An Interview With S.D. McPhail – Part 2

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key
Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

Last October, by a stroke of good fortune and timing, I was offered a chance to review one of the most unique novels I’ve encountered in a long time. After a few months of discussions, my friend S.D. McPhail agreed to allow me to publish it. Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is, without a doubt, one of a kind. I’m also pleased to say that it’s not just unique – it’s also actually good. The book is available for pre-order now, and will be available for purchase this Saturday. I highly recommend buying a copy and reading it. But if you can’t wait until Friday (and let’s face it, you really are that excited about this book!) I’ve got a three part interview with Ms. McPhail.

As with my typical interviews, one part will post each day through the end of the week. Yesterday’s Part 1 focused on the book itself. Today’s Part 2 focuses on Ms. McPhail’s experiences with writing and publishing. Finally, Tomorrow’s Part 3 will focus on Ms. McPhail herself. As always, these interviews are presented unedited.



What made you decide to get serious about writing?

For many years I worked in a corporate environment at various companies, sometimes in positions that were interesting and challenging, other times not so much. When the work got really boring, I started a blog where I wrote movie reviews. I discovered that I enjoyed analyzing what made me like or dislike a film. Most often it came down to how original or well-executed the story was, not the actors or the special effects. Critiquing other stories got me thinking about the kind of story I would like to write. When the contract on my day job ended, that left me with lots of time to do more than just think about it.


How long did it take you to write your first novel?

A ridiculously long time because I was learning how to write fiction while I was trying to write a novel.


How much time do you spend writing every day?

Not enough and not as much as I would like. I try to put in at least four hours a day. Some days I do well, occasionally I am elated to have spent a good six or eight hours at the keyboard. Then there are the days that life interferes, and I feel guilty about neglecting my characters.


Is the second one going any faster?

See the last question. The next one should go must faster because I learned so many valuable lessons while writing The Origin Key.


Do you enjoy the writing process or is it a slog?

There are days when it is definitely a slog. On those days, nothing seems to flow easily, the characters refuse to cooperate, and every idea feels trite or stale or obvious or boring. But when it starts to flow well and I can get into the zone, there is no better feeling. That’s when writing is most enjoyable and makes the slog to get there worthwhile.


Did you try submitting your works to any traditional or other indie publishers before you settled on Silver Empire? If so, what was the response like?

I sure did. And I made the egregious newbie mistake of querying agents before my novel had been edited and polished enough. I got back polite, standard rejections that showed not the least bit of interest. So I kept rewriting, found an amazing story editor, and continued to query as I made my novel even better. I still got rejections, but usually more personalized with encouraging comments such as “Even though we are not interested in this one, please feel free to query us in future with other novels.” After many, many rejections, it became clear that my story didn’t fit neatly into a single publishing pigeonhole. It blurs lines between genres and isn’t quite like anything else on the sci-fi/fantasy shelves. I believe a lot of the rejection wasn’t due to a poorly written story, but rather an unwillingness to embrace something refreshingly different or a perceived difficulty in marketing a genre-bender.


You’re with a pretty small and new publisher. What made you decide to go with us instead of just self-publishing it?

Even though I had heard of a few amazing success stories for self-published authors, I realized those were the exception and not the typical experience for new writers. I could have self-published, but knowing how much work an author has to put into marketing their books these days—whether traditionally or self-published—I wanted help from someone who already knew the ins and outs. I wanted a partner with publishing experience so I could concentrate on writing the next stories in the series while we developed a marketing strategy to sell books. After researching you and Silver Empire, I felt like we would work very well together.


How has your publishing experience been so far?

It’s been fantastic! Being able to meet with my publisher and talk in person is an enormous confidence-booster. You’ve been extremely responsive and offered some great ideas. I can’t thank you enough for being willing to listen to me and explaining the business side of things when I have questions. With a small publisher, there’s a lot more personal attention that I’m not sure I would ever get with a busy, overworked agent or a big publishing house.



That’s it for part 2. Tune in tomorrow for a bit more about Ms. McPhail herself!

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