** I fell in love with this children’s book by my dear friend, Nicholas Rossis, and I wanted to share it with all of you. Today, Nicholas took time out of his busy schedule to sit down for an interview and to spotlight his pride and joy, Runaway Smile. Take it away, Nicholas. **
What is your writing process?
As I have to juggle a day job along with my writing, I write every chance I get. I usually come up with my plots and subplots early in the morning, still in bed, then hurry downstairs to write them down. I’m lucky in that I work from home, so I find it easier to manage my time between the web design and writing.
As soon as the first draft is complete, I edit until everything’s to my satisfaction. Then, it’s off to my beta readers. I have half a dozen trusted people who “get” my work. At first I used to think that the more betas I use, the better. However, I gradually realized this is not the case. You want people who will be the most helpful with their comments, and this requires a certain chemistry that’s not easy to find.
After the betas offer their feedback, it’s time for more editing, to implement their suggestions. Once that is complete, I send it to my editor and proofreader. Only after that last step is the book ready to be published. The final step is working on the book covers, announcing it on social media and organizing the marketing side of things.
What book do you wish you could have written?
It’s two, actually. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, and The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. These are my favorite books of all time, along with the Tao Te Ching.
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you?
As my writing covers multiple genres, many! Antoine de Saint-Exupery has influenced me greatly, as can be seen with Runaway Smile, my children’s book.
With science fiction, I’d have to say Philip K. Dick more than anyone. I consider him a modern-day prophet and would have loved to sit down with him and chat, in order to understand how his great mind worked. His short stories have taught me everything I need to know about that genre.
Finally, George R. R. Martin has been a great influence to my fantasy work with his Song of Ice and Fire. I have read all his books and just love them. I consider his work ground-breaking in many more ways than are currently appreciated.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Book-wise, Runaway Smile. I often joke this is my Little Prince. If I wrote nothing else, I still believe this would be enough of a legacy to leave to the world.
In my personal life, landing Electra, my gorgeous, smart wife. I keep worrying that one of these days she’ll have enough of me, but happily this hasn’t happened yet.
Have you always liked to write?
Ever since I remember myself, I have enjoyed writing. At school, many of my classmates dreaded essay-writing, whereas I could count on my essays to be read in class. So, when I finished high school, I figured I’d try writing.
Expecting words of praise, I showed one of my short stories to a career councillor who was a family friend. Instead of the expected thumbs-up, she told me in no uncertain terms that I had no future in writing, and I had best focus my energy on a “proper” career.
So, I became an engineer, then an architect, then a web developer.
In 2009, I decided to try again my hand at writing. A newspaper had a segment called 9, that included a short science fiction story each week. Usually, these were translated into Greek, but every now and then you would see a story written by a Greek. So, I submitted my story, not expecting much.
They published it, and sent me a cheque for 150 euros. I was ecstatic. I quickly wrote another couple of stories and submitted them, but the newspaper had by then ran into financial trouble and discontinued that segment. So, I sent one of the stories to a short-story competition, and won. The story was (traditionally) published in an anthology called Invasion.
I then started working on my novel, Pearseus, which turned into a series. I first published that on Amazon in late 2013, certain that I was missing something: surely someone would call my bluff. Amazon would take a look and go, “hey, you’re not an author. What are you playing at?”
Instead, people bought Pearseus and reviewed it. They said nice things about it and actually paid to read my work.
Wow. People liked my work. This really was an eye opener, and I continued to write and publish. I’ve learned a lot, developed my voice and interacted with hundreds of wonderful people.
Then, the other day, the funniest thing happened. Remember that councillor I mentioned at the beginning? Apparently, she read Runaway Smile and asked my mother for my phone number – remember, this is someone I had not talked to in over 25 years.
Her first words were, “I wanted to congratulate you on your book. It’s absolutely wonderful. It’s clear that this is where your future lies. Don’t give up writing, it’s who you are and what you’re meant to be doing.”
Needless to say, I almost dropped the phone with surprise. All I could say was “aha,” and “thank you.” Then, I hung up and turned to my wife. “You’ll never guess who that was…”
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read all my reviews. I love hearing what people thought of my work, good or bad. One has to let go of their ego and not mistake criticism for a personal attack. With the exception of one particularly weird and vicious review that made no sense (for example, it complained about the giants in my book – none of my work features any giants), I have found them all useful.
This doesn’t mean you have to follow everyone’s suggestions, of course. Sometimes I take people’s advice. Others, I ignore it. It’s a fine line, and I’ve learned to follow my gut on that.
As to dealing with bad reviews, I have a policy of not responding. It depends on whether it’s well-intentioned or not, of course. Nasty reviews can be safely ignored. Well-intentioned ones, however, are different. I make a point of thanking people who have left critical, yet well-intentioned reviews, as they have spent their precious time trying to help me improve my work. That’s a big thing.
What is your best marketing tip?
It can be summed up as follows: don’t sell your books – sell yourself. And the best way to do that is to:
- be real,
I have read many marketing guides, but have come to realize that it all boils down to how people perceive you. In marketing speech, your brand. In layman’s terms, “if people like what you’re saying, they’ll buy what you’re selling.”
Do you write naked?
I know that Greece can be quite hot in the summer, but no! Although half-naked, yes. Like I said, it can get pretty hot. Even with the fan or AC on, I prefer to stay with nothing but my shorts on.
What is your biggest fear?
I grew up in the middle of a forest, with no siblings or people around. Also, I was home alone a lot of the time. So, I’ve learned to deal with my fears. I’ve come to recognize that we’re never truly alone – thousands of critters surround us at all times. I know it sounds weird, but I find the thought of all this life around me consoling. It probably explains why I never kill any insects, too.
Anyway, growing up, my best friends were books, which is why I love reading and writing so much. However, it did mean it was a pretty lonely childhood. I think that’s why my greatest fear is to be alone. I do enjoy my “me” time, but love my friends, both online and offline. More than anything, I enjoy sharing my life with the missus, of course.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
Probably that I wrote Runaway Smile. That would mean it’s become the household name it deserves to be!
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Healing. Whenever I see someone suffer, man or animal, I wish I could take away their pain. Also, I love understanding what makes people tick. So, anything that helps with that.
Telepathy, I guess, but not the usual “I can tell if you’re lying” variety.
Am I allowed to give two answers?
What secret talents do you have?
I have a good singing voice and play the guitar. In fact, I earned some extra cash as a student in Edinburgh by playing at weddings and various events.
What do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I love dreams. There are a few recurring dreams or themes at times, but generally speaking there’s too many of them to mention here. I’ve kept a dream journal since I was a teenager, and most of my inspiration comes through that. A large part of my first drafts is copied almost verbatim from dreams!
Runaway Smile: an unshared smile is a wasted smile
A children’s book by Nicholas C. Rossis
“I woke up this morning and I had lost my smile and it wasn’t my fault and I looked everywhere and it was gone. Then I met a workman and a king and the best salesman in the world and a clown and no-one wanted to give me theirs. At school, I asked Miss to give me hers, but she gave us a pop quiz instead, and then no-one was smiling and…”
A little boy wakes up in the morning and realizes he has lost his smile. After spending the entire day trying to find it, he learns the truth behind smiles: the only real smiles are the shared ones.
As soon as the boy saw those, his heart fluttered. For sure, this is someone who has plenty of smiles to spare! He hopped towards the king, who waved at him.The boy was about to carefully cross a street, when he heard gasps and applause. A king approached, atop his courtiers. He looked like an egg, short and round, and wore a towering crown on his head. The boy did not notice any of this though; all he saw was the wide smiles the king threw at everyone.
“How’re you today, son?”
He grabbed the boy to pull him up, embracing him tightly with one hand, the other motioning a photographer over. The man ran and snapped a photo, briefly blinding the boy, who blinked as the king threw him back onto the street.
“Wait, I need your help!” the boy shouted.
“Well, what can I do for you?” the king asked and turned towards the camera, beaming his widest smile. The boy looked at him in awe; that was just the kind of smile he wanted!The king paused for a second. A courtier rushed over to whisper something into the king’s ear. The king nodded in agreement. “His Majesty generously saves loyal subject. What a great story!” he murmured and motioned to a journalist, who dashed over to keep notes, while the photographer took one picture after another. The boy raised his hand before his eyes to escape the hard flashes of light.
“That’s exactly what I want!” he said, pointing at the king’s head.
“My head?” he yelled in alarm.
“The king’s head! The boy wants the king’s head!” the courtiers shouted in desperation and bolted away, throwing the king unceremoniously onto the street. He crashed on his royal posterior.
“I only wanted your smile,” the boy said as tears swelled in his eyes.“Wait!” he cried out after his courtiers, but within a few seconds the street lay empty. The king got up slowly and grimaced, rubbing his throbbing behind. “Now look what you’ve done! It’ll take me forever to gather them back!”
The king looked at him and let out a deep sigh. He had no smiles left, not even a wee one, and he shook his head sadly.
The boy hung his head and turned away, laboriously dragging the cart behind him.
Illustrations from Runaway Smile:
** Aren’t those incredible? **
Nicholas is all around the Internet, but the best place to find him would be his blog, http://nicholasrossis.me/ .
Anyone interested in his books can check them out on Amazon:
People can read Runaway Smile for free on http://nicholasrossis.me/childrens-books/
or buy it from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Runaway-Smile-fairy-unshared-wasted-ebook/dp/B00QQC2YLY/
Other places to connect with him include:
Twitter – www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+NicholasRossis