Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Interview with Author: Shane KP O'Neill

   I met Shane on facebook. I think that's where I meet all my new interviewees. I love Dracula. Shane writes about Dracula. So of course I had to reach out for an interview. 
   And I have to say if I ever met a vampire, I'd bare my neck! I'm not sure if I believe you Shane, when you say you would not. Ha!

Below are the questions I asked him:

1.    You chose to write about Dracula. What do you believe about vampires? Real? Or not real?
   Definitely not real, though the myths in some countries make them sound real enough. But if they exist in our minds and are immortalised on paper, does that not then make them real?
(Very interesting Shane! Now my mind is spinning. A)

2.     What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned while researching Dracula?
I’ve had to do vast amounts of historical research as my first two books run from the 15th to the 17th centuries and I’m a stickler for fine detail and getting things right. It’s hard to put my finger on any one fact from my research. I find some of the legends and folklore I’ve incorporated into my story, i.e facts that haven’t had proper historical clarification, the most interesting. I just love being able to play with so many important figures from history and manipulating what we know of their lives to suit my premise. As for Dracula himself, his whole life is of interest to me. What a fascinating man he was.

3.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
I have no regular sleeping patterns, as I work nights in my real life job. Some weeks I have five shifts and other weeks just one on my schedule. If I’m working I naturally try to sleep in the day, but if it’s a one-shift week then I’ll stay awake and try to adjust to sleeping nights again so I can live as normal a life as possible. In those instances I’m usually up quite early. 
For breakfast I usually eat yoghurt with muesli. They have this wonderful yoghurt here in Norway that I haven’t seen anywhere else. If I’m in the UK I tend to eat fried English breakfasts a lot more than I probably should.

4.     The industry seems saturated with vampire, werewolf, and other mystical creatures. So why write another vampire story?
Nothing touches the imagination quite like a vampire story, especially if your reading preferences are darker than the norm. And there is so much you can do with vampires. 
I would say now it is saturated with the type of vampire aimed at the teenage market. Vampires that sparkle or become love interests for teenage girls don’t cut it for me. But there is a huge amount of people that feel the same as I do, and they’re longing for something new, and more adult, to come along. 
I would have thought the big publishing houses would be alive to this fact and pursuing the next writer to take the mantle from Anne Rice. There are some really good new vampire books and vampire writers out there, going it alone, that would provide a perfect union with a major publisher; myself included.

5.     What do you think about the world of publishing right now?
It is interesting for sure and the whole dynamics of publishing are changing.  There is good and bad in it.  Amazon has opened the doors wide by allowing writers to self-publish.  Of course, this is wonderful for all the excellent writers who, for one reason or another, have failed to secure a contract with a traditional publisher.  And there are many.  
There are drawbacks to this, however.  It has allowed a lot of people to publish work that is not up to the required standards of the mainstream publishing world.  To the masses who buy our books, it seems all writers that self-publish get tarred with the same brush, and that is unfortunate and unfair to those writers of exceptional quality that have chosen this route.  
This shift towards digital publishing has also seen many bookstores and book chains shut their doors and go out of business.  For me personally, that is the greatest sadness in all of this. But it is making traditional publishers, and even agents, re-think how they conduct their business and I feel that is a good thing.  
I have flirted with traditional publishing in the past, but deliberately chose the route of going it alone.  I had a wonderful representative back in 2005 who was very well connected and who opened a lot of doors for me.  In hindsight I didn’t truly appreciate what she did for me.  My work reached the eyes of many top agents and publishers though.  
At the time Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian was due for release and the feeling was that the market wouldn’t be right for a second Dracula book so close to hers.  Simon & Schuster offered to publish my book as an eBook, which at the time was a new thing and not a road I wanted to go down. 
In hindsight I feel it was a very good thing for me that it didn’t happen for me back then.  It allowed me the time to better develop my concept and polish my work and bring it to the standard it is at today, and I am very glad of it.  Literary acclaim, thankfully, is still more important to me than financial success.  
On the downside I never realized the vast amount of hours it would take to steadily build my brand, promote myself and make my work known to a wider audience.  In light of that I might well look at the traditional publishing route again, which I previously wanted to avoid.

6.     Do you think Dracula is misunderstood? Why or why not?
I think the real historical Dracula is yes, for sure. But to the modern world it is the Dracula modeled on Bram Stoker’s creation that most people are familiar with. Even the version portrayed by Christopher Lee is fairly consistent with Stoker’s concept. Of course, I’m more interested in the real Vlad Dracula whose likeness to Stoker’s creation doesn’t go much beyond his name.

It surprises me how little people know about Vlad Dracula and the main perception was that he was some kind of a monster. He was certainly brutal, but in my opinion he was a product of his time. He ruled in Wallachia (not Transylvania) and his small country was hemmed between Hungarian-controlled Transylvania and Ottoman-controlled Bulgaria. Both demanded fealty from him and made his position a very tenuous one. 

So yes he was brutal, but he had to be. He killed a fifth of his people and many more from Transylvania in the north, and invading Ottoman troops. In doing so, he made his country economically strong and a military force that resisted encroachment onto his territory so admirably. He was an incredible man and employed the most brilliant military strategies. When people give mention to him they call him Vlad the Impaler. He was not given this name until a century after his death.

7.     If you came in contact with a real vampire, would you want to be bitten?
Um no, not especially. Unless of course it was my wife. I’m a lot more susceptible to a bite from her, yes J

8.     Who are you reading right now?
My kindle is loaded as always and my TBR list is a mile high. Books I’m reading or just beginning to read would include Sanguinary by Emma Edwards; Everyone Burns by John Dolan; and Notorious by Katie Jennings. I also promised James Rollins I’d read his book, Blood Gospel. I have to say it looks mouth-watering and I will no doubt be picking it up soon… and probably read it in one sitting. He is a great writer and a nice guy.

9.     What advice do you have for newbie writers?
If my experience counts for anything it is to take your time and do it right. Publishing isn’t a cheap business and it can’t be treated as such.  From building a website; a blog; having your book cover designed and your book formatted correctly; book trailers; self promotion; and proof-reading and editing it adds up to a substantial investment.  

But to be professional, and you have to be, then this is all a necessity and the expense must be met.  Listen to the free advice out there from the professionals in the industry and those that have succeeded as writers. They know what they’re talking about. Write your manuscript six or more times. Read it as many times. Send it to a professional to read, as expensive as that may be. It is vitally important to do so. And then do the revisions and send it out to beta readers. The key is to do it properly and never rush the process. 

I have learned from my mistakes that it is important to do it this way and to do it right. Be professional at all times and exude that same professionalism.

10. How has living and travelling all over the world helped your writing?
How can such a thing not benefit you as a writer? I’m beginning to realize how fortunate I have been to have seen so much of the world when many people never have this opportunity. But in answer to your question, Angie, yes absolutely. Seeing so many different people and places and experiencing different cultures brings with it a wealth of knowledge that any good writer should exploit.

11. Complete this sentence: “If I knew then what I know now about this industry I would have…”
Followed my own advice in Question 9 ;-)

12. What is your writing process like? Do you use an outline? Do you just write freely?
Many years ago I would use outlines for sure. But I haven’t done that in such a long time. Whenever I sit down to write I always know in which direction I want to go.
 My head is awash with ideas and I use them as markers for my story. Because my books work chronologically, I often write three sections of a book at any one time. 
For example, with Bound By Blood I was writing sections in 1494, 1503 and 1527 concurrently. If I ever tired or hit an obstacle in one section, I’d just move onto one of the others. That always kept me fresh and productive. The key was then to blend them all together. Because I re-write my manuscripts several times over, that allows me to add in more detail or even remove it where necessary and give the story a more defined structure.

13. Who is your biggest cheerleader?
It’s hard to say really. My book designers at Blue Harvest Creative are wonderful.  Many people believe in me, and some support me, but not in a very vocal way. My life as a writer has been a very lonely one despite being married with children, and it still is.

14. How do you advertise your book series? What has worked best for you? Facebook? Blog? Other?
It is a process I’m still learning and working with.  I have found Facebook is not a very good promotional tool.  It is a social network geared more at building relationships as opposed to bringing awareness to your book.  I spend a lot more time with Twitter and Goodreads, but must better utilize the other forums that are available.  I use my website mainly and give as many interviews as I can on other blogs as well as a few radio appearances.

15. What is the funniest thing you found out about Dracula or the myth of him?
As boring as it may sound, there is nothing. Vlad Dracula was one serious individual. I often wonder if the man had a sense of humor. I wouldn’t bet on it.

16. Will you be speaking at any writer’s conferences or signing books? If so, when or where?
Unless I get a major book deal in the near future, it’s not likely.

17. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
I’m not sure. Read my books and if they like them, spread the word. Alternatively, just spread the word anyway J I have quite an amazing world to introduce you to. If you have a strong stomach, then you’ll love it there J

18. What is your blog about?
I use my blog to keep with the theme of my books. It is a vampire/horror blog so I use it to give information about my books; feature other writers in the genre; and occasionally I’ll use a post from other vampire blogs. I’ve been thinking about incorporating other elements so people that read my blog can get to know me better.

19. What one word best describes you?

20. Any big news?
My next book, The Path To Decay, is out on September 17th.  This will actually be Chronicle #1 from The Dracula Chronicles series, which goes back to the night of Vlad Dracula’s birth.
On July 25th you’ll be able to tune in and hear me on Joey Aquilino’s show on BlogTalk Radio.  The Facebook event and link to the show is below…
Also, on August 4th I’ll be on Ashley Fontainne’s show on ArtistFirst Radio.

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