When he was ten, Moses Siregar III fell in love with an anime series, Robotech, a space opera spanning three human generations, revealed over 85 consecutive episodes and four months of after-school TV. Because of that experience, he decided he wanted to be a storyteller when he grew up. Moses’ debut fantasy novel THE BLACK GOD´S WAR is the self-published first book in a trilogy and sold 500 copies in 38 days. It has gotten rave reviews from all kinds of sources. A co-host of Adventures In SF Publishing Podcast, Moses Siregar is a father and husband, a resident of the town where Alan Dean Foster also lives. He’s active online, including blogging on Grasping For The Wind and his own blog, his website sciencefictionfantasybooks.net and also on Facebook and as @MosesSiregar on Twitter. The Black God’s War was an Honorable Mention on Bookreporter.com’s Best Books of 2011.
SFFWRTCHT: Let´s start with the basics: Where did your interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy come from?
Moses Siregar: Cartoons like Spiderman, later Robotech. Then Dragonlance and D&D. Typical kid on the fast track to glorious nerdhood.
MS: Somehow I had terrible luck with English teachers—all my fault, no doubt—until I met one that actually let me do creative writing. But I don’t know where I learned how to write. Other than reading books on writing and having lots of crit partners.
SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of the authors who most thrilled and inspired you growing up?
MS: TR Hickman and Margaret Weiss with Dragonlance. Later, Michael Moorcock with Elric. Let’s hear it for drug-addicted albinos!
SFFWRTCHT: They should have a genre for that: Drug addicted albinos. So your writing was a gradual process?
MS: Actually, I committed to writing fiction about two years ago then worked very hard at it for two years.
SFFWRTCHT: Were the first pieces you wrote SFF, or did you start in another genre?
MS: All I really wrote before TBGW was a short piece of #Robotech fan fic & the start of a #scifi novel–early 2000s.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did it take to write the first draft of The Black God’s War?
MS: It took me a little more than three months to write 1st draft of The Black God’s War. It took another 21 months to get it in shape. Basically, I had no business trying to write a novel, but I dove into it, got feedback, hired editors, and people seem to like it. It’s hard to say how many drafts I did in those 21 months. Lots of tweaking here and there. Big changes from draft one though.
SFFWRTCHT: Wasn’t TBGW originally a novella? Did you know it would later be a novel at that time? Why start shorter?
MS: The Black God’s War was always a novel. But I carved a novella out of it to have something out there before the novel. The novella is an excerpt from the novel, always meant to be a free preview kind of thing. Confusing, granted. Still to this day, I haven’t written a short story since high school. I went straight for the novel-length form.
SFFWRTCHT: You self-published TBGW. Did you work closely with an editor first?
MS: I actually hired three editors and a proofreader. I wanted to write a very good book, so I needed all that help. My three editors had different skills. Plus, any one editor is limited. I like to get lots and lots of feedback. I knew the book was done when readers loved it. At some point, I just felt that I knew what I was doing too. I got much more confident in my writing style the last three to four months before I released it. That helped a lot.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you create your world or your characters and story line first?
MS: I think I created the world and characters at the same time, really. Characters probably 1st, but only by a nose
MS: The idea for TBGW came from wanting to tell a war story with sympathetic characters on both sides-not unlike Achilles and Hector. Blurb: Her father-king wants war. Her messianic brother wants peace. The black god wants his due. She suffers all the consequences. One side prays to ten mysterious gods (think Greek/Roman): Rezzia. The other side looks to sages (think Buddhist India): Pawelon. A bit of an homage to Homer’s Iliad, two ancient nations at war. In this story, their religious philosophies are very different. Here’s the Amazon page for the novel: http://t.co/6uycF0I9.
SFFWRTCHT: The story is about two warring peoples: the Pawelons & the Rezzians. It also has hints of religion like Greek myths. Was that an influence?
MS: I loved Greek mythology. I really loved The Iliad and I’m tipping my cap to Homer in this one (original world though).
SFFWRTCHT: What prompted the divergence from euro-fantasy?
MS: Why diverge from Euro-Fantasy? I do have a king, horses, swords, but, as you know, I did diverge from Euro-Fantasy As for the why, maybe because I’m half-white and half-other stuff. I’m sure that’s a big part of it. Also, I’m really bored with the same old same old, no matter what I’m doing. Always want to push the boundaries a bit.
SFFWRTCHT You´re not a religious person, yet TBGW seems to have a lot of religious themes and take a positive attitude to the religion of the characters.
MS: Ha! About not seeing the bad side of religion in my story. Others would beg to differ re: fanatacism/crusade. I’m not religious, but I’m into “spirituality,” I guess. I like to think TBGW showed good and bad sides of religion.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you envision the book as a series? It seems to work as a standalone. Or did the series idea come later?
MS: I envisioned book one as a standalone, so it works well like that. But I didn’t kill everyone off in the end. This series (Splendor and Ruin) is shaping up to be a minimum of three books. We’ll see what happens.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you define epic fantasy as a genre and what are the core elements?
MS: I think of epic fantasy as having multiple POVs and large character casts. It’s real hard to define conclusively, though.
SFFWRTCHT: What was the most unexpected thing you encountered as a writer in tackling epic fantasy as a genre?
MS: Most unexpected thing? That by the time the book was ready, self-publishing was a very viable option.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like? Set times? Whenever you can?
MS: I usually write for two to four hours either in the late afternoon, night, or late night. Mornings? Nooooooo!
SFFWRTCHT: Do you start with characters sketches or outlines or just let it unfold as it comes?
MS: I followed Michael Stackpole’s 21 Days to a Novel exercises, and that got me to work on characters and to outline.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you build the universe as you write? Or you plan everything before you begin?
MS: I did some worldbuilding before writing, definitely. Then some things were more spontaneous in the writing.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you choose your Beta Readers?
MS: I believe beta readers go straight to heaven (if you’re into that). Mostly whoever volunteers is who I take. I feel I can get something useful out of just about any beta reader if I’m discerning about what they say. I found beta readers wherever I could. Writer friends. Volunteers via Facebook and Twitter, people who owe me money, etc. Yeah, I would’ve been (censored) without beta readers and my editors. Luckily I take in feedback well.
MS: I still work part-time, but I’ve also eaten into some savings to focus on writing over the last six months or so.
SFFWRTCHT: How did you find the balance between writing and family?
MS: Balancing writing and family might be the hardest thing of all. I’m still working on it. Luckily my wife rocks.
SFFWRTCHT: You´ve had access to some successful people, including publishers, David Farland, etc. who encouraged you. Why self-publish? And what are some of the concerns authors need to consider when looking at self-publishing as a possibility?
MS: Why self-pub? Bookstores closing, ebooks exploding, wanting to control my own ebook prices, rights, covers (for now). Self-publishing is royally hard. But fun, too. The best candidates are people who can write fast (not me, not yet).
SFFWRTCHT: How hard is it to market a self-published book? What are you doing to promote it? Clearly your sales show it paid off.
MS: Promoting a self-pub novel is kind of gruesome. Long story. Most important: write well, write lots, great covers.
SFFWRTCHT: But yet it still has a stigma. So what do you do to distinguish yourself quality-wise from the self-publishing crowd?
MS: To distinguish myself from self-pub crowd, I try to get great review quotes, blurbs, cover, high quality book.
SFFWRTCHT: You also co-host Adventures In SciFi Publishing podcast. How´d that come about?
MS: Yep, I love being a co-host of the podcast. Really I just got lucky. Right time, right place. Shaun Farrell rocks.
SFFWRTCHT: What projects are you working on for the future that we can look forward to?
MS: Book 2 in the series is tentatively titled The Gods Divided. It’s outlined. I’m hoping to write it in six months, but it might be as many as nine or twelve before it’s out there.
Interviewer Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, an honorable mention on Barnes & Noble’s Best SF Releases of 2011, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. He resides in Ottawa, KS with two precocious dogs.