I’m hosting an interview for the tour for alternate history / fantasy “The Witches’ Covenant”.
Have you been writing for a long time? What inspired you to start a writing career?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and I’ve spent the last two decades or so as a professional editor and journalist in a variety of fields, mostly technical and scientific. My first serious foray into fiction writing came in the late 1990s, when I wrote and published a fairly large body of work, most of which I just posted for free on the Usenet. I did write two novels during this period that I tried to get published conventionally.
Family and professional pressures pulled me away from writing for about 15 years—I simply didn’t have time for it—but I always told myself I would one day go back. “One day” came last fall when I got to talking about my fiction with another couple we had over for dinner. That night, I thought to myself, “I need to start writing again,” and started The Wizard’s Daughters, which is the first book in the Twin Magic series.
Is The Witches’ Covenant your first book? If not, please tell us a little about your first book.
My first novel, which I wrote around 1990, can probably be summed up by a rejection letter I got from a literary agent about it: “Sorry, there’s too much going on here and too much mixing of genres.”
This book, Virtual Redemption, might be best described as a cyberpunk-mystery-thriller-erotic romance. It began as short-story fanfic set in the Cyberspace RPG world and took off from there, becoming the story of an attempt to blow up a corporate board meeting, followed by subsequent betrayals, deaths, and a cross-country chase. To make it less fanfic, I added on a backstory involving the narrator’s tortured history with his wealthy-but-distant father and his somewhat mysterious nanny. The nanny ultimately turns out to have been a corporate spy, and reappears later in the book to complicate the budding romance between the narrator and the beautiful blonde he meets early in the book. So, yes, there was indeed a lot going on.
VR went through so many revisions over several years that in the end I could no longer stand to even look at it, and it still wasn’t any good. But through that process, I learned a lot about the techniques of building a novel and polishing it for publication that I would apply to later books.
Why did you choose fantasy as genre for your book?
Most of the books I’ve written have been contemporary novels or science fiction. I had done only one other fantasy novel before the Twin Magic series, even though fantasy is one of my favorite genres. I got this idea about what might happen if you had two wizards who were so alike as twins that they could do almost nothing apart, up to and including marriage. How would they deal with this, and what might it mean for the system of magic I envisioned? That became the basis for The Wizard’s Daughters.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I probably have a different perspective from most indie authors because I’ve spent two decades working inside the publishing sausage factory.
First, just write good stories. That sounds basic, but 95% of success as an author is producing something people want to read. Most of your energy should be focused on that, and only then should you worry about the rest of it.
Write the stories that want to get out of your head, not what you think will sell. If it’s not something that you enjoy writing, no one is going to enjoy reading it.
“Bandwagon fiction,” whether you’re talking about the eight million urban/paranormal fantasy books on Amazon or all the FSOG knockoffs out there, invariably comes across to me as flaccid and derivative. What really turns me on is a story that makes me think, “Holy crap, what is going on in this writer’s head?”
When I first started writing fiction in the late 1990s, I went the traditional route in trying to find an agent and got nowhere. Back then, the market for new writers was just brutal. Getting a publishing contract was almost like winning the lottery. I think what a lot of novice writers don’t appreciate is that taking a manuscript from submission to print is really, really expensive. The printing costs alone for a hardcover book can run into six figures. When you factor in the editorial time, book design, marketing, and so forth, you’re talking about enough money to buy a small house (or a big one, if the publisher thinks it’s a potential bestseller). No publisher wants to commit that kind of money unless they’re convinced they have a winner on their hands.
The indie author revolution has turned a lot of that on its head, but it hasn’t changed the fact that publishing is still hard work. Instead of writing a book and handing it over to an editor to finish and market, the indie author has to do all that himself. I think a lot of indie authors don’t really appreciate this. It’s not just a matter of writing your book and uploading the Word file to Amazon to convert to an ebook, at least not if you want to sell anything.
When I first made the decision to publish my stuff last fall, I was coming into it knowing I had a lot of work on my hands. I took the effort to learn how to create and format ebooks (which is not that hard), and to do a lot of reading on what other authors were doing. But it’s still been a steep learning curve, and I don’t think for a moment think that I’m done.
Do you have any works in progress you’d like to tell us about?
I’m working on a sequel to my alternative history/science fiction novel Vector. Since I wrote that book 15 years ago, I decided to bring it forward to the present day, taking the three main characters from where I left them to where they might have ended up in the intervening years. I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but it took off pretty quickly once I started it.
About The Book
Author: Michael Dalton
Genre: Alternate History / Fantasy / Romance
Erich, Ariel and Astrid have begun their life together, but all is not well.
Ariel and Astrid have discovered that sharing a husband is a greater challenge than they anticipated, a challenge that is exacerbated by a difCicult winter trip to Wittenberg, where Erich hopes to enter the service of Frederick III, Elector of Sachsen. But their trip is soon interrupted by unexpected complications.
In the town of Marburg, a century-old agreement that has kept the peace between the Landgraviate of Hessen and a band of witches in the forest is beginning to unravel. The young Landgrave, Philip, needs to consolidate his authority, and the witches want something from him that he does not dare surrender.
Erich and his wives are drawn into this conClict, and in the process discover a mystery that seems tied to their unique magical bond—a mystery that may threaten its very existence if they cannot resolve it.
In this second installment in the bestselling Twin Magic series, Michael Dalton spins together magic, steampunk, and traditional German fairy tales into another entertaining alternate history adventure.
Michael Dalton is a professional journalist and editor. He lives with his family and multiple pets in Southern California.
The first book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wizards-Daughters-Twin-Magic-Book-ebook/dp/B00PHXIPW0