We're meeting author Bill Rockwell today, to talk about his latest novel,
Heaven's Conflict: The Rise and Fall of Angels.
He tells us about lessons learned in writing his books, so this should be of interest to other writers as well as readers.
Q. You’ve now published three novels. What have you learned from your experience that may help other writers?
A. I learned much with the publication of my first novels, especially the mistakes. Hopefully, I won’t make the same ones in my next novel. The title of my first novel, Generation Z, Birth of the Zompire, which is a vampire love story, is simply too long. The problem: as readers try to find me on Amazon or elsewhere, my novel doesn’t come up until they type the last letter in Zompire. So, it’s hard to find. I could have made the second phrase a subtitle, but, even better than this, I should have titled it simply: “Zompire.”
The lesson: Keep It Simple: make your book easy to find in search engines and websites.
Q. Did this help with the second novel?
A. Yes, but I still made a mistake in the title. The novel is a murder mystery entitled Not Privileged to Know, a phrase drawn from the novel. It fits the story perfectly; however, again, people are having trouble finding the novel. It’s not the length this time; it’s one word: ’Privileged.’ They either add the letter ‘d,’ or spell it with an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ where there should be an ‘i.’ I have tried to correct this (without changing the title) by making ‘Not Priv,’ and the letters ‘NPTK’ and ‘nptk,’ drawn from the title, searchable.
The lesson: Use Easily Spell-able Words.
Q. You’ve called this trilogy ‘The Privileged’ series. Since you ran into a problem with spelling, are you going to use ‘Privileged’ in the next two in the series?
A. No, I’ve decided to change the titles of these sequels. Instead of Privileged Information and Privileged Few, they will now be titled Need to Know and In the Know. The series link will now be the ‘Know’ series. Hopefully, that will solve the problem.
The lesson: Be prepared to change mid-stream, especially if dictated by either readership praise or problems.
Q. What about Heaven’s Conflict, The Rise and Fall of Angels, A Novel? That title is long; how are you going to prevent problems with that title?
A. This is an inspirational novel that required a lot of research. This delayed its publication. While doing the research, I wrote and published my first two novels. So, I had already decided on its title, and didn’t want to change it; however, trying to apply the above principles, the searchable title has become Heaven’s Conflict. The rest is subtitle. I’m a little worried the apostrophe may cause a problem. So, both Heaven and Heavens are searchable in the title as well.
The lesson: Search for your title in Amazon and other search engines to see what happens, what other books bear that title, and try misspelling some words as a reader might. Then, make those misspellings searchable.
Q. You used the word ‘Novel’ in the title. You didn’t do this in the first two. Why?
A. I was afraid people might think this book is a non-fiction commentary concerning Angels. It’s not. It’s my (fantasy) story of Lucifer’s downfall from God’s Grace soon after his creation. It’s a Good versus Evil story that I hope is both entertaining, exciting, and inspirational to readers since it involves true friendship, love and forgiveness, hopefully, without being too preachy.
The lesson: Make sure readers receive what they purchased (besides a great story, edited carefully). You don’t want them misled by the title, jacket info, or back cover summary.
Q. Did you footnote any quotes from the Bible?
A. No, although there are quite a few. I thought footnoting would interfere with the readers enjoyment of the story flow, and might make the book too preachy or seem like non-fiction. In my author note at the end, I explain this, and suggest that, if they want to know where any quote they recognizes appears in the Bible, they should search it in any (Bible) search engine.
The lesson: Most good books I’ve read capture me on the first page, and flow nonstop until the end. Don’t put anything in the book/story that will stall your readers, or stop them cold.
Q. Are you worried about readers reaction to the religious nature of the novel?
A. Yes, especially since one of my editors pointed this out, stating that I’d better be ready to endure the sticks and stones that will be thrown my way after its publication. He explained that non-believers (in God) will complain about the religious content (for example, that there is a God at all), and the true believers might complain that what I wrote isn’t in the Bible, or that the symbols I used are not correct, or that they might object to the personalities I’ve given to the Archangels, Lucifer, or even God. My simple answer to all these is that it’s a fictional story I created using the Bible’s content for guidance, but it is my (fictional) story, and I wrote it as it came into my mind. I believe in God, and read the Bible, and tried to stick to the first few books of the Bible, drawing some from Revelation as well. I had it checked by two Biblical scholars (Catholic and Jewish) and four Priests (three Catholic and one Southern Episcopal) to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with anything that is stated in the Bible; hopefully, it doesn’t.
The lesson: Be sure any research you do is totally accurate, even if the book is fiction, and use multiple experts, if available. I’ve read novels who have locations or technology totally wrong for that story’s location or time period (poor research and editing). These errors pull the reader out of the story, decreasing both pleasure and credibility as an author.
Q. Are you ready to endure those sticks and stones?
A. Yes, I believe so, or, maybe I should say, I hope so. A little controversy about the novel would actually attract more readers, and, therefore, be good. However, I never acquired a thick skin, so I may have some discomfort coming my way. I’m hoping more readers enjoy the story, and stand behind and enjoy what I did rather than attack me or my writing technique/research.
The lesson: Be brave enough to finish your work and risk public exposure for your story, especially if you believe in it. If you don’t, you will never be published, and only your family will read your story. Most writers, including myself, want more readership than that.
Q. Are there any other books about the Archangel Lucifer presently available?
A. Yes, both books and films, but most concern Lucifer’s exile to Earth and his conflict with God through Humans. I wrote about his initial hate for God and his lust for God’s Throne before Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, concluding with Lucifer’s condemnation to Hell. Everyone knows the story in general, but the Bible doesn’t give great detail to this event. I took this idea and expanded it into what would have been the most significant confrontation ever with the sovereignty of God’s Throne at stake. As I said, I hope it provides an entertaining (fantasy) story for my readers, as well as being inspirational, whether they believe in God or not.
The lesson: Again, research the story to find what’s out there. I may have missed a story, or one might have come out after my final edit, but I’ve tried my best, and this story is mine. If you find a similar story about your topic, you can still pursue your idea, but don’t plagiarize any of the other story. Make it totally your own.
Q. What does the future hold for your writing?
A. All three of these novels are the first of trilogies. I need to write the next installments. Currently, thanks in part to you and other bloggers who posted blogs concerning my Zompire novel, my second novel, Not Privileged to Know, is selling very well. The next story I turn my attention to will be determined by my readership. All are outlined, and ready to be fleshed out. I have another murder mystery already written and in the editing phase. It should be ready in late 2015. The second volume of one of my trilogies will then appear in 2016.
The lesson: Keep writing, no matter what problems confront you. For me, I’ve written my entire life. I am always working on my ‘next’ novel, even if it never reaches publication. Writing is like any art: the more you practice, the better you become, and the more you learn. Write every day, even if only a few lines, and always keep a pencil and paper by your bed and in your pocket (yeah, I’m one of those nerds with pen and paper in my shirt pocket at all times) to write ideas, outlines, or a few words that might be spoken by one of your characters in a future novel.
Q. Where can readers find out more about your novels and order them?
A. Information on my books (summaries and first chapters) can be found on my webpage: http://billrockwell.net
They can also order the books from amazon.com and at any bookstore. They are available in both paperback and for all E-Book readers. The audiobooks should be out later this Fall.