An architect by training, Nicholas is the holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. He’s an avid reader, a web developer, and now, an author.
Nicholas loves to write. He lives in Athens, Greece, in the middle of a forest, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always sitting on his lap, so please excuse any typos in his blog posts: typing with one hand can be hard. Mercifully, all his books are professionally edited.
Time to chat with Nicholas!
You write sci-fi, epic fantasy, and children’s stories. How did you choose the genres you write in? Or did they choose you?
I love the way you put it –our genres choose us! You’d be surprised how many authors have told me that they start writing with one genre in mind, only to end up with something completely different.
In my case, Jules Verne was my first love and I grew up with sci-fi and fantasy (and children’s books, obviously), so I feel pretty comfortable with those genres. Also, I can allow my creativity and imagination to run wild. A planet with blue trees and green skies? Not a problem… 🙂
What is your latest book?
I know you asked about just the one, but I have two coming up. I just published my first children’s book, Runaway Smile. It will be traditionally published in Greek, but self-published in English.
Runaway Smile was released yesterday, and to celebrate I have a link to allow friends and bloggers to read the whole book online. If they like what they see, I hope they will help generate some buzz.
Then, I hope to publish my fourth book of my epic fantasy series Pearseus shortly afterwards.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
I have the memory of a goldfish, so naturally I assume that my readers do, too. I discovered it’s hard to remind readers who everyone is and what their backstory is every now and then, without the book becoming one long exposition.
Particularly at the beginning of a book, or when you reintroduce a character who’s been absent for a book or two, you have to jog the reader’s memory. I use simple descriptions when we first meet an absent character. For example, I might say the character’s name in one sentence and their relationship to another character in the next (for example, “ ‘Hey Bob,’ I said, glancing at Mary’s father”).
Since book 3, however, I have also included a list of characters at the beginning. I also submitted the list to Shelfari, thus enabling X-ray (a Kindle feature that allows one to be reminded of names and characters) in my books.
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
As I’m notoriously shy, I inserted my middle name initial as a pen name, thus creating author Nicholas C. Rossis. I theorize that only a criminal mastermind will be able to tell that it is I in fact, Nicholas Rossis, who pens the books.
If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Buy my books and I’ll give you cookies*.
* By that I mean the little files that lurch in browsers, but no one reads the fine print, right?
What else have you written?
I love short stories, and have published The Power of Six: 6+1 short science fiction stories. I have also translated the Tao Te Ching into Greek, and have published that as well. I give away the book in electronic format for free through www.taoteching.gr to encourage people to read it, as I love it.
Several short stories of mine have been published, as well.
What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?
That we have it easy. In fact, it gobbles up most of my time, especially since I’m determined to do it properly.
At the same time, the second misconception is that it is an expensive hobby. There are many people who are more than willing to help new authors, and it can be almost cost-free to self-publish.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
Too often for my liking! As the joke goes, you do everything you can to raise them right, and as soon as they hit the page they do any damn thing they please!
The worst case of this was with one of my characters in my second Pearseus book. I had his whole future all planned out, then he went and got himself killed. It took me weeks to iron out the consequences.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I have tried to plot everything in advance, I swear. But as soon as I sit down, the characters start going their own way and things get out of hand pretty fast. With my third Pearseus book, I thought I finally had the process figured out. In fact, I even wrote the ending first.
Needless to say, when I reached it again, after writing the rest of the book, I had to change everything…
As for the title, it’s usually the very last thing I come up with. If you know of a good title for my fourth book? It’s almost ready, and I’m still undecided. I think I’ll ask my blog followers…
After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?
Absolutely. In fact, I doubt that any of us is capable of judging our own work. That is why I use beta readers and a professional editor/proofreader. Their insight is invaluable, and they never fail to pick things I had missed.
However, one of the risks is using too many beta readers. For my first book, I used as many betas as I could find. Literally, dozens of people.
Now that I have penned half a dozen books, I only use five people. My rule of thumb is that I change without a second thought anything they have all commented on; with a second thought anything four have commented on; grudgingly anything three mention and only if I agree whatever is mentioned by two people. I listen to anything mentioned by just one person, but feel I can safely ignore.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
By far, my favourite social medium is my blog. I’m very active in most social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn – but when I blog I feel at home.
My social media secret recipe is simple: be real, be fun, be helpful. If you do that, you don’t even need to discuss your books.
The other day I was hosting a Facebook event for one hour. I had invited my friends, and decided to use that hour to promote their books. So, I asked them one after another as to what their books were about, then we chatted about the future of publishing. The hour flew by, and I still hadn’t mentioned my books.
With five minutes to spare, I pasted the links to my books, saying a simple, “if you want to know more about me or my work, check this out.”
I sold eight books that day, without even trying. How many do you think I would have sold, had I pestered people with “buy my book” messages for an hour?
Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?
Yes. Try both and see what works for you. But don’t waste years waiting for an agent or a publisher to come back to you. It’s just not worth it anymore. Besides, you have better chances at being picked by an agent or a publisher if you already have an established presence.
In fact, the other day I was reading this in an interview by the founder of Blurb (a self-publishing service):
“Traditional publishing is becoming a hits business like Hollywood. They want to bank on box office, so if you’re a mid-list author, God help you if your last book didn’t sell a bunch, because you’re not going to get a deal.
“If you’ve never published before and are handsome or beautiful and 21 and have a big social network, they might take a flyer on you because your book could be the next Hunger Games.
“And if you’re a bestselling author, they’ll take you, too, because you’re the Brad Pitt of the publishing industry and people will just buy your book because it’s by you. But for everyone in the middle, good luck.
“That’s a huge population of people coming to Blurb now because they’ve had it up to here. They know they’re not going to get any marketing. There are no more advances so they’re not even making any money on the front end and they figure they’re going to have to do all the marketing anyway.”
Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?
Sure! Don’t! 🙂
Seriously, don’t bother. Some people will hate your books. Other will love them.
I have a one-star review for Pearseus: Schism. This person felt so strongly about it, that they published their review in every single Amazon shop there is, from India to Japan. They said the book was so bad, that they stopped reading when the giants showed up.
There aren’t any giants in any of my books.
I still don’t know what happened there…
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
I have a very simple criterion: I like someone who’s happy for me when I’m happy, and sad for me when I’m sad.
If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?
Two series are my favourite when it comes to writing: Gilmore Girls and West Wing.
As for what I currently watch, the list is rather eclectic and includes, among others:
Sherlock, Castle, NCIS, Game of Thrones, Bones, Suits Unforgettable, Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls… and many more!
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I have quite the sweet tooth, I’m afraid. I’m especially partial to milk chocolate, in any of its infinite variations and forms.
As I just returned from a dentist’s appointment, I can assure you it’s a guilty pleasure indeed!
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
The easy answer would be, love. However, I’m reminded of Schopenhauer’s hedgehog dilemma.
This concerns a number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they are obliged to disperse. However, the cold drives them together again. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discover that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another.
In the same way the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature. The moderate distance that they at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance.
Therefore, I will go with another thing; respect. So, my answer is: respect for each other, self-respect and respect for the planet and all living beings.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
Having a cat on my lap. Whenever I sit down on my computer, one of our cats (we have two) will take it as his cue to jump on me. It always brings a smile to my face, even if it means I’m always cramped from having to stretch my arms in order to type.
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