Everyone knows that indie publishing is tantamount to admitting that you do not have the patience or talent to find an agent and get published with a traditional press and forever relegates you to a lifetime of obscurity in the writing world, right? Ehhhhh… sometimes, but not necessarily. Vaughn Heppner is one of the most prolific and successful authors on Amazon, and proof that in this day and age an author willing to write well and write often can sell a large number of books regardless of their publishing strategy.
He has written a number of science fiction series along with an excellent set of books outlining a Chinese invasion of the United States thirty years from now. His books are full of historic parallels, and it is clear that many of his science fiction stories are inspired by events that took place hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. He is also one of a handful of sci-fi writers that seems to be comfortable with the inclusion of religion in his books, which can be a breath of fresh air after reading dozens of ham-handed allegories and ‘opiate of the masses’ messages in other sci-fi novels.
At present, he has several dozen books available either on kindle or in print from Amazon, all of which have received dozens, if not hundreds of favorable reviews. Assuming that only a small percentage of readers write reviews of the books that they read, the reviews belie a pretty impressive set of sales numbers. A quick visit to amazon.com reveals interesting statistics that fly in the face of some of the established wisdom on self-publishing.
At the time of publishing, Michael Connelly is number 70 on the list, while Brad Thor is number 92. Given the size of the science fiction genre compared to say, thrillers, mysteries or romance or even fantasy, the fact that a self-published sci-fi author is ranked in the low 60’s is all the more impressive.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Heppner agreed to do an interview where he discussed his writing style and his opinions on the viability of self-publishing. Enjoy.
-Would you mind giving us a short bio describing your background and what influenced your decision to pursue writing professionally?
As a kid, I used to have a box of plastic animals. I’d line them up in terms of fighting power. Then I’d have captains chose teams. They would make deals with other teams and fight over territory in my bedroom or in the living room. Those were my first stories.
Later, in high school, I was a janitor at my church. When I’d come on Saturday’s to vacuum, I’d start an elaborate story and run through it. Sometimes, I didn’t want to quit and go home, because I hadn’t finished telling myself the story.
Finally, in my twenties, a friend gave me an electric typewriter so I could begin writing novels. That friend, btw, was B.V. Larson. We’ve been friends since high school. I was in his wedding and he was in mine. Anyway, after forty pages of using the typewriter, I bought a computer and have been writing novels ever since.
-What are you looking for your readers to get out of your books, and what tools have you found to be most effective?
I want readers to have fun, root for the hero and get wrapped up in the tale. Those are the kind of novels I loved best, and I want to give people that. The best tools I’ve found are to read fiction I love, read books on writing and write books I’d love to read. I’ve done this over and over. When I don’t know what to do, I go see how my favorite authors did it. That often gave me a light bulb moment.
-How would you describe your path to publication (i.e. agenting, self vs. traditional publishing, ebook sales, whatever you feel to be relevant)?
The indie revolution was everything for me. I sold some short stories back in the day, but the Kindle changed my world in 2010. It opened the door for people to compete directly and stole a lot of the power of the former gatekeepers. I am so very glad for that.
-How would you describe your writing process?
I wake up, kiss my wife, grab some coffee, walk out to my office, read up to a chapter in the Bible and beginning editing yesterday’s work. Then I get a second cup of coffee and write new content. I usually do that six days a week in exactly that manner.
-You obviously find a great deal of inspiration from history. How do you go about adapting historical events into your novels?
I see historical parallels everywhere. I’ve loved history since childhood and have been reading about it for as long as I can remember. Historical adaptations just flow out of me naturally, sort of like breathing. The trick for me is not doing it too much.
-Do you have any advice for those of us who are just starting out?
Yes I do. It is old but good advice. Sit the butt in the chair and write until you have a novel. Repeat many times. Eventually, you’ll have something saleable.
-Thanks for taking the time to chat about your writing. I am looking forward to your next series.
I wish you the best, Steve. Good luck with your blog and your writing.
I appreciate all of the emails that I have been getting about the author interviews. As always, if there are any questions you would like to see asked, or authors that you would like to see interviewed, please email or comment.