The Next Big Thing...
I found the idea of "The Next Big Thing" on the blog belonging to Christopher Nuttall and got reminded to do it when I saw Delilah S. Dawson post it herself. So here goes...
The Next Big Thing: Battle for the Wastelands
Where Did The Idea Come From: When I was in high school (probably around 2000), I read the first of Stephen King's Dark Tower novels and wanted to write something similar. The world of the Dark Tower is a Western-type world, albeit more feudal (there's a knightly caste called "gunslingers" who control most of the world's guns), but it's strongly implied this is a post-apocalyptic situation--the world has "moved on." Over the years, the story has mutated drastically--the technology level has shifted forward to the Civil War era, the general milieu has become rather steampunk, the characters have last names instead of "Name of Place," and I've included some deeper themes like race in a fantasy context, the merits of decentralized vs. centralized power, and whether or not leaders who are less despotic but more prone to racism are worse than tyrants who don't care about such things.
What Genre Does Your Book Fall Under: I used to call it "a post-apocalyptic steampunk Western," but my friend James R. Tuck said it would be better-described as "a post-apocalyptic military fantasy with steampunk elements." I think "post-apocalyptic military fantasy with Western and steampunk elements" will do nicely, even if it doesn't come off the tongue well.
What Actors Would You Choose to Play Your Characters In a Movie Rendition: The only thought I've really put into it is that the character Catalina Merrill could be played by Danielle De Luca. In fact, I used De Luca as the model for Catalina, since she was a relative latecomer to the story. Although the tyrant Grendel's general look was inspired by Clancy Brown's portrayal of the Kurgan in the film Highlander, Grendel's face and hair don't really match up with his. And Clancy Brown is too old now anyway.
What is the One-Sentence Synopsis of Your Book: A teen becomes a soldier in a rebellion against a scheming tyrant, who has problems of his own.
Will Your Book Be Self-Published Or Represented By An Agent: Preferably an agent. I've sent it out to one publisher, since I met an editor there at DragonCon 2012, but I'm considering tweaking it a bit more and sending it out to agents. If it gets rejected from the publisher, I've already moved onto the next step, and if they accept it, that's a way to get an agent. I'll keep working my way down the chain to small presses, some of which are following me on Twitter. Self-publishing is an absolute last resort.
How Long Did It Take You To Write The First Draft of Your Manuscript: Too long. I had parts of it written down many years ago, but decided to focus on actually finishing this one (as opposed to spreading my efforts thin on various projects) probably sometime in 2009. That didn't stop me from finishing some lengthy fan-fiction projects I'd already started, which helped delay the first draft until sometime in early 2012. It's 104,000 words, so it has more in common with an epic fantasy than a genre novel in terms of length.
What Other Books Would You Compare This Story To Within Your Genre: When I submitted it, my cover letter compared to Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century and L.E. Modesitt Jr's Corean Chronicles novels. It has more in common with the latter than the former, considering they're both secondary-world fantasy with guns, but it does have airships and other steampunk stuff like Priest's work. Also like Priest's work, it's a big enough world to set a lot of stories. I have partial or complete novellas centered around lesser characters and eight planned novels--a seven-novel cycle focusing on protagonist Andrew Sutter's war against Grendel, with an eighth novel ending Andrew's story a la Beowulf.
Who Or What Inspired You To Write The Book: Stephen King, as I've said above. Beowulf has had a strong influence on my overall plan for the series. I'm sure the Corean Chronicles have influenced things, at least subconsciously, since I read the books when I was in high school and college and working on the earliest version of this. A Song of Ice and Fire has crept in as well, especially the emphasis on the impact of war on ordinary people and moral grayness. In fact, I've compared Grendel to Tywin Lannister (an evil man who nevertheless has understandable motives, governs effectively, and generally maintains the peace) and Roose Bolton (expend the soldiers of subordinates who don't trust and husband your own, plus the "quiet land, quiet people" thing).
What Else About Your Book Might Pique The Reader's Interest: The battle sequences are Civil War in style, if airships were available for close air support and elite units were armed with 20th Century repeating rifles. The way I explore certain themes will either intrigue or offend you. And considering the amount of time I've worked on this and the number of eyes that have been on it, this isn't going to be a "bad first novel."