January 22, 2015

Building Castles in Hugh Howey's Sandbox: an interview with Timothy C. Ward, author of "Scavenger"

I first heard about Timothy C. Ward a couple years back when he was doing his AudioTim podcast, then transitioned over to the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing podcast. Now he's entered the realm of writing with a serialized book set in Hugh Howey's Sand universe, called Scavenger. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his books and his journey thus far. Enjoy.

Timothy C. Ward on Amazon.com

Gef: What was the impetus behind jumping into Hugh Howey's Sand universe?

Tim: Hugh writes my favorite kind of scifi, the kind that is only a touch on the science and mostly about a rapid adventure with characters that evoke strong emotions. Sand is an incredible story of a family who's lost their father and is struggling to survive in a future America where sand diving and treasure hunting is both exciting and deadly. I wanted to explore that world with my own characters, one of which came from a scene near the last tenth of the book. I won't ruin the story, but a kind of people were described in passing and I wanted to see what they looked like up close and in the flesh. 

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing a story set in someone else's creation as opposed to one purely of your own invention?

Tim: I don't know if there is more prep before writing than I would do in my own world, but I read the source material at least twice (in this case four times as I had the audiobook and listened through twice). I kept notes on world and science and just made sure I stayed true to what was built. In a way, it is easier with someone else's book because it is firmly established.

I generally only work on one story at a time. I finish the draft and then go back to something else and edit or write a new story. No real difference in how those gears shift.

Gef: What kind of little tip and tricks have you picked up in working in these shared universes like Hugh Howey's and Michael Bunker's?

Tim: My success varies between my stories set in Hugh's and Bunker's worlds. With Scavenger (Hugh's world), I am self publishing one novella at a time. This has made editing cheaper than a whole novel, but my sales are nowhere near covering that expense. It has challenged me on whether or not I'll be able to afford to keep publishing them. Life happens and I've had a rough four months. Scavenger: Blue Dawn (#2) published Oct. 1 and while I'm almost done with Scavenger: Twin Suns (#3), three months between novellas is a bit to ask of readers. On the other hand, #2 only has 3 reviews, so I wonder how many people are ready for #3. People have so many books in their queue, it is very hard to slip in. I hoped to do that with Scavenger: Red Sands (#1) being only a novelette length story, but while I got more readers for that, many haven't had time to read part two, which is four times as long.

My tip then for my experience with Scavenger is to understand that self publishing fan fiction as a new writer is likely going to cost more money than it will make, at least in the first six months, maybe more. Granted, Hugh Howey's experience publishing Wool #1 is my model, he had like seven books out by then, so his audience helped push the sales needed to invest in writing the rest of the parts. I don't know if he had them edited or not and he did his own covers. Self publishing has grown to the point where you have to get professional looking covers and editing. The competition is too great to go cheap on those.

If Scavenger were not fan fiction, I might scrap the idea of self publishing, finish the story and submit to a trusted small publisher. I don't know if I can do that with fan fiction. I haven't asked Hugh if he'd care. I did ask for permission to write and sell in this world, so definitely do that if you're planning to write fan fiction and sell it.

As for writing in Michael Bunker's world, I was invited to write a story for his anthology, Tales from Pennsylvania. I was not a first choice, and was given a week to produce a story. My tip: when given a professional paying gig to write a story in a world you've enjoyed, take it, even if the time frame seems impossible. I spent the weekend rereading Pennsylvania and making notes, then connected an emotion I had from reading an article in the paper (a mother soldier returning from war to embrace her son) and wrote a story with that in a setting in Michael's world. Thankfully, I'm experienced enough to have made that opportunity work. And the paycheck I'll get in six months will go toward self publishing costs. I've contemplated taking more time to write short stories for paying markets as a way of paying for self publishing. The return on investment is higher than self pubbing at the moment.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of fan fiction?

Tim: Sharing fan bases with your favorite writers. Not only is it a good way to get new fans, it is an amazing experience to share a story in the same world as someone you look up to. For many, this is how we've been given a start in publishing. I'm eternally grateful for that.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Tim: No piece of writing advice is worse than any other because all of them make you think about what you want to do and if you agree or not. Becoming a writer is reading, writing, editing and thinking about how to become a better story teller. When someone gives me advice, it makes me think, and I can come out just as good after hearing advice I disagree with as advice I agree with. That said, I wish I had been more confident to stick to my guns earlier on. 

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Tim: I'm a huge Walking Dead fan. Yes it is a popular show, so maybe it isn't guilty, but I say Walking Dead instead of just zombies because I'm not a give me all the zombies you can dish out kind of fan. I am very picky with my zombie stories having solid writing and characters. Fiend by Peter Stenson (meth zombie apocalypse) and The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey (parasite like none other zombie apoc) are two highly recommended zombie stories. 

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Tim: I need to make a top five list. Without thinking too hard on order, here are my top five I read this year:

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (released earlier than 2014)

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Tim: I'm hoping to publish Twin Suns in January. I submitted a novel about the newly opened rift between Iowa and the Abyss, so we'll see on that. I'm trying a new blog at www.timothycward.thirdscribe.com, which includes a community of readers and writers as well as website creation for those who want to focus on writing. I have a newsletter for updates on new releases and sales athttp://eepurl.com/NA__X. I'm offering a first one hundred reviewers program where if you review Scavenger: Red Sands (#1) and sign up for my newsletter, I'll email you the next part free. Review part two, I send you part three free, and so on.

1 comment:

  1. Recent news is Twin Suns (Part 3) will release Feb. 1. Scavenger: Evolution will release March 1 and is currently offered in a giveaway at Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/123903-scavenger-evolution.