the Little Red Reviewer

Interview with author and editor John Mierau

Posted on: May 12, 2013

We have a very special guest today, someone I’ve actually met in person!  John and I met a few years ago at an airport when flights were delayed (cancelled? changed? I don’t remember) and a herd of passengers ran together to a different gate and then sat around chatting while waiting for whatever people wait for after rushing all the way across an airport terminal.   Just goes to show, you should always be friendly to your fellow passengers at an airport. You never know who you’ll meet!

John Meirau

John is a writer, podcaster, editor and all around Creative Storyteller Guy.  Working the bridge the gap between indie authors and authors who publish traditionally, his WALK THE FIRE anthologies are part of the new paradigm of how authors reach their audience.  The second anthology in the series is in the middle of it’s Kickstarter campaign, and features everything from Hugo nominated authors to indie authors, to music and artwork too.

Check out the WALK THE FIRE Kickstarter page for a video about the anthology, info on contributors, how to get yourself tuckerized, stretch goals and more.

Check out John’s blog for a series of interviews with some of the contributors, and a series of podcasts featuring free fiction from the first WALK THE FIRE anthology.

Sounds damn awesome, if you ask me.  But why are we asking me, when we can ask John instead?

Hi John,  welcome to the blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself? What kind of fiction do you write?
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I write mostly science fiction, occasionally fantasy, weird western, horror, sometimes with an adventure or thriller slant and always with a focus on character.
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Are there any specific books or authors that inspired you to start writing speculative fiction?
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Spider Robinson was a writer I absorbed far younger than I probably should have, during trips across the country when my military family relocated. He was the first author I can remember studying for how he constructed things. 
 
Spider’s humor and his atmospheric settings drew me in, but his skill at constructing stories and his compassionate messages are what kept me reading.
 
Bradbury I also loved, for very similar reasons.
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I’m new to shared world anthologies. Give me the run down on WALK THE FIRE. What kind of world is it? What kind of stories can I expect to read?
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WALK THE FIRE takes place in a reality where a very, very few humans called Ferrymen walk through special fires and appear anywhere else a flame from that fire has been transported the normal way. When they walk through, they revert in age and appearance to what they were the first time the ‘crossed’. 
 
Beyond the phenomena of crossing the Flames there are no gods, no aliens, no paranormal abilities in WALK THE FIRE. Just people. A lot more people, spread a lot farther. Some of whom are functionally immortal and pricelessly valuable. 
 
There are two central questions of the series -after, ‘have we told an exciting story?’ 
 
1. What happens to a person’s humanity when they no longer fear poverty, age, disease? And, by extension, what happens to the rest of us in their presence?
 
2. What happens to humanity as a whole when it has spread to a thousand self-sustaining homes? What technology will we discover and what choices will we make differently than here in the cradle of Earth?
 
All the authors are given a bible of key events and rules for how the world works, and are then set loose to enrich it. Characters and events may appear from story to story, and enrich the sense of this world.
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Walk the Fire
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Congratulations on your Kickstarter campaign for WALK THE FIRE Volume 2!   going beyond the standard “book full of words”, volume 2 features artwork by Scott Pond and music from John Anealio. What are some of the advantages and challenges of including so much multimedia in the ebook?
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I’m a big believer in social media to connect writers and readers, and to let people who appreciate a work share it, and things associated with it. That makes things like artwork and songs more than just a gimmick: it’s something they can find for themselves, trade links to, at any time from now until the internet dies. 
 
I’m not sure, though, where I stand on ‘transmedia’, or the art of extending storytelling through several mediums. So the artwork and music are not pieces of the puzzle that need to be understood to solve or complete the anthologies. You can take them as they come.
 
It just seemed natural to me, when I was creating this series, that art and music could be reflections of the shared world. I consider Scott and John true collaborators, the equal to any of the authors.  
 
John wrote a folk song for the first anthology in the series, a hopeful, spiritual song about the Ferrymen and mankind stretching forth. I’ve asked him for something instrumental and thematic, this time… and also something dark, something questioning. 
John got the hopeful aspect so right in his first song ‘The Ferrymen’ is almost felt like a gospel or 60’s hippy song. Now I hope he’ll delve into how the Ferrymen change society, or are changed by it, in ways that aren’t so pretty.
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Thanks to places like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, creators and fans can put their money where their mouth is. With crowdfunding so accessible, what changes do you see in the future of traditional publishing and distribution models?
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When I created WALK THE FIRE I wanted it to be inclusionary and invited kindle best-sellers, new writers and new media innovators. I paid everyone who participated and I believed their careers and reader base would be expanded by coexisting in WALK THE FIRE.
 
For this second volume, I’ve assembled a team that’s even more hybrid: Hugo-nominated and traditionally published authors, as well as a new roster of indies and kindle best-sellers. There’s always a bit of contention (or outright war) between the traditionally published and indie camps, so it seemed natural to do what I could to help break the stigma down a little.
 
That’s a long way of saying I think the future of traditional publishing is in hybrid authors: those who contract with big Houses and those who take on promotion and distribution themselves.
 
Once you get past that dividing line, all of a sudden you have a whole host of options open to you: crowdfunding like Kickstarter can complement traditional advances, ebook sales to different e-ecosystems can supplement foreign sales.
 
Using social media to foster genuine connections with the people interested in your work seems to me to be the lynchpin to it all.
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When we first met, you were crazy for tablets, and I was lugging around  a purse full of beloved dead trees. I’m still a tree killer, but have started to dabble in ebooks. One of my worries with ebooks is DRM. Can you tell us about your decision  to go DRM free and what that means for your readers?
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Still crazy for tablets! Although since abandoning the iPhone for a Galaxy Note II I’m happier using it more than any android or iOS tablet yet. There’s a study somewhere that says we’ve tipped past the point of reading on specialized e-readers and now do more reading on our phones.
 
My phone is the computing device I use most. And as I mentioned above I change it a lot, as new systems come out. In a few years, we might be looking back on Apple and Google’s phone OS’s the way we now look on BlackBerry and Palm: outdated.
 
Although Kindle’s likely to outlast any one platform as an e-reader, I can’t help but worry that someday, Kindle readers will wake up and no longer have access to their ‘leased’ (not owned) material, even the ones authors like me made DRM-free.
 
Offering content in truly open formats like ePub is the only way to be realistically sure that, down the road a few years, you’ll still be able to enjoy the content you’re purchasing today.
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Podcasting, audiobook recording, anthology editing,  kickstarting, not to mention writing writing writing. You are one busy guy!  What do you like to do to relax?
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Re…lax? (grin) I’m a father of three, husband to a patient and amazing wife, and there’s always something that needs doing around the house. I live in a small town, and see friends a couple times a month. My wife and I get an hour or so at night to watch a tv show on Amazon Prime or iTunes (we’re cable-cutters), and I walk the dog with an audiobook or podcast in my ears once a day. 
 
The rest of the time, I guess doing what you love energizes you. I love writing, podcasting and social media are excellent tools to reach an audience and reach out to my interests, and I guess that’ll have to do until I get a bag full of money or a 25th hour a day.
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Many of us got hooked on reading through visits to public libraries or local bookstores.  How about you? Any great bookstore or library stories to share?
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Libraries are where most of my generation discovered new writers and genres. (I’m 42–still waiting for the answers to life, the universe and everything) I found true love:
 
Spider Robinson’s Saloon collections, Robert B Parker’s Spenser mysteries, Robert A Heinlein’s juvenile novels and more. I burned through the shelves with little atom-and-rocket-ship stickers on the spine, and the other Fiction shelves around them.
 
I mentioned before that my father was in the military? My favorite thing to do on holidays and weekends was disappear into a book. The mark of a good vacation was to kill a stack of books from the library before the end of it.
 
I used to walk the long way home in high school so I could check out the used bookstore. I still remember the time I found George RR Martin’s Wild Cards, a superhero/scifi anthology.
 
Cut to today: WALK THE FIRE is a tribute to the libraries and bookstores of my youth, my discovery of Wild Cards, and the social media/ebook-fuelled world of today.
 
I love books, in all forms. I love ideas that stretch beyond their covers. I love danger, romance, twist endings and twisted characters. And I love talking to other writers and readers about the things we love in common. 
 
The best I can hope for WALK THE FIRE is that it will keep readers up way too late, swiping screens until their eyes burn and their devices have to be plugged in, discovering new writers, stories and worlds they’ll go on to love.
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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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The Kickstarter for WALK THE FIRE has about a week left, I do hope you’ll head over there and check it out. If you have questions for John about the anthology, or his experience with Kickstarter, or anything, ask ‘em in the comments (and I’ll try to bribe him to visit and answer them. Maybe I’ll offer him a 25th hour in the day?) or tweet him.
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Learn more about John Mierau at
his website and blog Serving Worlds
twitter @johnmierau
his personal tumblr blog
and of course, the WALK THE FIRE Kickstarter
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