Why? Beats me?
Anthony Ryan is the author of the self published hit 'Blood Song' which may or may not be the next big thing when repackaged next year by AceRoc.
From his blog:
Hi, I’m Anthony Ryan, writer of fantasy, science fiction and non-fiction. I work full time as a researcher, have a degree in history, and live in London.
Only thing wrong with that is that Anthony Ryan is a pseudonym. Apparently he can't use his real name due to his job. So either researcher is code for "High School teacher who doesn't want to let his boss know how bad his grammar and creative writing is" or he's a a research Ninja for MI6.
Enough prattle from me, on to the Interview. If you make it to the end you might get a free copy!
1. You say that you sent off copies of 'Blood Song' to every agent in the UK and they all rejected it or in other words thought it was crap, yet you went ahead and used the Vanity Press that is Amazon Publishing to release it. How big is your ego??
MI6 Ninja: Like most writers my ego fluctuates pretty wildly. I remember it being fairly small when I first published the book. These days I veer between insufferable smugness and abject fear that I'll be found out and it'll all end tomorrow.
As far as all the rejection goes, it's a writer's lot to be rejected and the overnight success stories you hear about are extremely rare. To be honest, a couple of the rejection letters I received were pretty complimentary about the book, along the lines of 'we think this is good but we've got all the authors we need right now.' Most were just the standard 'thanks but no thanks' though. Before publishing Blood-Song I put up a couple of short stories on Smashwords for free which generated enough positive feedback to give me the confidence to go down this route.
2. Your charging us $2.99 to stroke your ego???
MI6 Ninja: The book was $0.99 for the first couple of months and I wasn't at all sure about raising it to $2.99, glad I did though. From the research I'd done $2.99 seemed to be the sweet-spot for a self-published book, especially by an author no-one's ever heard of. The price will definitely rise when the Ace / Roc version comes out so if you want a bargain, grab it now.
3. 266 Amazon reviews, 244 are 5 stars. C'mon, you really expect any right thinking person to believe those stats? Confession time. How many are those were written by you, your family or friends? I'll get you started......Forgive me readers for I have sinned.....
MI6 Ninja: Thanks to the bad behaviour of a minority, self-published authors with a high feedback rating inevitably face accusations of inflating their reviews. All I can do is state for the record that I've never reviewed my own books and specifically asked my friends and family not to either. I'd ask anyone who's skeptical about the rating to look at a cross section of the reviews, take note of the fact that their mostly verified purchases by people from all over the world and ask if it's really credible for me to have written them.
I don't make any great literary claims for the book, it's very much of its genre and doesn't really break any boundaries. But I do think it's a good story well told with strong characters and a satisfying conclusion, and the feedback indicates most of the positive reaction to it stems from a combination of those elements. I have detected a certain sense of relief in some of the reviews at not having wasted their money though.
4. One of your more critical Amazon reviews reckons the book needs a good edit.
"There are problems with punctuation (its/it's, your/you're, nostrils/nostril's--and also with commas or lack thereof). Also major problems with homonyms and spelling (fairing/faring, dumfounded/dumbfounded, seperately/separately, there/their, viscous/vicious, layed/laid, peel/peal, whither/wither, discrete/discreet, yolk/yoke)."
Wow, were you home schooled or what?
MI6 Ninja: It's a big old mea maxima culpa for the less than great proof-reading of the book when it was first published and I'm hugely grateful to my readers for their tolerance. However, thanks to the magic of digital publishing mistakes can be easily corrected and the current edition was extensively proof-read by a keen-eyed friend of mine who loves nothing more than pointing out my mistakes, but I daresay there's a still a few typos lurking in there somewhere.
In terms of the plot there isn't a great deal I'd change, though if I wrote it now it would inevitably be different because I'm different, and there'd be a few less adjectives.
5. Man did you totally rip off 'The Name of the Wind' or what? Also what's with dropping in one of Terry Goodkind's Confessor's in there?
MI6 Ninja: I haven't read The Name of the Wind, though I intend to when I'm finished with Raven's Shadow, and the last Terry Goodkind book I read was in 1986 (yes, I'm that old). I'm aware from the reviews that there's a similarity in structure to The Name of the Wind, but you can also say the same thing about David Gemmell's Morningstar - which I have read and was a definite influence, along with all of his work.
6. If Vaelin is telling the story of his life, why the heck is it written in the third person? First person to hard for ya?
MI6 Ninja: There are two reasons why the book isn't in first person. Although Vaelin is telling the story of his life to Verniers, it gradually becomes apparent that, for reasons of his own, he isn't telling all of it, only we the reader get the whole story. It was a kind've commentary on the unreliability of history and the excessive value we place on eye witness testimony. Also the use of framing chapters as told by Verniers provided a useful means of structuring the book so there wasn't a five year gap between the last two chapters. The second reason is that I always intended to open out the narrative to include other points of view in the next two books and it would have been pretty jarring for the reader to suddenly switch to third person.
Planning for the first book consisted of a one page synopsis which I remember saving and closing, then not looking at for the succeeding six and a half years it took to write the book. When I did look at it again, a lot had changed but the basic through line of the plot was the same. The actual writing was done in piecemeal bursts between work and completing my history degree, hence the six and a half years.
7. What's with all of Vaelin's Brothers being sissy boys about killing people? Don't ya know killing is easy?
MI6 Ninja: Killing people is an unnatural act. Human beings (those not suffering from a violent personality disorder that is) have no instinctive need or desire to kill each other, a pretty useful evolutionary trait for apes who live in cooperative social groups. There was a study conducted after World War II by the US Army that revealed only 10% of soldiers had actively shot to kill during combat, the other 90% were deliberately firing wide, pretending their rifle had jammed or finding something else to do at that particular moment. This led to a revision of US Army training where, instead of being taught marksmanship, soldiers were taught to kill, the phrase 'kill the enemy' was repeatedly drilled into new recruits and targets on firing ranges where modified to resemble a human outline. So when Vietnam came along US soldiers did what they had been trained to do, however the psychological effects were still severe and the high kill ratio has been cited as one of the reasons why rates of post-traumatic stress and suicide were so much higher among Vietnam veterans than those who fought in Korea or WWII.
For the book I wanted the act of killing to have an impact on the characters, it was a way of making them credible as people as well as revealing more about how they reacted to life in the Order. Caenis barely seems to register any effect at all, Barkus and Dentos are shocked and troubled but grow accustomed to it whilst Nortah, seemingly the least sensitive soul among them, is eventually ground down to the point he just can't do it anymore.
8. What were you thinking agreeing to do an interview with that twat ChrisW?
MI6 Ninja: I'm starting to wonder.
The best publicity any book can have is to be published on Amazon, and the other e-book retailers out there. Just making it available is a big deal. Other than that I have my blog and the occasional interview like this, but any success I've enjoyed is a result of the reviews and word of mouth, or word of forum. Although I have had some welcome support from Michael J Sullivan, author of the Riyria Revelations, who was kind enough to tweet about the book and provide a blurb.
Thank you Mr Ryan aka MI6 Ninja for taking the time to answer my slightly rudely phrased questions.
Mr Ryan has also done interviews with Fantasy Book Critic and The Object blog. If you want to know what I thought of 'Blood Song', you can read my review. For a more literate review check out Fantasy Book Critic's.
Seems I'm such a nice guy, I'm giving away 5 copies of the 'Blood Song' eBook either from Amazon if you have a Kindle/Kindle App or Smashwords if you don't. All you need to do is leave a comment giving me your best promise to review it here, on Amazon, your blog or Goodreads etc.