It’s author Christopher Nutall on the blog today. He is the bestselling author of many books in the fantasy and science fiction genres. You can visit his website http://chrishanger.net/
1) Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Your friends and family?
Edinburgh, Scotland. Well, I was born there – studied at university in Manchester, lived in Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with my wife … and then finally moved back to Scotland to live for the moment. I’m married and I have one son.
I started reading from a very young age and consumed books intended for people several years older than me. This didn’t always work out – I looked at Starship Troopers when I was nine, but I couldn’t get into it until I was much older. In university, I founded Changing The Times, an online alternate history newsletter; I started writing prose fiction in 2004 and completed my first manuscript in 2005.
2) Tell us about the many books you have written.
That could take a while.
I’m basically an alternate history, science-fiction and fantasy author – the SF largely military-centred. But a handful of my books are really straight modern-day or near-future military thrillers. I like to think that I educate as well as entertain, but not everyone agrees with me on that point.
If you’re interested in straight military SF, you can try First Strike or Ark Royal; if you’re interested in science-fiction with an eye to our current problems, you can try The Empire’s Corps. Or, if you want alternate history, you can try Twilight of the Gods or The Royal Sorceress, the latter more of a steampunk story than a straight alternate history. Or, if you’d like some light fantasy, you can try Bookworm or Schooled In Magic.
Like most authors, I endured a long apprenticeship – fortunately for me, this was in the days before Kindle became a thing. My first books were no better than many of the others that get uploaded to Kindle and then vanish without trace (unless the author behaves badly – just about everyone in the Indie publishing world has a horror story about that.) Thankfully, I had some very good advice from first readers, who helpfully pointed out the problems (spelling, grammar, continuity mistakes, etc) that blighted my early works.
3) How do you manage to be so prolific?
People keep asking that and my answer is always ‘bloody-mindedness.’ <grin>.
More seriously, writing is a job – it doesn’t have a pointy-haired boss breathing down your neck, but it’s a job nonetheless. You need to find the discipline to write and keep writing – being self-employed doesn’t mean you can stay in bed every second day, even if you want to.
It’s also a learned skill – you have to work and work at it to be any real good. Right now, I try to write around 9000 words a day, then do a chunk of editing and update my plans for future chapters. In-between books, I write plot outlines and scribble down ideas that may turn into stories one day. I’ve got a long list of ideas that I may use one day – or simply forget about.
4) You write in different genres? What are the pros and cons of doing that? Do your readers stick with their own tastes or do they go with you?
In some ways, writing two different books in the same genre is problematic – the rules of one universe may not be identical to the rules of the second universe. One universe might allow FTL communications; the second might declare it impossible. I’ve often found that switching genre can help because it requires a total mental reboot – I don’t get confused between fantasy and SF universes.
I’ve got fans who only read one genre and fans who read both, because I’ve written them. I do get feedback, from time to time, that boils down to ‘I prefer your SF to your fantasy) or vice versa, but I tend to take it as a sign that the fans are invested. <grin>.
5) For how long have you been posting your work online?
Since 2004, earlier if you count some of my early alternate history works.
6) Some authors are afraid to post their work online for the fear someone might steal it. Do you think writers should be really afraid of that?
As a general rule, no.
The blunt truth is that the vast majority of early works by prospective authors are appallingly bad – I know my first novels were cringe-worthy in the extreme. (And very few ideas are so staggeringly original that thousands of people will be lining up to steal them.) What I got out of posting the first drafts online, in comments and suggestions, more than made up for any security risks.
Statistically, the odds of someone stealing your manuscript are very low. But there are some basic precautions you can take to ensure you maintain ownership. I have had a manuscript pirated, but it was an EARC rather than a first draft.
7) You have had a lot of success as an author. How many books have you sold so far?
I honestly couldn’t tell you – at least, not without sitting down to work it out. I do know that I have sold nearly 150000 copies of Ark Royal alone, perhaps more.
8) What has been your most successful marketing strategy?
Building up a consistent reputation, I think. Good reviews from real people (as opposed to newspaper critics and suchlike) are very helpful. Having fans who will promote your work is worth a great deal, far more than anything else I’ve discovered. Having free samples – I generally give away ten chapters of my self-published works – online helps. Readers get to check out your work ahead of time – and if they don’t like it, they haven’t invested money and more than a little time.
Authors are bombarded with all sorts of offers and proposals to boost their sales, ranging from the simplest concepts to the absurd. Most of them are nothing more than attempts to con money out of authors, as far as I can tell. (You’ll find plenty of horror stories online, if you look.)
9) Your favourite books and authors?
Too many to count, really.
David Weber, Peter F. Hamilton, John Ringo, Tom Kratman, Mike Williamson, John Birmingham, SM Stirling, Iain M. Banks … the list goes on and on.
10) Do you have other interests aside from writing?
Well, my wife and I are currently bringing up our 18-month-old son <grin>.
More seriously, I enjoy history books and suchlike. I’m not really a big TV watcher – I used to be a fan of the new Battlestar Galactica, but it went off the rails in season three and never really recovered. Doctor Who and Thunderbirds are about the only things I watch regularly, but there are plenty of times when my inner critic and writer starts shouting at the scriptwriter.
11) So what’s going to be your next release?
The current plan is to release Fear God and Dread Naught, the eighth Ark Royal book, somewhere around the 4th of July. After that, Past Tense – the tenth Schooled In Magic book – should be out in late July or early August.
12) Anything you would like to add?
If you want to read free samples – and download a number of free books – check out my website (http://chrishanger.net/). I’m also going to be at Fantasycon By The Sea in September (Britain) and Honorcon in October (USA). Why not come along and say hello?
A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short “A Song of Blood” releases shortly. Click here to download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free.