Here is my interview with author Dean F. Wilson about his first published novel The Call of Agon. He won a TAP Educational Award from Trinity College Dublin for an early draft of The Call of Agon (then called Protos Mythos) in 2001. He has also published a number of poems and short stories over the years, while working on and reworking some of his novels.
Hi Dean, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background as a journalist.
Thank you for having me. I'm 28, born and bred in Dublin, Ireland, where I still live today. I started writing when I was at least 11 years old, and fell in love with the art. I've worked as a journalist for many top technology news outlets, writing news and features on consumer and business technology. My true love, however, is writing fiction.
How do you balance between journalism and writing?
They are very different styles, so it's important to switch modes when moving from one to the other. News needs to be snappy and to the point. Fiction, however, has lots of extra layers, so there's a lot more room to play around with things. In terms of time, it's like anything else, and there's never enough time to do everything.
How do you think your background in journalism has influenced your writing?
It has given me an appreciation for clarity and reducing redundant words. That said, I did write fiction before I became a journalist, so in some ways that influenced my journalism too.
So about your novel The Call of Agon, tell us about the cover design. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
The cover was designed by a wonderful artist called Soheil Toosi, who did an excellent job taking my pitch and turning it into reality. It shows the Beast Agon trapped in the Underworld, reaching up towards Ifferon and his companions, who are silhouetted by the moon. This style is something I carried forward in the covers of the next two books, also designed by Toosi.
Cover art is vital, because people really do judge a book by its cover. In essence, it's page 1 of the book, as it sets the mood for the story, and may even give a reader preconceptions about how characters look, etc. A good cover will create intrigue, but a bad cover will turn off would-be readers.
What kind of research did you do?
Since this is epic fantasy, I had a lot of freedom to create new things, but I tried to ground them to some degree in reality. I researched medieval history, old weaponry, and even linguistics, which plays a big role, as it's largely a language-based story (with several invented languages). It helps that I'm fascinated by many subjects, from history and war to politics and religion, so I'm always researching, even if it's not for a current book project.
Can you tell us what makes The Call of Agon unique compared to the other books in the same genre?
I think perhaps the most unique thing about the book is the language, which some readers have described as poetic or lyrical. I think in some ways we have lost this in modern fiction, which becomes solely about the story. I enjoy reading books where the language is as fascinating as the story, where a turn of phrase is as enjoyable as a battle scene.
That said, the story itself is different to other epic fantasy works, because the barriers between humans and gods are effectively torn down. It's a traditional good versus evil tale, but there are lots of things I think readers won't expect. I won't spoil them!
You have published a number of poems and short stories over the years and The Call of Agon was your first published novel. For you, poem/short story/novel, which one is the hardest to write?
I think short stories are the hardest to write, because it's difficult to have a proper beginning, middle and end in such a short space. Usually when I do have those three elements, it's too big for that medium. Poetry can be difficult to get just right, but there's obviously a smaller time investment than a novel. Novels require significant amounts of time, and lots of forced writing (not everything is fun), but to me this is the most rewarding format, as I get to delve deeper with characters and plot-lines.
What ways do you find are most effective in marketing your books?
Free or discounted promotions are probably the most effective, in addition to email newsletters. I've found social media to be considerably less effective than expected, and some other methods can be significant time sinks. All approaches can work for some people, but not for all, and it really depends on how much time is invested, and how it's done. The thing is, marketing is an ongoing affair. A few people get lucky, but most of us have to keep slogging through.
As a reader, I've noticed there are many well written books out there but don't get much reviews. Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
People don't know about them. It's as simple as that. There are over a million new books published a year in the US alone, and the rise of ebooks and self-publishing has made it easy for anyone to enter the market. The problem has always been letting readers know that a book exists, and traditionally published books suffer from this as much as anything else. This is why marketing is essential.
Are there any authors that you would name as influences?
I read quite widely, from classics to genre fiction to graphic novels, and plenty of non-fiction as well. So, I'm sure they've all been influences to some degree. More specifically, there is Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for your support! Without readers, there'd be no writers (or no paid writers, at least). And, of course, please post a review if you like a book, even if there are tons of reviews there already. They are very important for a book's success. Keep reading!
Thank you Dean!