Today we’re joined by my new friend David Estes, an awesome Indie author of Children’s and Young Adult books. His career has been (and continues to be) an inspiring one. He began writing in 2010 and has since published 14 books! And GG gets to chat with him. Incredibly prolific, wildly inspiring, and a little silly, here’s David Estes.
ER: Welcome to Gliterary Girl! Thanks so much for chatting with us. I’ve been so intrigued with your career—a wonderful success story, inspiring to other Indie authors like myself. It’s a testament to hard work and I’m excited to learn more about your journey. First, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers and give us a quick break down of your book series.
DAVID: Hello awesome book-loving people! *waves wildly* First off, a special thanks to E.R. and Gliterary Girl for taking the time to ask me some questions! A little about me…well, I was born in Texas, but grew up in Pittsburgh. I went to Penn State for accounting (borrrrrring!), and worked as an auditor for a big company for almost eight years, which included a move to Sydney, Australia. Random, right?
I always wanted to write fiction, but never thought I had good enough ideas. Finally I quit my job (which I hated strongly disliked) as an accountant, and got another boring job as an operational risk officer for an investment manager. That’s when the magic happened J My beautiful and intelligent Aussie wife, Adele, convinced me to start writing in between jobs. “I don’t have any BIG ideas!” I said, making excuses. “Just go with the best idea you have and see where it leads,” she said. Wise words!
So I did! Although my first trilogy is probably the worst of my writing, it was a starting point for the future, and I learned so much from it. Three years later I’ve written 16 books, 14 of which are published, and hit over 10,000 sales in 2013 for the first time! I’m writing full time as Adele and I travel the world! All of it is so unexpected it’s literally a dream come true.
The two series that have been the most successful and make up the majority of my sales are the Dwellers (first book is The Moon Dwellers) and Country (first book is Fire Country) Sagas, which are two separate stories set in the same world. Each is a trilogy in its own right, but come crashing together in the 7th and final book, The Earth Dwellers, where the characters and plotlines converge. The Dwellers/Country Saga is young adult dystopian, set in a futuristic world where a catastrophic event has changed human life forever. A substantial number of people were forced underground, living in massive caverns dug deep into the earth (The Moon Dwellers), and the rest somehow managed to survive aboveground, forming unique tribes and fighting for survival (Fire Country).
ER: Let’s talk writing. You’re a bit of an unorthodox writer, both in when and where you write, and with your insanely fast paced publishing timelines. What have been your greatest hurdles in not only becoming a published author, but in continuing to put out good work, especially so frequently (which your fans love you for)?
DAVID: Honestly, the most difficult hurdle is finding readers for your books. Coming up with ideas and turning them into books is something anyone can do. These days, even publishing your books is relatively simple. Obviously there are many challenges that are part of the writing, editing, and revising process, as well as learning the ins and outs of publishing, but the biggest struggle for most authors is finding the right readers for their books.
I say ‘right’ readers because not every human on earth is the appropriate target audience for each book out there. I want the people I believe would get the most enjoyment from reading my books to be the ones who actually buy them. I never want anyone to spend their money on my books if I don’t think they’ll enjoy them.
When I talk about this stuff, the question I usually get is how do you find your readers? I was getting this question so much that I wrote a blog post about it, the first in my Indie Author Advice Series, in case anyone is interested in learning more.
ER: You’re easily the most “engaged” author I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. How did you discover that reader engagement was so critical for thriving as an author?
DAVID: Thank you so much, E.R., hearing you say that means the world to me!! I pride myself on engaging with my readers, partly because I care about them so much and because I couldn’t do what I love without their support, but also because they’re AWESOME people who make me smile, laugh, and generally more happy. Many of my readers have become close friends, which is the coolest thing ever. And the thing I love the most: We DON’T just talk about MY books! When I log onto Goodreads and head over to my favorite place in the whole wide world, David Estes Fans and YA Book Lovers Unite, the last thing I want to talk about are my books. I live and breathe them, and I’m just looking for a place to chat about the OTHER books that my readers love, which I usually love too. Our group of more than 1,800 members (Ack! Even I can’t believe the group has grown so much!) are readers of all ages and backgrounds, who just like sharing the books we love with each other, doing buddy reads where we discuss books as we read, and even interacting with bestselling authors like Marissa Meyer and Hugh Howey as part of our Author Q&A program! It’s awesome!
ER: Having great support is crucial for happy writers. I’ve seen you often mention your wife, Adele, and you even named the lead character in The Moon Dwellers after her. How involved is she in your writing process?
DAVID: I’m SO GLAD you asked this! Well, besides being a major reason that I started writing in the first place, Adele is hugely important to my writing process. From the very beginning, she’s my sounding board, helping me think through my ideas to ensure they’re feasible and good enough to work on. Then she becomes a massive support to me as I crawl inside my writer hole with my worlds and characters, barely coming up for air. For 21-25 days (the time it usually takes me to write a first draft), she makes sure that I eat and drink and take care of myself, even though I mostly just want to take care of my characters! I couldn’t do it without her. Finally, when my first draft is done, she becomes my best beta reader and editor, using her highly honest and direct nature to challenge my decisions, poke holes in my plots, and generally save me from myself. Oh, and she also plays a significant role in coming up with the concepts for my book covers! She does it all! I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I used her name for the main character in The Moon Dwellers, which is now my most successful novel J
ER: Where did the inspiration/ideas come from for The Dwellers and Country Sagas? And can you expound on how the two are connected?
DAVID: Great questions! The Dwellers came about when I decided I really wanted to write a YA dystopian novel. I looked at the market and realized there weren’t many books (that I was aware of, anyway) that took place underground, and I thought that would be really cool. So it all started there, with that seed of an idea, which grew into the Dwellers world. *laughing out loud* It was intended to be a three book series, I swear!
For the Country Saga, I was partway through writing the sequel to The Moon Dwellers, when a random character started talking in my head. She was aboveground, so not part of the world I was working on creating. She spoke funny, with an accent, using strange words that didn’t make much sense at first. And she wouldn’t shut up! Yeah, Siena had arrived! She became the main character in my sister series to the Dwellers Saga, the Country Saga, and quickly became a fan favorite due to her strong voice. At one point it hit me as to the potential for the two series. “What if I brought the two series together?” I thought. Before the thought had fully sunk in, I knew I had something special.
The two series are connected because it was always inevitable that those underground would return to the earth’s surface, thus meeting head on those that had remained above. Each world has plenty of their own problems, but perhaps together they can overcome the odds and reshape the world for the better :))
ER: You’ve written from the perspective of teenage girls in your Dwellers and Country sagas, something I haven’t seen much of from male authors. How did you get into the female mindset for these characters? What did you find challenging about it?
DAVID: Ha! Well, Adele says I’m very in touch with my feminine sensitive side. But even she’s surprised when I write from a young female perspective and get it right. That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes, too, but my female beta readers usually steer me back in the right direction.
For me writing any character is a challenge, whether male or female, young or old. It’s a similar challenge to what I imagine actors go through. You have to almost become someone else for a time, really put yourself in their shoes, and consider every decision from their perspective. It’s one of the hardest, most fun challenges in the world! So yes, when I’m writing from a female perspective I’m sitting there with my laptop pretending to be a girl in my head.
ER: In what ways can you relate to teenage girls?
DAVID: Double ha! I’ve never really grown up, so I think that helps. I mean, I’ve become more responsible in a lot of ways, but I’m still very goofy and prefer playing and having fun to sitting and chatting. But besides that, I tend to read the same types of books that teenage girls read, which gives me a glimpse into the things that interest them. And the good thing is: I read those types of books because I love them, too!
ER: Any authors in particular that you adore or that inspire you?
DAVID: So many, but I’ll keep this brief. Dean Koontz is a huge inspiration, who taught me how to combine humor with serious plotlines. JRR Tolkien for being my favorite author as a kid (Lord of the Rings is my favorite series EVER!), and for showing me just how a world should be built. And recently, Hugh Howey for demonstrating the potential inside each of us and for showing me the potential in myself.
ER: Curveball: Favorite book ever?
DAVID: Lord of the Rings. Don’t make me pick just one of them, it would be like choosing my favorite limb.
ER: You have an extensive collection of published books! Which one is your favorite/dearest to your heart?
DAVID: Thanks for noticing I’ve written fourteen books across four series, including my children’s books, The Adventures of Nikki Powergloves. But of all of them, I’d definitely have to say my favorite is Fire Country. As I mentioned earlier, the main character spoke so loudly to me that she almost became a part of me. Writing her character was the easiest thing in the world for me, which is a rare thing in my profession.
ER: Which of your characters was hardest to write, and which was the most fun?
DAVID: The hardest was Dazz, from Ice Country. He’s a hard-drinking, fighting, gambling man, everything I’m not! I don’t drink (well, alcohol at least), never fought in school (not that my brother and I didn’t get into it a bit), and have never really gambled (I’m not one to throw money away). It was tough getting into that kind of a mindset, but it was fun doing something different and developing his character.
The most fun was…drumroll…Perry the Prickler! For those who have read Fire Country, this probably won’t surprise them. And for those who haven’t read Fire Country, Perry is a ‘prickler’, which is basically the equivalent of a cactus, a desert-growing plant. Siena, in all her eccentricity, makes friends with a prickler, which talks in her head and adds some humor to the story. Because of Perry’s sarcasm and constant attempts at humor, he was one of my favorite characters to write.
ER: Let’s talk about David the person, not the author. Tell us something awesome. Anything you’d like.
DAVID: Awesome? *chuckles* I’m not sure there’s that much awesome about me. Oh, wait! *waves hand in the air* I play ping pong and pool really well. I attribute this to the many classes I skipped in college in order to hang out in the dorm rec room. (Yeah, I guess I wasn’t that interested in accounting, even back then.) I’m not sure if that really qualifies as ‘awesome’ though, and I don’t advise students to skip their classes!
Ahh, I’ve got one! Adele and I have been travelling for 18 months, part of a two year trip around the world while I write. We’ve been to thirteen countries and six continents over the last year and a half. It has definitely been an AWESOME trip!
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There you have it friends. David, we’ve enjoyed having you on Gliterary Girl. Thanks so much for chatting with us. Keep up the good work!
If you want to get in on the YA Dystopian fun that are The Dwellers and Country Sagas, David is giving away one e-copy of the first book in each series. Enter here!
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The Moon Dwellers:
In a desperate attempt to escape destruction decades earlier, humankind was forced underground, into the depths of the earth, creating a new society called the Tri-Realms.
After her parents and sister are abducted by the Enforcers, seventeen-year-old Adele, a member of the middle-class moon dwellers, is unjustly sentenced to life in prison for her parents’ crimes of treason.
Against all odds, Adele must escape from the Pen and find her family, while being hunted by a deranged, killing machine named Rivet, who works for the President. She is helped by two other inmates, Tawni and Cole, each of whom have dark secrets that are better left undiscovered. Other than her friends, the only thing she has going for her is a wicked roundhouse kick and two fists that have been well-trained for combat by her father.
At the other end of the social spectrum is Tristan, the son of the President and a sun dweller. His mother is gone. He hates his father. Backed by only his servant and best friend, Roc, he leaves his lavish lifestyle in the Sun Realm, seeking to make something good out of his troubled life.
When a war breaks out within the Tri-Realms, Tristan is thrust into the middle of a conflict that seems to mysteriously follow Adele as she seeks to find her family and uncover her parents true past.
In their world, someone must die.
In a changed world where the sky bleeds red, winter is hotter than hell and full of sandstorms, and summer’s even hotter with raging fires that roam the desert-like country, the Heaters manage to survive, barely.
Due to toxic air, life expectancies are so low the only way the tribe can survive is by forcing women to procreate when they turn sixteen and every three years thereafter. It is their duty as Bearers.
Fifteen-year-old Siena is a Youngling, soon to be a Bearer, when she starts hearing rumors of another tribe of all women, called the Wild Ones. They are known to kidnap Youngling girls before the Call, the ceremony in which Bearers are given a husband with whom to bear children with.
As the desert sands run out on her life’s hourglass, Siena must uncover the truth about the Wild Ones while untangling the web of lies and deceit her father has masterfully spun.
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