11 August 2011

An Interview With Michael J. Parry

Michael J. Parry is a librarian by day and an author/father by night. My day job is Digital Initiatives Coordinator for Victoria University Library, where I am in charge of transforming many of our older or copyright held print resources into digital resources. When not there I live on a small block of land outside of Dannevirke where I am growing fruit trees and children.

I write fantasy/sci-fi/mystery/contemporary fiction. At the moment I like steam punk and fantasy/mystery and playing humorously with stereotypes. I am interested in writing enjoyable stories and want to be considered a good storyteller.

The Spiral Tattoo is a police procedural with one partner a six-inch-tall male pixie and the other an eight-foot-tall female troll, am I right?

Yes indeed, although the pixie (Gurt) would find that term, and the term fairy, insulting. They call themselves Eleniu and view the other names as big people insults...

Who's the good cop, and who's the bad cop?

Neither really, as they swap around depending on the circumstances. Elanore (the Troll) will play both on the brutish reputation of her race, and her unusual keen intellect to get the most out of the suspect. Otherwise Elanore is good (being honourable and hard working) while Gurt could be bad (being prone to vices and a little lazy)

Is this an idea that you've had for quite some time, or is it one you've developed recently?

The characters are ones I have had for a long time. I have a number of story starts featuring the pairing archived away on my PC. This particular story was just the one that made it to the finish line.

Is this the first novel in a series, and if so, can you give us any clues as to how the series will develop?

It is the first of a series. I am contracted to write two more for my publishers, but have rough story lines for at least five more books. The series is written to be one where you can drop in at any point and pick it up, so it’s not a trilogy. They are murder mysteries dressed in a fantasy gown, with more than a little nod to the “cosy mystery” sub-genre. I intend to give small nods in each one to a type of mystery, so the next is a “closed room country house” murder. The one after that is shaping up to be a bit of a “serial killer thriller.” I am playing with many of the stereotypes of the fantasy genre so more of the humour will come out there.

I want to turn to the business side of writing. I'll be honest: as an author, it fills me with dread to think of a future in which books sell for 99 cents on Amazon, but that's the sales price of The Spiral Tattoo. Did you think about setting the price point higher, or is 99c the standard price point these days?

The 99c price was set by my publisher. As a price point I don’t think it will be a standard for all eBooks, but it is a good entry point for a new author. The idea is to have the first at the low price to entice readers to give the story a go. The later books in the series will be priced higher at the $2.99 mark. It’s a little like how gimmicky magazines will have the first issue at a much lower price. Not that I consider the price a gimmick.

How does the economics of selling your book at 99c work out?

For me it works out fairly well. I receive %50 of the net profits, which means that I would probably be getting more per sale than from a traditional publisher in paperback.

The Spiral Tattoo is published by Sky Warrior Book Publishing – what led you to choose that particular publisher?

I had been hawking off the story to traditional publishers for a while, and was getting to the point where I was reluctantly considering self publishing. Maggie who runs Sky Warrior Publishing put a call out to authors who had podcast their books through podiobooks.com saying she was starting her own publishing house and was looking for new authors. I submitted hoping she had listened to the story and liked it.

How important has social media been to you in promoting your work, and do you have any tips for other writers in that area?

Social media is very important. My publishers have a tiny budget for promotions, so free promotions have to work for both of us. As for tips? Engage, engage, engage, you have to participate actively and not to be afraid to put yourself out there. At the same time you need to make sure not all of your engagement is pushing your work.

What got you interested in writing science fiction and fantasy in the first place, and have you had SF & F at shorter lengths published previously?

Yes well, I am very stereotypical. The first real book I read was The Lord of the Rings and it was all downhill from there. No, I haven’t had anything else published. I have always had a large level of self doubt about my writing that has meant I never finished anything. The Spiral Tattoo is the first story I properly finished, and has been a breakthrough for me in terms of my self discipline and self belief.

I see that you write contemporary fiction as well – are you envisaging the same kind of publication path for your contemporary fiction?

My more contemporary stories are on hold at the moment while I concentrate on writing the Elanore and Gurt stories. Depending on what I write and how successfully the current stories are I would look towards using the same path for all my stories.

At the moment, you work as a Digital Initiatives Librarian. Do you plan to become a full-time writer, or are you happy to continue to mix the two?

Isn’t that the dream? I would love to be a full time writer, and one day I will. But for now I will struggle along writing and working and dreaming....

Book availability details

The Spiral Tattoo is available in all eBook formats from Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/69496

It is also available in audio form as a free podcast novel from podiobooks.com: http://www.podiobooks.com/title/the-spiral-tattoo

The podcast version is a “beta” or “ARC” version and differs from the print due to the editing process.

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