Since it is Australia Day it seemed appropriate to talk to the gorgeous Greta van der Rol today!

Hello to Greta van der Rol who writes ‘Action packed sci fi with a dollop of romance’. Greta is the author of The Iron Admiral and Morgan’s Choice along with many more science fiction novels but also a historical novel – To Die a Dry Death. Greta lives in Australia very close to a beach where she indulges in her other love of photography.

Greta, you are unashamedly self-published. What drove you to take that route rather than hang out for a contract?

First, Sue, thank you so much for this interview. I love the questions. They really made me think.

Die a Dry Death was originally published by a small publisher. I went that route because I knew historical fiction would not be my main genre. Meanwhile, I persevered with querying agents via the traditional route for my SF. Although I got a few nibbles, I withdrew. I'm still not really sure if I feared rejection or I just felt I was getting too old to muck about. I'd had an offer from another small publisher (a friend) who wanted my Iron Admiral books. So I took that route. Since then, the small publishers have folded and I'm effectively on my own. By the way, To Die a Dry Death is the same book as Die a Dry Death, renamed when it moved to a new publisher.

That said, I think we all crave recognition from the more main stream. So I submitted my paranormal novel, Black Tiger' to a few publishers. I was offered contracts but decided to go it alone. Not so long ago, the belief was you'd only self-publish because you weren't good enough to interest a publisher. I think that's no longer true. I'm prepared to do the hard yards to ensure my work is typo free and well formatted. For the rest, it's up to readers.

When agents like Jane Dystell (Barack Obama’s agent) use Kindle as their slush piles, does this show how much agenting and publishing have changed?

I think so. I'm sure it's lovely to have a good agent and certainly it still is the only way to get into the Big Six. Or is it the Big Four today? But I've noticed even the big names are opening their slush piles to unagented manuscripts from time to time. In fact, I'm getting the idea that now, writers are expected to make a 'name' for themselves before they're taken on by agents and publishers. Quite a few of the more successful self-pubbers have been approached after the event.

Do you think it is the author’s ‘platform’ as much as their ability to write which gives them results? Do you personally think that is unfair that folk with marketing ability are more likely to succeed than someone who can write well, or do you just shrug and think like many that good writing always wins?

What an interesting question. What is good writing? I loved Harry Potter and JRR Tolkien, couldn't be bothered to finish the da Vinci Code, loathe Terry Brooks because of how he writes, wouldn't touch James Joyce's Ulysses with a barge pole, don't like Dickens, like Agatha Christie... And I am constantly amazed that a Star Wars fan fic full of elementary grammatical errors managed to hold my attention enough to read it not once, but three times.

So it isn't about good writing, not even about a good story. Look at Fifty Shades of Grey. Or Twilight. (A one hundred-year-old vampire attending a High School ^o^??) But these books have touched a nerve in the reader psyche. I wish I knew how you did that. I think it's the crucial element to success. You have to write a book people want to read. Then they have to find you. Sure you have to market, but word of mouth is still the most important advertisement.

You write mainly space opera but you also wrote a wonderful historical novel called To Die a Dry Death, as well as Black Tiger, a paranormal romance, written to raise funds for tiger conservation. One of the things which delights me about your novels is the passion behind the words. I can feel your love of writing on every page. How important do you think this is for a novelist to succeed?

What a great question. To Die a Dry Death was that book that everybody has in them. Know what I mean? The one I was meaning to write from the time I finished university. It wasn't the first book I wrote but it was the first published. For your readers, the novel is based on the true story of the wreck of the Dutch merchantman Batavia on a desolate group of islands off the coast of Australia in 1629, and the truly horrific events endured by the survivors. There isn't space here to give all the motivation for this tale. Those interested can find it at
http://todieadrydeath.com. I grew up with the story of the Batavia both because of my Dutch ancestry and because I grew up in West Australia, where the ship was wrecked. I could easily have had a relative on board that ship. So yes, I think you'll find passion in that story.

Black Tiger is certainly something I feel passionate about. I love nature and animals and it breaks my heart to see how close tigers are to extinction. There are more tigers in zoos and backyards in the US than there are left in the wild. So while it's a romance, I wove that aspect of tiger conservation in a tale that incorporates Indian traditions.

For my SF – I write what I'd like to read. I hope that shines through in the stories.

Does it lead to success? I doubt it. I think most writers would claim they love to write. Whyever else would you do something that requires so much time and dedication, with no guarantee of success? That said, you'll write a better book if you let your passion show. I firmly believe that's what holds readers, despite poor grammar and spelling.

You already have a fan base and readers demanding sequels. Isn’t this one of the main reasons why we write – to share? Have you ever tailored your writing to a particular market/dynamic, or do you write only for yourself?

I write to be read. Otherwise, it's pointless. But I think if all I wanted was monetary success I'd teach myself to write straight romance. It's the biggest seller. But I don't read the genre, so how can I expect to write it? I don't 'get' zombies and it's beyond my understanding how a vampire can be sexy. So I don't think I'll attempt either of them. Black Tiger is about the closest I'll get to simply romance – and I don't seem to be able to avoid adding the action and adventure stuff because that's what I like.

I have a small fan base and they like what I write, which to me is fifty shades of wonderful. For them, I'm delighted to write a sequel if the elements are there to do it in a plausible, interesting way. My latest book, Morgan's Return (due out in Feb) is a sequel to Morgan's Choice. But the possibility of a sequel was there in the storyline. I didn't have to resurrect anybody from the dead, or dream up a long-lost something-or-other. The biggest, scariest challenge was to come up with a story as interesting to readers as Morgan's Choice.

You often write quite raunchy sex scenes. Are you surprised that the sci fi crowd enjoy that?

Not at all. There's a very popular niche market for erotica in space. I don't 'do' erotica – but one of the reasons I write what I do is that a bit of good old sex was so often missing from the SF novels I read, and the movies, too. Remember the chaste kiss between Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back? Boooooring. And I know I'm not the only one.

Tell readers a bit about your next project and how you see your future as a writer.

As I said, Morgan's Return will be out in February. I hope it's as well-received as Morgan's Choice. But that's up to the readers.

Here's the blurb.
When you delve into ancient history you never know what strange forces you might unleash.

When Morgan Selwood and Admiral Ashkar Ravindra travel to Morgan's Human Coalition to learn more about the origin of Ravindra's people, their relationship is soon sorely tested. Morgan is amongst her own people and Ravindra is overprotective and insecure, afraid of losing her. Even so, not everyone is keen to welcome Morgan home, not when they'd gone to all that trouble to get rid of her in the first place. Soon Morgan and Ravindra have a rogue Supertech on their trail with only one goal – kill Selwood.

Together, Morgan and Ravindra follow a tenuous trail back into humanity's past, to the Cyber Wars, the time historians call the Conflagration. But what begins as an innocent archaeological investigation escalates into a deadly peril for both humans and Manesai when Morgan and Ravindra are thrust into the middle of an unexpected conflict. And that rogue Supertech's still out there, determined to kill.

After that, I've started sketching out a new novel set in Morgan's universe. Morgan and Ravindra won't star, but they will possibly make a cameo appearance. I'll write a sequel to Black Tiger if I feel there is an interest.

My future as a writer? I'll keep on writing. The more novels you have in your list, the better. If people like one of my books, hopefully they'll read others. That's certainly what I've found.

Greta van der Rol can be found at:
http://gretavanderrol.net and http://todieadrydeath.com
twitter: @gretavdr

Greta’s novels can be found at: http://gretavanderrol.net/books-2/



01/27/2013 9:04am

Thanks Greta! That new 'Morgan' story sounds fascinating.

01/27/2013 3:41pm

I'm hoping so, Sue. Thanks so much for hosting me.


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