Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interview with Excelsior author George H. Sirois

George was nice enough to stop by and talk to us about his novel Excelsior.  Be sure to check at the end for details on how to win a signed print copyAnd without further ado . . .

In most fiction, the characters are amalgams of different people, but this is not the case with the main character Matthew Peters.  Who is the inspiration for him and why?
Matthew Peters started out as inspired only by my cousin Matthew Peter Henkel. He left us in March of 2005 – one week before his 25th birthday – but despite being at such a young age, he was one of those rare people who accomplished everything that hewanted, including finding the person with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

But the more I wrote, the more I was able to incorporate elements of my youth. In the novel, we see that Matthew had set up a small office for himself in his closet and did much more writing and drawing in class than paying attention, and that was all me. So there’s a bit of an amalgam in Matthew Peters, even though the name suggests it’s only based on my cousin.

Is this story a tribute to him?
Absolutely. While there are a lot of elements that are based on me and my childhood, the subtext is a huge tribute to my cousin. This is a young man who was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor when he was 2. He beat
that and went on to become an Eagle Scout – something only 2 percent of all Boy Scouts achieve – and after that, he passed the tests to become a volunteer firefighter and then he became an EMT for Middletown & Red Bank, NJ. During his time there, he helped keep the peace on the Jersey Shore during 9/11 and he helped deliver a baby. He accomplished all this while being barely over 5 feet tall since the chemo stunted his growth. He was the ultimate example of someone completely unassuming becoming a real hero, the “meek inheriting the earth,” if you will.

Originally, you were going to publish this book the traditional route. What made you decide to go independent?
I’m not ashamed to say it was out of fear. I wasn’t afraid that publishers would turn it down, but I was afraid that it wouldn’t be marketed enough to find an audience. This book is the proverbial tip of the iceberg for me, the beginning of a huge saga of stories, and “Excelsior” is the first part of a trilogy. That trilogy leads to
another series, which leads to another series to bring the whole thing full circle. If this first book were to fail while under a publishing house’s umbrella, I wouldn’t get the chance to continue writing the first trilogy since that publisher would own the character. And I just didn’t feel comfortable relinquishing control of someone I had been developing and re-developing for 18 years.

But I still wanted the book to get out into the world, because I always felt – as I still feel – that this can be a success if enough people know about it. So by setting the book up through Infinity Publishing, I would be able to retain the rights of the story and character, earn decent royalties and just concentrate on writing the book without worrying about the ins-and-outs of the technical side.

How did you raise the finances to fund your book?
I thought about how independent filmmakers raise money for their projects, and how they list the names of all the donors in the Special Thanks To… credit. I thought it would be a great thing for people to have their names in print for them to show their friends and family. So I set up my blog and used that as my headquarters for “Excelsior” while I revised the book with my dear friend and editor JeriAnn Geller. I set up a “Buy It Now” button for PayPal and announced the “Pre-Order Special.” If people paid $17.95, they not only guaranteed their own personalized autographed copy, but they saw their names printed in the back of the

The special became a great success in a lot of ways. The money I raised paid for all of the printing fees for Infinity Publishing, it paid for all of everyone’s copies plus an extra 30, and the connections I made through promoting it on Twitter allowed me to get the eBook setup on Smashwords and Amazon.

The names for the alien races in Excelsior (Denarians and Krunations) are so unusual, how did you come up with them?
I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was a kid when my Dad taped re-runs of The Original Series that aired at midnight on WPIX-11 in New York. The pilot episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” featured a planet called Deneb IV, and for some reason, that name really resonated with me. So in honor of the show for all of the inspiration it gave me, I gave my planet the name Denab IV, the name tweaked just a little bit, and I called the people on the planet Denarians. The word “Krunations” just popped into my head after creating a neighboring planet that was going to be the main conflict in the original story. But during the development of the story, I did away with the other planet and made both the Denarians and Krunations indigenous to Denab IV.

Excelsior is for the most part, a complete story, but there are some questions left unanswered. What can you tell us, if anything, about the sequel?
There’s a whole lot to Excelsior’s mythology that was held back, and a big part of it is his main adversary, who is alluded to in the book but never mentioned by name. We’re not only going to see the two clash in the sequel, but we’re going to get much deeper into Excelsior’s origins. I want so badly to tell readers about what’s going to happen, and how much darker and more complex the story’s going to get, but I can’t do it justice by just talking about it.

Plotter or pantser?

A bit of both. When I started writing the first draft, I knew how the book would start and I had a feeling of how it was going to end, but it was a real journey for myself to find out how I would get there. The sequel’s going to be plotted out much more intricately since there’s so much more that I want to do with this one.

Was there a scene that came up while you were writing that wasn’t in the plot?
Yes, and it’s one of my favorites. When I first came up with Excelsior’s story, I had envisioned a truly epic moment when the character who would eventually become Matthew Peters puts on Excelsior’s armor and slowly places the helmet on his head. It was to be really special with the film score swelling and everything.

In the novel, Matthew puts the armor on in a bathroom. And not just any bathroom, but the bathroom of Matthew & Jason’s home that used to belong to Matthew’s grandmother so it even has a fuzzy toilet seat
cover. I had no idea it was going to be like that, but once it was in the book, I realized I wouldn’t have written it any other way. It works perfectly for the story I was trying to write.

George H. Sirois is the author YA urban fantasy Excelsior.  It's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Infinity Publishing. If you'd like to learn more about George, you can find him on his blog, 411mania, twitter and facebook.

And as promised, here's the giveaway!
The rules are simple.  First follow this blog.  Then read the first chapter of George's book here.  After that all that's left is to answer George's trivia question.

What do the Denarian hieroglyphics on Acerus' robe translate to read?  

Write your answer in the comments and don't forget to leave your twitter handle, email or someway for us to contact you.  The winner will be announced on the December 13th radio show.

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