The Secret Life of the Dragon

6513600Last month I posted The Best of Brian Rathbone’s Twitter. This month we’re back to host an interview with the dragon curiosity author himself. Brian is going to answer a whole bunch of seemingly random questions today–from the topic of self-publishing, to dragons, to what he really does for a living. (I’m holding out for him living in a dragon’s human zoo!)

Customarily, when we host an author interview, we then hold a drawing for a copy of that author’s book. But since Brian offers the first book of his series for free, we’re just going to strongly recommend that you go give it a try, and then follow Brian on Twitter so you can read his dragon jokes first hand.

But before you do that, get to know the author himself as he subjects himself to our will answers our interview questions!

The Interview

To start out, how many dragons do you actually have? How many imaginary ones? Do you actually live in a dragon’s cave?

I tried counting the dragons once, but they refuse to sit still long enough for me to get an accurate number. The closest I can estimate is one too many. I’m not really sure which one, so I have kept them all.

I live in a log home on a mountain, but there are certain cave-like elements that make the dragons feel at home.

How many books have you written and published to date? How many of those books have dragons in them?

I’ve written ten novels to date. Nine of these books are in the Godsland fantasy series, though not all of those have dragons in them. The story line includes dragons but is not entirely about them, especially early on.

I do have one novel that is paranormal humor, but it is my least popular book, so I rarely shout it from the rooftops–unless the dragons leave me there with nothing else to do. It happens.

Are all of your novels set in Godsland? How many separate series are there? Do they require a family tree to get in the correct chronological order? Have you ever wanted to write something completely different?

Godsland is the series I always wanted to write. It is a series of trilogies, where each has what I hope are satisfying endings. I knew it would be a twelve book series and didn’t want to leave my readers hanging for long periods of time.

I know people who’ve read the books out of order and enjoyed them, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I suggest reading The Dawning of Power trilogy first, then The Balance of Power and then The Artifacts of Power. The Height of Power is yet to come.

There’s no doubt I’ll write more fantasy fiction as well as non-fiction titles. Chances are good that I’ll write a dragon book for traditional publication in the next year.

You mentioned something on Twitter about being a coder as well. Purely for geek points—what is your coding background? What computer languages do you know?

This is what I imagine goes on in Brian's computing world. The image is actually a logo for http://www.puentesdragoncoders.com/

This is what I imagine goes on in Brian’s computing world. The image is actually a logo for http://www.puentesdragoncoders.com/

I am a bit of a rare and odd duck in this regard as well. After getting kicked out of highschool, I got a job in the mail room at a commodities trade company. The people there figured I wasn’t very bright and denied my request to take some computer classes because it would have been a waste of money. Then they asked me to throw away a bunch of old computers one day. I asked if I could take them home and fix them, and they laughed but said yes. I fixed eight out of ten using pure farmer logic.

Within a couple years, I had built a massive wide-area network with multiple satellite and Internet connections. I started scripting file transfers and faxing jobs, and I never looked back.

In 1998, I moved to NC and took a job doing technology integration for NASCAR teams like Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Joe Gibbs Racing and big companies like Lockheed Martin. Then the company I worked for merged with a dot com in the education space. I became Vice President of Research and Development and designed a ‘diskless’ Windows-based virus resistant computer for schools and libraries (Microsoft hated it).

At the same time, I developed a ‘Dropbox’ prototype for students using Winbatch. I later ported this to Windows, Mac and Linux as a custom / scratch built FTP client in REALbasic. By 2001, this software had over 800,000 users.

Later I developed Visual Basic / SQL server apps for the furniture industry that also integrates with Quickbooks and Crystal Reports. If you bought a major name brand sofa, recliner or ottoman in the past decade, chances are my software helped make it.

And my last full-time technical job was Senior Telecommunications Specialist for the North Carolina Deprartment of Commerce Broadband Division. Say that three times fast. I did my best to help get affordable broadband Internet access to disconnected communities. During my time there, I also developed the new, open-source broadband map for North Carolina using javascript. It is my hope that other states will adopt it as well.

I may be a little too geeky for my own good.

A lot of writer self-publish, but few achieve the level of success and visibility do you have. What do you think contributed to your current popularity? What advice would you give to others trying to make it in the self-published world?

I think successful publishing almost always starts with a great story. While the Godsland books may have flaws, I can stand by my story with pride. The story is not enough, though. For me, success required me to want it very badly. It would have been easy to give up in the face of early rejection. Persistence and tenacity had a lot to do with my success.

Technology skills have always been my secret weapon. I can do many things for myself that others would have to pay for, or would never even dream of. Understanding the Internet, Photoshop, MS Word and many other components have always given me a leg up in the self-publishing world.
Being fearless is another key ingredient, especially when combined with the ability to recognize opportunities. Creating podcasts of my first trilogy was among the most difficult and time-consuming things I’ve done, but 1.5 million episodes downloaded have massively expanded my readership. This is thanks mostly to Podiobooks.com, which distributes to iTunes.

I have also been successful using content to market content. Podcasting did not yield a lot of money in spite of the massive exposure. It has been free ebooks within a series that created my writing income.

Building a Twitter following and interacting with like-minded folks on Twitter has been the icing on the cake. If you put a good story in front of enough potential readers, you will find your audience, and then you have won.

How long have you been writing? What got you started?

Ever since I discovered speculative fiction in 6th grade, I knew I would someday be a writer. I just didn’t know when. In May of 2005, I was on my way home from a REALbasic programming conference, and I knew my days at my current job were numbered. I had a two-hour layover in Atlanta, and I just started writing the story that had been brewing in my imagination for so long.

To what do you owe your current obsession with dragons? Do you think being a dragon’s pet owning a dragon helps you as a writer?

512vi1JwfSL._UY250_This one is interesting. I really do love dragons, but my current obsession can be traced back to how much others love dragons. As I grew my following on Twitter, I began to tweet the little quotes I put at the beginning of each chapter in my books. These tend to be some of my best one-liners, and those quickly became my most popular tweets. I began spending time making up new clever (and goofy) bits, and one day I had the idea to work dragons into every day sayings. My life hasn’t been the same since. I’m pretty sure my first dragon tweet was “If you love something set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If not, a dragon probably ate it.” I do love happy endings. My life hasn’t been the same since.

These days, I write a lot of non-dragon tweets to offset the abundance of dragon related humor in my feed, but people still respond most to the dragon quips.

Growing up on a working horse farm and working as a professional trainer and groom taught me much of what I use in my writing. Animals have such diversity of spirit and disposition. I couldn’t help but use that in my writing. Half the time there is a rescue kitty in my lap or sleeping on my feet while I write. The reminder is constant.

Most everything else I learned from years of reading great fantasy fiction.

Do you have a favorite book/author? (No need to pick just one!) What books do you recommend to fellow dragon lovers and why?

I think Melanie Rawn is the most under-rated traditionally published writer I admire. I have fond memories of The Dragon Prince series. I cut my teeth on Dragonlance, Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore, David Eddings and Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality.

Today we have a new breed of author following the footsteps of Scott Sigler, MR Mathias and others and blazing their own trails. I am proud to be one of those. I have teamed up with a number of such writers in Dark Matter and Dragons, a collection of free stories and novels that introduce you to new worlds.

And finally, many of our readers are new or aspiring authors. What advice would you like to give them to help them further their goals?

31JNNGmaNNL._UX250_Write a lot. Edit a lot, and start building your audience now. Connect with others who like and write stories similar to your own. Twitter, Wattpad, Goodreads and other sites make it possible to get people interested in your work before you ever release it.

Thanks for reading and be sure to say hi on Twitter or Facebook!
I’m @brianrathbone on twitter.
And on Facebook, I’m http://facebook.com/brian.
Have a great day!
*waves*
*trips over a dragon*


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