A few weeks before the release of Mother of the Moonrat I did an interview with Jonathan Williams who travelled up from Salt Lake to visit with me. The interview was broken up into three parts and I posted the first two. He just finished putting the third part together so I thought I’d just post it all.
I’m including the youtube videos, which are basically just the sound with a photo slide show, and the audio files.
In the first part we talk about the writing and publishing process.
Part 1 MP3 Trevor H Cooley Interview Part1 (Right click to save and download for mp3 players)
In the second part we get more into the storyline and individual characters.
Part 2 MP3 TrevorHCooley Interview Part2 (Right click to save and download for mp3 players)
In the third part we talk about what’s coming up next, including the Bowl of Souls game, Tarah Woodblade, dream film casting, and more.
Part 3 MP3 Trevor H. Cooley Interview Part 3 (Right click to save and download for mp3 players)
Edit: I also thought I’d add a transcript Jonathan did of the first part of the interview. I will add more of them to the post as they are completed.
Interview with Author: Trevor H Cooley
By Jonathan Williams, Interviewer
[Intro] (0:00) Jonathan Williams: “This is Jonathan Williams. My guest, Trevor H Cooley is soon to release his newest novel, Mother of the Moonrat. It’s the latest book of a fantasy series entitled The Bowl of Souls Series. Its set in a fictional land called, Dremaldria. This is a land that is littered with dwarves, gnomes, elves, magic users and other fantasy sorts, but the book isn’t all of what you expect from a typical fantasy novel.
The main character in the series is a troubled young man who aspires to be a well-respected fighter for the local battle academy. Later in the story, he is forced away from his lofty goals as a warrior and soon finds himself a student at a school for mages where enters an entirely different world that changes his life and destiny forever.
Mr. Cooley is a self-published author. We’re going to talk to him today about his latest novel—and lots of other things.”
[Question] (0:59) Jonathan Williams: “Trevor, many of your readers got hooked from the very first book, Eye of the Moonrat. Being your first self-published book, what was that experience like for you?”
[Answer] (1:11) Trevor H. Cooley: “I came out with Eye of the Moonrat about ten years ago and had been trying to get it published all that time, but I had been unsuccessful getting any publisher to take it. I had some friends who had been telling me that I should try publishing on Amazon so that it would be available for the Kindle market. I resisted that for a long time because I really wanted to go the traditional publishing route. Finally, one night, I was reading up how to do it (I had the book all written and ready to go), and on a whim I uploaded it and put it on Amazon, $.0.99 on Kindle. I didn’t even have a cover. I just had a picture of some trees in a dark forest and that’s what I used for my cover. After I put the book on there, I told my friends on Facebook that it was available.”
[Question] (2:04) Jonathan Williams: “And it turned out successful for you?”
[Answer] (2:07) Trevor H. Cooley: “No, not in the beginning. I think the first month I had about eighty downloads of it, but most of them were family and friends. They were telling their friends on Facebook that they should download it and read it. Most of my family members had already read it at some point over the years in some form or another. At first it wasn’t that big of a success. I eventually got a better cover and ended up releasing my second book and that’s when things started to take off.”
[Question] (2.42) Jonathan Williams: “Let’s talk more about the experience you had with self-publishing. What was it like to have your books rejected by publishers?”
[Answer] (2:51) Trevor H. Cooley: “It was a long and painful process. When I first finished the book about ten years ago and tried submitting it to several publishers, I got a series of rejection letters. That’s just when the Lord of the Rings movies had just come out and I think there was some interest in more of an epic fantasy at the time. That was just before Harry Potter started to gain steam (at least over here in America). So, there was some more interest, but nothing ever went anywhere. Then, over the years, I would do re-writes and re-writes; I’d send it off to publishers, editors and agents, just trying to find somebody. I probably had about eighty form rejection letters saying, “We’re not interested at this time.” Yes, there were some tough times there. Years went by where I didn’t feel like writing anything, because so much rejection had burned it out of me. Then I’d get going again, I’d edit some more and then try again. It was a long and pretty painful process.”
[Question] (3:59) Jonathan Williams: “What was it that kept you going during that time?”
[Answer] (4:02) Trevor H. Cooley: “I always had my family members that had read the book and they wanted to know what happened—and I wanted to finish it. I knew what was going to happen in the stories because I had been thinking about it for as long as I could remember. I guess I would get to a certain point where I would show it to someone new and they would be really enthusiastic about it and that would get me excited again. Then, I would write some more and try to submitting it again. It was an ongoing process, but that’s all I ever wanted to do. So, eventually, I would get over my issues with it and keep going.”
[Question] (4:37) Jonathan Williams: “When did you know that you wanted to become a writer?”
[Answer] (4:42) Trevor H. Cooley: “I must have been in the second grade. That’s when I started to read and really love to read. Just after that I started to identify with that. That’s what I wanted. I wanted to be the one writing the stories that other people read. I hoped that they would be able to enjoy the stories I came up with as much as I enjoyed reading.”
[Question] (5:05) Jonathan Williams: “Since the advent of video games, do you think that reading books has the same importance to kids today?”
[Answer] (5:25) Trevor H. Cooley: “I definitely think that reading has the same importance today. Although it may be rarer for kids to be readers, there have been certain things that have kept reading alive. Books like the Harry Potter series and various young adult novels have only broadened the audience. These books have introduced reading to a lot of children that normally wouldn’t have liked to read. I think that one of the problems today is that it’s so much easier to play a video game or to watch TV; reading a book takes more focus and concentration. There seems to be a lot of kids out there that grow up not realizing that reading is fun. In school they get introduced to the old classics, which might have been exciting adventure for kids back in the eighteen-hundreds, but nowadays kids seem to struggle to identify with a lot of the things that are in those books—although a lot of us have grown to love those kinds of books. I think that today, having a young kid read To Kill a Mockingbird might do them a disservice because they may be less likely to identify with it because of the language and the way that it’s done. So, yes, in those cases, they are going to rather play video games and do other things other than to read.”
[Question] (6:45) Jonathan Williams: “I’ve heard that your children have also read your books. As an author and parent, do you consider whether or not what you write is appropriate for children?”
[Answer] (6:56) Trevor H Cooley: “My novels aren’t built for children and I don’t write them with children in mind; I write to my own sensibilities. I know that every once in a while a thought will come to my mind of something that I might put in there and I end up changing my mind because I think that it’s something that’s not really necessary. Instead, I want my books to be available for a broad range of readership. For example, I think that the language in my books is pretty mild in comparison to what most kids are exposed to these days. I don’t really have any mature sexual subject matter in my books. But, I definitely do not shy away from violence—there are some gory fighting scenes in there. But, it does come to mind that there are things that I have taken out because they were too dark, but it wasn’t because I was trying to make it more appropriate for someone’s age group, but because I didn’t enjoy the idea of reading it as a reader and thought, let’s alter this a bit and make it so that its more along my own sensibilities.”
[Question] (8:09) Jonathan Williams: “Is The Bowl of Souls Series based upon any of your own life experiences while growing up?”
[Answer] (8:15) Trevor H. Cooley: “I would say that some of Justan’s awkwardness and his desire to be warrior might be based upon my own life experiences. You know, I was a pretty clumsy kid; I wasn’t a jock by any means. I always admired those kids that could do great things physically, those things that I couldn’t do, because I was more of the clumsy-type. Of course, I could see things and know what I should do strategically, but my body would not do what I wanted it to. So, I guess in that sense, Justan as a young person is a lot like me—but I never aspired to be a warrior or anything like that.”
[Question] (9:29) Jonathan Williams: What do you like best about the writing process?
[Answer]: (9:36) Trevor H. Cooley: “I would have to say that the most fun part is coming up with the idea in the first place—“Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if this happened,” and then coming up with a way for it to work in the storyline. I would say that the second most fun part is when I’m writing a scene and all of a sudden there just this shift in my mind to where the story is flowing from my mind to my page without me having to think about it and I’m just typing as fast as I’m thinking and it all just comes out. Certain scenes in the books came to me that way—usually they were some of the big, pivotal or emotional scenes in the book. A lot of times I would go back to read those parts and then I’d realize that I didn’t’ need to edit them. That’s an exciting feeling.”
[Question] (10:24) Jonathan Williams: What kinds of things do you do to keep the creating juices flowing?
[Answer] (10:34) Trevor H. Cooley: “I find that what helps me keep going is writing, even when I don’t want to. Sometimes that happens to me where I’d rather be looking at Facebook, I’d rather be checking my email, or I’d rather be doing just about anything else than sitting down and writing. When that happens, I find that the best thing for me is just to write. If nothing’s coming at that moment, then I go and edit a few pages back to where I was, or maybe even a chapter back. If I just make myself do it, then the flow comes again. I think that keeping regular writing schedule keeps you in the flow to where you never reach that point to where you lose all creative energy.”
[Question] (11:21) Jonathan Williams: “How long does it take you to finish a book?”
[Answer] (11:26) Trevor H. Cooley: “It takes a while. When I was writing book four I went a month where I paused and didn’t write anything. I think I wrote about four chapters and then I took a break from it and wrote Hilt’s Pride. In January I realized that I had only written eight chapters and that sales were starting to slow. I thought, I really needed to get going on this, so, I set myself a goal that I was going to write five pages and day and then I later changed that to six pages. I did those six pages a day from what was towards the end of January through the very end of March. Then, I did some final editing and it was done on the seventh of April—so, most of that writing was spread out over two months. I’m hoping that when I’m writing full time that I’ll be able to put out the books much faster. It doesn’t take me any time to come up with the ideas, what does is putting it together and writing it.”
[Question] (12:28) Jonathan Williams: “Do you do any research when you write?”
[Answer] (12:33) Trevor H. Cooley: “I do research when I come upon a subject that isn’t fictional. I don’t need to research if I’m describing one of Ewzad Vrill’s mutated monsters, but if I’m going to be describing how Lenny makes a sword then I need to look up the correct blacksmithing terminology. If I reference any technical terms, or some certain phrase or terminology, I’ll go and do some Google searching, or go to a dictionary to see if I can find out where it originated from and how old the phrase is, so that I don’t use something that came out in the nineteen seventies that no one back then would have used. I’m not too strict on that because, in my opinion, what we are reading is actually a modern-day translation of the events that happened then. If they talk in a little bit more modern cadences, it’s because that is this authors attempt at sharing what happened in a way that makes sense to us today. If I wrote them all speaking Shakespearean language to make it sound more like the Old English, or Renaissance period or something, then I don’t think it would be as much fun to read—it definitely wouldn’t be as much fun for me to write. I think there is a line there, I kind of skirt it, and I’m on the edge of this line between modern and old.”
[Question] Jonathan Williams: “Did you ever have periods doubt, when you thought that the story of Justan would never happen?”
[Answer] (0:08) Trevor H. Cooley: “I never necessarily doubted that the story wouldn’t be finished. I’ve always thought that I would one day finish it. I did doubt though that anyone would ever read it—that was a bitter thought to me.”
[Question] (0:20) Jonathan Williams: “How do you feel about it now?”
[Answer] (0:21) Trevor H. Cooley: “Well, I’ve sold thirty thousand copies of my books and fifteen thousand of those copies were of the first book. With the reviews that have come in, with the readership I have, the interaction with the Facebook community and my website, I’m confident now that they will go somewhere. I’ll be done with book five with not too much longer and I will have told the story that I set out to tell.”
[Question] (0:43) Jonathan Williams: “How did you come up with the title, Eye of the Moonrat?
[Answer] (0:50) Trevor H. Cooley: “Oddly enough, the first book used to be called, The Bowl of Souls. I later changed that to be the name of the series. Book one, was essentially what book one and two are now. I also made a lot of changes over the years, for example, The Mother of the Moonrat, as a character, didn’t exist originally. At first, it was just Ewzad Vriil, but he didn’t really show up as a villain until on into what is now book two (he did change Deathclaw, but that’s basically all you heard from him). When I tried to split the book in half, I realized that Justan would make it to the mage school (and he had all sorts of trials and tribulations), but in the whole first part of that book there wasn’t any overriding sense of menace—it was just Justan dealing with these problems. That’s when I came up with the idea of the mother of the moonrats. She opened up the whole series and has now become a huge character—I can’t even imagine the series without her. When I was trying to figure out what to rename the book, I went through a lot of ideas and the concept of naming it after the eyes of the moonrats (which is what she uses to communicate), sounded like to me an interesting title.”
[Question] (2:06) Jonathan Williams: “Do you have a favorite character?”
[Answer] (2:10) Trevor H. Cooley: “My favorite character is the one that I haven’t written about for a while and then I’m writing from their perspective. I tend to jump perspectives in the book and it’s not always done for reasons of plot (sometimes, it’s done because I need a change). If I haven’t written from Fist’s perspective for a while and then I write a Fist chapter, my creativity starts to flow again. When it’s been a while since we’ve heard from Ewzad Vrill in a book, I’ve got to get back to him because he ignites my imagination. I say that the one I like to hear people say is their favorite is Justan because he is the main character and we all are following him for the most part throughout the tale. When I hear a reader in a review say that Justan is their favorite, it gives me a certain thrill because it means that I’ve done it right. But, I also love Lenny, Jhonate, Fist, Deathclaw, and Ewzad Vrill—I love Vincent the Librarian, he doesn’t have the biggest role, but I love to write his character—so, I kind of love ‘em all.”
[Question] (3:16) Jonathan Williams: “What was your inspiration for Lenny?”
[Answer] (3:21) Trevor H. Cooley: “I wanted to write a dwarf, but I wanted him to be different. He’d still be a dwarf—irascible, tough-as-nails and loves to battle, but I wanted to put a unique spin on him. So, as I started to write, I thought, what if he talked like an old coot in one of the old western movies? What if he was like Yosemite Sam? I started to like the idea of a character that is really salty and would curse all the time—he could use obscure curses that are hard to get the meaning off. He might call someone, “You corn-sniffin’, hoop-skirtin’,…”. You sort of get the gist of what the curse means, but then you’re thinking, “What does that actually mean?” That’s one of the more entertaining things to come up with, new curses for Lenny, and new ways for him to destroy the language. It’s a little bit of a struggle sometimes, with Lenny, to write him so that he’s readable. I want him to be entertaining, but I don’t want to get too far into Mark Twain territory where you just can’t understand the sentence—so there’s a line I have to tip-toe with him. I also have to make sure that his curses, although they could mean any number of things (you could take them any number of ways), aren’t too particularly vulgar. I don’t see him as a particularly vulgar person, he is just a person that has a lot of frustrations and that’s how he belts them out.”
[Question] (4:45) Jonathan Williams: “Let’s focus for a moment on your main character, Justan. It seems to me that he was both a social elite as well as a social outcast…”
[Answer] (4:57) Trevor H. Cooley: “I don’t know that he was necessarily an “elite” class, what do you mean?”
[Question] (5:01) Jonathan Williams: “…His father was in the academy council and a famous warrior…”
[Answer] (5:07) Trevor H. Cooley: “Okay, yeah. I think I chose that because it gave Justan someone to look up to. I think that what makes him an outcast is his own attitude. As the story starts out he is very egocentric. He’s focused on this dream of being like his father. He wants to do it on his own terms and doesn’t want help from anybody—definitely doesn’t want help from his father. I think part of him feels like that if he did it without his father’s help that it would mean more to his father—like his father would respect it. From his father’s perspective, he’s fine with Justan. His father’s not disappointed with his son. He sees how hard he works, so it’s all in Justan’s mind. Yes, he’s an outcast in his peer group, as far as being in the training school, because when the other training school students (knowing that he’s Faldon the Fierce’s son) see him act like a jerk, they don’t like it.”
[Question] (6:02) Jonathan Williams: “Is there any Trevor H. Cooley that exists in Justan?”
[Answer] (6:12) Trevor H. Cooley: “I didn’t realize it at the time that I was writing—I didn’t set out to put myself in Justan. When I came up with the concept of the character when I was a teenager, I hadn’t explored his past and who he was growing up. I had him as Edge. He was Edge and he had these two swords and he was awesome. Later, when I had determined to write the story and then actually sat down to write the book, I decided to explore back when Justan was young. Before he was Edge, he was Justan. Like him, when I was a kid, I looked up to the other kids around me that were more athletic—in fact, I always felt a bit inferior to them. I was one of those kids that when it was time to pick teams for kickball, I was always one of the last ones picked because they knew that I wasn’t going to do very well. I guess that also comes out in Justan’s character, but I didn’t have the dream of becoming an athletic star—that wasn’t appealing to me, but I did wish that I was better. For him to have this problem where he knows the strategy of battle and what he should be doing physically, but struggles to do it, I can identify with that. If I was playing soccer, I knew strategically where I should go, how I should kick the ball, or who I should kick the ball too (and all that stuff), but there was always a kid that was better, or I’d miss, or I wouldn’t kick it in the right area—no matter how hard I tried. So, yes, I guess that is there in his character. That’s what he’s most worried about in the beginning, but it ends up that that is not what he should have been learning. It wasn’t about his physical prowess it was about his ability to rely on others and work well with others—and that ends up being his gift.”
[Question] (8:02) Jonathan Williams: “I’d like to move on to your other characters, starting with Jhonate. Tell me more about that character.”
[Answer] (8:15) Trevor H. Cooley: “When she first starts out in the story, she is this mysterious figure called, “Ma’am.” She makes Justan’s life miserable. She trains him with an iron fist. She won’t tell him her name. She just calls him, “boy,” but she makes him better. A few of the things that I love about Jhonate; her strong-willed stubbornness, she’s an awesome fighter, she’s got this aristocratic sense to her—very proper in her speaking and life view. So, when she doesn’t let Justan call her by her name, it’s not to put him in his place, it’s because he hasn’t earned the right to speak her name yet. She doesn’t allow anybody to call her by name unless she feels that they deserve to be able to. There is going to be a future series with these characters, the ones that survive the end of book five, so we’re going to learn a lot more about her, but I just love her attitude—it’s fun to write.”
[Question] (9:17) Jonathan Williams: “Tell us more about Fist.”
[Answer] (9:27) Trevor H. Cooley: “Fist is just a big ol’ lovable teddy bear. He was one of the very first characters that I came up with back when I was a teenager (the idea that there is this ogre that’s a good guy). He looks like a big fearsome brute, but on the inside, he just wants a hug. In a lot of ways he’s childlike—he’s learning about the world. There are lots of things he didn’t like about the way that his people acted, and their traditions. So, when he finally had the opportunity to see how humans are, he saw something that he desired, something that he wanted. Through Fist, I’m able to tell things through a child’s view. He thinks, oh, I’m supposed to wear clothing, so then all of a sudden he gets a complex about it. Things like that are what I love about writing Fist. Squirrel is one of my favorites too. He’s just this little terror, this little personality that’s just fun to throw into the situation. It’s just a pleasure to write about him.”
[Question] (10:25) Jonathan Williams: “Tell us more about Gwyrtha.”
[Answer] (10:32) Trevor H. Cooley: “Gwyrtha is a rogue horse. She’s a creature that’s made up of a lot of different creatures. She was designed to be somebody’s ride, so she’s got horse in her. She’s designed to be able fight, so she’s got lizard in her, she’s got claws, she’s got teeth, but she’s also an innocent—devoted. She’s like a loyal puppy that’s ancient, but she’s never lost that innocence about her. She’s wide-eyed wonder and fierce loyalty.”
[Question] (11:07) Jonathan Williams: “What’s with Ewzad Vrill?”
[Answer] (11:10) Trevor H. Cooley: “Ewzad is so self-absorbed that he doesn’t even realize how crazy he is. He doesn’t understand that when he talks, people think, “This guy’s nuts!” His cleverness allows him to come up with plots and schemes that are able to get him by in spite of the way he comes off. Ewzad Vrill will do nothing unless it pleases him. He just follows whatever whims are in his mind. The only reason why he is able to get anything done is because he’s got a goal of power and that’s what he’s headed towards.”
[Question] (11:46) Jonathan Williams: “Tell me more about Deathclaw.”
[Answer] (12:03) Trevor H. Cooley: “Deathclaw was a species of Dragon. Because of that, he has complete control over his own body. He has these heightened senses where he is always thinking about what he’s doing. That gives him a large amount of control of himself which makes him a unique type of fighter—able to accomplish things that a normal creature couldn’t do. Deathclaw is a survivor and adapts to any situation that he is in. When Ewzad Vrill captures Deathclaw and changes his form (and now he’s a new being—something different), instead of losing his mind trying to figure out how to make this new body work, he focuses and learns about his new body until he knew it just as well as he did his old one. And now, as he goes on in the series, he embraces what he is. His mind is enlightened. In a way, his journey is a little bit parallel to Fist’s. He’s growing, but not in the same sense of awe that Fist is—his is more of a sense of being confused. He sees the way humans act and it doesn’t make sense to him. Where Fist would think, “Oooh, that’s exciting, I want to do that!” Deathclaw would think, “Why are they doing that?” He sees the world very differently.”
[Question] (13:20) Jonathan Williams: “What should we expect from the last book in the series?”
[Answer] (13:25) Trevor H. Cooley: “It’s called, Mother of the Moonrat. It should be out in October. It’s going to answer your questions. The history of the Scralag is revealed. We’re going to learn about Justan’s powers and why he can’t seem to use them. We’re going to learn about Lenui and his pasts. We’re learning all about Melinda. We’re learning about the history of The Rings of Stardeon. We’re going to learn some about The Prophet. We’re going to learn some more about Jhonate. There’s going to be some amazing battles. Some people have been clamoring, “When are we going to see Justan completely unleashed?” That happens. I wrote it, and you’re going to like it. It’s got a big finish. I hope that people will be satisfied and excited by the ending. It gives us a springboard to go off and to further adventures of the people who survive the battle.”
[Question] (14:21) Jonathan Williams: “Are you working on any other projects?”
[Answer] (14:26) Trevor H. Cooley: “I’ve got some things going on. One is The Bowl of Souls Game. My friend, Michael Patty (who designed the map with me), is a long time designer of role playing games and table-top games. Together we made a Bowl of Souls Role Playing Game—and it’s mostly finished. What we decided to do with it (to make it unique), we brought in the cards that are talked about in the books. The game of Elements is described in book two as something that the mages at the mage school play. They use a deck of cards called, The Universal Deck. It’s used as a teaching aid to teach mages how to use magic and things—but, it’s also real. You probably have noticed that already if you’ve read the books and the forwards and afterwards. My dad created a deck of cards called, The Universal Deck back in the seventies. When I was coming up with a way to describe the elemental magic in the series, the cards just came to my mind and everything fell into place and it works really well. In The Bowl of Souls Game, we’ll be using decks of Universal Cards to determine what kind of damage you do, what you’re able to accomplish with your different skills you have as a character and you’ll get a chance to play all the different types of characters in the series.”
[Question] (0:01) Jonathan Williams: “You’ve recently posted on your website that you’ve decided to write full time. What kinds of things led you to that decision?”
[Answer] (0:11) Trevor H. Cooley: “Well, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Just making it a possibility was a big goal of mine, to make enough money that I don’t have to work full time. We’re not always there, because the books sell really well when they first come out, but then it slows down. I’ve learned the way that Amazon works and the way that the book market is right now, so my wife and I sat down together and I said to her, “I’m writing the fifth book and I want to finish it by October,” but there was no way that I was going to get it done while working a full time job. I’ve been doing now, for a couple of weeks, and I’ve got so much done. To be able to wake up and sit down at my computer and start writing (and it’s not 6:00pm and I’m done working and I’ve been at my computer all day and I don’t feel like being there anymore), is just really refreshing.”
[Question] (1:05) Jonathan Williams: “Do you have any advice for those aspiring authors out there?”
[Answer] (1:10) Trevor H. Cooley: “Yeah, finish your book! If you have an idea for one and you get excited about it, write it! If it interests you and you are excited, and you want to be writer, then that’s the first thing you’ve got to do—that’s the biggest step. Once you’ve cleared that first hurdle and you’ve written a novel, the next step is to ask yourself “would I be proud in twenty years to have people say that they’ve read it?” If you don’t have money (as I certainly didn’t), then you’re going to depend on your close personal relationships—those people to read it and edit it for you. If you can get that far then there’s a market for you. If you’re aspiring to it, do it!”
[Question] (1:54) Jonathan Williams: “Tell us more about some projects that you are working on outside of your last book.”
[Answer] (2:00) Trevor H. Cooley: “We made a Bowl of Souls role playing game—and it’s mostly finished. There’s some stuff that we’re going to do that we still left to work out (a couple little kinks here and there), but for the most part it’s playable. We’ve been playing it and it’s a lot of fun. When you play it, you’ll get the chance to be all the different types of characters in the series: bonding wizards, spirit magic wielders, elves, dwarves, gnomes—so it’s exciting! After that we have more books coming out. The next book that I’m going to be working on is called Tarah Woodblade and it follows a character whose name is Tarah Woodblade. She grew up around the city of Pinewood. She’s a tracker (a woods-person) and a guide—that’s how she makes her living (guiding people who are journeying through the Tinny Woods and through the more dangerous parts of Dremalria). To make herself seem menacing and imposing, she’s crafted herself a suit of moonrat armor (armor made of moonrat skin). Her tale will bridge the gap between the Bowl of Souls Series and the next series. I’m excited to tell it, she’s a great character, and I think you’ll like her.”
[Question] (3:18) Jonathan Williams: “What are your ambitions for your writing career?”
[Answer] (3:22) Trevor H. Cooley: “I would say that my ambitions are just to be able to continue to write full-time and to be able to provide for my family with my books. I’d like to, one day, have them made into movies, to have multiple series out, and to have them in bookstores—those kinds of things. I’ve always aspired to be known as an author. To hit the New York Times best sellers list would be cool—although I’m not sure that’s necessary as long as I’m providing for my family and I’m able to continually write books that my readers like. Those are the main things.”
[Question] (3:59) Jonathan Williams: “Which writers inspire you?”
[Answer] (4:02) Trevor H. Cooley: “Terry Brooks. Robert Jordon is an interesting one because he really inspires me with certain things that he does, but I also learned a lot of things not to do from Robert Jordan. He let himself get carried away. His series got out of hand. He fell in love with too much of the detail—it made it difficult to read his later books. I’ve always admired his ability to create plot twists as well as the depth of his world. I’ve enjoyed reading his stories, especially the first five books—they’re really good. I’ve been inspired by R.A. Salvatore and his amazing talent at writing fight scenes. Brandon Sanderson came onto the marketplace—his mistborn books were groundbreaking in that it was a new kind of fantasy world with a new kind of magic system. It’s hard to come up with a completely new idea anymore—Brandon Sanderson did that.”
[Question] (5:03) Jonathan Williams: “What has drawn you to writing this genre?”
[Answer] (5:07) Trevor H. Cooley: “With fantasy novels, you can create a world of any type with any kind of creature, any kind of magic, any kind of ability. You’re really only limited by what you can dream up. When you write a book based in our world, the rules are already in place. It’s kind of liberating to be the creator of a place and everything is something you’ve come up with—I just find it appealing.”
[Question] (5:32) Jonathan Williams: “Which actors or actresses would you like to see playing the lead characters for your series?”
[Answer] (5:39) Trevor H. Cooley: “I’ve thought about it quite a bit, off and on. I would think that Justan would have to be played by either and unknown or an up-an-coming actor. It would be a demanding role because they would have to start out as kind of wimpy. Later, as the movies go on, they’d have to get more buff. The character that I keep thinking of the most would be Ewzad Vrill. I’ve wondered who would the villain. I’ve thought David Tennant would be a great Ewzad Vrill. Alan Cumming would be a good Ewzad Vrill. To have Nathan Fillion as a character would be awesome—probably more of my fanboy comes out in me when I think about that.”
[Question] (6:18) Jonathan Williams: “What was the hardest thing about writing book five?”
[Answer] (6:22) Trevor H. Cooley: “I would say the hardest thing about the fifth book was just tying it all together. I had so many threads out there from the four books—so many things that I’d brought up, ideas and concepts that I’d thought up that needed to come to fruition. Every chapter in book five has multiple reveals in it—little things that I’ve hinted or alluded to or explained. I wanted to be able to finally have everybody see what Justan’s powers could be. He still has a lot of growth to go and I’ve got other series to write with these characters, so I didn’t want to have him show completely everything within his potential. I wanted to be able to give people a glimpse of that—I think they wanted that. I would say that the biggest challenge was that I had a plot, but I also had all of these other things that I had to fit in and I thought how do I do it? That was probably the most challenging thing.”
[Question] (7:17) Jonathan Williams: “Who edits your books and how did you select him/her?”
[Answer] (7:21) Trevor H. Cooley: “My editor is my wife, Jeannette. I dedicated the book to her for that reason. She is the one that has always been the one to drive me, to push me to write, even during all those years when I couldn’t find a publisher and was frustrated. There were times when I wasn’t writing at all. At one point there was a two year gap where I didn’t write at all—it was a frustrating time. Jeanette was the one that always pushed me to get back into it. She’s the one that makes me better. And then my dad helps after my wife goes over the chapters. My dad reads them. He’s got a different personality type. He’s able to finds things—little logical conundrums that I have to fix. In that way, it’s a group effort, but my wife’s my first editor.”
[Question] (8:10) Jonathan Williams: “Tell us about your book covers.”
[Answer] (8:14) Trevor H. Cooley: “Every book cover has its own individual story. The first book cover went through several different iterations. When I first put the book out on a whim in May of 2012, I didn’t have a cover. I had the story, I had the book, but I didn’t have a cover for it. So, I picked this picture with some dark, spooky trees, but that’s all I had for the first several weeks. Finally, my brother who has always wanted to be an artist, he drew the first cover for Eye of the Moonrat. I really liked the picture—he got the moonrats spot on. I thought it was pretty cool. As time went on, I found out that there were some people who thought that it looked unprofessional—since it was in colored pencil. Eventually, (after several of the books had been out and I had enough money coming in), I was able to hire a professional, Renu Sharma, to redo the first book cover. She did an amazing job. I still have my brother’s cover included as the first page of the book so that you can still see his illustration. The second cover, there was a lady at a fiber arts fair who was sketching in a notebook as she was selling some pottery—it was gorgeous. I talked to her and told her that I was looking for somebody to do the cover to my second book. We made a deal, I paid her, and she made this amazing picture of the golem in the Mage School. All the details weren’t exactly how I wanted them, but it was gorgeous. She lives in Washington and is really hard to get ahold of, but finally I did get the cover. I still don’t have the physical copy of her creation—which I’m disappointed about. I was going to have her do the third book cover, but I couldn’t get ahold of her—she’s a hard person to reach. The third book cover, I had paid an artist (that was a friend of a friend) who does comic book art. He told me that he thought that he could do a really good, high quality, comic book like cover for the third book—and really show some of the action. I wanted to see Talon attacking Fist in the dark, outside of Ms. Nala’s house, in book three. I was excited about that particular image being on the cover. He drew it and it was really cartoony. It was more like Archie, or Jughead than the X-Men or something. So, at the last minute, the day before I was going to release my book, I had this cover that I couldn’t use. I had already paid him and everything. So, my brother came through again. He had this alternate cover idea of Justan’s swords—Justan had been carrying this sketch of these two swords around with him that he wanted to show them to Lenny and have him make them. So, finally that came about. Then Renu Sharma did my last two books—book four or five. With the fourth book, we were having difficulty finding the particular poses that she wanted to use on the cover. My other brother was going to film school and had an art department there and people with high quality cameras. So, they took a picture of my brother sitting in a chair as Ewzad Vrill, with two other students with their hands on his shoulders to represent Talon and Melinda. Renu turned it into that gorgeous cover for book four. Book five, I always kind of knew that I wanted to recall back to book one—to have the moonrats in the forest, but this time actually show the mother of the moonrats among them.”
[Question] (11:49) Jonathan Williams: “Do you think that the cover of a book plays an important role in the buying process?”
[Answer] (11:54) Trevor H. Cooley: “I think that the covers are very important. On Amazon there is a lot of competition. There are a million books out there by a million authors—I’m an unknown to most people. They can look at the reviews, they can look at other things, but what’s going to first draw their eyes is going to be that cover. If it looks amateurish, if it looks crude, a lot of times they won’t even bother with it. Having a professional and nice looking cover is really important—they really represent the book and people aren’t going to look in it if they don’t like what the outside looks like.”
[Question] (12:26) Jonathan Williams: “What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?”
[Answer] (12:32) Trevor H. Cooley: “The advantages to having a true publisher would be that you have your own marketing department. The publisher gets your books in the stores. They get you speaking gigs. They broaden your audience. The disadvantages are that they’re slow moving. They’re going to put out your books on a certain schedule. You get paid at a slower pace. For example, if a publisher wanted to pick up my five books now it may be five years before the general public gets to read the fifth book—it would be kind of frustrating. Instead, I finished book five on Friday (my wife and I had been doing editing all along, so we were pretty much ready to go), we did a final editing pass over the weekend, then on Monday we put it out there and then the book was available for sale Tuesday morning on Amazon—it was that quick. In two months, the sales from that will start coming in, whereas with a publisher it may be a year or a year and a half before I see anything. Those are some of the advantages to self-publishing.”
[Question] (13:33) Jonathan Williams: “What are your thoughts on good and bad reviews?”
[Answer] (13:38) Trevor H. Cooley: “Reviews are the lifeblood of an author (especially when you’re self-published), that’s how you know your books are really doing. Your friends and family will be nice to you, but if the average reader who just picks up the book on Amazon (they don’t know you, or care about you), does a bad review, it’s really the way they’re feeling. As far as the helpful reviews are the ones where they explain what they don’t like about the book (if there’s something bad). I’ve been fortunate that the majority of my reviews have been positive, but whenever there’s a bad one, I always end up over-analyzing it. A bad review, if it’s well thought out, if they explain themselves in what they’re frustrated about, and they have a point, then that tells me something. If it’s a bad review and they just say, “This book was terrible,” then that doesn’t really help. For an author, I think bad reviews can be good as long as they’re well thought out. Just a one star rating doesn’t help anything. A good review that really tells what they love, that drives me, that keeps me going all day. For example, a new person posts a review that I don’t know and they tell me about their favorite part of the book in their review, a character they love, or a situation in the book, or a surprise that got them—those are the kinds of things that really drive me.
[Question] (15:03) Jonathan Williams: “Have you ever been interviewed by local press, or radio for your book?”
[Answer] (15:09) Trevor H. Cooley: “I was interviewed by a local news station a while back. It was on at a time of night that I don’t think anybody ever saw it. It was on their website for a while. The reporter that interviewed me ended up reading my book and had her parents and her family read my book. There were eight new readers (most of them were her family members) as a result of the interview that she did with me—which was really cool. It’s not a commonplace thing—I’m still relatively unknown. I haven’t done a whole lot of interviews.”
[Question] (15:41) Jonathan Williams: “Thank you for spending this time with us today. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and I believe that our listeners would feel the same way. In closing, are there any other words that you’d like to share with those listening to our program today?”
[Answer] (15:59) Trevor H. Cooley: “Let me just say that if you’ve read my books just know that I love you. I’m so glad that you’ve stuck with me long enough to read them. I’d love to hear from you. Please join the Facebook page. Visit my website. Send me a message. Tell me how you feel. Tell me what characters you like. I’m always happy to interact with my readers out there. Please spread the word. If you enjoy the books, tell your friends. Every new reader we get we can use. I’m still working at it and I’ll bring you more to read, I promise.”