I'm delighted to introduce you folks to another indie writer today. While I was reading my last Story Bundle (if you haven't discovered them and you like indie authors, go check them out!), I came across Dire Means by Geoffrey Neal. I left a review on Goodreads and he responded with amazing graciousness. He then agreed to let me interview him for this blog. Enjoy the interview. Then go read Dire Means. I look forward to the discussions it provokes!
Deleyna: What made you decide to go indie?
Geoffrey: I weighed the Indie option against following the traditional "struggling artist's" path of knocking on doors and begging for a publisher while anticipating having to weather countless rejections. I preferred not to put my family or myself through that. After having watched the changes in the publishing industry, I thought it would be a good time to give self-publishing a shot. I'm glad I did.
Deleyna: Were there some hurdles that you struggled with?
Geoffrey: Two things challenged me most. The first was my rather demanding and necessary day-job in computer support. My income and my clients' businesses stop without the technology support I provide, so work circumstances often encroached on time I would have rather spent writing. That doesn't make me special—I know many writers have to juggle a day job and writing time.
The second challenge was somewhat personal, but I believe it affects many Indie authors. I found that telling friends and family I was writing a book brought me loads of praise and excitement. The euphoria you get from these accolades is intoxicating and gave me a nice buzz without having written a word. In fact, if you bask in and reminisce about the praise enough, it can become a surrogate to actually completing a book. I've learned to hold my cards close to the chest when it comes to announcing new work. I don't want to feel rewarded for something I haven't achieved yet. Premature praise relaxes me and short-circuits my drive to finish.
Deleyna: That's a valuable point I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. I have to admit having fallen into that trap myself.
I read your epub in the Storybundle. Have you also published paper books or just electronic?
Geoffrey: Yes, I have print versions of my books, too. They are printed by Lightning Source. I chose LSI because it is owned by Ingram and that allowed me to take advantage of broad distribution to most major retailers. I also had the tech experience to create the book block and covers for my books in the form LSI could use, so I decided to give them a shot and have been happy with their service.
Deleyna: My book, Sisterhood, was also published through LSI and I concur. Maybe it's a techie thing. (grin)
Tell us a little about Priorities Intact Publishing.
Geoffrey: I'm fascinated by social issues and enjoy seeing them illustrated through fiction. For me, writing a story has been an effective and poignant way to make a strong social point. The term Priorities Intact fit my vision of an Indie author whose books are intended to be entertaining, while underpinned with a deeper meaning. In terms of the logistics of creating it, Priorities Intact Publishing is a subsidiary DBA under my technology company, Mollifers, Inc.
Deleyna: How long were you working on Dire Means before you published it? (And when is Human Resources coming out??? Your tease at the end of Dire Means was...mean!)
Geoffrey: I began Dire Means near Christmas of 2006 and it was published October of 2009, so just under three years. Human Resources is out on Kindle and paperback as of November 1, 2012. I'm glad you appreciated the sample at the end of Dire Means. It sounds like it piqued your curiosity! Thank you for the compliment. I hope the rest of Human Resources lives up to the teaser.
Deleyna: I'm sure it WILL. You've made this Nook girl sad, you realize that. I may have to...gasp...order a book in paper. If I remember how to turn the pages...
How long did it take before you felt like you'd "made it" as a "real" author?
Geoffrey: My first goal was to write a book. I fantasized about slapping it onto the kitchen table, pointing at it and saying, "I wrote that." In 2009 that happened, but I still didn't feel like a full-fledged writer. My next fantasy was to have someone tell me they liked my book and then needing to ask, "Which one?" Now that I've published Human Resources, although I still don't feel like I've made it, I do feel like I can safely call myself a novelist now. My next fantasy is to become prolific with quality work. I'm not sure how many books that will take. I can imagine feeling like I've made it as a writer the day I can comfortably quit my day job.
Deleyna: Your editing is very good. What is your process?
Geoffrey: Thank you. I keep my entire first draft manuscript to myself until finished. For Dire Means I hired a professional editor through Book Editing Associates (selected Lorna Lynch). My wife also happens to be extraordinary at editing (a super achieving Berkeley grad majoring in rhetoric and having watched enough crime TV to begin halfway through any show and understand what's already happened and how it will end). Between the two of them, they cut the fat, slicing the original Dire Means manuscript from 154,000 to 128,000 words while losing none of my meaning. For Human Resources, I added a small set of six pre-readers who did a great job of not only making logic suggestions and filling holes, but flushed out a good number of typos—the bane of Indie authors everywhere.
Deleyna: I didn't find many typos (if any) in your book, and I find them in traditionally published material all the time. I'm making a note of your editor! It was amazing.
What words of advice do you have to encourage my readers?
Geoffrey: Everybody and their sister-in-law's nephew claims to be a writer. Some people say; others do. If you "do" or have done, then you are way ahead of the game even if you haven't done much. If you are working on your first book, get the entire story out of your head even if it's rough and then work it until it is how you imagined it—or better. Don't publish it without professional editing. Don't celebrate in advance. Be persistent and patient. You'll be surprised how persistent effort and not giving up can pay off when you see your finished book—a book people you don't know might want to read! They might even give you money for it. And then you'll want to write another.
Deleyna: If you could go back in time to the moment you first thought of self-publishing, and offer a word of advice to yourself (and others like you) what would it be?
Geoffrey: "Yes, Geoff, do it that way. Go with the self-pub." Kodak thought film was forever. Music producers thought records stores were forever. Traditional publishing thought their gatekeeping-gates would never be crashed and that they'd always decide which authors "made it".
Deleyna: Anything else you'd like to say?
Geoffrey: Yes, thank you for the opportunity to talk to fans of your blog. Connecting via Good Reads was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. I intend to share any knowledge I gain with others who are trying to get started in this still-tough business. Other authors have helped me tremendously and I intend to pay it forward. I love interacting with readers and other writers and I'm easy to reach. My web site is geoffreyeil.com and Facebook page is facebook.com/author.geoffreyneil.
Deleyna: If you'd like to take a moment to discuss the theme of your book -- homelessness -- that would be great. I like to delve into the passions that fuel our writing.
Geoffrey: I do have great sympathy for homeless people. I'm amazed by society's indifference to them. Ignoring so many physically or mentally ill human beings passed out in gutters amidst crowds of smart, resourceful, relatively-wealthy people, is impossible for me to reconcile. I began to write Dire Means from this emotional perspective, but wanted a story that didn't preach or otherwise alienate people who don't share my sympathy for the homeless.
Altruistic efforts typically center on encouraging kindness and "doing the right thing" and brotherly love. Helping the poor is a sermon topic preached from pulpits nationwide every week, yet countless non-profit organizations have failed to solve the homeless problem. I wondered what it would look like if someone flipped the traditional approach of "encouraging" help for the homeless by demanding it—making it necessary for survival. What if someone used brute force to terrify the public into reckless acts of kindness? I got out my keyboard and began drafting my best dramatization of this. I ended up with Dire Means.
Deleyna: Thank you for sharing with my readers, and thank you for the work involved in writing your book. It was a delight to read because it kept me guessing where it would go from moment to moment. You treat readers like intelligent individuals and then present a challenge. I look forward to seeing what your work accomplishes not just at the level of success, but also in the opportunities you are taking to address thought patterns and choices that we make on a day-to-day basis. Definitely not preaching or preachy, but your work makes the reader think on many levels, and keep thinking. Well done.