he’s really made of when his world comes crashing down. I’ve had that happen a few times in my life (I’m sure everyone has), so Eric is a bit of a reflection of me in that sense.
TBR: What do you want for readers to experience by reading your novel?
SM: I read for enjoyment, and to be sucked off to another place. I like to be emotionally drawn into a story, and I like to leave with a sense of visual wonder. I like to leave everything behind for a while, and imagine that the world in that book is someplace I can go back to.
I hope I can accomplish even one of those things for my readers with Blood Skies.
TBR: Is there a playlist that you listen to that inspires you while you're writing?
SM: Yes. I spend WAAAAAY too much time messing with playlists. The Blood Skies playlist on my ITouch is 61 tracks long. The songs are mostly Gothic/Industrial/Synthpop, with some alternative thrown in for good measure. Lately I’ve really been into Imperative Reaction, Panic Lift, Miss FD, Faderhead, Crystal Castles and Birthday Massacre.
TBR: Who is your favorite author? Is there a certain genre you read [in] exclusively?
SM: I don’t have a single favorite author, but I have a few I gravitate towards again and again. The early work of Clive Barker and the horror work of Tanith Lee are what drew me into writing in the first place. I’ve always been drawn to evocative prose, dark storytelling and strong world creation.
My current favorite authors are J.V. Jones, China Mieville and John Meaney, dark fantasy/sci-fi authors who exhibit a lot of those same traits. Whether I like it or not, my writing almost invariably takes on some traits of one of these writers.
I tend to read dark fantasy and some horror, though I do dabble in high fantasy and *some* paranormal romance. I read a shockingly small amount of hard science-fiction, and I need to remedy that.
TBR: Are you a DTB (Dead Tree Book) reader, or do you use a dedicated reader? What do you predict for the future of these two formats?
SM: Lately I’ve been enjoying Kindle for the ITouch. It’s terribly addicting to download entire books at the speed of light!
Because I grew up reading DTB, I’ll always have a fondness for it, and there is something to be said about being able to pick up and read through a book. Unfortunately, I see DTB’s continue to slide in popularity with the rise and ease of e-publishing. I don’t see traditional books ever going away completely, but I won’t be surprised if in the next ten years we see them fade to more of a novelty item.
TBR: Is there a plan for a sequel to, Blood Skies? Is so, when do you expect to have that ready for publishing and what are a few things the reader can expect from book two?
SM:Blood Skies is intended as an ongoing series. Right now I have fairly solid plans for Books 2 and 3, and tentative plans for Books 4-6.
I’m working on City of Scars (tentative title to Book 2) right now, and I’m roughly a quarter of the way done with the rough draft. I’m hoping for a December release, but that may be a bit unrealistic, so I should probably say it will be available sometime in early 2012.
I can’t give too much away about the plot without giving away elements of the first novel, but I can say that City of Scars will explore some elements and regions of the world that I couldn’t get to in Blood Skies, and the story will prominently feature the corrupt prison wardens called The Revengers (who are currently being featured in the Tales of a Blood Earth serial fiction series on my website). I’ll be introducing some new characters who will become regulars in the series, and much of the book will take place inside one of the vampire’s elusive Ebon Cities.
I’m Steven Montano, an accountant who thinks he’s a writer, based mainly on the fact that I managed to get a few D&D adventures published roughly 2,000 years ago. I’ve been writing as a hobby for almost 20 years.
I’m currently hard at work on the “Blood Skies” project, a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy fiction series. It has magic. And guns. And vampires. Really, what more could you want?
I also run a D&D campaign that wantonly steals ideas from the “Blood Skies” material (or vice versa), work out far too often for my aging bones to handle, father two medically challenged but extremely wonderful children, and lend love and support to my insanely fantastic wife, who also happens to be the mastermind behind Liberty’s Yarn.
Connect with Steven~
Amazon.com Author Page
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It's been my absolute pleasure hosting this Author-Interview with Steven Montano: a succinct and talented author~!