Sunday, September 22, 2013

Author Interview: John Reinhard Dizon

Please introduce yourself.
My name is John Reinhard Dizon, author of The Standard available on Amazon through Tenth Street Press. I've got five previous novels also available on Amazon, so if you like The Standard you'll love the rest! There's also four (maybe six) other books coming out before the end of the year, so there'll be more than enough to go around.

How long have you been publishing?
My first published novel was Tiara in 2003. I went 0-5 with Publish America before I decided to start getting serious about my writing career. Making the move to Tenth Street Press was the first step in a new direction and I hope it's the start of something big.

Tell us about your latest book.  
The Standard is an action-adventure novel centered around discussions by an international economic coalition on returning to a monetary gold standard. A criminal network of drug cartels and financial speculators are plotting to convert their holdings into bullion before launching attacks against major gold depositories in three countries to give them a monopoly in the new market. MI6 assigns William Shanahan to disrupt Operation Blackout with the help of Jack Gawain, a Ulster Defense Association volunteer serving a life sentence in Northern Ireland. Their target, Enrique Chupacabra, is an assassin for the Medellin cartel who is coordinating a nuclear attack on the American mainland.

The morality theme resonates throughout the novel as Shanahan struggles with the complexity of legal and moral issues presented by the mission. It gives place to the action/adventure main event pitting the UK and the USA against the criminal enterprise. The team must foil Operation Blackout lest the cartel gains control over the global economy by destroying the Anglo-Americans’ financial infrastructure.
Here's some more rave reviews on Amazon:

Who are your major influences? 
As a postmodernist writer, it's Franz Kafka. For suspense/thrillers, it's Ian Fleming. I discovered Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian series and found a whole new spin on action/adventure.

 Is writing your full time career?
Right now it is. I'm reaching the end of my life's journey and want to see if this was meant to happen for me.

Do you see writing as a hobby or career?
Both. I've never had to opportunity to get paid to do what I love, so we'll see if there's really a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

What made you decide to become a self published author?
Well, that hasn't actually happened, though with Publish America it's the next best thing. You get to see your books printed in quality style, but they keep the money.

Do you feel that your material is different than traditionally published authors?
Most certainly. For one thing, I deal with issues that most authors or publishers won't touch with a ten-foot pole. Tiara was about the UDA kidnapping a Princess Diana knockoff to stop the Good Friday Peace Agreements in Northern Ireland. Most people don't even know there's a UDA, and I haven't seen anyone fictionalize Di's life yet. Cyclops was about a dysfunctional 21st century KKK group being framed for a string of serial killings. Wolfsangel was an action/adventure story about the Das Reich Division en route to the D-Day battle at Normandy. Penny Flame was about a military investigation into war crimes of a decorated Cavalry unit during the Indian Wars.
Keeping in sync, the major issue that comes up in The Standard is how far society would go in preventing a mini-nuke attack on American soil. Jack Gawain has no compunction in exceeding the moral standard in preventing a holocaust, while the crisis destroys William Shanahan's world view about what liberty and justice are really about. I think most readers are going to try and find a safe middle ground.

Do you deal with issues that traditional publishers don't normally touch?
Along with the forementioned, I've got Generations coming up with a study of Irish history and heritage the like of which I don't think we've seen since Roots. Stxeamtown is a YA steampunk novel that has a deep discussion of Judeo-Christian tradition and its resurrection in a post-apocalyptic society. The Fury takes a hard look at the voodoo culture of the Caribbean and its origins in the brutal slave trade system. Wolf Man skims the surface of the international human organ black market. If I'm not including a controversial issue or world event in a novel, then I may well be wasting the opportunity of the writing platform. 

Who edits your work?
Me, myself and I. Publish America prints all the work that may be unfit to print, which is why you won't see their brand in Barnes and Noble. Small publishing houses just don't have the resources to afford an editing service, especially with all the writers out there challenged by English grammar. I've missed a couple of spots on a couple of my previous novels, and it burns like salt in the wound to see them to this day. 

Who does the covers to your books? 
Tenth Street Press did a fine job with The Standard, and I never had a bad cover with PA. Basically they ask you what you'd like to see, and try to work it up to your liking. The Fury (being published by Netherworld Books) has a real cool cover, and they stressed they were looking for something that some kid might snatch off the shelf for the cover alone. I think they did a darn good job.

What are you willing to spend money on, as a writer? What aren't you?
Nothing. Most of the reputable agencies (and I can't list them because I've been rejected by every agent in the industry) stress that authors should not pay one cent for publishing services. You write the story, they print the book. Period.
That's not to say that you don't have a major obligation to help sell the book. Without an agent, the publishers don't have the resources to do extensive publicity for you. Obviously, the bigger the publisher the more media influence they have. Me and mine aren't in that ballpark yet.

What is your favorite part of being self published?
When Tiara arrived in the mail, it was like my first Golden Gloves fight, my first pro wrestling match, my first adult league ice hockey game. I felt like I finally crossed the threshold from dreams to reality. Only it's actually the first step along the road, and it then becomes a question of how far you can go. I really enjoy watching the quality and style of my work get better and better.

What is your least favorite?
Querying is just like home improvement sales. You need a head of concrete and rhinoceros hide. After having been thrown under the bus over five hundred times by agents, you really start second-guessing yourself. I give all the credit (after the Lord Jesus Christ) to my publishers, who convinced me that I really have something to say.

Do you do your own promotion, or hire someone?
Again, I use the prestigious firm of Me, Myself and I. Seriously, even the most incompetent of agents (did I say that?) will tell you that once you've finished your novel, the work REALLY begins. Unless you're Stephen King or John Grisham, if you don't roll up your sleeves and pitch in, you're greatly hurting your chances of putting your book over. I spend as much time posting on line as I do writing these days.

What has been the most productive tool for promoting your book?
The Internet, unquestionably. If it wasn't for the Web I would've probably never got published. What web hosts call 'spamming' is really the only way cybermarketers have to hawk their wares. Of course, I'm completely against hackers who shove their stuff down your throat without your consent. I do these blog interviews every chance I get, hoping someone thinks I have something intelligent to say and would like to read more. I also have nothing but praise and thanks for websites like this that give us some spotlight.

Do you have Facebook/Twitter? How effective are they as promotional tools?
I was as late coming to both websites as I am in most of the latest trends and innovations. I'm typically old-school stick-in-the-mud. Facebook is an enormous resource for just about anyone to make connections with those of like mind around the planet. It's universally accepted and designed to display your stuff in an attractive and user-friendly format. Twitter, on the other hand, is like having an electronic skywriter. "Check out such-and-such at so-and-so!" is the last detail after I post anything worthy of mention online.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give someone just starting out in self publishing?
Write, write, write, and query, query,query! You should take any open call on any topic as a fresh challenge to your writing skills. I kept seeing agents and publishers looking for steampunk, and I didn't have a clue. I did some research, took a shot, and sold the manuscript weeks later. Querying is a never-ending process. If you don't find a publisher, your book will never go big-time. If you find an agent, you may be on your way to stardom. I've actually turned it into a hobby of sorts, which is the mindframe you need to keep an arduous task from turning into drudgery.

If a publisher came knocking, would you make the switch? Why or why not?
Well, they have (in a sense) and I did. Of course, I knocked first and they knocked back. I heard one author claim that he was paying all his bills with his self-publishing royalties. With an average e-book list price of $1.99, that is no mean feat. I came very close to going that route with Generations and praise God that I didn't. Alpha Wolf Publishing came to the rescue, and that leg of the journey starts next month.

What other creative outlets do you have? Music, film, etc?
We laid The Spoiler, my rock and roll band, to rest a couple of years ago, but of course it's really just sleeping. We left almost three albums worth of solid original material on the table. The major theme of the songs is redemption and, of course, it's all about romance and social issues. If God smiles on this venture, I'm probably going to use some of the revenues to go back and finish the job. If not, it'll make a helluva poetry collection.

What does your family think of your writing career?
Unfortunately I'm the black sheep of the family, and those who did care have long since passed. I'm just doing it now for the benefit of that little kid who lives inside me.

How important are reviews to making sales?
There was an interesting discussion on one of the writers' websites about that. I've been fortunate to be getting nothing but rave reviews on The Standard. Most of those on the blog agreed that if the book was getting slammed because they didn't like your viewpoint, then undoubtedly you expressed it very well. I'm one who relies heavily on reviews before I buy anything online, so if I can get more people to take a look at the Amazon sales, I should see some decent figures down the line.

How do you deal with bad reviews?
Again, if they're trashing my viewpoint, I'm glad there was no doubt as to how well I expressed it. If they don't like the work in general (and that goes for all you agents out there), then I would hope they would have the courtesy to say why.

Do you also review other writers?
I do lots of exchange reviews, and I make it a point to seek the redeeming social value of a book in giving it praise. It also keeps your analytical skills sharpened, which is your biggest asset when you pay all that money to go to University. You should never let that go to waste.

How do you give a bad review?
I'm a major contributor at Epinions (as lansky2000), and I have no problem hammering films, music, books or other things I don't like. Unlike most agents, I go into detailed explanations as to why a product doesn't float my boat, and welcome those with opposing viewpoints. Maybe they can show me something I missed. 

What changes would you like to see in the self publishing industry?
I think the websites should be more active in keeping garbage off the market. Of course, one man's trash is another man's treasure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so on. Like I always say, if primary school art teachers played hardball in grading students' work, there'd be a lot of broken-hearted young artists being discouraged out there. Still, there should be a better rubric to keep quality work from being lost in the mudslide.

Do you participate in Amazon's KDP Select program? Why or Why not?
Nope, I don't know much about it, though I probably will after this. I hate looking ignorant.

What would you like average readers to know about self publishing?
It's an excellent vehicle for aspiring authors to test the waters. Like they say in wrestling, nothing replaces talent. Literary agents can hammer you time and again, but if your audience is your barometer and you're flying high, then keep it coming. There should be a point where you start marketing your work, however, if you're really going to make it. Readers should always look for something new in the favorite genre and give a new writer a look.

What's the biggest frustration with being a self published writer?
I'd have to say it's the pricing module. Right now Amazon has become the Dollar Store of the literary world. The Standard is going at $4.99 as an e-book, and price shoppers have probably blown this off like a blind date. Of course, that works both ways. You might've blown off Prince Charming and settled on Bin Laden.

 Do you write to music? If so, what kind?
Whatever my GF tosses on the CD player. I love traditional Irish music, it always gets me in an artistic mood.

Could any of your books be made into films?
Each and every one of them. I lie in bed at night envisioning the manuscript on screen, and it provides tremendous motivation to write the next chapter.

What actors would play your characters?
I see Richard Gere as Berlin Mansfield and Gwynneth Paltrow as Princess Jennifer in Tiara. For The Standard, Ben Affleck would do well as William Shanahan and maybe TNA wrestler Ken Anderson could make his screen debut as Jack Gawain if he starved himself to work with Affleck.

Do you go to writing conventions? Why or why not?
I think I'd get tossed out for giving one of those agents who've tossed me off a piledriver for their troubles.

Do you blog? Why or Why not?
I've got a blog page but I prefer using Facebook. In this age of attention deficit disorders and cable channel surfing, you can't expect people to spend much time checking you out. You hit them fast and hard and hope you've attracted their attention. Then they might go look at your blog.

Do you have any certain ideas or ideals that you try to instill in your work?
Traditional Christian American standards and values, native Irish and women's rights and issues are big planks in my platform.

Why do you write?
Probably because I'm an entertainer, first and foremost. I've also got a big portion of blarney in my genes. I'm also highly opinionated and take every opportunity to discuss issues that are important to me.

If you had to stop writing tomorrow, what would you do?
Curl up and die. You agents out there have a bit of a wait ahead.

Does self publishing carry a stigma?
Like I said, you can load your Kindle with all the trash that fits for $0.00. Plus you have to consider the value of work that an author gladly sells for $1.99. It also indicates you may not consider yourself ready for prime time. None of this is going to make a good impression on real-world brick and mortar publishers.

What would you like readers to know about you from your work?
I would want them to consider me an intellectual above all. I would pray they recognize that I'm a Christian, if not a good one.

If you could talk shop with any other author, who would it be?
Probably Edgar Allen Poe. I see a lot of myself in him, and I wish he would've gotten to see the legacy he would leave behind after he died.

What have you learned from reading other people's work?
Shakespeare confirmed my belief that great writing was about conveying the greatest ideas in the fewest words. Kafka showed me the untapped potential of omniscient narrative. Robert E. Howard gave me great examples of how to help your audience luxuriate in your scenes.

Do you read more ebooks or physical copies? 
Right now it's pretty even with all the exchange reviews I've been doing, but all in all I like curling up in bed or hanging out in a tavern with a good paperback.

Do you think the traditional publishing format is an endangered species?
That would be the first step towards Fahrenheit 451. If the Great Recession continues to make more and more people cost-fanatical, it may seem as insanity to the unwashed masses to pay $14.95 for a book. People settling for $0.99 novels to satisfy their needs will be yet another step towards the decline of American culture.

What would the consequences be of the demise of the traditional bookstore?
To further explain, writers like myself are not going to endure the humiliation of selling their work for $1.99. I won't do business with publishers who deal exclusively with e-books. Most Generation X'ers don't have Kindles and never will, and I can't imagine the future of a society that will offer e-books or none at all.


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