I am so lucky to have stumbled onto a great Writing Group in my area. I think, at least for me, one of the reasons I’ve had the courage to write what I do, is because I have a group that has encouraged me along the road. The greatest advice I have, is to find a group of writers out there who want to work, want to offer their opinions, and want to get better.
I met Doug at this writers group.
The first thing I remember thinking about him was that, damnit, the man was a machine! He cranked out a manuscript within three months and was onto the next one before I blinked. Even now, I sit here open mouthed remembering it. It wasn’t jealousy that I was feeling towards him, but I’ll give you it was probably envy. Here was a man who had a successful daytime career, and a hugely successful self-publishing career, and I wanted to know how to be him ASAP!
So I begged and pleaded and if I didn’t get down on my knees, it was only because he took pity on me and agreed to do a brief interview to “help out a friend.” And what a friend Doug has been. From mentoring me through the self-publishing mayhem, to offering helpful advice and critiques on my manuscripts, Doug does it all. Moreover, he’s always willing to talk to other authors. He is the most unselfish writer I’ve met, and is genuinely invested in seeing everyone who wants to write a book succeed.
Please welcome: Doug Farren
So Doug, what made you first start writing? What was the inspiration for your first book?
I’ve always had the bug to write. Even back in the days when I was learning how to type on a typewriter (some of you might remember them), I was practicing by writing a story. I started work on my first Galactic Alliance book when I was in high school. I actually finished it while I was in the Navy. It was never published but it was the basis for Chroniech – book 2 of the Galactic Alliance series.
As for ‘inspiration’—I generally start off with an interesting concept in my head; usually a single scene. For Chroniech it was a scene of a heavy battle cruiser being pulled into a star by an immensely powerful tractor beam and all the actions the captain took to try to break free. That single scene became the center of the entire novel.
Now was this what started you on the self-publishing path to greatness?
Greatness? I’ve been lucky—that’s all. Back in 2009, my wife bought me a Kindle for my birthday. While I was trying to figure out how to use it, I discovered that anyone can publish a book on Amazon. I talked it over with my wife and she encouraged me to upload it. Unsure, I did some final editing and sent Chroniech off to Baen. While I waited, I wrote book one of the series – Translight. I wanted to write my own version of the story of human’s first steps into space. A year later, when Baen finally sent me a rejection letter, I uploaded both books to Amazon.
Would you mind telling me a little bit about your self-publishing exploits?
There’s not much else to tell. Honestly. There’s an element of luck involved in self-publishing. It’s been said that as much as 80% of a book’s “advertising” comes from word of mouth. To succeed, you must write a good book (good plot, engaging characters, and limited typos). You should also listen to your readers. I encourage feedback and I always reply when someone sends me an email. If they point out a problem with the book, I fix it. That’s the beauty of self-publishing; you, the author, are always in control of the product. If there’s a typo, fix it and upload a new version. If there’s a major plot snafu, fix it, send the corrected version to the person who pointed it out, and then upload it. One of my more vocal readers has become my content editor.
I did try to do some advertising by sending out flyers and such but the return on investment is just not worth it. I got lucky in that Amazon promoted Translight and sales took off. Do not – I want to stress this again – do not become the person everyone on the internet comes to know as the author who constantly tries to sell you a book. The quickest way to lose sales and respect is to be a pushy author. I never push my books or brag about my sales.
And how many books do you have published now?
I have 9 books in the wild as well as two short stories. I am currently working on number 10. One of the shorts is available on Amazon and the other can be found in the Launch Pad Anthology. I could upload it to Amazon but I haven’t had the time.
Your Galactic Alliance Series has really launched you into the literary domain. Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
The primary characters are upstanding citizens, honest, with a good heart. That’s not to say they don’t have their faults – we all do. They are a reflection of the type of person I strive to be. My biggest weakness was in character development and over the years I’ve worked hard to improve in that area. I hope it shows in the quality of my latest books.
And, your dragons?
Dragons! Oh yes. You might say I am addicted to dragons. I often wish they were real. Being dragon-bound would be the greatest thing that could ever happen to someone and if I had the power to rebuild this universe there would be dragons in it. I have always liked them. I read the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey in junior high school. I have dragon shirts, dragon necklaces, dragon figurines, and a shoulder dragon. I don’t go anywhere without a dragon somewhere on my person. Most of my books have a dragon or a dragon-like creature in them.
Your new series, well, your old series, new reboot, is about dragons too, isn’t it?
The current work in progress is titled Dragonverse Origins. It takes place in our Medieval period and is actually a part of my Dragonverse series. It is one of two books that will link Dragonverse to one of my stand-alone novels. I have a 4-year plan all laid out. Origins is the start of that plan. When it’s done, I will begin work on the second book of the stand-alone series (notice I haven’t said which one) which will solidify the link and provide a solid connection between the past, the present, and the future. I will then go back and write the next book in the Dragonverse series. I haven’t named it yet but it will deal with the children of the series’ main character. All these books should take 3 to 4 years to finish.
Are you planning on sticking with your dragons for a while, or will we head back to the Alliance sometime in the future?
The Alliance series is my best seller and I enjoy writing them. I would like to explore the Peacekeeper sub-series a bit more but I don’t want that to become too stale. I’m not sure if there’s much left in the Alliance series other than writing a bunch of add-on books that are in the same universe but are about different people, places, and things. I might, one never knows.
And Doug, before I let you go, the most important question. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there?
Write a solid book with good characters and a great story. Have it edited. If you have to pay for this, then it’s the best investment you can make. Having a second person take a critical look at the book for content, plot flow, and grammar is a must. Too many writers believe they can skip this step (I did). You might get lucky, but if you put out a book that is bad it will be very difficult to recover from that mistake.
Secondly, listen to your readers. A writer puts out a novel to be read. If your readers take the time to say something about your book, do them and you a favor and write them back. Listen to them. They could very well be telling you where you need to improve. Take constructive criticism for what it is – a learning experience.
Finally, never be the author who tries to push what he or she has written onto others. If someone asks, keep your answer short and to the point. If people like your books and they like you, they will tell others and they, in turn, will tell more. A humble writer is respected more than one who thinks they are the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Let me just end with a heartfelt Thank You to my very talented, very good friend, Doug Farren. I can’t wait for your next book to hit the shelves. When can we expect to see Milas and more of the Dragonverse series in print?
I’m shooting for early next year. The book has to make it past my content-editor and then be edited by my wife (she has 27 years of newspaper experience). As of the time of this interview, the books stands at about 33,000 words. My novels are typically about 85,000 words long so I’m not quite half-way there. I hope to begin spending a lot more time working on it than I have been in the recent past. I have a weekly blog in which I provide an update on my progress.
Until then, check out Doug’s Website at:
And don’t forget to visit Amazon and take a peek at Doug’s amazing work.