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Behind the bookshelves and keyboards of WI's published authors

Behind the bookshelves and keyboards of WI's published authors
If anything's got the power to pull a dyed-in-the-wool WoW player away from Azeroth for an extended period of time, it's a good read. Is there anything more tantalizing than cocooning with a good book you've just discovered? I've recently discovered GoodReads, my daughter's into the lowbie version at EpicReads, and we've made our city library and local Half-Price Books our home away from home. And when we're not reading, we're writing. When the sixth-graders had to turn in their first big compositions for the year, my little bookworm's study mate managed two pages on a funny time her foot got stuck in her shoe; my daughter demonstrated her speculative bent by cranking out 2,000 words on "The End of Humankind." Reading and writing, we just can't quit you.

Like a good meal and a bottle of wine, good books are best when shared, so I thought you all might like to meet two published authors from WoW Insider's own staff of bloggers. Matt Rossi's collections are the kind of anthologies you find yourself still flipping through at 2 a.m. -- "Ooh, what's this one about? Just one more essay before I turn out the light..." Scott Andrews' guide to leading an MMO guild offers the same straight talk and smart strategies as his Officers' Quarters column here at WI.

We peeked beyond the pages of WoW Insider to discover the speculative worlds crafted by Scott and Matt. They told us how they got published, what they're writing now -- and an extra bonus, what's feeding their imaginations in their personal reading piles.

Scott AndrewsScott Andrews Troll druid, feral/resto on Khadgar (US)

The Guild Leader's Handbook: Strategies and Guidance from a Battle-Scarred MMO Veteran
No Starch Press (2010)
Get it: No Starch Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Italian translation


Matt Rossi My guild is Conquest on the realm Ner'zhul. I also have a tauren in the guild Apples, on the server Sisters of Elune. I of course play warriors.

Things That Never Were
Monkeybrain Books (2004)
Get it: Amazon

Matt RossiBottled Demon
Amazon Kindle (2012)
Get it: Amazon

"Ghosts of Christmas," Adventure Vol. 1
Monkeybrain Books (2005)
Get it: Monkeybrain Books

WoW Insider: All right, gentlemen: Let's talk about your books!

Scott Andrews: The GLH was the first professionally published guide to guild leadership. It contains all my best advice on creating a guild, building a roster, choosing officers, raiding, handling loot, managing drama, understanding the different MMO player personalities, and many other topics. If you're new to an officer or guild leader role, this book is a perfect introduction. If you're an old hand at it, you'll find information here that may help you to lead more effectively and efficiently -- and spend less time putting out fires.

Matt Rossi: Well, I like saying "what if ...?" a lot. What if Napoleon made a clockwork copy of his brain? What if time travelers from the future accidentally blew up their own society by traveling back in time to Sodom and Gomorrah? What if the angry ghosts of dead dinosaurs haunted our oil deposits? What if Mongo invaded Earth in force? So I basically started writing essays about that kind of thing, and that's where both of the books come from, really. They're collections of my essays saying "what if?" a lot.

Obviously, writing a book isn't a project to be taken lightly. What was your impetus to get this into print?

Scott Andrews: After writing Officers' Quarters for a few years, I wanted a way to consolidate all the best advice that I had to give on the fundamentals of guild leadership. Each new officer that comes along can try to learn the job on the fly like I did. You're better off, though, if you can learn something from the people who have lived it already. I'm a fan of MMOs and I think good officers are the driving force behind their success. I want to keep having fun in these games, and the world needs more officers to help us all do that.

Matt Rossi: Honestly, I write to get my brain to calm down. When I'm depressed, I can't write at all, but when I'm not I feel like I have to write, and the essays were ideas that stuck in my mental craw. What is noon blue apples all about? Why didn't steam-powered robots fight over the Congo? Was there a conspiracy to kill off people named Ambrose? Was Springheel Jack a kind of proto-Batman? Was Alfred the Great magically tied to England? It's just running with ideas.

Scott Andrews in Azeroth
How did you get started writing? Has writing a book always been something you've wanted to do?

Scott Andrews: I've always been a writer. As a kid I remember trying to write a fantasy novel in a little flip notebook. It was called THE MAZE, and it was about a big maze. (I liked mazes.) The GLH was my first published book, and that was a big milestone for me.

Matt Rossi: I had a teacher in college named Geoff Clark who got me interested in writing. He basically made me love the idea of the written word, of expressing what you think and feel in a way that can transcend your own personal experience and touch other people. I can't say I specifically wanted to write a book, but I did want to write.

To anyone who hasn't been through it (and plenty of people who have!), the process of publication seems incredibly intimidating. How did you come to publish your work? What was that like?

Scott Andrews: I did a Google search for "geek publishing," which is how I found No Starch Press. I sent them an email about the idea, and they requested a proposal. A nonfiction proposal for most publishers is pretty involved. They typically want a sample chapter and a full outline with chapter descriptions. Plus you need to explain how you have the expertise to be a credible author on the topic and whether you have the means to reach an audience for the book. You do all that and you haven't made a dime yet. Fortunately, No Starch liked my proposal and I signed a contract with them a few weeks later.

The experience of actually publishing the book was surreal. I'd worked on it for so long, and then it was an actual thing that was out in the world. When Kotaku and a few other blogs mentioned it on the same day, my Amazon rank jumped to 300-something overall for a few hours. I was astonished. Thank you to everyone who supported the book.

Matt Rossi in Azeroth
Matt Rossi: Well, my first book is all thanks to Chris Roberson over at Monkeybrain Books, who contacted me when he read my old blog and saw that I was thinking of getting the essays published. The second I put on Kindle because I can't keep an agent, basically.

Day jobs -- most writers have one or more. What's yours?

Scott Andrews: After grad school, I worked in educational publishing for 10 years. Now I do freelance editing, copyediting, and writing.

Matt Rossi: Right now, WI is my day job mainly due to terrible health problems. Before, I've worked in various fields from graphic design to farm laborer.

Scott Andrews' I'm betting there are a lot of hopeful authors out there reading this right now. Any advice for them on getting published?

Scott Andrews: The publishing landscape has really shifted in the last few years. With the proliferation of e-readers, authors have more freedom to pursue their own projects without worrying about what an agent or a publisher wants. They are no longer the gatekeepers to an audience.

Whatever the genre or category, write the books that you would want to read. Then find a good editor/copyeditor (like me) to clean up the manuscript and publish it yourself on Amazon, Smashwords, everywhere that you can. You can charge a lot less than a traditional publisher would and make more per sale. If you're passionate and you work hard, you will eventually find an audience. Then the traditional publishers may track you down, and you can negotiate with them from a stronger position.

Matt Rossi: You need a ton of perseverance. You'll get rejected a lot. Also, really start looking into alternative scenarios like Lulu, the Kindle Store, etc. Mainstream publishing is getting more and more exclusionary and difficult to work with. It's very worth your while to start looking into how to cut out the middleman as much as possible.

Matt Rossi's Do you keep a blog where readers can find you on a more regular basis?

Matt Rossi: Yes, at matthewrossi.wordpress.com/, although it doesn't get heavy updates. My original blog was named Once I noticed I was on fire. I decided to relax and enjoy the fall, and you can see that via the wayback machine, if [you're] curious. I let that one lapse because I had a really bad meltdown in my personal life around 2005.

Are you working on any upcoming projects right now?

Scott Andrews: Too many ... For a while, I was pitching a book to publishers on the history of WoW. I didn't get any bites, though, so I was happy to take over WoW Archivist and cover it bit by bit for the site. I'm starting an ebook imprint with the help of a few friends. I'm writing a sci-fi novel and revising an alternative history novel.

I also co-manage two sci-fi/fantasy writing workshops in the Philadelphia area. Local writers can email me at scott@wowinsider.com if they're interested. We have some great talent!

Matt Rossi: I have another book of essays ready to go whenever, and I'm working on two or three ideas for longer form fiction. It's just a matter of getting something coherent wrestled out of my daydreams. Here is one of the characters I'm working on finishing a novel about, but it's slow going as always.

Give us a peek at your own reading pile. What have you enjoyed lately?

Scott Andrews: The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi -- intensely bizarre and thought-provoking; Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi -- a young adult novel in a future America that's terrifyingly possible; Home Fires by Gene Wolfe -- one of the best sci-fi love stories ever written; The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie -- bloody, grim, and somehow also hilarious; Fables: Inherit the Wind by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham -- 17 volumes later, Fables is still my favorite comic; and 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann -- much of what textbooks tell us about the civilizations of the Americas is simply untrue.

Matt Rossi: At the moment I'm reading Augustin Calmet, Ignatius Donnelly's Ragnarok The Age of Fire and Gravel, Robert Graves' The White Goddess, Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, and some Clark Ashton Smith planetary romances. I have a reasonably large dead tree library, between myself and my wife, so it varies depending on what I pull out of it.

Edited to add: Joining Scott and Matt among the WI staff's authors is the newly published Michael Gray! See his new ebook at Amazon.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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