I became interested in fantasy when I was four years old. I was in the gymnasium of the elementary school in Rosemary, Alberta, watching a play put on by a group of traveling entertainers. In my little village (I think it was about 300 people), if there was an event, everybody came. So the bleachers were full, and I sat on the floor of the gym with the other small children.
I don't recall many details of the play, save the main character had to retrieve a dragon's tear. At one point he encountered a wall, which, to my surprise, opened its eyes and spoke.
"A wall that talks?" I thought. "How stupid. Walls can't talk!"
As the play continued, I kept looking at that wall prop. The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I felt. A wall that talked seemed such a creative idea! What brilliant playwright came up with that?
That is, in my memory, the moment I became interested in fantasy. Growing up, my siblings and I enjoyed movies such as The Dark Crystal and Willow. I was an avid reader and while I did read many classics in elementary school, such as Roots, I very much enjoyed stories of fantasy. I loved The Chronicles of Prydain, The Chronicles of Narnia, Dragonlance, and my book of Myths and Legends from around the World (which I still have). Into adulthood the majority of my leisure reading is either classics (Greek mythology, Shakespeare, Milton, etc) or fantasy (Tolkien, Jordan, etc). At some point, however, my reading phased out and my interest in writing phased in.
For years I have been writing scripts for TV shows, stories, and even a novel, and some have even been pitched to agents. Nothing has ever gotten anywhere. I confess that I haven't been persistent - quite often I got distracted from a project by a new idea, or frustrated after a rejection or two, and given up. When I started Elf Mastery about a year and a half ago, I knew I had a problem of getting my fingers in too many pies and became determined to see it through to the end. No other projects until it was finished!
Elf Mastery started off as a cartoon, actually. I envisioned it as a children's show with songs and everything. I even wrote the lyrics for them. I created a pitch bible and sent it to two animation companies but never heard back. I also realized I had two problems:
First, I worried it was too dark for a children's show. If you've started reading it but haven't got too far in it might not seem that dark, but it gets darker as you progress. Nothing I feel is inappropriate for children, but people do die. I've already started the second book and it's even darker in spots. So I didn't see it succeeding as a musical cartoon.
Second, I spoke to a man who worked in animation. He said to be aware that once you sell a show, especially as a no-name writer, you aren't likely to have much control over what direction the show will take and it will probably end up quite different from what you envisioned.
I decided a book might be easier. I could decide how I wanted it written, and once it was published, the story was set in stone. I would have more creative control. I could also target a slightly older audience. The beginning of the novel was then adapted from seven episodes I had written which constitute the first several chapters. Then I continued writing in prose format. To a trained eye I think this separation might be apparent.
It took me a while to finish - over a year - because frankly working cut into my day. I didn't always feel like writing after a long day at work. Luckily I left my job so I could get a pension payout to go to school for a Master's, and had some time in between to write. I was able to finish the book while taking my courses online.
The next step was publication. I knew that going through a publisher was the best way to build a reputation as an author, and I knew I would need an agent. I sent out at least a dozen queries. I only heard back from four, which were polite declines. No one even asked for my manuscript. Either my sample was terrible, or wasn't standing out enough. I had several beta readers, and the responses were mostly positive to the story, but one kind of explained the issue (I think). She noted that in the first couple chapters she though the story was going to be an entirely different book than it ended up being. That, and she didn't like the main character at first, though by the end she said she really grew on her. As the sample chapters are from the beginning, I knew I had a problem. Two, actually. First, agents were possibly rejecting the book because they thought they knew the direction it was headed, though they didn't. A better query letter could fix that, so no problem. The bigger problem was that readers might also be turned off in the first couple chapters. That's the real issue for me. It's not that there's anything wrong with the first couple chapters. I think they're pretty good. But they seem to be setting the tone of a typical 'girl experiences life's little problems in a magic school, makes some friends, and stands up to a bully. The end.' By chapter three or four my beta reader realized that wasn't going to be the case, and especially by eight or nine, but I knew this might be a challenge to get readers engaged.
I'll admit I did consider deleting the first couple chapters for this reason, but that was where the main characters were introduced. I could have introduced everyone in media res (during the action) in the middle, but the point of the story is watching Kyla's growth from an immature young woman into a much wiser, experienced young adult. I wanted to start before her character development begins. At any rate none of the beta readers in my target demographic complained about any of this, so I decided to leave it as is. I prefer it that way myself, though only time will tell if that was the right choice.
Sorry for the digression. Anyway he issues above made me feel that an agent was unlikely to pick up my book. I hadn't really tried that hard, however, and could have sent out more queries, but in one of the courses I was taking we talked a lot about how the internet is changing business, our social environment, etc. One of the things I looked out specifically was how Youtube is causing problems for television producers and advertisers because more and more young people are getting their entertainment online. It occurred to me it would be more interesting and fun to self-publish.
And it is. I had to format my book for Kindle, which is harder than it sounds. I had to commission my own artist for the cover, as well as have a friend help with the design. I didn't have the money for an editor so did that myself (with a little help from friends, though I have personally gone through the book fourteen times now and probably still missed some things).
Self-publishing has no credibility in the writing world. It takes no writing skill to publish if you do it yourself. But I did love not being beholden to someone else to get the book out. I certainly wouldn't recommend it for everyone. A publisher would be very useful, for editing assistance and promotion. However, this is the path I ended up on, and its been fun. Who knows if it will be a success.
Well, that's my first post. Since I want you to buy my book I'm going to post the Amazon link here. At the time of this writing there is no paper version, though it is coming. I'm just waiting on a bit more artwork and doing the formatting.
Hopefully you enjoy it. If not, no refunds.
Bryant Reil currently resides in Kelowna, BC. Recent accomplishments include completing a Master's degree, and having finished two books, Elf Mastery and Elf Doubt. The third book, Elf Righteous, is underway.