Monday, September 8, 2014

Interview with Anthony St. Clair

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
A story of travel, destiny, and beer, Forever the Road is the third book in my ongoing Rucksack Universe series. These stories are based around wandering globetrotters, fantastical elements, a bit of alternate history, and a few dashes of wit, adventure, and romance.

In Forever the Road, three travelers in India battle their hearts and their destinies as an awakened evil prepares to destroy all life.

There are no vampires, werewolves, demons, mystical swords, fairies, leather pants, or other cliched fantasy tropes (or when there are, they're rarely what they seem). But there are travelers, lots of beer, one misguided leap from a train, mysteries, a strange little object in a big backpack, Indian food, destiny-slinging bartenders, a night getting lucky that turns pretty yucky, and, above all, a whole lot of consideration of what makes life worth living and people worth connecting with.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
Oh my gosh yes. My second book, Home Sweet Road, actually began as a short story. I was never happy with the story, and in time I realized it was because I was telling it from the wrong point of view. Instead of one of the travelers, the story needed to be told around Aisling, a woman who is far, far more than just the proprietor of a hostel in western Ireland.

I ripped the story to shreds and delved deeper into Aisling’s history and character. In Home Sweet Road we follow her journey at a pivotal point in her life. Frankly, I can hardly wait to write another book that centers around Aisling. She’s gone from being a minor character to one of the major figures in my series, and I’ve barely begun telling her story, the stories that have led her to be who and what she is, and the stories of what is going to happen to her, to Ireland, and to the world.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?
At the end of this roundabout-seeming response, there will be an answer to the question.

Back in 2010 and 2011, I was in the midst of big life changes. My wife and I were planning to start a family. (Kiddo #1 is now almost 3, and kiddo #2 is due in November!) My decent stable job had become a dead end. And I knew that if I went to my death bed and hadn’t taken an honest crack at getting my stories out into the world, I’d regret it.

Plus, we wanted our kids to see that Mom and Dad both worked hard at what they cared about—not that Dad was always unhappy because he hated his job. In June 2011, I left my job to be a full-time writer.

Prior to all this, my wife and I had many discussions and planning sessions about how I could change my work. I spent 6 months researching the state of the publishing industry. E-books were gaining steam. More authors were eschewing publishing contracts to publish on their own—not the crappy vanity press stuff, but high-quality, truly professional-grade, top-notch work.

The more I looked at the pros and cons of the standard agent-publisher model, and the increasing options for authors who could also handle the business/entrepreneurial end of writing and publishing, the more I saw the right path for me.

So at this point in my career, I’m a proud indie author and owner of a small business, just like my dad runs his utility contracting company and my wife runs her Suzuki violin studio. But part of why I made this choice is so I could keep my options open, too. If a publisher and I could work together on something that was win-win-win for us and readers, I’d be open. But I believe that opportunity is there for me in part because I got my start learning the ropes, publishing under my own imprint, and keeping control of my rights and work.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Egads, yes. I’m just as avid a reader as an author, so I know how important it is for a book to be high-quality, error-free, and more polished than the finest diamond.

After intense planning and writing, I have a chief reader and a team of beta readers who read the manuscript first, then I go through multiple revisions until I’ve fixed everything I can possibly fix. From there the manuscript goes to my copy editor, who won my business over half a dozen others. (I will work with him as long as he’ll have me.) Once he’s done, I do a read-out-loud-with-red-pen-and-paper edit, then a final read-through on my Kindle.

On the copyright page of my books I’ve also started including an email address where readers can send corrections. Quality is everything to me.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
I will offer my books through any seller/retailer/distributor who wants to work with me. If that makes me a slut of an author, I feel no shame, only pride. And a touch of titillation.

On my website I have links to all the stores that carry my books (both e-books and trade paperbacks), but essentially readers can get my books through Apple iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Flipkart, Barnes & Noble, you name it.

I’m also adding direct sales to my website, This way readers can buy from me directly, making it easier to keep the kids in shoes and books, and I can offer more options such as e-book/paperback bundles, box sets, and exclusive offers that will only be available from me as the author.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Nope. I start my work day with writing. Once I’ve hit my goal for the day (be it word count, a finished scene, blog post, article, whatever), I move on to other tasks.

Just like any other business, just like anyone else with a busy life, I make time to spread the word about my books, talk with readers, balance the checkbook, keep up with the industry, cook, be with my family, mow the grass, and all that good stuff.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Be educated about your options and make informed decisions.

Authors have more ways to publish and promote their work than ever before. If you want to find an agent and a publisher, know why you’re doing it, what you want out of the deal, and what you’re willing to give up. Same for indie publishing. Know what’s a good idea and know what to avoid.

I’m a big fan of The Creative Penn ( and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi, I would recommend those resources to any author trying to figure out the best way to get his or her book into the hands of readers.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
Oh yes! Cooking and baking. Craft beer (I live in Oregon, where Portland alone has something like the most breweries of any city in the world). And travel. When our son was 15 months old, my wife and I took him to Japan for 3 weeks. Our first birthday gift to him was his passport.

Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer...?
Dogs or cats? We have one of each, but I prefer cats.

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate. Dark, in the 50%-60% range. Now. (Please.)

Coffee or Tea? Coffee! Black, pour over or French press preferred. Hmmm, methinks I could do with a cuppa now, in fact...

What’s next for you?
2014 has been such an amazing year. Home Sweet Road came out in January, and I recently put out a new cover for the first book, The Martini of Destiny. I’m hard at work on the next 2 Rucksack Universe books, due out in 2015. I’m also figuring out the best way forward to bring all 3 current books to audiobook format, and am looking at translations too.

Beyond all that? Like I mentioned earlier, my second child, codenamed Marvelous Kiddo, is due in November. Writing and publishing books is really cool, but nothing is more exciting than meeting this new person.

Author Bio:
Anthony St. Clair has walked with hairy coos in the Scottish Highlands, choked on seafood in Australia, and watched the full moon rise over Mt. Everest in Tibet. Anthony’s travels have also taken him around the sights and beers of Thailand, Japan, India, Canada, Ireland, the USA, Cambodia, China and Nepal. He and his wife live in Eugene and gave their son a passport for his first birthday.

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