IndieView with Amanda K. King and Michael R Swanson, authors of Things They Buried

The best is when they start telling me things about our books, details that not every reader has picked up. Sharing with readers who enjoy the stories we tell and having enough to continue is what really matters. Everyone we’ve talked in Irvington to has been incredibly supportive. There’s been some experimenting to see what does and doesn’t work for us. Do you have a target reader? Get your copy of   Things They Buried from Amazon US or Amazon UK. Were there any parts of the book where you struggled? Though both of us have experience as writers this was the first time either of us set out to complete a novel. She did the cover and text layout for all of it. The painting was created for us by our old and very talented friend, Michael Fee (michaelbfee.com). For example: I am listening to T. We’ll take those lessons and make The Long Game’s marketing plan even more effective. Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it? Amanda: We started building the characters and the world of Ismae way back in 2004, but we didn’t start turning them into a book until 2015. For a while I don’t think we were sure if we were going to bother to publish or just keep writing stories for fun. Michael: I am originally from western New York, Chautauqua and Monroe counties—a beautiful area to grow up in. Amanda: We outline in bursts. Michael edits again then we read the manuscript out loud to one another. What are you working on now? Where did you get the idea from? Money can disappear into the indie publishing void in minutes, and positive return isn’t guaranteed. Le Guin, Ian M. When they set out to prove their theory, they find his misdeeds extend far beyond their expectations, including genetic experimentation and a rash of disappearing children. Indie publishing is so accessible, we wanted to put Things They Buried out there and see where it went. Amanda: The plot of Things They Buried follows Sylandair and Aliara, who believe reports of their former owner and abuser’s death is a lie. Once we have that, we brainstorm where the story’s going and develop a rough outline. Both have been extremely helpful. Anyone who is interested in my mundane life can follow my personal feed on Facebook, I’m pretty easy to find. Above all I would suggest you read every night, no matter what strikes your fancy. Michael: Soon after I arrived in Indianapolis thirty years ago, I was working at a Waldenbooks and taking a bus to work every day. Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know? Amanda: I don’t think authors can help but put some parts of the people they know into their characters. If yes, what gets the fingers tapping? So far, we’ve been pleased with the results. We’re targeting late 2019 for release of the first installment. Sylandair, Aliara, Schmalch, and Haus were all previously created in one form or another and already had their backgrounds sketched before we began. We review that draft together then send it to our editor for a content review. It’s not just about characters—the novel’s filled with action, monsters, and scares, too. What came easily? When the pair escaped their owner and abuser years ago, they left him behind in a ball of blue flame, but as more children disappear near the city’s desalinization plant, they believe he may not be dead. If so can you please describe it? Each of the short novels will be its own stand-alone adventure, but all are tied together with an overarching storyline. What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? About You
Where did you grow up? I write a rough draft, which involves more brainstorming and outlining in greater and greater detail. It’s too easy to overlook your own errors. End of Interview:
For more about Amanda, Michael, and their series visit their website and like their Facebook page. Michael: There were challenges throughout. It hasn’t helped me make money, but I’ve survived, and I doubt I’m going to change my attitudes much at this point. He’s another Irvingtonian, who’s shown his work in galleries across the U.S. Was it a particular event or a gradual process? Our local bookshop, Irvington Vinyl and Books, even carries our novels. Do you listen to music while you write? I have eclectic tastes where music is concerned. Also, other indie authors are your allies and more often than not are happy to share what they’ve learned. And be sure to read non-fiction as research, don’t count on anything you learn from fiction authors when you are wanting authenticity. We’ve worked with a couple different ones. When they embark on an underground search for him with their less-than-reliable puka scout Schmalch, what they find is beyond any expectation. Having a college next door to your high school opens the world up quite a bit. Michael: I have had this attitude about letting “suits” into creative pursuits my entire adult life. King – 19 April 2019
The Back Flap
Under the dirty streets of Ismae’s greatest port city, an old nightmare waits for Sylandair and Aliara, one that is stealing Dockhaven’s children, one that only they can end. Readers will be able to enjoy them separately or as one piece. Given those criteria we leaned heavily on where authors like Fritz Leiber, Ursula K. We start with a general outline of where the story’s going them break down each act in more detail and each section within that act in even greater detail. I love actually frightening readers with what we’re doing. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you? Michael: In addition, we have somewhere around a half dozen manuscripts in varying states. We all know how important it is for writers to read. I never want to write based on the current trend unless it happens to dovetail with what we are doing. Michael: Both. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Stephen King, Mary Shelly, Philip K. It’s a great way to pick up issues that are easily missed when reading alone. Amanda: We decided that wasn’t a path we wanted to pursue right now. Amanda: Mostly I prefer silence, but we live in the city and that’s not always possible, so I go for ambient music. Michael: That’s a difficult one to distill down to a short list. Do your research and decide where you want that money spent (definitely toward an editor). Amanda: We really knew the characters long before the first word was written. (May skip if being published by a small press rather than self-publishing)
Amanda: Yes, definitely. Michael: Above all it was independence. My closest neighbors were cows. Do you outline? I probably would have ended up a member of the street-sign-shooting sect were it not for having that academic world to influence me. If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences? You’ll probably see me at a con table, but the big marketing picture is all Amanda. I love it when someone enjoys our work. Michael: Be ready for a long journey and sure to take in the sights along the way. I can’t say enough good things about our neighborhood—it’s like living in our own small town, but with all the conveniences of a city. What I listen to depends on my mood and the mood I am trying to capture in the scene I am working on. Amanda K. It’s easier to know what happens next when you know how your character will react to a situation given their personality and background. Michael: At least two scenes in the book were written before we had a solid plot and were inspired by a dream one of us had. Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors? There were long stretches where neither of us were working on it, though. Michael: It’s a great thing to have a collaborator that can manage this for you. Amanda: It kind of unraveled as we started writing. Rex’s Prophets, Seers, and Sages the Angels of the Ages as I write this. That draft goes to Michael, and usually results in a few structural changes. Amanda: In rural Indiana. Did you hire a professional editor? Each of us had started this or that when we were younger, but this book came about at a time in our lives when we decided that finishing a creative project of this scale was paramount. It is a world where science sometimes appears as magic and history as myth, where monsters make themselves and heroes are wholly unintentional. My favorite bit of reader feedback was being asked if we had goosebumps when writing a certain set of scenes mid-novel. I love actually frightening readers with what we’re doing. We both love adventure stories, but we wanted to write one with characters who were fully realized people. We did a lot of character development and world building in this story as it’s the first in a “continuing adventures of” series. Amanda: We’re in the midst of writing a six-part serial called The Long Game that follows up on plots started during Things They Buried. Michael: Almost always. I can’t listen to anything with words—too distracting. (It’s probably worth mentioning that I used to be a project manager, so I love processes.)
We begin with some nugget of an idea, generally a conversation. Rider Haggard, Leigh Brackett, Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Kind of a cascading outline. Michael: Like Amanda; I’d rather they know more about Ismae and its residents. It took a few people who were not me giving her feedback to get her to run with this cover. Amanda: We live in Irvington, an east-side neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ismae is our creation, being a multi-million seller is not the goal. I’ve hung-out, worked, and lived in this town-within-a-town ever since. Mostly Michael and I write to entertain one another, but no one is a bigger cheerleader about the Ismae stories than Jeffrey. Dick, and so many others inspired those things in us. One of Amanda’s previous careers was as a graphic designer and she is quite talented, but that is a thankless job in most organizations these days. About the book
What is the book about? Michael: The benefit we reap from such a long worldbuilding period is we have reams of material to pull from and we can pretty much identify a continuity issue in short order. Where do you live now? Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished? As a teen, I was fortunate enough to live in a SUNY school town. Banks, H. It allows me to clean up any sloppy work or fill in blanks and prepares me for what comes next. We may start looking for agents after we have a few books published, but for now, it’s all on us. My first jobs were as a bookseller. When it comes back, we review and discuss, then I do another pass based on our notes. Amanda: I want my readers to know more about my writing than about me. Mostly it’s behaviors and little incidents, which lend an authenticity that might not be there if we were just making everything up based on our own experiences. We did a lot of research and reading before we decided to indie publish, and the plan’s been based on that plus my experience. It will lead them into a twisting world of inheritances, experimentation and memories they never wanted to exhume. We should be able to keep ourselves busy for at least a few years with no new ideas, though I highly doubt that will stop either of us from coming up with more plot lines. If I had to pick a specific section or scene, I would say that part one was exceedingly challenging. We learned a lot about plotting, dialog, and action just from writing that one-hundred or so pages over and over. We did create personas before starting any marketing on the book, but when writing, I like to stick with the axiom of “write the book you want to read.” If I’m not interested, my writing comes to a screeching halt. When we began writing we knew that we wanted to focus on two things: Characters who had lives before this story and gave readers the sense that there was more to them than the typical science-fantasy stereotypes, and a self-contained adventure instead of the first installment of an epic that would change the face of Ismae. When did you start writing the book? After that, back to the editor for a line edit, a few tweaks, and it goes into design. We’re planning a monthly blog entry on Ismae.com about the authors that inspire us and may have been missed by many people who are new to sci-fi / fantasy. Stocking shelves you read back cover and inner flap copy just to know what it is you’re selling and then you end up buying things you would have never guessed you’d be interested in. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Amanda: Make a budget and stick to it. I love seeing someone that excited about our work. About Writing
Do you have a writing process? Once we had a seed idea it unfolded nicely. What would you like readers to know about you? Books and fiction have been a huge part of my life for over forty years now. I love the design and will be arguing for sticking with the style for The Long Game serials at the very least. Amanda: We have to have a process, or we’d never get anything done. Editors make a huge impact on the story structure and, of course, readability. Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself? My favorite bit of reader feedback was being asked if we had goosebumps when writing a certain set of scenes mid-novel. Amanda: My background runs from writing and editing to marketing and design, so we absolutely have a marketing plan. This novel contains adult themes and violence. Over the course of the novel, they must come to terms with what’s happened to them in the past as well as what they’ve stumbled into. Amanda: Four years from first words on paper to publication. Things They Buried is the first full length novel of Ismae, a planet where bodies can be re-crafted at the genetic level while photography remains a luxury available only to the rich. Most days lately I shuffle a large playlist I have of things like Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, Amon Duul, CAN, David Sylvian, instrumental soundtrack music and the like when I’m writing. About Publishing
Did you submit your work to Agents? Amanda: My brother-in-law, Jeffrey. Because this is a world setting that Amanda and I are creating, the last thing I want is some asshole to come in and tell me, “Well, you signed the contract and what you need to be writing is…” I’d much rather make a modest living and have a life I love than any pile of money that makes me a thrall to that world. I’m comfortable winging it when face-to-face with folks, but I freeze up when I look beyond a few steps ahead in the process. Amanda: When rough-drafting, I start the day by editing what I did the previous day. The route took me right through Irvington and one day I decided that this neighborhood was too interesting not to get off the bus and have a look around. How long did it take you to write it?