Friday, December 3, 2010

Fantasy & Ebook Author, R. L. Copple

I’m pleased to welcome young adult fantasy author, R. L. Copple, to my blog today. R. L. Copple's interest in speculative fiction started at an early age, after reading "Runaway Robot" by Lester Del Ray. Many others followed by Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others. He has written for religious purposes but started writing speculative fiction in 2005. “Infinite Realities” marks his first book, a fantasy novella. His second book, first full length novel, “Transforming Realities” hit the shelves March 2009. He has been published in several magazines.

R. L., I love fantasy and I love the young adult audience. Can you please give us a brief synopsis of “Transforming Realities?”

R. L.: Sure. When Sisko refuses the demon Beltrid's request to use his miracle-producing ring for selfish purposes, Sisko's world is turned upside down. Trapping Sisko's wife, Gabrielle, inside the "Crystal of Virtues," Beltrid sends Sisko and his two teenage children, Nathan and Kaylee, on a journey to find seven virtues that will free her. Simple? Not when a demon is involved. The trip takes several twists and turns leading to a showdown at the steam house where it all started. They discover that the reality of the ring transcends healing sicknesses—they discover a transforming reality.

Katie: I see you have read many of the same fantasy/science fiction authors I have. Why do you write fantasy, and more particularly, young adult fantasy?

R. L.: Fantasy makes the impossible, possible. The ultimate "what if" scenario can be laid out and find out how it would affect people. While a fantasy world will have its own internal rules, the author is free to construct that in any way he or she wants. That opens the doors of an unlimited and interesting source of story ideas. The interesting spark is how some reality not currently available will affect people, relationships, and lives, whether individuals or a society.

I tend toward young adult, maybe on the upper end of young adult, because I find my writing style is more in line with that age group. I like some action, a little romance, but always something interesting happening. I would say that much of my young adult writing is also enjoyed by adults. I think that is because I don't write it to sound like I'm focusing on, as one editor said it, "teen aghast," but on issues that affect all of us. Because as adults, we never really stop learning and growing. If we do, we're dead. To me, the young adult period of life is the perfect storm for fantasy. Someone seeking to discover their place in the world, and unusual events that push them to learn more about themselves and others.

Katie: Many fantasies deal with world creation. How much of that did you do in “Transforming Realities” and how easy/difficult did you find it?

R. L.: Honestly, it evolved over a period of time writing the stories and books. The first story in "Infinite Realities" was a short story, "Steamy Realities," that I wrote for a contest using the theme "hot," thus the reason for the steam house. Then I wrote another story in that world for another contest with the theme "hope" ("Unknown Realities"). The story expanded my world to another location. Then the other stories in that book brought in wizards and dragons.

When I sat down to create "Transforming Realities" the world grew significantly. That's when I drew the map you see in "Transforming Realities" that shows where all these places are in relation to each other, and even some yet to discover locations for future novels. How the world works, both in the magic and the types of creatures one would find in that world, sprang naturally from the story as I wrote it.

Katie: Many people think that just because you write fantasy, you don’t have to do any research. How much, if any, research did you do for this book?

R. L.: Being in an alternate world, you don't have the constraints of our history to make sure you're getting things right. But, the thing about fantasy is that while you always have elements that are created from my mind, you want there to be some fairly normal things that people identify as "real." The reader has to be able to relate to the characters and story. The more fantasy elements introduced, the more foreign and distant the world will feel to them.

Fantasy stories should be only a small percent fantasy. Some are more so than others. But if you have too much fantasy in there, the world is going to be hard for the reader to relate to. And I've read some fantasies like that. Which means, you'll have to do research at times as to what is reasonable to avoid accidentally introducing a new fantasy element into the world, or cause someone to no longer suspend disbelief and get pulled out of the story.

Compared to a historical novel, the amount of research I did would seem small. But one does need to do research to keep the real aspects real, so that the fantasy aspects can be all that more interesting. The fantasy is highlighted by what is "normal" in the reader's world.

Katie: Do you write one book at a time, or do you have several in the mixer, so to speak?

R. L.: I write one at a time, but I usually have several that I'm editing. Currently, of those yet to be published, I have six novels at various stages, and I am writing my eighth novel during November. I'm expecting to have three of them come out next year.

Katie: Have you considered writing outside of the fantasy genre? Why or why not?

R. L.: I've written a couple of mainstream short stories, and two of the books I've written are classified as space opera. I've also written several space opera short stories. I've even dabbled in a couple of horror pieces, and comedy pieces. But as far as novels go, they've all been in the space opera or fantasy genres.

I think the reason why is those types of stories excite me. I like the unusual. If I can find a plot and/or characters that excite me in other forms of fiction, I would write them. And I have written at least two mainstream short stories. But in both cases, I had a burning idea I had to write, and that was the format that would tell those stories.

Katie: You have published this book in both ebook format and paperback through Double-Edged Publishing, Inc. What are the pros and cons of publishing in both formats?

R. L.: I'm not one who believes that ebook sales will lessen paperback sales. And even if it did, the point is you've sold a book. Whether it is an ebook or paperback isn't significant. And if I had the price of my ebooks up a little higher, I would make more money off of them than the paperbacks. But frequently if someone buys the ebook because it is cheaper or more convenient, if they like the book, they may want to own a hard copy or want to give them as gifts. So chances are the ebooks will promote sales of the hard copies.

In bookstore terms, what ebooks give you is more virtual shelf space, and there is a segment of the audience out there that prefers an ebook over a hard copy. That segment is growing every year. It doesn't make any business sense to not meet that demand.

The only con I can think of is if you or your publisher put out an inferior quality ebook. If it isn't formatted well, is hard to read, it could give a negative impression of the novel and its author. But other than that, it is a win-win in my mind to have it in as many formats as people are using.

Katie: You say that you did the ebook format yourself. Is your book available through Amazon using the Kindle, or through other ebook venues?

R. L.: Both "Infinite Realities" and "Transforming Realities" ebooks are available in PDF, Ereader (pdb), Stanza (epub), and Sony (mobi/prc) formats at my own bookstore, http://store.rlcopple.com and on Amazon in the Kindle format. You can also find "Infinite Realities" at B&N as well as several other outlets via Smashwords. I plan on getting "Transforming Realities" out in those places as well, but the versions at my store will work for most any ereader being used today, including Kindle.

Katie: What special challenges did you have in creating your book in the ebook format?

R. L.: I was able to use free software to create it all, but some of it required a learning curve. The mobi/prc format was fairly simple. Getting into epub with Calibre was a little more difficult, until I figured out what coding to remove from my html source file. Getting it in Ereader format (pdb) had the most learning curve, as you have to learn the codes it uses to identify italics, bold, chapter headings, etc., then do search/replace in the document to put them in the right places. First time I had to do it several times before I got it right. Now I can usually create a pdb ebook in one to three hours, depending on the complexity.

PDFs are the easiest, in that I simply use the export function in Open Office Writer, which adds bookmarks for the chapters automatically. But I do something more with those because I have a pet peeve about reading PDFs on my computer. Almost everyone takes their book file and exports it into PDF. But on the computer screen, it doesn't read like a book.

I recently downloaded some ebooks, from an author you would know if I mentioned his name, about writing. Most of them are PDFs and horror of horrors, it is in two-column format! That means on my screen I have to scroll to the bottom of each page, then scroll back up to read the second column. It is annoying as all get out.

What I do is make the page size small, like around 4" x 5", and increase the text size to around 16 or 18 points. Then I tell Open Office Writer to export with the two page format as the default view upon opening the document. What you get on most computer screens is two pages with readable text in book-style format. All the reader has to do after reading those two pages is hit "Page-down" and it "turns the page." No scrolling required and the text is big enough to read.

Katie: What three pieces of advice would you give to an author wanting to publish both in ebook format and paperback?

R. L.: In paperback, most authors know their options: traditional publishers, an indie press, become your own publisher using Lightning Source, or self-publish using a company like Create Space or Lulu. Ignore all vanity presses.

If you use a traditional publisher and many indie publishers, they will probably want the rights to create the ebooks themselves. In my case, the publisher I used didn't want to mess with them and left me the rights to create my own, which I did.

If you're in my situation, or self-publish, I would start with creating epubs. That has become the default standard format to use, and nearly every non-propitiatory reading device can read them. Do a search on "calibre" to find the free software, or search on "create epub" to find other programs that will handle more of the process for you, usually for a fee.

Next, you'll want to get on Kindle and PubIt to have it in the biggest on-line retailers: Amazon and Barnes & Noble respectively.

In all three of these formats, what you'll want to start with is a clean html source file, and all chapter headings in either "Heading 1" or "Heading 2" to be automatically picked up. The easiest way to do that is to create an html using Open Office Writer, which produces a little cleaner html than Word does. But you'll need to edit the file and delete out of the style section anywhere it says: "page-break: always".

Just follow the programs or the instructions on their sites, allow some time for trial and error the first time around, but one can have professional quality ebooks produced this way.

Katie: Thanks for being my guest on my blog today. You can find out more about R. L. Copple and his works at http://www.rlcopple.com, http://blog.rlcopple.com, http://store.rlcopple.com.

11 comments:

Vivian Zabel said...

Excellent interview, Katie.

R.L., I can see why Katie wanted to interview you.

Rick Copple said...

Thanks, Vivian. It was enjoyable. Katie asked some good questions.

madcapmaggie said...

Katie, thanks for the interesting interview. R.L, nice to meet you. I'm a way back sci fi and fantasy fan, too. Your book sounds interesting.

What, in particular, did you have to research for your book?

Virginia S Grenier said...

Great interview. I'm such a big Fantasy reader and this book looks like one I'll be reading for sure.

Brenda Kezar said...

Great interview. I was especially intrigued with the advice on formatting for ebooks. I keep running across items in the "two-column" style, too (I call it "newsletter format"). I just can't figure out why so many people do it that way-- they have to know it's a pain to read!

Rick Copple said...

madcapmaggie,

Thanks for the comments.

One example is sword fighting. While I didn't want the story to get distracted into what kinds of swords they were using (sometimes I might describe the sword), I wanted my sword fights to appear more real, and not so much the typical "Hollywood" style. So I researched what generally happens in a sword fight. Note: in the first book, before I researched it, I have a more "Hollywood" sword fight. But the unusual nature of it might justify it as well. But for normal sword fighting, I wanted it to be realistic. Those who know will have to judge how well I did.

Another example is in the first book, Infinite Realities, to which Transforming is a sequel, I did some research on steam houses, to get some idea how they might operate in a Medieval society. While my world is in an alternate one from our world, I decided I would put it in a technology time period equivalent with our Medieval society in general (one might find some slight differences like a more widespread monetary system).

So, when I wanted to reference a toilet in my first book, I realized I wanted to make sure they used toilets back in those days. And if so, how widespread. I found most didn't have them, but some did, and they were pretty nasty places, no more then the equivalent of a bench with a hole in it. So plenty of flies and disease, which fit perfectly in how I wanted to use it.

The trick is knowing when you need to research something. Invariably, I'll think I know something, but someone will point out (hopefully before it is published) that I messed up on something.

Like I had some horses "lapping" in the original draft of this book, but a critiquer pointed out horses don't lap like dogs, they slurp. So, now my horses slurp. I could have had in my world horses lapping, but that would be a pointless fantasy element. I'd rather not introduce something that is going to throw people. Invariably I will, but to keep those to a bare minimum sometimes takes helpful beta readers, doing research where needed, and when I do blow it, forgiving readers. :)

There are probably other things. Often as I'm writing, I'll want to use something or write a scene that contains something I'm not sure about. That's when I go on a research mode, or mark it to do research later, after I'm finished writing depending what it is.

Rick Copple said...

Hi Brenda,

Yes, you'd think they would think about it. Even one column isn't smooth in a PDF unless it is reformatted from the book dimensions and font size. What you want is one or two "pages" totally viewable on the computer screen so they don't have to scroll.

Personally, I don't care for reading ebooks on pdf because I like to read them on my phone and it is simply too small of type, and you can't change the font size like you can with an epub or such.

Basically, it's laziness. Those are probably the PDFs sent to the printer to print the book. But that is rarely ever the best format for ebook reading on a computer screen because one is portrait and one is landscape, and it's a lot of trouble to read sideways. lol.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Great information and ideas on publishing in ebook and print. Your story sounds captivating too.
Katie does ask good questions, thanks for sharing Rick, a great interview.
I also write Fantasy and I agree with your need for research.

Frank Creed said...

Great interview, y'all!

Rick Copple said...

Thanks Rosalie and Frank. Thanks for checking in.

Susanne Drazic said...

Very interesting interview, Katie. I enjoyed learning about R.L. Copple and his writing. What an interesting book cover.