Today I’m interviewing Stephen H. King. His book, Ascension: Return of the Gods is a mythic fantasy and will be released on Friday, April 6th, 2012.
Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.
This is the second installment of the Return of the Gods series, in which our world ratchets back into a magic phase from the technology phase we’re in, and the mythical gods come back to arcane power. Crystal, the main character of both, survives the cataclysm in the first book because it turns out she’s married to Mars, the god of war. Unfortunately for Crystal, Venus is Mars’s ex-wife and wants her husband back. The conflict plays out in the first book, coming to a head in a battle between human and immortal, with Mars standing between. Ascension picks up from there; Crystal finds out that her husband married Venus when she was human, and so Ascension follows Crystal along through a quest line to become a goddess herself.
Describe the genre of this particular title, and is the only genre you write in?
It’s a cross-genre work. Technically it’s mythic fantasy, and I wrote it to be mythic fantasy, but some of my beta readers have taken to calling it mythic romance because of the love (and sex) story I weave through it. Crystal is, after all, married to the god of war, who would be expected to be one of the most virile—and vitriolic—males on the planet. It’s impossible to tell their story without covering plenty of back and forth, both in bed and out. It’s not the only genre I write in; currently I’m also working on a young adult fantasy book about elves and their succession. Still, this has been and continues to be an awfully fun story to write.
How did this story come to be?
I toured the Biltmore a long time ago and picked up on the mythology stories in the tapestry regarding the romantic triangle of Mars, Venus, and Vulcan. I’ve always been a mythology buff, but those tapestries started me wondering what life might be like for the immortals, moving in and out of relationships. Of course, I’ve also at a couple of points in my life (though certainly not now!) had jobs I hated, and fantasized about different ways I could someday be able to walk in and tell them where to shove their job. Eventually, all of these merged together and switched from a story about Mars emerging from a job into a story about his wife.
Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold?
I had both books written before I started trying to sell them, but the first book was rushed out and I didn’t want to make the same mistake on the second one. I’m entirely self-published after an initial fiasco with a small publisher. When I left that publisher, I decided I wanted to be self-published for the freedom it offers. Yes, I have to pay for editing, and yes, I have to pay for my own artwork (though that’s not precisely true; my daughter did the artwork for Ascension). What I get out of that, though, is a down-to-the-minute accounting of what I’ve sold and where, and I know exactly when my book will be launched.
What is your writing routine like?
I love writing; it’s my escape. My day job, which I love also, keeps me at work from somewhere around 9 am to 9 or 10 at night. Thus, I get up early in the morning and try to put 500 words on the paper in addition to a blog post for the day (though I’ve been failing with the blog post recently) and when I come home I’ll sit and write for another couple of hours, which can mean 500 or 1000 words. Some weekends I’ve been known to put out 10,000 words, but I find that happens less and less now that I have books out there and need to keep up with social media as well as the demands of publishing other works.
What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?
Well, yes, I have help. Sort of. I’m in a group called Alexandria Group Publishing, and through their web site I will get some promo once it gets up and running. I also have some great fans already out there thanks to Book 1, and they’re helping me get the word out about the second book. I do some work on Twitter and a lot on Facebook, and I’m experimenting a lot with KDP Select. I’m still trying to figure out how to work with Goodreads and Booktown and other sites; frankly, there’s as much noise out there as real promo, and I’m finding more success just having friends tell friends.
Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?
The absolute most rewarding moments I’ve had have been seeing my fans post quotes from my book to Facebook. Nothing makes me prouder than to sit there and know, “Hey, I wrote that.” I’ve been told I have an infectious sense of humor, and I’ve tried to make it come out in both books. I’d have to say I was pretty successful with the first one; hopefully my readers find the second book as entertaining.
Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?
Oh, absolutely. I’m a member of James River Writers (www.jamesriverwriters.org) and they’re the epitome of a great support organization. They run an annual conference that’s really affordable, and I walked out of last year’s conference with some amazing ideas that improved both my writing in general and my storytelling in Return of the Gods. There’s also a monthly seminar that, again, is really inexpensive. Finally, there’s a monthly get-together that’s free where I always run into people who are positive about writing; these contacts never fail to recharge my own batteries. If you’re in the Richmond, VA, area and you’re not a member, I’d have to ask why.
What’s next for you?
Well, I’m writing the next Harry Potter. Okay, in reality, I’m writing a really fun series where a human girl from Mississippi (where I am from, originally) finds out that she’s next in line for the elf throne. It *might* become the next Harry Potter; who knows? Regardless, I’m having an absolute blast writing it. I’m also working on the third and fourth books of the Return of the Gods series. I won’t give too much away, but the title of Book 3 is Atlantis. It’s going to be a little bit different from the first two in that it won’t have the strong romantic undercurrent, but instead it’s a mystery in the guise of mythic fiction. The fourth book of Return of the Gods is still in concept stage, but I will admit that I foreshadowed it greatly at the end of Ascension.
Eternal life with her husband.
That’s all Crystal wants. Having survived the epic battle between her husband, the God of War, and his ex-wife, the Goddess of Love, Crystal sets her sights on achieving the impossible: she wants to be a goddess.
It’s not really impossible, though. Matt’s ex-wife did it, after all. If it’s been done once, Crystal knows that she can do it again, whatever it takes.
What it takes, she learns, is assistance from some unlikely teachers, including Thor, who breaks Crystal’s body several times while rebuilding her as a barbarian queen. Also including Hephaestus, who teaches her the magic of the forge and bestows upon her a priceless gift at the end of her visit. The list of guides even includes Apollo, her husband’s most ascerbic rival. Through it all, Gaia, the mother goddess, serves as Crystal’s primary guide while treating the quest as a grand source of amusement.
Follow Crystal as she faces the impossible in an adventure that will bring her either everlasting life or quick death.
A little bit about the author
A Mississippi native, Stephen H. King was moved in high school entirely against his will from the small town of Corinth to a large city he ended up loving in southern California. After, a series of mostly unexplainable decisions led him through a strange sequence of events beginning at the United States Military Academy, where he double-majored in physics and electrical engineering, through a fairly short career as an Infantry officer and then an electronics technician, a product engineer, a carpenter’s helper, and an elementary school janitor, to ultimately finding himself on the faculty of a small college in Anchorage, Alaska.
During those years, he learned that reading science fiction and fantasy allowed him to escape the strangeness into the more understandable worlds crafted by Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and many other great writers. As time went on he began to mold his own worlds.
Stephen now lives in Midlothian, Virginia, with his wife, daughter, and two white Chihuahuas that enjoy morphing from Therapuppies into miniature dragons at the sound of food being opened. Stephen is currently working on the next book in the Goddess series when he’s not serving the students of a small college in Richmond, Virginia, as their Dean.
How can my readers buy your book?
You can find more information about Stephen H. King and his book, Ascension: Return of the Gods, by visiting his website, http://TheOtherStephenKing.com or his blog at http://theotherstephenkingonwriting.blogspot.com.
Just a few fun questions to answer if you don’t mind.
1) White chocolate or regular chocolate? – Regular. Wrapped around peanut butter, please. Or dark. When I lived in Anchorage, we drove 140 miles each way once a month in order to visit a special chocolate shop in Talkeetna, AK, that imported the most succulent chocolate bars I’d ever tasted at the time. The best one there was a dark chocolate with bits of dried strawberry and black pepper. Oh. My. God.
2) Coffee or tea? – Coffee. Tea is kind of fun, but I live every day on coffee, pots at a time. Black, too, please. No point diluting the nectar of the gods. I’m sure that if Matt/Mars from my book came to life, he’d tell you the same.
3) Favorite place to vacation? – Someplace with zero signal bars on my cell phone. Preferably a large boat or a beach, so long as there’s sunscreen available (I’m a readhead).
4) Who is your favorite author to read? – So many! Marion Zimmer Bradley, of course, because her world-building is superb. Piers Anthony, for the same reason. R.A. Salvatore, also, because that man knows how to pace conflicts. Jim Butcher is my newest favorite, because though he doesn’t build his world to be consistent, it’s still fun as all hell. Everything Spider Robinson ever put out, or ever will put out, because that man is amazing in his expertise with the English language.
5) What’s your biggest pet peeve? – People who insist that they are right when they are wrong. I see it every day as a Dean, and as a writer.
6) What’s your favorite color? – Blue. Or purple. My wife’s favorite color is purple, and when she’s happy, I’m happy. You know how that is. It’s also why I designed the magic system in Return of the Gods to be color-based as I did.