Let me introduce you to Thad Allen Diaz. Thad recently self-published his debut novel, Procythian Reign, the first in his sci-fi trilogy, The Proceena Crusade. Procythian Reign should be compulsory reading for anyone who has ever smugly and ignorantly dismissed self-pubbers as somehow not quite the real deal. This book illustrates just how talented indie authors can be. It’s a really impressive, engrossing novel. Why? Because although it’s set in the future, it’s firmly rooted in reality. It’s a marriage of imagination and sharp, unforgiving observation. It’s essentially about human nature – human strengths and weaknesses. We can see ourselves in the situations we encounter in the novel. I love it and so I was very keen to interview Thad to find out more about his writing and himself.
What inspired you to write Procythian Reign?
The inspiration for Procythian Reign really dates back to a dream I had where a group of friends lived in a coastal town. It was being besieged by Man-O-War-type wooden warships. The friends watched the siege unfold on TV and with cell phones (aren’t dreams cool?). One of the friends was the daughter of the regent or lord and there was dissension among them, but the details escape me.
I woke up, scribbled down some notes and soon went to work.
Please describe your book in 100 words.
Laura Clabar is the niece of the system ore baron and lives the pampered life of a corporate princess. When tragedy touches her life, she has to decide if her wealth exists merely for her comfort, or if her status as one of Proceena’s elite carries with it responsibilities to those less fortunate.
Eric Phillips is a radical member of the local miner’s guild, fighting for better wages and conditions for the millions who sweat, labor and often die below the surface of Proceena. He wants change and he wants it now. When a mysterious stranger comes into his life, it looks like he might get it.
Can this fiery revolutionary work hand-in-hand with an aristocratic blue blood? Is there enough room in this budding revolution for both of them? Can they stay one step ahead of the ruthless and determined Leo Krisminski? Or, will their differences kill them both? Pick up this dark fast-paced space opera and find out.
What’s the appeal of sci-fi as a genre?
Sci-fi (or Fantasy) is a clean palette. I can create the society I want to best tell the story I want to tell. To be honest, I’m an armchair historian and Procythian Reign is intended to be much more Les Mis or Tale of Two Cities than Star Wars.
Which character from the book are you most like and why out of Mike Carter, Leo Krisminski, Eric Phillips or Turab Al Saad? Or is there someone else who’s more like you?
I identify more with Mike Carter and Eric Phillips than any other characters. This might seem odd, given their differences, but I really share Eric’s political passion about economic and social injustices and am often confused and frustrated by humanity’s ability to be blind to our self-destructive ways (it’s interesting, but very frustrating).
As for Mike, he’s the logical, “the world is what the world is” side of my personality. He’s more circumspect and recognizes that, for all of its imperfections, the world can be changed one small day at a time. I feel like I have gained some of that learned patience as I’ve gotten older (though I suspect I’m no Mike Carter).
Procythian Reign has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?
Procythian Reign‘s cover was painted by a talented artist named Alvin Epps. We collaborated on how it was going to look, but the real work was done by Alvin. He’s amazing, and I highly recommend him. His work can be found at Alvinepps.com
Deep down, would you like to rule a planet or at least captain a spaceship?
This question made me smile. My friend once dedicated the Tears for Fears song, ‘Everyone Wants to Rule the World’, to me because of my total lack of interest in just those things. I have a great day job that I love very much. I understand that the world and the people in it are too complicated for one-size-fits-all answers to work. I can’t imagine being tasked to solve those problems. I don’t really crave the power of a king, too much responsibility… starship captain… maybe.
Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m reading The Game of Thrones series. It’s a great story with lots of interesting characters. I’m under the impression that Mr. Martin kills his characters with brutal regularity. I haven’t really gotten to any of that yet, but I like it. I’m a firm believer that one of the keys to real drama is to establish that no one or nothing is off limits. I like to read those people and I try to write that way, too.
Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?
I’m not sure how strange or quirky. I like to take my laptop to the local café or bookstore to work. It gets me out of the house and gives me the opportunity to people watch (one of my favorite past times).
When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?
I’ve always liked storytelling. My first experience actually writing was in grade school. I wrote a comic book about a Japanese monster, a radioactive turtle named Gamira. I wrote more in the 7th grade and started historical-based American Civil War stories a dozen times. None were any good.
Tell us briefly about what book’s coming next.
The Proceena Crusade is the next chapter in The Proceena Trilogy. It takes place 20 years after the events of Procythian Reign and is a twisting, fast-paced story of shifting loyalties and hidden agendas. I’m really proud of this story and think that it really compliments Procythian Reign. I’m anxious to get wider feedback on it.
What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
That’s tough. It’s not because I haven’t learned anything. It’s quite the opposite. There’s so much I’m still learning. Most people seem to think that the hard part of writing is finishing what you started, and once you finish your masterpiece (usually in one pass) you just have to send it out to a publisher or two, sit back and let the money roll in. If writing were that easy, we’d have a lot more commercially successful authors.
The fact is, if writing weren’t something I would do regardless of the pay, I’d have quit a long time ago. It sometimes seems that you stand a better chance of winning the lottery than getting discovered by one of the major publishing houses, even if you have talent. They’re inundated with thousands of manuscripts every day. How can you stand out from those multitudes? An agent? Perhaps. But that’s often easier said than done, especially if you want one that is going to really get out there and represent you.
The world wide web seems to have answered the prayers of despondent writers everywhere: publish yourself electronically! Well, the multitude of voices drowning you out just increased by a hundred fold. That is the greatest challenge to moving from being a talented guy or gal with a lot of potential to a commercially successful writer.
Since I’m not a true commercial success, yet, I don’t know how much weight my opinion should be given, but I think there are a few keys: first and foremost, HAVE A POLISHED FINISHED PRODUCT!!!! Good stories aren’t written. They’re rewritten. Go back with a critical eye and edit your story, get rid of extraneous stuff that slows the story down and distracts the reader. Get in late and out early. Show don’t tell. Leave the -ly adverbs at home. To that end, learn (if you haven’t already) rules to good writing. There are a bunch of good books available at your local library.
Get a professional editor! This can be tough, because it can be expensive, but whether you’re going to go the indie or traditional route, you’ll be expected to clean your own laundry. Don’t let cost be your only criteria. You don’t want to get what you pay for and throw good money after bad trying to fix what could have been done right the first time. On the other hand, I once spent three times what I pay now and didn’t get nearly the service I’m getting from Stephanie. Do your research. Try to vet these people a little. It’s usually pretty easy to get them whittled down to a handful. Stephanie edits my books and I highly recommend her.
Lastly, it takes work and faith. You have to believe in yourself and stay at it. One of my favorite expressions is fortune favors the prepared. It’s a tough, grueling game, but you can’t win if you aren’t in it. Learn all you can about writing and marketing (remember you’re a small business owner now). Talk to people who have come before you to see what they do. That way, when you get your big break, you’ll be ready. I plan to be.
What do your family think about you being an author?
My family has been incredibly supportive. My mother is super proud. My sister has helped me network among her friends. I’ve had friends beta read for me and supported me in ways I never expected. My daughters are excited about my books (even if they’re not old enough for some of its content). My son did Procythian Reign‘s trailer soundtrack. I hope he’ll do The Proceena Crusade‘s, as well.
But, without question, my wife has been my number one supporter and fan. She believes in me and tells me how talented I am and how proud she is of me. She did the voice over on Procythian Reign‘s trailer and has never griped about the money we’ve spent on pursuing this dream. It’s one of many reasons I love her so.
OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?
Oooh food. I have an affinity for meat-and-potatoes meals. Beef Wellington is one of my favorites. Here in Tampa, there’s a strong Hispanic influence and I love plantains, super sweet fried bananas. I like ice cream, almost anything with chocolate in it, but it’s hard to beat a good chocolate chip cookie.
And judging from your photo on your Amazon page, you’re a snappy dresser. What would you not be seen dead wearing?
Looks can be deceiving! I’m actually the epitome of the casual dresser. That pic was taken on my way to a daddy-daughter dance. The suspenders and tie were actually bought earlier that day, after my kids fell in love with the look. But that pic seriously misrepresents my fashion sense.
I bet I don’t wear lace up shoes outside of work more than ten times a year. It’s usually some kind of flip-flop or deck shoe. I wear long pants even less often and those are usually jeans. I used to wear a lot of collared polo-style shirt, but as I get older it’s almost all t-shirts. If my wife and kids wouldn’t be so upset, I’d cut what’s left of my hair off.
But, if I had to pick something, I’d say it’s those shorts that hang down around your butt or sleeveless shirts.