Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview with Dave Farland and his new release, "Nightingale"

Today we (finally!) welcome Dave Farland to talk about his new book, Nightingale, about a teenaged alien who was abandoned to be raised by humans.

Kelly: I did a little internet research and found out that many birds, including the brown-headed cowbird, will lay eggs in other birds' nests. Did you ever, even once, consider calling the series "Brown-headed Cowbird?"

Dave: Of course that-was the first name that jumped to mind. There are over a hundred types of birds that practice brood parasitism, but when I thought of the title Nightingale, I just knew that it was special. I thought, “Bird lovers everywhere will flock to buy this book!”

Kelly: Hehe. Flock. Could you tell us a little more about Bron and the world he lives in. Who are the Aels and Draghouls?

Dave: Bron is a boy, age 16, abandoned at birth, and raised in foster care. He doesn’t want much out of life, except maybe to learn to play his guitar well and be left alone. But when he’s thrown out of his latest home, he goes to live in a small town in Southern Utah, where his new foster mother recognizes that he’s not even human. He’s what her people, the Ael, call a “nightingale,” a child left to be raised by humans. The question in her mind is, is he an Ael—one of an ancient race that humans once considered to be minor gods, or is he a Draghoul, a descendent of her enemies. As Bron struggles to understand the mystery of his birth, he’s suddenly thrust into the midst of a strange and secret war that has been waged for thousands of years.

Kelly: The opening pages grabbed me because Bron doesn't even know he's an alien, which is so different from the alien invasion I've been waiting for;) Next question: You’re releasing this book in a variety of formats, from hardcover novel to audiobook, electronic book, and enhanced book. What makes an enhanced book, well, enhanced?

Dave: The enhanced novel is something like a movie. It has its own soundtrack, provided by James Guymon, president of the American Composer’s Guild, and I think that’s a real bonus, since it helps the reader capture the mood of the piece. It also has more than a hundred animations and illustrations, rather than just a single picture on the cover, which helps readers visualize the world. Last of all, if you want, you can access notes in the enhanced version, so that you can learn a bit about the genesis of ideas—which makes it sort of like having the writer in the room. Of course, most enhanced novels come as apps that you have to read on an iPad or something similar, but we have an emulator so that anyone with a computer can access it.

Kelly: That's so cool. Or is the word innovative? I think we all dream of seeing our characters come alive- I know I've done a casting call for mine, because it's fun to think about. I think it's fun for readers. Maybe one day we'll have people saying things like, "The enhanced book was way better than the movie!"

Let's talk about what's next for you. You've ranged across the fantasy genre, writing the NYT Best Selling series, "The Runelords," and for the Star Wars and Mummy series, plus some science fiction, as well. Last year your historical fiction "In the Company of Angels" won the Whitney Award for best novel, and now you're launching a series for young adults.

That's an eclectic list. Do you have some chicklit inside your soul, yearning to see light?

Dave: Alas, I don’t feel qualified to write chicklit. I have been accused of being a “rabid feminist” though. I deny being rabid. Feminist, definitely. I want women to be treated with dignity and respect. Men too. And kids. And people of all races and ages and intellectual abilities. And let’s not forget near-humans like the Ael and even the Draghouls!

Kelly: How many ideas do you have in development right now?

Dave: Seriously, I don’t keep count. Right now I’m developing a large world for a MMORPG, and that will lead to a fantasy series. I have a horror novel I’d love to do—first contact with nasty aliens. Then of course there’s the Nightigale series, and I have a YA fantasy series about a young Merlin, and a few others. But I’m focusing on getting the Runelords series finished up, and working on getting the movie made for it. Once that’s in production, I’d like to move Nightingale into production, too. I have a producer who wants to make the movie already. We just have to wait until the time is right.

Kelly: How long ago did the idea for Nightingale come to you and how did you develop it?

Dave: I’ve been thinking about doing something like Nightingale for about fifteen years. When I was teaching Stephenie Meyer at BYU, we once talked about what she’d need to do to become the bestselling YA writer of our time, and I remember wishing that one could sell a contemporary YA fantasy back in 2001, but there just wasn’t a market for it. The publishers weren’t interested. Stephenie caught the writing bug a couple of years later, and really hit just as publishers began to recognize how huge the YA fantasy market could be. It would have been nice to hit just after she did.

Kelly: How many outlines are you waiting for the time to write?

Dave: I usually don’t outline the novel until I start it. I’d say that there are a dozen novels that I would seriously like to outline right now, but I have several criteria for writing a novel. I have to be driven to write it, but I also have to feel that it’s marketable and a good investment of my time. In the Company of Angels was something of an exception. I just felt compelled to write it despite my better judgment.

Kelly: I loved In the Company of Angels, about the Martin Handcart company. I'd advise anybody to avoid reading the last half of the book in public places and to have a box of tissues handy. No smiley face. That means I just made a serious recommendation, okay?
Lots of my blog readers are writers trying to find an agent and get published, just like me. You advised me back in June to get a contract with a traditional publisher if I could and then think about self-publishing once I had some credibility and, hopefully, a fan base. Does your advice still stand, or have the changes in the market altered your opinions?

Dave: The markets are evolving rapidly. If you’re looking at trying to break into a big genre—thriller, young adult—then I think that it may be worthwhile to sell a novel in that genre and establish some credibility. But you should only do it if the publisher is going to push you big. If they aren’t going to push your work, you don’t want them. After all, you can put out your own novel without any push, and you’d probably do it with more loving care.

Now, here’s my caveat: Electronic sales are growing so rapidly that you should only consider New York for a few more months—maybe until next March. After that, I wouldn’t bother going to New York at all. Sadly, the industry is just too much chaos, with publishers demanding too much from authors, and agents doing things that are shameful.

Kelly: Yep. I'm nervous about the conflict of interest with some agents self-publishing their clients' work. I'm sure there are many well-meaning folks out there, but I'd be surprised if more than a few people don't end up with the short straw. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts, Dave.

At Dave's workshop in June. I'm kneeling in black and white,
Dave is standing, near the middle in a black t-shirt with wings. I think it's wings, anyway. 

Anybody else ready to read their first enhanced book? I'm curious about the experience, and the illustrations I've seen are topnotch, along with the excellent story and writing.

And now for questions. Nightingale launches today, and Dave is doing an extensive blog tour, so he wasn't able to pinpoint when he'd stop in, but he has graciously agreed to answer some questions in the comments. So, if you get here before Dave does, leave a question and he'll answer it.

Also, if you check out the contest tab on the nightingale website above, you can learn about Dave's contest (with a $1000 prize) to write a short story set in the Nightingale world, and which will be included in the enhanced version of the novel. That could be a really nice jumpstart to someone's career, methinks. I'm brainstorming:) Happy writing!


  1. Thanks for the interview, Dave and Kelly! Rarely do we get to see an interview with someone who has the breadth of experience in the industry that Dave does. If I can think of a good question, I'll hop back over and ask it...

  2. Okay, I thought of one! (That didn't take very long.) Dave, you said you wouldn't bother going through New York at all much past this spring, but I admit, I need a little more of a pep talk. So what would you say to a writer like me, someone who's had the goal of finding an agent and signing a traditional publishing contract for so long that it's hard to make the mental shift to self-publishing?

  3. Thanks for the interview! Did you self-publish Nightingale then?

  4. Hi, Dave! Can you give us a hint about one of your favorite scenes in the book and why you (hopefully) loved writing it?

  5. Thanks for the questions, guys. I expect Dave soon, soon...I think things are quite busy for him right now. Thanks for being patient:)