Book Country member Charles Dyer is an incredibly prolific and varied writer—he has published 12 books with Book Country, in Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, and Science Fiction. Hailing from South Africa, Charles has many interests and hobbies, including archery, gardening, computer programming and gaming, and visual art. We caught up with him to find out more about his creative process, as well as to hear his perspective on self-publishing and its challenges.
LS: What led you to join Book Country? Has it helped you?
CD: I can’t remember the details but I saw the site on the Web and it had more appeal than many others. Especially as I considered the possibility that it might expose my work to the editors at Penguin. My ultimate goal is to have best-selling paperback books out there in preference to eBooks. Book Country has helped insofar as exposure goes. My work is now distributed to a wider range of retailers than before.
LS: 12 is a lot of books! You must have some kind of brilliant time-management technique! Share with us how you are able to accomplish so much writing.
CD: Ha, ha, I wish that I did have some brilliant technique. Some of these books were written in the last century, starting in 1996. All of them have been polished several times.
I use spreadsheets to ensure that I don’t inadvertently change hair or eye color halfway through the story or any other little detail. Typically, a spreadsheet will have plot, synopsis, timeline, character details, world details, chapter details, etc. As I write, I update the spreadsheet and cross-reference it to ensure consistency.
One might say that it pays to be a methodical plodder– a plodder is a person who dogmatically knuckles down and works at whatever they are doing until it’s done.
LS: With each book, at what point did you know you were ready to publish?
CD: When I was satisfied that it was finished. That point being decided by doing a spelling and grammar check and reading it again to check story flow, credibility, continuity, etc.
LS: After you decide you are ready to go ahead with publishing your book, there’s still work to be done: formatting, last-minute edits, proof-reading, and, of course, choosing a cover. Tell us about that process for you.
CD: Every publisher and agent has their own unique set of rules for formatting. That is frustrating for authors because some formatting can take a long time to implement. Generally, it’s not advisable to rely entirely on the MS Word ‘Replace’ function alone. I always re-read a manuscript after re-formatting just to be sure that everything is perfect.
I’ve seen unsatisfactory covers for which authors have paid hundreds of dollars to so-called professionals. I do my own and try to ensure that the title and my name stand out in thumbnail size. The important thing about covers is that they appeal to the target readers and that is really difficult. Obviously, a cover should reflect at least some elements of the story and genre. The old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t work because buyers are strongly influenced by covers. A cover needs to stand out in a crowd of thousands of similar ones to attract interest. The second most important thing is the blurb, which can make or break sales. I’m still learning how to write a good one.
LS: Can you tell us about the things you do to promote your books and help them to find an audience?
CD: That is my downfall; I’m no salesman. I’m no good at blogging or social networking. Facebook, GooglePlus and Twitter simply do not work for me. I cannot seem to muster a following at all. None of the people I know even read eBooks. That makes it very hard for me to get any feedback on my work. I love writing but I detest the insincerity of spamming, bootlicking and salesmanship in general. I guess we tend to dislike what we can’t do. Many years ago, I was assured by an editor at Macmillan that my writing was good but his office was not publishing fantasy.
LS: You create 3D models, as you say in your bio, “to help with visualization and realism” in your writing. Tell us about that process and how it contributes to your writing process.
CD: I’m fortunate enough to have a vivid imagination but a daydream or a vision can often be fleeting. A 3D model can be seen from different angles and used to interact with other models to provide realistic perspectives that might otherwise elude me. Perhaps it is not an ideal solution but the time spent making the models gives me thinking time to develop scenes, items, characters and plot. It is useful in highlighting details that add colour and reality to the story.
For some books, I only use the models for cover art or not at all. In others, the models help me to live the part of my characters. Above all, I enjoy making the models and the fact that they serve a dual purpose is an added bonus.
LS: Many people are afraid to genre-jump as you do. What advice can you give about taking the plunge into a new genre?
CD: Writing fiction is all the same to me regardless of the genre. My approach to each is exactly the same and in fact not much different from non-fiction. I research whatever I write. The only difference with fiction is that I can bend the rules and be more creative than is possible with non-fiction.
As a member of the Book Country community, you can read & review ACCIDENT (a Paranormal Romance) and give Charles feedback. Connect with him on Book Country and check out his books in the Book Country Bookstore, including BRIMSTONE, a Science Fiction novel about a group of humans who must settle on Mars after Earth has become uninhabitable.
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