I’m featuring indie author A.L. Collins on the blog. Do you ever run into someone who is so enthusiastic that it just makes you smile. A.L. is that way! I haven’t read his book, but he is so passionate about his first book and the future fantasy series that I’m sure he’ll do well. And he’s got some great marketing ideas as well. So welcome A.L. to the indie author interview.
Your first book is Bastion: Prequel to War – what’s it about?
Bastion is about a young man named Rigil who is only a day away from becoming a guardsman in the city of Endican. However, a shadow guild attacks both the city and the neighboring town of Fredriff during Rigil’s final exam and he is forced to fight back these foes and escape the city with his squadron alive. All does not go well when he wakes up in a gypsy camp in the Fallensa woods. The city, his home, has fallen and his team has headed to the capital city of Illyria to warn the country’s leader, the Eminent, of a possible invasion plan from this Guild of Shadows. With the help of an old gypsy caravan woman Zaveena, her daughter and sorceress Meriah, and a quick-witted and quick-tongued fugitive named Syrius, Rigil struggles his way across his country of Aldania to try to catch up to his team before they reach the capital. But as truths begin to unravel about lost ancient cities and a past that was all but wiped out, Rigil learns that his team may be in way over their heads. For this ancient enemy order may not just threaten the country of Aldania, but the entire world as a whole. And Rigil himself will learn that the journey through the darkness is a harrowing experience when one tries to face it alone.
Bastion sounds like quite a tale – is there more to come?
Bastion is my first series. It’s a fiction story, a magical-based sword and shield adventure with a unique styling that has influences of both medieval attributes and my own personal style. I find fantasy thrilling to write because the only limits that exist are directly influenced by the scope of my own imagination.
Bastion is the first book I’ve ever written. The storyline is planned and outlined for at least seven books going forward and a prequel or two.
Why this series?
I had originally decided to write more realistic story aimed at younger teens. That was going to be my breakout book. But I had some free time one day and wrote six or so random pages of Bastion and saved it to my manager’s computer. He called me up the next day and said, “Stop everything. Stop what you’re doing. I just read this magic story. We have to do this.” So I set the teenage story project aside for a while and focused on the magic story, which turned into Bastion. The kicker is those six pages aren’t even present in the published book!
When you and I spoke before this interview, you say writing was not what you dreamed of? What did you picture yourself doing and how did you end up writing?
I was a fast kid. I was talking at nine months, so my parents immediately saw lawyer or doctor in my future. Educationally I was raised very strict, and I did well for the most part until I lost myself the last three years of high school and failed miserably. I took a year off after I graduated, barely, and tried to soul search. I had no money for college and no passion so I had no idea what to do. With my parents more than worried, I remembered how much I loved telling stories. A lack of excitement in my hometown led me to make up my own adventures, so I was always thinking stuff up. And one day I just met the right people who saw my work and my personality and decided to take a chance on me. It’s only been a few months doing this and it’s been such a crazy ride so far. I’m still not sure if this is a dream or not.
I was influenced by Drew Karpyshyn who wrote a book series from my favorite video game trilogy. I’m a sci-fi nerd and Mass Effect is my one weakness. I connected to the characters of that universe so easily and that’s when I realized that what it was about for me is the characters. I’ve also wanted to get into Harry Potter, as I didn’t catch that wave when I was younger. I’d like to read through all the books when I have the time.
You’ve used candles, bookmarks, cards, posters and stickers for marketing? How successful is that?
The bookmarks, greeting cards, post cards, posters and stickers were either designed for us or by us, based off our created cover. They each have the logo of our publishing company and a list of websites where you can buy the book. We never charge for these items, save the posters. Giving away small things for free can be a huge marketing advantage. Every time someone uses a bookmark, sends a postcard or slaps on a sticker, they’ll remember your book. The candles were hand-made and designed by my manager and me.
These things have been very successful in helping promote the book. We went to the restaurant where I work and passed out flyers and stickers to tons of customers, many of whom would later show up at the book signing, which was a huge success. Every time we went out-of-state we left a business card on the tables of malls or in bathrooms. We also printed labels of all the websites and blogs I have on each item as well. Marketing your book is half the battle and it takes a lot of effort and a lot of saved pennies. But you have to be vigilant and occasionally clever.
The candles are a labor of love. My manager is an expert on candle making, just by happenstance, and I’ve always talked about bringing the five senses to reading. So I went in and picked eight characters from the book and, based on their personality, nationality and back story, created unique scents for all of them. They were hard to make, but they were definitely worth it. When people read about the smell of a witch’s love potion or the aroma of fresh fallensa berries, they’ll be able to light a candle and really experience my world for themselves.
The candles we sell, usually they are divided into four and ten ounce candles. It helps because whenever someone sits and lights them, they’ll be thinking of my book. It’s like a constant sensual reminder of Bastion’s existence. And when friends of theirs come over and ask what that smell is, hopefully that will entice the attention of another soon to be fan.
Time for my rapid fire section, for a little fun – answer first thing that comes to mind:
Coke or Pepsi
I can’t taste the difference.
Summer or winter
Zombies or vampires
Skiing or the beach
Ice Cream or cake
Well, anyone who likes ice cream over cake is good in my book . Thanks A.L. for stopping by and I wish you all the success in the world. Keep us posted on the progress in your series.