When you join Smashwords as an author, you can post an interview based on auto-generated questions to help your readers get to know you a little better. I thought it might be a good idea to post the interview here as well.
And don’t forget that there’s still time to enter my Amazon Giveaway to win a free copy of my novel.
Interview with Michael Rappa
Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King, Frank Herbert, J. R. R. Tolkien, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allan Poe, George R.R. Martin, Douglas Adams
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Dune – Frank Herbert’s masterpiece is my all-time favorite novel. It has often been called science fiction’s answer to Tolkien’s Middle Earth books and for good reason. I’ve read the entire Dune series as well as most of Herbert’s standalone novels. I was fascinated as a child by his use of journal entries and quotes for chapter heads, as well as the glossary he included in Dune for his numerous invented words. He was a brilliant writer and a huge influence, not so much on my first novel, but much of my writing owes a great debt to Herbert.
The Shining – My favorite Stephen King novel and the greatest ghost story I’ve ever read. My next novel is going to be a haunted house story and to say that ‘The Shining’ is an influence is a major understatement.
1984 – George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare has proven to be eerily prescient. The ending still haunts me. Unfortunately, what he originally intended as a cautionary tale seems more often these days to be used as a “how-to” manual. One of the stories I’m working on is a Negative Utopian tale in the vein of 1984–I even named the main character George in tribute.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Hands down the funniest book ever written. Douglas Adams was a genius.
The Dark Tower – This Stephen King series was the biggest influence on my first novel. Its blending of horror, fantasy, western, and sci-elements while seamlessly jumping between our world and Mid-World was masterful. My favorite individual books in the series are ‘Wizard and Glass’ and ‘The Gunslinger.’
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It was probably Call of the Wild, which I read repeatedly as a child. Besides contributing to my lifelong love of dogs, it made me want to read more and to create stories of my own.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I wrote a haunted house story with a couple of my childhood friends. It was quite macabre for the minds of second graders, as I recall.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
I first put pen to paper (yes, pen and paper) back in 1997 when I wrote the first chapter and outlined the rest of the novel. The idea for the novel originally sprung from a text-based online role-playing game I was considering playing on AOL back in the days of dial-up modems (kids, ask your parents). As part of creating a character for the game, you were supposed to come up with a back story for your character. I never ended up playing the game, but I liked the character I created, so I decided to turn his story into a novel.
My original intention was to write it as an experimental serial novel, in which I would post a new chapter at regular intervals. In fact, the first chapter has been available online in one form or another since 1998. However, when I realized that there was enough material for a full-blown novel, I altered my plans. It took many years to complete—as any aspiring writer will tell you, one of the biggest obstacles to completing a novel is finding the time between your job, housework, and various other adult responsibilities—but eventually (and with the help of a period of unemployment) I finished the first draft in early 2009. Subsequent drafts followed and I finally had a draft that I deemed worthy of submission in the winter of 2012.
I do NOT plan to take 18 years to publish my next novel. 🙂
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I tried the traditional publishing route first, submitting queries to agents, but then I began to notice that more and more people were self-publishing and that the self-publishing industry was growing at an astronomical rate, with even established authors beginning to self-publish. I like the idea of maintaining full control over my property and earning higher royalties on each sale, not that I’m expecting to earn much (you don’t really make any money on a book unless it becomes a best-seller). It’s more about the work itself, getting it out there into the world, and self-publishing seemed like the best way for me to accomplish that. The traditional querying process did have its benefits, though—it helped me to hone the marketing of my book, specifically the synopsis I eventually used for the back cover—but I am happy with my decision to go the indie route.
What is your writing process?
I tend to edit heavily as I’m writing. Conventional wisdom says you should plow through your first draft and then go back later to edit, but I guess I’m too obsessive to work that way. Consequently, it takes me longer to complete a first draft, but on the bright side my first draft is more complete and thus needs fewer revisions than the average first draft.
How do you approach cover design?
I designed the cover for my first novel myself. I am not even close to being an artist but I have enough Photoshop experience that I was able to make a cover that looks professional. I had first tried one of Amazon’s online cover templates, but these were too plain and I didn’t want my cover to look like everyone else’s, so I spent a lot of time getting the look I wanted. The front art includes a real photo of mine that I manipulated via Photoshop to depict a scene from the novel. For the back cover (of the paperback) I chose to use an author photo rather than create another image. For future novels I may continue to design them myself or explore the possibility of employing a professional.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I’ve spent almost my entire life in New Jersey. I grew up in a small town in South Jersey that was essentially a suburb of Philadelphia, as did the character Sam in my first novel. Most of my stories take place in New Jersey. I’ve even created a fictional South Jersey town which I plan to weave into my stories in a sort of shared universe, a la Stephen King’s Derry and Castle Rock.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I enjoy reading, traveling, photography, and cooking. I also play tennis and chess, and once every few years I pick up my saxophone. I spend most of my evenings feeding my TV/Film addiction, with the occasional video game mixed in.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I own a Kindle but do most of my e-book reading via the kindle app on my phone. I still read physical books more frequently than e-books, especially for my favorite authors, whose books I like to collect.
To learn more, you can visit my Author Page at Smashwords.