The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Sunday, February 28, 2010

TimeStream: An Interview with J.D. Williams

If everything you believed was a lie, could the truth kill you?

Nick Grant doesn't know what to think when a mystery woman warns him that he's in danger from the future. 100,000 years in the future to be exact. Suddenly, this small town college kid finds the fate of the world rests on his shoulders. If he doesn't solve the secret of the TimeStream, everyone he's ever known will be lost forever.

TimeStream is a science fiction novel available from Lyrical Press, Inc.

Here it is! I've finally gotten my hands on a spanky new copy of my buddy J.D. Williams' novel, TimeStream!!! It was recently released as an ebook, which is really cool, since that means I can read it in the dark with one hand while looking like I'm doing something technologically important in addition to feeling good that no trees were harmed in the making of this product and knowing that it is immediately available to everyone on the planet without shipping costs. Awesomeness all round.

I remembered the opening chapters of the novel from when I offered up a critique or two way back when J.D. and I were both members of the Critters group. And then – something new! I will finally get more information on that mystery woman who is tantalizingly mentioned in the book teaser posted on J.D.'s website!!

With renowned authors like Dave Duncan extolling the value of POD publishing, the New York Times being emailed daily to people's Kindles, the formation of the Space Puppet Books "consortium" and my own publisher ranting on the general lack of appreciation of ebooks as being a lot of hard work and just as worthy of respect as traditional print, it seems that J.D. is striking out into relatively new territory that is slowly but surely earning its place in the contemporary mainstream.

Being a new author myself, and still establishing my own presence, such topics interest me greatly, so I had a few questions for J.D. on his publishing experience.

1) Tell us about TimeStream.

TimeStream is a science fiction novel that doesn’t really start out clearly as science fiction. It’s a mystery at first. What’s going on? Why do strange coincidences happen around college student Nick Grant? Why does he believe he’s been seeing the same woman pop into his life every six and a half years, and why doesn’t she seem to be aging?

There’s a logical explanation to what’s going on — “logical” given that this is a science fiction novel, and anything plausible is possible. The fact the book is labelled “science fiction” gives a little away right up front. Hopefully I keep the reader guessing, and hopefully the reader is happy with the revelation of what’s going on. And that’s only part of the story. Once Nick learns what’s going on, he still has to save himself and everyone he’s ever known.

2) How long did it take you to write?

Oh, this one took way too long, years and years, but it’s an aberration. I was trying to write this one when there was too much going on in my life.

3) Were there any blocks that you had to get past? If so, how did you manage?

Blocks? Oh yeah. Life. Marriage. New job. Kids. I don’t think there were many of the normal writing blocks involved in TimeStream. And the only way to manage Real Life and writing is to persevere. Finding times to write far outnumbered the times I had any kind of writer’s block. Like I said, this one took way too long to write.

4) Describe for us your journey in finding TimeStream a home.

I first submitted the manuscript to traditional publishers in the 90s. This was so long ago, there were like nine major science fiction publishers that would look at sample chapters to unsolicited manuscripts. Some of these publishers aren’t even around anymore. The rejection was disappointing, but out of nine submissions, I received four personal rejection letters, which I eventually learned was a big deal. All four personal letters had a common theme: The idea didn’t grab them.

I worked on the opening more and submitted to a few smaller publishers and several agents, still with no success. During all this, the length of the manuscript went from 171,000 words down to about half of that. By 2000, I decided it would be better to take what I’d learned and apply that to my next novel, rather than keep reworking TimeStream.

So while I was writing novel five, and then six, and then seven, other things happened. Things like Lost the TV show and the novel The DaVinci Code became big hits, and people got into stories revolving around a big central mystery. People wanted to be patient and enjoy the process of investigation and discovery. Did that help TimeStream? I’m not sure, but, hey, the novel is published now. Coincidence? I dunno.

The best factor for me was in 2008. Renee and Frank Rocco launched Lyrical Press in New York. In 2009, a good writer-friend of mine suggested I submit something to Lyrical. Looking over their mostly romance catalog, I selected TimeStream because, in the end, it’s a love story, so I gave it one more quick polish and submitted. This was all done by email. I got a confirmation of submission receipt after a day or so, and a “we’ll get back to you in about two weeks.” I think it was two days later, maybe three, that I received their offer of publication. I was so busy emailing friends, I forgot to reply to Renee and say oh yeah, thank you, I accept the offer of publication.

5) What was the biggest thing you edited out of TimeStream?

The biggest thing was a subplot about illegal drug use. Nick’s friends, worried about his strange behaviour, wonder if he might be using drugs. So they go to talk to a student who’s supposed to be the biggest drug user on campus, always shows up stoned for classes, doesn’t socialize with anyone supposedly because he’s doing drugs all night. Turns out it’s all an act in case he can’t handle college. He doesn’t use drugs at all. If he fails, he wants to be viewed as a failure because of drug use, not because he wasn’t smart enough.

So now I have a novel set right after the wild and crazy 60s, and there’s no drug use mentioned whatsoever anywhere in it.

6) Would you have preferred a traditional publisher?

Traditional publishing is evolving, and I think I prefer being on the wave of innovation than on the shelf of stagnation. The way things worked out, TimeStream going ebook, is perfect. Print books don’t have the shelf life they used to. I remember as a kid seeing the same titles again and again on the shelves. At some point I would like to see TimeStream in print, but right now an ebook is just fine. And I think the price being less than a standard mass market paperback is more inviting to readers to take a chance on an unknown author.

That being said, a lot of Lyrical’s behind the scenes business is just like a traditional publisher. TimeStream had a copyeditor and a line editor, and there were responsibilities I had to get my manuscript as close to perfect as possible, all just like at a traditional publisher. So the front part of my publishing experience with Lyrical was just like a traditional publisher.

The end result, though, is an ebook that gets listed at set sites, such as Fictionwise and Amazon.com, unlike in traditional print publishing, where bookstore chains can choose how few, if any, copies to purchase for their stores. So to me, this is a better way these days for a new author to start building a readership.

7) How are you marketing TimeStream? Are there tactics which you find more effective than others? What do you find does not work?

Wow, I’m afraid I’m under-marketing TimeStream so far. One friend keeps chiding me to update my website and create a TimeStream page and do a TimeStream book trailer. I guess once TimeStream was picked up, my mind switched to “write the next book” mode instead.

I might be taking a too analytical approach to marketing an ebook, but I’m looking for things that will put my book title or my name in front of potential readers. It’s vital to have an author’s website, but who’s going to come by that by chance? So I’m concentrating on things that will find potential readers, not just sit there hoping readers will find it.

(Jen's Note: Despite "under-marketing", TimeStream has been in the top 25 recent science fiction bestsellers on Fictionwise.com for the last three weeks, including hitting as high as number 9 for one week!)

Posting on message boards is good. And I’m doing interviews like this!

One marketing idea I’m pursuing is writing short story tie-ins.

I have a short story coming up in an anthology from Dragon Moon Press that concerns a future technology called Remote Eyes, where computer connections are placed inside people’s eyes to take the place of conventional monitors, so that they can see data displayed seemingly before their eyes. The short story is a crime drama, but the concept of Remote Eyes is the basis for my sixth novel, which I will have re-edited soon. The theory is, readers will see this story and hopefully that will spark interest in the novel.

For an upcoming novel, tentatively titled Dilation’s Ripples, I already have plotted out several related short stories. One is already written, and another is nearly finished. I’m going to send those around as I work on the novel itself.

Of course, each story published gives me the chance to add a short bio, which will include “author of the novel TimeStream” and “please visit my website.”

Now, because TimeStream depends a lot on what its secret is, it’s just about impossible to write a related short story without giving away the secret of the TimeStream. But if I should ever do a sequel to the novel, that would open up all kinds of TimeStream short story possibilities.

So short story tie-ins are good, but the obvious problem is, you can’t simply say, “I’m going to write a short story” and it’ll be published.

8) Did you have an agent for this sale? What are your views on agents in general?

I did not have an agent for this sale. Will I want an agent down the line? Possibly.

This may actually be a good time to be a beginning author, because small publishers are doing innovative things, getting ebooks on the market and in front of a lot of potential readers, and you don’t need an agent to approach small publishers.

One thing I would want to consider down the line are international sales in foreign languages. This is one area an experienced agent can really help you out.

9) I love the cover art. How much input did you have into the design?

The cover is by the wonderfully talented Renee Rocco. Lyrical asks for general author input, what you would like to see incorporated into the cover, and from there Renee generates something that takes into consideration the author’s preferences and marketing realities. I mentioned the Ascendant, a key character in the novel, and I got an Ascendant on the cover. The pose, layout and type design were all Renee’s.

After seeing the cover the first time, I asked for a couple of tweaks, all of which diminished the cover’s effect, so I had to send Renee an email that began, “Renee is always right, Renee is always right.” We went back to almost the same design as what she had first sent me.

10) Is there anything you would have done differently?

Nope, not on TimeStream.

Like I said, the stars just seemed to align on this one. I wrote a book that I couldn’t manage to sell previously, tastes may have changed, Lyrical Press came into existence, a friend urged me to submit to Lyrical (thank you again, Manda!!) and now TimeStream is published. I can’t complain.

11) What's next for J.D. Williams?

Well, in between short stories here and there, and book trailers, Remote Eyes is the next big project. After that, it’s Dilation’s Ripples, my first project to be intended as a trilogy. It’s sort of Firefly meets Battlestar Galactica. I had started it once, but put it aside when I thought it was too much Battlestar Galactica. But after a little plot tinkering, it’s now an adventure with some serious underlying themes that show what I hope are some new wrinkles to time dilation, in addition to delving into some troubling aspects of human nature.

Also somewhere in here I hope to complete a heroic fantasy novel I started a while ago. Being mainly a science fiction writer, I couldn’t get myself to accept magic as ever happening, but once I came up with a science-based system of how magic might occur — and I’ll admit, it’s farfetched — I came up with a story I liked. But so far it’s really long, and it’s not even completed yet. Why do fantasy novels always run long? That’ll get worked on sooner than later.

And who knows? Maybe there’s a sequel to TimeStream down the road too.

Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to interview me! I plan to return the favor soon!

2 comments:

Manda said...

Nice interview JD!

But I think your next book should be on snow. I'm sure you can come up with some novel concept on snow. After all, you have done extensive field research in the subject.

JD said...

Thank you, Manda!

I should also write a book about my lawn, so I can remember it. I haven't seen it now for nearly four weeks, what with the snow, you know.