Tell us something about your book. The basics: what’s it about?
Drachen is an adventure thriller that starts with Brett Rivera on the run, and stays with her as she races to find a legendary lost treasure of Hanseatic League. Along the way she has to test herself and her allegiances as the clues take her through Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Germany.
But Hiko, a mother-obsessed psychopath, is determined to find the treasure first, and he is prepared to play dirty.
It’s an entertaining and fast-paced read.
How did you come to self-publish? Did you try to get published traditionally?
The outlook I have taken is longer term, and still ends with the goal of a traditional publishing deal. Of course. I think any writer would want that sort of distribution power behind them.
But I realized that en route to that goal I had two options: to spend those years understanding my writing, my audience, and the publishing process or to spend those years collecting standardized rejection letters and delays.
Perhaps it is not so extreme, but I did want Drachen to exist. And I did want to understand the steps that go into the making of a book before I approached the traditional channels. When I do, and it won’t be for Drachen‘s follow-up either, I want to understand what I bring to the table as well as what they do.
What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?
I found my editor and my cover designer independently – my editor is well-known in Hong Kong writing circles, while my cover designer was a graphic designer interested in getting into books. And that’s another plus of self-publishing I think, not only do you get to make those creative decisions yourself, you get to support other independent artists.
But once Drachen was published I used more of what could be considered self-publishing services, especially those focused on reviews and publicity (Self Publishing Review among them). Overall I’ve been pleased with the professionalism of all the parties I have encountered, though you do need to put a bit of effort into looking at the credentials of service providers.
The things I would change for next time are primarily related to my own interactions – I have a better understanding of timings now, so hope to put together a more coordinated production and a more coordinated launch.
What avenues have you taken to market the book? Have you gotten reviews, interviews, TV, print media coverage?
Drachen was a very important first step for me, as a way to ‘get something out there’, but as marketing plan I feel like I’d need about three books in the series to justify a large investment in publicity. In the mean time I have focused on review gathering (to understand my strengths and weaknesses as much as to use for marketing) and on some smaller scale, primarily social media based, audience building.
What drove you to write this particular book?
A stained-glass window and a carving of three dragons crawling into a church in Tallinn.
No, really. I lived in Denmark for a couple of years and used that time to visit as many interesting spots in Europe as I could, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. When I decided to write a book, then, I knew I had to try and capture that atmosphere.
Architecture was an obvious way to do this, and Tallinn certainly has enough charismatic towers and churches to make for a great location, but it was one small and insignificant detail that really stuck in my mind after a visit: that little carving of the dragons. They looked so out of place, so simply rendered, that I immediately saw them as a possible marker to a long-hidden clue.
And then, when during a road trip of northern Germany we stumbled upon Dotlingen – the beautiful little village in which Drachen plays out is climax – the final piece of the puzzle fell into place.
The Hanseatic League was the perfect link between the Baltics and northern Germany, and soon their history became the base for my own treasure myth. And the rest of the story grew around that, albeit over multiple iterations and re-writes!
Is the book in any one particular genre? Is it a genre that’s familiar to you?
Yes. For many years I read only for work and studies, but when I started to take writing a bit more seriously I realized I need to start reading for pleasure again – and since I was so often ‘on the road’ I leant towards those action/ adventure thrillers that make a few hours in an airport more bearable. And this is the style of book I’ve written.
Drachen is most heavily influenced by Clive Cussler, Jack du Brul, James Rollins, and Steve Berry
Who are your greatest writing influences?
I think I’ve enjoyed adventure stories since the days of the Hardy Boys and Famous Five – and obviously my own writing tips its hat to Clive Cussler and the like – but in terms of writing inspiration I’d have to say it’s the unattainable goal of the poetry in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet and Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist that inspires me in the real sense of the word.
What’s your writing regimen? Any tips for keeping focused?
Well, that’s the most difficult thing for any part-timer, isn’t it? My daily commute involves a forty minute boat ride into Hong Kong, and I try to use those two bits of peace to write. And any evenings or weekends spent out of town for work.
However, with a two year old daughter and a full time job my biggest constraint is finding long periods to really get into a story. To counter this, I’ve decided to double-up on editing for the follow-up to Drachen, getting an external point-of-view earlier to pick-up some of the errors I’d only pick-up myself after a couple of re-writes.
Would you self-publish again?
Yes, certainly for my next book and almost certainly for the third. And perhaps after that too. I love the process but just covet the sort of marketing clout that the big houses bring.
Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?
Allow more time than you think for final production. Finish it. Print it. Read it. Find those few extra mistakes that you, your editor, and proof readers missed. Correct them. Then, and only then, think about launching your book.
Drachen on Amazon