When did you get the idea for a book, and why this particular genre? I loved Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, it served as a major source of inspiration and sci-fi is my first love. After teaching teenagers for seven years, I know what a tough audience they are to please. But if you can capture their interest and attention, you can get anyone. I pitched the idea for Reject High to Heather, my wife. An ADHD kid gets sent to an alternative school and finds radioactive gems that give him powers. Cool, he's super-strong, right? Wrong – he also has rage blackouts, which are scary without superhuman powers. A weakness like that added layers to his character. I wanted a person of color in the lead role, so he's black and so is his love interest, Sasha…His best friend, Rhapsody, is Cape Verdean and Panamanian. My fiction usually has a multicultural cast. Then, I build the world around them.
How long before you got around to working on the book, what kind of research did you do? Once I got the idea, I started writing. I can't keep ideas floating around in my head very long. I have to get them out and down on something. As far as research, my beta reading team is made up of a few teenagers. They help me add realism by researching their attitudes toward a number of issues – bullying, sex, death, etc.; after all, it's been a while since I was a teenager! The radiated jewels are actually derived from a real life incident – the Carrington solar storm of 1859. It was the biggest solar storm in 500 years. I thought, “What if the high energy proton radiation given off by the sun affected certain minerals?” Then, “What if those radiated minerals only affected a small section of the population?”
How long until you felt you had a finished book to take it to the next step? What was the most challenging part of the writing process? I finished Reject High in three months, but since it's a series, I went back and tweaked it even after my editor had seen it. Getting into the mind of a 15-year-old boy with major issues was challenging. Writing in first person was a different experience for me. You have to watch out as your verb tense shifts more. In third person, you use mostly past tense. It took time to get used to that. Also, writers have a tendency to rely on two senses (sight and hearing) when they write in first person. I had to remind myself to have my characters describe smells, touch, and taste.
When did you do most of your writing, did you have a schedule? Did you have any collaborators, editor, designer, co-author? My writing habits are a little nuts. I may not write anything for two or three days and then sit down and write 20 pages. It was a little easier last year because my wife Heather was still pregnant. Now, we have a five-year-old and a ten-month-old. That means my writing schedule is “whatever time I can grab.” My wife is very understanding and helps in that area. My editor is Mary Marvella and I have a fantastic cover designer who's done all three of my novels and a spectacular interior designer, Elaine, who's done my past three books.
What technology did you use to write your book? What methods of publishing did you consider or had plans for? I used my laptop and desktop for the writing and the internet for research. In 2010, Heather and I started Great Nation Publishing so that we could independently publish and control our intellectual property, so that's the route I've gone and continue to use.
What was the process after that, once you had your book ready to be published? When was it published? My manuscript went to Mary, who did it pretty quickly. Thankfully, I didn't have to rewrite much, just a misplaced comma here and a lot of incorrect verb tenses there. I added a few scenes and deleted one or two. I published it online, through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program, on May 12 to build advance buzz. The paperback was published on the actual release date, June 13.
What has the response been to your book? How did you market it? Really positive so far. My faithful readers seem to love it. I started with a Kirkus Indie Review and petitioned a few of my past reviewers, Charles Clark of Brotha Online and Cyrus Webb of Conversations Live Radio. Then, I did a FIRST Wild Card Online Book Tour and asked some of my mentors to give me a push online. There was the online early release, which helped me get some advance reviews, and I did a limited release to my faithful readers to help spread the word. I've been doing social media promotion ever since.
What are you planning on writing next? Currently, I'm working on the second draft of the sequel to Reject High called Sophomore Freak and the third instalment, tentatively named Forgotten.
Your advice for aspiring writers planning to publish in the near future? Really, the best thing I can tell an aspiring writer is just to do it. I come across people who love to say “I have been meaning to write a book,” or, “I'd like to write a book,” or even, “I have a book inside of me.” That's the worst thing to me. You might have a great idea and let it sit there and rot in your head. Get moving and write it down!
Thank you Brian for sharing your writing and publishing experience. Good luck!