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Kindle Author Interview: Derek J. Canyon

Derek J. Canyon, author of Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance?

DEREK J. CANYON: Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is an action-packed, hard-boiled cyberpunk novel about a genetically engineered dwarf assassin seeking vengeance for a terrorist attack on a neohuman dance club. The protagonist, Noose, hunts the villains across the criminal underbelly of 22nd century Atlanta, crossing paths with all kinds of low-lifes, from fixers and gangers to psykers and hit-men. It’s high-tech. It’s brutal. It’s a lot like a Schwarzenegger or Stallone scifi action flick.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you do your world building?

DEREK J. CANYON: Usually, the world grows around the story. I have a plot and an idea for a world, and go with that. I don’t create a world bible, like some authors do. Instead, I write the story and the world develops around it.

DAVID WISEHART: How did you come up with the title?

DEREK J. CANYON: Way back in high school, sometime around 1985/86, another student came up with the phrase “Dead Froggies Can’t Dance.” I always liked that phrase. At some point after that I came up with the book title Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance, which I wrote in 1994.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you create and maintain dramatic tension?

DEREK J. CANYON: I maintain dramatic tension by willfully suppressing the truth. The less that the reader knows, the more curious they are, which creates the tension. Start the story in the middle and then parcel out information on a need to know basis. Keep the reader hungry for info. Try not to use exposition. Chapter cliffhangers also help.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

DEREK J. CANYON: When I outline a story, I usually have few characters in mind (a dwarf assassin, an earless prostitute, a fat psychic, a boozing goon). I create additional characters as required by the story and try to make them different from the main characters (a skull-plated German cyborg, a ranting anarchist, a professor addicted to tweakchips). This helps suggest the description of the characters, which vary considerably in my world of genetic engineering and cybertechnology.

I also make sure that the names for each character are unique. I spend a lot of time on names. I often change them even after the 4th draft or later. Each name must not be confused with any other name (Noose, Cori, Grue, Munk, Earless, Sweetpea, etc.).

DAVID WISEHART:
Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

DEREK J. CANYON: My ideal readers are science fiction fans that enjoy an easy read full of action, violence, and scumbag criminals. Don’t read my book expecting to come away with a new understanding of the universe or the human condition. My books slum around in low society. If you want a popcorn book with lots of guns, tech, psychic powers, and other scifi ingredients, you’ll love Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

DEREK J. CANYON: I’ve been a technical writer in the software industry since 1997, but I’ve always loved to read and write. When I was a kid, I wrote short stories, drew comics, and played role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Star Frontiers, Shadowrun, and Traveller. That’s how I started imagining.

In 1994, I wrote Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance, but couldn’t get a publisher interested in printing it. In late 2010, I found JA Konrath’s website extolling the benefits of publishing on Amazon Kindle. I was inspired. I decided to brush off my old Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance and self-publish it as an ebook.

I started a blog, Adventures in ePublishing (http://derekjcanyon.blogspot.com/), to record my journey as a writer. You can check it out to learn all about my experiences with a cover artist, editor, sales numbers, advertising, and so on.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

DEREK J. CANYON: I work as a technical writer so I don’t have a lot of time to write my fiction. I try to get in at least 10 hours a week, but regularly fail at this goal.

I spend a few weeks outlining a novel which is probably around 1 page of outline per 10,000 words of finished story.

Then I sit down and get to work. I can write 1000+ words per hour, but cap out at about 4 or 5 hours a day. Usually, it’s only 1 or two hours a day.

For the first draft, I don’t try to make it perfect. I barrel through it so I can get to the end. It’s good to have achievable goals, and getting a first draft complete is one of mine.

After the first draft is done, I go through it several more times—up to the seventh draft or more. It takes about 200 hours of sitting at the computer to get to this point.

After that, I give it to friends and family. I make changes based on that input.

Then I send it out to an editor and iterate until it’s ready to publish!

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

DEREK J. CANYON: JA Konrath motivated me to self-publish on Kindle. Other than that, the following authors writing style and story-telling all stirred my imagination: JRR Tolkien, ER Burroughs, Louis Lamour, Dan Brown, Robert E Howard, JK Rowling.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

DEREK J. CANYON: I really enjoyed Skulduggery Pleasant. It’s a YA book with interesting characters and snappy dialog. It’d make a great movie.

DAVID WISEHART: How did you create the cover?

DEREK J. CANYON: I worked with artist Igor Kieryluk. You can read all about the art process in my blog post: http://derekjcanyon.blogspot.com/2010/11/cover-art-process.html

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

DEREK J. CANYON: I have advertised on Bing and Google, but got better results with Project Wonderful. Technically, the advertising has not yet been successful, since I’m spending more than I’m earning from sales. You can read about my advertising results here: http://derekjcanyon.blogspot.com/2010/12/is-it-worth-spending-to-advertise-self.html

I’ve also commented on other popular blogs (such as http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/), posted on forums (such as http://www.kindleboards.com/), and used Facebook and Twitter.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

DEREK J. CANYON: For complete control of my artistic creation. On Kindle, writers control the story, price, title, cover, everything. You also get 70% royalties instead of 6%-15% from print publishers.

Also, it can take up to 2 years to get a print book published. That’s a long time to wait, especially in the current climate of uncertainty surrounding print publishing.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

DEREK J. CANYON: Four things will get you noticed by readers on Kindle:

1. A catchy title.

2. A good cover.

3. A good product description.

4. A well-written story (resulting in good reviews)

If you start with that, you’ll soon be moving up the sales ranks. But, you’ll also need determination. And, don’t lose hope!

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derek J. Canyon was born and continues to live near Seattle, Washington. He’s worked as a furniture deliverer, bookkeeper, game store clerk, and technical writer in the software industry. Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is his first published novel.

Read his blog.

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