Todd Keisling Steps Into The Bloodlight

Have you been salivating over the thought of our next monthly spotlight?

Well, your blood lust is about to be satiated because we’ve got another fantastic author stepping into the Bloodlight!

One thing I’ve learned about Todd Keisling in the short time I’ve known him? He’s a crafty lad!

From his self-publishing efforts to his ambitious methods of promoting his works and getting the word out about his writing, Todd shows that one can make their own path in the book biz, if armed with determination and the willingness to partake in a few online misadventures in the name of one’s craft.

So without further ado, here’s more from our February featured author!

Can you start off by telling everyone about your background – when you first started writing and what you write.

I’ve been a writer for most of my life, growing up with a healthy diet of Bradbury, Koontz, King, Palahniuk, and Barker, but I really didn’t begin taking it seriously until high school. I wrote my first novel when I was 17. That novel took second place in my university’s fiction contest a year later. It was my first real validation as a writer and the first time someone paid me for my work. I’ve been at it ever since.

If I had to choose, I’d say my work could be vaguely classified as “speculative fiction.” Or maybe “slipstream fiction.” Once upon a time I wanted to be a horror writer like a younger Stephen King, but my work tends to take on the characteristics of multiple genres. A new reader will usually find elements of horror and the supernatural in my work, along with shades of thrillers and suspense. Maybe even a little mystery and romance. I try not to concern myself with genre, though. I just want to tell a good story.

How would you describe your particular style of writing?

Cerebral, minimal, introspective, and dark.

Why did you decide to go the self-publishing/POD route with your work instead of submitting it to traditional publishers?

Three reasons:

1 – My stories usually defy genre classification. Publishers don’t like that. After playing the query-and-submit game for a few years with other novels, I knew that ALT would have a very slim chance of being picked up by a traditional publisher. At the same time, I knew the book would resonate well with readers. In the end, I decided to put it out there and let the readers decide for themselves.

2 – I’m a control freak when it comes to aspects of the creative process. I don’t like the idea of a publisher being able to change my title or commissioning cover art that has nothing to do with the story. I want to be in control of my own work.

3 – Someone I once respected told me I couldn’t do it. I disagreed, and the rest is history.

Tell Bloody Bookish readers about A LIFE TRANSPARENT. What is the book about and how long did it take you to write it?

In a single sentence, ALT is about a mundane fellow named Donovan Candle who wakes one morning and discovers he’s physically fading out of existence. On another level, the story is about identity, purpose, and the inherent dangers of mediocrity.

There’s a lot more to it, though. Here’s the jacket synopsis:

Who is Donovan Candle?

He is the consummate husband. Stable, hard-working, and dedicated to his wife, Donovan is a paragon of the Middle Class. Until now.

Strange visions of a monochromatic world. Bizarre sensations of physical transparency.

At first, Donovan fears he’s losing his grip on reality, but as the week wears on and the odd afflictions intensify, he wonders if he is truly fading from existence.

When his wife is abducted, his life goes from weird to terrifying. To get her back, Donovan must play by a stranger’s rules. Will he be in time to save her—and himself—from the dangers of A Life Transparent?

The first draft took about two and a half months to complete, and it went through a major revision in late 2010 for the second edition. From conception to completion, this book took about four years.

ALT was released in 2007. What has the feedback been like, and how do you keep the hype going?

The book is somewhat polarizing. When people like it, they really like it. And when they hate it, they want to hunt me down and disembowel me. That being said, feedback has been mostly positive, and I feel fortunate because of that.

When the book was originally released in ’07, I had no money to promote it. The Kindle store was a new thing, self-publishing was still frowned upon, and social media was still in its infancy. I had to rely on word of mouth, reaching one reader at a time—often in unexpected ways.

Since the book’s re-release, I’ve relied heavily on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog to promote it. Signings, blog tours, features, and interviews such as this one have also helped keep the hype train chugging along.

What can readers expect in THE LIMINAL MAN, book 2 in the Monochrome trilogy?

TLM is a heavier, more complex story. If ALT is about the dangers of mediocrity, TLM is about the dangers of fear and doubt. Readers can expect an expansion of the book’s universe and some of the Monochrome’s secrets will be revealed.

Oh, and Aleister Dullington won’t be the villain this time.

What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter? A pantser? A hybrid of the two? Or something completely different?

I actually had to look up what a “pantser” is. That’s a new one to me.

To answer your question, I used to be a pantser. When I wrote ALT, I had a basic idea and let
it grow from there. With its sequel, I had to take a more structured approach or else the first draft would’ve been incredibly long and unfocused.

I guess I’m a bit of a hybrid of the two? Before I start a story, I like to know how it begins and how it ends. The rest tends to develop on its own.

In terms of process, I can’t write if I don’t have music. I’ve accumulated a huge music library over the years because of this. I’ll usually find a song or instrumental piece that fits the mood and put it on repeat until I’m done. I must’ve listened to NIN’s “Every Day is Exactly the Same” a thousand times while working on ALT.

You’ve done a variety of promotional things to get the word out about ALT, such as the Kickstarter campaign, Pay With A Tweet, fReado, book signings and radio interviews.

What have you learned from these different promotional methods and which do you think gave you the best response?

Kickstarter was the best, but I don’t think that one should count. The Kickstarter campaign made ALT’s second edition possible. Without the folks who pledged to the project, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. I was pretty fortunate to get featured as the daily project on Kickstarter, and I don’t think that would have happened if I hadn’t had a wonderful book trailer.

The trailer was directed by my longtime friend Emma. She wrote the script, assembled a crew, shot, and edited the whole thing in just a couple of days. One of her cameramen, Dan, narrated it, and Travis composed the accompanying piano piece. Without that trailer, I doubt the project would’ve caught Kickstarter’s eye. I owe a lot to those folks, and I won’t forget that.

Regarding the other promo methods, I think the best one was the blog tour. I had the most fun with that one, and it allowed me to reach a lot of people. I had a week-long tour last year, and I hope to do a month-long tour once TLM is released.

I try to promote in different ways because it’s my least favorite aspect of the book business. If I can do something different, at least that will keep me interested. One thing I’m planning to do is a series of video blog posts. I think connecting with readers is the most important thing I can do, and the more ways I do that, the better.

What are your plans for the coming year? What goals do you hope to tackle and are there any barriers you are determined to break through this year?

My number one priority is to finish TLM edits and prep it for publication. I started that book in January 2009 and I think it’s time I be done with it. I’m going to continue promoting ALT in the meantime, and I’d also like to get around to working on a collection of shorter works to fill the gap between TLM and the as-yet-untitled Book 3 (well, okay, it has a title but I’m not ready to announce it yet).

Lastly, let everyone know a bit about your upcoming adventures, places to find you, and any parting words you are itching to share.

I’m always up to some manner of online misadventures that usually involve the writing process or the hilarious comments my editor makes on my manuscripts. I can be found on my website, Twitter, and Facebook.

As for parting words, I’ll leave you with a challenge: Define yourself.

Want to know more about Todd? February’s Bloodlight will return with 3 more featured posts, including our review of A Life Transparent, as well as some special blogs by Todd himself!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay updated on our latest posts!

Have you read Todd’s writing? How would you describe it? Which book was your favorite and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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