Today on le blog is the awesome Bryan Coburn, author of Vacancy, a dystopian novel.
Tell us about what inspired you to pick up the pen, so to speak.
Like most authors, I have wanted to write since I was a kid. I didn’t get serious about writing until I was in my thirties however, and even then, my first WIP is only half done. I have always been a reader, and have read various different genres. As a male teen, it was all about sci-fi and fantasy. I even belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club, and would get books in the mail all the time. I know, super- geeky. Then I went to university and got a BA in English with the hopes of going on to a journalism degree, but that never panned out. University introduces you to all different genres and time periods of literature. I even took a course called Shakespeare’s Comedies and Tragedies, which translates to Shakespeare 24/7. Now I read whatever draws my interest. I believe in the idea that to be a writer, you have to be a reader.
Describe the location in which you write? Favorite chair? Favorite desk? Do you have to have a certain drink/snack? What are your writing quirks?
My laptop is embarrassing. Cats have chewed off a large number of the keys: G, N, M, 4, and whatever is between Shift and X. Where these keys used to be are now just the little pads on the keyboard base and I have to press hard to get the letter to come up on the screen. So for heavy duty writing sessions I plug in a desktop keyboard into my laptop. The laptop works great otherwise so why bother buying a new one?
I don’t really have a favorite drink, but as I write this, I am having hot chocolate and Bailey’s because I just got back from snowboarding at the mountain.
How did you come up with Vacancy’s plot?
The setting for Vacancy is a large ski resort hotel, which part of a large vacation village. I was working, and still am working part-time at the hotel which is the basis for the hotel in Vacancy. During the off season, which is spring and fall, the hotel is almost empty of guests. The hotel also has minimal staff, maybe only a hand full of employees working in the evening. I was working one such evening, walking the empty, quiet halls of this five story, three hundred room hotel, and I thought, “this is what it would be like if I was the only person left alive.” It was on these nights, that you could go for a couple hours without even seeing another person. Vacancy grew from that experience. I got in the habit of carrying around a note book in my back pocket, and writing down ideas and observations as I worked – sights, sounds, smells. I added in the virus theme, but wanted to see what it would be really like to be the last man standing. Instead of having everyone turn into zombie, I wanted to create a more realistic scenario where everyone just died, and people reacted semi-peacefully instead of looting, raping, pillaging, - all the usual.
Tell us about main character, Martin and the Solara virus.
The main character is a combination of myself and another guy who worked at the hotel, mostly the other guy, - a simple, loyal, hardworking, introverted guy. At one point another character calls Martin the “The 40 Year Old Virgin” (from the movie), this also describes Martin, never married, never really had a girlfriend. He knows how to run the hotel, but doesn’t know too much about manly things like shooting a rifle, or driving a big truck. He’s a homebody, and is happiest when he is in the confines of the hotel, and alone.
I had to do some research on what type of virus I wanted to put in the book. I just didn’t want to say, “the virus”. I wanted it to be believable. That it could really happen, and based on an actual virus or at least plausible. The name Solara comes from a character in the movie The Book of Eli. Vacancy has a lot of “easter eggs” that come from my favorite dystopian/zombie books, movies, and video games. I put these in the for the fans of the genre.
Favorite Book: The Stand by Stephen King, I also read Slaughter House 5 by Kurt Vonnegut last year and loved it. I bought it at this amazing book store in Portland Oregon.
Favorite Color: Orange or red
Plotter or Pantser? A mix of both. I write in chronological order, but don’t have the whole story plotted out. Ideas come to me in the months it takes to write. Sometimes when I am minding my own business like driving, or it’s early in the morning and I am still in bed, idea will come or I will write sentences in my head. You never know when a good scene is going to come to you.
What projects are you working on for 2015?
I am currently writing the second book in Vacancy, aka year two. I hope to get that finished soon, so I can get back to a YA dystopian story I started about ten years ago.
What advice do you have for new authors?
Books don’t sell themselves. Writing a book is only half the work. You have to sell it, and this falls on you to be the salesperson. You have to promote your own book, all the time, every day, in all sorts of creative ways. Sure your book is on Amazon, but unless you are high up in the ranks, Amazon does very little to promote you or even notice you. I have proof, so far for 2015, I have spent very little time promoting Vacancy, and I have had no sales at all for January, not one book sold, but that is my own fault, and I accept it, I’ve been just been too busy to go on the computer to promote.
Don’t Get Discouraged by Sales: Some days you can spend a few hours promoting your book like crazy, and not get a single sale for the day.
Don’t Compare Your Sales to other Authors’: You will hear about other authors selling X number of books per day, sometimes even X number of books per hour and you look at your sales chart for the previous day and it’s one book, or one Kindle Unlimited borrow, or no sale at all. Different genres sell better than others. Like one author told me this week, “sex sells”, this is coming from an author who had a zombie book with limited sales then put out an erotica story and he has way more sales with the erotica story. Be true to what you want to write, keep plugging away, and the sales will come.
Make “Friends”: Make friends on Facebook, twitter and whatever other medium you like. These friends will help you sell books, you help them sell their books, and along the way you learn a lot – plus meet a lot of cool people from all over the world.
In the end have fun.
Blog of Casey L. Bond, Author of Young Adult and New Adult fiction.