Ask the Author: Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto

This week, I spoke to indie authors Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto about their fantasy series, The Grey City.

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According to the Bowker Report by Lulu, a self-publishing model, self-publishing is beginning to mature:

Self-published titles jumped to more than 458,564 in 2013, increasing by 17 percent over 2012 and 437 percent over 2008.

With those figures in mind, I wanted to focus on self-published authors, and their journey. As other self-published authors, such as J.K. Accinni, have stated, the work begins once you write the final word.

Promoting is a sun-up to well past sun-down, 24/7 job. Are you prepared?

Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto, authors of The Grey Cityfantasy series, certainly are prepared. They are, collectively, a computer programmer, a stand-up comedian, a pianist, an Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast, and an award-winning interactive fiction designer.

The Duchess of the Shallows, the first book in the series, was published in 2012. Named one of the best books in 2012 by Kirkus Reviews, The Duchess of the Shallows is a compelling fantasy story, full of charm and intrigue. The sequel, The Fall of Ventaris, was released in 2013, and has been incredibly well-received. The series is illustrated by the talented Amy Houser.

A thrilling story of thievery and self-discovery
Kirkus Reviews

Neil was a voracious reader from a young age, often picturing himself in the stories he read.

At some point I decided that if I wrote the stories, well, I could be in them!

And it was much the same for Dan.

I think it’s true that all writers start as readers. For me, it was the ability of an author to conjure a world for the reader to fall into — what Stephen King once called the “hole in the page”. The idea of doing that for another person, to hand them a universe and say “here, go explore” has always captivated me.

Inspiration, as always, comes from different places. For Neil and Dan, The Grey City series started from a table role-playing game (RPG) they both played.

It’s gone far afield since then, but that’s how it started. So we came up with the ideas by playing them as part of that game. Not everything that happened in the game made it to the books, though.

Dan describes them both as “connoisseurs of culture”:

Every time we come across something interesting – a cultural idiom, a particularly striking piece of architecture, a strange bit of etymology – I find we’re always asking “Where could we include an idea like this in our world?”

Their advice for aspiring writers is to recognise how much of the process you can’t control.

1) Write a good book; 2) Promote the hell out of it; and 3) Hope to get lucky. That sounds so dismissive, I know, but most of what happens to a writer’s work really is out of their control. So the best thing is to control what you can and try to let go of the rest.

I wanted to know what they wished they’d known before they published their first novel. Agents are great, but you have to make sure you’re on the same page as them, says Neil.

When you’re working with an agent, even a good one, don’t work so hard to maintain control of the product that you lose track of the process. Set deadlines, benchmarks, goals – the whole thing. It’ll save you a great deal of trouble down the line.

And Dan cautions that it’s not always going to be fun.

I particularly realized that when we sat down to work on our second book and it seemed like every good idea I’d ever had had flown out of my head… There’s going to be hard days. Heck, there will be days it’ll seem outright impossible to come up with another idea, another sentence, another word. But those days always seem to pass. And if you work through them, sometimes that’s when you’ll end up producing your best work.

They’re currently hard at work on the third installment of the series, entitled The Ruling Mask, which will hopefully appear in late 2015.

It’s been amazing watching the series grow and develop as we go. We’re to the point where a lot of the threads and ideas we’ve put out in earlier volumes are twining and braiding into interesting shapes. It’s been really exciting.

Neil never reads fiction when he is writing fiction. He’s currently working his way through memoirs, particularly of those in the music industry:

I just finished Pat Benatar’s Between a Heart and a Rock Place–which was great–and I am waiting breathlessly for Kathy Valentine (of the Go-Go’s) to finish her book.

Dan is the opposite, though he never seems to read the same genre of fiction when he’s writing.

As we’re writing our fantasy series, I’ve been reading more and more science fiction, it seems. Right now, I’m finishing the few Culture novels by Ian M. Banks I haven’t read thus far, some Samuel R. Delany, as well as re-reading quite a bit of Gene Wolfe.

As their hands are full with book three, Neil and Dan have no current plans for a book tour, but readers can keep their fingers crossed for appearances in the future.

The Grey City series is available on Amazon, as a paperback and e-book. You can connect with the authors on Goodreads.

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