For the second installment of my YA Self-Publishing Series I’ll be talking with fantasy writer Christopher D. Morgan. Christopher is the author of the Portallas Series, and today he’s going to share with us why he became an indie author, the real amount of work that’s involved, and the wonderful connection he has with his fans!
Welcome to my blog, Chris!
Let’s start with your books and your writing process…
I: Welcome, Chris! I’m so happy to have you here. Please introduce yourself and your books to my readership.
C: Hi folks, I’m Christopher D. Morgan, the author of the Portallas series of YA fantasy novels. I’m a relatively new indie author and I’ve been strapped to this rollercoaster now for about a year and a half, with Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies, book one in the Portallas series, which was released in March of this year. What a ride it has been so far!
I: In the blurb about your book, it mentions that Joshua is looking for his father and in the process he finds himself. A common theme in YA is coming of age and the transition from childhood into adulthood. Does your book explore this theme, in if so, in what way?
C: Yes, that’s true, Joshua does indeed sort of find himself in going through the journey. He starts out as someone that has very little experience with the outside world but ends up having to grow up very quickly and make some very adult decisions. By the time we get into book two, he will realize that his destiny is far greater than he could ever have imagined (Shhh! No spoilers!). I think the coming of age theme plays out in the YA genre a lot because we are writing for young adults that are going through these types of emotions and life experiences, so it’s all the more relevant to them. First loves, overcoming new obstacles, challenging oneself, standing up and facing whatever life throws at you, whether you want to or not – these will all be things that young adults will relate to and they are also themes that play out in the Portallas series.
I: Give us a glimpse into your writing process… Are you a plotter or a pantster? Do you write fast drafts or slow perfect drafts? Do you write every day or in wild inspired spurts?
C: So far, I’m very much a ‘seats by my pants’ type of writer. With Forestium, I wrote it end-to-end with almost no real planning or mapping. Indeed, I got about two thirds of the way into the story and still didn’t have a clue how it was all going to end – that lasted up until the final chapters, in fact. Fortunately, it did all come together very nicely in the end. Since I have a very busy life outside of my writing, progress can sometimes be choppy and unpredictable. I may get through several new chapters in a single week or I might go a month with no progress at all. It’s really hard to say. Being an indie author means I have to do everything myself, including marketing, web-site management, social media, blogging, school author visits, and all those other things that go towards building up an author platform. It’s a necessary evil. It won’t matter how good my books are; nobody will read them if nobody knows who I am. Still, I’m enjoying it very much all the same
I: Building a fantasy world is a difficult task. However your book links MULTIPLE worlds through Portallas. What are your secrets to world building? And how do you keep all your worlds straight?
C: The Portallas book series is slightly different to most in that each new book in the series is represented by a totally different world. It’ll be the same protagonists and antagonist, of course, but I’m starting afresh with the environment each time a new book starts. Forestium is a heavily forested world, hence the name, but the world our heroes will explore in book two will be totally different again. Each new book title will give away something of that world. Book two will be called Archipelago. Can you guess what sort of environment Joshua will be faced with there? As you’ve pointed out, each of the worlds are joined together through the Portallas, but I won’t give away too much more than that.
I: On your website you mention your heroes are scientists like Newton, Einstein, hawking, Darwin, and Galileo. How have they influenced your fantasy world and fantasy writing?
C: That’s actually a really good question that’s never been asked of me before. I don’t know that I can put my finger on one thing specifically but I do firmly believe that we are all influenced by our heroes in some way. Perhaps some of the things that I like in my heroes does find its way into my writing in some way, but I suspect it would be more on a subconscious level than anything else.
Okay, now let’s jump into the self-publishing aspect …
I: Where are you in your self publishing journey?
C: Well, I’m an indie author and I’d say I’m out of the gate but not by far. I have my first book out in the wild and I’m starting to grow my following and build my author platform. I’m hoping to have book two published this year, which would mean two books in my first year. I did have to chuckle inwardly to myself the other day when I got recognized for the first time in public as an author. I guess I’d call that progress?
I: Why did you choose to self publish? What appeals to you about being an indie author?
C: There’s no one single reason. I did try the traditional route initially but it can be very difficult to break through and you lose control over the whole process if you do manage to sign up with someone. It has to be said that I’m a bit of a control freak and I do like the idea that I can control my book cover, advertising, and just about every other aspect of the process. I’m fortunate enough to have a number of the skills needed to be an indie author, such as IT and technical skills, graphics design and a few other things. It makes sense not to pay others to do those things if you can do yourself, right? There’s also the lure of retaining all the proceeds from book sales and making dollars instead of pennies on every book sold.
I: What are your goals as an indie author?
C: I’m happy to remain being an indie author for now. If the traditional publishing option does present itself to me at some future point, I will look at it but I have no huge need to change things at the moment. I’ll continue with completing the current Portallas book series, although I suspect this will take another year or two to play out. I won’t stop writing at that point but we’ll see where things go. I always like to keep my options open.
I: What has been the best surprise about self publishing?
C: Wow, there have been so many. Firstly, that there is so much work involved. It’s not a commitment for the faint-hearted. At the same time, there have been some terrific unexpected rewards. As a part of building my author platform, for example, I have a school author visit program. In the last school term, I visited eight schools and delivered an author presentation to fifteen groups representing around 1,500 students altogether. It’s a genuine thrill and a privilege to inspire youngsters. I’ve been brought to tears on occasion by teachers that have called me to let me know just how excited their students have been as a result of my presentations. If I can play even the smallest of roles in helping to inspire the next Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens or Enid Blyton, then surely that makes it all worthwhile?
I: What’s been the hardest challenge of self publishing?
C: Seriously? Finding time to write. There’s sooooo much other stuff that needs to be done all the time. Being an indie author is like having a huge machine that needs feeding constantly. It has gotten to the point that I have had to hire a VA to help out just so that I can free myself up to carve out time for writing. Writers block is also an annoyance.
I: I’ve noticed the pace of self-publishing can be very fast. Are you an author who puts out a new book every two to four months? If so, how do you keep up the pace?
C: Fast? Are you kidding? It will have changed again by the time I finish this sentence! It’s truly amazing at which the speed of things change. The publishing world today is so very different to even just a couple of years ago and the pace of change has been constant for some years now. It is hard keeping up and this is another one of the reasons why there is always so much to do as an indie writer. How do I keep up with the pace? To be honest, you never really know whether you are or not. Perhaps this is something best judged with the passage of time.
I: How do you balance all the demands of being an indie author? How do you balance book production, marketing, book launches, list building, and still find time to write?
C: Delicately – and sometimes unsuccessfully, I have to admit. I wear many different hats. Being an author is just one of those hats. I have a busy family life with two special needs children, I sit on the school council and I’m the President of a local community volunteer group. I also have a very demanding day job as an IT Manager and I sit on various other committees here and there. The indie community itself is also something that keeps me busy and I volunteer my skills and talents to assist other indie authors (indie authors are great and tend to help each other quite a bit). I don’t get the balance right all the time. If I did, I’d be finished with book two already.
I: How do you combat the common stigma that self-published books are low quality?
C: To be honest, I pay it no mind. In my everyday life, this doesn’t affect me…or at least, I don’t let it affect me. Besides, there are plenty of traditionally published books that are equally worthy of this stigma and there are some tremendously successful and high quality indie published books. All readers should consider the wisdom of Forest Gump’s mother: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.’ Try an indie author – you might just be surprised at the quality!
I: I often hear that indie authors have a very strong connection with their fans. How do you build a community with your readers?
C: I love my readers and fans and relish any interaction I have with them. It’s hard to explain but you know you’ve touched someone deeply when they tell you all about the world you have created and how it has affected them. I had a teacher contact me just recently to pass on this little snippet from one of the students there that recently received a copy of my book:
“Thank you soooo much, I love reading your book. I find your backstory so interesting that I spent almost 12 hours researching the background. It was great to follow up on my curiosity questions”. Sincerely – your biggest fan – Emily B7B”
Now, how can anyone not fall in love with that? Whether it’s through my web-site, e-mail, during one of my author presentations or on social media, I love to connect with fans in any way I can.
I: A lot of the authors I’m interviewing for this series come from all over the globe (Dubai, UK, Canada). You are from Australia! Tell us about the indie-publishing community in Australia!
C: In actual fact, I’m from the UK but I moved to Australia in 2009. Now I have dual citizenship. Most of my interactions with other indie authors has been through the Internet. As such, they have been people from all over the globe. I can’t say that I make the distinction between ‘Australian indie authors’ versus any other kind. We truly do live in a global society now and I think this profession is one that exemplifies this specifically. There’s one indie author that I deal with quite a lot that’s in America, another is in Scandinavia, yet more in the UK and so on.
I: There’s a ton of information online about self-publishing. What are your top three most useful resources?
C: That’s a very difficult question to answer, as I don’t tend to rely on any one online resource. There are a number of indie author Facbook groups to which I belong, which I do find very useful. Web-sites are a great source of information but I tend to suck up that information and then move on. Rarely do I go back and use them as an ongoing resource. I’ve picked up a little bit of information from literally hundreds of different online resources. I can’t say there’s any one that stands out in the crowd.
I: What is your number one book marketing secret?
C: Bribery! OK, perhaps not. To be honest, I think it’s too early to tell. I’m still very new at this and still wading my way through the thickets. I would say that striking up productive working relationships with other indie authors has to be up there. I’ve learnt so much from some of my indie brethren – more so than I have from any other single source of information.
I: What advice would you give to anyone considering self-publishing?
Do it! Yes, it can be hard work. Yes, it can be time-consuming. Yes, it can be tiring. Yes, you can lose track of what your children look like. Yes it can…hmmm, this is actually starting to sound ominous. But seriously, give it a shot. You may find that you have a lot more talent than you thought you had. In twenty years from now, you’ll have more regrets about the things you didn’t do in life than the things you did do. Think about that!
- Most influential author on you and your work: JK Rowling. Anyone that can convince an entire generation of kids to pick up a book and read wins my vote.
- If you could time travel, when/where would you go? I’d go back to when I bought that lottery ticket that I got 5 out of 6 numbers on and change that last number. Instead of winning $1,500, I would have won $1.6M. Oh what a difference a number makes!
- If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you want to be when you “grow up”? I don’t want to “grow up”. I think it’s overrated anyway.
- What are you going to dress up as for Halloween? Death – just like the one from the Monty Python movie. I would have soooo much fun trying to convince people I was the real thing.
- If you were a super hero, what would be your super power? The power to give children confidence.
- If you were a super hero, what color would your hair be? How nice of you to notice I still have some.
- Oddest thing you collect: Does belly-button fluff count?
- TV show addiction: Star Trek and Game of Thrones.
- Favorite movie: The Princess Bride – coincidentally a movie from which I’ve derived some inspiration for some of the magical creatures in my books!
- Celebrity crush: I don’t follow celebrities as a rule, although there are a few I’d like to crush!
- Favorite word: Indivisibility – 6 vowels, all of which are the letter i.
- Least-favorite word: Can’t. Also dyslexia – such a difficult word to spell!
- Biggest fear: That my children won’t be happy in life.
Christopher Morgan is an author, blogger, IT Manager, graphics artist, businessman, volunteer and family man living in Melbourne, Australia. Much of his time is spent volunteering for his local community. He creates visual learning resources for primary school children, which are marketed through his company Bounce Learning Kids. He is also involved in local civics and sits on various community & council committees.
Christopher was born in the UK and grew up in England’s South East. At age twenty, he moved to The Netherlands, where he married Sandy, his wife of twenty-eight years. Christopher quickly learned Dutch and the couple spent eight years living in the far South of that country before they moved to Florida in 1996. After spending seven years in Florida, Christopher and Sandy sold their home and spent the next two years backpacking around the world. Christopher has visited around forty countries to date.
Whilst circumnavigating the globe, Christopher wrote extensively, churning out travel journals. He and Sandy settled back in the UK at the end of their world tour, where their two children were both born. In 2009, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia, where they now live.
You can buy Christopher’s books on Amazon here: Portallas series
Learn more about Christopher and his books here: