AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Chuck Wendig

Tell us about your latest novel.

My latest novel is my YA “cornpunk” adventure—an agricultural class-warfare dystopia where the wealthy sit in their art deco flotillas in the sky while the hardscrabble folks of the Heartland sit below in the dust, tending to the literally bloodthirsty corn. A teen boy and his scavenger friends find a secret garden in the midst of the corn which seems to promise a way out of poverty, but of course it ends up complicating their lives instead of fixing them. It features, in no specific order: hobos, sonic weapons, slingshots, pollen dust storms, whiskey, robotic farm equipment, drunken mayors, bullies, love quadrangles, and more. All of it wrapped up in a Monsanto GMO-fed nightmare!

You had a pretty multi-faceted journey from aspiring writer to professional author. Could you talk a bit about that journey, for readers who don’t know your backstory?

We probably don’t have enough time before people’s eyeballs dry out from the very long story, but suffice to say, I’m an overnight success that took 15 years to actually happen. I started with a few short stories when I was 18, then ended up freelancing for game companies throughout my 20s, and ping-ponged into video games, transmedia writing, writing advice, film-and-TV, and now (my goal all along), novels! I’ve had nine novels published in the last couple years, and have another six on the way. (I should probably write those, huh?)

You Kickstarted your novel Bait Dog. Could you talk about why you chose to go with Kickstarter for that project, and what the results of the campaign were?

Bait Dog—which features teenage detective-slash-vigilante Atlanta Burns going up against a dog-fighting ring—was the sequel to my novella, Shotgun Gravy. I decided to author-publish the novella because it was YA (which I’d never done before) and a risky YA at that (it’s fairly dark stuff). I didn’t know if I even had an audience there—and it turns out, I did, and that audience came to the Kickstarter for the sequel novel, Bait Dog. Kickstarter is a tricky thing, because I often like to say that the old paradigm was the artist crowdsurfing from the stage. But with Kickstarter, the audience can crowdsurf you to the stage—but that means having a robust enough audience in place before you even begin. The Bait Dog campaign was 100% funded within 10 hours, and by the end of the 30-day campaign it was funded over 200%, which funded a second stretch novel in the Atlanta Burns series. Skyscape Publishing (publisher of Under The Empyrean Sky) picked up the rights to both books, and will be publishing those in the next two years (and will also fulfill the stretch goal pledges for backers of the Kickstarter!).

Although you Kickstarted that book, you’ve sold a bunch of books to traditional houses lately, and it seems like that’s working well for you. Will your first step for future books always be to try the traditional route first, or might you go right to Kickstarter on certain projects? If the latter, what would make you decide to go that route rather than traditional?

I tend to lean traditional first just because it’s a good pH test, so to speak, as to whether or not there’s a real market there for that book—but I think riskier books, particularly ones that are a bit wibbly in terms of genre definitions or are instead odd-fitting in terms of format, can make a lot of sense in terms of heading right toward author-publishing. Kickstarter is always an option for me, at least, as I think I have the audience there to support it, and it’s a good way to fund some stuff up front: cover, editing, book design. Plus, a good way to get pre-orders for the book and generate early interest.

What’s coming up next for you?

Coming up, I’ve got The Kick-Ass Writer releasing this month, and in December, the third Miriam Black book, The Cormorant. I’ve got a handful of books to write in the next year, including the third book in the YA cornpunk Heartland series (no title yet!), the follow-up to The Blue Blazes, and the aforementioned Atlanta Burns sequel. Dang, I’m busy. I may need an intervention or something.

BONUS: When I asked you about doing this interview, you mentioned that you just got back into the country. Where had you been traveling?

I just traveled to Australia thanks to the kind folks at GenreCon, who hosted me as an international guest of honor!