Our guest today is David Lundgren, author of the fantasy science fiction novel, Rhapsody. David was born in “a pokey town in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia)” and spent the first 18 years of his life there. He grew up in an environment “that seemed to combine the best elements of both an American and English heritage with a hybrid African lifestyle.” Lundgren is also a musician, which gave him the creative spark to create the Melforger series. He spends his time in San Francisco “teaching, enjoying frequent – and often frustrating – games of tennis, trying to learn the blues on piano, attacking Sudoku puzzles with relish, and attempting to make some headway with the ever-increasing pile of books that is waiting patiently at my bedside, developing its own gravity.”
Thank you for this interview, David. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Well, I was born in Africa – Zimbabwe, to be precise – which meant that my childhood (as an only child) was mostly TV-less, so I dived into books and let my imagination gorge itself until it was seemingly a wild entity all of its own. I’ve also been surrounded by music since I was born – since before I was born – and my connection with music and my interest in its role in life played a huge part in creating The Melforger Chronicles – as did my love of wild landscapes, extreme settings and rollicking adventures! The first book in the trilogy, Melforger, came out in 2012, and was the product of a lifetime of slowly crystalizing ideas (feverishly scribbling ill-timed epiphanies down on napkins) and then finally getting down to the grueling and satisfying task of writing.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Rhapsody is the final book in The Melforger Chronicles trilogy. It follows the progress of Raf, a sixteen year old boy, as he confronts a diseased and terrifying villain who is the cause of a foul, corrupting darkness that is killing the world (so nothing very serious, then). The stakes are particularly high for Raf’s forest home where the villagers live hundreds of yards up on natural platforms that are dying and collapsing underneath them. Of course, being fantasy, there is a kind of magic involved in the story – a unique, original and enthralling kind (hopefully) – of which Raf is a potent wielder: a melforger. However, he’s only barely started on the hazardous journey through the desert to get to this villain before he finds himself yanked off course to face dangers and challenges that push him to his limits.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
I think it was more a case of the genre choosing me! I grew up wandering the worlds of Tolkien, Eddings, Pratchett, C S Lewis and many more. Creating my own world, magic and story had always been a goal – an ‘obvious’ for me. I also think the YA genre gives you a huge amount of freedom and creativity – not to mention being composed of some of the most voracious and enthusiastic readers out there!
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
For Rhapsody, it was finishing the trilogy in a way that was exhilarating, unexpected and satisfying. Bringing the threads of the story back together, ensuring the breadcrumbs made sense, answering key questions, entertaining the reader to the very last second with the characters they’ve come to know and love – that was a daunting task. I knew I needed to bring the whole tale crashing to a wonderful, exhausting finish in an exciting and unpredictable climax to reward reader for their loyalty.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
I published the trilogy through CreateSpace, an Amazon owned company. I hired a professional editor and a publicist to cover the roles that would’ve normally been performed by a traditional publisher, and had a ridiculously talented designer help with the cover artistry. Equally importantly, I fostered (some say bullied) a small group of wildly different – and opinionated –readers who were my guinea-pigs and offered honest and useful feedback regarding every element of the drafts.
Was it the right choice for you?
Absolutely. I love the flexibility and control of how I’ve chosen to publish The Melforger Chronicles.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Social Media is the backbone of YA marketing: I’ve used everything I can, from Facebook to Goodreads to Twitter to my Melforger website. I’ve also been speaking on various national radio shows and even marketing the book on the back of delivering creative writing workshops in local schools. Word-of-mouth is key in this age of saturated bookshelves and countless, ubiquitous marketing campaigns.
How is that going for you?
I’m delighted with how the books are faring! Not only have I had many fantastic reviews (and from an unexpectedly wide range of ages and demographics!) I’ve also had some of those priceless comments about readers who have devoured all three books in less than a week. While it’s always somewhat startling and almost dismaying that so many years of work can be consumed in a matter of days by someone, it’s a wonderful compliment and makes it all worth it. I’ve also recently had the flattering honor of having the first book, Melforger, taken on as a class reader in a prestigious private school in Zimbabwe.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
Speaking to teens about writing and how good a creative outlet it is (rather than just doing it to pass exams) was a great way to engage with them, and help them buy into me as a writer and a person. I’ve always been keen on promoting writing with teens and feel quite strongly about it – it’s healthy, it’s important, and being creative is a part of our make-up. I definitely saw sales spike on the back of the workshops, which was a nice side-effect.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I am a UK-trained primary teacher and have worked as both a Lead Instructor at a large summer innovation camp here in the States as well as a curriculum designer.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Start building a platform of potential readers now. Right now. Traditional publishers will probably ask you, before they even look at your book, what audience you can bring to the table to mitigate their risk in taking you on. It’s HIGHLY unlikely they’ll take any new authors on without substantial evidence that your book will sell. In this technological, social-media ‘ruled’ society, the only way forward is to be innovative and creative in how you market yourself and your writing and try to stand out against the exponentially growing competition.
What’s next for you?
I have two projects that are in the early phase: a new YA fantasy (it’s such a fun genre!) and a laugh-out-loud family comedy (that’s the hope, anyway).
Thank you for this interview, David. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
Thanks for having me! The Melforger Chronicles website is www.melforger.com (there’s a great picture of me with a one-armed monkey on my shoulder called Hercules) and you can find the Melforger FB page very easily (the benefits of having a unique name!).
Rhapsody is available at Amazon.