Monday, 15 October 2012

Author Interview: Ren Cummins

Ren Cummins has written Reaper's Return.

1. What is your name and where do you call home?
My name is Ren Cummins, and I live in the Pacific Northwest, just outside of Seattle.

2. Do you have a pen name?
I do write other projects under other names, but this is my actual name, and it's what I use for my more mainstream books.

3. What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or less words, what would you say?
The most recent book I've wrapped up was "The Crook and the Blade", the 6th and final book in the Chronicles of Aesirium series - it's a 6 book young adult sci-fi fantasy book (with a hint of steampunk) about a young girl who discovers that she's a Reaper - an angel of death.

4. Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
"The Crook and the Blade" wraps up the bulk of this story - but I've also been doing some short stories about some of the other characters you meet along the way through the six main books, as well as events that go on afterwards. I'm also planning on returning to that world to tell a couple other large stories that spun off from these books, but that will probably be for a 2014 release.

Also, I have another series I'll be working on through early 2013 - a different genre, set in the world of today, only with gods and goddesses fighting for real estate. It's been a lot of fun already and I've only just gotten into the book. Good times.

5. What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?
I've been writing as long as I could form sentences on paper - I'd originally wanted to go into comic books, but I didn't have enough of a passion for drawing - but I'm hoping one day to bring that back around and write some good graphic novels. I also took a detour into music for about 15 years, and put out a couple of albums, but stopped after my daughter was born. I didn't quite know what to do with myself creatively until my wife challenged me to write out one of the stories I'd had bouncing around in my brain, and once I started that, I just couldn't stop.

6. Do you gift books to readers for book reviews?
I do, on occasion, yes. Since I don't work directly with a large publishing company, I don't have access to the large marketing machines they employ. But grassroots campaigns are delightful. Plus, I do really enjoy the stories, and I'm happy to give people an opportunity to read them.

7. How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book?
The covers on the books are actually the third iteration, and the one I'm happiest with so far. I designed the cover for book one, and did some technical trade with Jen Ashton - a friend and fellow author - who did the covers for the other five books.

8. Which is your favourite cover of all the books you have written?
I think the last one, "The Crook and the Blade" is my favorite. It's a simple motif - a blue butterfly on a black background - but it's a metaphor that comes into play several times throughout the story. I don't want to spoil it, though, so you'll have to read it and see for yourself. ;)

9. Is there anything you would change about your book covers?
Not now, no. The original covers had more to do with creating a mood or a touch of the steampunk elements that provide the backdrop for the stories, but they weren't as clean or polished as the newest ones are. But who knows, in four years I'll probably just change them again. I'm weird like that.

10. Would you have different book covers for different countries?
I think that's a smart plan - different visuals have different meanings in different cultures, and I may not be the best judge of exactly how one image or design may play to people in one country versus the next. But I tried to go with some universally accessible images on these covers. They seem to be working, though - the sales on the books went up by almost 40% when the new covers went live.

11. How did you come up with the title for your book?
The first book I wrote in the series actually ended up being the second book - "The Morrow Stone". When I began writing it four years ago, it was called "The Twilight Gatherers", after the old name for the Reapers - but then the Twilight books and movies exploded and I needed to shift the books' presentation so that they wouldn't be confused with the Stephenie Meyer series. There is an old artifact that becomes a central quest for the main characters, called a Morrow Stone. When I opened myself to the reality of changing the books' names, the idea of calling that second book "The Morrow Stone" seemed a natural choice. But then when I went back and wrote what became the first book, I chose "Reaper's Return" as a reference to the time in which the book begins, where the reapers have all vanished and none have been seen in a generation. And of course, with a set up like that, you know they have to come back. 

12. Is there anything you would change about your book? And why?
That's one of the things I love most about being entirely self-published. I get to be the final say in how the books are, even after I publish them. I'd originally had a series of prefaces written in the style of one of the secondary characters, but after several months I re-read them and discovered they really didn't add anything to the books, and were just taking up space. So with the launch of the new covers, I chopped them out. Very easy, quite simple.

13. Do you have a book trailer? And what are your thoughts on book trailers?
I don't have one at this time - mostly just due to being so busy. I've been approached by a few people to do one, though, so I'm hopeful things will accommodate our busy schedules.

14. What is your opinion on ARCs?
I think they're a very good idea - just like having movie companies show their films a week or so early so that critics can be ready with their reviews. From a purely marketing perspective, people generally like to have their expectations set for them, like to know what they can look forward to. Or, you know, not, as the case may be.

15. Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, hardcovers or audiobooks?
I prefer all of them :)  But seriously, it fully depends on my mood. I don't get to listen to audiobooks as much as I might like, simply because I usually listen to podcasts when I'm in my car (big shout outs to the Nerdist and Kevin Smith!). If I had a long summer afternoon to just sip some tea or lemonade and read a book, I'd take a paper copy - hardcover or paperback. But most of the time I have for reading is in the evening or on long trips, and for those, nothing can beat an ebook copy. I like that I have some 100+ books on a digital device smaller than even ONE of my books, letting me read whatever I'm in the mood for. But make no mistake, on the bookshelf right behind me are copies of my books as well, pretty and shiny and ready to be read. Overall, I love that there are choices. That's what thrills me to be a writer in this generation.

16. Are you a self-published / Indie author?
Self-published, yes. But I also help form a polite cabal among a few other authors I know, called Talaria Press ( Our main priority is to put out books, but also to help educate people in just how easy it is to get your work out there.

17. Have you ever read a book more than once? And if so what was it?
It was probably one of those "Choose your own adventures" books, to be honest. And the replayability of those books is pretty legendary. But aside from that, it would have been The Hobbit by Tolkein. That book still enchants me to this day. So excited to see the new movies Peter Jackson is doing. Again, how great is that to live in a generation where we're seeing all these fantasies read about in our childhood jumping right up onto the screen. Though, I suppose there's the downside of that, in that it becomes far too little an exercise on imagination when the movies are all put up in 3D in high definition sound. 

18. Have you ever read a book just based on it’s cover?
I really try not to judge books by their covers - I know it's more of a metaphor than actual advice, but to be honest, a cover will only make me pick the book up. If I'm not engaged by page 3, then the book usually goes back on the shelf. I don't have as much time to just sit and read as I would prefer, so I like to have my time spent reading books I know I'll enjoy.

19. Has the quality of the cover of a book ever put you off of reading it?
Oddly enough, no. There have been several times - like reading the Robert Jordan "Wheel of Time" books, where I'd turn back to the cover art and think "really? That's the picture they chose for this? I thought he had a beard in that scene." or whatever. I don't like covers that try to convince me the book is full of action - I like the ones that just present a mood or an image and make you think "wow, I wonder what that's about??"

20. What is your favourite film based on a book?
I really loved the Hunger Games - I thought they did an amazing job of capturing the mood of that book - they provided a perfect example of how good a movie can be when the studio heads don't meddle with the production. But I would have to say the Lord of the Rings movies are my all time, hands down, movies that made me shocked and amazed to see what could come from books that for so long were said to be impossible to film. That's as close to a perfect series as I've seen on the screen, and I'm confident in my beliefs that it'll be hard to surpass. Though, as we have 3 more coming, I suppose we'll see.
21. What is your favourite book genre at the moment?
I've been enjoying the steampunk books lately - they're very fresh and enthusiastic, and it's not very often that such a niche genre can say that. But my newest books have been the more autobiographical "Geek Grown Up" books - I've got books by Chris Hardwick, Wil Wheaton and Kevin Smith on my kindle right now, and they're surprisingly relevant to our DIY culture. But I also still read my share of comic books - they're much easier for me to digest in my current schedule. The Ultimate Spiderman comics have been really enjoyable, but Mark Millar has had some very good creator-owned titles lately that I've really gotten into.

22. What books have made it onto your wishlist recently? And why?
I don't do wishlists anymore. My Kindle has been groaning under the weight of all the books I've picked up. I'm definitely an impulse shopper when it comes to books. But I've made a conscious decision to try and do a little catching up.

23. What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format?
Aside from the ones I mentioned before, I'm trying to wrap up book five of the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R R Martin. Knowing that book 6 isn't out yet isn't encouraging me to hurry up, however. Come on, George! We're waiting!

24. If you could invite any four celebrities (alive or dead) to your dinner party, who would you invite and why?
I've dreamed about this, in fact, but my list changes all time - I mean, it can't just be who *I* want to talk to, I want to make sure all four of them would enjoy the conversations with each other, as well. As it stands presently, I'd have to go with Neil Gaiman, Sting, John Lennon and Bruce Lee. Now that would be an awesome dinner party.

25. Do you have any advice for other writers? And what’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing?
Write. Write, write, write. Then let people read it. Let them help you edit it. But always know what your goal is, and be specific. It's impossible to be successful if you don't even know what finish line you're racing for. 

26. Do you have any hobbies that aren’t related to reading & writing?
Music is one of the main ones, still. Still play the piano and drums when I can, but now the big thing is watching my daughter start to take lessons - she's learning the tenor saxophone, and it's just great to see her starting out.

27. Where can your readers follow you?

Twitter: @rencummins

Thankyou so much for taking the time to do this interview and allowing us a glimpse into your writing world!

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