This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with William C. Tracy. He is a North Carolina native and a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. He has a master’s in mechanical engineering and has both designed and operated heavy construction machinery. He has also trained in Wado-Ryu karate since 2003 and runs his own dojo. He is an avid video and board gamer, a reader, and of course, a writer. In his spare time, he wrangles three cats. He and his wife enjoy putting their pets in cute little costumes and making them cosplay for the annual Christmas card.
What drew you to self-publishing?
I’ve been eyeing the industry for about 8-9 years before it was a fully-recognized publishing alternative. Slowly, it’s become an acceptable route as more “good” books have come out—ones that even rival the big five in content. Personally, attending the Writing Excuses Retreat in 2015 was what first gave me the confidence to put out Tuning the Symphony, which was a novella I wrote as a sort of prequel to The Seeds of Dissolution. It’s a novella, and that type of story has a harder time getting traditionally published than novel-length works, so I figured it was less of a risk. After about 3 months of full-time research, I felt ready to put it up for sale on Amazon. There were a lot of things I still did wrong, and I’ve been learning continuously ever since.
Why did you enter #spfbo?
The Seeds of Dissolution is a story I’ve been working on for a long time. It started way back when I was a teenager and has gone through about 6 completely different versions over the last *cough*twenty*cough* years. It’s been read by a lot of beta readers and edited from a 200k word sprawling epic down to a still-hefty 150k word epic science fantasy. Many of the characters have grown and changed as I have. This latest version I’m especially pleased with, as it includes the hard work I’ve put in increasing my writing skill with several other full novels I’ve written. I’d love for it to get more attention so more people will be able to read it.
What advice do you have for anyone new to self-publishing?
Do your research. No, really. The research you’ve done on how to publish? It’s not enough. Do more. If you’re doing the whole publishing gamut like I do, from story, to editing, to page layout and interior design, to cover layout, to marketing, you need to know your stuff. Self-publishing sometimes means you’re taking on the jobs of a large team in traditional publishing, all by yourself. Each of those team members has a specialized job, and now you have to take over for all of them at the same time. Marketing especially is such a finicky science/art, it takes a lot of practice and study to get right.
Pick 3 book characters to take on a D & D campaign. Who are they and why would you take them?
I’d pick two of my main characters, Origon, and Rilan, easily. They already work as a team and know how the other one moves. They’ve seen their share of combat, and will even coordinate magical attacks, Origon making a first strike, then leaving Rilan to follow up with magically-assisted martial arts. They’re both good at problem-solving too, although Rilan is more inclined to kick it until it works, and Origon might just ignore a problem if it doesn’t suit his purpose. So my third pick would be Hand Dancer, a gender-fluid alien who communicates solely with their hands. They are a master at getting to the bottom of a problem and can cut through Origon and Rilan’s bickering.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
This is especially pertinent to the Dissolutionverse, which now has one novel, five novellas, and two short stories. I like each work to stand on its own, so a newcomer can pick up any of the books, depending on which genre best suits them. However, if you read them all, you’ll see the connections in the background. Tuning the Symphony is a coming-of-age entry to the universe, Merchants and Maji is two shorter stories about political intrigue and steampunk, The Seeds of Dissolution is an epic space opera, The Society of Two Houses is a Sherlock Holmes-style murder mystery, and Journey to the Top of the Nether is an adventure story like the old Jules Verne books. They take place at different times, and on different planets, but you’ll see characters dropping in from another book for a brief cameo. It’s really fun to put together.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
*Counts on fingers*
Seven? Most are finished, one has about 9 chapters written, and another only has a long outline and a few scenes written. I have a time travel story, a superhero/mutant story (both YA), two epic fantasies, one of which is currently out to agents, a collection of short stories, a space opera, and a hard sci-fi. I think I could definitely resurrect most of them and either self-publish or put them out to agents, but the Dissolutionverse is currently my main focus.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Depends entirely on the story. The most research I’ve done was for the time travel story, where I had to learn a lot about real historical figures. That was a solid month of research before writing. Most of what I research, since I tend toward secondary worlds, is looking at a specific culture or place for ideas on how a different culture can function, or what foods they eat, or what clothes they wear. Cultural Appropriation is definitely a problem in fantasy and science fiction, so I have to be careful to let my research only give me ideas, and not to take a fully functioning custom from another culture.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I have a full-time job along with writing. In my day job, I’m an engineer, and the analytical and business training that comes with it are very helpful in self-publishing. I also teach martial arts 6-8 hours a week, and the knowledge of how to move my body comes in very helpful when mapping out fight scenes. You can see both engineering/physics and martial arts in many of my stories.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Oh yes. *Rubs hands*
I love putting little references here and there for people to find. Especially since I write in a universe, that means I can drop in characters for a quick cameo, and reference events in one book that tie into another. If you read carefully and match up dates and historical accounts, there are a lot of hints about the big mysteries in The Seeds of Dissolution. For my latest Kickstarter, I even wrote three personal short stories for backers. For now, no one else will read them, but I’ve gotten permission for them to eventually be released, and when they are, you’ll see a lot of secrets revealed about the background of the Dissolutionverse.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
This is sort of still up for debate. Having now gotten squarely into the self-publishing business, I’ve put out five books, but only one full novel, and those ideas, at least, I’d been thinking about for a long time. My first novella took about 5 months to write, but the second (which used some recycled material) was quicker. The Seeds of Dissolution took almost exactly a year from looking at old drafts to putting it up on Amazon. The latest two novellas I wrote at the same time, and completed both, from start to finish, between December 2017 and June 2018. I’m very interested to see how long the sequel to Seeds takes me, as it’s first, a full novel, and second, I’ll be starting from scratch!
To learn more about William and his books, check out these links:
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/William-C-Tracy/e/B01D1Z2MD8