Bio on his blog, as well as these two excellent interviews here and here. For those that need the quick and dirty version, Pyr recently published Myers' first novel, Fair Coin, which I reviewed here. There's a second book in the works, titled Quantum Coin, coming later down the road.
1. What is one thing that's critical to understanding who you are as a person and as a writer?
That I do my best in everything that matters to me: I try to be the best person I can be, the best husband, and the best writer. It’s an ongoing learning process, and I try to grow and get better at it every day.
2. So. Star Trek. It seems you might like it. A little. How did that come about?
When I was very young, I actually went out of my way to avoid Star Trek; I thought it was the cheesiest thing ever. Then when I was in junior high, I saw a commercial for a new episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the crew encounters Scotty from the original series, who had kept himself in stasis in a transporter. I had only been vaguely aware of the newer series, but I was intrigued by the cross-generational story and thought I would try to watch it. I didn’t, because I had completely forgotten about it by the time it aired.
One of my teachers in the 7th grade was a huge Trekkie. He owned all of the original series on VHS from Columbia House, which mailed new tapes to members every month at an exorbitant price. He hadn’t seen Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country yet, so I taped it for him when it premiered on HBO. I watched it too and was instantly hooked, even though I had no idea who any of those characters were. Around the same time, the series Deep Space Nine was premiering, so there were Star Trek marathons on TV and I started watching both the original series and The Next Generation. Through friends and a couple of teachers at school, I soon caught up on the entire run of Star Trek, The Next Generation, and the films, and I was reading all the novels, too.
I stopped watching Star Trek for a while after the show Enterprise turned me off to the franchise, and I was just too busy to devote any more time to the shows. The editors at Tor.com suggested I contribute to a Star Trek re-watch when the new film was about to come out, and that rekindled my love for the franchise. It’s wonderful to revisit the show at a later point in my life, with a more critical eye. My friend Torie Atkinson and I have analyzed every episode of the original series, the animated series, and the first six films at theviewscreen.com, and now we’re working our way through TNG. This is going to take a while.
3. I noticed that along with your love of Star Trek, you've also got a woman in your life. Has being a newlywed affected your writing in any way that you didn't expect?
I should probably clarify here that obviously I love my wife a lot more than I do Star Trek… I suppose on some level I didn’t think things would change too much when we got married, because we already had been together for more than six years. But it has presented some challenges in making time to write because there seem to be many more demands on both of our time. She’s in medical school right now, so she’s at least as busy as I am, and we have to share the household chores, daily cooking, weekly shopping, caring for our cat, and other joint obligations. For example, we were married in July, and we still haven’t sent thank you notes to our friends and family, thanks to one deadline after another and all the related work involved with having a book published. But we’re slowly making progress on all those things. My writing is very important to both of us, but I try to help out as much as I can, because studying to be a doctor is rather demanding and I think she should be focusing on that whenever she can. It would all be much harder if we weren’t such a good team.
4. I really enjoyed how standalone Fair Coin was. From what I've read on the interwebs, I think it started as a standalone book. As a newly published author, is there a lot of pressure from the top down to make sure your works can be part of a series? I ask, because everything seems to be a series these days, no standalones. I'm assuming it's better from a marketing standpoint for the publisher, but could you enlighten us on this subject a little bit?
That might be the case at some publishers, but Pyr didn’t pressure me to deliver a second book just for the sake of having one. On the contrary, I had already written a draft of the sequel, and I was thrilled that Pyr was interested in publishing it as well. Even though Fair Coin was always intended to be a standalone book, and still is, I was really excited to continue the story and spend more time with those characters; I essentially wrote Quantum Coin for myself, because it didn’t make practical sense to devote any time on it when I didn’t even know if I could get representation for the first book. It was a lot of fun and I think it complements Fair Coin well.
From what I understand, if a publisher commits to a series upfront, they can get each book for less money, instead of waiting to see how the first book performs. It’s a gamble, especially for a debut author, but it’s a calculated one. Sometimes they will make a deal for two or more unrelated books, which becomes an investment in the author instead of just one book. I hope publishers wouldn’t artificially extend a story beyond the length needed to tell it, but there are a lot of factors in play, and it is a business designed to make money.
5. Question five isn't really a question at all! Instead, it's an opportunity to shamelessly plug anything that you'd like. Go ahead, give it a try. What's out there that's awesome that people need to know about?
The Apocalypsies is a group of 2012 debut picture book, middle grade, and young adult authors. We all help each other navigate the often confusing and complex publishing process, give advice at every stage of the way, offer moral support and encouragement when needed, share ideas, and generally help to promote each others’ work. We participate in group chats, giveaways, and have even formed a video blog called Apocalypsies Now.
Communities like this are one of the things that made me interested in becoming a writer in the first place, because everyone is smart, nice, and genuinely helpful; everything has been so much easier and more fun with them backing me up through my book launch and beyond.
So check out the website to read about our members’ great published and forthcoming work (http://apocalypsies.blogspot.com/) and visit our vlog at (http://youtube.com/apocalypsies). I pretty much want to read everyone’s books and hang out with them in person all the time, if I could.
6. I noticed that you're a long-time livejournal user. If you didn't have a career that requires a large amount of self-promotion, would you still be as heavily involved with blogs and facebook and twitter as you are?
Probably not Facebook or Google Plus so much, but I was using LiveJournal long before I had anything to promote, mainly as a way to keep up with friends, interact with other writers, follow news, and stay disciplined by being transparent about my writing goals and progress.
I happen to really like connecting with people on Twitter; it appeals because it takes much less time and effort than blogging and it’s very convenient to use from my phone. I don’t use any social media exclusively for self-promotion, but there’s always some element of networking in any social interaction these days — I just try to form relationships with people I find interesting, entertaining, or informative, and it’s all the better if we can help each other out in our professional pursuits.
I hope I pay it forward and balance out self-promotion with spreading the word on other people’s work. But at the same time, regardless of your reasons, I think you do need to have some presence online, so people can find you if they want to, to give a sense of your personality outside of the work, and because it is a helpful way to let others know that you and your book exist with minimal cost and effort.
7. When you were writing Fair Coin, was there any one aspect of your writing that you were worried about. Any area that you felt you needed to be especially careful in because it wasn't your strong suit?
Fair Coin was my first novel, so I was worried about everything on some level: the plot development, the pacing, the characterization, the dialogue. I trusted my instincts, developed from a lifetime of reading novels and writing short fiction, and I relied on the sound judgment of my beta readers to let me know where things weren’t working or could be improved. I was especially worried about getting the young adult tone right, and making the characters’ dialogue and behavior authentic. I did second guess myself from time to time on how dark I could go with it, but I think in the end the book hit a good balance. I had a lot of help.
8. Speaking of beta readers, you're a member of the writer supergroup Altered Fluid. How did you get started with them as a writing group, and what tips would you give to writers out there looking for a great group of their own?
I was introduced to Altered Fluid through one of its founding members, Kristine Dikeman, who was one of my classmates at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2005. Shortly after we returned to New York, she coerced them into letting me audition for the group. After they had reviewed two of my stories and I had participated in a trial critique session, they kindly extended me an invitation to join. The group is very serious about its application process!
I’m really fortunate to have found a place in Altered Fluid, both because its members are talented, professional, supportive, and fun writers and because they have become some of my very best friends. I attribute much of my writing success to Altered Fluid; the group kept me writing steadily and I’ve learned so much from everyone. You really do benefit from the diverse perspectives of other writers, at different stages of their career and with different backgrounds, cultures, strengths, and expertise.
If you’re looking to get involved with a writing group, you probably need to ask around or search online to see if any local groups are near you and looking for members. If there aren’t any, or they aren’t open to new members, you can try starting your own, or sign up with an online writing workshop. If you can, try taking a writing class or attending a workshop, because that’s a great way of meeting other writers and you can stay in touch with them after the class is over. In fact, that’s how Altered Fluid began.
I do think it’s important for all the members to be serious about pursuing a professional writing career, and treat the group seriously and responsibly. Be organized, stick to a schedule, make sure everyone is writing and participating regularly, establish rules for critique, and it helps if all of you get along with each other! Also, bring snacks to meetings.
9. I'll admit to shamelessly stealing this question from Bastard Books, but most readers don't really know just how ridiculously hard it is to make a career of writing books. Why do you think it's so difficult? How do you see your career looking in the next ten years? Where would you LIKE your career to be instead?
I think what makes it most difficult is that it takes more than talent to be successful. That’s probably true of most jobs, but it takes a lot of work to get your book into a store. First, you have to write and revise a manuscript. Then you have to revise it some more, or sometimes you have to rewrite it entirely or even abandon it. Then you have a potentially long querying process to find an agent. Then your book goes on submission. It almost never happens overnight. That book on the shelf often represents years of effort, by lots of people, from first draft through final proofread. That might mean late nights, early mornings, lunch breaks, or other stolen moments during the day.
There are also many good writers out there submitting good books, but publishers have very few slots each year — especially for new authors. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that not everything that gets published is good, and not everything that’s good gets published. So much is out of your control; when your book is on submission, even if an editor wants to acquire it, anyone on the publisher’s editorial, marketing, or sales team can still say no for whatever reason. Basically, there are so many points where your book might not make the cut, and the farther you get in the process, the harder it gets. That’s why it’s so important to be persistent: to give your book every chance at success it deserves, to make sure it gets to the people who will love and advocate for it, and because it only takes one yes to make a sale. And it has to be your very best work if you’re going to believe in it enough to put in that work and stick with it.
In ten years, I’ll still be writing young adult books and hopefully getting them published. Ideally I will have written many books I am proud of, and they’ll still be in print and making a profit. I’m not looking to get rich from this, but I have to say, that would be nice. I never wanted to quit my day job and write full time, until my free time abruptly became more limited than I would like it to be.
10. It's late at night. You're lying in bed next to your wife, when suddenly you're filled with desire. She can't help you, though. No, no, it's nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to men from time to time, this late night desire for something...different. New. Fresh. You get out of bed, and slowly get dressed. The keys jingle in your pocket as you carefully put one leg in your pants, and you worry that she might wake up and ask where you're going. The truth is, you hadn't really decided where you'd be getting it from, just that you desperately need it and she can't provide it for you....So, are you going to Shoprite or Wawa to get your tuna hoagie?
I haven’t sampled the tuna sandwiches at either yet, but I suspect it would be a Wawa because there are so many of them near me. I’ll try one from each and get back to you. For the record, my wife hates tuna, so she would be pretty upset if I came back to bed smelling like a cheap hoagie I picked up at some convenience store.