Today I am chatting with indie author (and Indie Eden Book Club member), Gustavo Bondoni. His book, Siege, is a science fiction novel about a human colony that tries to remain undetected in space, but soon finds that this is harder than it seems. Let’s see what he has to say about his book, and about his journey as a writer.
Welcome, Gustavo! First of all, what is the one question that you wish people would ask you about Siege? (And what is the answer?)
How does one go about keeping events, characters and timeline straight in a novel with so many moving parts? The reason I wish people would ask me that is that this is the kind of situation in which even science fiction writers can pretend to be virtuosos. We can say things like “that is why writers are different from other mortals.”
The truth is much more prosaic. Copious notes, several rewritings and hours of sweating over every detail. Even after the book was edited and published, I’m still afraid that a reading group like Indie Eden will find some horrible mistake!
But I still like that question – it lets me pretend that I know what I’m doing!
I was actually wondering that myself while I was reading! But don’t worry – even after reading the answer, I am still impressed. :)
Next up, which typical author interview question do you hate the most?
I hate being asked how a guy from Argentina writes English-language novels because the answer is simply – I grew up in the US and in Europe and went exclusively to English-language schools until age 12. I couldn’t write a novel in Spanish if my life depended on it. Of course, if my life actually depended on it, I would try… but it would be really bad.
That’s really interesting! Can you give us a short description of your book, Siege?
The best one of those is the cover blurb! So here it is:
Threatened on all sides by enemies they can’t fight and often can’t even comprehend, the human race has taken refuge in an inhospitable corner of the galaxy. A tiny pocket of habitable space concealed by black holes and dust clouds, hiding a cluster of colonies where the last humans in the galaxy reside, preparing themselves for a war of annihilation against all comers.
Crystallia is a hidden military base that guards the access route to the colonies. The main mission of the soldiers there is to remain undetected for as long as possible, to spot any incursions from the outside and to hit them with everything in humanity’s arsenal.
No one is quite convinced that this strategy will be enough to save the colonies or even to create enough of a delay for some of the colonists to escape. The best bet for the human race is to remain concealed.
Unfortunately, something has found them.
Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?
Several. Probably too many to list, but the writers who top the list are Isaac Asimov, PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams. Yes, two are humorists, but Wodehouse is likely one of the greatest craftsmen of the English sentence – the problem is that when we read him, we’re so drawn in by the situations he creates that we forget to look at his sentences!
I thought I sensed some influence from Asimov in your book! Siege is in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. What drew you to this genre? Do you also like to read books in this genre?
I suppose, like many writers my age (42), Star Wars is to blame. I had the action figures and some of the spaceships and it was all over. Then I discovered that I could get even more SF if I read it, so Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke came into the picture. The Golden Age of SF – though long gone when I started reading – was my entry into that wonderful world of “What if?”
Who is your target audience for this book? What do you think will appeal to them about your book?
This is a book for people who like a good story of humans taken to the brink, whether they are SF readers or not. If you enjoy a good story of going beyond one’s own limitations against great odds, this one is for you. Yes, its set far in the future, but the people that populate this story aren’t that different from you or I – with all the wrinkles that involves.
When you write a book, do you plan out everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?
I try to plan a few chapters in advance, but two things inevitably happen. The first is that I think of a new, better ending. The second is that the characters take over and take the story in an unexpected direction. That second one is a writerly cliché, so let me explain it a little further: what actually happens is, as the writing advances, you come to know the character better, and to flesh him or her out. Then you reach a point where your outline says that Character A needs to take Action B and you realize that, in that situation, that character would never do that. So he takes Action Z and the rest of the book falls apart on you…
Haha I know that struggle! So, do you have any quirky writing habits?
Not really. I try to write at least a thousand words, Monday-Friday. For quirky writing habits, I recommend Eric S Brown. He writes in his car… and is a bestseller in his genres.
Maybe I should start writing in my car then… Aside from that, do you have any writing tips for other writers?
Write every day. Submit what you write. Submit it again if it gets rejected. Know ALL the rules well enough to quote them, and then ignore the ones that don’t make your story better. Passive tense is fine if you know what you’re doing!
What would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?
Tricky question. The most important part is to make certain that the cover is the best you can make it. I work with indie presses, so giving them feedback is essential, but the same is true for self-published work. After that, it’s a question of getting the word out through social media and hoping that lightning will strike.
How did your book come to be published? What was your journey to publication like? Did you get a lot of rejection letters before you finally saw your name in print?
I am a bit of an anomaly. I sold the first short story I ever wrote. It was written in 2005 and continues to be reprinted to this day. Having said that, I didn’t sell it to the first market I sent it to. Asimov’s rejected it and so did a lot of others. But, eventually it sold. It’s called “Tenth Orbit” if anyone is curious.
But other than that blip, I’m pretty much following the normal writing path. I see a lot more rejections than sales. I’ve had a couple of books that didn’t sell all that well (Siege, fortunately, did much better) which means that there are publishers who don’t want me now… And I’m still looking for the right agent to get some non-SF books into a huge publisher.
So, in a nutshell: I sold a story to a mag. Then I sold another to an anthology. Eventually, I had enough stories and momentum for a collection and then another (you have no idea how many rejections I managed to accrue along the way). Some years later, I sold a novel (Siege, actually), to an indie press, and then another to a different indie press. Then another novel to the guys who bought Siege. And there were more rejections in this process, too!
But there’s always another challenge ahead. As I mentioned above, now that I’ve managed all the above, I would love to sell a novel to Penguin or to MacMillan. And that means getting a major NY agent. So I’m querying a novel right now, and still racking up rejections!
We all wish you the best of luck! Even if it sounds like you’re doing pretty great already. :) Before we say goodbye, I have one last question: Is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be? If not, how is it different? Is there anything you would change about it?
It’s everything I wanted and more. While I’m still some way from being able to quit the day job (let’s hope that agent comes through for me!) I love the fact that there are complete strangers out there, in the US, in Romania, in Greece and in South Africa who are reading my words, rooting for my characters and maybe even shedding a tear or two because of my writing.
That is a great attitude. Thank you so much or sharing your story with us!