Anthony Ryan is the New York Times best selling author of the Raven’s Shadow epic fantasy novels as well as the Slab City Blues science fiction series. He was born in Scotland in 1970 but spent much of his adult life living and working in London. After a long career in the British Civil Service he took up writing full time after the success of his first novel Blood Song, Book One of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. He has a degree in history, and his interests include art, science and the unending quest for the perfect pint of real ale. for news and general writing about stuff he likes, check out Anthony’s blog at: anthonystuff.wordpress.com
Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.
I’m Anthony Ryan and I write mostly fantasy with some occasional forays into science fiction. I can’t really recall a time when I didn’t want to be an author, it’s been my principal ambition ever since I fell in love with reading at an early age. I got my break when I self-published Blood Song, the first novel in the Raven’s Shadow epic fantasy trilogy, which led to a three book deal with Ace. Tower Lord, the second book in the series, was published last July and the third, Queen of Fire, comes out in the US and UK in July 2015.
What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?
Simply put: time. You never have enough of it. I wrote Blood Song over a period of six and a half years, but after signing with Ace I had less than a year to write Tower Lord. I must admit I struggled for the first couple of months until I took a hard look at my daily schedule and made some changes. I realized most of my ‘lost time’ came from my daily commute into London, so I bought an IPad and started writing on the train in the mornings and evenings. It’s a source of continual surprise to me that I actually managed to turn the book in on time. These days the hardest part is starting a new project after a period of downtime between books, it takes a while to get back into the daily rhythm of it all.
Tell us about schedule and habits from the early times (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).
I try to aim for 2000 words a day, but don’t always get there. I tend to write in sessions of thirty to forty five minutes throughout the day as I find I’m incapable of sitting still for hours on end. The main change to my writing habits is that I’m much more detailed in the way I track my progress, my word-count spreadsheet has grown over the years into a multi-columned monster.
If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?
I think I’m somewhat unusual in self-publishing because the success I had was based on one book rather than a series. for the first six months I published Blood Song only on Smashwords during which time I sold all of five copies. It was only after publishing on KDP in January 2012 that things started to happen. I sold twenty books in the first month and sales doubled each month until May when I sold over 2000 copies, by which time Ace had gotten in touch. Paradoxically, the bulk of my self-published sales took place after I’d signed the contract with Ace because they allowed me to keep selling Blood Song before their own version came out. All in all I sold 45,000 copies as a self-publisher and the series as a whole has sold over 200,000 copies since being traditionally published.
At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?
Logically, the decision was pretty straightforward when I took a look at my income and realized my tax bill would be greater than the take home pay from my day job. That being said, it was still a big decision to make. I’d worked in the UK Civil Service for over twenty years and here I was deciding to quit after less than a year as a published author, so I won’t pretend it didn’t involve some frayed nerves. Luckily, it all worked out and I have no regrets…yet.
What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?
I’ve published a series of SF-Noir novellas called Slab City Blues which doesn’t sell in anything like the numbers the Raven’s Shadow series does, so I always wonder how many people actually know the books are available. Outside of writing I spend a lot of time reading and am a committed Netflix and Amazon Prime binge-watcher. I’m also not averse to the occasional beer festival.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?
Keep writing and concentrate on finishing. When you look at the advice available to self-publishers the bulk of it relates to marketing when the most important thing should be producing work that’s actually worth marketing. No amount of hours spent promoting on social media will turn [a] bad book into a good one.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?
I have a Raven’s Shadow novella, the Lord Collector, in the recently released Blackguards Anthology from Ragnarok Publications, if people want to check that out. I also recently finished the first volume in an entirely new fantasy series and hope to announce some important news about it soon.