Karen Dales is a Toronto writer of dark fantasy vampire fiction. Her first novel, Angel of Death: Book One of the Chosen, which also included Changeling: Prelude to the Chosen came out close to two years ago. I first met her at a Toronto Pagan Pub Moot (that’s ancient Anglo-Saxon for a meeting). It was hard to miss her – with her dramatic black hair and dark eyes, she looks every inch the Mistress of Dark Fantasy that she is. She has also learned how to market her work very well, a skill that’s absolutely required for every author today, regardless of whether they have a publisher or do it themselves.
When did you first get serious about writing? Not, when did you start writing, but when did you say, “Dammit, I want to be a writer”?
I wanted to become a published writer when I was in High School. I was lucky that the school I went to had Creative Writing as English credits from grade ten to grade thirteen. (Yes, I know, I’m dating myself.) I had a great teacher who really believed in my abilities to produce publishable material. It was then, with my love of writing, that I really wanted to be a published author.
What do you think it takes to be a success as a writer? What must new writers do?
The first thing that every writer MUST do is finish their manuscript. That is the most important thing. Without a finished manuscript there is no point even bothering to take the next step, which is publishing.
In this day and age people can either go the traditional publishing route or go the self publishing route. In the end it doesn’t matter which because after being published much or all of the marketing is laid upon the shoulders of the author. This means you have to take your baby book and start selling it as if it were a McDonald’s Big Mac. I know this sounds horrible, but it’s the truth if you want people to read your work and you want to become successful. You must become your own marketing agent.
Tell us about your latest project.
I just released my third book in The Chosen Chronicles – Shadow of Death at Ad Astra 2011. The response was incredible! I’ve been getting amazingly positive reviews and love it when folks who have read the series comes up to me letting me know how much they are enjoying it.
I’m currently writing the fourth book in the series – Thanatos, which I hope will be out in 2012.
What sort of research do you do for your books?
I’ve been lucky enough to go to many of the locations that are found in my novels. If I can, I give details about the places that only had you been there you’d know was fact. When writing Shadow of Death I had fun going to the Royal Ontario Museum and really taking note as to what it looks like, where things are, etc, even though I’ve been there hundreds of times.
What made you the writer you are today? What do you write, and why?
I think what made me the writer I am today is the fans who love the series. I write for them and for the new fans. You guys make it really worth it!
I know you’re really effing sick of this question, but where do you get your ideas?
Changeling came from the desire to fill out the back story of the Angel and it became its own novel.
Shadow of Death and Thanatos – from the desire of the characters to continue playing in my imagination/subconscious. It’s hard not to write when the characters are telling me to do so.:)
What are your thoughts on traditional publishing vs. self or indy-publishing?
Traditional – this I would consider to be going with one of the large publishing houses. There are merits in this, but rarely do they take a risk anymore. Royalties and advances are dwindling. They are only looking for the next J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, Amanda Hocking and they really don’t want to put the effort into authors who they know won’t necessarily make back more than what they really want – lots and lots of money.
Indy or small press – this is a great place. It is where I believe the industry is turning towards. Because of the technology, etc, more indy/self publishers are coming up. Going with a small to medium house can really give the author a more hands-on approach to their work without the necessity of having to pay someone to do all the things that are needed to get a publication done out to the public.
Self – there’s still the stigma of self publishing, but this is waning. If you can produce and market a professional quality book on par with the large houses, then go for it. The lines are shifting, making it possible for folks to make ‘it’ without having a publishing contract.
What advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
I say this often – Never give up. Never surrender.
Are you familiar with the vampire community in the real world? Have you ever explored Toronto’s vampire underground?
I’ve touched on it a bit. I find it fascinating. If I wasn’t married and a mom I’d probably be right into it, but I’d never ‘BE’ a vampire.