Ten Quick Questions with Michael R Miller
Two books written and Michael R Miller stops by to answer the ten quick questions. With GRRM and Star Wars making an appearance it should be good!
GRM: Tell us about your book.
MRM: The Dragon’s Blade is about Darnuir, a sixty year old dragon prince who is reborn and raised by humans instead. Naturally this creates an identity clash in Darnuir when he is thrust back into a position of leadership. His struggles to reconcile both dragon and human within himself while dealing with wider relations between the races externally as a war rages against seemingly unstoppable demonic forces. It will likely help to add that dragons in this world are in human form.
The wider story of Dragon’s Blade is a sweeping epic with several POVs but the first book The Reborn King focuses largely on Darnuir’s journey. It’s really part one of a larger trilogy which couldn’t be neatly broke into stand-alone episodes but I aimed to give book one this focus before opening it up in the second.
GRM: Where did your inspiration come from?
MRM: Reincarnation isn’t startlingly original but I felt it was the right path to take for Darnuir and exploring nature vs nurture. There were two major influences on how I decided to approach the trope.
The first was the old RPG game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Kotor) in which you play as a character who has had his/her memories wiped and is essentially starting fresh. I loved that game and I think it’s easy with hindsight to see where the seed of Darnuir’s own rebirth came from.
The second was a philosophy question brought up in a basic first year module at university along the lines of ‘what would happen if you took person X and transferred their memories into person Y?’ It was a question without an answer. Something that could only be explored in fiction. And I reckoned it would be a great extra layer to Darnuir.
GRM: Why did you choose to go Self-Published?
MRM: I’ve always liked to take charge and batter on with something I’m interested in. Self-publishing appealed to me because I could move the book along at a pace I was happy with. As we know, traditional publishing generally takes a long time to break into. I was proud of my book and felt it had a strong premise I could market to readers. My goal is to work hard and try to make this first trilogy a relative success by myself and then, with more experience, knowledge and confidence, approach a larger publishing house one day with a new series.
But it certainly wasn’t an easy choice.
By going indie you are essentially giving up the idea of getting into most bookshops and will likely avoid an audiobook due to the high cost of quality production. I listen to a lot of audiobooks so that was a tough one for me. If I’m lucky I might be able to sell those rights or sell well enough to justify spending the money.
GRM: What was the hardest part about taking this route?
MRM: Getting exposure has been difficult. Reviews and generating word of mouth is still the most effective method of selling books but maybe four out of every five blogs I come across state that they do not accept self-published books. Many will have good reasons for doing so and I appreciate most simply don’t want to open the floodgates and melt their inboxes but it nevertheless makes it hard.
Being in full control, I think indie authors need to use their flexibility to their advantage. We can give as many books away for free reviews as we want, we can experiment with prices to our hearts content, we can nimbly set up a Goodreads giveaway within minutes notice of some cool piece of news or achievement. For example, when I found out my book won the cover contest of this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off I was able to set up a giveaway within the hour.
GRM: Morning, afternoon or evening writer?
MRM: I’m most efficient when I write in the mornings, take the afternoon off to do other bits and bobs and then return to writing after dinner. Often I will work up to midnight. If I get the chance to spend the afternoon writing as well I will but it’s rare I get all that time.
GRM: Architect or Gardener? Planner or Pantser?
MRM: I’m a hybrid. The term I like is ‘Points on the Map’ writer. I have my major plot/character moments in mind and then discovery write my way towards each on. I first heard it described by George R.R. Martin in an interview as taking a long car journey. For instance I know I am beginning in Glasgow and driving to London (i.e. my beginning and my end) but I don’t know where I’ll stop for lunch or coffee breaks, the interesting people I will bump into along the way or the traffic jam that holds me up for two hours.
Recently I’ve gotten into a system of bullet pointing plot points for a chapter on my whiteboard to give myself a guide at a chapter level. Often I get better ideas as I write and deviate from it but I will always update the rough plan as I go.
GRM: Silence, music or what when writing?
MRM: I need a bit of background buzz be it music or the hum of a coffee shop. If it’s music I will generally listen to movie or game soundtracks. Lord of the Rings and World of Warcraft are frequently played.
GRM: What’s the weirdest fact or piece of information you had to research in order to write the book?
MRM: I tried to work out how strong I could make the dragons based on realistic increases to their muscle density and so forth but it all proved too much and I decided just to carry on and ensure I didn’t have them doing anything too unbelievable. I figured Captain America’s strength and stamina isn’t quantifiable and works just fine so I took him as a rough guide for the dragons in my world.
GRM: To steal (paraphrase) from Rod Stewart, what do you wish that you know now, you knew when you started the journey to a finished and published book?
MRM: Following on from above, I wish I’d have realised a year ago just how hard and time consuming the marketing and promotion would be. It will get easier as I build my lists and contacts but all of that could have been done well in advance and given me an even more solid launch. I’ve managed to ‘earn out’ which is great but it could have been smoother.
I’d urge any other author thinking of self-publishing not to underestimate this part.
On a lighter note, I do wish I’d known how enjoyable making the covers would be. I’ve loved working on those.
GRM: You’re on a deserted island with enough food and water to survive. There are no building materials around so you must wait for rescue. What three books would you have with you, to help you pass the time?
MRM: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was wonderful and long, so that would pass a fair bit of time. Bernard Cornwell’s The Winter King really blew me away when I read it last year and it’s one I need to reread one day. If it exists I’ll also take an omnibus version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. If you’re stranded on a deserted island and in need of help I think the best piece of advice is ‘don’t panic!’
Find out more:
Website/blog – www.thedragonsblade.com
Twitter - @MMDragons_Blade
I hope that some of you have picked up books by the authors who have given up their time to answer these questions. There is a lot of good Indie books out there and with the Amazon Look Inside feature you can easily figure out which ones are good for you. I think it is also the case that a lot of Indie authors are trying things that are different from Traditionally published books. They are experimenting and writing interesting, exciting novels.