The Author’s Chair: Cedric Cross – Interviewed

[In the first of a new feature on POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing, The Author’s Chair is filled by Cedric Cross, who has just self-published his first novel, The Black Eagle, this week. Cedric has recently been writing about his experiences of self-publishing here on the site.]

[MICK] Can you remember the first book you ever read?

[CEDRIC] Unfortunately, no. I remember my mom and grandma would read me the book ‘Go, Dog, Go!’ by P.D. Eastman, and I made them read it to me SOO many times, that I memorized the words. (Laughs) So when I eventually learned to read, I would read that book out of its ink.
[MICK] When you were that young, even after mom and grandma stopped reading to you – would you read a little on your own?
[CEDRIC] Well, what I thought was reading! (Laughs)
[MICK] What was the first story you ever wrote and what actually started you writing?
[CEDRIC] The first story I ever wrote was actually about Kaveri. He was a character I had formed as a child. It had no title and no direction or other characters. Kaveri would just go off on random adventures and searches for objects to make him powerful enough to stop the villains, who weren’t even created yet. I was probably nine. It is actually pretty funny now that I look back on it.
[MICK] It sounds like Kaveri has been around quite some time. I sense the character has become larger than life for you. Clearly he isn’t going away and you are planning a series of books for him?
[CEDRIC] He definitely has, and it is a weird but great feeling. I always felt like authors and movie characters were so real and I had such an imagination as a kid that for a long time I thought they actually were. But now, I have my own! It’s CRAZY! He is like a real person to me and I wonder if every author feels that way about their character. But definitely, yes! I am about 118 pages into the sequel and I have about half of the whole series mapped out in detail.
[MICK] So, do you consider writing a calling for you or do you have other plans besides writing?
[CEDRIC] I definitely consider writing a calling for me. I think anyone who loves it does. Easily, because I’m so passionate about it and I love it so much. I’ve never put my heart into anything like the way I do with my writing. A stable career as a writer would be great but I’m not naive, I still want to go to school and become a psychiatrist. Writing is easily my first choice though and something I can pursue early and forever, even if it doesn’t bring me all the success.
[MICK] A psychiatrist!—that could open up an extraordinary bank of learning for you and take your writing in any multitude of pathways, couldn’t it?
[CEDRIC] Oh definitely. To become a psychiatrist means a heck of a lot more knowledge and it’s a little intimidating. But to have that knowledge and to be able to apply it to a novel can increase the twists and general storyline of any novel with a great magnitude.
[MICK] So, what are the three most influential books you have ever read?
[CEDRIC] Hmm…I actually am not much of a reader, but the bible of course. I wouldn’t have so much guidance and strives to be a good person if I didn’t read that. And then, Harry Potter; you can separate the two and no controversy over it, but it’s a great fiction series and I don’t think it suggests we should practice witchcraft. She wrote them because she loves them, and it is harmless to me. And sure, ‘Go, Dog, Go!’ is third!
[MICK] While you say you’re not much of a reader, it sounds like the bible became a sort of compendium of stories and values. Has that played an important part in your early style of writing and themes?
[CEDRIC] Well, definitely, because there has to be a high volume of stories and themes and side quests in a story to have quality and to entertain. I think if that wasn’t the case then there would be no series of books and maybe even no novels. That would defeat the purpose of my series. (Laughs) Because then I would have like a two-page ‘novel’ about a boy who witnesses his parents assassination and then grows up, goes on a mission his master has assigned and gets his revenge. (You have to read the real Black Eagle to know if this is true or not.) Then tie in the ending. It’s like a statement. There would be no questions—all answers.
[MICK] How do you define ‘being published’, and how much have you considered the challenges of self-publishing and some of the stigmas surrounding it?
[CEDRIC] I define being published as something that is final. No changes will be made and it’s a personal achievement you’re satisfied with, and that others may read as well. Commercial publishing is different. I consider the challenges of self-publishing every day. It will be harder to get recognized and even harder to get taken seriously, but that’s not stopping me and other writers. It doesn’t lessen our passion, skill or value as a writer.
[MICK] That’s an interesting perspective on publishing being a final act. Do you mean all publishing, because you’ve said commercial publishing is somehow different—by which, if I understand you, you mean a large publisher. Different than what—self-publishing? Do you mean self-publishing is somehow less final?
[CEDRIC] Perfect… I had to rethink that one! I have no experience in traditional publishing but rumours are, is that they will change ALOT of the work and even the title. But take that story by the same author and say they didn’t get an agent and big publisher. Well, I assume they could self-publish and the editing process would be just for grammatical errors. So, then that is still their work, their edited work, their published work. It is a term that has many angles and it depends on how you view it.
[MICK] How much research did you do into self-publishing services and what other companies did you look at?
[CEDRIC] I did ALOT of research on Xlibris. Not so much on the others. The only other one I honestly remember was Tate. Xlibris did the best job for me in being professional when I called and prompt on my orders and requests. It seemed the most convenient for me since I was still in school and had football and homework.
[MICK] I’m surprised. It seems you made your mind up early on with Xlibris. What latched you on to them—I mean—how did you come across them?
[CEDRIC] Well, one day I was looking at how to get published and a self-publishing survey popped up. I filled it out and it said Xlibris would be best for me. So, yes, in a way I took advice from a computer—which I don’t regret! (Laughs)
[MICK] What would you consider as a success personally for you and your book?
[CEDRIC] A success for me and my book means that I can produce a book that the people who DO read it will enjoy it and want to continue reading the series. I DO think about the crazy success some authors and even self-published authors have but I’m young and I need to become more experienced. People may look at my work and laugh, so although I don’t want to change my first book, I need to be patient and work really hard on my other work if I want to have some kind of a chance. Financial success though will be just a small house, just big enough for me and enough money to pay my bills, food and to have a little extra for repairs and for a little bit of saving. This will keep me happy for a while, because I won’t have stresses outside of family issues, and honestly, that will be financial success for me.
[MICK] It’s a situation, and perhaps some might think, a modest aspiration many writers would like, but I do know that in all my years meeting writers, befriending some of them, I can only think of two or three who can afford that modest aspiration from writing alone. I think you should keep a firm hold of that psychiatry seat!
[CEDRIC] Well, thank you! I definitely will keep an EYE on that psychiatry seat. (Laughs) I haven’t even started college yet!
[MICK] Before you started your search for a publisher, what was your perception as a writer of publishing houses like Penguin, Random House, Dorrance and Publish America? Had you heard of these publishers?
[CEDRIC] Yes, I had heard of all of those publishers except Dorrance. My perception really was just like…oblivious. I thought publishing companies were the ones who picked up who they thought were good after reading the manuscript. I had no idea how picky they are and the long and gruelling process—the queries, the emails and all that. I thought you just send in your work and it gets read, and if they like it, they hire you, if not, try again. I was so wrong.
[MICK] What can we do to change that perception of publishing, and is it true or right it should be that way?
[CEDRIC] (Sighs) That’s a tough one. I THINK, what may help a lot is to get a really, humble and good person, who is a writer, recognized and get them into a position where people may admire her/him, and then they start pitching their beliefs (which should be right) about that same questions. Definitely having a publisher read every piece of work submitted would help. But that won’t happen. Let’s hope we (self-published authors and artists) get a heavy weight status into our corner which can help with that—something positive.
[MICK] What kind of feedback have you had about your work from agents and publishers?
[CEDRIC] My work hasn’t truly been exposed to agents and publishers, yet. When I looked for agents at first, I had an agent request my first 30-35 pages and after she read my query, a few days later, I got an email back explaining it didn’t quite fit what she represents. She mostly did chick lit, but that’s no excuse. She looked at other fiction categories; mine just wasn’t there, yet. It was fun though and encouraged me further.
[MICK] What resources did you rely on to seek out agents and publishers?
[CEDRIC] (Laughs) Google!
[MICK] What do you most like about bookstores and how would you enrich the experience of its customers?
[CEDRIC] I love the smell! It’s ridiculous. I could go into a bookstore and just sit. I go often, but I never buy anything. I like to browse. I think I would enrich the experience for the customers by giving them something to read that has a little edge to it. I’m also young, so getting to a level where I can communicate with a teenager effectively is easier for me than it could be for some people.
[MICK] So you think, as a whole, the industry as well as retailers is letting us down in our experience to read and enjoy the experience of books?
[CEDRIC] Definitely. A lot more work should be published. It’s sad. It’s money, man. People want money—people want beauty. They’re trying to market these books that have no significant meaning and turning down those inspirational and good ‘undiscovered books’ (their term—not marketable enough) that help teach this world a lesson. I mean, my book is not all action, it has lessons, but I may have no room to talk—it’s the truth.
[MICK] If you were to close your eyes now, and imagine the future of publishing and books – what do you think you would see?
[CEDRIC] I see some truly bizarre stuff getting published. I don’t know what, but I have a feeling things will get interesting. Creativity and originality gets harder and more complicated every day, so someone eccentric will make it big and give us something great. It’s only a matter of time before we are introduced to the Lady GaGa of authors. I’m not quite daring enough to completely go over the edge with my work, but I hope someone does, and I hope they meet great success with it.
[MICK] I love that description—that we are waiting for the Lady GaGa of authors. I wonder if she has arrived yet.
[CEDRIC] Maybe she has. Maybe he has. Lord Gaga would be cool too. Imagine both! (Laughs) But if they have, we must patiently wait for them to be discovered…which I hope is soon.
[MICK] Tell us a little about the book you have just published.
[CEDRIC] ‘The Black Eagle’ is about an exceptional martial artist named Kaveri Asben, who has dedicated his life to pursuing the men he witnessed assassinate his parents. It’s being published in the genre of action/adventure, but it really has a touch of everything in it.

At age twelve, Kaveri witnesses the assassination of his parents, fleeing the scene afterwards to escape the two men. During that time though, he overhears one of the names of the assassin’s and is only left with that name to figure out and understand why his parents were targeted. Kaveri encounters an elderly man that same night, who later becomes his master. From the day after the assassination, Kaveri dedicates his life to prepare for the battle and to one day pursue that named assassin. Six years after the murders, Kaveri encounters a man with the same name as the man who killed his parents. Sparking Kaveri’s rage, this event sends him on a complicated and confusing struggle to either pursue this man without much of a lead, or to go on a deadly mission his master has prepared for him that could lead to the identity and revenge on the other assailant.

It is the first in a planned series of six books and is running about 73,000 words. It is very vivid (I tried my hardest to give the reader a colourful and enjoyable environment) to me and there are characters that can appeal to everyone’s personality. Someone everybody can relate to. Of course, being a martial artist, Kaveri and his friends engage in battle, but there are no really gory scenes and the language is suitable for all ages. I think anyone from age 9 up can find this enjoyable because it is easy to follow, there aren’t huge chaotic words that cause confusion, but it raises enough question and concern for even really mature readers to be intrigued, but for younger kids to understand. However, it will challenge them a little.
– Cedric, fire a few words off on your preferences on each of the below.
e-Books or print books?
…. Print books, absolutely no chance it will glitch when printed!
Agent or no agent?
…. I’ve never had an agent so all I know is no agent!
Advance and 8% retail royalties or no advance and 50% royalties
…. I’m happy if it gets me a house and keeps the bills paid!
Large publishing house or Independent House/Press?
…It depends. If it’s in pursuit of… then independent house, at least you get some recognition while trying to get picked up, but if automatic, then large publishing house.
Cedric Cross was sixteen when he began writing his debut novel, The Black Eagle. He completed it in the spring of 2010 while juggling school and football, achieving one of his dreams in life. He furthered that dream, publishing the manuscript a few months later when he turned eighteen years of age. He currently resides in Florida where he is working on his second novel.

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