Welcome to Author Talk
Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Jonathon Fine.
Please tell us a little about yourself and your background
My name is Andrew Jonathan Fine. I am 52 years old, and I am a stay at home father disabled with autism and other inherited conditions. I don’t really consider the autism all that disabling. I even skipped grade to start high school at twelve, finishing with a master’s degree in computer science by my early twenties. Unfortunately, my career had been greatly limited due to discrimination. When I lost my final job in 2005 I was never able to recover my career. I have a beautiful wife and a brilliant eleven year old girl who loves me regardless, and they are what give me purpose in life these days. I became an author mostly by accident. Desperate for a sense of purpose I had even hospitalized myself for depression a couple years ago and found myself required to reveal my life in painstaking detail on page after page of forms. This made me realize that were I to transfer this experience into fictional characters I could express my experiences without fear of putting my family on display. There’s a little bit of my life and experience in all four of the main characters I re-imagined from the Depression-Era story I read at age 11, a copy which lapsed into the public domain and therefore I could use.
Wow Andrew, that is quite a summary of your life before you started writing. I am so glad that you decided to put your experiences into a novel. There is a great deal more awareness these days of depression. I can’t wait to read the answers to this interview and find out more about you.
About You as a Writer
- What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Just to be read, maybe to be popular. Money is not my primary focus. I simply want to leave a legacy for the live I have lived.
- How long have you been writing?
Maybe about two years, but not full-time. This is a hobby for me.
- Which writers inspire you?
C. S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Catherine Asaro. But there are entire anime series not ascribable to any single author which also inspire me, and there are even cartoons such as My Little Pony and Adventure Time which are serious dramatic fantasy fiction.
- Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I’d rather see unknowns play my lead characters. That way, a new generation of actors could have their own chance. I’m writing serious and heart-wrenching coming-of-age and first-love stuff which would nauseate me to see the likes of Disney sanitize and bowdlerized into a made-for-TV drama or comedy. This would make a poor movie outside of an art house.
- What is the easiest thing about writing?
Having the time.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’ve so far taken about two or three years to write this one, about half time. My primary duty these days is being a full-time homemaker.
- Do you ever get writer’s Block? If so, Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
To me writer’s block means not having enough ideas to get my character from one point to another, so what I do instead is starting writing a different section of the book. Sometimes a different idea from a future section of the plot will justify the past part of a plot I want to complete.
- What & whose book/s are you reading at present?
People with whom I am trading free reviews. I can’t afford to buy books anymore.
- When did you decide to become a writer? What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
That actually happened by accident. I was laid off by Honeywell Aerospace in 2005 and never was able to find a job since due to discrimination against my autism. Over a process of years I became slowly suicidal due to feelings of being useless. A couple of years ago I hospitalized myself for clinical depression. I was required to write reams of notes about my personal life in the course of therapy. When I was released I realized I had common themes in my notes which might make a good story in the right framework.
- Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Usually in the morning I take care of correspondence, in the afternoon I do my chores, in the evening I prepare dinner for my family, and at night when everyone else is asleep I try to write for a couple of hours before I turn in.
- Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand? Do you use a special writing program, or just type away?
I like the LibreOffice suite as it can produce any output format needed by a publisher. For cover design I like using GIMP. Both are open source tools. It’s a lie that you need commercial ones to make good manuscripts or covers.
- What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Finding a way to find a credible manner in which to advance the plot. Sometimes you wind up painting yourself into a corner.
- How do you market your books? Why did you choose this route?
I self-publish. I am 52 years old. I would be dead of old age by the time any brick-and-mortar publisher would accept my submissions. I also feel said people would discriminate against me for having autism. I’d rather trust the public to tell me why work sucks rather than keep getting rejected by editors who would give nothing but a standard form letter. I’ve been rejected by too many business owners when looking for software work to want to trust any of them any more for any other reason.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Don’t look at me for advice. I don’t know the first thing. All I can do is advertise on Facebook and Twitter because those are free.
- How do you relax?
My favorite way is to just spend some quality time with my wife.
- What is your favourite movie and why?
It’s an anime known as ‘Yamato 2199.’ A predecessor of it back in the 70’s gave me the courage to stand up to my parents and create my own life for myself. My mother, knowing I had autism, felt I was better off staying a child by her side forever. The themes in these movies help me defy her.
- Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years I plan to be 57 years old.
Here is a video made of Alouette’s Song.
You have a great sense of humour Andrew, we’re moving right along to hear more About Your Books
- What genre are your books?
I prefer to have them called “cross-genre speculative fiction”
- How much research do you do?
Fairly thorough. Online sources and some friends in the right places.
- What do you do to get book reviews? How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Usually I either apply for them through review sites, or offer trades. Trades are actually more likely to happen. It’s slow, but sure.
- Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
I usually have to be fairly persistent in finding review blogs. It’d say if you’re accepted by one out of every hundred you are doing good.
- What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
My three through five stars are pretty fair. Occasionally I get the troll who just like to anonymously provide a one or two star with a gratuitous reason, just to ruin my potential for getting shown on amazon. I just can’t understand people like that.
- What’s your views on social media for marketing? Which social network worked best for you?
It’s not really a matter of best more than like only. Facebook is the only way I can communicate with potential readers at no cost. Twitter is hit or miss.
- Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
Local newspaper, a couple years ago, for my first author signing. The sheer novelty of a first release in a small town of less than 2000 people made my book sell out. Sweet. But the bad news is you can easily saturate your local market that way.
- Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I’m still learning and making plenty of mistakes daily 🙂
- Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
My current strategy is to give books away to a known affinity group, other people with autism like my self, in the hopes they will tell their own circle of friends and generate some word of mouth. It’s a great way to get immediate feedback. Only time will tell if that actually generates more sales.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
There’s no such thing as aspiring. There’s only perspiring (grin). You have to be crazy to write a book because there really is no profit in it for the average person. Tell the story you have your all-consuming passion to tell, then move on with your life and do something else with it.
- Where do you see publishing going in the future?
Brick and mortar book-stores will be extinct in 20 years or less. As the cost of paper books increases to be priced out of reach to those who can’t find jobs that can sustain them and their families, the pages will be cut off their spines, scanned, and pirated by outraged anarchists. All novels will become free. No one will have the incentive to create quality text-books for schools, and you already see this happening from books being designed by committee to fit Common Core curriculum standards and religiously fundamentalist school boards. I pretty much see our future as being one where no one can earn a living of any kind being a writer. This will only accelerate the USA’s downward slide into economic neo-feudalism already being triggered by the off-shoring of high-paying professional jobs and the extinction of entire categories of high-paying occupations altogether.
Here is another video Andrew made of the background to Alouette’s Song.
Well Andrew, that certainly ended with a depth of feeling. I certainly hope you’re not right about all of that. For one thing, there is definitely an increase in people writing novels and being self published. Anyway, we will move on to read more About Your Current Book
- Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
- The ‘main character’ is actually a team. I partially follow the sentai formula where each member of the teenaged team is special in some way, such as faith, ingenuity, valor, or compassion.
- What are you working on at the minute? 31. What’s it about? (*if relevant)
The sequel. It’s set a generation later. The new heroes are the teen sons and daughters of the older ones. The latter serve as mentors, teachers, and supporters for the new, who form the next sentai team.
- Is this book part of a series? What are your thoughts on writing a book series.
I’m thinking that Alouette’s Song, and it’s sequel, Alouette’s Dream, will be dovetailed bookends. Dream answers a lot of questions which Song asks.
- Did you format your own book? In what formats is your book available?
Kindle and paperback. I use Sigil to format the precursor EPUB for the Kindle. I use LibreOffice and GIMP to create the proofs for the paperback.
- Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about. Who designed your book cover/s?
I created an abstract cover myself using Corel Draw and GIMP, of a logo, since I don’t know how to draw free-hand art. Nobody liked that cover because it didn’t tell enough about the story. A dear friend of mine drew a cover for a pivotal scene, and I used it for a while, but the trolls slammed that one as looking infantile. I now have a professional illustrator to donated a week of her time to create a truly creditable cover, and it contains all the important elements of the story.
- Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
It seems people are incredibly fickle these days. What with the outrageous competition between self-published authors it seems that covers are now like resumes… if the resume can’t catch attention in under five seconds then forget it.
- How are you publishing this book and why?
Print-on-Demand through Ingram Spark. I hope to have my book on bookstores someday, and that means I have to follow the rules the booksellers set.
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Search Amazon and Barnes&Noble. I also have a Facebook novel page www.facebook.com/alouettesong
Please list all of your published books here. Book Title: Alouette’s Song Genre: Romantic Action/Adventure
(ISBN) B00V0YQPWC (ASIN)
Author: Andrew Jonathan Fine
Distributor/Seller: Ingram-Spark, Amazon
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/ANDREW-FINE/e/B00JIBHFLO