Interview with Oliver Crown

Oliver Crown

Interview Date: 1/3/2013


Oliver Crown hails from the Washington, DC area. This is the first novel from Oliver from a universe of thousands of stories, stemming from a world he created when he was seven years old. A fan of comic books and cartoons from the time he could read, superheroes quickly took hold of his imagination, and that imagination continues to grow today.
Working in a comic book store for over a decade, he became much more familiar with the creative process in the industry...even going so far as to create an 'ashcan' comic book featuring several of his characters. Always a fan of the medium he even fashioned himself a comic book creator at one point, but the ultimate goal was always the same. He wished to be a storyteller, regardless of the medium.
After working in the publishing industry for ten years he embarked on releasing his first novel after being inspired by a work from friend Bobby Brimmer - the title is G.H.O.S.T. Teams. In 2012 he discovered and participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time, and he found that experience to be invaluable. It was that month that he realized he would complete an original work of fiction and see it through to publication.
He enjoys sports, movies, music, videogames and intelligent conversation. Among his myriad hobbies he enjoys RPGs, Quantum Theory and anything involving his first love, automobiles.
Always a fan of fun, Oliver has attended Otakon (held in Baltimore, MD) each year since 1997, and has attended the National Capitol Auto Show (held in Washington, DC) since 1983.

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

Interesting. I’ve been telling stories since I was about five. When I would go on restriction – that means I was being punished – it meant no TV. So I took a piece of cardboard, some notebook paper, drew pictures and made myself a TV. That’s not the sad part. The sad part is I actually kept myself in suspense! Writing an actual novel? The first time I tried I didn’t think I’d be a GM – game master of a role playing game – ever again. So I started a book & got about 20,000 words in before it sputtered out. That was around 1998-1999. Didn’t really try it again until 2012 after a good friend of mine by the name of Bobby Brimmer wrote a story called G.H.O.S.T. Teams Book 1: Magic about his character Bruce Chang. Once he did that, I decided that I really could do this. NaNoWriMo was the final kick I needed to get my behind in gear.

Kev's response: Who says that competition (even against oneself or the clock) can't push or inspire one to accomplish something?

If you could have one superpower, what would it? (Assuming said power would be reasonably powerful.)

The ability to transform myself into ice blue light, assuming the enhanced perceptions come along for the ride.

Kev's response: We'll call you "IBL, not to be confused with IBM, nor ILM." :) Perhaps your suit can get corporate sponsorship from them both!

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

You bet your sweet bippy! Actually I have several, excluding my characters of course. Silver Sable from “Silver Sable & The Wild Pack”, with the possible exception of Cheetah from “Fred Perry’s Gold Digger” takes that award for comics. Honorable mentions abound including Stingray & Vision from The Avengers, Azrael from the Batman universe and Lady Death from Chaos! Comics, but Silver Sable wins the award.

Kev's response: Bippy? I have a bippy? Does Lady Death even have actual powers? Hmm, I need to dig some of those out and re-read them.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

Inspiration is pretty easy for me. I have a world that has a continuity that I’ve been keeping since I was seven years old. Let me define that briefly. When I was seven my mom brought home a birthday cake. It had soccer players on it & I decided to play with the little plastic characters. The first one I named Rex Stingray, and my current world was born. I’d spend hours daydreaming about my characters, and there have been thousands – I’m not kidding here! Then later on when I got my first RPG – we’re talking table top, not Playstation – I had dice to help along with the daydreaming and players got to run through the world. That went on for…quite a while. So when I write it’s often not so much thinking “what kind of story can I come up with now” it’s more “remember that time when..?” or something of that ilk. Makes things easy to start, and like any GM it’s easy to come up with nuances on the fly. Motivation? Honestly it’s about getting these stories out. I know I’ll *never* get them all out. That would be pretty much impossible without the ability to connect my brain with everyone. But I would like to be able to point to a screen, a file, a bookshelf or something and say “here are some original stories of mine.” Related, my daughter will never want for a bedtime story from Dad!

Kev's response: You're a true world creator! A god of your own dream world! Interesting that you bring up gaming. I'm a fan of tabletop RPGs as well, though apart from my own character names I don't really use much from old campaigns.

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

Some of both; it depends on the series and how I’m feeling. Let me explain since I went on during that last question about how my world has a history, and I’ll use a couple examples. For Bleeding of the Heart, my first book, there was no written outline. I did make adjustments in my mind concerning both the story I began back in ’98 – in fact I didn’t use anything from that story other than referencing history. But I knew where things were & had a great feeling for how things were going to end – I just had to get there one scene at a time.
For another series – Vengeance of Tokyo – I have that puppy outlined in word for like…10 books worth? And the sad thing is that’s about 12% of the total story. Plotted it out one night in the comic book store I worked in, using long boxes to count story arcs. I originally had it as a maxi series like Cerebus, then I thought about it as an anime series.
Now it’s going to be novels. Good times.
So I do both – planned and sort of a ‘seat of your pants’ thing.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

When I have the time I work at it like a 9-5 job. Work sort of helped with that. Let me explain.
I found out about NaNoWriMo on November 2nd, 2012. I would type up some things at work, but mostly in the evenings. Our department was closing & moving across the country; we all knew this a year in advance. So Doctor Missus, whom I supported when she was working on her dissertation, said I could take three months to work on the book.
The last day I was in the office was a Friday in November. That Monday I took the 9-5 approach and put down 9,580 words. I wasn’t able to put a full day again for over a week; things had to be handled at the house including a giant turkey. But then when I could finally get back to my schedule I did 11,008 and 10,890 words on those two days. I would have done more, but I finished the manuscript. Most of the days between were only 3,000+ word days, only typing late into the night. Well ‘cept for Thanksgiving & the day before where I did squat. I prefer to just wake up & get cracking. 30 words a minute with a 7 ½ hour work day leaves plenty of words on the page. At least that’s what works for me, personally.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

To write in? Superhero/Sci-Fi at the moment. But I’m looking forward to the Urban Horror and I know I have a fantasy franchise out there to write. But each genre takes a different style, and I have a lot to learn about each and every one of them.
To read? When I’m not buried in e-mails, sports, music and Stephen Hawking? Superhero/Sci-Fi stuff. You know, like three friends going to a mall during a meteor shower..! That sort of thing. Actually it’s how I found you, and I’m glad I did.

Kev's response: Dang it! I thought hiding under that rock with the colorful superhero costume painted on it would hide me...

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

When I’m writing, especially when I’m in the groove if you will, I love the way I see the characters. I believe in writing the easy stuff first, then going back and adding the details that you need to. For me as a GM, well former GM, it’s easy for me to hop into someone’s head and let them do what they do! When I GMed every character had a unique voice and often unique body movements; it came naturally. So for me I normally do dialogue first, then fill in the rest. Why? Because dialogue, being and seeing the characters is what I’ve done since I was seven. That by no means makes me an expert, but it does make me feel comfortable.

Kev's response: Dialogue's my easiest part of the writing to do as well. Combat slows me way down, because I go into a gaming "mode" where I have to think about everyone's speed, location and actions in X time period.

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

Great question. To be blunt: anything that endangers my deadline.
For “Bleeding of the Heart” I set a deadline when I began the NaNoWriMo, to have this thing finished and up on Amazon by Christmas Day. I wanted people to be able to download it – hopefully for free at first – that morning. But that meant several things had to be done, and I had to deal with them. When I couldn’t write? I was not a happy camper, let me tell you. I felt that I was given the time to work on my book, but then I couldn’t work on it for reasons outside of my control. Then during December during editing, other things popped up. I won’t even get into issues involving the cover – let’s just say there was a time on December 23rd when I didn’t think I’d make my deadline. But it all came through, eventually.

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

One of my hobbies is Quantum Theory; I have one on the event we call “The Big Bang” as a matter of fact. Don’t know if that counts as odd..? Well, that and I’m pretty new to Twitter and REALLY new to Facebook. Pretty much all I know about FB I’ve learned since…November? Now that’s odd. Or so they tell me!

Kev's response: Facebook is far less useful than it used to be. When every single person that "Liked" your page saw every post it had some value. Now, only about 10% of those liking a page see any particular post, so it's like we all have 1/10th the number of followers we once did.

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

Ah, here we touch on the deadline again. My plan originally was to have “Bleeding of the Heart”, the next book “Barbs of the Rose”, a short story and a novella done by the end of January 2013. After finishing the manuscript for “Bleeding of the Heart” I began working on a novelette, finished that, but I knew that I needed to concentrate on the first novel so I could get that out by the deadline. With that done, and some marketing stuff done, I’ve already started to edit the novelette & will start on the next novel in about a week. Ideally, I’d like to have a process where I have multiple things ‘in the works’ but at different stages throughout the year.

Kev's response: I haven't tried writing 2 works at a time, my mentality doesn't lend itself toward splitting focus. I should try it and see what happens. Worst case, I go insane, and that could only be good for storytelling, right?

For my evil plot to take over the world, do you think I should go for a grand, take-all-at-once type scheme, or spread my evil influence like mad, ravenous butterflies?

Well, I’d say it depends on if you want to be noticed or be sucsessful. You can make a big splash with a “take over the world on Tuesday” approach, but then you have all those logistics to deal with. That there is a pain in the patootie. We write, so we know!
So I’d say go with the evil influence. That way works. Doubt me? Look at Facebook. Not that FB is evil, but now so much of the world forgets how to stay in touch without the internet..!

Kev's response: Setting up the genetically altered, biotechnically-enhanced creatures now!

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I have a view that – while not unique – is different from most of what I’ve heard. For about a decade I worked at a publisher. We did everything from college textbooks, to reference books, periodicals, staff directories…you get the idea. And I have to say that one of the smartest choices the company made several years ago was to embrace the electronic format. That move paid dividends both on the bottom line and for the survival of the company.
We live in an electronic age, and frankly this question could be an interview unto itself. Right now people are reading this on a computer screens, on phones, tablets, and other electronic media. They are likely not reading this in a magazine, newspaper or paper journal. Information is available at our fingertips; I found out about this interview request via Twitter, not an ad in The Washington Post.
For stories – and that’s what we all do, we tell stories – it boils down to this. We want someone to understand the imagined events that we see in our minds. If we could telepathically beam this information to someone’s brain, we likely would. That’s nothing new. What’s new is that twenty years ago, you may not have over a million words in print about superheroes…and that’s a MAJOR accomplishment by the way! And I certainly wouldn’t have a book that people could find and buy on Amazon. So now we have this added venue. The e-book market is growing, and the paper market is shrinking. There are those – my wife chiefly among them – who dread that fact. There are millions out there who still want and will continue to want paper books. But that demographic is shrinking, not growing. Technology moves forward. VCRs are replaced by DVD players. DVD is now being replaced by Blu-Ray. Reel to Reel was replaced by Cassette, then we moved to CDs and now MP3s.
And now we have e-books that are threatening to do to the paperback what web sites like have done to newsprint circulation. Granted that’s just an opinion.

Kev's response: After seeing (and playing with for a few minutes) a Kindle Paperwhite, and using an iPad (a LOT), I can't imagine going back to reading paper books. I think a lot of it is fear of change for those who claim that paper books are the only way to read. Granted, there'll always be some percentage that really does love the feel of a book, but since many of us are getting so we have electronic devices with us all the time, it just makes sense to use them for one more purpose.

What are your current projects?

Well there are a ton, but the most immediate are The Delta Chronicles and related short stories. Depending on fan reaction I may expand into other areas of this part of my universe before I get cracking on Vengeance of Tokyo. But I want the Delta stuff to be done first, and that’s what I’m working on!

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

Tons. But I’ll stick with just a couple. First, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! You can do this. If a Gran Turismo addict who’s been daydreaming since he was seven can do this, you can!
Second, don’t do it because you want to make a ton of cash…do it because you want to share your story. That way if the cash comes, you’re ready for it! But if it doesn’t then you’re not devastated. And lastly, don’t underestimate the work involved. If you can have support, friends that can help with editing or artwork? A loving family that supports your trying to do this – and family is defined by you by the way – all the better.
When I almost gave up on reaching my deadline, and that was on December 23rd, a song helped me push forward. The chorus is: “You’ve got to believe in something, why not believe in me?”
Do that.

Kev's response: Aye, very, very few people who publish books (multiple, not just one), are going to make enough to live on as a job, much less get rich. Do it because you love it. Plus, it's a ton of work.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

Yes! goes to my Facebook page, and I have an author page at Amazon: and you can always find my book, and subsequent books on Amazon!
Also, I want to thank Kevin for reaching out to authors, and for giving me this opportunity. Pick up his stuff if you haven’t already, and if you have? Introduce someone you know to his wide world.
I'm gonna do it.

Kev's reponse: Glad to help others find you. I believe in the "Pay it Forward" mentality, and I'd rather be part of a community than someone who hates all other authors because they might "steal" sales. Plus, if someone enjoys a genre (say superhero novels), they'll likely want to read more books than any small group of us can put out. By the way, here's Oliver on Twitter:

Kev's response: Congrats on getting Bleeding of the Heart out, and thanks for joining me in the interview! I wish you the best, Oliver!

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