Today’s Author Spotlight found fantasy author Daniel J. Peyton out playing his violin to calm the dragons that abide in the Smokey Mountains. That was until he bumped into the Charlie Daniels Band…better stick to writing, Daniel! Without further ado…here’s Daniel!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma and spent the first 18 years of my life there. I’m trained in acting, singing, three forms of dance, and play a slew of instruments (primarily the violin). I moved to East Tennessee, near the Smokey Mountains, and have enjoyed the beautiful scenery and lack of tornadoes ever since.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
It all started in the fourth grade when my teacher gave us time to free-write. I wrote poems and tongue twisters, but quickly graduated into story telling. I wrote my first story then, a crime drama about a private eye. It was two whole pages long and I was danged proud. I began to write all the time after that. I always had something in the works.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
Yes. John M. Ford wrote one of my favorite books, How much for just the planet. I also really enjoy Charles Dickens work. In the 8th Grade I started reading the Ashes of Eden series by William Shatner and Judith and Garfield Reeves. I’d say that it was the Ashes of Eden series that I drew a lot of inspiration about writing from. I didn’t just read those books, I studied the way the characters were written, the interaction between people, the development of scenes. That experience truly gave me the bug to write my first full length novel.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
My current work is Legacy of Dragonwand, book 1. It is a fantasy novel for a young adult audience. In the story, four years ago, all the wizards were ordered to surrender themselves to be put into a special prison while the king and his head wizard searched for the last Dragonwand. We enter when young Markus of the Valley sets out to go to school and learn about his growing magical abilities. He must find a wizard to get a letter of recommendation. He doesn’t know about the decree or the hunt for the Dragonwand. The wizard he finds sends him on a quest to find the wand, but before he gives him many more details the old wizard dies and Markus becomes a target of interest for the Royal Guard. Along the way he meets another wizard his own age, a Rakki girl named Crystal. She and her adopted parents help Markus look for the Dragonwand so that she can hopefully free her birth parents from the Pale Labyrinth where all the wizards have been held these past four years.
How is the title significant?
The title, Legacy of Dragonwand, is highly significant. However, the reader won’t truly realize the full significance until future books. I don’t want to spoil anything, so…I’ll leave it there.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
Several different factors contributed to the inspiration. First, long before I even thought of the book, I picked up a handcrafted bubble wand from an artisan at Dollywood. It was unique and I thought it would be a neat item to eventually be put into a book. Later, a friend held a contest for an anthology. Each person could submit a 10,000 word short story as their entry. I picked up the bubble wand and began to craft a story around it. The story kept going well past the 10,000 mark and I set it aside when I realized it was far too long to be entered. A few months down the road came Nation Novel Writing Month and I picked the story back up and kept going with it. I got the 50,000 for NaNoWriMo, but wasn’t done. I wrote through January of the next year and finished a rather long, detailed story. Several edits later, some artwork, and a few submissions, it found its way into the hands of Braxton Cosby of Cosby Media Productions.
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
Markus, the main character, is a human wizard. He is naïve, but determined. I put more of myself into him than any other character, mostly his stubbornness. Crystal, the girl he meets, is a Rakki, the dog people of Gallenor . She is shy, two months older than Markus, and brilliant. Her parents were medical wizards and that is her ambition. She watched them be taken away by the royal guard and has longed for their return ever since. Her adopted parents are Treb and Kiin. Both are highly skilled archers of the Rakki Arrowguard. Treb is a loving, kind soul who will defend his adopted daughter against any pain. He has an immediate distrust of Markus, because Crystal shows an interest in the boy and Treb has a hard time with that. Kiin is a level-headed warrior who keeps her husband in check. Captain Morris is the leader of the Royal Guard. His devotion to the throne blinds him to common sense most of the time. He will enact whatever the king decrees without question. He will punish anyone who does not show the same loyalty.
Finally, Hallond, the Kings head wizard, is a strange person. He has the whole kingdom worried about the threat of the return of the last dragon. By his influence the king imprisoned all the wizards and has set out a standing decree to force any child who becomes a wizard to be taken away. It is through his insight that the King knows to seek the last Dragonwand to end the threat. Truly, he is not what he appears to be.
All of the characters, save Markus, developed as the story was told. When I wrote the 10,000 version, I put in these names and people. As I remastered it into a full novel, I developed their character and let the story drive that process.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
The only deep message that could come across is the love of the family. Markus and his family love each other even though they fight. Treb and Kiin are adopted parents of a girl who isn’t biologically theirs, but they show no less love than her real parents would. Family makes these characters strong.
What is your writing process like?
I try to write at least one to two hours each day, late in the evening. I have done this for decades. When I was in school, after doing homework and having dinner, I would sit down and write in my room or at the family computer. The process: I find inspiration for stories in various ways and simply begin, I am what they call a pantser, or I write by the seat of my pants. After I begin a story, I will always have some paper near me to jot down notes as ideas come to mind. I stack those notes next to the computer. By the time I’m done, I have dozens of notes on every sort of paper you can imagine. Also, I will draw some of the characters along the way, so that I can see them better. Some times, after I draw them, I find more details to incorporate into the story.
How do you go about editing your story?
I start by setting it aside for a few days after I finish writing it. Then I read it through and make some corrections, mostly refining the story and filling in any plot holes. I have family who gets it next and they work on it, which means I work on it again with each person. After that, I look for a more professional editor. Each time someone catches something that makes me say, “how on Earth did I miss that the first five times?”
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I am my own cover artist, for the most part. I draw and edit my own work for covers. When Legacy of Dragonwand was published, the publisher took care of the covers.
How did you go about getting published?
Submitting like a fool. I went after publishers like a politician looking for voters. I was relentless. I studied methods for making a better pitch, a better query letter, what not to say, what to say. Finally, I made a connection with an author and he helped introduce me to the CEO of Cosby Media. From there I got my contract and was on my way.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
Difficult. It costs a lot to make everything look as professional as possible. I did my own formatting and cover art. I also had to make sure the books were in the best condition as possible. Unfortunately, the return hasn’t been that great. People love my work, the few that have actually picked up copies.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
The pros: You control everything. You want the cover to look like this, then make it happen. You want your character to be this way, then it shall be. You answer to you.
The cons: It is all on you to make it happen. You have to be sure that your cover fits the market well, that your formatting looks good, and that the world knows about it. Trad published and Indie published authors both have to do a great deal of the footwork to get the publicity machine churning along. However, being trad published helps grease the cogs. In my opinion there is a fallacy that indie authors spread around, “We get more money by being indie, with no big fat-cat CEO to take part of our profit.” Unless you are amazingly successful, this isn’t the case when you calculate in the costs you have to dole out that a Trad publisher takes care of as part of the contract (layers of editing and formatting, cover art, printing costs, and the exposure through their own sites and marketing). Yes, they get part of the profit, but they also make your work shine and put it in places you would have a hard time reaching. But, that is just my opinion based on observation.
What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
Both good and bad.
The good; there are a lot of fellow authors out there that want to help each other and I cannot express my true gratitude for all the help and advice they have given me.
The bad: there are a lot of bad people out there ready to pounce on new authors. I got sucked into the scheme of Publish America almost ten years ago. They were a terrible company that took my work, messed it up, never lived up to their agreements for publicity, and soaked me for as much money as they could. For a time, I was brainwashed into thinking this is how publishing works and I lost all of my life savings to them. I am still rebuilding funds. But, I learned a great deal during the rebuilding process, especially about how publishing really works and how to spot red flags when bad publishers/agents show up.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author? Social media is a helpful tool, but it will drain a lot of your time and energy. Getting a network of friends to help share and talk about your work is also good. Finally, get out there and set up booths, go to events. If your book is sci-fi or fantasy, find comic cons to rent booth space. If you have something about local history, go to festivals and local events. Not only will you make sales, you will get to interact with readers and grow your image in the right crowds. Join local writers guilds/clubs. They help in various ways, with the writing process and with finding venues.
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
Research potential publishers and agents. There are several good sites out there that will help you. Even if the agent or publisher looks really good, step away from their hyped website and Google them. Had I done one Google search before signing that contract (with Publish America), I would not be in the position I am in today. The same goes for editors, beta readers, and reviewers. There are a lot of really great people out there who freelance all of the above, but there are some nasty thieves who will take advantage of you. Don’t go in blind, we have too many resources in this modern age to make that mistake.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
Get a professional editor to work with your book. Get a professional cover artist to help you. There are loads of good books out there in the Indie world that are like a cute little baby with a full diaper. So adorable and you just want to pick them up, but the smell of what stinking pushes you away. I don’t care if every cousin and bff has read and LOVED your work, if they don’t have a degree in English, Journalism, and/or experience editing many other works, they don’t qualify. They can help you refine your work, but you simply need that professional touch.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
My future is full right now. I have two more books in the Dragonwand series coming out within 2016-2017. Also I have a novella coming out in early 2017 as well as a superhero novel in summer of 2017. Not to mention several more books in the process of completion right now and more on the way. I have another series that has two books out through self publishing called The Crystal Needle, the third book in that series is in the hands of my editor right now and, hopefully, will be out by the end of this year.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
You can find me on Facebook through my author page at:
You can also find me on Twitter: @DanPeytonAuthor