Next up I'll like to welcome Randolph Lalonde to the blog. Randolph is the author of the successful Spinward Fringe series.
Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
I was working at a customer support centre, answering calls for a New York Cable Company when I made the pledge to write every day for a year in 2008. I always wanted to try writing a first person story, and I had ideas bouncing around for a science fiction book that had been accumulating for about twenty years, so when I sat down on January 1, 2008, I decided I’d incorporate both in an adventure novella called Freeground. I had written a few epic, sweeping fantasy novels before, the first when I was in my mid-teens, and I decided that it wasn’t something I’d do in science fiction. Freeground would have a tighter point of view and tell a more direct story.
The adventure novella, Freeground accomplished a lot of my goals, and the first draft took a few days. That led to the second book in that trilogy, Limbo, and the third, Starfree Port, where I finally felt I was getting somewhere with that style of story telling, but I couldn’t tell the story I wanted to while writing in first person, so the First Light Chronicles had to end.
Spinward Fringe was born, taking the series to a new level, allowing me to expand the scope of the story and bring the reader further into the new universe I was creating by diversifying the setting and characters. In July, 2010, I celebrated the release of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments, bringing the total size of the series up to nine books and one million words.
What is the Spinward Fringe series about?
Spinward Fringe is a series of Space Opera novels that explore a futuristic universe at odds with itself through the perspective of several different core characters. They’re adventure books, where we embark on bold rescues, nick of time escapes, while dealing with character drama and romantic entanglements. Throw in a major splash of cyberpunk, half-mad power hungry villains and artificial intelligences that endeavor to complicate things, and you have a typical Spinward Fringe Broadcast. The heart of the series is the characters, and how they handle living in a galaxy that’s been destabilized by conflict.
It all starts in the first trilogy contained in The First Light Chronicles Omnibus (Also known as Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins – they’re the same book). The main character in that trilogy is caught using life like virtual military combat simulations with his friends and, instead of punishing them, they decide to send them out into the galaxy to collect new technologies, connect with other colonies and gather intelligence. The main character and many of his co-conspirators either have military training and retired after serving in a short lived war, or are still in the military, so they have the skills, they’re just putting them to use in very new territory. Their adventures quickly become misadventures, and the main character, Jonas Valent, is forced to learn the ropes fast.
Did you query agents and traditional publishers?
The First Light Chronicles were supposed to be my “get back on the horse” project, since I hadn’t written much at all in the previous two years. Even though the first book was more raw enthusiasm than talent, I liked it enough to have a pair of copies printed through lulu.com so I could put them on my shelf, and a co-worker stole a copy I had brought to work to read between calls. He’d finished it by the end of the day and agreed that it needed polish (it’s been edited three times since then), but he enjoyed it a great deal. Before I knew it, several co-workers were pre-ordering copies of my little sci-fi adventure novellas before I had finished writing them.
I took a look at the broader market and realized that Space Opera was a niche of Futuristic SciFi, which is a niche of Science Fiction / Fantasy, and most publishers weren’t interested in picking up a new series. It was already gathering a small following, so I thought I’d try my luck with Mobipocket. After some editing, I uploaded the First Light Trilogy and the newly finished Spinward Fringe Broadcast 1: Resurrection. I was surprised when science fiction fans started downloading copies, and when I finished Broadcast 2: Awakening, I did a bit more editing on the First Light Chronicles so I could re-release it as The First Light Chronicles Omnibus. That book has been at the top of the Science Fiction charts ever since on Mobipocket. They distributed to Kindle and most of the other major eBook sellers at the time, so within a few weeks my work was available pretty much everywhere. After a few months I was paying my bills with the proceeds. In short, I never had to plead with agents or petition publishers to entertain people with this series.
The Spinward Fringe series will never be sold to a major publisher unless I can retain complete control and sacrifice nothing in the deal. That’ll never happen, so it’s all mine, and I couldn’t be happier. I have other treatments, novel outlines and first chapters if an agent or publisher comes sniffing around. None of the backburner manuscripts / summaries are science fiction either. I hope to eventually write then release most of those ideas myself eventually, since I have absolutely no use for an agent or publisher at this point and have no desire to work with them.
They seem to share the misconception that the author is the low man or woman on the totem pole, and that we should do everything in our power to become their clients. Not only do I object to that perception, I’ve never met an agent worth hiring, nor do I have any desire to waste my time and money looking for one. If they want something, they can come and get it. I’ll probably turn them down as I have in the past, however.
Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will publish directly for Kindle?
My contract is with the readers. They expect me to write more Broadcasts (books), in the series and to deliver an ending to many of the current plot cycles in Broadcast 7. The only other contracts I have to worry about are for distribution (Amazon, Smashwords, Mobipocket, etc…).
I’ve been offered three deals from small publishers for rights to the Spinward Fringe series, but none of them came close to offering the conditions that would prompt a signature. They don’t seem to realize that I’m making a living as an independent and out selling their top titles already.
Did you design your cover art? If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
I designed several of my own covers, and am always looking for ways to be creative visually without having to enter a College Arts Program. I’m too busy writing to go back to school! Recently I’ve been buying non-exclusive rights to artwork or looking to NASA and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), for cover images that fit the story I’m telling in each book. It’s not a terribly difficult process, and it’s surprisingly inexpensive. There are a lot of artists looking for somewhere to feature their work and even more stock photography to choose from at very reasonable prices.
What drives you to write?
I write to entertain myself and others. If I don’t think something is entertaining before it’s written, it never makes it to the page. If something falls flat after I’ve typed it out I’ll either fix it or remove it entirely because if I find it boring or pointless, there’s no way it’s good enough for my readers. While writing does pay the bills, I know that if I had to hold down another job I’d still be doing it because there are still stories rattling around in my head that need to be told.
How did you feel when you got your first sale?
I had self-published a fantasy novel, Fate Cycle: Sins of the Past four years before the first Spinward Fringe book was sold, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it could have been. Seeing the first reviews for the First Light Chronicles Omnibus pop up on Mobipocket was a huge rush though, and I still get a bit of that back every time I realize I’ve entertained someone so well that they have to say / write something about it. Some of the emails I get are very touching, and it brings what I do into sharp focus.
What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I play with Twitter, Facebook and use the Blog to keep people in the loop. I like connecting with readers. They’re fantastic people and come from such diverse backgrounds - it’s just amazing. I try not to spend too much time on social media, however, since I’ve come to see those networks as huge time and creativity sink holes. I’d rather be writing.
Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
The nerve centre for my creative pursuits is www.randolphlalonde.com.
The whole Spinward Fringe Series is available at Smashwords, including Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins, a free Space Opera trilogy: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/randolphlalonde
My work is also available in Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Mobipocket, Kobo Books, and every other quality eBook seller.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing Broadcast 7, aiming for a Christmas release. After that’s finished I’ll be working on Broadcast 8 while I do final plotting for a horror novel called Dark Arts, which will be based on a short novella that’s begun to gather a following. My goal in 2011 is to release Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8, a new fantasy novel called the Sons of Brightwill, and the Dark Arts novel. Thanks to my readers, I can do this full time, so I’ll be providing them with ample page turning material in return!
Thank you Randolph for stopping by and best of luck with your books!