Raita Jauhiainen is the winner of the SPR Full Moon Awards 2014 Science Fiction Prize for her novel, Alliance.125: Hirunda, The First Book. She lives in Finland, and the Alliance.125 series is her first foray into writing fiction.
Tell us about your winning book.
Hirunda, The First Book is written in the voice of four lead characters who live in the post-apocalyptic world, where nations no longer exist. The story takes place in the capital city of the world nation, Gavialis. In Gavialis there are seven circles in total, from which the seventh forms the core of the city and therefore is the most hallowed one.
A young man called Jani 821771 from the first circle of the city is an underachiever by the standards of his society. The story begins when he receives a formal invitation to the sixth circle, which is a part of the city he normally has no access to. The book also introduces three other lead characters of the Alliance.125 series: Doctor Mari Alauda, border guard Lu Talpa, and a young girl Saia. Each chapter is written from a viewpoint of one lead character and the story gradually reveals how their fates are intertwined.
What inspired your interest in this genre?
I am a scifi fan and dystopian stories are the ones I gravitate towards the most. How people face social and political issues, and how they maintain order after a cataclysmic decline in a society is a fascinating concept to me.
Needless to say I love TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, and Firefly to name a few. In addition, George Orwell’s novel “1984” is one of my all-time favorite books. One day I decided to create a dystopian story of my own; a story I would love to read and perhaps even watch on TV. Who knows, maybe Alliance.125 will be a TV series someday. A girl can dream, right?
What writing experience did you have before this?
I had only written one full-length novel in Finnish, which has not been published. So, basically I had no experience when I started to write Hirunda, The First Book.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
As soon as I knew the concept of my book series would be as unusual as it is (i.e. two books, Hirunda and Unionian, were released at once), I realized it would be extremely difficult to sell the idea to any publishing house, especially when only the first books were written and ready to be published. I could almost hear the confusion: “How do two first books make a book series exactly?” Self-publishing, however, provided me an opportunity to test the idea and see how this book series would develop further.
Overall, going indie gives you the freedom to explore and try new or alternative ways of doing things. So, I didn’t even consider any other path than going indie and self-publishing the story. It is my way to test the waters and learn about the publishing industry in general.
How did you find the self-publishing experience?
When I published my first books, I had no idea about the realm I was about to enter. I simply threw the books out there and was more or less done with them as I started to write the next part of the Alliance.125 saga. However, I gradually began to identify myself as an author and it made me take things more seriously. I have no regrets about self-publishing, none whatsoever. I still believe it was not just the only option available at the time, but the right one.
What tips could you give others to produce a quality self-published book?
Don’t be like me and simply throw you books out there. Take time to make time to explore different options to self-publish and compare service providers. You really need to have some kind of plan to organize your writing and book marketing efforts. Read experiences from other indie authors. Search blogs and useful sites covering self-publishing issues in order to get clearer picture of the field. Find your likes and dislikes.
Most importantly: invest in a proofreader. The more you edit your manuscript, the blinder you’ll become to all those tiny little typos and errors. A second pair of eyes is irreplaceable!
What obstacles did you face?
My biggest obstacles have a lot to do with the fact that I am an indie author from a small country (Finland) who is trying to make an impact on both domestic and international markets. The US market seems to be a tough nut to crack. Trying to get foot in the door is quite a challenge for a foreign indie author like me, so winning a Full Moon Award is much appreciated!
The moment I published my first books in Finnish, I knew I needed English editions, too. After all, the indie literature circles are still somewhat small here in Finland. At the time when the English editions were released, my print-on-demand service provider did not have an eBook option available. Therefore, the eBook editions of the novels were published considerably later than their paperback counterparts. There were also restrictions on eBook pricing. At first I could not to choose the price of a book myself. However, the service provider made the option possible later on. These are reasons why every indie author should investigate his or her options more carefully than I did back in the day. Especially if you are trying to go international like I am.
One of the obstacles has also been the lack of knowledge in marketing. Because Alliance.125 is my very first self-published project, at first I had no idea what to do with it in order to gain readers. I had to educate myself about the book marketing after the books were released. Obviously I should have done it beforehand. You need to find a little salesperson within yourself.
What are your plans for the future as a writer?
I always have to finish what I’ve started. Therefore, I will continue writing the Alliance.125 series regardless of the level of commercial success. I see the series containing from seven to ten books, which means 14-20 books in total. I am currently searching representation from the US, UK and/or Canada to help me to take this project to another lever, though. So, if there is a daring literary agent out there who knows what to do with the most unusual dystopian series you’ve read for a while, I am listening!