As you can see, I’ve been re-vamping the site due to a server move. It’s still a work in process, and it’s eaten up my time this week like I eat Peanut M&Ms when I’m stressed. Still, I was fortunate enough to catch up with MeiLin and ask her some interesting questions about her experiences as an indie writer and publisher. Take notes, my poppets, because this woman is a dynamo. Not only talented and smart as a whip (heh!), she’s got a handle on this indie publishing monster and you would do very well to study what she’s done and emulate it. Lovers and Beloveds is a ripping good tale, and is not only available in serial form, updated twice a week, but also as an e-book in several formats and hardcopy due mid-October.
1. What was the inspiration for “An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom” and how did you get started?
It started as a serial daydream I’d tell myself—the story of Warin and Emmae. I read a Neil Gaiman quote to the effect that daydreams were perfectly good story ideas, which astounded me. Foolish writer, I’d never considered such a thought. So I started with that.
Later I gave it to a good friend to read who’s a sociologist, and she started asking me all these questions! What was the society like around them, who were these people, what languages did they speak, what was the relationship between their two countries, and on and on! I found I enjoyed answering her questions, and the next thing I knew, there were Temmin, Teacher and the Greater Kingdom of Tremont and Litta. (She’s still asking pesky questions, by the way, and I’m still enjoying answering them.)
2. What would you say is the most difficult aspect of writing a serial for the web?
There’s the obvious answer: You’re meeting a weekly, or usually more-than-weekly, deadline. At its height I was writing a 2,000 word update three times a week.
But for me, what’s been hardest is figuring out when you’ve got a serial and when you’ve got a novel. Halfway through what I thought was book three of the History I realized I did not have a serial; I could not sustain the story through ten years of this young man’s life at the pace we were going. I had to start over, and I lost a substantial chunk of audience in the process. They’re coming back as the word is spreading that I’m back, but I think a lot of those who aren’t coming back may not realize that this is a very different story; they think it’s a line edit of the original and they’re not going to come back until I get to what they think is the end of book three. By the time I’m on the real book three, we’re going to be years past the end of what I thought was book three. They’ll miss a lot of story.
But I digress.
The other hard thing is that a lot of the time you’re writing first draft/last draft. Right now, the History is serializing in its final form. It’s the best I could do with that story. But my current serial “Scryer’s Gulch,” a work that can be sustained long term and open ended, is first draft/last draft; sometimes it really shows, embarrassingly so. I usually finish it, give it a quick polish, and post it within an hour or less of finishing it. It’s stated at the top that in the grand tradition of the soap opera it’s fd/ld and any plot holes will be explained away—no do-overs. So you gets what you get with the Gulch.
3. What makes your site unique among the other serial webfic sites on the Internet?
Oh gods, I don’t know. Probably the community that’s formed around it. I have amazing readers, really an erudite, funny, charming, wonderful group of people. Very little in the way of flames, supportive of me and each other, but not fawning.
A bunch went to Webcomics Weekend, I think it was last year, as a group and handed out fliers for me; I was told later by some artists that I have an extremely good-looking fan base. So there’s that, too.
4. What is the one thing that has surprised you the most about your audience?
That I have one.
5. Name the most important thing an aspiring writer should invest in regarding their work.
Time with the keyboard and/or pen, and editing. Accept constructive criticism with grace, not defensiveness. Where you’re defensive, you’re very probably wrong. That doesn’t mean the criticism’s always going to be right; I ignored some things my editor said as well as my beta group. I was right and they were wrong on those points. But they were more right than wrong on the whole—far more so.
6. Where do you see the direction of publishing as a whole headed?
I see the Big Six continuing to insist that they’re selling paper, not books. I see them continue to overprice ebooks. This opens up huge opportunities for independent writers, and for midlist authors to take their pulped-and-forgotten back catalog and make some dough. JA Konrath is not that unusual; he’s no more a fluke than any successful traditionally published writer is. This is a tough business, always has been.
7. What is the most valuable writing advice you’ve ever received?
Read, and when you read something you love, pick it to shreds and figure out how the writer did it. That, and write what you love: if you love mysteries, write mysteries. If you love literary fiction, write that. I love fantasy and Victoriana, so that’s what I write.
Oh gods. Well, I’ve begun book two of IHGK, which is tentatively titled “Mothers and Fathers.” I have it outlined, and longtime fans will have their little minds blown, I’ll tell you that much. If you think you know what happens, oh boy, you so do not.
Over at the Gulch, my plans are to keep the goings-on good and soapy. I’m working on a piece about genial Deputy and hapless werecritter Rabbit Runnels for an anthology. Just got a handle on it this morning.
9. If there was one thing you could do over again in this process, what would it be and why?
I would have taken myself more seriously earlier. It would have saved me, I think, from conceiving the History as a serial.
10. I know this is like choosing a favorite child, but who is your favorite character of all your written works?
Oh boy. I have to say Temmin. He’s such a goon. He’s handsome, intelligent, and can be quite charming when he feels like it–and he’s a complete dope. Because he’s eighteen and that’s how teenagers roll.
I’m also very fond of Maleen Polls, a madam from IHGK, and the resident Gulch madam, the demon Mamzelle. Apparently I have a thing for madams. But that’s three, not one! I love them all, really, even the super bad guys like Hildin.
Many thanks to MeiLin for answering my nosy questions! The hardcover is available for pre-order here, and if you prefer your books in an ebook format, MeiLin has made options available to you at this link. Of course, you can always visit her site every Monday and Friday for the latest chapter.