Okay, this is not really an interview or an exercise in nepotism. It is, however, a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten from people since I’ve signed with Quake/Echelon to publish my first novel, Killer Cows.
What is Killer Cows about?
That’s the biggest question a lot of students, friends and family have asked me since I announced its impending publication. What’s surprising to me, even though I knew people would ask, is how difficult it is for me to answer...at least succinctly. I often find myself a bit tongue-tied and fumbling for words.
Is it really about killer cows?
That’s the second biggest question, and a bit easier to answer. Yes, it is. Sort of. I actually have an easier time answering the question when kids ask, which is cool since that’s who it’s aimed at. I don’t really summarize the plot...I just say yeah, there’s cows...and flying saucers, car crashes, Harleys and lots of stuff blowing up. They seem to like that.
At the same time, the novel isn’t simply about cows. It’s also about a fourteen-year-old growing up in a broken home, dealing with stuff most teenagers deal with...bullies, first-crushes, trying to fit in, making smart choices. I’m making it sound like Killer Cows is a novel with a message to teach, which it isn’t. In the end, it’s just a fun read...part fantasy, part modern realism, part sci-fi, lots of humor. And of course, big nasty killer cows from outer space.
Is it a kids’ book?
It’s not a little kids’ book. No pictures or anything. It is aimed at young adults, probably age 12-16, though I think it’s suitable enough for kids as young as 10 if they are good readers. As far as any objectionable content goes, there are a few mild expletives and some violence. If Killer Cows were turned into a movie, it would probably be rated PG.
How long did it take to write?
Nine months, followed by another few months of edits and revisions, then even more edits and revisions after placing it with my publisher.
How many pages is it?
A lot of kids ask me that one, but since I haven’t seen the galley proofs yet, I don’t know. It was just over 300 pages when I finished the final draft on my computer. How that translates to the printed page is up to Echelon Press. I usually just tell kids it’s “longer than a Goosebumps novel, but shorter than Harry Potter.”
When does it come out?
Fall 2010, first as an ebook, then a paperback.
Why so long?
That was a question I had, too. Nearly everyone has been shocked at the length of time between signing a contract and publication. I usually tell them mine isn’t the only book slated for release, and putting together a novel isn’t the same as publishing a short story or article.
How much money are you getting for this? Is it a lot?
Depends on how much it sells. I have no plans to give up my day job. I’m no Stephanie Meyer or Gordon Korman. Nobody even knows who I am. Besides, if I quit teaching, I wouldn’t be able to see Killer Cows on the library shelf.
Do I get an autographed copy?
Sure, buy one and I’ll sign it.
I don’t get a free copy?
I’ll be lucky if I can afford a copy for myself. The only people getting free copies are my children, a former student who was the first to read it, and the Echelon editor who helped shape it into a better book.
Is Killer Cows going to be a series?
One student asked me this question, which goes to show you how young adults perceive books geared to their age. A lot of them expect books to be part of a series. I always hated it when authors, particularly sci-fi & fantasy authors, would pump out multiple books with the same characters. Couldn’t they come up with something new?
I originally intended Cows as one story, and that would be it. But as I finished it, I began to see why other writers continue to revisit the same world they created. It is difficult to let go of characters you spend so much time with. And as I was wrapping up the story, I was already thinking of other adventures I’d like to see these characters in. So, while doing the revisions to the novel, I added a plot element that would leave the door open for a series.
So, I guess the answer is yes. Depending on how well received Cows is, I have two more novels outlined, Apocalypse Cow (a direct sequel) and Killer Cows vs. Bunnies from Hell.
Have you written any other books?
Yes. I’m trying to place my second YA novel, Shaken (an action-disaster tale), while finishing up the first draft of my third, The Dark Ride (a YA horror novel...without vampires!).
Why don’t you just publish your second book with the company that’s publishing your first?
Doesn’t work like that. Just because Echelon bought Killer Cows doesn’t mean they’ll want Shaken. Besides, at the time I signed the Cows contract, I had already submitted Shaken to several other agents or publishers. It’s sort of my policy to submit to several at once, then wait to hear back from them before sending out another wave of submissions.
You still haven’t said what Killer Cows is about.
You are right, but cows are funny, and so is the book. And how can you resist a title like that? Regardless of what anyone thinks of the story, in my humble opinion, Killer Cows is the best-titled YA novel since No More Dead Dogs.