Author Spotlight: Dylan Madeley

DylanDylan Madeley is special for three reasons: he’s won Nanowrimo multiple times, he’s a rather good friend of mine, and he’s on his way to self-publication after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Please give Dylan a warm welcome!

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Gift-Knight’s Quest?

The Gift-Knight’s Quest is the end result of the first novel ideas I ever had. Well, the first two of them, actually, put together because I couldn’t get a full novel (or even close) out of either idea on its own. That’s why it ended up with two protagonists. The backstory of Derek and of Chandra is somewhat like the novel they were going to star in all by themselves, and they kind of start out as each other’s antagonist. Every time I get asked this I write a new and more convoluted thing, so I’m going to fall back on a write-up I did which gets to the point: “Chandra never asked to rule Kensrik, but fate took a strange course. Now she scrambles to preserve the fragile balance once established by her father. Considered a usurper and a sorceress by many, traumatized by all that has transpired, she must nevertheless make use of her wits and of the truly loyal few. While holding a restless empire together, she must identify and defeat the conspirators who inadvertently landed her in power, for they are eager to rectify their mistake. Hers is not the only life in peril should she fail.

Derek was an aimless wanderer until life imposed a direction. He is the youngest in a lineage which has long fallen from nobility. Now he finds himself summoned by tradition to serve a family historically considered bitter enemies of his own. As he journeys down the same path a fateful ancestor once traveled, he struggles with personal demons and begins to reconsider his loyalty to the mission. His vengeful father may be right after all. He may have been summoned to his own execution, or worse, but where can he flee from the world’s largest empire? When he arrives, what is he prepared to do?

Duke Lenn found one true cause in love and it cost him everything. His legacy shaped the present in which Chandra and Derek find themselves. Now their choices will shape the future.”

2. When did you realize you wanted to make a living writing?

This is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. Unfortunately, I kept listening to anxious thoughts and people who would say, what if the books don’t sell, it’s important to have a Plan B, try to have another career and write on the side… after trying, and dropping out, of numerous courses like Computer Science and Accounting, I gradually came around to the idea that whatever I did would have to do with writing. So I got a degree in Professional Writing, which had a focus on periodical journalism (magazines), and ended up a freelance transcriber and editor for years anyway. I’ve been a temp at a bindery, a blogger at a marketing agency, a clerk at a postal outlet, and I’ve arrived in such a roundabout way at the terrifying truth: I may as well go all in as a writer, because there really is nothing else for me personally. You’d think that would make everything simple and satisfying, but in a way it’s also unsettling.

3. Did you ever write a novel before participating in Nanowrimo?

I did try, twice. It felt pretty sad. But those two or three pages of material, and hours of thinking, became what I would eventually write in 2008, and also what I’m publishing now. There’s a pretty big downside to doing things this haphazard way, but I think my explanation why fits better in Question 5.

4. Now that you’ve done Nanowrimo a few times, what advice would you give to somebody about to set out on the same adventure?

I want you to think about how much you care. How much do you care about the characters and the world that you’re creating? And do you care enough to make this story work no matter what? Are you willing to write when you may not feel like writing? Are you willing to churn out uncomfortable sections, knowing that, yeah, you’ll have to go back and revise that later, but also knowing that such struggles are how you can get things done–are you willing to accept that a first draft is a first draft, really, and that you probably won’t like a lot of what comes out on the first try? Are you ready to take all that advice people give you, pick out the parts that resonate with you, discard the parts that really don’t work for you, and accept that you have perfectly valid needs as an individual writer, in order to figure out your very own “right way” of doing things? Are you going to feel okay when that cool looking planning method doesn’t gel with your needs, even though you feel like people treat it as the awesome and smart way to write? I don’t have the answers, but I know you do. Search your feelings. You got this.

5. Do you think A Gift Knight’s Quest has gone through more editing because it is a Nanowrimo novel?

Well, to a point; all my novels have started as November novels, and NaNoWriMo has become part of my method. I think the fact that The Gift-Knight’s Quest began as Frankenstein’s monster, two different ideas stitched together and hideous to behold, had more to do with how much revision and editing was necessary. NaNoWriMo has helped me accept that some first drafts will need to be rewritten entirely, but if you believe in the story as I did this time, you’ll do exactly what’s required to make it work. The dream sequence with the tapestries coming alive is the most original surviving artifact of the original manuscript, and even that underwent a verb tense change; my very first attempt was entirely in present tense, and the dream remained that way the longest because I thought this made the dream more immediate and real at the time.

6. What inspired you to run a Kickstarter campaign for A Gift-Knight’s Quest?

I spent two years submitting my manuscript to various big publishers, hoping to belt a “home run”. I figured this was at least more realistic than hoping to win the lottery, which I kept playing anyway. The first rejections were form letters that didn’t tell me whether my book was awful, or whether they just didn’t have room on their schedule at the time. Some of the later rejections were more telling: I am an unknown author, and breaking out unknown novelists can be a huge gamble. Given the state of the industry, I can understand what a difficult decision it is for interns swamped with huge stacks of unsolicited manuscripts, and their editors who could stand to lose big if a book flops after all the money invested by the company. Meanwhile, small press companies were either uninterested, or they liked it but couldn’t fit it into the theme of their schedule for the next year. I realized that I could wait for a small press company to have room, or I could try something different, and if I wanted to self-publish I had neither the marketing experience nor any budget to speak of. Artist friends had seen some success fundraising for their albums, photography books, and independent films, and I had some experience with Kickstarter through a campaign for Auxiliary Magazine, so I decided to try something different than what I had already been doing. I thought that if I could become somewhat known through the self-pub channel, at least I could provide some sales statistics, some evidence of a fan base, to take away that perilous element of simply being unknown.

7. What are the three most important factors in the success of a Kickstarter campaign?

Determine your absolute minimum base of support, and what you think they can spare. Make an estimate based on what you could reasonably expect per person, and if it doesn’t add up to your needed goal, you may have a problem. Make connections with many different kinds of artists in your community, support what they do, and see if they can help with promoting when it’s your turn to need their support for what you do. Remember that the internet is a multisensory experience, and go for stylish visual content–videos, fan art, sketches–as often as you can; even if you’re selling words at the end of the day, and the quality of those words will matter so much, visual components can help keep people’s attention long enough that they can begin to appreciate your words. Consider hosting a live event to coincide with what you’re doing, but not on such a massive budget that it would take away from your ability to pay other expenses or reach your main funding goal; provided you’re expecting local support, consider selling admission to the event through your campaign to boost your numbers. Have a partner to help you out, because it’s a lot of weight to carry on your own; get whatever help and support you can. Learn to manage stress and anxiety well, because even if things seem to be going great, you may not feel okay until it’s over and successful.

8. If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice and only one, what would it be?

Remember to breathe.

9. What are your plans for this November and beyond?

My 2009 ‘script came out in chronological order, but was an even bigger disaster than my 2008 first draft. So I’m going to explode that 2009 manuscript, and whatever survives the explosion will become part of a new “prequel” trilogy. It’s in the same world as The Gift-Knight’s Quest (I’m returning to writing in this world after two years straight of trying other things). I have downgraded my expectations to just writing the first of this new trilogy, as I know that work for The Gift-Knight’s Quest will necessarily require a lot of my time.

Dylan Madeley is a Torontonian currently working out of a headquarters in Vaughan, Ontario. He is the copy editor of and a frequent contributor to Auxiliary Magazine, an alternative fashion and music zine. His junior copy editors are two chinchillas named Basil and Liam. His first published novel, The Gift-Knight’s Quest, is slated for a spring 2015 release.

The Gift-Knight’s Quest will be available in just a few months. Stay tuned to find out when it’s released and you can finally obtain your own copy!

Questions or comments for Dylan? Please leave them in the comments below!