Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Author Interview: Chris Galford

Please introduce yourself:

Hello everyone. My name is Chris Galford and I’m a bit of a bibliophile. In essence, I surround myself with stories and never look back. I also may in fact be that kid from the playground who got just a wee bit too creative with his imagination. Dragons forever.

I am the author of The Haunted Shadows series, a trilogy of fantasy books which includes The Hollow March and At Faith’s End, and will soon be wrapping up with As Feathers Fall (to be published March 20, 2015). My work has also been featured in Mystic Signals Magazine, the Frogpond Journal, and soon, in A Bleak New World—an anthology published by Raven International Publishing—to name a few.

How long have you been publishing?

My first book was published in December, 2011 so…we’re going on four years now. It’s been quite a ride.

Tell us about your latest book.

The conclusion. The grand finale. The wrap-up.

Call it what you will, As Feathers Fall is the last in a trilogy (one that began with The Hollow March and continued in At Faith’s End) and, hopefully, wraps up a lot of loose ends for fans of the series—but hopefully has enough epic appeal to snatch up some new readers along the way as well.

It centers on the nation of Idasia, an empire settled into what should be a time of renaissance…only to have lost itself to the horrors of revolution and war. It is the crossroads where gunpowder and magic meet, as revenge grapples with duty in the shadows, and family wars with the all-too-human precepts of self-interest.

Or, more concretely:
As fall the feathers of their signet bird, so too fall the great and mighty of Idasia. One after another, members of the Imperial family have been slain, through convictions forged in steel and vengeance fueled by dark sorceries.

The Cullick family stands in the ascendant, poised to snatch a crown long denied them, but they are beset on all sides by the chaos they themselves have sown. Winter saw the horrors of war, spring the sparks of rebellion, but as friend and foe alike surrender to unspeakable crimes, summer may yet bring the soul of a nation to boil.

And if Rurik Matair and his broken band of sellswords can cling to life a little longer, salvation may not be the prize, but they might find a way to balance the scales of their mad quest and put to rest the loss and bitter memories which have consumed all that they have known…

Who are your major influences?

It’s a fine mix of modern and older favorites. When it comes to The Haunted Shadows series, specifically, I would have to name the proponents of your grittier, more realistic fantasies. That is to say, people like George R.R. Martin and R. Scott Bakker. Wonderful writers, both of them. Characters that are absolutely human—in all the wonders and flaws that entails—and worlds that breathe with new possibility, as well as history. It’s the same reason I would cite Robin Hobb as a continuing influence, honestly. Hobb is a master of character. I could lose myself for days, weeks getting into the hearts and minds of the people she produces, to the extent I truly feel it when they misjudge a situation, make a poor choice, assail their own morality…it gives me tingles.

More generally? I would throw in a touch of Camus for philosophic flavor, mixed with a panache of Guy Gavriel Kay for personality.

Is writing your full time career?

In a sense. Not creatively, unfortunately—though I would love to be able to say it was! I also work as a freelance journalist, with side time spent as a contract editor. I’m constantly on the run from one project to another. When you’ve found your passion, though, you do what you can to engage it.

Do you feel that your material is different than traditionally published authors?

In short? No.

To elaborate: We both have editors. We both have cover artists. We both have, as Hemingway would put it, sat down at the typewriter and bled. The only difference between us is, at the end of the day, one of us managed to wrangle a company onto our side, and the other didn’t.

Who does the covers to your books?

Matthew Watts. UK artist. Fabulous at his craft and quick, too. As soon as I finished pitching my books to him, I swear he had a dozen or so ideas for pictures already prepped to go. I could not recommend him enough.

What is your favorite part of being self-published?

Options. Freedom. Absolute control. Everything rises and falls on your own merits. Unfortunately, that’s also the worst part, because your exposure is based on a one man or woman operation, unless you have made some rather vocal acquaintances over the years. You have to face long hours promoting that you would probably rather spend writing, you stand a good chance of being ignored (and not necessarily because people WANT to ignore you—have you SEEN the number of self-published books out there today?), and we still live in an age where traditional and self-pub tend to have a clash, so there’s some stigma there. It’s a rough road, but also one that leads to nights where you can truly relax, knowing that you have done good, hard work, and the credit is all yours.

Do you have Facebook/Twitter? How effective are they as promotional tools?

Twitter: @Aurinth

I’m honestly a little guarded in answering that. They are effective, to be sure, but more so in connecting with the readers you already have than in necessarily lassoing new ones. Twitter is where I’m most social, it’s quicker, easier, more to the point. Facebook I tend to use for general announcements…steer people back to the website. Hash tags, SEO, all these details have their possibilities, and they can be effective tools in the right hands, but mostly, they are funnels into larger things.

What is the most important piece of advice you could give to someone just starting out in self-publishing?

Publishing demands a hearty constitution. Be prepared to fight to be seen, to fight your own dark thoughts, and to get knocked down more than once. The market is inundated with work, slush piles are eternally on the rise, and standards have not eased, no matter what you might have heard. Getting published is hard work. You have to believe in your work, review and revise again, drive yourself and your characters mad, and make sure it is, beyond all doubt, the best that you can do before you put it forward.

It’s not good enough to be the best you can be. You have to actively fight to get others to see what your best looks like. Doubt is the death knell.

What does your family think of your writing career?

They probably wish I had just gone to law school! No, really, they’ve mentioned that more than a few times.

In all honesty, though, they have been immensely supportive. My brother is a writer in his off hours, too, so that helps, but my parents have always pushed the creative side of me and helped me to embrace those myriad thoughts dancing through my traumatically imaginative brain. I’m sure at times they wished they could turn it off, but they’ve never put a doubt in my mind. I dedicated The Hollow March to them, actually, and At Faith’s End to my brother.

Do you also review other writers?

Of course. I may be an author, but I’m still a consumer, and an avid one at that. I have no problem removing my writer’s cap for a few hours a day to devour someone else’s work and, when I’m done, I’m sure to have an opinion, just like anyone else.

What changes would you like to see in the self-publishing industry?

People need to become more dedicated to the craft. It’s harsh, but it’s true. The biggest differences people cite between us and the “big boys” tend to be one of two things: quality of the tale and quality of the editing. I understand people not wanting to shell out big dollars for editors, but the fact is: if a book is illegible, it’s not professional, and if it’s not professional you’re doing your potential readers a disservice. If you think you’re good enough to publish, you should be taking the time to make sure your work is honed to its best possible presentation. The self-publishing industry has gotten a bad rap for this, and it’s something we need to start turning around.

Could any of your books be made into films?

If they could find a way to break the Hobbit into three separate films, I think someone dedicated enough could find a way to make one of mine into something for the screen.

What actors would play your characters?

I have this vision of Mads Mikkelsen, Natalie Dormer and Idris Elba wandering through the cast. It’s a beautiful vision. I want to go there.

Do you blog? Why?

I blog on a regular basis, over at The Waking Den.

It was something I got into during college, originally to accentuate my journalistic curriculum. I used to do reviews of movies, games, that sort of thing, but over time, I realized more and more that what I wanted was to showcase my own work, get my own thoughts out there—and not just my thoughts about other people’s work.

It has grown into my most regular outlet. Essays, poetry (oh, so much poetry) and those scribbles not destined for a publisher’s doorstep or printed pages often wind up there, as well as announcements regarding the scribbles that ARE meant for other things. It’s a billboard, a water cooler, a journal and a magazine, all rolled into one.

Do you have any certain ideas or ideals that you try to instill in your work?

Family, vengeance and the venomous intricacy of politics…with a fantastic bent. My works frequently utilize the fantastic or unlikely to draw greater focus onto the human aspects of existence. At its heart, The Haunted Shadows is a tale of people struggling to find themselves at a time and place that seems determined to tear traditional structures down. Evolution also plays a big part—evolution of people, of societies, of thought.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s action and plotting and a little coming of age…but when it comes to ideas, one can’t rightly go into my books expecting tales of blind chivalry, for example.

Why do you write?

My sense of self would cease if I didn’t; not to mention, I’m pretty sure these bottled imaginations of mine would run me into the ground. Ideas are legion for me. If I don’t put them to paper, I sometimes feel like they would consume me.

Does self-publishing carry a stigma?

Absolutely. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Go even onto a reader-intensive, literary-friendly site like Goodreads and you can lose yourself in the countless debates for hours. The industry has really been torn on self-publishing—it’s a genie that can’t go back into the bottle, in one sense, no matter how much some might want it to, but the genie also hasn’t found a good way of playing along with its new neighbors.

Self-publishing: either you love it or you hate it. That seems to be the case. Many are those that still swear they won’t touch a self-published book, though, often for reasons I spoke of earlier. We still need to find a way to merge the traditional and the self-published into an effective partnership, so the industry as a whole can move forward.

What have you learned from reading other people’s work?

Writing has no set path. Its endings and especially its journeys are myriad. Ignore those that try to force you into a box; the greatest works speak for themselves.

What would the consequences be of the demise of the traditional bookstore?

A devastated interviewee, for one thing. Libraries and indie bookstores have devoured a lot of hours in my life…and those are hours I wouldn’t trade. There is nothing, nothing like walking into a building lined with books, breathing in the pages, holding that beautiful print in your hands.

Is it cheaper to head online? Of course. Nor am I some Luddite that has somehow missed that phenomenon, but the simple fact is: there is nothing quite like those old staples of learning, and I would be sad to see them go.

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