|Graeme Ing, author of OCEAN OF DUST
Today, I’m privileged to interview an author who’s supported my Viking novel from the moment he heard about it–he has Viking roots! Graeme’s young adult novel entitled Ocean of Dust has recently released. Here’s a little info on Graeme:
Graeme Ing is a writer of fantasy and SF novels, both adult and YA. His first novel, Ocean of Dust, is a YA fantasy.
Graeme is currently working on his second book, a horror fantasy hybrid, starring a cocky, sarcastic necromancer in a world of vicious undead and political machinations.
Born in England in 1965, Graeme lives in San Diego, California. His career as a software engineer and development manager spans 25 years, including the development of a dozen computer games for consoles, home computers and online. He is also an avid D&D nerd, armchair mountaineer, astronomer, mapmaker, pilot and general geek. He and his wife, Tamara, share their house with six crazy cats.
You can find Graeme here:
Info about Ocean of Dust: http://www.graemeing.com/books/
Now, on to our interview, in which we discuss crit partners, world-building, and self-publishing!
HG: So nice to have you here today, Graeme. I feel I’ve been following you for a while on your road to publication. When did you start writing your Young Adult fantasy novel, Ocean of Dust? Did you utilize beta readers or crit groups as you wrote?
GI: Hello, Heather. Thanks for inviting me. I began Ocean of Dust six years ago, right after my decision to seriously pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an author. As you know, writing that first book is a rollercoaster adventure of excitement and frustration. I’m lucky to have an absolutely super writing group. We meet every week, and though we write different genres we are evenly matched in our writing craft. Their comments and critiques helped to make Ocean of Dustso much better. I feel blessed to have such a close-knit group of friends to share my writing journey with.
I utilized a few beta readers, and listening to the reader’s perspective taught me a lot about the pace and interest level, whereas fellow writers tend to concentrate on mechanics. It was important to me that readers not get bored and skim. Even my wife did her part, though I know that fantasy is not her thing. Two of my readers were a brother and sister in their early teens. It was exciting to read their comments on each chapter. Such a feeling of relief when they noticed my foreshadowing, grew to hate the bad guys, rooted for my hero, and got excited or sad at all the right moments.
You absolutely have to get this input – you can’t write in a vacuum.
HG: Where did you come up with the inspiration for a dust ocean? I love that detail in your book. And what inspired your main character, Lissa? Can you describe her in three words or phrases? I haven’t had time to get too far into your book yet, but I’d describe her as innocent and kind, yet shrewd.
GI: You’ve nailed it. Innocent to the edge of naivety, kind, protective, brave, insanely curious and sometimes feisty. I don’t think that any one person inspired her. I’ve always enjoyed reading about feisty, adventurous females. There’s something deeper and richer about the female character, more nuanced, and such fun to write.
As for the ocean, for years I’ve wondered what if you had a powder so fine that it flowed like a liquid, similar to sand but finer still. But I wasn’t happy with it being inert, so I envisioned it laced with currents of energy. What if ships harnessed that energy instead of the wind, to travel the ocean of dust? What creatures could live in such a place? I just kept layering it up, and don’t worry, I’m saving some secrets for a sequel. 🙂
HG: May I just say, your world building is incredible. I can easily see the ship and the ocean in my mind. Did you draw a sketch of things somewhere, so you could refer to it? Or was it all just there in your head?
GI: Thank you. I love world building, and there’s so much of it in a fantasy or sci-fi novel. I’ve been designing worlds, and drawing maps of countries and kingdoms since I was a kid (and that’s a long time ago!), just for the fun of it. Two of my favourite school subjects were geography and astronomy, and the latter is why I wanted two suns and many moons. I drew sketches of the ship and detailed deck plans, and kept a journal containing notes about every place, character, creature and item, to ensure consistency. While most authors track word counts as they go along, I tracked the location of the ship on maps of the ocean, along with distances traveled per day. I’m an engineer so I’m anal like that. Hey, don’t look at me as if I’m mad. 🙂 I enjoy this stuff.
The secret of world building to me is capturing enough details to anchor the reader in a unique setting, but not to overwhelm them with jargon and crazy names like Krak-al-K’Zak’n. I want the reader to capture the flavour of my world, not get stuck grappling with unpronounceable words. It should be obvious in context what most of my alien words mean.
HG: What are the similarities between writing fantasy and writing standard fiction? What are the major differences? And can you elaborate more on writing for the YA audience? Was it difficult to get into that mind-set?
GI: I believe that 90% of any story is character driven and genre-independent. The guts of any novel are the development and intricacies of character relationships; how they react to situations, good or bad, and to each other. Human nature is essentially the same whether your book is set in the Wild West, Regency England or a futuristic space empire. Spaceships are no more interesting than Viking longboats in themselves; the story lies in those who journey in them, the perils along the way, where and why they are going, their families left behind, etc. The setting serves as the icing on the well-baked cake.
YA is not as easy to write as might appear. Kids, and especially teens, have their own set of problems, which good YA stories encompass. In Ocean of Dust, Lissa must adapt to the realities of a world that is harsher than her fantasies. The ship is full of domineering adults that restrict her freedom. Lyndon is the spoiled brat, while Alice is the jealous bully, and Branda is the quiet girl whom Lissa chooses to protect and befriend. I tried to address teen issues in the context of the larger picture, and my main goal was to show how the kids learn to participate in the adult world.
It was extremely challenging for me to continually project myself into the mind of a 14-year old girl. What would she do, and why? Oh boy, what had I let myself in for! The women in my writing group were super helpful at pointing out where I went wrong, and what a female would really do. Apparently, girls do a lot of hair pulling when they fight. Who knew? I struggled continually with how much violence to feature, and how to describe it. I consciously avoided sex, though romance may feature more heavily in sequels. 🙂 Another balancing act that I faced was the maturity of the dialogue and internal monologue, keeping it neither childish nor too adult.
HG: What are some specific tips you’d offer for marketing your self-published book?
GI: Heh, I don’t think I am yet qualified to answer that. For me, marketing is the hardest part of being an author. I’m not that outgoing, and I’m not pushy enough to aggressively self-promote. I think my dearest wife does a better job than I. 🙂 I would advise building friendships – honest ones, not befriending someone merely to ask them to buy or review your book. Help others, promote their books, share tips, encourage them, and celebrate their successes. It is heart-warming how many people choose to reciprocate, without you having to ask. But that’s what friends do. Give and ye shall receive.
I do have a platform, and I mention my book on Twitter and Facebook, but I try hard not to bombard folks. Marketing is a tough balancing act. I am quite willing to gain readers one by one. I love to write, and if others can enjoy reading my stories, then I’ve taken a teensy weensy step to putting more joy into the world. HG: I appreciate your humble approach to marketing such a captivating book. Thanks so much, Graeme! All the best to you in your writing career!
Ocean of Dust
Fourteen-year old Lissa is snatched from her home and finds herself a slave on a trading ship traveling on a waterless ocean of nothing but gray dust. A feisty, curious and intelligent girl, her desire to explore the ship earns her the hatred of the cruel first officer, Farq.
Fascinated by the ocean of dust, Lissa becomes embroiled in its mysteries, sensing things that the crew cannot, while cryptic whispers in her head are leading her toward a destiny linked to the dust itself. Only one man aboard can help her make sense of her new talent, but can she trust him? All is not as it seems, and she must unravel the clues before it’s too late.
When a sinister plot casts her adrift on the barren ocean, her best friend is left in the hands of the treacherous crew. Everything hinges upon her courage, quick wits, and her ability to master her new talent.
****What about you? What do you love about YA or fantasy? Do you sketch out your setting as you write? And feel free to ask Graeme questions!****