Books And Bites: Congratulations on the publication of your novels! Tell me a little about them – what’s your pitch?
Ryan A. Span: Thanks for that! I’ll do my best to explain without taking all day.
STREET is a series of character-driven cyberpunk novels that follow the journey of Gina, a freelance telepath living on her own in a dystopian future Earth. She gets recruited to spy on a powerful mystery man named Gabriel with her drug-induced telepathic abilities, and soon discovers that Gabriel is as alluring as he is dangerous, and a lot more than she bargained for. With new threats and questionable allies around every corner, Gina has to find a way to survive while keeping her mind from cracking under the strain.
From an author’s viewpoint, I’m trying to combine the best things about the genre — the moody, nasty atmosphere and brilliant setting tropes — with interesting new ideas and characters you can actually care about.
BAB: No two authors seem to take the same route to publication, but almost every author has an interesting story about their journey. Care to share yours?
Ryan A. Span: Well, after a long period of submitting to larger publishers and getting only rejections, I got fed up with the process. Waiting literally years for a response on a manuscript seemed a bit ridiculous, especially when they deny you the ability to simultaneously submit elsewhere. One publisher took three years to finally get back to me! Instead of going through that again I decided to start a brand new story which I could run online as a serial. STREET was born.
About a year later, when I finished the first book of STREET at the end of 2007, I started to look into my options for getting it into print to sell it. Its future seemed pretty dim at the time, due to the big black mark publishers place on stories that have already been “published” on the web. I certainly didn’t want to take down the website, which has always been the heart of the story.
Then I got lucky. One of the forums where I was asking around, researching the whole deal of self-publishing, was also frequented by the chief editor of Gryphonwood Press. He contacted me asking for a synopsis and a manuscript, and after reading it he was impressed enough to offer me a contract.
BAB: How did you get the idea for your novel?
Ryan A. Span: All I can say is it’s grown out of itself. I did the first draft of the first scene of Empathy years ago, as an experiment, and then left it abandoned in my notes for a long time. I finally rediscovered it when I was looking for an idea to turn into a serial. After I finished cooking up a setting and an antagonist everything pretty much snowballed from there.
BAB: Do you have another book in the works?
Ryan A. Span: Always! 😉
I’m currently working on a gritty medieval fantasy novel with a hint of steampunk. It’s going extremely well — I’m starting to think it might end up better than STREET when it’s finished.
BAB: How did you get the inspiration for characters?
Ryan A. Span: Usually what I do is try to create people that are as different from myself as I can imagine. Before STREET and Gina, nearly all the viewpoint characters in my writing were male and shared some parts of my own personality. To change that, freshen things up, I decided to write a woman with a well-developed sense of her own sexuality. That core thought is what defines the character for me; all further development derives from it.
BAB: Who is your favorite character? Why?
Ryan A. Span: It’s a toss-up between Gina, who sold the story for me in the first place just by being herself, and Rat, whose arc and development I’m most proud of. Scenes with Rat are slightly more fun to write than Gina’s, if only because Rat has enough attitude to fill up an Olympic-sized swimming pool, but Gina has an inner strength that has kept me interested all the way.
BAB: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Ryan A. Span: That’s a tough one. I’ve been creating stories in my head for as long as I can remember, but I haven’t always written them down. I spent a short period dabbling on an old electric typewriter when I was around 8-9 but then lost interest for years. I tried again (in English this time) in 1999, when I was 15, and things just sort of clicked into place. It felt like something I was meant to be doing all along, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
BAB: In writing your books, what was your most surprising discovery?
Ryan A. Span: Hmm, I’ve been surprised before, but a discovery?
Probably when I wrote a big reveal for Rat in STREET that I hadn’t planned at all, and which defined the entire rest of the character’s arc. Other characters have surprised me with fantastic bits of backstory that came out of nowhere, but Rat’s was always the biggest and most shocking to me.
BAB: What’s your writing routine? Do you write in the mornings, nights, daily, or when the mood strikes you?
Ryan A. Span: I don’t have a routine as such. I try to write as and when I can, no matter the time of day, but definitely every day of the week. Any day where I don’t get any writing done is a disappointment.
The one thing that makes a real difference to me is music. I need to have music on to write properly, otherwise things just don’t go right and anything I create tends to be quite awful.
BAB: What experience did you have with your publisher? Good? Bad?
Ryan A. Span: Gryphonwood Press have been terrific to work with, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve got at least two more books to publish with ’em. 😉
From the start the editors have been open, honest and straightforward with me, and we share the same ambition in putting our books and Gryphonwood itself on the map. I can’t think of many other publishers that would take on a manuscript which has been previously published online. Most of them would treat it as a toxic property, but G’wood saw through that and still believed in the book enough to bring it to print.
I knew when I first put STREET online that it wasn’t likely to ever become a best-seller, just because it was going online for free, but G’wood have helped it to go beyond my wildest dreams. Now I just want to see where we’ll end up when the trilogy’s finally finished.
BAB: If you had to pick one author as your favorite, who would it be?
Ryan A. Span: Oof, another tough one. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I’d have said George R.R. Martin. If I was basing it on one single title, I’d have said Neal Stephenson with Snow Crash. Right now I’d have to say Neil Gaiman, who’s generally fantastic all the way through.
BAB: Finally, thank you for taking part in this interview. Before you go, what message would you like to send to your fans?
Ryan A. Span: Stay tuned. Clairvoyance is coming, and the final edited version is going to be amazing. In the meantime you can find some of my short fiction in the new anthology by Gryphonwood Press, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got: Tales of Loss & Dispossession”, which is more than worth the price!
You can find the anthology:
Title: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got: Tales of Loss & Dispossession
Author: Ryan A. Span
Publisher: Gryphonwood Press
Hardcover: 234 pages