Hugh Howey has been well-ensconced in that position for months, but now he has some serious competition. (Have I mentioned Wool yet? Don't worry, I will - as soon as M lets me!)
Introducing Edward W. Robertson! (Cue trumpets, please.)
I first ran into Ed (he told me I could call him that) in the Writer's Cafe, a section of the KindleBoard forum devoted to writers. (By the way, KB is my first experience with an online forum, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.) I picked up Breakers during his most recent free promotion and by the end of Chapter 7, I was overcome with guilt. The book was kick - ass amazing and I didn't pay for it!
Sassy Summary: Breakers tells the story of an earth decimated by a virulent flu that kills billions. Raymond and Mia learn to live without the conveniences of modern life while the suicidal Walt embarks on a trek from New York to L.A. Months later, a massive vessel arrives from outer space carrying the very aliens who created the virus. Will the survivors be able to resist or will the aliens prevail?
I reached out to Ed and I must say he's quite the class act. He graciously agreed to be interviewed by our wee little blog. So before I tell you just how much M and I luuuuv this book, let's hear from him.
A Chit-Chat with Ed
- Tell us about your journey to become a self - published writer. Did you try the traditional route first?
This will be long, but it was a long process. And until recently, it was the only path most of us had.
I tried the traditional route for about a decade. More like 15 years, if you count the short stories I was sending to The Atlantic at age 16. Which you probably shouldn't. Anyway, I finished my first novel in college, revised for a year, began submitting to agents, and spent the next two years earning about 100 rejections. Paper rejections. That's how long ago this was. A couple years after that, I wrote a second novel, got about 10 rejections, decided it was a practice novel, and trunked it.
Next year, third novel. For the first time, I thought I'd written something pretty good! Another 100 rejections. I decided to write short fiction to beef up my query letter and to get my name out there -- SF/F authors have a fine tradition of getting their start in short stories, and the market there is still pretty strong. More rejections ensued -- but within a year, I made my first sale, to a small e-zine called M-Brane SF.
Heartened by my first fiction publication and the $10 that came with it, I focused on short stories for about three years, but also wrote a fourth novel (80 more rejections.) By 2010, I had multiple short story sales, and after hearing about how much money some Konrath guy was making, I figured I may as well put those previously published stories online and earn a few more bucks off them. After all, it didn't count as "self-publishing" if they'd already sold to paying markets! I put my new collection on Amazon and promptly sold nothing.
By this point, however, I was quite used to selling nothing, so in early 2011, realizing there was no point in sitting on this stuff anymore, and no longer giving a damn about the stigma, I self-published novels three and four along with some more short fiction. It sold very modestly. Much too modestly to explain what happened next: I wrote Breakers (my fifth novel, for those keeping count,) and for the first time, I didn't bother to send my most recent book to a single agent.
I think I was just burnt out on the query-go-round at that point. It felt so pointless. I probably would have hopped back on soon enough if Breakers hadn't started selling, either, but it did, and now along with some nonfiction work and short story sales, I'm finally making a living as a writer. For now.
- What's the one question you wish interviewers would ask you?
I know some authors get prickly about this, but I actually like talking about my influences. My biggest one is John Gardner, for instance, which makes no sense at first glance, given that I write about wizards and aliens, but is true nonetheless. I think it is, anyway.
- A plague, aliens, and a hot air balloon! Where on earth did you get the idea for Breakers?
I just love zombie/plague stories; if everyone's dead, you've got my attention. I wanted to write one myself, but to do something at least a little different, which is where the aliens came in. It felt like a funny thing to do to my characters: well, a virus has killed everyone you ever loved, and now here are these space-monsters you have to deal with. (L says, "Be still my heart. He likes zombies, too!)
I was outlining all this, I realized how stupid I was being. Like, people will read plague stories. People will read alien stories. But would anyone read both? Wouldn't tons of people love half the story and loathe the other half and give me all kinds of terrible reviews? Then I ignored all these concerns, because apparently my brain doesn't work.
The hot air balloon was definitely my biggest "What the hell am I doing?" moment. I almost dropped it several times. But I kept coming back to it and laughing, and I did some research, and it turned out to be less ridiculous than I thought. Anyway, as other sci-fi authors have pointed out, any species advanced enough to reach Earth would destroy us. Fighting back is inherently ridiculous. Employing ridiculous methods to do so makes a certain kind of twisted sense.
- What's the first thing you would do if aliens showed up on your lawn?
Faint, I expect. If I woke up and I wasn't dead or strapped to anything, I'd probably ask them what they're doing here. A dumb reaction if you enjoy living, but...aliens. You've got to talk to them.
Anyway, they came all this way. Running away screaming would just be rude.
- Signature Southern Sass Question: Tell us about your favorite Southern food.
Is "all" an acceptable answer? It's definitely barbecue, actually, but I'm not advanced enough to have strong opinions on the red/yellow debate. I love grits, which I first had at Denny's. Please don't shoot me. I don't get as much Southern food as I'd like (I've only ever lived on the West Coast and in New York,) but I love pretty much all of it. I'm generally envious of foreign food because it clearly comes from a centuries-long process of finding delicious things, and it seems like Southern food is the American equivalent of that.
Also I know I would love Cajun food -- I love spicy food, sauces, and big piles of jumbled-up ingredients -- but I've barely ever eaten any. That is a mistake I should correct.
L here again. Hmmm...perhaps Ed could take a trip to Louisiana? I wonder if the hubby would cook for him? (Yes, M, I know you're the Coonass, but I found him first!)
Ed's such a charming fella we decided to spend two posts with him. Next week M and I'll explain why we luuuuv Edward W. Robertson's Breakers.