Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview With Award-Winning Author, Publisher And Martial Arts Expert Paul Collins

Paul Collins has written around 150 books and 140 short stories. He is best known for The Quentaris Chronicles (The Spell of Undoing is Book #1 in the new series), which he co-edits with Michael Pryor, The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars and The World of Grrym trilogy in collaboration with Danny Willis. Paul’s latest book is The Only Game in the Galaxy, book three in The Maximus Black Files. A trailer for the series can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S-eKDYqpEs 

The Beckoning is Paul’s first adult novel.

He is also the publisher at Ford Street Publishing.

Paul has been short-listed for many awards and won the Aurealis, William Atheling and the inaugural Peter McNamara awards. He recently received the A Bertram Chandler Award for lifetime achievement in Australian science fiction. He has had two Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards.

He has black belts in both ju jitsu and taekwondo – this experience can be seen in many of his books.

And in his spare time, Paul fits in interesting interviews on blogs like this one. So over to the questions...

You’re currently promoting not one but two books. Can you tell us a bit about them?

The Only Game in the Galaxy
is book #3 in The Maximus Black Files trilogy.  It’s both a print book and ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FDJXF0K

Special Agent Maximus Black excels at everything he attempts. Recruited by the Regis Imperium Mentatis when he was just fifteen, he is the youngest cadet ever to become a RIM agent. Of course, being a certified sociopath helps. He rises quickly through the ranks, doing whatever it takes to gain promotion. This includes murdering the doctor who has certified him, as well as a RIM colonel who Black deems to be more useful dead than alive.


In the three years Maximus has been with RIM he has only met his match once: Anneke Longshadow, another RIM agent. Every bit his match, Anneke eludes the traps Black sets for her. Born on Normansk, a planet with 1.9 gravity, Anneke is more than capable of defending herself against Black’s hired help, the insectoid Envoy, his professional mercenary and hitman, Kilroy, and a plethora of other bad guys.

Maximus needs to find three sets of lost coordinates to rediscover an armada of powerful and unbeatable dreadnoughts, long since put into mothballs by the sentinels whose job it is to keep peace and harmony in the ever expanding universe.

Power-hungry, Black usurps the throne of Quesada, a powerful crime syndicate. His ultimate aim is to replace the Galaxy gatekeepers, RIM, with his own organization.

Matching him step by step, Anneke collects as her allies all those who Maximus has deposed in his march to becoming ruler of the universe.


The Beckoning is a horror novel published by Damnation Books. It’s just been released via Amazon http://tinyurl.com/ny6urwy.  I wrote it about 30 years ago and sent it around major publishers. No one was interested in taking it on.

Over the years I typed it up again and saved in onto my first computer. It’s been on 3.5 discs, floppies, CDs, zip drives and USB sticks. I occasionally revised it and tried selling it to no avail. I was reading Buzz Words recently and saw that Damnation Books was open to submissions. With nothing to lose I submitted the first three chapters. They asked to read the entire MS and within two weeks had accepted it.

Unbeknown to the Brannigan family, a religious guru by the name of Brother Desmond has lured them to Warrnambool where he has set up headquarters. His Zarathustrans follow the principles espoused by Nietzsche.

Brother Desmond knows that the power within Briony Brannigan is the remaining key he needs to enter the next dimension. With her power in his control, he will have access to all that is presently denied him. He conjures a being that unleashes a cold snap and murders Matt’s wife. Luckily for Matt, he’s out that night, letting off steam with some friends.

He arrives home to find his daughter, Briony, collapsed at the bottom of the stairs, and his wife’s frozen body upstairs.

Briony is led into the sect by Brother Desmond’s disciples. She is easily manipulated, or so the Zarathustrans believe. Matt tries to drag her out of the headquarters with a Care and Protection Application. Unfortunately for him a precedent has already been set in Sydney and the law is unwilling to enter Modewood in fear of litigation.

Matt calls on Clarissa Pike, journalist and former psychic friend of his wife’s. Together they gain access to Modewood, only to find they’re in way over their heads.

Better prepared, with psychic shields and other protection devices, they enter Modewood under cover of darkness and there begins a fight to the death with Brother Desmond’s legion of the Undead.

What major changes to the publishing industry have you seen during your career?

The Digital Age has basically turned the book industry upside down. There are pluses and minuses. I see a minus in the fact that booksellers are closing their doors because people can get books quicker and cheaper via the internet; libraries that once bought books now can borrow from other systems – not only print but digital. So a cluster of libraries these days needs only one book to share, whereas once upon a time individually they would each purchase copies. Authors obviously miss out on royalties, publishers miss out on sales. Via the Internet people can self-publish virtually without financial outlay. Unfortunately, these books are generally unedited and poorly written. People purchase them for as little as $1 – often for free. This obviously takes away sales from writers whose careers rely on sales, it deducts from publishers and booksellers – it affects many, many more people.

Pluses include getting a wider distribution for titles. For example, Amazon that would not stock my Jelindel Chronicles now promotes them. Print-on-Demand is great in as much that many out-of-print books can now be purchased. The downside is for everyone purchasing an old book, a newer author is missing out on a potential sale. We’re seeing major companies swallow one another up, and lists shrink. Major publishers are trying to eliminate their B lists, which of course affects thousands of authors across the world, not to mention editors, sales reps, etc, who are now without authors and books to deal with. This is a huge topic, one that can’t be fully answered here.

Your books usually have humor, either black or otherwise. How important is this to your work?

Humor is a natural ingredient that authors either have or they don’t. I never deliberately set out to write comedy. I might think of a line that makes me laugh as I type it. Sometimes editors take these lines out, so perhaps they’re not funny to everyone. Humor is a very subjective thing.

Having said that, I did set out to write one humorous book, and that was The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler (Celapene Press).

You’re both an author and a publisher. Do these occupations conflict? You also have Creative Net, a speakers’ agency.
How do all these meld?

I generally have to prioritize. If there’s a publishing deadline and I’m behind in editing a book, all else has to be put aside. If I’m writing a series such as Lucy Lee and the editor reminds me I still owe two books, the publishing activities have to step aside. When librarians email me to book an author or illustrator for their school, I drop everything and get on to it immediately. So it’s a constant juggling act. Cross-subsidization is the only way forward in this industry, so far as I can see. All of these career paths aren’t hugely successful by themselves, but together they work very well. As an example, I don’t charge libraries a booking fee, which is a big saving to them. But by offering this service, librarians go to the Ford Street site and see the books I have on offer. On occasion, they offer work to authors and illustrators who I publish, so I’m helping promote both my authors/illustrators as well as sell their books via Creative Net.

What are you concentrating on now? And your plans for the future?

I’m writing the final Lucy Lee books for Macmillan’s Legends in Their Own Lunch Box series. There are six Lucy books, with maybe more to come if the series takes off.

I’d love to work from a proper office rather than my home. I think that’s the next big stage for me. I don’t really have any time to write books these days. Maybe I’ll write some Jelindel short stories – I have a novella sitting on my desktop glaring at me to finish it.


I also have a series called Broken Magic. This is on submission right now. I have one or two novels lying about that I think are publishable, but that’s all I have. As mentioned, maybe I’ll write some more Lucy Lee books if the series is a hit – they’re not much longer than short stories and are fun to write.


Ford Street Publishing: www.fordstreetpublishing.com
Paul Collins: www.paulcollins.com.au
The Quentaris Chronicles: www.quentaris.com
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fordstreet
twitter: http://twitter.com/fordstreet

Thank you to Paul Collins for this fascinating interview. It's interesting to read about Paul's different roles as author, publisher and speaker's agent.

All the best Paul. We wish you every success!

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