Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Interview with Saul Tanpepper

Good morning fans! Our author this week is Saul Tanpepper. The acclaimed author of Gameland!  

Snag your copy of Deep into the Game Episode 1 now! Also enter to win another book by Saul at the end of this interview! 

You can find Saul at:
Website: http://www.tanpepperwrites.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/saul.tanpepper
Facebook GAMELAND page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SW-Tanpeppers-GAMELAND/385488004805467
Blog: http://writersroadtrip.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/Undeadwriter
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SaulTanpepper

Don't forget to enter our giveaway for Golgotha

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved reading, always wanted to write. My grandmother was the first to nurture these traits in me, providing a steady source of material that my parents considered too far above my ability to understand. I was devouring Tolkien at age eight, The Mechanics of the Mind at eleven, Leon Lederman’s particle physics treatise The God Particle at fourteen. I did write creatively in high school and college, but my focus by then had turned to science and medicine (mostly to appease my parents). It wasn’t until after I’d received my PhD in molecular genetics and become a successful biotech entrepreneur that I returned to my true passion of writing fiction. I write in multiple genres (including several soon-to-be published young adult novels and more than two dozen childrens picture books, which will likely never see the light of day), but my high tech thriller series GAMELAND is my most ambitious project to date.

How long did it take you to write GAMELAND?
The GAMELAND series was first conceived in late 2011 after I had published the short technothriller Golgotha. Through discussions with fellow writers and my publishing partner, Brinestone Press, the series was outlined in early 2012. I started writing the series in March and published the first episode, Deep Into the Game, on May 1. Thereafter, on the first of each month through December, I wrote and published another episode. The entire “first season” comprises eight books and is over 350,000 words.

What genre is your book? What made you choose to write in that category?
GAMELAND really spans a number of speculative fiction genres, including horror and high tech, so it’s mostly associated with cyberpunk, although there are well-developed coming-of-age elements, urban fantasy, thriller and dystopia. I wanted to put my own spin on the zombie genre--something entirely different than the usual splatterpunk, gore-filled zombie fare--and I wanted it to incorporate some of the elements of popular television series, such as 24 and The Walking Dead. We realized that the story resembled in some ways The Hunger Games, with its dystopian social, economic and political issues, but the similarities are really cosmetic. It’s really a story about a technology terribly misused, about our drive toward constant and extreme entertainment, and about the people deeply impacted by these issues.

What was your work schedule like when you were writing?
I write full time. While working on the first season of GAMELAND, I was essentially putting out the equivalent of a NaNoWriMo novel every month for eight months, as well as coordinating with my cover designer and editor. During this time, we also put out a guide for new authors and book bloggers (The Essential Book Blog) to help guide them in this new publishing and book marketing paradigm. I also do a moderate amount of promotion. A year ago, I was a relative unknown, but that’s quickly changing. GAMELAND and the world of we created are quickly growing in popularity, which has taken some of that pressure off.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Not all that interesting, but I’m a two-finger typer. No, make that three. I never learned to type the proper way and am too old to break the habit. Even so, I can type about 70 words per minute if I’m on a roll.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Ideas are everywhere. Writers with some time and experience under their belt know when to recognize and nurture good story ideas and to distinguish them from ideas that aren’t big enough to turn into a story. As far as the writing itself, my education as a scientist and my experience in business heavily inform my style and content. I also study people, to see how others respond in different situations. Human are so complex, and their reactions so diverse. It’s fascinating. I incorporate these observations in my work.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written well over sixty stories and have published over thirty. Many will never be published. My favorite is probably Episode 5 of the GAMELAND series, Prometheus Wept. It’s the book which strikes most precisely into the heart of the underlying themes of GAMELAND, the abuse of technology and how it impacts our humanity.

Are you currently working on another book? If so, is it part of a series or something different?
I’m in discussions with my publisher regarding a second season of GAMELAND. I have a rough outline of the ground I’d like to cover, the remaining questions which need to be answered, and the structure. Anyone who has finished the series is welcome to provide feedback, and thus help guide what a second season might look like. The questionnaire is located on my website and can be accessed here: http://www.tanpepperwrites.com/season-1-poll.html

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I get agitated when I’m not writing, but when I can, I love spending time with my family and traveling. Two summers ago, we visited New Zealand and Australia. This coming summer we’ll be traveling to Russia and Scandanavia.

What does your family think of your writing?
My children are a couple years too young to read GAMELAND, but they love it when I read my other age-appropriate stories to them. My son loves the idea that I write about zombies. They’re all very supportive, despite the uncertainties.

Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Write and submit your work for others to review. It’s been said over and over again that writing is the only way to get better at it, but writing in a vacuum isn’t going to get you the insight you need to improve. Feedback--both positive and critical--is absolutely critical. Writers need to develop a thick skin and to learn not to take criticism personally. Also, read Stephen King’s On Writing. Highly recommended.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say
My readers get in touch with me daily, but the reasons are varied. Some tell me how much they enjoyed a particular book, others inform me of a review they’ve written. I don’t respond to any review posted on a public website--I just don’t think it’s right, since a review isn’t written for me, but for potential purchasers--but if a reviewer contacts me personally, I welcome the opportunity to have that discussion.

What do you think makes a good story?
I think a story can be considered “good” if it has at least one of the following attributes: good writing, a compelling plot, empathetic characters. The best stories have all three. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Readers are such a diverse group, and what elements of a story helps connect some readers won’t work for others. But the most fundamental characteristics shared by all the best stories are the three elements I’ve listed above.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Live to be 100. I’ve still got a ways to go.

Are you self published or do you have a publisher? If self published, what made you decide to go that route?
I am co-founder of Brinestone Press, so the answer is both, since I rely on others to provide insight and expertise I don’t possess. I chose this route because, after submitting my work for nearly three years, after racking up hundreds of rejection letters from publishing houses, after having books get accepted, then muddle their way through a convoluted system only to be spit back out again for a variety of reasons, after winning accolades for books I’ve written but which can’t seem to find a home, I decided to take my stories directly to the reader.

Do you have any free promotions of your book coming up? Would you be offering your book free when this interview runs?
The first book in the GAMELAND series, Deep Into the Game, is currently free everywhere (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony; I’m working on getting it into iTunes). I plan to leave it for free as long as I can (it’s up to Amazon and other sites to allow this, so I have little control in some cases). I’m also working on adding chapters to Wattpad, and it’ll remain available for free download on Goodreads, possibly forever. Clearly, the hope is to give readers a chance to “test drive” my writing with no risk. I’m a fan of this approach, and even offer visitors to my website a chance to request a free title. I even personalize each one I send out!

Finally, tell me five facts that most people don’t know about the real you.
1. The name “Saul Tanpepper” is a pseudonym, since I write in multiple genres (including for young kids). I figure most of my readers figure this out on their own. The name is in memory of a boyhood best friend, Jeff Keesler, who tragically passed away in his mid-twenties of a heart attack. Jeff had one of the kindest souls I ever knew. One of his nicknames for me was “Salty.”
2. I attended high school with Philip Seymour Hoffman and acted in a play alongside him. The play was M*A*S*H and Phil played Radar O'Reilly. I was General Hamilton Hartington Hammond. He was great; I sucked.
3. On a trip through Africa after grad school, I met Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, who were attending an opening of a museum in Answan, Egypt. Well, I didn’t actually “meet” them, per se. The Secret Service didn’t let us get within twenty feet of them, but I did yell “Hello” and they waved and smiled back.
4. I fenced competitive foil in college. I wasn’t very good, but better than my acting.
5. On a bet, I once solved a Rubik’s cube in 67 seconds. The prize was a buffalo wing.

To be informed of new releases, special (and exclusive) pricing events, giveaways, signings and more, sign up for The Tanpepper Tidings, an occasional newsletter for my fans. Opting in and out is easy, and I never spam or share your contact information. Here’s the link: https://tinyletter.com/SWTanpepper

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  1. I want to thank Nicole for taking the time to talk with me and allow me to share a little about myself and my stories.

    In addition to a free personalized ecopy of Golgotha, I'll be sending the winner a signed print copy of Deep Into the Game, the first book in the GAMELAND series.

  2. Great stuff Saul, very interesting, especially the Philip Seymour Hoffman part, fantastic actor.