Interview With Author August Niehaus
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I grew up devouring fantastical tales of unlikely heroes, which heavily influence what I write today. I majored in journalism and minored in psychology, and now work (with words) in the technology industry. I decided to go indie when I was 14 and never looked back; it took me another 14 years to publish my first novel, but now I’ve got three of those under my belt (“A Mutiny of Pirates: Kinfolk”, “Daugment”, and “Gods of Atlantis: Boiling Point”) and four non-fiction titles (“Robotics for Writers”, “Promptly”, “Why Aren’t You Cooking?”, and “Short Story Boot Camp”).
I live on a small farm in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, husky dog, and a herd of goats (plus a sheep named Betty White). When I’m not writing, you can find me in the garden, in the kitchen, in the music studio, or trying to get the animals to talk back.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
“A Mutiny of Pirates: Kinfolk” is a title I’ve been carrying around for the better part of seven years. “A Mutiny of Pirates” is the name of the series, which I pulled from the story’s loose plot inspiration, “Treasure Island.” I wanted it to sound kind of like a murder of crows or a kindness of ravens — like, a mutiny is what you’d call a ragtag crew. “Kinfolk” is both a play on the protagonist’s name (he’s Kinnon, Kin for short) and the theme (found/chosen family, something I always find myself writing about).
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I write every scene four times. The first time, it’s just an outline — action and reaction. I go in with the POV character’s goal and what will oppose that goal in mind, and unfurl the action from there. The next pass is just the dialog, following the outline. What do characters say aloud, or what *would* they say aloud if they were being truthful? The third pass is just the details, both emotional and sensory, following along with the outline and showing what the dialog is saying. And finally, the fourth pass weaves the second and third passes together into a scene that shows *and* tells where appropriate. I’ve started doing this for my last several fictional works, and it’s unlocked incredible productivity.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I mention Brian Jacques’s “Redwall” series a lot, because without the mice of Redwall, there would be no August the author. I devoured Orson Scott Card as a youngster, and although I vehemently disagree with his views as a human, I still hear the echoes of Ender and Bean in my stories today. I draw a lot of dialog inspiration from TV shows as varied as The Sopranos, The Office (U.S.), Peaky Blinders, Community, and Below Deck.
I can point to four Disney films that are engrained on my psyche: The Lion King (the first movie I saw in theaters; I have it memorized), Treasure Planet (which heavily inspired “Kinfolk”), The Emperor’s New Groove, and the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command movie. If I make a joke, chances are high that the sense of humor comes straight from Groove or Buzz, and my need for ensemble casts and brightly-colored worlds is all Treasure Planet’s fault. The talking animal trend started with Lion King and rolled right into “Redwall.”
What are you working on now?
Well, I’ve tossed two series starters into the world and am waiting to see which one audiences attach to more. In the meantime, I’m going to dip back closer to the world of “Daugment,” with a shorter work I’ll be releasing for free in the hopes that readers who enjoy it want to join me in a novel-length book about a cybernetic dog. It’s called “Seeker” and it should end up around 25k words.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’ll be honest, “Kinfolk” is my first foray into the world of promotion. I wanted to build up my practice, platform, and back catalog before I started putting too much money towards marketing, because if there isn’t anything else for y’all to purchase and enjoy, why lead your excited minds to a dead end? So far, word of mouth and a modest mailing list have been my best bets.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Unless you have an awful lot of money to spend for your first project, this is a long game. It’s also not a very profitable game without that big budget, so find other ways that you feel validated for doing the work and focus on those. Myself, I’ve found it’s best to really enjoy escaping into the worlds I’m writing about, and I’ve also found a couple of people who are my perfect readers and I get to fully enjoy their feedback on my work.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
My husband said something extremely simple yet profound to me when I was complaining, early in our relationship, about how I didn’t feel like a “real writer.” He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Writers write.” And it’s true. Authors are published, but that’s a whole different ball game (a business, rather than an art); writers are simply people who string words together. I’ve never felt like anything but a real writer since then, because I’ve written. A lot. All the time.
What are you reading now?
I’ve been following the work of Dr. Steven Greer, so I’ve been devouring his book, “Hidden Truth, Forbidden Knowledge.” I just finished Maggie Stiefvater’s Dreamer trilogy, and before I go to sleep I read a few pages of Juneau Black’s “Shady Hollow” — a cozy little woodland creature murder mystery.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m seriously considering going after direct-to-reader sales. I’ve never liked being shackled to other people’s platforms, be that social media or book sales, so I’m eager to dive into what it would look like to take my work so seriously that I host and sell it myself.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
“Watership Down” by Richard Adams, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card, and “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell. That’s probably all.
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