Today, Lindsay Schopfer, well-known Pacific Northwest author of science fiction and fantasy, instructor, and writing coach has consented to answer a few questions for us. His second book, The Beast Hunter is launching today, and I’ve been privileged to read an advance copy of it. If you are looking for an action-adventure in set in another world, brimming with political and personal intrigue, this is the book for you!
CJJ: Lindsay, you were one of my daughter Meg’s closest friends in high school. I’ve followed your career from the early days of your first play, “Techies,” knowing you had a wonderful future in writing ahead of you. Your own real life tale has been a wonderful journey, so tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:
LS: I started writing as a little kid, and I guess some people would have called me a prodigy. I wrote and produced my first full-length stage-play at 13, and went on to do five more, including two runs of “Techies.” After high school, I took a break from writing and spent two years as a service missionary on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. That experience, coupled with a health condition which could randomly cause me to be paralyzed for hours at a time, taught me important lessons of hardship, hope, and love.
I went to film school in Canada for a year, thinking that I would continue my passion for acting and directing, but I eventually realized that I just wouldn’t be able to tell the fanciful stories in my head unless I put them into novels. While I still daydream about film adaptations of my stories, I have to say that I’m very happy with my work and life right now.
CJJ: My favorite Lindsay Schopfer quote says it all, “I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.” How do you channel the randomness of inspiration into an appointment?
LS: Actually, that quote originally comes from Peter De Vries, but it’s something that I try to live by as well. For me, turning on my inspiration means creating a mental place where I feel safe to be creative. I map out the times of day I have available when I seem to be the most productive and set them aside. I listen to music that fits my mood and the kind of writing I’ll be doing. I also try to remember that I can write whatever story I want to, so that I enjoy my work rather than feel confined by it. Ultimately, if I make writing my break from the world, then I don’t feel the need to take a break from my writing.
CJJ: I read Lost Under Two Moons, and really enjoyed it. I find that your work is well-structured, with creative environments, good tension, and deep characters. Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?
LS: My ideas for stories usually come in two parts, the beginning and the ending. Once I have those two points established in my mind, writing the novel is just a matter of connecting those two dots. I don’t do a lot of outlining because I find that I start to lose interest in a story if I feel ‘chained’ to a guideline I’ve set for myself. I do enjoy doing world-building early on, though I usually just sketch out enough details to get me started and only add to it if I get stuck. Of course, once the first draft is done, I always go back and fill out the rest of my backstory and world-building notes, but that’s usually a case of noting what I came up with as I was writing and trying to maintain continuity throughout the story.
CJJ: You are highly involved with the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, which I am also a member of. You gave a workshop on May 2nd, regarding turning off the inner critic. What advice would you give new authors, who may be struggling with this common problem?
LS: Like I said earlier, turning off the inner critic and getting inspired is a matter of creating a place where you feel safe to write. For some people, this means writing when you’re not fully awake. I do my best writing at three different times, when I first wake up, at around two in the afternoon (siesta time), and just before bed. Another way to turn off the inner critic that’s especially useful to new authors is to work on multiple projects at a time. Too many first-time authors have this mindset that they have to put all their good ideas into their first novel, or that the first book has to be perfect. By working on more than one project at a time, the writer is constantly reminded that she will have more chances than just this one book, which can be a common anxiety. Having a second project also means that you have a creativity lifeboat, and if you get writer’s block on one project you can “run away from it” and yet still be writing until you’re ready to go back.
CJJ: I absolutely agree, and I usually have three projects going at a time myself. So, I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.
LS: Actually, I never intended to be an indie author. When I finished Lost Under Two Moons, I pitched it to agents for a while before releasing it as an EBook and later in print. My decision to indie-publish that novel came mainly from a desire to start selling books and establishing a market for myself. I wanted credibility as a generative artist, and to be honest I felt like that happened once I finally had a book people could buy and read.
The Beast Hunter was also originally intended for a traditional publishing route. In 2012 I went to PNWA’s summer conference and asked agents what it would take to become a hot commodity to them. The answer I got was that I needed a built-in fan base, so I wrote The Beast Hunter online serial. Once I had the fan base, I went back in 2013 with my completed novel and loyal readers, and pitched it. I was shocked that the same agents who had encouraged me to do the serial now said I had ruined my chances for success with this book because I had already “saturated the market”, though I’d like to think that there are plenty of people who would like The Beast Hunter who haven’t read the serial! I decided to keep the serial going as a way to reward loyal fans, and indie-publishing the novel seemed like the best way to tie-in the serial with my novels.
I haven’t given up on traditional publishing. I have two additional book series that I’m working on that will be intended for a traditional book deal. I’m hoping that the exclusivity of these stories combined with the fan base from my indie publishing will finally allow me to be a hybrid author with both traditionally and independently published books.
CJJ: That is a great plan of action—one that addresses negotiating both sides of the publishing dilemma. What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?
LS: Don’t give up on traditional publishing. While the industry is still trying to figure out how to handle the electronic revolution, it is filled with very intelligent professionals that really know the business of selling books. On the other hand, I don’t think writers should give the industry any more power than it already has. An author desperate for representation and publication is an easily exploitable resource. I would advise authors to try for traditional publishing first, but don’t be overly eager. Remember that the greatest power you have is to say no, no to an agent that isn’t good for you, no to a publisher that won’t push your book, no to a book-deal that demands too many rights. Keep that in mind, and if you feel like your project isn’t right for traditional, go indie.
CJJ: Your new book, The Beast Hunter is launching today. This is a book with an interesting history! Tell us a little about it and how it came to be.
LS: The Beast Hunter actually started as a 1,000 word flash fiction story that I wrote more as an exercise for myself than anything else. I wanted to see if I could write an action sequence, something I hadn’t tried doing in my fantasy writing since becoming serious about pursuing a career as a novelist. At the time, I was playing a steampunk CRPG called Arcanum Of Steamworks & Magic Obscura, so I decided to try writing about a hunter using 19th century technology to bring down a monster.
I liked the result, and decided to expand on the character of Keltin Moore by continuing his adventures in a free, online serial. A little more than a year later I’d finished the first season and The Beast Hunter had gained an international following. It’s kind of funny, because for a long time this story was my side-project, something that I wrote on to relax and just enjoy writing. To see it in print now is kind of like inviting all the world to play make-believe with me, and I’m excited to continue the adventure.
CJJ: Lindsay, thank you so much for being here today! I must say, I am looking forward to hearing your presentation at the PNWA convention on July 18, 2014 on UNLOCKING CHARACTER MOTIVATION. I will be taking notes!
The Beast Hunter Books For Africa Fundraiser Event
To celebrate the launch of his latest book, Lindsay has decided to donate one dollar to Books For Africa for each verified copy of The Beast Hunter that is sold in the next two months!
Here’s how it works. Purchase The Beast Hunter in paperback or EBook form and then take a picture of yourself with your new book. Post that picture on this event page, and Lindsay will make a donation. Only one donation per copy of The Beast Hunter.
Books for Africa is an organization with just one goal: to end the book famine in Africa. BFA is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African Continent, and has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. A donation of 50 cents is enough to send a book to a child in Africa. For more about this amazing organization, check out http://www.booksforafrica.org.
Lindsay Schopfer is the author of the rural steampunk adventure novel The Beast Hunter (2014) and the fantasy adventure novel Lost Under Two Moons (2012) . His short fiction has also appeared in The Daily Times, an international newspaper based in Pakistan. When he isn’t writing, Lindsay is a writing coach and instructor for Adventures In Writing, where he helps writers learn about and improve their craft. He is also a mentor for Educurious, a Gates Foundation-funded program designed to connect high school students with professional writers.
You can also sign up for his wonderful workshops through his website at Adventures in Writing, http://www.yourwritingadventure.com