Isotropic Fiction: Self publishing is one of the most challenging aspects of writing beyond the writing itself. Why have you taken this route? What have you learned? What’s been your most unexpected success so far?
Colette Black: The decision to self-publish was a difficult one. I had a fantastic agent, was friends with some of my agent’s other clients, and I thought my dreams were coming true. But the publishing world has changed. When I asked myself if I wanted to continue going down the traditional publishing road, the answer, in my heart, was no. I want control over my schedule; if I have deadlines, they’re self-inflicted. I want control over cover art, content, editing, etc. Whether I succeed or fail, I want it to be on my own merits, with no one else to blame. That doesn’t mean I’ll never sale a book to a traditional publisher, but I wanted this experience.
Of course, I knew going in, that self-publishing isn’t easy. I’ve learned it’s harder than I thought. Between the software involved and the myriad details, it’s been an eye-opening process. I have some great friends through the Superstars Writing Seminars that I’ve attended, and they’ve helped me find my way down a difficult road. It surprised me, but it shouldn’t have, how many of those friends jumped in and supported my Kickstarter, making it possible to fund my first novel. Raising that kind of money as a no-name author is not easy, but I have super supportive family, friends, and fans.
IF: Tell us about Drupokamo. Everytime any of the IF staff say the name, it moves our mouths into a smile. Where did you come up with it?
CB: I didn’t come up with it. I stole it. My oldest son and a friend of his were goofing around during their high school creative writing class and turned the words “make up word” into the made-up word, drapukemow, which means a made-up word. I spelled it wrong, but my son and I agree that a misspelling that looks less like puke is in order. We finally decided to go with drapukamo. I wanted to name my publishing company after my two oldest kids, who helped me believe in myself enough to start writing for publication, but drapukamo was as close as I could get. The full story is on my blog, www.coletteblack.blogspot.com. The story about how my kids turned me into a writer is on the About Me page of my website, www.coletteblack.net.
IF: On your blog you mentioned a mission trip to the Philippines while serving a mission for the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) church. Latter-Day Saints were front and center with the release of when Orson Scott Card was tapped by DC Comics as a guest author for the new Adventure’s of Superman comic book series just before the release of the movie version of Ender’s Game. Did you follow the discussion? Reactions?
CB: Before I respond, I have to say I thought they did a phenomenal job with the movie. I didn’t believe the Ender’s Game novel would translate well to the movie screen, and I’m glad I was wrong.
I followed the debate, but only minimally. Don’t gasp in dismayed shock, but I’m not a huge comics fan. I’m probably a disgrace to the science fiction/fantasy genre for saying that, but there it is. I read a couple of online articles about the statements he made, but as soon as the comments turned nasty, and personal, I stopped reading. I don’t like to participate in bashing. As far as I can see, Orson Scott Card has never tried to push his viewpoints on anyone else via his work, though I haven’t read all of his works, so I’m not sure of that. I’ve read many stories by authors with disparate views. As long as they don’t try to force their beliefs, then I don’t think it should matter what those beliefs are.
IF: Is there a question you think both sides of the discussion failed to ask and answer of themselves or each other?
CB: We always expect the other side to be tolerant, but I think we rarely ask ourselves, “Am I being tolerant?” because we’re too busy being right.
IF: What do you think is the role of personal belief while writing?
CB: A good writer tries to keep personal belief out of their stories. They try to understand the beliefs of their characters then project those beliefs as accurately as possible. That being said, who we are seeps into everything we do. I think that’s why it’s such a good thing that writers come from every walk of life, every socioeconomic status, and every religion. We need to see the world from as many different points of view as possible.
IF: Watchboy is a distinctly secular story set in a world with no mention of religion or spirituality. Does it exist in that world? Do you believe that mechanization or technology are inherently threatening to the existence of a rich inner life?
CB: Religion didn’t exist in “Watchboy” because it wasn’t a major factor in Christian and Isabel’s lives. In the world I imagined, religion still existed, but where freedoms are limited, religious freedoms are also repressed. I don’t believe a lack of religious thought has anything to do with technology, other than how much that technology might allow others to control our behavior. I have a friend from Poland who cried when she read this story. She said it reminded her of her childhood under communist rule, and that my portrayal of the US under similar circumstances was so realistic that it brought her to tears. It’s that dominating control that determined the amount of religion in the story.
IF: “Watchboy” takes place in a world of hyper surveillance. Did you intend this as a cautionary tale for today’s intensely connected youth?
CB: Yes, but more of a cautionary tale for apathetic adults. Technology can be a great tool, but if we hand over the running of our lives to others, we might not like the end result.
IF: What were you doing that triggered the first idea for Watchboy?
CB: Sitting in the car, driving home. Many of my ideas seem to come when I’m either sitting in a quiet car or taking a shower. My showers are much too long sometimes. There were things going on with our government that I wasn’t happy about. I’m sure no one else has ever experienced that. But it got me to thinking about how far the government could, or would, go in their efforts to make society function according to someone’s idea of “acceptable behavior,”… and how far we might let them go.
IF: In an essay you wrote for Fictorians, you made a brilliant case for romance adding an essential level of interest when used in genre fiction (read that essay here). What do you see as being the gold-standard example of romance in speculative fiction?
CB: Wow, that’s a difficult question. I don’t know that I have a “gold-standard.” There are many books that will suck me in, even if the writing isn’t superb, because they pull me along with an intriguing love story. I love Shannon Hale’s books for her combination of romance and beautiful prose. Brandon Sanderson often has some element of romance in his books, though I think his amazing writing skills and plot twists are what keep me turning pages. I thoroughly enjoyed Aprilynne Pike’s Wing series and loved the way she handled the romance, though I may have been influenced by her awesome panel-speaking skills. The perfect balance might be Cinda Chima, who keeps the focus on the story while the romance thread is ever present.
IF: And in April you’re publishing a novel, Noble Ark. If we were passing on the street, how would you describe it to me in one sentence?
CB: Beauty and the Beast on a spaceship, only Aline is a kick-ass military brat and Lar, the beast, is an alien with the ability to paralyze his victims and suck away their cerebrospinal fluid.
IF: Is there a place where we can go on-line to find a preview?
CB: Absolutely. My webpage, under Books and Short Stories.
IF: What’s the one question you always wish people would ask you during an interview?
CB: What’s the answer to the world, the universe, and everything?
IF: And the answer is?
CB: Contrary to popular belief, it’s not 42. It’s people. Be kind, be patient, spend time, and listen. Whether they agree with you or not, people matter most.
Isotropic Fiction’s Author Interviews provides writers with the chance to discuss their inspiration, craft, and process with readers. Find new interviews on Isotropic Fiction every week.