Interview with Keith Soares, author of The Oasis of Filth series, The Fingers of the Colossus, and more.
Tell us something about your book. The basics: what’s it about?
My first book series is called The Oasis of Filth. There are three parts: The Oasis of Filth, The Hopeless Pastures, and From Blood Reborn, available separately or in one volume called The Complete Series. All three individual parts have been separately reviewed by SPR.
The story is told by a suburban doctor who leads a rather privileged life when suddenly he’s on the front lines of discovering a new disease. Technically, it’s two very old diseases that have somehow become connected: leprosy and rabies. Leprosy causes changes in appearance and desensitizes the individual, while rabies causes them to have brain swelling that results in many bad symptoms like rage, hallucinations, and delirium. Put those together and you have a deformed and violent person who is easily agitated and feels little pain. It’s no surprise that the infected earn the nickname ‘zombies.’ They are lost souls, as the brain swelling is irreversible. But they are not supernatural in any way. However, they bite, and those bites are infectious.
The doctor is shuffled off to a walled city where strict rules of behavior and cleanliness are enforced, and where many people wish for a better life, imagining it exists at a mythical place called ‘The Oasis.’ Soon the doctor finds himself on the run with an unexpected partner, Rosa, and they experience the world of the infected outside the city as they go looking for The Oasis, if it really exists. And that’s just the start.
The story of the doctor is a very human one, of surprise pleasures, gut-wrenching losses, and a journey that is not so much about saving the world as saving himself from despair.
How did you come to self-publish? Did you try to get published traditionally?
I never attempted to publish traditionally. In my career, I’ve had a lot of experience with app development, and I see the value in self-publishing from that perspective. I’ve worked with several of the big publishing houses for years, but felt that I wanted to start small and on my own terms for my writing. I like having my finger on the pulse, knowing all the details of sales every day. It lets me try different promotions and avenues and immediately see their impact and worthiness.
What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?
Originally, I was published exclusively on Amazon KDP. I branched out early on to Lulu, where I had a few paperbacks made and pushed into iBooks and B&N, but found it difficult to maintain the necessary versions, so I pulled back to Amazon only for a while. Recently, I’ve added CreateSpace for paperbacks and Smashwords for hitting most of the other ebook markets outside of Amazon. This combination seems to suit me pretty well at the moment.
What avenues have you taken to market the book? Have you gotten reviews, interviews, TV, print media coverage?
Most of my marketing is grassroots. Social media, blogging, seeking reviews. I’ve done some paid advertising, but the jury is still out on how effective that is. I suspect I need to learn a lot more about how to advertise before this will be a useful tool for me. I try to keep my Facebook and Twitter posts current and fresh. In particular on Twitter, I try to not to make everything about MY BOOK MY BOOK MY BOOK, as I think that is tiresome (for me and followers). I’ve also used a number of the free and paid book promotional listing sites when I do a short promotion. I’ve also made part one of The Oasis of Filth free in every US ebook marketplace, so people can check it out and see if they want to continue the series. So far, that has been really positive for getting new readers into the other books.
What drove you to write this particular book?
Like many, I’ve always wanted to write a novel. In fact, I’ve written ideas and snippets for many years. I just never had the magic combination of time to work PLUS an idea with a start, middle, and end. I write a lot at my day job, so cranking out a large volume of words was not really the problem, nor was being able to write to an audience. Miraculously, everything came together for The Oasis of Filth and I had a little bit of spare time – albeit in the middle of the night – to work on the book. Once I got rolling, it became really addictive and something I wanted to complete. And now that I’ve completed one novel, I’m already well underway with a second.
Is the book in any one particular genre? Is it a genre that’s familiar to you?
The genre of The Oasis of Filth could be simplified to ‘zombie’ but since my zombies are not undead, some die-hard zombie lovers have been upset with me. I prefer to think of it as ‘post apocalyptic’/'dystopian,’ and yes, I’ve read a lot in that genre. I tried hard to make my story gritty and plausible, though of course you have to warp reality here and there to make a story work. Generally, people have appreciated its grounding in reality. Some people don’t like the ending, but, you know, this is a dystopia! If I wanted butterflies and unicorns, I would’ve written a ‘utopian’ novel instead! Haha!
Who are your greatest writing influences?
I’ve always loved Tolkien and Heinlein, plus I’ve read a lot of Stephen R. Donaldson, George R. R. Martin, and Arthur C. Clarke (I guess I like authors with distinct middle initials). But my style is probably a lot closer to Stephen King than the others (I’ve had a couple of people call The Oasis story ‘good like Stephen King,’ so I guess that means I write in the same wheelhouse!). I also really like Hugh Howey, Ernest Cline and Andy Weir as newer authors.
What’s your writing regimen? Any tips for keeping focused?
No doubt about it, I write at night. It has not yet come to pass that writing is my ‘day job.’ And with that, some nights are better than others. Some nights you’re just worn out. It’s harder to keep on a true schedule like that, but I try. I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me is that I now feel guilty when I am reading someone else’s book, or watching TV, or playing a video game. I feel like I should be getting back to my writing. I guess that’s a good sense of drive to have.
One good thing about writing late at night is that your distractions are minimized: the family is asleep, the day work is on pause, even the house is quieter. That helps a lot.
Would you self-publish again?
Absolutely. In fact, I am hoping to release several more things this year, including a collection of short stories, called The Fingers of the Colossus: Ten Short Stories, and the beginning of my second novel, called For I Could Lift My Finger and Black Out the Sun – Part One: Dawn. That’s probably another reason to self-publish! What self respecting big publishing house would allow me to write a book with such a long title?
Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?
Just do it. There are always going to be excuses NOT to publish, but ignore those. Even if your first book is terrible, just learn from it and try again. The barrier to entry is virtually nothing. Plus, an ebook isn’t set in stone. Change it all you want! Part 1 of The Oasis of Filth is currently in its third significantly-changed version. The initial version was missing two long chapters to help connect the dots and flesh out the story. The second release was complete as a story but lacked professional editing – which is hugely important (if you spend money on anything, make it editing and cover design!). Only now, on the third, do I feel it’s complete. But still, the only person pushing me to make these updates was me. Self-publishing makes it really easy to get something out there, see how it does, and then revise as needed.
In fact, I am now in the process of encouraging my ten-year-old daughter to self-publish some of her fan fiction. If a ten-year-old can do it, so can anyone!