Reality bites. And so do the characters that Solomon J. Inkwell (a pen name for the wickedly wise) pens about in his novels Haunting Thelma Thimblewhistle: The Chronicles of Dead Anna and Vickie Van Helsing. Part writer, part immature adult who admits it, Mr. Inkwell has found his niche in self-publishing after a spin in the traditional publishing realm. But his story goes back much, much further.
“My mom told the best stories. She was so, so good at it. She was my first inspiration, I believe. I wanted to make others feel the way she made me feel with scary stories and tall tales.”
Mr. Inkwell took his mother’s stories and a love for horror and sci-fi writings to heart, composing short stories, essays and poems – even songs – while in school. However, when he decided to write a novel, he focused on anything by the young adult market.
“I began with horror geared for the adult market. I started maybe 5 or 7 novels and could never get through them. I’d lose interest. It was then I decided to try to write young fiction. It shocked me how easy the transition was. Once I was in the YA/MG frame of mind, I found it was limitless,” says Inkwell.
“Since I am one of the most immature adults alive, young fiction felt natural for me.”
It took all of a year and a half for Mr. Inkwell to write his first book. Planning and outlining bored him to tears; rather, he would open and page, start writing and see where the story took him.
“Yeah, that wasn’t smart. I quickly learned that it takes great planning to write a book.”
Planning, of course, plays an important role when querying to literary agents, as Inkwell soon discovered. His experience with the querying ghost ride gives great insight into what it’s like, and how the process can take away from the creative spark in a writer’s heart.
“Crafting queries, tuning them to each agent’s preference, waiting on responses you may not even receive… the process became a little draining for me, really. It began to take enjoyment out of writing.
“I found myself no longer becoming excited by a new story, but becoming worried about its marketability. I would immediately begin wondering how I would pitch it and how it would be received. The joy of creating was starting to fade away. I had to stop that. Personally, I just wanted to tell scary stories to kids.”
He got his chance when a boutique agency in the Pacific Northwest offered him representation. But no sooner had Thelma gone to pitch than the agency went through major changes. Inkwell saw that it wasn’t heading in a direction he wanted to follow, and broke ties with the agency. While he was seeking new representation, Inkwell penned Vickie Van Helsing, the tale of a high school senior who discovers she is the descendent of Abraham Van Helsing… just in time to save her high school from a newly resurrected (and highly angry) Dracula.
“I received interest from three agencies who all ended up telling me the same thing: Vickie was a great read, but they just couldn’t sell a book with vampires in a market that was ‘vampire-heavy’ at the time. One even said they would take it if I would rewrite it with a different type of monster. Well, that wouldn’t work for me.”
Indeed, Mr. Inkwell instead brought Vickie to market utilizing his own imprint, Oakberry & Inkwell, and plans to release Haunting Thelma Thimblewhistle (the first book from the Chronicles of Dead Anna series in April 2012.
Does Inkwell regret not continuing down the traditional path of query-agent-book deal? Not a chance.
“It (self-publishing) has been the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”