A while ago I did a review of a book called Plaguesville, USA by Jim LaVigne. It was a self-published work I read on my Kindle and was absolutely enthralled by it. Not only has it been re-published by Permuted Press, but has also been turned into an audiobook! I wanted to do a quick interview with Jim to ask few questions about his experience.
Q: Let’s start off with the big question: what was your reaction when you found out your indie novel was going to be published?
A: Well, I was excited, of course; having someone be interested enough to offer a contract is every writer’s dream. On the other hand, having published with a print-on-demand service, I’d already seen my stuff in print, so the novelty factor wasn’t as high. All in all, though, I was flat-out thrilled! It’s an amazing feeling when you realize that other people–complete strangers, not friends and family (who kind of have to like your stuff)–are interested in reading what you’ve created.
Q: Were you intimidated by the thought of having to edit the whole novel again?
A: No, not really. I was unemployed at the time, so I had nothing else much to do. Plus, I actually like tinkering with text. A word here, a comma there, it’s like fine-tuning an engine. The hardest part was just keeping all of the different, ever-changing versions straight and justified with a sort of Master manuscript.
Q: What was the editing process like?
A: Very interesting. I worked with the extremely talented and gracious editor Felicia Sullivan and I don’t know if she’s just so great or if I just got lucky, but for whatever reason, it was quite painless. Even enjoyable. Using a software app that showed exactly what she wanted to change, she would send me big chunks of the text and I would then go to my master manuscript and make the alterations. And most times, I heartily agreed with her suggestions. We did go round and round about the use of “alright” versus “all right”, but that was about the only conflict that arose. The biggest challenge in the actual work was chopping the original of about 20,000 words. Again, Felicia was a big help!
Q: How long did it take?
A: About two weeks, start to finish. I think Jacob at Permuted was a little surprised at how quickly we finished! Again, though, with no full-time job, I had plenty of time to work on it. Looking back, maybe it was a good thing I wasn’t working. Huh…
Q: Did a lot change from the indie version to the Permuted Press version?
A: No, nothing major. I slashed out a bunch of the stuff at Baron Zero’s House, plus a significant amount of Mr. Lampert’s grumpy rambling, but the story didn’t change. Funny thing is, I’ve heard from some readers that they wanted more, while others think it’s too long. Eh, go figure.
Q: Are any characters gone or do we have the same cast?
A: All of ‘em made the cut. The major loser, as far as lines of dialogue are concerned, was the Old Man; a lot of Lampert’s angry grumbling got axed. No great loss, but it did diminish the Old Man’s character a bit and leached out some of the social commentary overall.
Q: What are your thoughts on being indie vs. published?
A: Both have advantages, but in general being published is far better. The exposure and support alone, (especially for me, as I have a hard time with self-promotion and networking, twisted introvert that I am) are priceless. And the sales don’t hurt, either! On the other hand, as an indie (though really, I’m just self-published and not indie is the sense of a small press), I can call all the shots, so to speak. Now, as to whether or not that’s a Good Thing remains very much to be seen…
Q: What is it like hearing your book in audio format?
A: An amazing experience, really, almost like hearing it for the first time. In fact, listening to the fantastic work of the wickedly talented Fleet Cooper, Voice Extraordinaire, I sometimes had to remind myself that I actually wrote the thing! Kind of weird, in a way, but both enjoyable and gratifying to hear. Fleet did a great job, especially with my tortuous syntax, the vernacular dialogue, and even the proper smarminess of the “commercial blurbs” chapter quotes. I am truly impressed.
Q: Do you think the audio experience is equal to the text experience, or do they each have their own benefits?
A: Both have their benefits, but it’s kind of an apple and oranges thing. Reading the words versus actually hearing them read aloud seem to me like different mental processes. Active versus Passive, maybe… But then what do I know? I’m just glad when people like either one!
Q: Do you think you’ll listen to the entire book?
A: I already have! And just last night I got my wife hooked on it as well. Even after having read it about a million times and fully aware of how it all plays out, she was eager to listen to more. It’s almost like a whole new Plaguesville, USA! Neat.
Q: What are you working on now (in general, not necessarily for PP)?
A: Lots of stuff, actually, but none in a terribly serious way. With a full-time job nowadays , I have only a couple of hours every day to scribble, but I do my best to get down at least a few pages each time. I have a zombie book about half done in which the basic premise is that, in the future (the dystopian world of Plaguesville), one must pay a Mortality Fee when one dies. If not, one is raised from the dead and put back to work. Zombies as manual laborers…
I’m about two-thirds done with a short piece about a guy trapped in a Very Bad Hospital, sort of a Misery meets Lovecraft thing, that’s showing some promise. This was inspired by my recent ten-day stint in the hospital with pneumonia and I’m trying to get it down while the (rather unpleasant) memories are fresh. Also, I might issue a collection of short works–they seem to have kind of piled up over the years.
Beyond that, another couple of novels outlined but malnourished, some Cthulhu Mythos fiction, and the constant effort at promoting the stuff that’s out there already. Busy, busy…
Thanks, Jim, for the great interview! Be sure to check out his book.