Monday, May 18, 2015

Querying Author: Dustin Fife

Happy Monday, everyone! Today we have an interview with querying author Dustin Fife. Take it away, Dustin!

Dustin Fife
Twitter: @dustinfife

How long have you been writing?
I suppose I'm the outlier on this one. I never thought I'd be writing novels. I've got dyslexia and so both reading and writing were about as pleasurable as perusing a latin dictionary. Enter technology and things changed. First it was audible--I didn't have to fuss with trying to interpret the hieroglyphics of english words--just listen and enjoy. Then I discovered that my iPhone will read to me if I treat her right. My "novels-per-year" rate exploded and with it came a surge of "what-if" sorts of questions. During the summer of 2012, whilst showering, I had a "what-if" that I thought was wicked-awesome--what if the government tried to control nuclear weapons by wiping the intellect of humanity, making them too dumb to understand enough physics to ever threaten the world again. And....what if there was a secret rebellion that had somehow been spared the effects of this "Genetic Apocalypse"?  
What if.... 
Well, I hadn't ever read a book like that, but I was certain I wanted to read it. I waited six months and no up-and-coming (or down-and-going) authors wrote the book that I wanted to read, so I started writing. (More like, stumbling, mumbling, and incoherently vomiting rhetoric). Luckily for me, I thought everything I wrote was divine, so I never got discouraged until I completed the book and found beta readers. When they trashed both my rhetoric and story-telling, I figured I was too far into it to give up. 
Now, three years and three completed novels later, the rhetoric is less trashy, the story-telling more believable, and the feedback more positive. Wahoo!

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
My first novel (The Nexus Has Fallen) was the shower "what-if" project, but can I talk about my third project? Oooooh, please, please, please?? 
Here's how my third project came about--I was watching a documentary on Netflix about space, the universe, planets, and black holes. I've always been fascinated by the idea of black holes. Again, another "what-if"--what if there was a massive black hole barreling toward earth? What would I do if I were a corrupt government (aye, a common theme in my writing ;)). Well, it'd be nice if Albert Einstein were alive. Or maybe we can clone him! Which leads me to....

What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
Alvin is the sixth clone of Albert Einstein, destined to save the world from the incoming black hole--Mortem 57. Except he's pissed that his life has been a lie and he's been enslaved in a program aimed at defeating Mortem 57. With his band of fellow clones--Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Paul Dirac, and Marie Curie--he's going to break out of the program. But will his escape cost the life of humanity?

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
LOTS. I've got a full-time job (biostatistician), three boisterous boys and a girl in the oven, as well as a healthy collection of non-writing hobbies (woodworking, grilling, home improvement, and photography)--not to mention three different books I'm pitching! 
I will say that the best advice I've ever received is to start your second project before you query your first. That way, when the rejections come, you can brush it off and say, "No biggie. I've got another killer project I'm getting ready to pitch." (Though don't take this advice too far, like me, otherwise you'll have to juggle three projects simultaneously!)

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
For character development—Ender's Game. I only read it about 7 years ago, but I remember thinking, "I want to be just like Ender when I grow up!" And I was grown up! To give a full grown adult (immature, granted, but still full-grown) that sense of wistful delusions of grandeur is amazing--and something that I strive for with my novels. 
For World-building—anything Brandon Sanderson, but particularly his Stormlight Archive series. It's the type of series that makes me regret when I finish a book because I can't be whisked away to that time and place until the next installment. 
For plotting—Harry Potter. When I finished the final book, I remember thinking how absolutely brilliant it was how everything came together. Little plot threads mentioned in book one tied up a loose end mentioned in book four and came full circle at book seven. Having had that experience, now I know exactly how I want my readers to feel and I attempt to plot accordingly :)

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
90% plotter, 10% pantser. Usually how it works is that I come up with the concept (e.g., Black hole coming toward earth and the government clones geniuses to solve the problem). Next, I come up with what I hope is an explosive ending (not going to give that one away!). Afterward, I work backward (given that I need to be at Z, what needs to happen to get there). In the end, I have a rough outline of what needs to happen for that explosive ending and have an idea of what scenes are needed. At this point, I probably only have about ten scenes sketched out. That's where the pantsing comes in--filling in the spaces between the major scenes. 

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
Get feedback! I sent my very first query to Jennifer Jackson at Maas Literary. But, I sent the synopsis, not the query! And I never even gave the title of my book or word-count! Oops! Talk about a waste! (Although, I did re-query her several months later.....shhhhhh....don't tell. She still rejected me :)). Getting feedback will at least help you know if your query is not in standard format. I'd recommend, querytracker, and scribophile. (And if you're real thick-skinned, try too). 

How do you take your caffeine?
Er, um, well....water? I'm not a big caffeine guy. *Ducks in order to dodge the thrown books by fellow writing-wonks.*

Thanks so much for taking part in the interview series, Dustin! Best of luck as you continue querying!

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