Interview: Indie Author M.G. Dekle

Today, I have an interview with Indie author M.G. Dekle, who wrote the fun (and completely hilarious) The Crystal Ordeal. So, while I’m waiting for book two, I’ll have to settle for learning a bit more about Mr. Dekle.

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

I spend most of my time with my wife and two little girls. We’re usually hanging out around the house, going theme parking, or watching baseball. For a day job, I teach composition online for a local college.

In six words, what is The Crystal Ordeal about?

Graduates seeking employment forced to relocate.

Have you written anything else?

Yes. I wrote two one-act plays in high school that did well in competitions, a few short stories that will never see the light of day (we’ll call those my awkward phase), a full-length play for children that my former high school’s drama club put on, a few radio plays I made with friends, and a large number of scholarly essays. The Crystal Ordeal is my first novel.

The Crystal Ordeal book cover
Image from M.G. Dekle; used by permission

Where can we buy/see The Crystal Ordeal and/or your other works?

The Crystal Ordeal is available on Amazon. I suppose someone could also view my Master’s Thesis if they were so inclined since that is published, but I’m not sure there are very many people interested in the cultural significance of Gulliver’s Travels film adaptations.

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

In 2005, I decided to write a novel. My wife recommended that I turn the play I wrote in high school into a book, so it started there. The play was about a knight and a court wizard journeying out to bring a princess’s stolen presents back to her. Needless to say, this idea changed considerably, but that is where it began.

The title did not come easily. I wanted something that could hide the real story of the book while also being appropriate once the reader finished it. “The Crystal Ordeal” refers both to the problem Leone and Falchion face in the Ordeal, as well as the broader problem introduced at the end of the novel.

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

If we don’t count the high school play, this process started in December of 2005 and ended in July of 2013. Of course, I also earned the end of my BA, all of my MA, began a teaching career, and began life as a parent to two incredible little girls, so this length of time was not just spent writing.

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

None of the characters are directly based on real people, but certain personality attributes and relationships are inspired by real life. For example, the friendship between Falchion and Wick is very much inspired by my friendships in high school. Similarly, Leone’s perception of what school was like is similar to what I thought school was like. She may realize some day that her memory was a bit faulty, as well.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Convincing myself to keep in the odder parts of the book. Based on feedback, I think I made the right call. There is always the fear that something will come across as just a little too weird, though.

What part or scene was the most fun to write?

The chapter “A Lesson in Loyalty” was absolutely the most fun to write. That chapter was the first real chance to let the characters unleash their strengths and personalities in a completely uncontrolled environment. It was also fun to throw obstacles in their way just to work through how they would figure them out. While the magic system was well in place, this gave me the opportunity to play with it.

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

I’m sad to say it, but the Prologue. When I began writing the book, I was thinking of the series, not the book itself. A bit of knowledge I have that’s currently unavailable to the readers influenced how I wrote little Leone, and I’m already seeing some backlash against it.

How did you first become interested in writing?

That probably happened back in elementary school (4th grade, I think). I wrote a short story that continued Jack and the Beanstalk from the giant’s perspective, and it had my classmates laughing uncontrollably. That little bit of early positive feedback went a long way. It might also explain why I only like to write stories with at least some humor in them.

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

The hardest part is getting out of my own head. I’ll labor over indecision about plot points, characters, and even word choice for hours. Somewhat appropriately then, the easiest part is daydreaming. The characters in this book have lived more lives in my head than I could ever count.

How much research do you do?

That’s a difficult question. I’ve invented and used important things that just sound right, then researched a trivial point for days to simply not use it. If it’s something that has a real-world equivalent, I’ll research as much as I can for authenticity, but in a fantasy world, sometimes it just has to be improvised.

MG Dekle author photograph
Image from M.G. Dekle; used by permission

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

I always outline everything I do, but it seems like the best parts of the book (based on feedback) were all late additions. I’ll outline the overall feel and purpose of the conversations, but I tend to improvise the actual lines. Otherwise, I think the characters would lose their voices.

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

Of course. I’ve been finding more ways to deal with it lately, though. For example, I’ve trained my brain to click into creative mode when I load up the game “Everyday Genius: Square Logic” and turn on specific music. I also find that imagining a movie trailer for my book can help get me into the proper mood. Something about the visualization of specific scenes gets things moving.

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

Mainly, horror stories about traditional publishing pushed me to become an indie author. I heard one story of a person who waited 1 ½ years just to be rejected. I know me. 1 ½ years of silence would be thoroughly unpleasant to say the least. By self-publishing, my story is out there and really, that’s what is important to me.

What are some of the challenges of Indie publishing?

Cover design is a big one. Without an eye for aesthetics, I need to look elsewhere for a designer. This can be expensive, but I was recently lucky with an incredibly generous person giving me new cover artwork.

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

Indie publishing does have several advantages. The rights to my book stay with me. The royalties tend to be much higher. I have more flexibility and control over promotions. I also get to know that if my book succeeds, that success was my own. If my book fails, I have no one else to blame, and I can find peace in that.

Traditional publishing makes it easier to get a book into bookstores and libraries. The things that would otherwise cost money (cover, editing, some promotion, etc.) are usually covered by the publisher. Traditionally published books have more options for obtaining reviews.

Overall, though, I think the landscape is changing to favor indie publishing.

Who designed your cover, and how was it created?

My wife, Jessica, designed my original cover. We looked around for stock images, found some we liked, and she manipulated them to fit our need. We were mainly going for a simple, clean look. However, several bits of feedback have mentioned disliking the cover, so we knew it needed to change.

The current cover was put together by a wonderfully generous person from a message board group.

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

I’ve tried out marketing on Facebook, Twitter, BookDaily, Goodreads, message boards, and review blogs. I spent more time in the beginning on marketing, but I’m quickly shifting back to just writing again.

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

Facebook ads seem to be somewhat ineffective. I also think that paid advertising works best after having a few more works in a back catalogue.

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

From what I understand, these were more effective a couple years ago and dropped off in effectiveness since then. I do not intend to create one, but I am open to the idea if I see that I am mistaken.

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

I think it works best after an author has a few more works in a back catalogue. From what I understand, it works well for early books in a series.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Chaucer. He wrote brilliant satire and seemed to really enjoy playing with the language. Middle English is also close enough to Modern English to understand it without too much difficulty.

What is your favorite book and why?

I won’t answer with Canterbury Tales since Chaucer is mentioned above, so I’ll go with The Hobbit. Tolkien put so much into his world and characters. I also adore his writing voice.

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

Everything involving King Arthur. I think that’s where I developed a love of the fantastic.

Do you prefer ebooks or hard copies?

Ebooks, definitely. With the backlit text and resizable font, I can read forever.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Lately, I’ve been reading works from my friend, Scott LeMaster. He’s another fantasy author. He creates some great action scenes.

What are you currently writing?

The sequel to The Crystal Ordeal, as yet to be titled.

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

Spoiler alert: Probably the most obvious character to return makes a return. Beyond that, you can look forward to Leone learning a new skillset, Falchion learning about new locations, and a few of the unanswered questions from the first book being answered, at least a little bit.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Get over your self-doubt. Then again, maybe I should take that advice myself.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Get over your self-doubt. If I can’t use that one again, don’t be afraid to get a little crazy. The parts of The Crystal Ordeal that I thought bordered on or went well into insane were apparently charming, according to readers.

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

You guys are awesome for making a lifelong dream come true.

Thanks, M.G., for being willing to share a bit about your life and your writing! (Now stop doing interviews and go finish book two.)

You can find M.G. Dekle on Twitter and on Facebook, and you can see The Crystal Ordeal on Amazon and on Goodreads.


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