Last week’s #WebFicWed mentions:
Shadowstories: The Infi-Net Revolution, Shadow Unit, The Peacock King, Above Ground, Strange Little Band, Dead Boyfriend, & An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom.
It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. Some books, on the other hand, are in a chamber.
Last week‘s guest was MeiLin Miranda, author behind the epic tale An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom.
This week it’s the turn of author V.J. Chambers, who has written, amongst other things, the Jason and Azazel trilogy, a thrilling, guilty pleasure.
And if her name looks a little familiar to you, it’s because I reviewed Breathless – the first book of the trilogy – two weeks back.
[<-- In case you haven't figured it out, that's her right there. You can get that t-shirt at her store, as well as this incredibly amusing anti-Twilight one.]
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get talking.
AMH: Tell our readers a little bit more about your two characters, Jason and Azazel.
VJC: I think they’re regular kids who don’t want anyone telling them how to live their lives. Unfortunately, nearly everyone in their lives is trying to dictate what they can and can’t do in a pretty extreme way.
AMH: Let’s pretend I’m a big name producer interested in uncovering hidden gems and bringing them to the mainstream. What would your elevator spiel for the trilogy be?
VJC: The Jason and Azazel Trilogy is Romeo and Juliet meets Rosemary’s Baby meets The Da Vinci Code. What this breaks down to is a healthy dollop of guilty-pleasure, angst-ridden teen romance with plenty of suspense, edge-of-your-seat twists, and action, but also a darker undercurrent of moral ambiguity.
The story is kind of a rumination on the question: What would happen if the anti-christ and the messiah fell in love? And further: What if you couldn’t tell who was the anti-christ and who was the messiah?
AMH: The meaning of Azazel’s name is very closely tied to the plot. Do you generally pick character names based on their meaning?
VJC: Occasionally, I do. I think it can be kind of fun when there are a few layers of meaning to a piece, but this might be simply because I am a total nerd and really like literary analysis.
Usually, though, I just go with a name that seems right.
AMH: Writing a trilogy must take a lot of commitment. Do you have any particular tricks to share on how to overcome writer’s block?
VJC: Ha! No, I’m currently waiting for a copy of Victoria Nelson’s On Writer’s Block to be shipped to me. I haven’t written more than 6,000 words since I finished Tortured in August. :(
In the past, I’ve had success with writing an outline, creating goals, and sticking to them. But this trilogy was written mostly in binges. Breathless was written in nine days. (!!) I had several 10,000 word days on Trembling, and I finished the last 20,000 words of Tortured in two days. I like binge writing, but it requires a level of commitment and time that I don’t always have. But I do think I work the best when I’m immersed in a story, and I can really spend time only concentrating on my characters.
AMH: What about sources of inspiration? You make playlists for each chapter. Does music inspire your writing, and have you noticed any patterns in the bands or songs?
VJC: I’m inspired by things I read and watch constantly. I used to feel bad about this when I was younger, because I thought real writers were supposed to come up with inspiration from their own lives. But I’ve learned since then that most of my ideas come from watching or reading something I love and thinking, “I could do that. But if I did it, I’d do it like this.”
As for music, I certainly listen to music when I write. Sometimes I try to put together lists of songs that will fit the “mood” of the story, but sometimes I just switch on a VH-1 internet radio station and let the music be background. As for the playlists, I must admit they are an idea I stole from the Stephenie Meyer website. I even use playlist.com, like she does. I’ve noticed other YA authors doing it too, though. I’ve seen playlists in Rachel Caine books and Melissa Marr books as well.
The kind of music I pick is generally the music I listen to. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but for the past three years or so, I’ve developed an embarrassing taste for emo bands like Death Cab for Cutie and My Chemical Romance.
AMH: Speaking of your tastes, one of our readers, Najela, asks: “What is your favorite book and why? What is your least favorite book and why?”
VJC: Gosh, I don’t know if I could pick a favorite book. Let’s say my favorite of genres that I read: Fantasy–The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Science Fiction–Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Dark Fantasy-Romance–The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, YA Vampire books–The Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine, Horror–Silk, by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I should probably stop. I could go on all day. :)
My least favorite book of all time is Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Blecchh. (Although I do like some of his poetry.)
AMH: On to the format side. You’ve made the trilogy available via ebook format on a variety of websites, from Createspace, to the Kindle store, to Smashwords. Can you tell us a little about your experiences with these websites, and which you think is the best to use?
VJC: I will not be releasing anything else in print for some time. It is too expensive and time-consuming, not mention difficult to revise when you find mistakes.
I think Createpace is the best of the bunch for small time self-publishers of fiction. It allows you to set your prices low enough not to price them out of the market (if you buy the Pro Plan) and doesn’t cost a lot of money. ($40 for the Pro Plan and the price of a few proof copies.) But print p.o.d. books are going to be expensive no matter how you slice it. (And if you buy a chunk of ISBNs, like I did, it gets even pricier.)
A trade paperback costs $12.99 plus shipping to the customer. I get about $5 of that if they buy it on Createspace and $2 if they buy on Amazon.
On the other hand, I can price a book at $5 on Smashwords. The customer gets it instantly, and I keep $3.87.
Since I’ve been able to offer Smashwords versus print, my Smashwords editions have outsold my print editions. For instance, since Tortured came out, I’ve sold four copies in print, but 27 copies on Smashwords. (Oh, and maybe one Kindle book?)
The only thing that keeps me uploading to Kindle is my pride. It’s so difficult to format a book to look nice on the Kindle that I simply can’t trust the Smashwords meatgrinder to make something that actually looks nice.
AMH: Lastly, what are your future plans? I’ve heard you’re intending to release the trilogy; is this true? Do you have other projects in the works?
VJC: Well, the trilogy is about as released as it gets. I do hope to keep serializing it on a loop for a while, with the hope that will generate more sales than simply taking them down.
I plan on serializing Mischief, which is my tongue-in-cheek 1980s dark fantasy, in January, and I’m currently working on the first story that I’ve ever written specifically for the web, and not as a “book.” It’s called Poisonlands, and it’s about a group of teens trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.
Um, what makes my serial stand out from other zombie webfics? A-The zombies don’t eat flesh. B-They can’t stand sunlight. C-One of the major characters kind of started the zombie apocalypse and really doesn’t want anyone to find that out.
AMH: That’s everything from me. Anything else you’d like to say?
VJC: Thanks so much for the chance to chat with you and your blog readers! Cheers!!
Any questions of your own? Leave a comment for Valerie below!
See you next week. You’ll never guess who I’m interviewing….