An interview with C.D. Tavenor
Indie interview #5
Hey CD! So, where did you grow up, and what were your childhood and teenage years like?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where I still live today with my wife, Kim, and our wonderfully adorable cat, Ophelia. Childhood was spent playing sports: baseball, football, basketball, soccer before middle school; cross country and track in high school. But through it all, I was endlessly fascinated by science fiction and fantasy, whether through books, movies, or video games. To illustrate how much it impacted my view on storytelling, I can still remember the day in high school when my brother and I booted up Mass Effect for the first time, and I fell into its world. The best way to describe Mass Effect is that it’s like if you mashed Star Trek and Star Wars into one universe, and it’s glorious.
Can you remember when you first discovered you enjoyed writing?
I can’t remember the exact age--I want to say nine or ten--but on a car trip, I borrowed my dad’s laptop and started writing a scifi novel. It was terrible--quite derivative of Star Wars, Star Trek, and other archetypical franchises, but I’ve not ever stopped writing since that day.
What was the first piece of creative writing you can recall, that you were proud of?
I wrote an 80,000 word Pokemon fanfiction a long time ago. People might laugh at fanfiction, but recently, I went back and looked at it, expecting it to cringe. Instead, I found a document which essentially illustrates my growth as a writer. From its beginning to the last page, the story demonstrates serious growth in my ability to tell a story.
This sounds awesome! Are you able to share some information around the story & the Pokemon characters involved?
I started with essentially a “self-insertion” fan-fic where a character loosely based on myself ran through the Hoenn Pokemon gyms with a Bagon, but by the end, I’d created a narrative with complex political narratives, reflections on violence, and interpersonal relationships spanning multiple character arcs.
When was it that you decided you wanted to write a book?
I first seriously started writing a novel when I was seventeen or eighteen, and that path eventually led me to First of Their Kind.
Tell us about your first (short?) story, Legion of Mono? Did you intentionally write and publish a short story, before a novel?
Yes; this was intentional from a marketing perspective. I released Legion of Mono on Amazon as a permanently free story to act as a Book Magnet. Readers can read Legion of Mono for free, and if they enjoy my writing style, then the hope is they’ll go ahead and grab First of Their Kind!
Oh great, that makes sense. We’ll be getting onto the subject of book-marketing a little later on but, seeing as you’ve briefly talked about it already, is there anything you’ve read / anyone you’ve followed or taken inspiration from re: your marketing efforts?
No one particular author, but I highly recommend every indie author seek out the 20Booksto50k Facebook group. It provides plenty of awesome marketing advice in a safe space for indie authors.
And now for your 1st novel & the first book in your Chronicles of Theren series, First of Their Kind… the story sounds intriguing, tell us about it?
At its core, First of Their Kind, Their Greatest Game, and the overarching series, the Chronicles of Theren, explore personhood. The first two books follow Theren’s story through their eyes as the first synthetic intelligence, exploring, through narrative, what it’s like for Theren to be the, well, first of their kind. The narrative explores their perspective in interacting with humanity, and as the series expands in scope, I’ll be exploring additional perspectives readers probably won’t predict.
Both First of Their Kind and Their Greatest Game offer something for everyone. They’re AI technothrillers at their core, but there’s also a bit of space opera in their veins, some cyberpunk, and even--depending on your point of view--romance.
They both sound intriguing, thanks for helping capture their essence. Did you read science fiction growing up? If so, what sort of authors & titles?
Absolutely! I grew up reading Herbert’s Dune series, plenty of Michael Crichton novels, and while they’re not technically SciFi (I classify them as science fantasy), I devoured almost every Star Wars novel.
Oh cool! So, what is it about science fiction that particularly appeals to you?
Science fiction gives writers and readers the opportunity to explore novel questions regarding the future and the present through narratives most likely impossible . . . but end up reflecting a theme which has real consequences in our world. Especially when exploring the intersection of technology and humanity, science fiction cannot predict when it’s actually being prescient about our actual future.
Wow, I’ve never heard science-fiction articulated in that way before but I feel like you’ve summed it up perfectly. Talk to us about the planning & writing process(es) for your 1st novel?
I started First of Their Kind during my final year of undergraduate. I finished a second draft during my first year of law school and sent it to an editor . . . and it was torn to shreds. Good thing, too, because it deserved it! I started from the beginning. The only words that survive from that first attempt are in the epilogue of Their Greatest Game. Everything else was written from scratch. The final novel (which I split into two parts to form both novels) went through six or seven final drafts before I hit the greenlight on publishing it.
Gosh, that editor’s feedback must have been a humbling experience. Did any part of you ‘reject’ the feedback you received? What was it made you trust this particular editor & take their feedback on board?
Honestly, the moment I received the feedback, I recognized how correct they were because they articulated their reasoning so effectively. A good editor doesn’t just point out mistakes; they help you understand why what you’ve written could be formulated in a much more coherent and entertaining form. In my case, the entire book needed restarted, and she proved to me exactly why through her edits.
What made you choose self-publishing? How did you find this process?
I chose the independent publishing process for the Chronicles of Theren because its narrative and point-of-view naturally lend toward story-telling that doesn’t usually fit with traditional publishing. In addition, I wanted complete control over the story and marketing for this series. I fully intend to pursue both traditional and independent publishing for my works; it’ll be a case-by-case basis for each story.
Tell us about your 2nd book, and part 2 of The Chronicles of Theren series, Their Greatest Game. Was there any difference in the experience of writing them?
First of Their Kind is incredibly focused in the scale of its tale; it focuses on the earliest years of Theren’s life and humanity’s initial reaction to their creation. Their Greatest Game expands the scope considerably and explores more deeply the relationship between Theren and the second SI they created, Jill. I’m playing with a lot of fun narrative and metaphorical devices in Their Greatest Game, and I’m excited for readers to notice them.
I wrote Their Greatest Game and First of Their Kind simultaneously; that is, they were originally one book! So there really isn’t a difference in how I approached writing them.
Are there any lessons you’ve learned from the writing or self-publishing process so far?
Do not underestimate the amount of lead time you need before launching a book. I would recommend having your book ready to publish at least a month prior to the actual release date. This gives you plenty of time to have a pre-order window and do initial marketing (and contact Advance Reviewers). More importantly, it gives you time to ensure there aren’t any glaring mistakes with the book files!
That sounds like sensible advice! Do you have a particular launch process / ideal time-frame that you follow?
My future releases will include at least three months of lead time. That is, I plan on having the book up for pre-order 90 days in advance with its book cover, and the entire book will be finished prior to the beginning of that 90 day window. Then, during those 90 days, I can send out ARCs, do some pre-marketing, and build up a pretty decent pre-order tally.
How have you been marketing yourself & your book, thus far?
I’ve been using a combination of StoryOrigin promotions, email lists (like FreeBooksy, BargainBooksy, BookBarbarian, and The Fussy Librarian), and I’m slowly starting to lock-in a few successful Amazon ads.
What sort of reader do you think would enjoy reading your work?
Anyone who loves books like Neuromancer, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, or The Expanse series of novels will enjoy the Chronicles of Theren.
Do you enjoy any blogs or podcasts? (writing-related or otherwise!)
Yes! Though I’m a bit biased, check out the Tipsy Nerds Book Club. I had the opportunity to join them for the episode on Neuromancer, and if you want fun conversation about the greatest science fiction novels, listen to their wonderful banter!
20. Are you enjoying anything on Netflix/Amazon Prime (etc) right now?
Almost done with season 3 or Stranger Things! I’m looking forward to Netflix’s upcoming series based on the Witcher and Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as Amazon’s Wheel of Time and Middle Earth inspired tales. I’m also excited for Disney +, where we’ll get plenty of great Star Wars tv series!
Fiction and blogging aside, do you do any other form of writing or have another creative outlet?
I design board games! Well, attempting to design board games. I’ve made a prototype of one board game, but the financial investment necessary to create a fully-functioning game means that’s a project for further down the line.
Wow, this sounds so cool! Can you share are info about the board-game / how it works?
Imagine if you combined Risk Legacy, Civilization, and Dungeons and Dragons into one game. That’s my board game.
What advice do you have for your younger (writer) self?
Lead with character, rather than concept.
Tell us about The Two Doctors Media Collaborative… How did it start, and what do you do?
I founded Two Doctors Media Collaborative with a good friend of mine, Brian Timm, and we receive a whole lot of support from my wife, Kim Tavenor. The name “Two Doctors” comes from my Juris Doctorate (I’m an attorney), and Brian’s about to receive his PhD!
We have two goals in the long-term. Publish books (both my books and the books of others), and publish board games (designed the two of us together!). In addition, I use Two Doctors Media Collaborative as the name under which i freelance edit.
So, where can we find you online, & where can we purchase your books?
Learn all about everything I do at https://www.twodoctorsmedia.com or find my books specifically on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/C-D-Tavenor/e/B07MZJM7CC/. Or, follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tavenorcd and stay in touch through our Two Doctors Media mailing list: https://mailchi.mp/a6b48c582759/welcome-to-two-doctors-media-collaborative
25. Is there anything else that you’re working on currently, or have planned for the future?
Too many projects. Legacy of Light releases December 3 (you can receive a pre-release copy through NetGalley); I’m on the second draft of a secret climate fantasy novel; and I’m in the process of outlining Books 3 and 4 in the Chronicles of Theren. And those are just the projects I’m actively working on!
I’ve got concepts that will keep me writing for years to come.
26. How very exciting! I can’t wait to see the future stories that you realise out into the world. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Two Doctors Media Collaborative publishes the novels of Tyler Hanson: his series The Faction. I’m really proud to be working with Tyler as his editor and publisher; his writing style is incredibly original and he’s telling an ambitious story unlike anything I’ve ever read. Seriously, dive into his stories Personnel, Alligator Season, and Conscription!