Posted on January 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Ask an author what his or her proudest moment is, and you expect answers about sales numbers, critical awards, or emotional stories of praise from a key individual.
What we’re finding with our interview series, however, is that imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery.
Happily for Dennis W. Green, author of a soon-to-be-completed sci-fi trilogy, he can claim both the traditional and quirky forms of pride.
His first novel, Traveler, scored in the Top Ten in the 2014 Ben Franklin Independent Publishing awards ... and inspired some fans to dive into the cosplay world.
Here’s what Green — a radio personality, triathlete, DJ, and MC — had to say about life as a writer.
SADYE: You've always been a reader, and you've been working in communications for a while — but what inspired you to actually write a novel?
DENNIS: I’ve always wanted to write and had a couple of false starts, placing a couple of stories in the small press in the ’90s. I even finished a YA horror novel at that time, but it never got off the shelf. ...
In 2011, I was approached by two friends, Rob Cline and Lennox Randon, to join their writing group. Randon (he goes by his last name) was in remission from stomach cancer.
Getting his book published was one of the items on his bucket list, and he invited us to join him. When the guy with cancer is going to make writing a priority, how can you not do the same?
Four years later, each of us has published two books. A pretty good average, I think.
SADYE: What are the best and worst parts about being an indie author?
DENNIS: The best part is the control. I did not have to convince some twenty-something junior editor in New York City that a middle-aged radio personality from Iowa had a work worth considering. Nor did I have to wait for two years for my book to work its way through the traditional publishing pipeline.
That said, the help I got from my independent publisher, Karen Matibe of Mbedzi Publishing, was invaluable. She hooked me up with an editor, cover designer, and book designer, not to mention giving me a valuable edit herself. ...
The bad news, of course, is that online platforms provide a level playing field for pretty much all releases. It’s not easy for an indie with little money for marketing and promotion to stand out among 23 million books. ...
But my books are out there, getting read and gaining fans. That’s the whole point. And if the sum total of my writing career is that a few hundred people enjoyed my work, I will be satisfied with that.
SADYE: Tell me more about your encounter with Traveler cosplayers — did you get a chance to talk with them at all? What did they tell you?
DENNIS: At my very first author reading at a con, ICON 38, I met two young women who were intrigued by my book and checked it out.
One of them, Terri LeBlanc, had just launched a book blog, Second Run Reviews. Traveler was the very first book she reviewed. And over the years since, Terri and the other fan I met that night, Erin Channell, have become friends and cheerleaders for my work, as well as that of many indie writers.
But the idea to cosplay Traveler come not from either of them, but from Terri’s sister, Kim, whom I had never met. Terri had given Traveler to Kim, who lived in another state. A couple of weeks before ICON 40, Kim called her sister and said “I have an idea.”
And Saturday morning at the con, I was stunned when three women (and Kim’s baby daughter) showed up at the con dressed as Traveler protagonist Trav Becker. ... I can’t think of any higher praise an author can be paid, when your character so affects a reader that they want to dress as one.
Dennis (center) and several versions of his protagonist, Trav Becker.
SADYE: How do you make sure you get the science right?
DENNIS: I have never pretended to be a hard sci-fi writer. In fact, much of what I know about science I picked up reading science fiction. I sometimes say that I didn’t need a science degree, because Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke had them, and they taught me.
So, over the years, I’ve acquired a very, very basic knowledge of the actual scientific theories I invoke to underlay the Traveler books. For my purposes, as long as the science stands up to cursory examination, I think I’m doing okay. Most Traveler reviews say there is just enough science in the books to make them believable, but not so much that the infodumps get boring.
But you can always tell when I think I’m getting into physics waters beyond my depth: That’s when Sam, the physicist in the books, raises an eyebrow and says something like, “Do you really want me to explain the math?” Trav always says no, thus relieving me of the duty to explain.
I think the audience is relieved, too.
SADYE: What was your favorite part of doing Travelers & Shifters & Fey (a collaboration with two other authors)?
DENNIS: Writing is a solitary endeavor, so it’s ironic that one of the greatest rewards of writing for me has been the friends I have made in the writing community. ...
After Traveler came out, I had the pleasure of sitting on a con panel with two other Iowa writers, A.R. Miller and Rachel Eliason. We had such a great time together, we continued to hang out and stay in touch. It was A.R. who had the idea of packaging the first books in each of our series together to encourage people to check them out. It’s been a fun and successful project.
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