Friday, May 27, 2011

Author Interview: Cyrus Keith

My last few interviews have been with self-published authors at various stages of their self-controlled careers. Today, I’m posting an interview with author Cyrus Keith, who has walked the more traditional path of seeking out a publisher. His debut sci-fi thriller, Becoming NADIA, was released this April by MuseItUp Publishing. In August, the sequel, Unalive will be released, and a third book, Critical Mass is in the works.

1)  Please tell us about Becoming NADIA.
“What’s one more little white lie?”
There's only one thing that pretty, popular TV reporter Nadia Velasquez is missing: her memory from before the explosion that killed everyone else in the room, including the President of Nigeria. But from the moment she meets FBI agent Jon Daniels, all hell breaks loose. Friends turn into deadly enemies overnight, and no one can be truly trusted.
When Jon and Nadia investigate further, they discover the living terror that is the truth behind Nadia's existence, a truth that could mean the death of millions.
2) What inspired Unalive? Did you have a sequel in mind when you wrote Becoming NADIA?

Actually, I did not envision a sequel. But there was one huge, nagging loose end at the conclusion of Becoming NADIA that had to be addressed. So the rest of the story had to be told. Once I decided that, it was just a matter of outlining the major points and deciding how many parts to make it. Three just seemed to be the right total number of installments. However, there will be enough characters left alive at the end that there should be room for a continuing franchise if there is enough popular demand. Otherwise, I'm calling the series complete as of the conclusion of Critical Mass.

3) As a sequel, you already had a firm setting to play around in. Did you find it easier to write Unalive for that reason? Were there any challenges that you found writing the book that you didn't find with Becoming NADIA?

Unalive took longer, because I had a set of rules in which I had to work. Everything had to work within the framework I'd already laid out, and that included new characters and new aspects of existing characters.

4) Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

I try to start with a rough outline. By "rough," I mean five or six major points. That's my route from "Point A" to "Point B". I have to define the conflict along the way, and then I jot down whatever comes to me as tension-builders and as many twists as wander through my mind. This may take a couple of weeks.

Then I just start in on Page One with a hook, and plow through from there. As I complete a chapter, I post it for critique. I don't do any edits until after I complete the rough, and then I go back and incorporate suggestions from my critters as they advance my story.
After that, the work goes through about three rounds of edits to flesh it out and preen it before I submit the final product to my publisher.

If the MS gets accepted, I sign the contract, approve the cover, and then the work starts. My content editor, Fiona Young-Brown, runs through it at least twice, and sees that the story is integrated and whole. She helps me plug my plot holes, checks for consistency, and gives it one final critique. I polish it with here, go through it once or twice more myself, and then it goes to the line editor, Greta Gunselman, who chews the living dog snot out of it. She helps me weed out needless adverbs, grammatical errors, and corrects punctuation. This might take three or four rounds to get right.

Then the product goes to the Chief Editor, none other than Lea Schizas, who formats it into a galley proof. This is like a practice final version, in pdf format. She'll send it back to me, and I go through it one more time, word by word by punctuation mark, and make sure it's what I want. Then it goes back to Lea, who formats it and posts it on the vendors' websites and puts it into the queue for going to the printer.

Then it starts all over again. Notice that for every manuscript, no matter how many times I've been accepted in the past, there is no guarantee that my current work will be up to standard. I could still get rejected.

5) What sort of advantages has your publisher provided you?

The first advantage I reap is professional cover art at the publisher's expense. Then I get professional editing services, once again at the expense of the publisher. So far I've saved between two and three thousand dollars on those services alone. Then my publisher is the one who formats and uploads my work. That means I have more time to write, not spend that time on logistics. In addition, I have a ready pool of contacts for interviews, reviews, guest blog appearances, and the support of a hundred other writers who are all members of the publishing house. So we can touch thousands of people all over the world in a matter of weeks for promotions. Our marketing director also puts her two cents in, finding new places to place my work, and get my name out there.
In exchange for all this support, I do have to price my work higher than a self-publisher. I share net profit with everyone at the house who has input: cover artist, editors, chief editor and marketing director. But under my contract, I get a generous portion of that net.

6) If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring author, what would it be?

Don't expect things to get easier once you land that first contract. If you think you can ease back and let the cash roll in, read through my process again. You have to do that for every book you write. The only thing that gets easier is acceptance, once you develop a history and sales. And watch for scam artists who give easy acceptances, and then ask you to pay for editing or cover art. If they ask for money, run away. Period. Unless, of course, you are deliberately self-publishing.

I want to thank Cyrus for taking the time to share his experience with us. Please check out Becoming NADIA and Unalive when it’s released in August.


Brent said...

This is an interesting peek at what happens with the new style of small publisher. Thanks!

J.A. Beard said...

Thanks for stopping by, Brent.

I'm glad the interview was informative. In this tumultuous times in publishing, I think it's important that writers be aware of the full spectrum of options available to them.

Lin said...

I was one of the fortunate few who got a peak into the world of Nadia early on when Cyrus allowed me the privilege of doing what my fellow authors have dubbed a STATIONARY TRAILER for him over on one of my seven blogs. (I know a LOT of blogs, but I wanted to keep each genre separate so thsoe lookign for our YA books would not have to wade through the HOT ones, etc.)

Cyrus is one of the most talented authors I have ever worked with, and one of the smartest. He weaves a story with such intricacy you cannot put down his words until the last one is echoing inside your brain...and then you want more.

Becoming Nadia is an amazing story and I know the sequels will be just as rewarding, exciting, and edge -f your seat spine-tingling.

If anyone wants to check out the Trailer I did for Cyrus, here's the link...but before you go, this is NOT a YOU TUBE kind of a is a STATIONARY Trailer

Pat McDermott said...

Cyrus, "Nadia" sounds like one exciting story. I look forward to reading it. You didn't pull any punches with your writing/publishing process either. Great info, great story. Good luck with those sequels!

lionmother said...

Cyrus, so glad I stopped by to learn more about you. I love learning about how writers produce their novels. Have you ever not done a rough outline for a piece? When you started writing the sequel did you wish you could go back and change your first novel? Just wondering.:)

Cyrus Keith said...

I do have one project I'm "winging" now. I find that it's a more grueling process that way. I do prefer knowin where I' m going somewhere near the beginning.

Cyrus Keith said...

As to the second item, no. Once I finished BN, I never looked back.

Charlie said...

wonderful post Cyrus. The book is so exciting. I've heard nothing but good about it. Was fun to learn even more about you.
C.K. Volnek