Irene is a great friend to Indie authors,and her blog, Irene’s Book Oasis, a wonderful place to meet new writers.
1. Why did you start writing?
I’ve always loved books, having learned to read at the age of two – mainly because my overworked parents could not read me all the fairy tales I wanted to hear. As a result, I read most of the classics growing up, from Jules Verne and Asimov to Steinbeck and Jane Austen. Also, I’m a fast reader, who will read anything. There is price to pay, of course; even today, I often feel I’m on the outside looking inwards, studying people, instead of actually living with them. Still, this turned out to be a great asset for an author.
My fascination with writing probably stems from my unusual childhood, as an only child in the middle of a forest outside Athens, with maybe two houses nearby. Having no friends there, I would borrow a dozen books each Friday afternoon from the school’s library, read them over the weekend and return them on Monday.
As to how I started writing, in a sense I never stopped; I just switched from non-fiction to fiction as I moved from university to work life. Besides, one could say I’ve always been writing in the form of a dream journal, where I’ve kept my most memorable dreams since I was in my late teens. Then, in 2009, I dreamed that someone was urging me to write. I flicked through my dream journal and came across a potentially good tale, so I wrote it up as a short story and submitted it to 9, a Greek sci-fi journal. To my great surprise, it was published. Then, I entered a competition with my next story, and won its inclusion to a sci-fi anthology.
I felt I had found my calling, and started working on my novel, Pearseus, while writing further short stories, a children’s book series (currently being illustrated) and various blog posts in between. To my astonishment, the second book of the Pearseus series became a best-seller within two months of its launch, and is still in the top 100. I’m currently 100 pages into the third book, and have already sketched out the main plotlines for the fourth one.
2. What is the hardest thing about writing?
I’ve often read the advice that you should write x amount of pages every day, although my own life and workload are too messy for that. I do appreciate where the advice is coming from, though: apart from writing, I also have to juggle my daytime job (I am a web developer and raise funds for startups) and personal life, so the greatest challenge is finding enough time to write. I have all these ideas that pop into my head at the most inappropriate time, and all I can do is jot them down, hoping I’ll remember them when I’m in front of the screen.
Even when you’re done writing, of course, it’s far from over. The first draft of Pearseus took me some four months to finish, and four times as long to edit. The published version is revision number 16, and I’m currently finishing version 17, which includes some minor changes based on readers’ feedback. One of the things that always worried me with hard copies is the finality of paper: once something is printed, it can’t be changed. So, I’m terribly grateful for Amazon’s auto-update ability, as all I have to do is publish the new version, and readers will instantly have that downloaded into their Kindle.
3. What is your book about?
Pearseus is a sci-fi novel that describes a dystopian society formed on a remote planet by the survivors of a destroyed starship. It picks up 300 years after the accident, when humans have split up in three competing factions, all embroiled in endless intrigue and constant warfare. The planet also has a native population, as well as ethereal entities, all caught up in their own wars, and it all ties nicely together to form “an excellent read from a new writer, that leaves you expecting more,” as a review I’ve memorized put it.
The concept itself came to me after reading Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, followed by Jim Lacey’s The First Clash and Herodotus’ Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describe the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC. Marathon is a 20’ drive from my home, and I’d often visited the tomb where the ancient Athenians buried their dead, so I thought at the time, “wouldn’t it be great if someone did what Martin did for medieval England, only with the story of Greece vs. Persia? And in space? How cool would that be?” Then it occurred to me: so, what’s stopping me from writing it?
I have a long history of rushing in where angels fear to tread, so I did!
4. What kind of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
One of the greatest concerns aspiring authors have is how their work will reach the public. It used to be that publishers acted as gatekeepers, deciding whom to publish and whom to reject. Authors had no real way to circumvent this, and were forced to submit to publishers’ judgment.
With the advent of e-books and self-publishing, the situation has changed dramatically (you can read my thoughts on the subject on http://selfpublishersshowcase.com/guest-post-open-fences-and-jailed-dogs/ ). There is, however, a new challenge: I read that some 1,500 books are published daily on Amazon; that is an astounding number. It is particularly hard for indie authors, as we need to be our own publicist, editor and promoter. I’ve even had to learn how to start a crowdsourcing campaign (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-bring-pearseus-to-life/ ) to fund the rest of the series and make an animated video promo. So, if you look at it rationally, you should probably give up any hope of pursuing a career as an author.
And yet, I am having such a great time doing it, I don’t really care. I’d love to be able to live off my books, but even if I don’t, I’ve found this roller coaster of a journey so infinitely satisfying, that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
So, my advice would be this: if you’re in it for the money, don’t even bother. There are plenty of other jobs that pay a lot more and require far less of your time.
If, however, you love writing and are held back by your fear of failure, take the plunge. Dare to open your wings and fly. One of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had since starting to write is the discovery of a whole community of wonderful people, like Irene. They will support you and offer their advice and assistance without asking for anything in return, and I’ve come to realize that there’s an astonishing number of people who share my passion for books. More than anything, writing is – and should be – a labor of love.