Dream War, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Dream War?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: First, David, thanks for having me here today. Dream War presupposes that in the 1980s the CIA developed technology to enter dreams and extract information. At first, they utilized it for benign purposes—rescuing hostages et cetera. However when they learn that they can not only extract but implant things in our enemies minds, they use it for sinister purposes. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you do your world building?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: Obviously world building is vital. In the stories I write, the world looks quite like our own, but it’s just a shade off. It’s important to note what that “underworld” so to speak, looks and feels like. I use a lot of history in my stories, so much of the time I’m either writing the history of the story backwards, or I’m reaching far back and writing the history at the same time I write the “real time” portions.
For example in Dream War, there are two “on stage” time periods, but vital aspects of the story happened thousands of years ago. Those parts need to be as well thought through and written as the “on stage” portions...so to speak.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you create and maintain dramatic tension?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: I make things strange and uncomfortable for my lead characters. Then, I just continue to make things worse and worse for them. In the work I’m writing now, I knew there was something wrong. It took a while for me to realize it, but I’d made one of the characters too helpful to my lead character. I transformed him from a kindly helpful old dude to an eccentric creepy old guy. It’s seemed to work.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: With my main characters I use a detailed evaluation on their personality and physical characteristics. I think put them in imaginary situations and situations I’m going through or have been in. I play and replay conversations between them and other characters in my head. Then I’ll run the conversation through from the perspective of the other character.
Yeah. I’m crazy. But it seems to work.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: This is a tough one. Initially when I started writing, I imagined someone like myself or my best friend. Middle age, male, someone who loves both history and a great story. As my writing got some exposure in online contests, I realized that women loved my characters and my story as much, if not more so than men. Women account for far more sales than men, so I began to take that into consideration. It helped that my agent really “got” my writing, and she was able to clearly express where and how to strengthen the quality of my writing.
So now imagine those who’ve enjoyed my stories before. My agent, my friends, people in my writing group. People who are intelligent, have a sense of humor, and like their stories with a world that’s just slightly off kilter from our own.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: Well David, how far back do you want me to go? When I was nine... :-D
Seriously, my journey as a writer did begin young, but I never had much support for it. I guess I never realized that I could make a living as a writer and felt I should do something much more “important” for the world. Whenever I’d write something creative for work or for my fantasy football league or something, I’d almost always get the “you missed your calling/you should have been a writer” comments.
Finally in 2001, I began writing game reports for a fantasy football website. Watch football, write about it, and get paid?!?! It was a dream come true! It was around that time that I first got the idea for Dream War.
It took hiring a personal coach to get serious about writing the story, but I completed it around 2006. In 2007 I entered it into gather.com’s First Chapters contest and things took off from there. I learned more about writing than I’d ever known. I finished in the top 5 of the contest. I got an agent at a top literary agency. We revised the manuscript, and submitted it to the top publishers for auction. No one bought it.
That was likely the worst day of my life, but everything happens for a reason. I’m at the point where I’m beginning to see that reason panning out.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: First, NO TV! I never believed what people said about TV deadening your brainwaves until I tried to write while—or even after—watching it. Zero creative thoughts come from my head when another visual scene is taking over my attention. What does work for me is reading for a little bit, and then setting a timer for a short period of time. Twenty to thirty minutes. Then I do nothing but write for that time. No Internet, no “research,” no phone calls. Nothing but writing.
Sometimes the session feels like hours; I barely make it though eking out a word at a time. When the timer beeps, I can’t wait to surf the Internet, or make a phone call, or go back to reading. If that’s the case, it’s “rinse and repeat” so to speak. At other times, the session zips by and I continue to write as long as “the zone” lasts. Often it takes a couple short sessions before I hit the zone. Some nights it doesn’t come, but with that process, I’m able to be productive on nights I’m not at top form.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: Ones who never give up. They’re called “published” authors.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: The Stand, by Stephen King.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: I’ve been extremely fortunate to have slowly developed a following over the years. Friends, family, and people I’ve met over various Internet groups. I did start a Facebook “Fan Club” for the paranormal group in my upcoming novel. Thousands of people have connected to me through that and through that group I’ve met a number of people with paranormal internet radio shows.
I’ve also maintained a website before it was even a standard thing to do, and I’ve done some advertising on Facebook.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: My second novel, Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum, is due out in June. It’s a traditional publisher deal albeit with a small publishing house. I fully intended on making a name for myself with a couple of published novels, and then pulling Dream War out of the trunk, dusting it off and releasing it. I had thoughts of even breaking it down into two different books.
Then in June, a good friend of mine who’d read my novel called and asked if I’d seen the trailer for Inception. “It looks just like you’re book!” he exclaimed.
I’d heard that before and not worried, but when I researched Inception, I was floored. It WAS my idea. Not wanting to be labeled as derivative of myself, I cleaned up Dream War and got it posted on Kindle before Inception was released. As it turned out, Inception was a blessing in disguise. The film had many similar concepts and borrowed from the sources Dream War did, but the plot was completely different from my book. There’s a point when the DiCaprio character says something about them first testing the dream linking on the military. Essentially that’s the opening to the Dream War story.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
STEPHEN PROSAPIO: The most important piece of advice is to make sure that your material is READY for publication. Being “ready” does not mean you’ve worked on it a long time—that’s a given. “Ready” is not you think it’s ready, your wife/mom/boyfriend says it’s good. Your writer’s group should be at a loss of words as to how great it is. Beta readers (as distant and objective as you can get) should rave about it. Only then should you put it out to the world. Otherwise you’ll be doing more harm than good.
Once it’s really really ready. Get it out there. And then remember as you worry about sales volumes and marketing efforts etc, remember that people are reading your work. And that’s the most important thing.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dream War. Competing against 2,676 other novels, it won a Top Five Finalist award in Gather.com’s 2007 First Chapters contest. Dream War was released as an ebook in July of 2010. Articles about him and his writing have been featured in the San Diego Union Tribune, The North County Times, Today’s Local News, San Diego Magazine and the DePaul University Alumni magazine.
Stephen’s second novel Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is scheduled for publication June 2011. Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is a paranormal suspense novel about a paranormal researcher—who is himself possessed—forced to team with a rival TV ghost hunting show investigating a 19th century asylum. He uncovers as many dangerous secrets as he does spirits.
Stephen works as an executive recruiter and resides in Oceanside, California. He is currently crafting a sequel to Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum that chronicles the Xavier Paranormal Investigators next case.
Visit his website.
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