A big welcome to today’s featured debut author Steve Umstead, an entrepreneur, a work-at-home dad and an esteemed member of my #1kaday crew. :)
Name of book: Gabriel’s Redemption (Book 1 of the Evan Gabriel Trilogy)
Book genre: Science fiction/adventure
Date Published: February 2, 2011
What is your day job? I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very enjoyable day job. I am the owner of an online travel company specializing in Caribbean and Mexico all-inclusive resorts. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to do that day job from home, so for the past ten years I’ve been able to see my kids every day, put them on the bus, pick them up from the bus, and so on, while still being able to support them. Oh, and the travel perks aren’t too bad either…
What is your book about? Gabriel’s Redemption is a near-future science fiction/adventure story of a disgraced soldier who is offered a chance to get back the life he once had by embarking on a secret mission to a far-off world, but the mission isn’t exactly what it was presented to be. Multiple characters and several plot lines, political intrigue, realistic technology, and settings ranging from Argentina to a space station to Mars to a planet hundreds of light years away make for (what I think is) and enjoyable read for many different types of readers.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? I’m sure this will be the same answer for just about any author: finding the time and motivation to write! Working from home means I never really leave the job, and having two kids and a wife mean my evenings are full of baseball, soccer, karate and family time, so my writing time is usually 9 p.m. and on. So with a tough day, being able to unwind and get into the story for a couple hours of writing can be a challenge.
What motivates you to write? I have been a voracious reader since early childhood and have dabbled with story writing all throughout school. I just love being able to create a story with fun characters and unique settings, almost like making my own movie in my head, and to be able to hand it to someone and say, “Here, read this.” It’s all about telling a story, showing someone else what I’m imagining.
Did you experience writer’s block? Block? Not truly a block… More like real life getting in the way. Again, it’s about finding the time to write. For my first novel, I plotted a specific, fairly detailed outline, so that each night when I sat down to write I knew what that scene was about. For my second, now about 2/3 complete, I’ve been pantsing, and while it’s fun to see where scenes go, it’s a nightmare for planning and motivation.
How long did it take you to write the first book? Well, I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but 26 days.
What?! Gabriel’s Redemption was a product of November 2010’s NaNoWriMo, and I wrote 64,000 words between November 1st (official start date) and November 26th (the day before I left on a business trip). It wasn’t with the mindset of getting published, more of finally telling a story from start to finish. I set it aside in December, went back to it in January, and edited the heck out of it.
Why did you decide to self-publish? This could be an interview in and of itself. After doing a lot of research in January, I decided the querying/begging/hoping process, one that can take 12 to 18 months or longer, followed by the 2 to 3 month average shelf life of a published novel today (before it ends up in the bargain bin or returned with the cover torn off), wasn’t for me. With the incredible explosion of e-readers, authors can now put their work in readers’ hands in a matter of weeks, not years, and ebooks can stay for sale forever. It really was a no-brainer for me.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That it’s followed by untold riches, and authors just sit around with other authors on couches stuffed with spare hundred dollar bills, laughing about how easy it was. Oh, and the fact that a book sells itself once written. Two huge falsehoods…
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Being friends with an amazing group of fellow authors online. When I peeked into the Twitter world in mid-January, I was amazed at what I found. Hundred, thousands of aspiring novelists just like myself, all looking to get in touch with people like them, and the support and camaraderie has been incredible. So much so that I find myself chatting more often than writing anymore…
Tell me about the second novel. Thank you for the plug! Yes, I’m currently in the middle of writing Book 2 of the trilogy, titled Gabriel’s Return, where the main character, Commander Evan Gabriel, has been given a rescue mission and is sent back to the planet of his past where he lost his entire team and was dishonorably discharged as a result. It’s a lot more detailed and deeper than the first book, with richer settings and more exploration of several characters introduced in Book 1, and as it turns out, much more in the way of political maneuvering (something I hadn’t expected, but find myself pulled into more often).
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? The only tool I’ve used is the one called “spreading the word.” Online social media has given the independent author just as much, if not more, power to reach readers than traditional, old-line authors. However, that being said, it’s not a magic wand. It takes a long platform building process, one I’ve barely scratched the surface of, to succeed. For aspiring authors who haven’t released a book yet, my advice would be NOT to wait to build your platform. Start right away, start building up anticipation for your novel. Create an author page in Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Build up your Twitter following with other authors and prospective readers. Join in online dialogue. Make your name one that people will remember when the book hits.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? Wow, did she really say that? I am not an Oprah fan by even the longest stretches of imagination, but I use that saying all the time with my kids. I don’t believe in luck, but more of a being prepared when an opportunity comes along. I guess I’m still waiting for that big opportunity to come along… but I know I’m prepared for it!