Hello and welcome back, my loyal readers. GR is making his final appearance here before he runs off to get started with his book launch, Corin Hayes #3, an underwater science fiction adventure mystery thriller.
Hey Geoff, let’s talk about reviews and publishing today.
In what way do you think reviews can help/harm you and what do you look for when you offer your newborn as an ARC?
GRM: Consistent bad reviews are something to be avoided if you can. In reviews, I think I value honesty more than anything. If you don’t like the book, say why and which bits you didn’t like. If you loved it, say so. Reviews are such subjective things that as a writer you just have to take them at face value and not look too much.
Most reviews will help you – either with selling that book or with things to think of for the next one.
How does the 1-5 rating system sit with you? How do you handle negative criticism? What do you suggest your fellow authors do with the review and ratings?
Any review system is fine, to be honest. As long as scores are consistent within review teams then everything is fine. It is still subjective, but that’s what reviews are. I like reviews which notice something I put in subconsciously and I disagree with others when they ascribe motivations, ideas etc to characters I hadn’t written. The thing is…that is their opinion and their take on the book which makes it as valid as any other view, even mine.
Get a bad review? Celebrate it and move on. Welcome to life – we are judged constantly by others. If you take it, heart, every time you’ll get nothing done.
What do you do to get book reviews?
GRM: Beg and plead! Getting reviews, on blogs and sites that are, is difficult for self-pub novels. The SPFBO has done an amazing job of highlighting some great books and getting them reviews on some of the biggest and most respected blogs out there. Other than that, I am really bad at marketing so I rely on a few good friends, and hopefully a few of the blogs I’ve worked with to review the books… When the Spielberg movie comes out I am sure reviews will be easy to get! (I can dream).
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
GRM: I should have one… I know I should.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
GRM: Not realizing my greatness and battering down my door to publish and, more importantly, market my books. [heehee best response ever] I can’t say much about the unethical practice in the publishing industry. I am sure there are some “bad eggs” out there, but that’s true of every and any business.
What are your thoughts on traditional publishing?
GRM: Generally positive after all that’s where I get a lot of my books from, though I am at 50/50 with Self-published books now. Traditional publishing will always have its place, it will always seek to control the market and sometimes having Gatekeepers serves a purpose. Do I think the author should get more of a cut of the profits… of course, I do. When you listen to authors talk about the pittance they receive from each sale it does make you wonder! But it is a choice we all make. Traditional publishing is a profit making industry, not a charity – make sure you know that before you take the plunge.
What should an author keep in mind before jumping into self-publishing? What are the do’s and don’t s?
GRM: Do think about what you want from it. Decide this at the very beginning as this will determine your approach. Read up. Do lots of reading about it. Build a platform, an identity. Learn to write and do so by reading good books in your preferred genre. Take the knocks and get back up again. Make your next book better than the last. Look before you leap.
Don’t get downhearted at a bad review. Don’t be a dick to people (true for real life too), you never know when you might need them. Don’t assume your book is the best thing since bread came sliced, it is just one slice amongst millions. Don’t assume your second draft is the best it can BE nor your seventh.
What’s the best way to market your books?
GRM: I use social media, Amazon adverts, and a blog. For me, it is a long game, not a short race to the finish.
Experiment and see what works for you!
Write more books!
Honestly, I don’t think there is the best way.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
GRM: Of course it does. Eye-candy sparks the interest of everyone. The cover draws a reader in and makes them want to read it. A crappy cover will put a reader off. The difficulty and this is true of so many trad-pub and self-pub novels are portraying the story in the image on the front. There are some truly awful examples of covers from both realms. Once you’ve hooked them with the cover, you need the right blurb to make them buy… and that’s an entirely new struggle!
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
GRM: Probably less than I should. Most of what I do it keep in contact with people via Twitter and Facebook. I’ve dabbled with Instagram. Maybe 2% – which I know has people like Phil Tucker (author of Path of Flames) opening his eyes wide and shaking his head at me – of my time is marketing.
Enough of the heavy. Let’s talk
Who’s your favorite author? Choose a few names from classics and a few contemporary (already big and some rising in the horizon).
Eddings – Always gets a mention due to my love of The Belgariad series of books. Some folks will dismiss them as YA and that’s mainly because they are so used to blood and guts, to characters who distrust each other all the time, to characters who ALWAYS have ulterior motives, that they miss the joy of reading a book that is firmly about family.
Pratchett – I remember exactly where I was and who told me that Pratchett had died. I remember the shock on my face, the rush to a computer and the words of his obituary for Fantasy-Faction spilling out of my fingers as tears ran down my cheek. That man could write; I’d have read his instructions for Hemorrhoid cream again and again. He could use a comma to convey the meaning of life. I read and re-read.
Which books do you want to read again and again?
GRM: The Belgariad. I re-read those every few years. They are an absolute joy for me. So smoothly written, so much feeling and the conversations are fantastic! And anything by Pratchett!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
GRM: The covers for The Forbidden List… so happy with those! And $10 or so for Scrivener in a sale was a bargain too. I used a similar product (WriteWay) for a long time, but I’ve moved over to Scrivener now.
What are the most important magazines for writers you have subscribed to? What are your favorite literary journals?
GRM: PC GAMER… oh, you mean writing ones. I take Writer once a month, but I don’t always read it all the way through. I also have a subscription to FOCUS, a science magazine, that has a wealth of ideas for novels!
[I visit the PC Gamer website a lot. Great game reviews.]
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
GRM: Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy, or the Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans – They are both older books (the 1980s) but they have a charm and earnestness about them that makes me want to read and re-read.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
GRM: I’ve got a fair number of ideas and books up to chapter 3… that were then abandoned. That was always my problem, I could never see an idea through. So I went to Uni to learn to write, to develop some discipline and I am glad to say it worked a treat!
I’d recommend it to everyone!
What does literary success look like to you?
GRM: When people get in contact to say how much they enjoyed the books! It would also be nice to have a mansion and multi-film deal for the Corin Hayes series… I think they’d make great films! Spielberg? Lucas? Any of you reading this?
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
GRM: The fear that I’ll be insulting someone. That I don’t really understand what it is like.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
GRM: When it happens, I’ll let you know. Always dreaming!
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
GRM: Most of my characters are parents, have been parents, or will soon be… depending on where you are in the book. I am a parent – I write what I know, and what I fear the most.
How do you select the names of your characters?
GRM: Good question. A lot of the names in The Forbidden List have some meaning – they name the animal spirit, or define something about the character.
In the Corin Hayes books, the names have a North American mixed with a little Irish feel to them – I hope. That was a reflection of the Corporation’s background and the melting pot of cultures.
What do you think makes a good story?
GRM: Good characters you can care about, a good setting, and emotion – either joy, love, hate, anger, fear or a combination of.
What is the first book that made you cry?
GRM: So many. I cry re-reading The Belgariad – there is so much love in it, so romance, but familial – I turned it to a right soppy git after my kids were born.
After I finished, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I had to go upstairs and give my seven-year-old son a big cuddle – so bleak, so sad, and just the tiniest hint of hope.
[It’s an amazing story. Very touching, yes.]
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
GRM: Oh yes. I even do that between series of books… it is a bit like Pokemon; you gotta read them all!
What is your favorite childhood book?
GRM: Space Mavericks by Michael Kring or the aforementioned Belgariad… maybe Arthur C Clarkes A Fall of Moondust.
How does your family support your career as a writer?
GRM: Support? They stay out of the way, sometimes. More than anything, I get cuddles from my kids and my wife, occasionally, listens to me talk about books… at least, I think she is listening.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
GRM: 6 months, give or take. From the first draft to finished. It seems longer because I write two at a time – so in real time it is a year, just that I space things out, chop and change things around to keep me going. Also, it keeps my creative juices flowing.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
GRM: I just want to write the stories I’d want to read and for folks to read and enjoy them. After that, I was thinking maybe fame, fortune, and Spielberg (or Lucas) making a series of films out of the Corin Hayes books.
What draws you to your genre of work?
GRM: I write Sci-fi and Fantasy because it isn’t the real world. I can explore human ideas, relationships, and emotions in a more free-form, more experimental way. The constraints of the ‘real world’ are gone and it is all down to my imagination (and my responsibility… with great power…)
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book? (Please say, Donnie Yen, please say Donnie Yen…He is old now. Damn) Who do you picture as Corin? (Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth…sorry, shutting up)
GRM: If you check out my Pinterest board for The Stone Road you can see I had Donnie Yen in mind for Zhou and Jet Li for Haung.
I find Corin much harder to cast – Kevin Spacey maybe, a younger Bruce Willis (sorry, Bruce – like he is reading this… oh, he is… right. ). Anthony Mackie, Falcon from the Avengers movie, would be a good fit too – I think he has the right tone and rhythm to his voice.
[Kevin Spacey and Bruce Willis won’t be able to do this role anymore. 🙁 ]
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
GRM: I think there are so many; Einstein – just to talk and see how his brain worked. Churchill – I’ve read the biographies and know he was not an easy man, but he had such impact. Gandhi – another complex man. Martin Luther King – changing ideas in a country. The Dalai Lama – he always so calm and happy, how does he do it? Joan of Arc – how did she do it all? Marie Curie – just to warn her about the dangers of radiation. Stan Lee – to talk about comic books and Spider-Man in particular. Catherine of Aragon, Elizabeth I, Anne Frank (run, girl… don’t stay and hide). Alfred the Great. And now I am just listing people… Copernicus, Galileo… and on I could go. Carl Sagan! Arthur C Clarke. Stop. Stop. Stop.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
GRM: Erm… I’ve got two hamsters that are a lot less trouble than my two children?
Ladies and gentlemen, that was GR Matthews for you.
If you have liked this interview, go check out his books. The latest in the Corin Hayes series will be out soon.
GR also writes for the Fantasy Faction website
Amazon – will take you to the books wherever you are.
Smashwords for Outlaw Mountain (Free)
Barnes and Noble for Outlaw Mountain (Free)