Interviews

Interview: Indie Author Daniel Harvell

Today, I have an author interview with Daniel Harvell, author of the fascinating somewhat-paranormal The Survivors. He has some interesting thoughts, so enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job?

Even though writing has always been my passion, I thought a business degree seemed more practical when I was in school. Turns out it was the right decision since being a successful writer requires a lot of business sense. I currently run my own small business that handles marketing, social media, public relations and a variety of other communications-driven initiatives for local, small businesses.

In six words, what is The Survivors about?

Normal people developing superhuman abilities.

Have you written anything else?

I’ve got a young adult novel in the vault. It hasn’t been published … yet!

Where can we buy/see The Survivors?

You can find The Survivors on Amazon.

The Survivors book cover
Image from Daniel Harvell; used by permission

Where did you get the idea for The Survivors? How did you come up with the title?

I’ve always loved superheroes, but I wondered what super humans would be like in the real world. They definitely wouldn’t put on spandex and probably wouldn’t even fight crime. I started playing out the idea in my head and soon had my seven characters. For the title, I’m a big believer in the KISS philosophy: Keep It Simple, Stupid. These seven survive a plane crash. They’re the survivors. Voila!

How long did it take between having the idea and publication?

Over a decade! When I first wrote the novel, I was a newbie. The book wasn’t that good. I put a lot of time into refining my skillset – the reward for my patience is a much stronger book that I’m very proud of.

How much of the book is based on people you know and/or things you’ve experienced?

There are touches of myself in the lead character, Dakota. My mother’s faith resonates with Annabelle. Those are the two strongest reflections of real world people, but it’s almost impossible to write a character without having them echo something you’ve personally felt or experienced.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part came after the actual writing: the editing. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to keep it intact and move on to making it a best-seller. Thankfully, time eroded my ego to the point I was able to accept the literary advice given to me. I still don’t enjoy editing down a book, but it sure is a stronger product for it.

What part or scene was the most fun to write?

Any scene with Dale Sadler made me happy. He’s so pompous and outspoken – I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) ever say the things he spews out … but it sure is fun to write!

If you had to do it over again, what (if anything) would you change about this book?

The Survivors was always going to be Book One in a series. I’ve had ideas to carry over into the subsequent books, but I only recently started plotting them out on a larger scale. I wish I’d done that from the beginning. There are a few minor plot points that I would have changed to suit my upcoming needs, but now I have to stick to what’s been written.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I loved books as a kid. I would read anything given to me. One night in fourth grade, I had an extremely vivid dream that I wanted to share with my friends. So I decided to write it down and pass it around to my classmates. It was a big hit, and I fell in love with the idea of being a storyteller.

What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest?

Writing is a discipline. Finding the time to write is challenging, but the actual writing comes completely naturally. I love creating characters and dialogue – they’re not always winners (that’s what editing is for), but getting it down on paper is extremely rewarding.

How much research do you do?

I research everything. My greatest fear as a writer is being called out for making up facts. In The Survivors, one of the characters is in a coma at one point. I read for hours on coma patients and corresponding studies.

Do you work from an outline or just write and see where the story takes you?

I’m a firm believer in outlining. That’s not to say that I won’t change or add a plot point mid-stream, but I really think a story is stronger if a writer knows all of the basic facts going into it. I think foreshadowing is an essential element in novels, and you can’t have it without a proper outline (or working backwards, but that’s a messy and time-consuming process).

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

I don’t believe in writer’s block. There are times when I’m not sure what a character’s going to say or how to move the plot forward, but I just type something out. Maybe it’s just a placeholder sentence, but I don’t let it slow me down for long.

What made you decide to go the Indie route in publishing?

I did a lot of research as to my publishing options. From everything I’ve read, most publishers are leaving the marketing work to their authors anyway, so there’s no advantage in that arena. As an Indie author, I get to retain all of my rights and a much higher royalty percentage.

What are some of the challenges of Indie publishing?

ALL of the work falls on you, the author. Sure, you can hire it out, but that gets expensive quickly. If you don’t know marketing, PR, social media, etc., it could be overwhelming. I’m a marketing professional, and even I had to spend days researching all of the ins and outs of book marketing. You have to be dedicated to the process and understand this is a major time commitment.

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of Indie vs. traditional publishing?

With traditional publishing, an author has access to industry professionals and connections. The author may also receive an advance for the book, which may allow them to spend more time on the book itself. Having a publishing house also lends a level of professionalism to an author. For Indie publishing, the author has complete control over his/her work and how it’s marketed. They retain all rights to the novel and characters (pretty nice when a movie studio comes calling!). They also receive a much higher royalty rate.

Who designed your cover, and how was it created?

Christoph Michaud of 7Reed Design created the cover. We talked back and forth a lot about it and, together, came up with a pretty rocking piece of art. He’s an incredible talent. I have a poster-sized copy of the cover on my wall, and it never fails to get compliments.

Daniel Harvell author photo
Image from Daniel Harvell; used by permission

How do you market your books? How much time do you devote to marketing?

I try a little bit of everything – press releases, newsletters, social media, request reviews with book bloggers, network on book forums, utilize the KDP Select program on Amazon, minor advertising, partner with local businesses to get the word out, seek out celebrity endorsers, etc. I spend as much time on marketing as I can, particularly in these early weeks of the book’s launch.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?

No major mistakes so far. In retrospect, I might have waited until the sequel to The Survivors was finished before heavily promoting (or even publishing) the first book. One book is great, but people love a good series – it gets them talking and sharing much more than a single novel.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your book?

I have a simple trailer for the book. I was opposed to the idea at first (we’re supposed to be reading, not watching, after all!), but you have to play to what catches your audience’s attention. (You can view the trailer for The Survivors on YouTube.)

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

I do think it works. If you’re only selling your book to your family and friends, there are a limited number of people talking about it. But if thousands of people grab a free copy, suddenly you’ve amassed a sizable following that will hopefully act as advocates for your works.

Who is your favorite author and why?

J. K. Rowling inspired me to get back to writing when I was ready to give it up. She crafted such an amazingly detailed world with Harry Potter – it took me back to the reasons I fell in love with being a storyteller at ten years old.

What is your favorite book and why?

Fahrenheit 451 is a masterpiece. I love Ray Bradbury (maybe my second favorite author) and how he speaks to societal issues under the guise of an exciting science fiction read.

Is there any particular book or author who made an impact on your life?

As I mentioned before, J. K. Rowling takes this honor. I’d been told to read the Harry Potter books but I laughed it off as children’s fiction. Then I saw the first movie. I went back and read the first three books (which put the movie to shame) and understood what all of the fuss was about. I cared about fictional characters – there’s no better measure of success for a writer.

Do you prefer ebooks or hard copies?

Like most people, I don’t like change. But ebooks got me. I’m also very environmentally aware, so I think it’s the responsible direction for us to head into.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I’m debating jumping into the Game of Thrones series. They’re monsters of books, but I love that epic type of storytelling. I’m not sure my poor memory will thank me for the abundance of character names, though.

What are you currently writing?

The sequel to The Survivors! I’m ridiculously excited to continue to tell their story.

Can you tell us about it, and do you know when it will be released?

Although the immediate mystery in The Survivors was solved, there were several big questions left unanswered. The second book will dive into several of those (and maybe ask a few more). I’m shooting for early 2014.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Always believe in yourself, even when faced with rejection. Allow yourself time to grow as a writer – it will happen but not overnight.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Be persistent but with the understanding that there’s always room to learn and grow.

Is there anything else you want to say to your readers?

I adore my readers! They’ve been very welcoming to The Survivors and me. Please send me questions or comments on my Facebook page or Twitter account. If you enjoyed the book, consider leaving a nice review on Amazon and telling your friends about it. Thanks for reading!

Thanks, Daniel, for being willing to share a bit about your life and your writing!

You can find Daniel Harvell on his website, on Facebook, or on Twitter, or email him at info@DanielHarvell.com. You can find The Survivors on Amazon.

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