Monday, August 27, 2012

Interview with David Estes

Hi David! I have had the great pleasure to chat with you on several occasions and have been quite impressed with how personable you are. Thank you for agreeing to this interview so my readers can experience for themselves the energy and passion that you radiate.

      Hi Laurie!! Thanks so much for inviting me on your awesome blog and for featuring me this month, it’s a HUGE honor and I’m extremely humbled by it. I just want to tell all your readers how awesome you are as a beta reader. Laurie started beta reading for me with The Moon Dwellers and now she’s one of my most trusted readers. She always catches my plot holes and helps me to fix them so my books are the best they can be before my readers ever see them.

Ever the flatterer! Your books are a true joy to read and I'm honored to be a part of the team that helps make such wonderful stories come to fruition. I'm very grateful for this opportunity.

Let's start with the basics. You were born in El Paso, TX; Moved to Pittsburgh, PA as a child; and graduated from Penn State. What motivated you to move to Australia?

      Great question! As you said, I grew up in Pittsburgh, reading books and playing sports and cheering for the Steelers and Penguins and Pirates. After college at Penn State, I spent about 5 years working as an accountant (I know, boring!) in Pittsburgh. At some point, I realized I needed a change, something to inspire me, something to get my life energized. So when an opportunity arose to move with my company to Sydney, Australia for two years, I grabbed it, packing up my whole life and moving halfway around the world, waaaaay Down Under. Let me tell you, Australia is an incredible place for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I met my amazing and beautiful Australian wife there. I met her within 9 months, was engaged 3 months later, and we eloped in Malaysia a mere 6 months after we met! It was a true love story.

      Meeting Adele changed my life for the good in a million ways, but one of the most important was that she encouraged me to pursue my interests in writing. I began writing in September of 2012 and immediately fell in love with it and found that it came naturally to me. Within a year I’d written 7 books and now almost two years later I’ve written 10 books with many more to come. In June of this year I was able to quit my day job and launch my career as a full time writer. Now Adele and I are traveling the world on a two year trip where I’m writing and she’s taking photographs and writing. I am so fortunate to have such an incredible opportunity.

What was your major at Penn State? Did you study writing and literary tactics or another profession to have a day job to fall back on?

      I’ve always been a reader, but in college I went the “safe” route by studying accounting. It certainly paid off in the form of a good job and a steady salary, but I never felt inspired until I started writing. Looking back on it, I wish I’d taken a risk and pursued my true interests earlier, but in the end I suppose it was all meant to happen this way. After all, I may have never met my wife if not for my short accounting career!

What do you consider to be your strength? Your weakness?

      My strength is my self-motivation, and as I wrote in a guest post for Laurie, my superpower, which is OCD. In order to be a writer, you really have to be self-motivated, and that’s something I thrive on. I’m able to consistently push myself to write each and every day (my word quota is 2,500 words per day) and improve my writing with each book I release. Also, my OCD helps to focus me and ensure I pay attention to the details in my writing which is extremely important. So I’ll take my OCD over invisibility or flying any day!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

      My wife and I are huge beach bums. We love spending the day at the beach (although I write at the beach, too :) reading and swimming and people-watching. As far as reading goes, I’m the biggest addict there is. I carry either a paperback book or my Kindle everywhere I go, and you’ll find me reading in stores while my wife shops. I was recently caught in a photo reading in Victoria’s Secret while Adele looked for a new swimsuit. Of course, I was sitting in a massive pink chair, surrounded by pink walls and a big pink lamp. If it wasn’t such a funny shot it might have been embarrassing!

What does your family think of your writing?

      My family is incredible. Adele tells everyone we meet about my books and takes it as a personal affront if they don’t buy them immediately. Haha! It cracks me up, but her support also helps inspire me. My parents are also amazing, reading everything I throw at them and always loving it!

Are you superstitious, do you experience feelings of trepidation when your birthday falls on a Friday?

      Ahh, you noticed my birthday falls on the 13th (April). I’m not superstitious at all, but I actually view it the opposite way, as a lucky day when my birthday falls on Friday the 13th. I don’t know, it’s like I’m more excited about my birthday than usual when it’s on a Friday. It’s my lucky day!

What author(s) has had significant influence to your writing or desire to be a writer? How have they influenced your work?

      JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has had the biggest influence as it’s really what got me started reading seriously. I loved books before then, but it wasn’t till I sank my teeth into LOTR that I became fully addicted. I’ve read it more than ten times! Since then, I’ve been influenced by Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, and Amanda Hocking, who have showed me what can be achieved if you dream big and love what you do! I guess what I learn from them is that you have to have a great plot and then you have to write with emotion. If I’m not crying when I’m writing the sad parts, then my readers won’t be. The same goes for laughing during the funny parts and tensing up during the suspenseful parts. It’s taken me a few books to figure that out, but with The Moon Dwellers, I can promise I’ve poured my heart, my soul, and all my emotion into the characters and their story. And then with the sequel, The Star Dwellers (which comes out on September 30th) I’ve poured even more emotion into it.

Do you sit down and write daily or in binges as ideas come to you?

      Haha! I’m generally not a binge-writer, although as I approach the end of a novel, I tend to write large chunks at a time as I get in “the writing zone”. So to answer your question, I do write every day, using a quota of 2,500 words, although I regularly exceed that. For example, when writing The Star Dwellers, I averaged 3,000 words a day for 27 days and then wrote 8,500 words on the last day (over an 8 hour period) to finish the book. By the time I was done with that 8 hour writing session, I was physically shaking with excitement and emotion. That’s when I knew I had accomplished what I set out.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

      I just press an internal button and go. Generally I think of ideas for characters, scenes, and plot elements at really random times, so I just jot them down in my iPhone and then when it’s time to write I start writing using them as a guide, piecing them together as I go. For me, outlining takes the fun out of it and makes it feel more like work. But that’s just me!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

      Being completely honest, I’d LOVE to be accepted by a big publisher, if only to get my books out to a wider audience, but first I have to get past the gatekeepers: literary agents. Most big publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so you need to have a literary agent to assist you in finalizing your book and getting it in front of the publishers. In the ultra-competitive YA market, I haven’t been able to find an agent yet, and so I’ve decided to go the route of self-publishing, which has been extremely rewarding but also a huge challenge. My readers have been so amazing and supportive and allowed me to write full time even without a publisher.

      Although it has its challenges, I love being an Indie author. I get to control the creative process from start to finish and learn all the ins and outs of publishing. And the rewards are simply incredible as I get so many nice messages and reviews from those who have taken a chance on my books.

      Another one of my favorite things about not having a publisher is keeping the prices of my books low. Even if I was a bestselling Indie, I’d still be able to sell my ebooks from less than $5, and paperbacks for less than $10, which is impossible if you have a publisher, as they have to make their money too, thus pushing the prices for both paperbacks and ebooks over $10. I think it’s awesome making my writing affordable for everyone.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

      Ooh great question! I like to start with positive feedback first as I’m an optimist! I’ve received some amazingly positive feedback from some of my biggest fans, but the best compliment was from someone reading The Moon Dwellers recently, and they told me it was every bit as good as some of their favorite books by authors supported by the big publishers. That gave me goosebumps—I couldn’t have been happier!

      Eek, the worst criticism? Hmm, that I’m a terrible writer. Yeah, that hurt. But every writer is going to have those who don’t like their style of writing so I try not to dwell on that type of feedback too much. Plus, the review came from someone who was clearly just trying to be a bully as they also referred to the many typos and grammatical errors in the book, which was a complete lie—my awesome team of beta readers and my amazing copy editor ensures my books are error free.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

      Sometimes it is just about pure entertainment for my readers, but I also love including subtle messages in my books. In The Moon Dwellers it’s all about family and loyalty and doing the right thing in tough situations. There’s also a bit of bromance, which I’m a sucker for as I think guys shouldn’t be afraid to show that they care about each other.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

      Ahh, so many things influenced writing in YA and particularly in paranormal and dystopian. I guess first and foremost it’s the chance to write for a young audience. I loved loved loved reading growing up, as both a child and teenager, so it is so exciting to help young adults and kids use their imaginations while developing a love for reading. I am also so excited about what is happening within the YA and children’s genres. The interest in it has expanded across generations and so many not-so-young adults are reading YA books these days that there are really no age restrictions anymore (I know I regularly explore the YA an children’s sections in the library!)

      Although I am in the gender minority for authors in the genre, I feel right at home in the space. I am a bit of a romantic, and I prefer writing about younger characters, so it’s a perfect fit for me!

      Finally, I’ve never really grown up myself, always enjoying reading books across all genres and age groups, so it was just natural that I should write in such a versatile genre.

      And I’m obsessed with paranormal and dystopian novels, so if I love reading those kinds of books, it just makes sense for me to write books in these genres.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

      The beautiful thing about self-publishing is that it’s quite easy to release a new edition, so if I did want to make any changes, I could do it. However, I have no plans to make any changes as I’m very comfortable with the completed novel, and I’m so excited by the feedback I’ve received so far! The only major negative I’ve received a few times is from readers who think The Moon Dwellers has an element of insta-love in it, simply because Tristan and Adele have an immediate connection without really knowing each other. However, that was never my intention and Adele and Tristan repeatedly say that they have “crushes” on each other, which is pretty normal for teenagers. Without spoiling anything, I can guarantee that they won’t fall in love in the course of a single book, and I can also give a small hint that their connection might not be completely natural (wink wink).

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The three key pieces of advice I wish I knew when I started writing are:
  • Write every day. Even if it’s only a couple hundred words, it keeps you in your story and makes it easier to pick it up and continue writing. Plus, you’re less likely to forget something and change the storyline or details partway through.
  • If you can’t afford a copy editor (which I couldn’t when I first started), get a few eagle-eyed people to review for silly errors. Read it yourself at least five times too! No one likes a book they paid for to have a bunch of typos.
  • Use independent beta readers! This is something I didn’t do for Angel Evolution and now wish I did. I asked friends and family to read and provide feedback and I made some good changes from it, but it wasn’t enough. Make friends on sites like Goodreads and ask people to read your unpublished manuscript to provide feedback, particularly around character development, the beginning, the ending, what annoyed them, etc. I wish I would have done this so I could have avoided some of the negative reviews from my readers.

      Thanks again Laurie, I loved the questions and the chance to come on your blog!! I can’t wait to see what your readers think of The Moon Dwellers! I love getting comments and questions from my readers and I take the time to respond to every single one, so I invite anyone to contact me on one of my favorite social networking sites.

My blog/website: David Estes Books
My Facebook page
My Goodreads author page
Twitter: @davidestesbooks

Where you can buy The Moon Dwellers:
Kindle Ebook, Amazon Paperback, B&N Ebook, Smashwords Ebook

No David, thank YOU! Your cooperation and participation had made this month's author feature so much more exciting! I really can't thank you enough, especially for the awesome prizes you contributed for this month's giveaway!

     If you haven't entered The Ultimate David Estes Giveaway yet, there are FIVE great prize packages up for grabs. Don't miss your opportunity to win David's Books!

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