Readers of this blog know that I regularly participate in the Magic Appreciation E-tour, a blog tour designed to help indie authors, such as myself, gain the recognition they deserve. Well today the founder of that tour, one Daniel R. Marvello (Author of the book Vaetra Unveiled), agreed to sit down and chat with me for a bit.
Me: Thanks for coming, Dan.
Dan: My pleasure, Will.
Me: What first inspired you to become a writer?
Dan: I've been an avid book reader for as long as I can remember. I don't know if they still do this, but in elementary school we used to get mini-catalogs from Scholastic Book Club once in a while, and students could order books from them. My mom was always supportive of my reading habit, and she let me order as many books as I wanted. The only rule was, "If you buy them, you have to read them." That was never a problem.
I first started writing as a way of expressing my feelings. I kept a journal, but most of the stuff I wrote, particularly during my teen years, was pretty bleak. I always did well in my English classes and generally enjoyed writing assignments. I didn't always care for the subject I had to write about, but the writing part itself was never a problem.
My writing "background," such as it was, set the stage for me to consider writing fiction. In college, I took a Creative Writing class. According to my professor, I did well, but I wasn't satisfied with my own work and gave up writing as a potential career path. It was probably a good decision, because I discovered computers next and became a programmer, which you might say is a far more marketable skill. In the transition to business computing, I learned that I do have sound technical writing skills, so that has been my main writing outlet for many years. I've co-authored three non-fiction books and many business and techie articles under my real name (Daniel Marvello is a pen name).
Me: Have you always wanted to become a fiction writer or was this a decision that you came to gradually?
Dan: I occasionally dabbled in fiction writing again at various times of my life. While I was actively playing Dungeons and Dragons, I spent a lot of time building my own modules and writing up histories for the locations and people who populated the modules. The histories occasionally turned into short stories, but I didn't really think of them as such at the time. Although I haven't played D&D or worked on a module in a long time, I still miss playing, so I was totally primed for adventure when Bethesda Softworks released The Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivion.
Oblivion blew me away. I could not believe the level of world building that had gone into the game, much less the astounding technical capabilities of the software. I got so hooked that my wife started being concerned about gaming addiction. After I played through Oblivion, I thought about how cool it would be to develop story lines for a video game.
That got me thinking about writing fiction again, so I decided to trade my gaming time for writing time, a move my wife heartily supported. I "officially" started writing fiction in January 2011. Since then, I have released my first book and have continued to write steadily. And I love it!
Me: I tell ya, it always leads back to games *laughs*. I always wanted to try D&D myself, but I never found anyone to play with. And wanting to write stories for video games is how I got started in this business too (though personally I think Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a better game. *chuckles*). Bethesda are masters at world building though ^_^.
Me: Anyway: who are your biggest influences?
Dan: I would say my biggest influences have been David Eddings (The Belgariad), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance), Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser), and Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files). My original thoughts for my book series were, "What if the hero were the equivalent of a private investigator, but the story were set in a fantasy world? How would that work?" Those thoughts helped shape the main character and the story world.
Me: I must admit that I haven’t yet had the chance to read Vaetra Unveiled. What can you tell us about it? Is it part of a series or is it a stand alone adventure?
Dan: "Vaetra Unveiled" is the first novel of the Vaetra Chronicles series, which will eventually be a trilogy. It does stand on its own, however. Although the series has an overall story arc, I'm being careful to give each book a satisfying story line of its own. Series books with cliff-hanger endings or "to be continued" endings drive me crazy, so I didn't want to do that to my readers.
As for the story, here's the short blurb...
Bored with his life as an innkeeper, Jaylan Forester takes a promising mercenary contract. The adventure goes out of control when he discovers that his client is being pursued by Sulana Delano, an intriguing Sword Sorceress from an enclave of sorcerers known as The Archives. Taught from birth to shun sorcerers, Jaylan must overcome his distrust of magic when an unexpected turn of events embroils Jaylan in Sulana's mission to recover a stolen mysterious artifact. Along the way, Jaylan learns that he too has the capacity to become a sorcerer. He must decide if he wants to explore his newfound abilities or resume the comfortable life he has always known. Fate has its own ideas about the path he should take.
The book is mostly written in first person from Jaylan's perspective. I did that because I wanted the general feel of a Dresden novel, and it seemed appropriate for a character who is effectively a "gumshoe" (as my brother put it). I included several chapters from Sulana's third-person perspective because she and Jaylan spend quite a bit of the book apart, and what happens on her story path is nearly as important as what happens on his.
Me: It sounds pretty cool. Where is it available?
Dan: "Vaetra Unveiled" is available in paperback at most online retailers. It's also available for Kindle at Amazon.com. In August, it will be available for Nook through Barnes & Noble. I plan to offer it through Kobo as well, once they open up their online portal.
Here's a link to the book on Amazon (paperback and Kindle):
Me: Where did you get the idea for the Magic Appreciation Tour?
Dan: When I started looking around the Internet for places to get the word out about my book, I kept running into sites that didn't focus on any particular genre. Trying to find books through them was a bit of a mess. I thought it would be cool if I could connect with other fantasy writers and work with them to build an online catalog of books that would specifically appeal to fantasy readers. I took it one step further and decided to make it about *magical* fantasy, as opposed to paranormal, historical, or any other variety. My theory is that narrowing down the market makes the resulting catalog that much more valuable to readers.
Me: No doubt that that will serve it well in the long run. Do you intend to make the tour an ongoing event? Can we expect there to be another one in the fall?
Dan: Yes, and yes. The Magic Appreciation Tour really has two components. First, it is an online catalog of magical fantasy books. Once a book is listed in the catalog, it's there until the author asks me to remove it, and readers can access the catalog at any time. Second, it's a social networking event for authors that runs for one month each season. Some of our authors list their books in the catalog but do not participate in the networking. Others enjoy the networking too.
I do plan to run the author tour again in September. I've been trying to come up with ways of making it more interesting each time. This time, I added a flash fiction contest, which I'm sure I'll bring back in the fall.
Me: I actually tried to participate in said contest, but the story I was going to submit became too large. Maybe you could expand the concept so it includes things other than flash fiction (like poetry or short stories). Just a thought.
Me: What are your favorite fantasy creatures?
Dan: That's a tough one. I'm a huge fan of dragons, but I love any well-crafted creature from mythology or original inspiration. For example, I thought the Thestrals (skeletal winged horses that pulled the Hogwarts carriages) from Harry Potter were fascinating.
"Vaetra Unveiled" includes a creature that I'm proud to say has enchanted several of my readers. It's called an "arbolenx," and it's a sentient, tree-dwelling feline with lynx-like characteristics. I had one reader say she wanted to start an arbolenx fan club, and she encouraged me to write more stories that featured them. When I wrote them into the story, I had no idea I'd get a reaction like that.
Me: What self-promotion strategies have you found the most effective?
Dan: None! (laughs)
No, seriously, the thing that has worked best for me so far was participating in the Summer Solstice Free Fantasy campaign. It was a lot like the Magic Appreciation Tour in spirit. All of the authors were fantasy authors, and we all scheduled our books to go free together over June 20 and 21. Some of us (including me) extended our free run through the 22nd. Over 5,700 readers downloaded my book during that time, and a couple if them have since contacted me asking when book 2 will be released. I got one new 5-star review, and my sales since the event ended are better than they were before it started. One of the best things is that my "also bought" list on Amazon is filled with books by the other participating authors, so they are mostly fantasy.
I may incorporate a similar coordinated promotion/marketing campaign into the Magic Appreciation Tour. However, I know that going free isn't an option for many of our authors, so we may have to try something else.
Me: Any advice for aspiring authors?
Dan: I'm pretty new at this myself, so I can't claim to be an expert. But there's something I've noticed since I got involved with self publishing fiction: the number one thing that improves your chances for success is to have multiple titles. In other words, it's more important to write that next book than it is to do any form of marketing or promotion.
Me: Thanks again for coming. Good luck in the future.
Dan: Thanks for having me. Good luck to you too.
Daniel R. Marvello is a fantasy writer who lives in North Idaho with his wife, two wonderful dogs, and a cat who thinks she's a dog. His debut novel Vaetra Unveiled is the first book of the Vaetra Chronicles series (www.Vaetra.com). Daniel is also the mastermind behind the Magic Appreciation Tour (www.MagicAppreciationTour.com), a web site dedicated to readers and authors of magical fantasy.