Interview with Gary Ballard author of The Bridge Chronicles.
I started writing stories around age 11. My mom had this old electric typewriter in the laundry room and I started banging out some terrible fantasy short story with elves and warriors and the like. It was a manifestation of my desire to play Dungeons & Dragons, which probably came from me having read The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring the previous year. Since I turned 40 last year, I guess that means I’ve been writing almost 30 years in some form or another. I wrote short stories, songs, poems and my first complete novel in high school. That novel was godawful, by the way. I had always wanted to write and draw comic books as well, so I tried my hand at those in college.
What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?
Finding the time to write when you also have a full-time day job. I’ve managed to get into a good rhythm, though, where I tend to spend a few hours each weekend writing. I could be more prolific if I could find the time, but short of a sugar daddy paying all my bills, I think this will have to do. Editing is probably the second hardest part followed by marketing. Those take up as much if not more time than the actual writing of the book.
What genre do you generally write?
All my published work so far has been cyberpunk/science-fiction, in a series called The Bridge Chronicles. It’s based around the character of Artemis Bridge, nicknamed the Amoral Bridge because anything you want, no matter how illegal, unethical or downright immoral, he knows a guy that can get it for you.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
I have a bunch. Neal Stephenson is probably my favorite cyberpunk author, Jack Kerouac my favorite fiction author, but I read so many, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
What is your book called and how did you choose this title?
The first book in the series is called Under the Amoral Bridge – since the title character is nicknamed The Amoral Bridge, it just seemed an appropriate title. It’s also a bit of a meta-title. Under was conceived as a prequel to a series set in the same universe that I had written but had been unable to publish. I started writing Under and publishing it chapter by chapter on a blog to drum up agent/publisher interest in the series I had already started. Both the character and the novel itself were a “bridge” to that other series. I decided to self-publish it in an collection even though the whole thing had been available for free on the Web as a way for people to get the whole thing in one easy to read format. By the time I finished it, I had an idea for a sequel, which I published in the same way. That’s where The Know Circuit came from. The title of that one is a bit of a play on what Bridge does – he “knows” people, and the people he knows are his “know circuit.” It’s how he gets things done. The third novel, if [tribe] =, was kind of a play on programming language. It deals with a lot of themes of how we react to people and things that are outside our “tribe.” Do we react violently? How do we bridge those differences without killing each other? All of this is told through Bridge’s dealings with a gang war in future Los Angeles. The last book I published was a series of short stories set in the Bridge universe, called Tales from the Bridge Chronicles. 10 stories, all of them set in the universe – some have Bridge as the star, in some he’s only there as a cameo, and some he’s not in at all.
Has your book been published and how did you go about this?
I’ve self-published all of these books. The first two (Under the Amoral Bridge and The Know Circuit), were originally published serially on a blog, then collected in both paperback and eBook form. if [tribe] = is also available as both a paperback and eBook and the Tales collection is only available in eBook form. I used Createspace to publish the paperbacks – they are a print-on-demand house owned by Amazon, which gets my book out to just about any Internet-based retailer out there, as well as libraries. The eBooks are published through Smashwords, Amazon’s KDP program and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt program.
Approximately how long did it take you to finish your book?
I’ve been averaging about 6 months to a year for each book, but the funny part about the way I write is that I often think about a book for years before it gets put down on paper. So scenes in The Know Circuit were written in my head while working on Under, and the same for [tribe].
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Be prepared to take SERIOUS criticism. Get a thick skin NOW before you start getting hammered. If you put your book on the Internet and accept Internet reviews, prepare for the nastiest, most vitriolic criticisms you can imagine. If negative feedback on your book makes you think about quitting, go ahead and quit now because you will never be able to hack it. Also, don’t expect to succeed right out of the gate. I’ve had my stuff out there for sale since Sept. of 2009. Since that time, I’ve sold over 4,000 books, but it took a while to really start seeing any kind of return. You have to get your book reviewed as much as possible, especially by some of the reviewers on the Net with lots of pageviews. And if you get dinged for something, really think hard about the criticism. If it’s valid, fix it in your next book.
Do you use social media to promote your book, if yes then which social networks do you like the most?
I think self-published authors HAVE to use social media. If not, you are cutting off a significant portion of potential audience members. I currently use Twitter the most, though I’m on Facebook. My Facebook is merely updated by my Twitter feed though. I’m on Google Plus but I hardly use it. Twitter just seems to fit me best.
Have you enrolled your book onto Amazon’s KDP Select and how have you found it?
I have not. I felt a little bit reluctant to grant Amazon exclusive rights to my books. While most of my sales come through that channel, I don’t like the idea of platform exclusivity in a world where we are still figuring out what eBook format is going to become the standard.
If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
I would have embraced eBooks quicker. At first, I only put out the paperback version of Under and procrastinated on making an eBook version. But since most of my sales are on eBooks these days, I wish I could have done it sooner. It took me months to make that jump.
What books do you like to read in your spare time?
I’ll read all kinds of books, from political non-fiction to cyberpunk, science-fiction, fantasy, fiction, horror, whatever sounds good. I’m not a romance fan, but then, I’m a married man, so that’s not the kind of escapism I desire in my reading habits. You can always check my profile on Goodreads to see what I’m into at the moment. Right now I’m reading Stephenson’s Anathem and plan on reading the third book of Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series.
What do you feel is the most important stage of writing a book?
That final edit and read-through is probably the most important. That’s where you can really hurt or help a book, either by trimming out the fat or beefing up the parts that need it.
How did you go about designing the cover for your book?
I’m a graphic/web designer in my day job, so I designed my own covers. I usually start with a photo that I take of a particular concept, then just make it up as I go along in Photoshop.
Are you writing or considering writing a follow-up to your book?
I’m currently writing the 4th book in the Bridge Chronicles series, called The Shootist. I hope to have it completed and published by late summer.
Do you have a day job (if so, what do you do?) or do you write full-time?
I’m currently a web designer for a local ad agency.
Where is your book available to buy?
Links to any format you could want to buy can be found on my web site’s Buy My Book page.