Today, please make welcome Omar K. Mills, co-author of The J. Spade Chronicles.
IDI – First off, I want to mention how much I like the picture you included of yourself. I love the whole levitating feel.
How long does it generally take you to write a book, from the spark of an idea to the finished product?
OKM – Now? For your basic 70K word novel? About 5-months. That doesn’t include the editing process – just the draft. Edits and rewrites probably add another month or so to that.
IDI – I’m the opposite. I can get a rough draft done in about a month, but spend the next six on revisions and editing. Funny how we each have such different methods of reaching the same result.
When did you have your Eureka moment? When did know that you were born to be a writer?
OKM – Sixth grade. I wrote a play that won an award. I have pretty much always known that I was born to do this. What I wish I had known back then was writing was not a job you could apply for and then do nothing else but write. Wouldn’t it be cool if it was?
IDI – How has your writing evolved from when you began as a writer to now?
OKM – I realize now how important it is to work within the generally accepted writing structure. I was trying to reinvent the wheel before I actually understood how the rules worked. The key, I have learned, is not to discard the rules – but to see how creative you can be within them. Rules don’t confine us, they actually free us. My most recent work, the Thamro podcast (http://www.thamro.us) breaks a few rules – but I was only successful in doing so because I finally understood them.
IDI – Can we get a peek of what you’re working on now?
OKM – Sure – go to http://www.thamro.us. This is a character I have had since I was 15-years-old. I grew up during the “toy cartoon” era. So as a kid I watched a ton of He-Man, Thundercats, etc – basically 30-minutes commercials for toys. Consequently, this character is a lot like those archetypes. The challenge with Thamro was to stay true to the 15-year-old me who loves the guy, while giving 43-year-old me the chance to bring him to life in a way that makes sense today. I had always wanted to give this guy a meaningful origin story, but it was hard because I always felt like a book wouldn’t work. I wanted it to be a graphic novel, but those get very costly. Once podcasting became a medium, I knew I could bring him to life in a cost-effective way. The show uses voice actors and sound effects to immerse you into the world. It’s sort of a graphic novel for your ears. I plan to eventually take several of the episodes and convert them into novella’s.
IDI – You’ve received word that you will be included in a new book of original quotes on writing to be published next year. What quote do you contribute?
OKM – “It takes courage to be happy”
IDI – This is what some have said to be a controversial question. What are your thoughts on Amazon and the reviewing process they use? How much trust do you put into the reviews posted for any given book?
OKM – I’m not crazy about it, but if it were directly benefitting me I might feel otherwise. It’s like the midichlorians in the Star Wars prequels – the horrible explanation used to describe why people have Force powers. They took something wonderful, something any of us could potentially have, and reduced it down to a bad version of natural selection. No longer could anybody be a Jedi. They robbed us of that hope. That is essentially what the Amazon review process is, in a nutshell. Sure, you could write an amazing book, but if you’re not also great at getting random people to give you five-star reviews (something that has nothing to do with writing), then no one will ever know. On the flip-side, you could write a terrible book, but be fantastic at manipulating that system, and make a ton. All that said, in Amazon’s defense, I don’t have a better idea, so far be it from me to completely crush theirs. I just wish it were easier for us to discover great writing, or have our great writing be discovered. I don’t trust the review process because there are far too many five-star ratings. To me, five-star ratings should be reserved for life changing reads. I have several on my book – but I don’t really count too many of them. The review that has meant the most to me was given to me over the phone by my dad – who is a hard critic. When he told me that he was shocked at how good my book was – that was when I knew I had written something worth reading.
IDI – We all like to receive positive reviews. What is your reaction to a negative review? Be honest.
OKM – Negative reviews hurt, but only in the moment. I am a big believer in failing to success. My latest book, “The J. Spade Chronicles: God Mode” took me six years to get right. The early reviews from friends were soul-crushing. But here’s the thing – they weren’t wrong. I go back and look at those early versions and I cringe. A good idea was hidden in there, but it needed to be shaped. Without those harsh reviews I wouldn’t have the book that I eventually put out. They hurt, certainly, because we all want to have that sense of acceptance and approval from other people – but growth is always better. And unfortunately, growth is generally born out of pain. Think about it – if I told you that I could erase all of the pain from your life, you’d probably agree to let me do it. But if I told you that the cost of erasing that pain was that you’d forget the lessons the pain taught you, you’d probably keep the pain.
IDI – I believe yours is one of the best answers I’ve ever received to that question, and you’re right. We’d all like to live pain-free, but not at the cost of forgetting the lessons the pain taught us.
One last question, Omar. What advice would you give to new/unpublished authors?
OKM – It’s never going to be perfect. Just put it out there. Your next one will be better, I promise you, but if you don’t ever put your work out there, then you’ll never know that. I know so many talented writers that you’ve never heard of because they won’t put out anything. Drives me nuts. What good is your novel if the only person who ever enjoys it is your computers hard drive?
IDI – Once again, you’re right. Fear of something in our writing strikes all of us at some point in our career and given free-run, it can be paralyzing. Just do it! Thank you for chatting with me today, Omar. I wish you the very best of luck in your upcoming projects.
OKM – It’s been a pleasure, thanks for having me. I’d like to add that in addition to the link I provided above, readers can also check out the Facebook page for the book.