IndieView with Chris Ritchey, author of Small Town Problems

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While I just played out a discovery scene for the short story (which turned into chapter 1 of the book), for the book I liked the idea of an alien coming to a small farm town and being well received as well as representing a small town in a more realistic way than it is often portrayed.

Chris Ritchey – 31 December 2021

The Back Flap

Robert just wanted a normal Thursday morning, but things can take a quick turn when you find a dead alien next to your barn. Why do these things always seem to happen in small towns? Robert is quickly swept into a mystery and a much larger journey than he wanted to take this late in life.

About the book

What is the book about?

The book is about how a small farming town deals with the unexpected arrival of aliens and how one of the aliens adjusts to life on Earth.

When did you start writing the book?

I started it in April of 2020.

How long did it take you to write it?

It took me about 7 months.

Where did you get the idea from?

I was coming up with a few short stories to write for a contest, to kick off an attempt at writing for the public at large, and thought I’d play around with some common tropes. One that came to mind was how aliens always seemed to show up in small towns messing with the local rednecks. While I just played out a discovery scene for the short story (which turned into chapter 1 of the book), for the book I liked the idea of an alien coming to a small farm town and being well received as well as representing a small town in a more realistic way than it is often portrayed.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Overall, I think the story flowed really well. The hardest part was trying to determine the pacing and maintaining the word count limits I had set for myself. Those limits did help me in the long run when it came to the editing process.

What came easily?

The dialogue between the characters came across very naturally to me. I think that I built them up enough in my head that I was able to easily transition between them for realistic conversations.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

I have definitely borrowed from real world people. I blended together the personalities of various people to try and create distinct and relatable characters.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

Jack London was my favorite author as a young boy. The style and subject matter really spoke to me, providing a very realistic story that I could play like a movie in my head. Lately though, I’m drawn to Brandon Sanderson. It’s not just his style of writing, but his lectures and attitude have been very influential in how I approach and plan out my writing.

Do you have a target reader? 

I don’t think I really do right now. The book is in the adult sci-fi genre, but I think any age of adult would enjoy it, perhaps even older teens. My biggest fan during the process of writing it was a young lady from Kenya and I have people all the way up to their late 60’s who have read and enjoyed it as well. So, suffice to say, I haven’t figured out anything beyond a human being who likes sci-fi based entertainment.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

I didn’t plan too much when I started this one, I just had the concept and started to write it out. I used the word count as my basis for guiding the flow of the chapter, so I kept that on screen if possible and wrapped up each chapter in a specific word count range. I usually did an immediate read through and edit, then I let it sit for a couple days and moved on to the next chapter. I tried to work 1 to 2 chapters ahead of what I posted, so I had some time to let things breathe. After those 2 days I would read and edit the chapter until I felt good about it. Then I posted it on my website and waited for the few people giving me feedback to respond. If needed, I would edit based on the feedback. The only chapter I asked people to read before I posted it was the final chapter. Once it was all complete, I did start working through it as a whole, getting it ready for any possible publishing outside of my website.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

For this book, I treated it as a pantser project. I had a vague idea of where the story was going and how long I was planning for it to be, so I had in mind that I wanted to reach elements by certain chapters. I tried to treat each chapter as its own story, in that I wanted each to have rising action, a climax, and falling action. I never wanted to have a chapter that was just a transition or filler for the main plot and felt flat. I also published each chapter on my website as I went, requiring me to really try and think ahead so I didn’t go back and heavily edit anything. I did write the ending when I was less than half way through, but other than that it was in order.

I also outline though. I have a larger project I’ve worked on and off of for a while and have written chapter summaries along with scattered notes and character bios. I’ve really enjoyed the pantser style of writing, but this project is a full-length sci-fi novel with a lot more world building elements. I wanted more writing experience under my belt before I gave this one my full attention since it’s my dream book to write.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I do my best to wait, but I inevitably edit at least a little each time I write.

Did you hire a professional editor?

No, I worked with individuals who helped along the way as beta readers and critique partners. I used Grammarly on Google Docs for a lot of the heavy upfront lifting, but I still had to work through it a lot since one of my characters has a speech impediment and Grammarly can’t deal with anything like that.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Yes. It has to be instrumental only. I tend to stick to classical music, nothing too heavy though. It’s mainly for the purpose of blocking out external stimuli as I can be very easily distracted.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

I looked into it and submitted to a few, none of which responded. Most were not open for submissions or even worked with sci-fi novellas.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process? 

It was a gradual process. As I drew to the end of this novella, I had other plots come to mind that I could write for two more novellas. But after determining that sci-fi novellas weren’t something traditional publishers were looking for, especially from first time authors, I decided to roll it all into one novel and try again after it was all written.

I had gotten a few chapters into part two when life kind of hit me and I needed to put writing on hold. It took a while to get back into the swing of things and I decided that a good motivator might be to get a printed copy of the first novella as a motivator. As I looked more into low cost printing, I saw more info about self-publishing and began to educate myself more on that aspect of things. In the end, I decided to take the plunge and publish the novella myself.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I did it myself. There wasn’t a lot of time between thinking about publishing and just doing it. In hindsight, I wish I would have waited and looked into it more. I’m not unsatisfied with what I came up with, but I have no doubt it could have been much better.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

I kind of have a plan, but I’m not 100% certain of all of the tools at my disposal. I’m dipping my toes into Facebook and Amazon ads, and I’m posting on Twitter and Facebook trying to engage people there. I’m also trying to contact individuals and businesses who deal in reviews for indie authors and working through those channels. I can’t see how many eBooks I’ve sold yet, but after I get those first month numbers, I can reexamine my marketing strategy and make changes. I do have a degree in marketing, but it’s not focused in advertising. So while I do have a baseline level of knowledge of how things work, I don’t have the practical knowledge needed at this point to dive into it.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors? 

Don’t rush into it. Look at the options and get opinions on what others say works for them.

About You

Where did you grow up?

Broken Arrow, OK

Where do you live now?

Broken Arrow, OK. I loved where I grew up and wanted to come back here after my stint in the Navy. So from 2000 to 2008 I did live elsewhere, but ultimately this is where I wanted to have a family.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I enjoy writing in multiple genres and I hope to be able to provide a good home on paper for all of the ideas running around in my head. They can visit my website at www.jesterslibrary.com, find me on Twitter, or Facebook. I am happy to engage with readers and authors alike.

What are you working on now?

My main project right now is the second novella of what is hopefully the Small Town Problems trilogy.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of Small Town Problems from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

The post IndieView with Chris Ritchey, author of Small Town Problems first appeared on The IndieView.

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