Five Questions with Paul Genesse
Friend and fellow writer, Paul Genesse, has just released the third book in his Iron Dragon Series. Paul and I “came up” together as writers. Both of us attended the GenCon Writers Symposium for a number of years and struck up a friendship there, and it’s been cool as both of us leveled up and eventually reached the rank of published author.
I’ve been involved with the Iron Dragon series for a long while now, helping in some small way by reading and passing along whatever bits of advice I could to Paul. The series reminds me a lot of the Dragonlance Chronicles. It’s high adventure with a young hunter and his two Drobin companions as they go on a quest to destroy the Dragon King, Draglune. It’s a fast, light read, and it’s filled with characters that warm your heart. It’s perfect for young readers, those that are just dipping their toes into fantasy, but it’s also great for those like me who want to relive some of those early adventures we read in our teens.
When The Secret Empire came out, I wanted to chat with Paul about the experience a bit. So without further ado, here’s our short interview on the subject.
You’ve already come a long way with the Iron Dragon Series—three books released—but you have two more in the wings. How does it feel to be a more than halfway finished with the series?
Now that three books are out I feel like a backpack filled with rocks (that someone else put there!) has been lifted from my shoulders. It feels so good to have book three, The Secrete Empire out and I’m very excited to be close to having the whole series completed, which will hopefully be by the end of 2013.
The series has changed a lot since you first drafted the five books in the Iron Dragon series. As you grew as a writer, and as the story grew and altered, what were some of the more surprising changes to the characters, the plot, or the world?
I have old manuscripts of book four and five from 2002, which must be heavily rewritten before they’re published, but the overall arc of the story hasn’t changed that much. However, all of the micro parts, the actual scenes, have changed 100%. I’ve had to delete and rewrite almost every word of the old manuscripts. The characters have changed a lot as well. The main character, Drake, a crossbowman from a backwoods village, is more heroic, less afraid of what he encounters. He was more naïve in Book One, and he became a blooded and veteran warrior in Book Two and he acts very quickly now. By Book Three, he knows what it takes to survive, and though he has not lost his strong moral compass, he has become more of a pragmatist, and he will do whatever it takes to keep his friends alive, and if that means ambushing his enemies and sniping them from afar with his crossbow, he will do it—though he still has remorse, and the feelings that soldiers in war have after they survive difficult situations.
One of the biggest surprises for me as a writer involves Drake’s main love interest, Jaena, who now has her own major story thread in Book Three and beyond. It was suggested that she have more of a role, and her thread sprang to life at the end of Book Two, and then exploded in Book Three to become a very important aspect of the series. Her thread rivals what the “main characters” are doing.
Another surprising thing for me was realizing just how flawed the old manuscripts were as far as technique. The story was pretty good, but ten years ago I was such a novice writer when you look at technique. I’ve grown so much since then, and I barely recognize what I wrote before.
I’ve described the Iron Dragon Series as a return to adventures like The Dragonlance Chronicles. I’d like to put that question to you, though. Who is the perfect reader for this series?
The perfect reader is someone who enjoys adventure fantasy, like those written by Terry Brooks author of the Shannara series, readers of Dragonlance by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss, R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt novels, and epic fantasy in general. It’s written for teens and adults, though the 10-11 year olds that I meet love it as well, though it’s a little too scary for some kids that age, and there is some adult content, which is why Library Journal, who gave me a great review, said it was for ages 12 and up. My favorite description of the series comes from Russell Davis, author, editor and former President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: “This is a story that’s worth your time. It’s almost like going back to that first fantasy novel that totally captivated you and you read it over and over again. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.”
You’ve gone the exciting route of self-publishing the rest of the series after your publisher of the first two books stopped publishing fantasy and science fiction, despite your first novel becoming their bestselling fantasy title ever. Tell us some of the lessons you’ve learned, both positive and negative, with going this route.
Doing everything yourself is so difficult, and very daunting. I have friends to help, but the amount of work required to get a book actually published is gigantic. I’ve learned a lot about graphic arts, and typesetting, but I made several mistakes with cover design, which delayed the release of the trade paperback edition as I kept having to re-order proofs of Book One from CreateSpace. Book Two and Three came out great right away, but book one’s cover had issues. I need to take a class on Photoshop and I wish I had more expertise in all areas of publishing and marketing. Just getting the writing done is a challenge and a full-time job, and when you add all the rest of it, the job is enormous, and not for the faint of heart. Determination is key.
If you could give only one or two bits of advice for someone considering the same route, what would they be?
Don’t rush things like I did as I pushed to get book one, two, and three released as trade paperbacks and eBooks at the same time. Give yourself more time to get things done, and practice all the tasks in advance. Self-publish a short story or novella first, and learn cover design, typesetting, publishing with a print on demand company, and publish it as an eBook. Don’t do everything as you go, like I did with my Iron Dragon Series. Also, find friends who know about image manipulation and layout and have them help you. I should have tapped my numerous contacts to help with the cover problems I was having. Instead, I tried to do it alone, and it cost me time, sanity, and some extra proof orders. I asked for help with editing the third book, but for some reason I thought I was on my own with other parts, though some friends did look over my work. Still, I spared them the technical questions that caused so many problems. Don’t forget that your true friends will help you with your dreams.
My thanks to Paul for stopping by these parts and chatting for a spell. You can find more about Paul at his website or his blog, and you can find more about his Iron Dragon Series via the following links: