Today, I’m delighted to welcome Nathan Roten to my blog. Nathan grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, where he says he spent hours on end acting out the epic scenes playing in the theatre in his head. Knowing that he had to eventually grow up, he attended Appalachian State University, and moved on to be co-owner of two companies.
In 2011, he began his official writing career with the publication of his non-fiction book, Embark. Now, with the desire to be that imaginative kid again, he has come back to his love for fiction. Aegis: Catalyst Grove (Aegis Series Book 1) is his debut novel.
He lives in the small mountain town of Boone, North Carolina with his wife and two children.
Q: Nathan, can I start by asking who gave you your first encouragement as a writer?
My family has always been extremely supportive of my writing, but I would have to say that my first dose of encouragement came from my grandmother. We called her Granny. I was in sixth grade, and I had to write a short story on anything from my life experience. I can’t even recall what the story was about, and at eleven years old, I am fairly confident that the story was terrible, but I remember being in Granny’s living room, standing in front of her as she read my story. After finishing, she looked up at me and said, “Nate, this is great. You have a talent for this.”
Now, it is a basic law of nature that family has to say this sort of thing. Parents and grandparents alike must encourage the children, but I really felt as if she meant it, and that moment has always stuck with me. That one sentence planted a seed in me that has now taken root and produced multiple works, with many more to come.
Q: You generally write in the genre of contemporary/urban fantasy. What can readers expect?
My target audience is the Young Adult crowd, but I also develop characters that resonate well with adults. What readers can expect from me are:
- Stories set in the here-and-now, real world.
- The fantastical elements of the story are usually just behind the veil of our normal world.
- Thriller elements. Fast pace, intense battle scenes, all with solid plots and deep character development.
- Higher purpose. This will be a main thread through any series that I write. I want the characters, and the readers, to be thrust into a world where they are part of something much bigger than themselves. The culmination of the characters’ actions will change the course of history. I call it ‘epic,’ not in the normal fiction terms of developing other worlds and settings, but as in the impact on the outcome of good vs. evil in the world.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere. I try to keep a creative eye out all the time for things that could go into my books: settings, people and behaviour. My faith also has a lot to do with my inspiration. My goal is not to preach in my fiction by any means, but the virtues, human relation and life principles definitely come from the Bible. There are some pretty amazing stories in the Old and New Testament that give rich insight into the nature of humans as well as the on-going nature of good and evil, and the interesting thing about many of these stories is that they don’t shy away from showing you the full impact of both sides. How can you know the true nature of goodness unless it’s contrasted with darkness? How do you know the virtues you hold to are correct and powerful unless they are challenged by selfish greed and lawlessness? That clash is fascinating to me, and I also grew up watching X-Men and Dragonball Z and other similar shows/movies that deal with the clash of good vs. evil and story lines that have an effect on the outcome of humanity. Some of their basic features have definitely influenced my writing as well.
Q: Khaled Hosseini says that he feels he is discovering a story rather than creating it. Are you an avid plotter or do you start with a single idea and let the novel develop organically?
I am in the middle of writing book two in the Aegis Series, and I am writing this in a totally different way to how I wrote Catalyst Grove, so this is a hard question to answer. I wrote book one with a very flexible outline, which adapted and morphed as it too shape. The best way I can describe writing book one was that, as I pounded out the first draft, it was as if I was watching the movie unfold in the theatre of my mind… it was pure discovery. I had vague details in an outline, but the details were fleshed out as I wrote. I would say it was probably seventy per cent discovery and thirty per cent outline.
Book two is a bit more outlined, due to its complexity. I have different groups of people going on different missions, so it requires me to write out of sync (which I thought to be impossible on book one) and outline more, so that I don’t let the complexity get out of hand.
All that to say, I think it depends on what the book requires, and you adapt as you need in order to get the job done. I may come to find that each novel requires its own process, and I am cool with that, because it will bend and stretch me as a writer, and that will always be a win-win.
Q: What is your ‘writing routine’ – if such a thing exists?
I still have a day job and a family, so yes, for me, routine is everything. I have two children under the age of six, with another one on the way, so if I do not plan out and prioritise not only my writing, but also my writing career, it simply won’t get done. Everything I do happens in the margins of my life right now, and that’s ok, because if forces me to focus, and that is a very positive thing.
My weekly routine is this. I work on my career six days of the week. I get up at 4:15 am to read and write. I take one day off, just because getting up that early is exhausting in the long run, so I need a chance to catch up on sleep, if that’s even possible. Aegis was written in one to two hour sections in the morning. The first to fourth draft happened over the course of about a year: from concept to published book. If I have breaks during the day, I try to get some brainstorming and daydreaming done, but by and large, I do everything in the wee hours of the morning. The evenings are dedicated to being with my family.
Q: Do you use any writing software such as Scrivener, ByWord or Mars Edit?
Scrivener is worth its weight in gold (which isn’t saying much, because it is digital, but you get the point). The very first book I had written was a Christian, non-fiction book called Embark. It was picked up by a small, traditional publishing house, and everything was done in Word… and it was so cumbersome and hard to work with, even when I was not doing the formatting for an ebook or print version.
When I decided to write fiction, I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener, did a little research on how to use it, and started NaNoWriMo, and I honestly couldn’t imagine writing another book without it. In Word, I kept a separate file for each chapter, so I could easily find the section I needed to visit, instead of infinitely scrolling down through pages. With Scrivener, everything is just a few clicks away. I can also set it up to export in any format in any style. Everything is all right there, together and easily accessible. Formatting and allocating files for Kindle, B&N, Kobo and Print is a breeze and can be exported in seconds.
Q: Do any of your books have dedications? If so, to whom and (if appropriate) why?
I have dedicated Aegis to my two children. Anyone with kids will understand the desire to see your children grow up and become something great. I have dedicated the book to them because I want them to develop the core values I put in my books: teamwork, passion for a cause, sacrificing your needs to help community, using your gifts for a higher purpose…. all those things. I want them to keep these virtues close at heart, while still embracing a sense of wonder, adventure and exploration. The type of books I write are ones that I want to be proud of to present to the next generation, and when I sit down to write, I keep my children in mind. If I know I will be proud to have them read it, then I feel I have done my job.
Q: What key factors influenced your decision to become an indie author?
I began my writing career with a traditionally published book. I was ecstatic to have a firm believe in me enough as a writer to take on my project, but after my first year with them, I realised that established authors were getting most of their focused attention. I would pitch marketing ideas to them, and the basic response I received was, “That sounds like a good plan. Let us know how that goes.” I didn’t get much assistance or help. The marketing and outreach was mostly up to me. They did set up a few signings in the beginning, but eventually I had a hard time even getting a response from them to my questions, and the book sales weren’t much to brag about.
When I got the itch to write fiction, it seemed as though the ‘stigma’ of self-publication was wearing off, and was beginning to be widely accepted for what it is: authors being entrepreneurs and taking their career by the horns. I thought, given my past experience, that I would give the Indie route a go. I didn’t have to wait a year for publication and, since I was doing my own marketing with the traditionally published book anyway, doing my own marketing for my fiction book was second nature. Within the first month, I had already made more on my indie fiction than I had in three years with my other, traditionally published book. Is the Indie route the right path for me? Ohhh yeah.
Q: You’ve touched on marketing. Which do you market as a brand – yourself or your published works?
Both. I want to put my face and logo out there, so fans can connect with a person, but I also want to let them get sucked into the world I have created. With fiction, people will relate to characters and circumstances, so I firmly believe that branding the works is a high priority.
In the long term, however, I plan to write more than just the Aegis series. I also want to connect with my readership. In that respect, I want to offer them Nathan Roten – the author. I want them to be able to understand the reasons why I write what I write: my motivations, passions and purpose. I want to hear what they have to say and how it has resonated with them on a personal level. You simply cannot get that type of engagement if you only market your published works.
Q: Which professional services won’t you skimp on?
Three things come to mind:
- Cover artist. I am terrible at graphic design, and people do judge a book by its cover. Should they do it? Probably not. Is that the reality we live with? Absolutely. First impressions do matter, and this is one that we all have to get right. You can set the mood, genre, setting and certain expectations through the cover, so it is imperative that it’s professionally done.
- BETA readers. This was invaluable to me. I had a great group of BETA readers, who gave me wonderful feedback that I could not see as the author. This is your chance to see your book through the eyes of your readers, before it is made public. Plot holes, character development (or the lack thereof), loose ends and flow can all be polished with this feedback. I cannot imagine writing a novel without this function.
- An editor. I don’t know about you, but as I read and re-read my manuscript, my brain automatically reads the text on the page as it should be and as it is in my head, so it is very hard for me to catch mistakes.
Q: As a reader, do you think that you’d be aware if the book you were reading was traditionally published or self published?
A story is a story, and if it is well written and it felt like the author was putting his or her best foot forward, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue, or the desire to find out. All I would care about is if it was a good book.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
The bulk of my work is on the Aegis series. Catalyst Grove is my debut fiction novel, and is the first book in a planned five-book series. I have outlined book two, and will be writing it, to hopefully have a full rough draft by the end of the year.
I also plan to produce a host of short stories based on each character in the series. The first is Recollection: An Aegis Character Short. Each story is intended to reveal a significant part of their past that has developed them into who they are today. No doubt, between the Character Shorts and the Series, this will be my main focus for at least the next three years.
On the flip side, I’m also developing some nifty tools for authors. I am currently near completion of a tracking / resource spreadsheet that will give new authors a big jump-start. As I have time, I also plan to develop more tools that will benefit the business side of being an author.
Q: Finally, where can we find out more about you and your work?
I am most active on my facebook page, G+ and my stellar Surge Community through my newsletter:
Google +: plus.google.com/+NathanRoten