I’m Paul DeStefano, and I write Dark Fantasy. Riftsiders: Unlawful Possession is the first book of the Riftsiders Series and release 4/18/22.
From Planning to Published
When did you start writing and why?
Author: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but professional fantasy writing started in 2004. That was when I was picked up by the gaming company Fantastique Forges after they read some of my work online. It started as a hobby and spread over the decades to become career.
How long did it take you to finish your first book?
Author: My first books were things I wrote in high school and for college courses. That’s ancient history I can no longer recall. For Riftsiders, the process was about two months.
If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?
Author: I wrote it in about two months in 2020, and it his the shelves in 2022.
Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?
Author: Traditional through small press. I really don’t want to get involved in the nuts and bolts of things like format, ISBN and sourcing editors. I’ll happily pay a chunk of my royalties to get the right people lined up for me so I can spend time writing and editing.
How did you determine your target audience?
Author: It’s me. I’m the target audience.
What is your publishing process?
Author: I spend some time outlining, then writing, then drop it to my agent. She edits and kicks back. I grumble and reply. She then starts sending it out to publishers, and there’s another editing round there.
How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?
Author: I have a few hundred people in my fan groups I can appeal to for feedback. Edits come from my agent.
Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?
Author: I have a few hundred newsletter subscribers, a few hundred followers on Facebook (Paul D’s Tainted Dragon Inn) and I’m a very minor celebrity in the tabletop gaming world.
What is your launch plan for your works?
Author: I do a few ads on Amazon and Facebook, my newsletter and social media. I’m big into live appearances, doing seminars and talks, which has been on pandemic hold since 2/2020, but I’ve started booking again.
How do you get reviews for your books?
Author: Haven’t seen any yet…
How do you promote your content?
Author: Again, I’m big into doing talks at conventions. Nothing beats face to face with fans.
What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?
Author: Listen. Don’t assume what you have is gold or what you’re doing is the best way. Always be willing to accept criticism, from prose to marketing.
How do you define success as an author?
Author: I got a text this morning. My book released at midnight last night. Someone read half the book overnight. That’s pretty solid success to me.
About Your Work
What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?
Author: I do a bunch of horror shorts, several will be in anthologies this year. I have a screenplay I’m trying to get noticed. But the concentration is really novels.
What genres and subgenres do you write in?
Author: Contemporary fantasy and horror. Traditional sword and sorcery fantasy as well. I ghostwrite science fiction, and may do some under my own name in the future.
What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?
Author: Tainted Dragon Inn, Inc. is my actual corporate name. Literally, the concept of a tavern to go to and swap friendly stories. It was created when I took up ghostwriting due to the amount of fantasy I was working on for gaming companies. I want a comforting place to tell discomforting tales.
How many works have you published?
Author: My first novel in my own name just came out. If you include things like trade articles, ghostwritten works and online pieces… hundreds.
Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?
Author: I decided it was time to do novels for me, not just as a hired gun. Riftsiders was born. Scary, silly, sexy. I had this concept of possession being a common social issue, and using it as a way to explore racism and bigotry against sexual orientation, neurodivergent and other classifications that are literally ‘demonized’ in today’s society.
Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.
Author: My work takes place in an uncanny valley right next to reality. Something is usually dark and twisted. Everything is laced with strange humor. I’m fascinated with the nature of personality and how people are not always what they appear. This is very on the surface in Riftsiders, where the demons can be seen as other aspects of a character’s self.
What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?
Author: Make people think and smile. Always the same.
Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?
Author: I had a fantasy podcast a few years back that I’ve dropped, but who knows what’s to come.
What do you want your readers to get out of your works?
Author: A smile and a new idea of the world around them.
What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?
Author: Marekting… The not authoring part.
What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?
Author: I hate the nuts and bolts of it, which is why I got an agent. I just hand stuff over and she does the heavy lifting. I just write the stuff.
Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?
Author: Sure, anything I teach is awesome. Otherwise, everything is so hit or miss out there. I strongly suggest every writer get some form of editorial software like ProWritingAid. It’s amazing the things you can learn from that. Yeah, it’s incredibly wrong sometimes, but it opens your eyes.
Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?
Author: Harlan Ellison and Clive Barker each have these ‘reality next door’ feels that I try for. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide whether or not I get there.
Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?
Author: I’m a huge dark fantasy fan. There’s just so much out there. I love seeing what other people have explored, and that often opens new ideas up for me.
What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?
Author: I plot like freaking crazy. For an 80K word book, I can easily have 15-20K of background and outline that no one ever gets to see but me. If I spend 12 weeks writing a manuscript, 4 weeks is plotting.
Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?
Author: Probably Facebook.
Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?
Author: When I’m writing, I set hard deadlines. This is a holdover from ghostwriting and assignment work. Usually 2500 words a day.
What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?
Author: Everyone saying you can’t get an agent. It wasn’t hard and I was just scared going in.
How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?
Author: New writers love to say “Writing has no rules”. This is incredibly wrong. If you want to get accepted, put in magazines, anthologies and find agents and publishers to support you, you have to follow very precise rules. Sure, you can write free verse poetry and say no one understands you when you get rejected. But most rejections are because you didn’t follow rules, either the submission process or linguistically. If you’re getting form rejection after form rejection – something’s wrong with the submission. Step back. Make it “right” and try again. Do not become so attached to your art that you can no longer see it.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?
Author: Accept criticism.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
Author: I’d probably take the step to novelist sooner.
Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?
Author: I love promoting me. I get out there all the time.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Author: If I don’t, I don’t get to eat. Starvation is strong motivation.
How do you combat writer’s block?
What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?
Author: ISBN. And I do whatever I can to not deal with it.
How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?
Author: Having always written, it never really came as a surprise to anyone.
What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?
Author: That they’re introverts.
What do you listen to while you write?
Author: Every project gets its own playlist. This is actually a very important part of outlining to me.
Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?
Author: Klaxon. I also like hiding obscure messages in names.
Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?
Author: My home office. Next to a window looking down to the street and with hot tea. Always.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Author: Brain Movies.
What is your favorite literary trope?
Author: Miscommunication when two people hear the identical thing and interpret it differently.
How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?
Author: Horror and humor are not separate genres when I write.
What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?
Author: I have to slow down.
What is your favorite writing snack and drink?
Author: Lapsang Souchong. It’s a smoked tea. It smells like burning rope. 3-6 mugs a day.
Do you have a writing companion?
Author: I have four cats. They often insert themselves between me and the keyboard.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Author: Everyone can teach you something.