Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Interview: Adventures in SciFi Publishing (Shaun Farrell and Sam Wynns)

Every Tuesday, I'll have an interview posted.

Shaun Farrell and Sam Wynns are the hosts of the podcast Adventures in SciFi Publishing where they interview authors, editors, publishers, and other people in the industry.

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. I'm a big fan of the podcast. First off, what made you guys decide to start Adventures in SciFi Publishing?

Shaun: I started podcasting because I thought it would be fun. At the time (this was July of 2006) I was conducting interviews for Far Sector SFFH. When I discovered podcasting that summer, I thought the medium would provide a more innovative method for me to pursue my love of SFFH literature. AISFP launched in October 2006 after many months of research and preparation.

Sam: It's my pleasure! Gee... an interview... does this mean I'm, like, famous now and stuff? As for the start of AiSFP, I'm late to that gravy train, so I defer to Shaun on that one.

How did both of you (Shaun and Sam) meet?

Shaun: Mysterious Galaxy was looking to hire a new bookseller. Patrick, the store manager, was a friend of mine, and he wanted to bring me on, but I wasn’t available, so Sam got hired instead. See, Sam, you owe your MG career to me! In all seriousness, we met at the store, which I frequented often in those days as I lived down the street, and we became friends over time.

Sam: I was introduced to Shaun at Mysterious Galaxy, the bookstore where I work. Patrick, the manager, has known Shaun for some time. I believe, after the introduction, he said something like, "Sam took your job." Yeeeeah. Shaun's well-liked, can you tell? (And I'm not being sarcastic... for once.)

What are your current goals with the podcast?

Shaun: I want to keep the podcast fresh and as consistent as possible. One reason I do this is learn more about publishing and to improve as a writer. I dream of writing fiction professionally, and producing the podcast has brought me much closer to that goal.

I hope the show continues to feature new segments, great interviews, writing tips, analysis of the latest events in publishing, and to be fun and entertaining. We launched a new website this summer, which contains pages for book reviews, text interviews, videos, coverage of live events, and more, all at www.adventuresinscifipublishing.com. So, there’s lots of new stuff happening with AISFP that we’ll be looking to expand as time and life allow.

What's the appeal of science fiction/fantasy to you?

Shaun: The escape from the ordinary, the sense of wonder, the idealism, the bold embrace of social problems, the metaphoric veil that allows us to see our world through fresh eyes, and let me not forget ray guys, talking dragons, and bikini-clad Amazon women.

Sam: Where to begin? Exercising my imagination by escaping to something utterly foreign, unknown and unique. I find peace by escapism: my every day life is hectic and full of responsibility, so it's great to escape to something that bears absolutely no resemblance to it. Also, I was raised on science fiction and fantasy, so it's kind of a nostalgic, comforting thing to me. Think of it as my "woobie".

What's the appeal of podcasts?

Shaun: I am so sick of corporate radio and the mediocrity cramming the airwaves. It’s nothing but talking heads and commercials. Sure, there are a few good shows, but very few that appeal to me. With podcasting, you can find professional level production on just about every subject. Could I learn about basket weaving trapeze artists on the radio? I think not.

Sam: I'm sure there are many reasons for people to listen to podcasts: information about something they're interested in, amusement such as you would find in "talk" radio, something to fill the time during travel. Think of podcasting as good radio without the commercials, static, eventual take-over by Mexican radio stations (which happens a lot in my neck of the woods--Sabado gigante!). Something that is free, can be listened to any time or place and is about anything you desire. What's not appealing about that?

What are some of the difficulties you face in producing the podcast?

Shaun: Editing, editing, editing. Time, time, time. I’m constantly trying to find ways to produce the show more quickly without jeopardizing the quality. I’ve spent 20-30 hours preparing a single episode. I’m a perfectionist, and such a neurosis can really bring down the quality of your overall life. I don’t want to sound like I’m whining, because the show brings me great joy, but I do sacrifice other things (usually social time or date night) to make the show happen.

What preparations do you take for each show? (Research, warm-ups, chatting with the personality, etc.)

Shaun: Yep, all that. We search the internet for publishing news, and I conduct all the interviews, which requires more reading and research. I conduct the interviews, edit them, and Sam and I get together to record. Mostly it’s reading and research and outlining what we’re going to discuss for that episode. The authors themselves are pretty easy to talk to. Most of them are quite experienced at this kind of thing.

How do you decide which personality to feature in each show?

Shaun: Sometimes we schedule guests based on live events. This summer I conducted interviews at Clarion, Comic-Con, and Writers of the Future. So, obviously, the lineup was based on who was present. More often though, it’s just looking around at who has new books out and seeing if they want to talk. Usually they do, time permitting.

When looking for people to interview, I sometimes have problems tracking down authors. How about you guys, what steps do you take to get in touch with the people you want to interview?

Shaun: Well, at this point I know several publicists and editors who are always interesting in scheduling interviews. So, it’s pretty easy these days. In years past I would search author websites for their emails and send a no-expectations request. I would tell them why I wanted to interview them, so they could see that I knew my stuff. I’ve conducted over 100 interviews, and I’ve only been turned down four times. So that strategy seems to work.

Doing lots and lots of episodes, do you still feel nervous interviewing some authors?

Shaun: Not anymore. I’ve really come to learn that these people are just people, no matter how many books they’ve sold. They love good conversation, and I have yet to have a bad experience.

For each of you, what were the most memorable interviews you conducted?

Shaun: The first interview I ever conducted was with my idol, Ray Bradbury. He was very kind, and I’ll never forget that. Other standouts are R.A. Salvatore and Kim Harrison at Starbucks, Lou Anders at World Fantasy, and phone interviews with Terry Goodkind, Robert J. Sawyer, Kay Kenyon, and Sean Williams. I’ve also had a blast interview fellow podcasters like Mur Lafferty and J.C. Hutchins. But everyone has really been great.

Sam: Probably my most memorable time with an author was when John Connolly and I went out for drinks. That man is hilarious, and my face hurt from smiling so much. Plus, you know, the whiskey probably helped.

I loved your Clarion and Keys to Publishing series. How did programs like those come about?

Shaun: Mur Lafferty of I Should be Writing approached me about featuring my Clarion interviews on her show, as she thought her listeners would be interested. I was thrilled by this, of course, and so we started scheming ways to make it a summer event. The Keys to Publishing contest was born, slowly, over the next few weeks. I contacted publicists I knew at Tor and Pyr, and they were happy to sponsor it with book giveaways – we gave away 16 books in all, mostly hardcovers. It was a lot of fun, and we had tremendous participation.

To Shaun: How has the podcast helped you with your writing? What's the best writing advice you've received?

I’ve learned a great deal about how the business really works. That’s has been foundational. Most of that information is in the podcast, actually. So anyone can listen and learn most of what I’ve picked up.

Being able to associate with people who have achieved success is also important. If you want to be rich, you don’t take financial advice from broke people, right? In the past, I found myself getting caught up in the writing advice and theories of people who were never professionally published. I’ve learned that just isn’t the best place to go.

Writing is much more difficult than it used to be, and I think that’s because I’m better at it, more aware of what a story needs to do. I think I’m getting better, but personalized rejections and eventual sales will be the test. I’m still working on that.

The best specific advice I’ve received is probably this: believe in yourself when no one else does, set a writing schedule, and worry about telling the best story you can, not on getting a sale.

To Sam: After interviewing all these authors, have you considered pursuing writing yourself? Has your perception of a particular author changed after doing an interview?

Nope. No one would want to read what I write... seriously. While I have appreciation and even adoration of the craft, I don't possess it and I know it. So I'll gladly just continue to read what those brilliant other people are writing!

And, sure. Many authors are far different than you ever pictured them in person: shy, gruff, boisterous. You just never know what you're going to get when you meet them. Authors are like a box of chocolates... or something. I do have to say that almost every author I've ever met has been, while not what I expected, very pleasant and generally just good people. The couple that weren't will remain nameless ;) (And those couple I don't read because of it.)

To Sam: How did you first get involved with Mysterious Galaxy Books? Can you tell us more about what you do as Young Adult Program Coordinator?

A friend of mine introduced me to the store when I first moved to San Diego and I became a loyal, if infrequent, customer. I should say that I was only infrequent because I couldn't afford to be, well, frequent. Anyways, when I started to look for a job I knew exactly where I wanted to work. I mean, how could I pass up on a killer discount, ARCs, hanging out with my favorite authors and coworkers that make me giggle uncontrollably? It truly was a no-brainer.

As for the Young Adult Program, I started that a year and a half ago. I saw a need to reach out to the community, especially schools: why not bring the authors to the students? It's a captive audience, the kids are excited, the teachers are ecstatic, the author gets their books sold and the store makes money on sales. It's a win-win situation! Or a win-win-win-win-win situation, as the case may be. I approached Terry, one of the owners of the store, about it and she gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up. I've been learning as I go from there, but I'd like to think things are going well.

To Shaun: Can you tell us more about your other online projects?

Sure! I own Singularity Audio, through which I help others create and edit podcasts. I’m currently producing the New England Fights! podcast, for all you MMA fans out there, and I have some interesting opportunities in the works of which I cannot discuss. I have a blog that I update from time to time at www.decodingthefuture.blogspot.com.

Recently I joined the Gateworld.net team. Gateworld is the web’s premier site for all things Stargate, and I contribute news stories and interviews.

And while this isn’t online, I am also an actor. Currently I am working on a feature film and a dramatic reading. You can learn more about this at my blog, of course, and at www.shaunfarrell.com

Do you listen to other podcasts? Which ones are your favorites?

Shaun: Tons! I can’t keep up. The Dave Ramsey Show, I Should be Writing, Writing Excuses, Escape Pod, PodCastle, The Future and You, 48 Days to the Work you Love, The 49ers podcast, The Gateworld Podcast, Gateworld Interviews, The Agony Column, and, when I can fit them in, Slice of Scifi and Dragonpage: Cover to Cover

Sam: Can I plead the fifth on this one? ;)

What's in store for Adventures in SciFi Publishing in the future?

Shaun: More great interviews, writing tips, and book reviews! After a crazy summer, we’ll be pulling back a bit for the rest of year, but there is plenty of good stuff to come.

Can you tell us more about the rest of the Adventures in SciFi Publishing staff?

Shaun: In addition to Sam and me, Catherine and Steven write book reviews for the website. You can learn more about them here: http://www.adventuresinscifipublishing.com/about-us/

Sam: Staff? BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Uh, ahem. Shaun and I are it. And really... Shaun is 90% of it, and I'm 10%. You may call me his Muse. It's not true... but you may call me that, all the same. It will make me feel better.

What advice do you have for aspiring podcasters?

Shaun: Read Podcasting for Dummies, talk to other podcasters, prepare like crazy, and record several test episodes before you release anything. Podcasting is easy once you learn everything required, but it took me several months to learn it all. So, you have to be dedicated, and you have to passionate about your subject of focus.

Sam: Just go for it. Think of an idea, take a few classes/look up some information and just do it. Though it can be hard work, especially if you're a perfectionist like Shaun (and I mean that with love... no really!), it's a helluva lot of fun. I mean, when else are you going to sit down for a chat with Ray Bradbury?!

Advice for aspiring authors?

Shaun: Listen to Adventures in Scifi Publishing. I haven’t accomplished enough as a writer to give advice, but if you listen to the guests on the show, you’ll learn quite a bit about writing and publishing.

Sam: Listen to Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing! You'll become rich and famous! And sexy! Also: write every day. Every author I've ever talked to has pretty much mentioned that that's key.

Anything else you want to plug?

Shaun: Nope, but I would like to thank the listeners who have supported us for nearly two years now. We just won the Parsec Award for Best Writing-Related Podcast, and that wouldn’t have happened without all the encouragement and support. We really, really appreciate it.

Thanks for inviting us over for the interview.

Sam: Uh... give us money? And scotch? Scotch would be good.

1 comment:

Shaun Farrell said...

Thanks for the invite, Charles!