One of the fun things about doing what I do is coming across talented new authors, some of whom are very innovative in the way that they raise awareness about themselves. Being published independently, or by a small press, requires some creativity to promote your work in a realm where you do not have the big end caps at the bookstores, or huge marketing campaigns backed by a New York publishing house.
An author that compelled me to stop in my tracks was David J. Guyton, creator of the Legend of Reason Series, a burgeoning fantasy opus that includes two titles at this time, Mighty Hammer Down, and Blood and Bronze. David has an outstanding book trailer on YouTube, that as of the time of this article is nearing 50,000 hits.
While the trailer is incredible in quality and design, it is clear that he is making some waves with his books as well, as numerous outstanding reviews testify. Any negative reviews that I came across tended to take issue with the message content in his books, an area that David is very upfront about. It is very clear that David is effectively building a fanbase, one that is growing steadily.
David really intrigued me, and I decided to reach out to him to find out more about his work, his approach, and his future plans. I discovered him to be a really engaging person who does not hesitate to share the insights and lessons that he has gleaned along the way. Whether you agree with the kinds of messages that he integrates into his storyline or not, it is indisputable that he is committed to putting out quality work, and presenting it in the best manner possible(and a very innovative one). I have an immense respect for that kind of committment, because it shows the depth of care that he has about his work. He's got a very healthy, winner's attitude, and his approach is something that many aspiring authors and published authors can learn a great deal from.
So now, let's introduce David J. Guyton, fantasy author, and explore his Legend of Reason Series!
-Stephen Zimmer, for the Seventh Star Press Blog, January 6, 2011
(David J. Guyton, fantasy author)
SZ: What is your background as a writer, and when did you feel that you were ready to make it your career?
DJG: I had always flirted with the idea of writing, but I wasn't serious about it until 2006. At that time I finally felt I had something to say to the world and I was ready to begin writing. It all poured out much easier than expected, and in about eight months, my first novel was written. Although I can't say that writing is my only way to make money, I can say that it is what I consider my highest achievement.
SZ: Name a few of your own writing influences, especially from the fantasy genre.
DJG: This may come as a shock to readers, but I am not much of a fantasy reader myself. But I am a huge fan of Terry Goodkind, and I have enjoyed books by Raymond E. Feist and Tracy Hickman too. Most of the books on my shelves, however, are on physics, strategy or philosophy. Some of my favorites are Paul Davies, Nick Herbert, Einstein, Sun Tzu, De Saxe, Vegetius, Robert Greene, Plato, Descartes, and Paine.
SZ: Tell us a little about what your Legend of Reason series is about, in terms of setting, plot, characters?
My series has a sort of ancient Roman or DJG: Greek feel to it, but some cultures in the series are closer to a medieval or gothic feel. The characters are flawed, ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, as is typical in epic fantasy, but I tend to solve problems with logic and reason, and not with magic. The plot follows a man who has unknowingly become the new god of war, along with his companion Alana who is actually an assassin who tried to kill his father. But the story is meant to be an allegory for the political struggles between the left and right in America, and the enemies they are forced to face together.
SZ: Tell us a little about the themes that you are exploring in this series? Are there any aspects about fantasy as a genre that are particularly of help to you in this regard?
DJG: I think the fantasy genre offers an interesting way to explore ideas and offer different views. I love that I do not have to stay within the realms of physical law, painting a more colorful picture for the reader. I try to keep this to a minimum though, because I think a world that is too dominated by magic and creatures can be confusing and cause a distance between the reader and the core characters. As for themes, I cover philosophy, politics, religious extremism, good vs. evil, capitalism vs. socialism, illegal immigration, art, perspective, and more. I try to offer several points of view on each topic, but obviously my personal views become evident through the protagonist.
SZ: How many Legend of Reason books are planned in all? Do you have all the books mapped out already?
DJG: I don't have all of the books mapped out just yet. I have ideas and themes I want to address, but I sort of let the stories play out as I write, as opposed to planning them out beforehand. I do have a way I want to end the series though, so that much is planned. I am not sure of the number of books that will be in the series, but I would like to write something like five or seven.
SZ: When did you write the first book Mighty Hammer Down, and what path did you take to getting it published?
DJG:I finished Mighty Hammer Down in November of 2006. At first I tried to jump through all the right hoops to get the attention of an agent, but I quickly found out that it was a very tough road. I got many responses telling me that they loved the premise, but they were not looking for anything in the fantasy genre at the time. Publishers refused to take submissions from fantasy writers without agents, and agents were refusing to take submissions from writers who had never been published before. For two long years I fought that impossible system, and eventually I ended up publishing independently. I didn't like the idea at first, but now I wouldn't have it any other way. I have full control over all content and cover art, and that's exactly how I want it.
SZ: Was your second book easier or more difficult in terms of writing? Did the series take any unexpected turns when you moved into book 2, Blood and Bronze?
DJG: My first book was unexpectedly easy to write. When I got around to the sequel,it wasn't as easy to find the rhythm until about half way into it. For both books I tried to focus on character development, and also to discuss political ideas that fantasy readers might not be used to seeing in their normal reading. For my second book, I took a less political approach and offered a more philosophical argument about the nature of humankind. I didn't really intend for that to happen, but as I have grown over the years, the situations that have caused that growth have found a way into my writing. I try to entertain the reader with a good story, but I also want to present a situation where they actually have to think about their own lives.
SZ: What are some things that you did not expect or surprised you about the book world, in terms of being a professional author and the world of publishing, now that you have gotten deeper into everything?
DJG: I think what surprised me most is that publishing houses are very cold to unfamiliar writers or ideas. Several author friends of mine have extraordinary talent, and yet get no attention at all from publishers because they aren't already famous or their genre is a little outside of mainstream genres. I think this is a huge mistake for the publishers. I understand that they have a lot of bad writing to sift through to find the gold, but they are missing out on all the new talent and relying on the same old guard of published authors to put out new books. Eventually the readers are going to get bored of that. Luckily there are now options for writers of all genres to have their work read by the public.
SZ: Your presentation of your series is fantastic, from your website to the book trailer. Do you have a media or design background?
DJG: I do indeed have a background in art, although I am totally self-taught. I have been an artist my whole life, focusing mainly on traditional art such as drawing and painting, but that expanded into pretty much all areas of art after a while. I do all kinds of graphic art too, as well as my latest hobby, which is film and special effects.
SZ: How did the trailer come about? It is amazing!
DJG: The book trailer sort of snowballed into what it is today. Originally, I was working on a new website design, and I wanted a picture of a sword from my book to be on the home page, so I made it from clay and then made a mold and cast it in plastic. After a while the idea came to me to take some video footage of the sword instead of using a still picture, and then ideas just exploded. I became obsessed with creating a book trailer that looked like a movie trailer and I learned how to film and do costumes and props and special effects. I shot the live footage on a green screen in my kitchen, with a few shots being out in the back yard. The whole thing cost me only about $350, and that was mostly for materials for props. For the next trailer, I will be using professional lighting gear, as opposed to the halogen lights I used last time.
SZ: With almost 50,000 hits, can you tell us a little as to how you were able to get so many views, and do you have any gauge as to how it has helped in selling copies of your work? (many writers are very curious about the effect of a book trailer)
DJG: I wish I had a better idea of how my video got so many views so fast. All I did was put it on YouTube and started reaching out to friends in the YouTube community. The friendlier you are to people, the more willing they are to subscribe to you and hopefully share your video with others. Every now and then I come across a website that has my trailer embedded, so I guess people who like it advertize it for me. I think anyone who puts together a quality video will have similar effects. One thing to remember though is to steer clear of a lot of text (tough for a writer to do). People look at videos to watch things happen, not to read. Entertain the people and they'll help make your videos big. As far as book sales go, my trailer had an effect, but not as much as I was expecting. I am guessing there was maybe a 5%-7% increase in sales, but my real increases came when I released book two. So, my advice to writers is to focus on your writing, and not worry too much with a trailer. If you have the means to do it yourself, and make it look professional, by all means make it, but don't expect your sales to double or anything.
SZ: How have eBooks worked out for you, and do you see print and eBooks co-existing, or do you see print being completely replaced?
DJG: It's been an amazing thing to watch eBooks take off over the last few years. I really can't see paper books being totally replaced, but I will say that eBooks have been my core sales since the beginning. They are much easier to advertise, and people are far more likely to buy an eBook at 99 cents than a paperback for $10-$15 plus shipping. My paperbacks do show up in a few random bookstores but mostly people have to go to Amazon to get them, so paperback sales for me are not the greatest. The latest craze is eBooks, and I am thrilled to be part of that trend. My books are generally in the top 1 or 2% of Kindle book sales, which is not bad at all for an independent author.
SZ: What is on the horizon for you in 2011, writing-wise?
DJG: I will certainly be starting book three very soon. I won't force my fans to wait 2 years between books like last time! Once I begin, it will only be four months or so until book three is released. I will be filming a trailer for Blood and Bronze first though.
SZ: How do new readers connect with you online (website address, facebook,
etc). Give us your links!www.davidjguyton.com
Pick up some of David J. Guyton's work today: