I love to interview authors for this blog. Today I'm joined by EPIC award winning author, Daniel Ottalini. I had the pleasure of being seated next to Daniel when he won the award. With the release of his latest novella, The Last Gladiator, I'm excited to share his insights with my readers.
D: Do you think that the award you won has helped your success?
DO: Hi Deleyna, and thanks for having me on the blog. Winning an award was great, especially at the beginning of my writing career. I think it definitely helped sell my first book. Personally, I know that my first book is the least polished of my writing, but it has sold the most out of all my novels. I definitely credit the award with helping me for at least part of that success!
D: It is amazing what we learn from that first book. This is a question that I love to ask authors: What does success look like for an indie author?
DO: My fiance and I disagree on this all the time. In my opinion, an indie author has to make some money in order to be successful. That’s important because, while lots of people like to write, it costs money to produce quality writing - editors and cover art, formatting, advertising, blog / website hosting services - all those require money. She always points out that just getting people to read your book is a success. So in the end, it’s all about perspective - You want people to read what you write, and you want to make money, and you want to create something that you can say is yours. Success is different depending on the person.
D: The path to success is not always a straight line. How is this going for you?
DO: Right now, I’m gradually expanding the world of the Steam Empire Chronicles. I finished the main series story arc with Laurel Emperor, book five in the series. I’m about to release The Last Gladiator, which is a prequel novella set in the same world. The Last Gladiator will make eight books - five novels, and three novellas. My personal goal is to have ten books about the world created - five books, and five novellas.
Do I feel successful as an author? I’d say yes, at a minor level. I’ve written something, something that is unique to me, and that wasn’t just a single book. I have a series I’m proud of, and I was excited this year because I was attending my first major conventions. Obviously, that’s all up in the air now with COVID, and at least one of the events has already canceled, but I’m still here, pushing away. At one point, I read somewhere that you need ten books to become successful as an indie author. Not sure if that still remains true, but when I get there, I’ll let you know.
D: I think you'll get there before I do, so definitely let me know!
I see you experimenting a lot with your blog and your newsletter. You've got those monetized and you are sharing bits from your D&D campaigns. RPG gaming is a big industry right now. I'm fascinated with trans-media and the opportunities it has for authors these days. How are these experiments helping you with your career? What is your favorite part?
DO: For me, it is all about the improvisation and character voice. As an author, it can be tricky to get into the head of your characters, especially when they don’t look, act, or have a similar background as you. One thing I think being a DM / Dungeon Master and running an RPG helps you excel at is creating characters on the fly, and having to give them personalities. Being able to build a ‘soul’ for lack of a better word on the fly, makes you a better writer as you can apply those lessons to your stories.
Posting other things is also a good exercise for me as a writer, as it makes me practice and keeps my brain fresh. I also think it brings in new people to the blog, some of whom stay around and explore my other content. It’s a fine line between ‘do too many things’ and ‘do a few things well’.
D: I hear you on that one. I'm doing too many, that's for sure.
Let's talk about this next novella.
DO: The Last Gladiator is a prequel, but you don’t have to have read the main series to enjoy this novella. Gladiators versus their mechanical replacements, with a heaping dose of conflict between tradition and industry, love and duty. Following the story of one of Rome’s last gladiators, Lucia Rhodanus Fortem, the reader follows her from trainee to the top of her profession at a time when the profession itself is dying. Fans of the main series will enjoy new revelations, and those new to the series will get a great preview of the alternate history - steampunk (Romanpunk!) world of the Steam Empire Chronicles.
D: I love your Romanpunk.
Where do you see your career going next? You have a wonderful alternative history that you have set up. Can we expect more in this line from you?
DO: The next novella, with the working title of “A Brief History of New Caesaria” is an ‘alternate textbook’ history of Roman exploration and colonization of the ‘new world’, but with a focus on the interaction with the native Caesareans, and how the groups interact. After that, I’ll probably put all the novellas together into an anthology. That is my shorter term goal! At the rate I’m going, I hope to be done with ten novels and novellas by 2021.
Long term, I have plans for a trilogy in the same part of the world, focusing on my anti-hero Corbus, but I’ll have to look and see how the rest of the books are doing. I’d definitely enjoy writing the series from one main perspective, rather than a variety of POV as used in the Steam Empire Chronicles.
Thanks so much again for having me here! The Last Gladiator comes out on May 2nd, 2020!
D: Thanks for sharing, Daniel.