John McGuire is another one of those "Unboxers" I met via the Self Publishing Podcast. He's something of an eclectic author, dipping into a variety of genres (including Steampunk ... one of my personal faves!). I was privileged to get a chance to ask John a few questions about his work as an indie publisher, and get his insights on the industry.
Tell me a little about yourself and your work. What got you into writing in the first place?
For a long time I wanted to write. For a long time I talked about writing. For a long time I discussed potential ideas for books or movies or short stories or comic books.
And that's all I did was talk about it.
Then about a decade ago I fell in with a writing group. And a potential group project was discussed, but no one was all that eager to actually sit down and write the thing. My hand shot up and by the end of the week I had written the rough draft to a spec script for Smallville. Lucky for me that the rest of the group really liked what I had done. After that I began writing comic books. There's a saying that if you can write an 8 page comic story, then you can write a 22 page comic story, so I cut my teeth on those 8 pagers. A few of them were published and eventually I got the opportunity to work on a couple of independent comic books. Currently I've co-written an issue of a comic called Tiger Style that mixes those 70's martial arts films with some of the mystical bent of Big Trouble in Little China. I've also completed 1 issue of my creator-owned Steampunk comic: The Gilded Age (issue 2 is nearly done).
However, I learned that sometimes it sucks to wait on your artists and so I turned to novels. Last Christmas my first book, an Urban Fantasy called The Dark That Follows, was released. And in a few days a serialized Dark Fantasy called Hollow Empire will begin to grace the interwebs and hopefully many people's reading devices.
Do you stick to a certain genre? If so, what is it?
I wish I could. If I was smart that is what I would do. Find something and stick to it. But instead I jump around from Urban Fantasy to Dark Fantasy to Science Fiction to Steampunk to Horror to...
But I have to follow what I am passionate about writing. Find those stories that my brain has to spill out onto the computer screen.
Tell me about your latest work. What was the inspiration behind it?
Hollow Empire is a serialized Dark Fantasy story that I co-wrote with J Edward Neill. The idea was to take a medieval setting and push it towards a post-apocalyptic setting. I started thinking about the Black Plague in our own history and the idea that there are certain tropes that many Fantasy stories like to lean on: save the princess, save the world from some otherworld evil, etc. This needed to look at things differently. Maybe instead of saving the princess we save the prostitute? Maybe instead of saving the world you just try to save yourself?
So we took all of that, set it some 20 years after the worst of the plague (the Lichy) and now we are dealing with those children who have only known this deadened world. Not in a complete obliteration, but in the way that when 50% of the population is dead that means the world is all the more darker.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being an indie author?
I'd say that they are one in the same. You only have yourself (and your readers) to answer to. The problem comes when you don't answer yourself and let those little things slip. It is nice to be in complete control, but it doesn't mean that you can just let things happen... there must be some hand to guide you.
But probably the biggest disadvantage is the same one that non-indy writers deal with as well
If given the chance to publish traditionally, would you take it?
Absolutely. I think that being a Hybrid author would be great. Like having your cake and then getting a big glass of chocolate milk to wash it down with.
Plus, I'm just a small fish in a very big pond, so why not get to be in another pond at the same time?
When it comes to the "business" side of indie publishing, how do you handle that? What's your marketing strategy?
I'm trying to treat it like a business. Money that I make through my writing has to exceed the money going out for covers and editing and whatnot.
Marketing strategy - so far not much. Honestly, I haven't worried too much about it with only 1 novel out. By the end of the year I'll have 3 out and then I'll start putting forth real attention on that front.
If you could give your younger self some advice about this business, what would it be? How would you do things differently?
I wish I could go back a decade and tell my younger self to start writing every night. It's not like I didn't have ideas back then. I think if I'd done that, I'd have been at the beginning of the ebook wave and who knows what would have happened.
What's the single best advice you ever got regarding your work?
Your first draft is going to suck, and that's ok.
Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you'd like to promote?
Mostly I'm focused on Hollow Empire's release (episode 1 will be released any day now). Over at tesseraguild.com J Edward Neill and myself have been running some blogs about the origin of the project, behind the scenes stuff that I know I like to read, so hopefully others will as well.
My creator-owned comic, The Gilded Age, is about a carnival troupe in a Steampunk style world. Each issue focuses on different people from the troupe allowing me to tell any and all kinds of stories. The first issue focuses on Hannah, a new actress in the group, and Elias, the stage magician, and the retrieval of an item he needs for his show. Issue 2 should be out in the next month through Amazon and ComicsPlus and then many months later on Comixology.
Where's the best place to find out more about you and your work?
www.johnrmcguire.com is my website where you can find links to my various works and tesseraguild.com is where you can find my weekly blog where I write about TV, movies, comic books, and anything else I think of.
How do you feel about pants?
Pants are an evil perpetrated by the evil alien overlords because they do not want us to be comfortable in our shorts.
John McGuire's Author Bio:
John McGuire is an engineer by day and writer by night. He attended Georgia Tech to obtain a civil engineering degree. While his left brain absorbed information on E-mag, Calculus, Statics, Dynamics, Structures and Road Design; his right brain devoured the works of Jack London, Mark Twain, Anne Rice, Alan Moore, Kurt Busiek, and Mark Waid. Today, John is a registered professional engineer and professional writer. He lives just outside Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and three cats.
He also maintains that he would have been a Marine biologist, if not for Jaws.
Weekly Blog: http://tesseraguild.com