I recently had the opportunity to interview Adam Dreece, author of The Yellow Hoods series, about his books, the self publishing process, and a little about himself. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading his wonderful steampunk series do yourself a favor and visit his Amazon profile page found here. The following is my interview with him, I think you’ll find it insightful and entertaining. Find the video at the bottom which adds some extra detail.
- Where are you from?
I’m from the Nexus of the Confine… oh wait, I haven’t written my multi-universe series yet, so I better try again. Sorry, it’s been rattling around in my head for almost ten years.
Calgary! Born in the UK, raised in Montreal, cured in Waterloo, seasoned in Silicon Valley, baked in Toronto, glazed in Montreal and then two and a half years ago, we came to Calgary, Alberta, which has felt like home from day one.
- Are you an avid reader?
No. It’s funny saying that, I’m sure there are a few people with their hands over their mouths, “EGAD! How can that be?” I was an undiagnosed dyslexic for a long, long time. If the print is about 10pt or smaller (and most books are) it hurts my head and makes me very sleepy.
Now, saying no doesn’t mean I don’t read. I read a lot of articles, I read some books but my brain sometimes feels strangely confined sometimes when reading. It’s hard to explain. I remember trying to tell a teacher once that the details I needed weren’t in the book, and what was there made me feel like I was being bound to a version of the story that made no sense.
Is this as clear as whether or not Marcus Pieman (from Breadcrumb Trail) is evil? Suffice it to say, I read very slowly and I don’t read anywhere near as much as any other author that I know. They read like rocketships and I’m on a bicycle.
- What type of books do you like to read?
I tend to read non-fiction. If I’m going to roll up the mental sleeves and read (over the past several years) then it’s got to have a purpose, and skills and knowledge acquisition was accessible. These days, that’s started to expand (conscious effort). I’m doing a number of beta-reads for fellow authors which ranges from urban fantasy to murder mystery to science fiction.
- What got you to start writing?
I mentioned the Nexus of the Confine thing, right? What? It’s still not written? Sigh. Alright, I was attacked by a radioactive typewriter as a child and… not buying that one either?
In grade 6 is the first time I really wrote a story, I think it was called something like the Assassin’s Day. I’d been playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons for a couple of years by that point and had created stories for my friends to play in, but this was the first time I’d ‘done it for myself’ so to speak. My English teacher was really impressed. I guess that got the bug started.
Despite my best (and misguided) efforts as I built up a career in technology, the writing bug never went away. I really started writing again around 2010 as I tried dealing with some horrific abdominal scar tissue pain issues, and then some other medical issues. Getting that out of my system and putting it aside, I realized that I really wanted to become an author. Last year I wrote the first two installments in The Yellow Hoods, thanks to a nudge from my daughter. As of January this year, I’m a full time author.
- What was the self-publishing process like?
I’ll say what it’s like now, because it’s been a heck of a learning experience over the past year. I write the draft, revise it three times (lengthening it each time), then pass it to my beta-readers who will give me raw feedback. I’ll make the changes and then send it off to the editor I’ve hired. While that’s happening, I’ve also sent my cover ideas to our artist in Seattle, who will send over some ideas a couple of days later and we’ll settle on one. When the edits come back, I’ll work furiously to get through them and send them back for final proof reading. When the art comes in, my wife turns it into an awesome cover.
With the cover and final copy back, we get it in shape for printing as we always launch at a big event, like CalgaryExpo (100k+ people) or EdmontonExpo (30k+)
- What made you decide to start full time writing?
I’m a software architect (specifically a senior solution architect). I live in Calgary, which is sort of Denver meets Houston, and so when the oil prices dropped, a lot of my opportunities dried up as well.
I had a goal of becoming a full time writer in 5 years, but as my contract was coming to an end, and there were no other opportunities on the horizon, my wife and I decided we’d change things up. We swapped places, and she’s bringing home the principal income and I’m driving my authoring career like a tech startup, but with a literary end product. On Monday, January 19th, I started going gangbusters.
What are some of your hobbies outside of writing?
Ah… hmm. I think it’s helping people, whether that’s in the form of beta’ing their work and giving critical feedback, or listening. Giving back is a core part of me, it’s why I reached out to my local Ronald McDonald House and will be doing readings there, and it’s how I stay grounded in other ways.
- What is your overall writing goal?
On one level, it’s to be the first Canadian recognized for imaginative fiction on the scale of J.K. Rowling.
On another level, it’s to complete this first Yellow Hoods series and the next, plus to write and complete my multi-universe series with a few other works out. I’d like to look at a shelf in my home and see that I’ve filled it.
On the last level, it’s to have replaced the income I had as a software architect with income from my writing. Thinking like a startup, it’s about making good strategic moves along the way, while not sacrificing good tactical moves. It’s a lot to learn, a LOT but it’s awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
- What is your favorite social media to use to get the word out about your books?
Twitter! There’s nothing like Twitter. While I maintain a presence on Facebook, my sentiments about it and their policy for filtering posts (only a small % of my followers on FB see my posts, no matter what I do). Google Plus seems to lack purpose and Ello while new, has a user interface that makes me yell at the screen (politely, I am Canadian after all).
- How do you market your books other than social media?
I do a LOT of signings. Between January 2nd this year, and June 7th, I will have done 21 signings I believe, plus CalgaryExpo (which is a 4 day show).
I’ve been getting myself out to networking events and meeting people, which is actually how the first of the signings happened. I think of my authoring career like a political movement, you’ve got to have a good ground game. Getting known deeply locally, and broadening that out is great. Going very thin first means you’re easily forgettable.
- How did you come up with your cover designs?
What’s that? You don’t like my answer about using a time machine simply going to the future and bringing back those covers? That’s cheating? Hmm.
The first edition cover of Along Came a Wolf had a picture on it and was very simple. We’d had 3 days to come up with a cover and it did the job, however we learned a LOT at the launch event and went on the hunt for an artist who could bring to life the images I had in my head. It took us about a month or so to find Xia, but when we did, we clicked and bam, the covers that have turned heads came into being.
- What inspired you to write your first book?
It’s no secret that my daughter had a lot to do with me writing Along Came a Wolf, but it’s less known how the entire idea for the world of the Yellow Hoods came from singing to my older son.
Before starting to write Along Came a Wolf, I’d gotten myself super-organized and tried to write a book called Rise of the Muffin Men. I’d been signing that well known rhyme to my son since he was a baby and I’d made lots of additional stanzas for it. It had become a world for me. The problem was, I was so organized I felt choked. In a moment of frustration, my daughter nudged me to write “The Hoods.”
As the words started to hit the page, I started to realize how I could put “The Hoods” in the world I had in mind for the Muffin Men, and I could start weaving them together.
In the new edition of book 1 & 2, as well as in Book 3 and Snappy & Dashing, there’s a world map. You can already see signs of the Muffin Men in there, if you know where to look. And in the series that will follow The Yellow Hoods, you can expect to learn more about them.
- Are any characters based off of people in your life?
Several, though my characters are usually composites of multiple people. For example, if I take Nikolas Klaus, there’s a portion of his personality that comes from my elder son but there’s some of me in there too, as well as a bit of my father in law.
Marcus Pieman is a bit of a different character in that he’s a composite between how some people have seen me at different points in my life, mixed with elements of me. He’s a fascinating character for me.
- How did you come up with the idea to mix fairytale characters into your books?
Regardless of culture, throughout the globe, we have stories and oral traditions. We take complex events and find simple ways to remember it. The one that stuck in my mind the most was Ring-around-the-Rosie, which was about the era of the black plague.
When I sat down to write Along Came a Wolf, I thought about this a lot. What if I deconstructed the other tales, made them have been real without making the story an official retelling. Just let the events sit there in the background, so that if the reader didn’t know the tales they could still enjoy the story. But if they knew the tales, then they’d have a chance to look at those stories in a new way, like an adult looks at something they’d enjoyed as a kid differently when they see their kids enjoy them. You know it as the kid you were, and then you know it completely differently, and it sits with you, it makes you smile, you makes you appreciate the moment.
- Which of the yellow hoods books was hardest to write and why?
Each of the books have had different challenges, but I think book 2 was the hardest. Writing a sequel is stressful and when you’ve written something that’s getting rave reviews, it just multiplies it. That being said, I am so thankful to my beta readers, and to Caroline in particular. She called me out on a particular scene, and series of other points, that forced me to step up my writing a notch or two. When it came to book 3, I reached even deeper with my new confidence and pushed my limits.
In terms of emotional scenes, there are parts of book 2 that still make me tear up, but nothing like some of the scenes in book 3. Emotionally going where I did in book 3 was a real challenge.
- How many books do you plan on writing in the yellow hoods series, and what are you working on now
The Yellow Hoods series is intended to be five books, now that said, with Snappy & Dashing, I’ve started A Yellow Hoods Companion Tale and that allows me to add additional books in and around the main series.
The Companion Tales are an experiment, allowing me to add content and flesh out characters who are not part of the ruthless critical path of the story. I think of it as “If Peter Jackson was doing The Yellow Hoods movies, he’d want this material,” or as a true fan, you want to know what’s happening. It’s a neat writing challenge, to write additional material that’s gripping and engaging without forcing the reader of the main series to have to read it.
I’ve had the ending of The Yellow Hoods series in mind since I was half way through the first book, and the big challenge in Book 4 – Beauties of the Beast, it’s about paring down the cast to allow the ending to have the punch it deserves.
But here’s the thing, the ending of The Yellow Hoods is really just the beginning of our adventures on Eorthe. The tentative name for the sequel series is… The Legacy of the Yellow Hoods. There, I’ve said it, no take-backs.
- Will book three follow the same style as the first two books in The Yellow Hoods series or has something changed?
Yes, very much so. According to the beta readers and early reviews, my writing skill has continued to improve by leaps and bounds, and part of the magic of The Yellow Hoods is a balance between humour, adventure and emotion. The style and approach continues and I love it.
- Why should readers be excited for book three?
If book 1 was me seeing if I could write a book, and book 2 was about me loosening my tie and rolling up the sleeves, then book 3 is my madman unleashed.
In All the King’s-Men the past comes alive with secrets and connections revealed, and the present shows that nothing’s sacred. I’ve started to think of it as Game of Thrones meets a clockwork Harry Potter (feel free to steal that).
And before you read All the King’s-Men, you’ll probably want to read the novelette Snappy & Dashing. It’s gripping, engaging and going to tee you up perfectly for book 3. It’s available now on Amazon.