Well this is exciting and unexpected. I received an email the other day from a literary agent congratulating me for making the “list”. The list? The list turned out to be Amazon’s top-selling independent authors in the UK. These are all of the people like myself who publish outside of traditional publishing houses. I was the #5 bestselling independent author in the UK thanks to Angel Killer (I’m sixth down on the list because the greedy Nick Spalding decided to have two top selling books).
What did it take to get the #6 slot? Over 100,000 copies sold. Right now Angel Killer sits next to a little title you may have heard of about a girl with a tattoo of a mythical creature.
I’ve been at this writing thing for a year and a half now. After Public Enemy Zero blew up in 2011, I only hoped to come close to that kind of success. To watch another book shoot way past that a year later has me beside myself.
What do I have planned for 2013?
I just want to keep writing and to keep enjoying the process. I didn’t have any expectations for Angel Killer or Public Enemy Zero. I have a lot of new stories I want to share with you, and further adventures for characters you may already know. Beyond that, I have no expectations.
Selling a ton of copies and making a list like that is an awesome feeling, but I’m not about to start judging my success by how many copies I sell. There are a lot of fantastic authors who never got the lucky breaks I did. Somewhere in the long list of independent titles there’s bound to be another Harry Potter or Game of Thrones (and sadly, thousands of knock offs). My measure of success is simple:
1. Did I enjoy writing the book?
2. Am I happy with how it turned out?
That’s it. There is no step 3. If the book is well-received: Awesome. If the book sells really well: More Awesome. If neither of those things happen, the book is still a success to me if I met my two goals.
I wanted to be Iron Man so bad when I was a kid, my hair smelled like Folger’s Crystals from wearing a coffee can on my head.
Not a joke.
I cut off the end of a tennis ball can, put a dish glove on it and made my own slapdash armor. You have to understand, this wasn’t a costume, in my demented little mind, I WAS MAKING MY OWN ARMOR.
I was obsessed with robots. I’d build little walking things from broken toys and Tupperware containers. When I saw my first Iron Man comic, my head exploded. Dude, you could BE A ROBOT.
In the above photo, my brother and I are dressed up as hybrid Iron Man/C3PO/R2-D2 characters. My dad made the costumes from popcorn tins, life vests, Legos and plenty of silver tape. If you wonder where my creativity comes from; look no further than my dad. He’s always been that awesome.
Before I decided to become a magician, back then I was a little inventor. My goal in life was to go to MIT. Why? Because that’s where Tony Stark went to school.
Life turned out differently. I got into magic, discovered other science heroes like Doctor Who, but I’d be lying if I don’t get a little nostalgic every time I see a coffee can and wonder what could have been…
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest on the edge of a forest. After school meant going home, climbing the fence and trekking through pine trees to battle Stormtroopers, hunt yetis and looking for our own version of Blackbeard’s treasure; a legendary mother-load of Playboy magazines hidden away by some high school kids in a buried foot locker.
One day after defeating the Empire and avoiding being narrowly killed by an AT-AT walker that some would swear looked like an oak tree, I sat down in front of our small kitchen television and turned the dial accidentally to channel 2 instead of 3 (the channel for our cable box). The dreaded channel 2! Oh, no! Public television!
Afraid that I might be forced to learn something against my will, I ran across the linoleum to turn the TV dial. As I gripped the chrome plastic knob, a strange sound filled the air and I froze. It was an otherworldly noise. Machine-like, but not like any machine I’d ever heard. It had purpose like a siren. It told you something important was about to happen. And it did.
Still holding the knob, I watched a blue box materialize and a man with curly hair and a scarf emerge. Well that was curious… Some minutes later when I watched him step back into the box and found out IT’S BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!!!, my life was changed forever.
Sonic screwdrivers, electronic pets, non-threatening female companions and most of all, the idea to go ANYWHERE and to ANY TIME became my obsession. I turned robot kits into my own version of K-9. I stuck flashlights to socket wrenches and tried to make my own Time Lord tools. I also developed an interest in physics and devoured everything my school library had on relativity and black holes.
For Halloween I’d borrow my dad’s old camel hair coat, wrap a scarf around my neck and go door to door as a homeless person (their interpretation, not mine) in search of Jelly Babies (as elusive as the Playboy-filled foot locker). My parents thought it was a phase. My brother thought I wasn’t getting enough oxygen at night because I had the habit of sleeping under my covers. Which I did. Because I was a perpetually scared child.
I was afraid of the world (well, just the people) and preferred to spend my time in my own thoughts either out in the woods or immersed in some fantasy. A nervous tic that made my chin quiver, triggered by cold air, caffeine or the female of the species, didn’t help either.
Doctor Who was the ultimate escapist dream for a kid who constantly wanted to be somewhere else. My interest in science and physics was because I wanted to figure out how to build my own TARDIS. A task I spent several years dedicated to and ultimately only produced a sad 1/3 scale model made out of cardboard for a book report.
But the dream didn’t stop. What I learned about science and the paradoxes of time travel and energy requirements to teleport matter gave me a good idea of what was and wasn’t possible. Not wanting to take ‘no’ for an answer, this lead to my interest in how I could at least fake it.
Where some people turn to mind altering drugs to alter reality, I picked up magic books. A few short years after watching the Doctor appear out of thin air, I was doing that on my school stage through magic illusions of my own design. A year later the scared kid who risked brain damage to hide from the world, was performing a full-scale magic show in the middle of a circus ring, causing non-threatening female companions (I called them ‘assistants’ by then) to vanish and reappear, defy gravity and break those laws of physics that had tried to hold me back.
The public shyness retreated and my magic tricks lead to a career performing in resorts, showrooms and cruise ships around the world. Most of all, it let me share my imagination with a theatre full of people. I wasn’t the solitary kid anymore walking down the street defeating an army of Daleks that mysteriously always materialized on garbage day. I had a room full of companions to take with me.
One thing lead to another and I found myself looking for other ways to share the world inside my head. It’s been said in magic that the real illusion takes place in people’s minds. A trick is just a series of inferences that the spectator pieces together to create the deception. Girl steps into cabinet + Swords goes through cabinet = magic (or homicide). This idea that I didn’t need any props or even a stage to create magic stayed with me for quite some time until one day waiting in an airport, I found myself trying to create this kind of illusion in a word processor. And that’s how I became a writer.
If you read my stories, particularly my Chronological Man adventures, it’ll be obvious to you now how the boy who turned to the wrong channel has been influenced by Doctor Who, science, magic tricks and the fun of being able pull your friends along on amazing adventures.
Smith, the protagonist of my Chronological Man stories is my mash-up of everything I loved about Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Tony Stark, plus the idea of how to tell a time traveller story while following the strict rules of physics. They’re not for everyone. But there’s a simple test…
If I ask you step inside my cardboard TARDIS and the answer is ‘yes’, I’m pretty sure you and I are going to have a lot of fun on our adventures…
I now have an (infrequent) mailing list for those folks who want to step inside and follow what I’m up to with my books and don’t need an explanation about AT-AT’s that look like oak trees or why it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a wool scarf in 90º weather:
The Chronological Man Adventures are available as ebooks for just 99¢ on Amazon and the Nook (iBooks coming soon.)
The first book is going to be a free podcast in a couple weeks. You can sign up for my mailing list for details on when it’s available. Sign up here
My website is here: http://andrewmayne.com/books/
I’ll be in TN and AL this week bringing my magic lecture to local magic clubs. Here’s the details if you’re in town:
September 8th, 6 PM
North Shelby Public Library
5521 Cahaba Valley Rd., Birmingham, AL 35242
Judge Arnold Drennen Ring 35 of the IBM also known as the Magic City Magic Club
$20 for members, $25 for non-members, under 18 is $10, spouses are free.
September 9th, 7 PM
Coletta’s Italian Restaurant
2850 Appling Rd.
Memphis, TN 38133
$20 for IBM Ring 16 Members, $35 (for Non-Members,with $15.00 of this going to your Ring 16 dues)
September 10th, 7 PM
North Boulevard Church of Christ, 1112 N. Rutherford Blvd.
IBM Ring 252 Middle TN Magic Club (The Sam Walkoff Ring)
IBM Members is $5, Non IBM Members is $10
Simone Allyne sent me some questions about Grendel’s Shadow. I thought I’d share my answers here.
How did you come up with the story idea?
When I was a little boy my brother and I would go camping with my dad he’d tell us stories about a tiger hunter in India named, Jim Corbett. He worked for the British Indian Army and would hunt down tigers that had started killing people (one ate over 400 people!).
The stories were riveting and Corbett was a fascinating character. He was very sympathetic to the plight of the animals. He only hunted them when they started killing people.
He wrote a great book about his experiences called the Man-Eaters of Kumaon.
Were the characters based on anyone in particular?
Westwood was based in part on Corbett (who was also a naturalist) and a paleontologist friend of mine Jack Horner. Allan isn’t really based upon anybody. Maybe he’s got a bit of Justin Young in him. But don’t tell Justin that.
Why didn’t you pursue the relationship between Westwood and Carpenter?
I wrote Carpenter in as a third person who could help them get things done. She could have been a man or a woman. The chemistry was there because Westwood is an interesting person, but that’s all there really was. Besides that, Westwood is a very damaged man.
Will there be more stories featuring Westwood?
Yes. Several I hope.
Where did you come up with the idea for The Covenant?
Whenever you create a futuristic universe and try to make it believable, you have to take into consideration things that you think are likely to be true and not just things you want to be true. I think artificial intelligence is going to play a very big role in the future of human civilization. But I don’t think everybody is going to be happy co-existing with being vastly intellectually and morally superior to us.
For this universe I imagine there being compromises. The AI let people build colonies on certain worlds as long as they agree to not get too developed. Worlds like the ones Westwood visits are also a kind of backup plan. If there’s some galaxy-wide blackout that effects advanced AI, more primitive worlds would be able to survive.
How did you create the creatures?
I first imagine what the planet is going to be like and then what kind of animals might inhabit there. For the main creature, the thick trunk vines suggested something that behaved like a jungle cat but had some avian-like ancestry.
Where did you get the ideas for them from?
I love zoology and paleontology. In this book I wanted to explore the concept of evolutionary analogues – creatures that look similar but are unrelated. I think on earth-like planets we’d find a lot of things that looked similar, just like how Australian marsupials have analogues to other animals.
I was fascinated by the fact that to the untrained eye, a Tasmanian wolf (a thylacine) skeleton and a timber wolf look almost exactly the same, yet they’re separated by over 100 million years of evolution. We’re more closely related to a wolf than the thylacine.
Grendel’s Shadow and my other books are my way of playing with and sharing these things that fascinate me.
Do you have any concept art of the creatures?
No. Just some really bad sketches and the shadow on the cover.
When I was a kid I used to love watching the Ray Bradbury on television. I was always a fan of his books and the TV show was a neat extension of his world. But the thing I think I liked most about it was the opening where they’d show his office filled with all kinds of toys from dinosaurs to rocket ships – he was still a big kid that liked to play in his imagination.
Before Disney built Disneyland, he had a barn on his property where he played with trains and built models for ideas that would eventually become the basis for the park. You can visit that barn at its new location in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It’s well worth it.
While not as impressive as Disneyland, Walt’s Barn or Mr. Bradbury’s, my office is filled with toys and other things that get the imagination going. But one of my favorite things to do every now and then, is visit Disneyland or pull out a Bradbury book and take a trip into one of the biggest imaginations that ever existed.
On behalf of Justin and myself I’d like to say thank you to everyone who subscribed to the podcast pushing Grendel’s Shadow to #2 on iTunes literature podcasts and #7 for all of the Arts audio podcasts.
The iTunes link for the Grendel’s Shadow is here.
I’m trying an insane proof-reading experiment with Public Enemy Zero. I’ve got over 20 people looking for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes in the draft copy on Google Docs. We’ll see how the system works.
I’ve sent out invites to the document to those that offered. When they open it this is the message they see:
Thanks for offering to help out. All you need to do is look at 3 chapters. I’ve got 20 other people helping so it should be an interesting experiment.
When you open up the doc you’ll see a list of chapters 1-59 (below). Pick three at random and then have a look at them. Put your name next to the chapter in the list at the top of the document when you’re done checking.
Make your corrections directly on this document.
Feel free to read the whole book if you like and check other people’s work. Add your name to that chapter if you’ve looked it over too.
When you’re done, add your Twitter handle under the list of chapters and I’ll include it in the finished version.
The idea is to make it easy for people to digest it in small chunks and to look over other people’s work. A proper editing by a proofreader with several passes would take about a week. I want to see if we can get that down to a few hours.
I’ve got JrY’s notes back on the next book. While waiting for those I wrote a fun little novella that introduces a character I’ve been thinking about for a while. He’s a time traveler of sorts – but in a hard science fiction way. He’s going to pop up in a lot of places and have some interesting adventures.
I’m working on the release of a new magic effect this week as well as getting the Grendel’s Shadow audiobook and podcast ready to launch. We should announce that here and everywhere else soon.