Red put out a tray of green alien cookies when she caught glimpse of a galaxy traipsing author. She grabbed a plate of aliens and some dark and sweet and headed out to the patio for a chat with Selso Xisto, before he shuttled away.
M3: I have a ton more info about you than the M3 Readers. Give them the jacket version of Selso.
SX: A King’s College London graduate and lifelong science fiction-lover, Selso Xisto worked in kid’s television for over 10 years making promos and ads for Disney and Cartoon Network. Perhaps as an antidote, he writes gritty, thought-provoking science fiction; forever his first love.
M3: Anyone you want to thank before we get to the nuts and bolts?
SX: Firstly, I’d have to thank my mum for buying me an electronic typewriter for Christmas when I was 10 years old. I’ve always loved books and writing and this one device changed my life at the time. I wore the characters off the keys from so much typing; really silly action and fantasy stories that I wouldn’t show another human being even if they paid me a lot of money!
I’d also want to thank an awesome blogger and friend called Rainy Kaye who showed me the Twitter and online marketing ropes when I didn’t have the faintest clue where to start.
M3: Speaking of starts, where did you get yours in the publishing industry?
SX: I’m still starting out! I still feel like more of a passionate amateur than a professional. As with a lot of writers who are starting out, I have a day job which consumes far more creative hours of my life than I’d like. Fortunately, I work for Cartoon Network in London making promos so it’s pretty creative, and I get plenty of inspiration with the creative people I work with.
M3: Is your day job something to concern the M3 Readers?
SX: I think the vast majority of even moderately successful writers have a day job but I don’t know if it should make a difference to the reader (unless you have a real-life cop writing crime thrillers, or something like that). For what it’s worth, I work for Cartoon Network making promos so I dabble in copy-writing, editing and art direction. I hope people will read my book and judge it on its own merits.
M3: I think that is a reasonable request. With a full time schedule, where do you find time?
SX: Holidays! The bulk of Particle Horizon was written on quiet holidays where I’d hole myself up in my parents’ farmhouse in a tiny village in Portugal with no Internet. Finding the time to write is the biggest problem when you need a job to pay the bills, especially when you work in television with the regularly irregular hours!
I find apps like Evernote are a godsend: you can scribble notes and ideas during your working day wherever you are, at your desk or on your iPhone, and when you get home they all sync in one place and you can pick up where you left off.
M3: Does this mean no hiatus?
SX: My hiatus is involuntary and reluctant! Work commitments and creative block are the only thing stopping me from churning out the next book as soon as humanly possible! Having said that, I think even if I had the time I’d love to have to dedicate to my favorite craft, a certain period of reflection between projects is healthy to give you time to ‘cook’ the ideas. I think this is particularly important in difficult genres with lots of world-building like sci-fi. You don’t just write a story in sci-fi, you create an entire reality to justify/ strengthen/ create your story.
M3: Why do I get the impression you are already working on something new?
SX: I’m incredibly excited about my next book! It won’t be a sequel to Particle Horizon (not yet – though I have been asked by a few fans for one!) but a new story. It will still be science fiction, but I’m purposefully pushing myself out of my comfort zone and attempting something new and challenging for me. It will be a thriller with a strong love story.
The central theme will be immortality and how a person’s personality and desires can change (or harden and solidify) over the centuries and how one event in the present can have far-reaching consequences 300 years later in the same person’s life.
M3: A novel twist on the psychology of time travel, in this case unidirectional time travel. How have the economic times affected you and your writing?
SX: I suppose the biggest impact is the fear of losing the day job which pays all of the bills. I’d be wary of not letting the writing impact too much on the work. I don’t make enough money from my writing to live on (nowhere near!), but I could see how this could influence someone’s creative choices in their writing. I think you see this already with the flood of paranormal romance on the market right now.
Personally, I can’t write a genre or story I don’t personally feel passionate about; I don’t do this for money but for love of the craft. Not that I’d dream of judging the working writers out there, but I can only speak for myself. If I felt I was just writing something because I thought it would sell and not because I felt I had a compelling story and some exciting ideas to share, I wouldn’t bother. I don’t think you can fool a reader, they can tell if you love what you’re writing and will find you out fast if you don’t.
M3: I think you are right. Now, I know you are a KDP author. Do you think the traditional industry looks down on self-published work?
SX: Absolutely. This is partially professional snobbishness but also a reflection of most people’s attitudes. A big publisher has always (and to be often, rightfully) been seen as a gatekeeper of quality. Certainly the large number of poorly written, un-edited works out there cluttering the marketplace doesn’t help this perception. It’s a shame a lot of regular people who don’t visit book blogs regularly will miss out on some real Indie gems (like mine!).
M3: I have a sneaking suspicion that train of thought leads to newbie advice.
SX: Well, I still consider myself a newbie, so I’m always willing to listen to good advice. The one thing I’ve learned so far though is the importance of a good cover (I’m lucky in that I can find my way around Photoshop pretty well), and having a good editor.
No one will take your writing seriously if your writing is littered with obvious typos. No matter how hard you stare at that manuscript, you’ll never find all the mistakes and problems by yourself. I’m always surprised at how many mistakes I find in books from big publishers.
M3: No, I would not. I abandoned the last three Big Six books I bought for that reason. You have used KDP to its potential, haven’t you?
SX: I suppose the great success of my free promotional giveaway stunts was a triumph! I hit the number two spot in the UK Amazon Sci-fi chart during my first giveaway and beat a lot of big publisher-backed books. Particle Horizon was downloaded over 5,000 times. The subsequent chart exposure kept me above some really huge titles for weeks afterwards. Oh, and I’ve also reached the semifinals of the Kindle Book Review Best Indie Books of 2012 Competition!
M3: I know that is a major feat. How important is your own marketing to that success?
SX: It’s everything. I was selling less than five copies a month before my friend Rainy got me up to speed on Twitter and contacting book bloggers to offer review copies. I was very naive when I started this game! Without a lot of friends spreading the word on Twitter and the positive buzz from reviews and word of mouth, no one would have read my book.
M3: All that buzz coming from colleagues helps. How do you feel about joining the ranks of the authors?
SX: I think there’s a lot of camaraderie amongst Indie writers. We all quickly realize how hard it is to have our voices heard in a sea of creative people all clamoring for attention. I personally, wish them all the greatest success and look forward to the day when Indies regularly enjoy the same degree of success and, above all, recognition for their creativity as the big publisher-backed writers.
M3: Give the M3 Readers you best agent’s pitch: 15 words or less.
SX: Epic, character-driven sci-fi adventure that you don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy.
M3: Seems like that would make it completely different than the rest of the genre.
SX: From the moment I started writing it, my goal was to write an epic, high-stakes hard science fiction story that anyone at all could enjoy without being overwhelmed by alienating Star Trek jargon and too much assumed knowledge. There is so much excellent sci-fi out there that addresses themes and ideas that anyone could enjoy but the entry barrier is set too high for most people.
I think Particle Horizon lowers that entry barrier without diluting its ideas at all. I’ve also been told by a few reviewers that my descriptive writing style lends a more colorful, less dry rendition of my sci-fi world.
M3: Sci-fi for the non-rocket scientist. I like it. This book is really special to you.
SX: Particle Horizon was a real labor of love and will always be special to me. It was the culmination of a lifetime of thoughts, ideas and influences and for the longest time, I thought it was going to be my one and only book so I poured everything into making it the best I could possibly write.
The central themes of what constitutes humanity, faith and my own slant on the origin of the universe are explored. These are all themes I’m deeply fascinated by and I had a lot of fun wrapping these explorations up in an exciting, fast-paced story. I tried to write a book that I myself would love to read; in that at least, I’m confident I’ve succeeded.
M3: Very revealing, Selso. What would you prefer I kept to myself?
SX: Don’t tell them that the whole story is just made up in my head! Aja, Una and Xavier are living breathing people you should care about and you should want to know what happens to them! The fate of the universe is in the balance; open your mind and enjoy the adventure! I also hope you don’t tell them how long it took answer your questions: This interview was hard!
M3: Mums the word.
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