Interview and Giveaway: Fantasy Author Christopher Kellen

by Vanna on February 22, 2013

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a fellow fantasy author and member of the Magical Appreciation Tour, Christopher Kellen. Chris is preparing to release his latest novel and you can read more about his work below. Chris is also giving away his newest novel. Enter through the Rafflecopter widget below!

When did you first start writing and how long did it take you to finish the writing your latest novel?

I’ve wanted to be a writer pretty much all of my life. When I was a kid, the first computer I had in my room was an old 80-286 running an orange screen with DOS, and I spent a bunch of time (about 25,000-30,000 words) on a Wolfenstein-3d fanfic =) Unfortunately I lost that manuscript in a hard drive crash (it’s probably better that way), and so I continued off and on. I’ve always had a fascination with fantasy and medieval history, fueled in part by my parents, who got me into tabletop roleplaying (specifically Dungeons & Dragons) at a very young age.

My writing really started trending toward more serious, though, in 2005. My wife (then-girlfriend) convinced me to try NaNoWriMo, and I actually won my first year! (The book was terrible.) After a rough second year in NaNo, I proceeded to continue on and win in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

My most recent novel was my science-fiction thriller SINS OF THE FATHER, and that took me fifty-two days for the first draft and another month of revision and editing before I deemed it publishable. My next release, SORCERER’S BLOOD, is a novella, and it took about two and a half weeks to draft, followed by another two weeks of revision and editing.

What was the biggest obstacle in getting your book published? As I understand it, you have self-published your work. Any advice you can offer to other indie authors?

Well, as an indie author, there really aren’t a whole lot of obstacles. Formatting was a tricky thing to learn, but once you get the basics down, it’s easy to prepare for next time right off the bat. Finding readers is a much more difficult thing, and that’s something that I’m still working hard at every day.

There are two things that every indie author needs to keep in mind. First: professionalism is key. That means a professional-level editing job on your work, real cover design, and a dedication to making your work the absolute best that it can be. Secondly: luck has a lot to do with whether or not a book takes off. Hard work can help you find readers in the long run, but most of the crazy best-sellers in the indie world are just lucky.

Tells us a bit more about your series? Where is it set? Who are the main characters? What is the main conflict?

THE ELEMENTS OF SORCERY stars Edar Moncrief, who starts out in the first book as a small-time maker of love potions and wart remover while pursuing his research on his own time. When he gets stuck searching for the killer of an Arbiter–a legendary monster hunter and destroyer or evil–his life gets irrevocably screwed up, and he’s searching for equilibrium and safety again in a world that’s basically trying to kill him. In this latest book, he almost thinks he’s found that security again… until someone assassinates him, that is.

In the first book, SORCERER’S CODE, the major guest star is D’Arden Tal, the Arbiter from my flagship series THE ARBITER CODEX. After that, all the other characters are secondary next to Moncrief, who is the first-person narrator in a sort of Jim-Butcher-esque Harry Dresden kind of way.

Is this the final book in the series?

I’m happy to say that THE ELEMENTS OF SORCERY is destined to be a quintology(?). There will be five entries, so I’m only a little over halfway done after SORCERER’S BLOOD releases. I’m hoping to finish the series by the end of 2013. I’m already entertaining ideas in my head for the next entry.

Which character from your novel are you most attached to and why?

Well, I created Moncrief accidentally, and he’s since become my favorite character that I’ve ever created. His voice is entirely his own, and writing from his point of view is always exciting. It lets me discover layers of snark that I never knew I had, and developing his character from the sort of cowardly, self-serving sniveler that was introduced in SORCERER’S CODE into an almost-heroic figure at the end of SORCERER’S BLOOD has been just an amazing journey as a writer.

Who are your main writing influences?

When I started out with ELEGY, my main influences were the old sword and sorcery writers, particularly Robert E. Howard (the author behind characters like Conan and Solomon Kane), Fritz Leiber (author of the Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser books) and their later tributaries, like Karl Edward Wagner and Andrzej Sapkowski (creator of the Witcher).

THE ELEMENTS OF SORCERY builds on that sword & sorcery kind of legacy in its world-building (and throws in a bit of Lovecraftian-horror for good measure) but takes on a more modern, urban fantasy kind of sensibility, like the kind you’d look for in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels.

I’m also a longtime fan of Terry Goodkind (his novels, not his ideas), Piers Anthony, Weis & Hickman, Lois McMaster Bujold, David Weber and more, and I’m sure they have all influenced my work in one way or another.

What advice would you offer beginning indie writers?

Edit. Edit a lot, and then edit some more. Have someone else edit your work, and then do it again. There’s so much indie work on Amazon right now that is just a travesty of editing, with word confusions and typos riddled throughout, and the readers are starting to complain en masse.

Then, once you’re really REALLY confident in your work, get a good cover and put it out there. Once your work is on the market, find a few good friends to work with. I’m very proud to be a founding member of both the Magic Appreciation Tour and the Genre Underground, two great organizations for indie authors and readers alike.

What types of promotion are doing and how successful are you finding it?

Well, I honestly haven’t been doing much over the last few months–between writing, work and school I haven’t had a whole lot of time for it. Obviously right now I’m doing a blog tour to promote the launch of SORCERER’S BLOOD, and doing book giveaways and searching for reviewers.

Promotion is always kind of hit-or-miss. I’ve tried a couple of advertising things and come up empty, so it’s all about experimenting and trying new things. Honestly, my most successful promotion to date was last April, leading up to my trip out to San Jose for the San Jose Fantasy Faire with my friend M. Todd Gallowglas.

I’m hoping to focus a lot more on promotion this year, to discover what works and what doesn’t in more detail! I’m really excited for this blog tour, and I hope it builds some buzz for my new release!

If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. Honestly, though, there are some things about history that I’d really like to know, so I’d probably travel backward. I’m a huge history geek, and I’d love to observe some of the points that fascinate me (like, for instance, was Harold Godwinson [the last Saxon king of England] really the wretch that William the Conqueror and the Normans painted him to be? How about Richard III? that kind of thing) and find out more about the real story, rather than the one told by the winners.

If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?

Any five people? Well, if we’re going with living only, I’d have to say:

Stephen Hawking
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Terry Pratchett
Joss Whedon
Felicia Day

Picking from history would probably take me the rest of the day! =)

If you were stranded on a deserted island what 3 things would you want with you?

This is always a tough one for me, since I spend so much time with technology. Honestly, I’d want my wife (endless wonderful conversation), a really good pen, and a lot of paper. If I was going to be stuck on an island indefinitely, I’d need plenty of ways to keep myself from going crazy–good conversation and plenty of things to write with would be one of the only ways I could manage that!

What is the one book you think everyone should read?

Hmm. I think that everyone should read ‘Red Nails’ by Robert E. Howard. It’s a fantasy classic, pre-dating Tolkien by several years, and it really shows an amazing contrast between what we know now and what we knew less than a hundred years ago. It’s also a fantastic story in its own right, and it’s badly under-appreciated in today’s fantasy circles!

Where can readers find your books?

My books can be found on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, the iTunes store and Smashwords. Anywhere you might look for an ebook, you’ll find one of mine on those platforms. If you’re looking for paperbacks, I recommend going through Amazon, since my paperbacks are all done through Createspace (I find that they do the best overall job with printing and binding). You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you so much for having me as part of the Elements of Sorcery 2013 blog tour, Vanna!

It was my pleasure, Chris!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Daniel R. Marvello February 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm

This is a great interview! I’ve read several interviews with CK and learned a few new things here. Thanks for hosting it, Vanna.

Our influences are amazingly similar, Chris. I wonder where I’d be now if I started writing at the same age you did?

Congratulations on Sorcerer’s Blood. The excerpts you’ve posted on your tour have been fun to read. I hope the series does well.

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