As part of the ALEXANDER OUTLAND: SPACE PIRATE blog tour, I'd like to welcome G.J. Koch! She writes a ton of great books, including TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN and others.
To win a FREE COPY of ALEXANDER OUTLAND: SPACE PIRATE, leave a comment below.
Here's her bio:
G.J. Koch writes science fiction. Not the hard stuff, though. Because that requires actual scientific knowledge or at least actual scientific research. Knowledge may be power and research may be cool, but they take time away from writing jokes, action, and romance, and being witty in the face of death is what it’s really all about. Check out G.J.’s rollicking Alexander Outland: Space Pirate series from Night Shade Books and reach G.J. at Space…the Funny Frontier (http://www.ginikoch.com/GJKbookstore.htm).
And here's a bit more about Alexander Outland:
Trouble’s brewing out in space, and Alexander Outland -- the least likely hero in the galaxy -- and his eccentric crew have to save the day, despite the fact they’d prefer to take the money and run.
Alexander Napoleon Outland is the best pilot, and ladies’ man, in the galaxy. But Nap, as his friends call him, is more than that -- he’s a schemer with a heart of gold he desperately wants to hide, a soft spot for other people’s cargo and his exotic weapon’s chief, and the unerring ability to find the biggest misfit on any planet or space station and somehow join that person onto his crew.
Nap’s not your classic hero, but that tends to make him the right guy for the job…whatever the job happens to be. He’s a little bit Han Solo, a little bit Malcolm Reynolds, a little bit Jack Sparrow. He’s also a whole lot of fun to fly with, as long as you don’t mind near-death experiences.
There are aliens, explosions, telepaths, donkeys, space pirates of all kinds, and a galaxy-wide conspiracy. And the most horrifying “underwater” trip any crew’s had to face in a long, long while. But mostly, there are laughs.
And finally, her answers to my questions:
You've said it took you awhile to insert humor into your stories. What finally brought you to write humorously, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?
One of my friends, Dixie, begged me for years (YEARS) to “write funny”. I finally broke down and listened to her and wrote some short humorous essays and a humorous poem. My first sales were three of those humorous essays and that humorous poem.
You’d THINK that would mean that I instantly started putting humor into my writing. But you’d be wrong. LOL No, it took more time for the realization that people wanted to buy and read my humor for me to really focus on writing a novel that was funny.
I wrote for years before I even considered trying to get something published. I got a lot of rejection along the way. But that’s the nature of this game -- writing is one of the arts, and that means it’s completely subjective and open to criticism. Such is the life of an artist. I do warn people that if you can’t handle constructive criticism, nay, if you cannot handle criticism at all, perhaps a career in the arts is not for you.
I can handle it, which is part of the reason why I’m now multi-published in a variety of pen names. (Gini Koch, G.J. Koch, Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, J.C. Koch, and A.E. Stanton. So far.)
That is so true--aspiring writers should definitely consider the feedback that comes their way! I've definitely found golden nuggets of information within the criticism I've received.
I love the variety of characters you've created in this story, especially Nap. Where does your inspiration for characters come from and how do you develop them as time goes on?
In the case of Alexander Outland, the inspiration came from the name, which I stumbled upon. Alexander Napoleon Outland just sounded like a space pirate’s name to me, a cool, fun space pirate. I thought about what kind of person he’d be, who would be in his circle, and what his world would be like, and that’s the genesis for Alexander Outland: Space Pirate.
Otherwise, at least half of my inspiration comes from my dreams. I have very vivid dreams and I get story ideas, characters, conflicts, tones, and more from my dreams.
Other inspiration comes from music, being given a writing assignment (which happens frequently if you’re submitting to anthologies, which I do), from something random. I don’t worry about where the characters and story ideas come from because I have a plethora. Right now I have more ideas than I can hope to actually write in my lifetime, and I get new ideas all the time. Ideas are not the issue. Wrangling them into an interesting, coherent form is the issue. And that’s all craft -- practice, perseverance, practice, trying new things, practice and, oh yeah, practice.
I’m a linear writer, so I start with the title, then the first line, and go from there. So, the characters come to me normally as I’m writing. I may, or may not, know some of them before I start writing, but absolutely I don’t know all of them until they enter the story.
That's an important distinction--not just where the ideas come from but how to organize them. Having met you in person, I can attest that you really know how to market yourself as a writer. What advice to you have for both aspiring and published writers who are trying to network and get themselves out there?
First off, it helps if you like people and like meeting them. For a lot of writers, that’s a huge hurdle, and all I can say is that you need to weigh the pain and fear of being introverted and so on with the loss of sales you’ll have if you’re not “out there” in some way.
For aspiring authors, the most important thing you can do is learn to write and write well. All the people in the world that you know, a great web presence, lots of online friends, lots of blog followers -- none of this will make a crappy book good. Your actually putting the focus into becoming a good writer who’s spent time learning the craft of writing (and it’s both an art and a craft) is the most important thing you can do. It’s your book -- put the effort into your book that those of us already published put into ours. And, trust me, we put in a lot.
Otherwise, making friends with published authors is never a bad thing. Don’t be our friends just because we’re published. Be our friends because you like our books and you like us. If you like our books and you like us, there’s a darned good chance we’ll like you. And many of us like to help people we like.
For published authors, much is the same, but much is also different. Having a website means nothing -- it’s the price of playing poker these days. You MUST have a website if you have a book published -- it’s your electronic business card. And, unless you actually put some thought and action into your website, that’s all it is. I do recommend having a dynamic website, but not everyone can do that (costs and know-how).
Being active on social media is no longer optional, either. I love Twitter and like Facebook, so between those and the various lovely blogs that focus on my books or have me by for an interview or guest blog, that’s my main social media focus. I could spend more time on other social media platforms, but I don’t have the time, so I stick with the ones I ENJOY. That’s also important -- pick the one you like and the one you kinda like and focus on those. The ones you hate? Either find out how to love them or leave them alone. Disdain for the platform comes across clearly and to those who love the platform, it’s insulting.
Going to writers’ conferences and fan conventions and similar is hard for some, from a time, money, and personality standpoint, but I think it’s very important. You get to meet people in person and make connections with them, and I think that’s incredibly valuable.
I think writing well is the most important part too (and you've definitely got that down--the first chapter of TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN is outstanding!). What is something you wish you'd learned sooner as a writer?
Many things. LOL But one in particular. And that one is that there is no one “right way” to do it, to write, to get an agent, to get a publishing contract, to market yourself, and so on. Any time anyone tells you that there is only one right way, what they’re saying is that this is the way THEY do it, and they want you to do it their way, too.
I don’t say that. I say try everything. You outline and it’s not working? Try writing off the cuff, or writing scenes and then sewing them together. You only write in first person POV? Try writing in third person POV. And so on.
There is only one real rule: Money flows TO the author.
And only one really strong suggestion: Spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, and word usage matter, especially to agents and editors. They matter to readers, too.
Beyond that? It’s a craft and an art. Learn your craft and practice your art how YOU do it and it’ll work out for you.
You said that to me at the conference too, and I'm eternally grateful--and I've found the most success when I don't try to mold myself into any particular "standard." What are some other current projects you're working on? Will there be more books in this and your Alien Series?
I’m always working on something (which is how I like it!). Next in terms of release is Alien vs. Alien, coming from DAW Books/Penguin on December 4, 2012.
Right now, I’m working on Book 7 in my Alien series, Alien in the House, and as soon as I finish that, it’s Book 8, Alien Collective. Those two are releasing in April and December 2013, respectively.
I’m also working the next in my novelette series, The Martian Alliance Chronicles, Three Card Monte, which will be coming from Musa Publishing whenever I finally turn it in to them (yes, Musa’s waiting on me, not the other way around). I have some other short stories contracted going into anthologies that I can’t officially announce just yet, and have stories out right now at Musa writing as Jemma Chase, Anita Ensal, and A.E. Stanton.
I’m also working on the next book in the Alexander Outland series, Alexander Outland: Space Avenger. So, there’s plenty out there and plenty more coming!
Don't forget! Enter to win a FREE COPY of ALEXANDER OUTLAND: SPACE PIRATE by leaving a comment in answer to the following: If you had one day to be a space pirate, what would you do with it?
I look forward to your replies!