From Paper to Ebook: Steven O’Connor Shares His Experience With Us
Steven O’Connor started writing when technology was not present in our lives. When there were no ebooks and to get published the only option was the difficult task of getting inside a traditional publishing house. Things have changed a lot since then. So that his ebook “Elemental – A First Person Shooter” was chosen as ebook of the week by the Widbook team. Now you have the chance to learn more about this English writer, which has a lot to share. Steven talked to us via email, straight form his home in Melbourne, Australia:
Widbook – Hi Steven. Congrats for your work! How long time did you take to finish your ebook “EleMental – A First-person Shooter” ?
Steven O’Connor – It took me roughly a year to write and redraft EleMental: A First-person Shooter (or EleMental for short). But if you want to know how long it took for EleMental to finally see the light of day, that is, get published — the answer is much, much longer. Try nearly ten years.
When I wrote EleMental there was no such things as ebooks (not to mention no smart phones or iPads). Back then, there was little choice for a novel writer but to be published by a publishing house. And finding a publisher could take a writer a lot longer than writing a book, no matter how well written your book might have been.
And this is even though EleMental had won a national competition in Australia. It still took another seven or eight years after that! That was not an unusual experience. (It was great when EleMental was finally published — a fairly famous person launched it at a big writers’ festival. But that’s another story.)
What inspired you to write EleMental?
I loved video gaming as I was growing up. I’m talking about the early video games such as Pac-Man. My absolute favorite was Space Invaders. Later, when I became a professional social worker working with people addicted to drugs, I found myself asking: What if someone invented a video game that was as addictive as heroin?
There’s plenty of research that says video games — like anything in moderation — are not addictive, it’s all about having a balanced life. But I wanted to write about a futuristic video game that was deliberately manufactured to be highly addictive, and in which addicted people would suddenly find themselves back in the video game even when they weren’t playing it, as a side-effect. Apparently that’s how LSD was for those using it in the 1960s. Anyway, that was the starting point to my story.
Also, to properly write about video games, I realized it was important to start playing video games again, and I discovered I especially enjoyed the new games like Halo and Bioshock. For me they were like highly advanced versions of Space Invaders. I still play video games when I can, but writing always comes first. I also made sure to include some romance in EleMental because I believe that adds to a story.
Why did you decide to publish it on Widbook?
I think Widbook is a fantastic place for sharing writing and hearing what others might think. It’s like a worldwide writers’ workshop. My biggest hope is to begin sharing the draft of my new book, so that I can hopefully find out what others think — what’s working and what’s not.
As I’m still working on it, I thought it could be a good idea to share EleMental with everyone first, so others could see how I write and hopefully become interested in my new book too (which is called Beneath the Surface by the way).
I like the collaboration and feedback focus of Widbook. I think that’s one of the special things about Widbook.
Have you written other books?
Every writer my age probably has a fair number of unfinished novels, poems and screenplays in bottom drawers of cupboards and tucked somewhere on their computer’s hard drive. I have quite a few! But I only have one other book that’s also published: MonuMental: The Hack’s Back (or MonuMental for short).
The publishing house that published EleMental asked me to write this second book, but they wound up being bought out but Allen & Unwin, who unfortunately weren’t interested in the book. So I decided to publish it myself as an ebook. You might have noticed I’m currently posting some chapters on Widbook.
MonuMental is about the same characters as EleMental and has even stronger romance subplots. It’s quite a fun, quirky book. There is an enemy who keeps busting into the chapters as you read them. Even more so as the book goes on. The first few chapters on Widbook send up all of those crazy video games featuring nutty animals doing weird things, like the Rabbids video game.
What are your plans for the future?
I have so many books rolling around in my head! Sometimes it’s hard to know which one to pick. But, as mentioned before, I’m currently working on something called Beneath the Surface.
It’s about a fourteen-year-old boy who suffers from a mysterious terminal illness called Radar. After his mother dies from the same illness, he enters a weird fantasy world that lies beneath his back garden. A lot of things happen to him in this world, it’s quite action packed and humorous too at times (at least, I hope so). Think Wizard of Oz meets Spirited Away (the Japanese animated fantasy).
I’d love fellow Widbookers to take a look when I start posting it and tell me what you think. I’ll start posting very soon.
At what time you feel yourself more inspired to write?
There is no one time. I have a busy family life and a busy job, and so I need to seize every writing moment that presents itself. I often get up early to write and stay up later than others in my house to write, and write on weekends when I get a chance, like right now. I suppose, thinking about it that way, I feel inspired all of the time, and I don’t wait for any single ‘more-inspired’ time. J
Which tips could you leave to other writers?
I have one very important tip I cannot over-emphasize: Never underestimate the power of rewriting and editing. Think of it as being like the professional photographer who takes thousands of photos, but only shows you his very best.