Saturday, 5 October 2013

Paul Collins - Author, Editor, Publisher, Public speaker and dog lover.

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Today we welcome the multi talented, Paul Collins. Paul has written many books, mostly for younger readers.
He is best known for his fantasy and science fiction titles: The Jelindel Chronicles (Dragonlinks, Dragonfang, Dragonsight and Wardragon), and The Quentaris Chronicles ─ co-edited with Michael Pryor ─ (Swords of Quentaris, Slaves of Quentaris, Dragonlords of Quentaris, Princess of Shadows, The Forgotten Prince, Vampires of Quentaris and The Spell of Undoing). His trade books published in America are The Earthborn, The Skyborn and The Hiveborn.

Paul has edited many anthologies which include Trust Me!, Metaworlds and Australia’s first fantasy anthology, Dream Weavers. He also edited The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian SF&F.

Paul has been short-listed for many awards and has won the Inaugural Peter McNamara and the A Bertram Chandler awards, both of which were for lifetime achievement in science fiction, and the Aurealis and William Atheling awards.

His recent fantasy series is The World of Grrym (Allira’s Gift, Lords of Quibbitt and Morgassa’s Folly), in collaboration with Danny Willis. His latest YA book is The Only Game in the Galaxy, Book #3 in The Maximus Black Files.

His book, Slaves of Quentaris, features in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Die (UK, 2009).

Paul’s adult books are the anthology The Government in Exile and Cyberskin.

His current adult horror novel, The Beckoning, Damnation Books (US) is available from Amazon.
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Other than his writing, Paul is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing, publishing everything from picture books through to young adult literature, and he manages Creative Net, a speakers’ agency.
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Today Paul answers some important questions.

Tell us a little about your writing journey.
I self-published my first book when I was 21. Silly mistake, but I see many people making it these days, too. The basic problem with vanity press is distribution. Without it, you’ll wind up with a garage full of boxes and a hole in your bank balance. So I decided to publish other people’s work, starting off with Void Magazine, then moving on to publishing Australia’s first fantasy novels, along with a range of science fiction. Even then I fell to distribution woes so I started writing first short stories, and then novels. My first published novel was The Wizard’s Torment, published by HarperCollins. I’ve had about 150 books published. Finally Macmillan said they would distribute books if I published them so I snapped up the chance and returned to publishing.

You still write, though. How do you manage the time?
I don’t write on whim these days. If someone commissions me, I’ll put the publishing aside and write. Macmillan asked if I’d like to write six books in their Legends in Their Own Lunch Box series, so I wrote six Lucy Lee books. Macmillan NZ also asked if I’d like to write a choose-your-own-adventure, which I did. It’s called The Toastinator. But generally, my time goes to Ford Street and Creative Net Speakers Agency.

What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
You can spend a year writing a book and no one wants it. In other words, you’ve worked all that time for no remuneration. People look at writing as a hobbyist career, or something people do in their part time. But this isn’t the case for career writers. We need to make money for rent, food, just like anyone else. And it’s simply getting harder to make a living from writing, which I guess in some ways is why I moved back to doing what I started out as, a publisher. I believe in cross-subsidisation. The three main things I do now, writing, publishing and the agency, all complement one another very nicely. I’d not make a decent living on any one of them alone.

How much research goes into your stories?
I have to say not much, if I’m writing fantasy or SF. I’ve just had a horror novel called The Beckoning , published by Damnation Books. I researched that, using psychic, detective, priest, and lawyer friends. I think it’s different when you’re writing for adults – the work is heavier, whereas writing for younger readers it comes from the imagination, or from what we know.

Things that happen in their own lives sometimes influence writers. Are you?
Not really. I wrote The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler for Celapene Press a couple of years ago. There are some aspects of that story that are true. But generally I write action-packed, plot driven books, not contemporary.

Tell us about your most popular books
The Only Game in the Galaxy  is the third and final book in The Maximus Black Files

This series has gone really well for me. The blurb says:

In a galaxy of cutthroat companies, shadowy clans and a million agendas, spy agency RIM barely wields enough control to keep order. Maximus Black is RIM’s star cadet. But he has a problem. One of RIM’s best agents, Anneke Longshadow, knows there’s a mole in the organisation. And Maximus has a lot to hide.

I wanted to write a series with an anti-hero, not someone who was likeable like Artemus Fowl or Modesty Blaise, but someone truly evil. Unbelievably, reviewers say they wound up rooting for the bad guy! Maybe I didn’t succeed in what I set out to do. Mind you, he kills someone in the opening pages and kills entire populations throughout the series. Go figure.

Equal to this series would be The Jelindel Chronicles. I still get fan mail for these books.

Isobelle Camody said of the first book: ‘Dragonlinks offers compulsive reading in a thrilling and wonderfully imagined quest for the individually power-bestowing links of a mysterious and arcane mailshirt. The story performs the unusual feat of combining meticulous and original world-building with a matchless heroine in the extraordinary young Countess Jelindel. This is the sort of book you wish really was a never-ending story’.

What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learnt?
Not everyone’s going to love what I write and publish lol. On a more serious note, it all comes down to distribution. Flood the market with your books and kids will read them because they’re there. If you don’t have strong publisher support behind you, then it’s sink or swim. At the end of the day, it all comes down to distribution. Unless we’re talking in superlatives such as 50 Shades of Grey. And that’s when word-of-mouth will beat traditional distribution hands down.

You also run a speakers’ agency. How did that start?
Creative Net was initially started because I was publishing authors that speakers agency wouldn’t take on. So I figured I’d start one myself. I soon came to realise that I needed bigger names to attract librarians and festival organisers so I asked people such as Isobelle Carmody, Archie Fusillo, Justin D’Ath, Susanne Gervay and many others to come on board. I’ve since published many of them, including those I’ve just mentioned.

Top tip/s for writers.
The best tip anyone can give other writers is persistence. The Beckoning was written 30 years ago and it’s just been published. The Glasshouse was rejected by most of the major Australian publishers and some not so major. Yet when I published it under the Ford Street imprint it sold 4000 copies to a book club and a further 1200 to booksellers and schools. It’s still selling. The Maximus Black Files were also rejected, yet here they are selling well. Someone, somewhere, will want your book. It’s just a matter of finding that person at the right time.

Other than writing, the agency and publishing, how else do you spend your time?
I have two dogs that I adore, Jack and Molly. We have other pets such as a cat, chickens and fish. They fill in any spare time I have, especially the dogs. They’re my distraction from quite a hectic lifestyle.

Who is your favourite author and why?
I have two favourite YA authors who I’d love to read if only I had the time, and that’s Eoin Colfer and Philip Reeve. Their characters are memorable, the books plot driven and action-packed.

If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert island what 5 books would you take?
I’d only need one: 101 Ways To Get Off A Desert Island.

Five words that sum you up.
Writer. Workaholic. Animal lover. Publisher.

To learn more about Paul.
Ford Street Publishing
Creative Net

Thanks for visiting today Paul. 
All the best with your new novel and all your future adventures.






1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this interview so thanks Melissa and Paul. Great to find out about authors and their journeys. Kaye