Where reading is a way of life

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fire Country Book Birthday + Giveaway + Interview with David Estes!

Today, Fire Country by David Estes turns one year old. In the first year since Fire Country was born, so much has happened. David signed with an agent, sold more than 10,000 books, wrote five more books and published a further three). He knew he just had to celebrate and he'd love for you to be a part of it! David owes so much of his support to the blogger community, and he wants everyone to have the chance to be a part of the Fire Country Birthday Bash.
Everyone goes home a winner, simply follow the prompts below and swipe your eCopy of Fire Country from Smashwords. Read and leave a review on Amazon if you enjoyed it. Feel free to share the code with your friends, family, neighbours and literary inclined pets.
Coupon Code: WH62C
Expiration: March 1, 2014
What's a party without prizes? Yes, David is not only giving everyone a chance to download their own copy of Fire Country, book one in the Country Saga for free, but he's also giving you stuff too. You could win an Amazon giftcard open internationally, U.S residents can win a signed copy of the David Estes book of your choice, or a handful of David Estes eBooks of your choice. Awesome.
Visit David via his Blog  Facebook • Twitter and via Goodreads
Pay Perry the Prickler a visit on Twitter and Goodreads
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, on to the interview!

Welcome, David, it’s great to have you on the blog again! Today we are celebrating Fire Country's 1st Book Birthday! Do you want to tell us more about it?

Thanks so much for having me on your awesome blog again, Jenny! When I wrote Fire Country, it was a huge surprise for me. Normally I plan out my writing schedule at least a year in advance, but this particular book came out of nowhere. I was in the midst of writing the sequel to The Moon Dwellers, my YA dystopian series that takes place completely underground, when a voice started talking in my head. Her name was Siena and she lived aboveground. That changed everything for me. Her voice was so strong and she clearly had a story to tell, so that got me thinking about writing a sister series to the Dwellers Saga. When it all came together in my mind, it was a huge epiphany. I knew the two trilogies would have to eventually come together in a 7th book that tied the plots and the characters into one story.

So I finished the two sequels to The Moon Dwellers, and then wrote Fire Country, a book about a tribe of people struggling to survive in a desert-like environment. They created their own harsh laws meant to help them survive and grow their tribe, but one girl, Siena, questions everything as she fights to unravel the secrets the tribes’ leaders have been keeping.

Now the series is complete, with all seven books out, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all came together, something I was very worried about as I embarked on my writing journey! It seems like I published Fire Country only yesterday, so when I realized it had been a year, I knew I had to celebrate with a big event to let anyone who wanted a FREE ebook of Fire Country to have the chance to read it!

So it’s been a year since Fire Country came out, and all kinds of crazy awesome things have happened to you since then! What has been the most surprising thing that has happened to you in the last year?

Honestly, I’m shocked at all that has happened since I wrote Fire Country, especially since so much of it has seemingly come out of nowhere. There are really two major surprising things that happened this year, which are somewhat linked together.

In early June of 2013 I started getting Tweets and Facebook/Goodreads messages congratulating me on The Dwellers Saga being included on a popular Buzzfeed article called “15 Series to Read if you Enjoyed The Hunger Games.” I said, “What?” I hadn’t heard anything about this until after it happened and my friends and readers started telling me about it. I went to the article and was flabbergasted to find my series listed amongst 14 other bestselling series, many of which had movie deals, including Divergent, Graceling, and The Mortal Instruments. And then came the spike in book sales. After the article, sales of The Moon Dwellers and its sequels really picked up, more than tripling.

Three weeks later I was incredibly happy that all my hard work was finally paying a few of our bills. I was still a poor, struggling Indie author, but at least we’d stopped eating through our savings completely. That’s when the next amazing thing happened.

A literary agent who I’d been rejected by before, Andrea Hurst & Associates, contacted me. They’d received a message from a film production company expressing interest in the film option for The Moon Dwellers. I’d written a testimonial for Andrea Hurst & Associates a while back, and apparently that had linked me to her agency on Google, which is why the film production company contacted her. She said she’d given them my contact information, and then she asked how things were going since I’d last spoken to her two years earlier. (Note: by this point I’d given up on finding an agent and had stopped querying.) I responded and thanked her and updated her on my exciting news about the Buzzfeed article and the recent success my series had had.

We traded a few more e-mails, but long story short, she wanted to read to my book and discuss potential representation. Two weeks later I’d received a formal offer of representation from Andrea Hurst & Associates, changing my life forever. Since then my sales have more than doubled again, putting them more than six times the level they were at before the Buzzfeed article, which means more readers get to experience the story I created, which is a dream come true.

My agent (I still can’t believe I get to say those words!) and I are currently seeking a publisher for my new YA novel

Give us a prediction of what you think your life will be like one year from now.

Oh gosh, I have no real idea, Jenny! There’s so much uncertainty at the moment that there are many possibilities. Just because I have an agent who’s opening doors for me that I never thought would be opened, doesn’t mean those same doors won’t be slammed in my face in a month or two. Although I HOPE I will have at least one book published by a major publisher, there are no guarantees in this business. For now, I’m staying optimistic, but realistic, continuing to write, and focusing on enjoying being able to live out my dream. At the end of the day, I’m so proud to have the amazingly loyal readers that I have, and it’s my goal to always entertain them with my new books.

One thing I do know, however, is that regardless of whether I find a publisher that’s the right fit for me and my books, I’ll continue to write and publish for a long time to come.

I love the cover for Fire Country. Who designed it? Did you give any input to the artist?

Ooh, I’m so glad you asked this because I LOVE the cover too! The cover design was done by Regina Wamba at MaeIDesign. In terms of input, my wife, Adele, and I always work together on the concept for my book covers, which we then present to our graphic designer, in this case Regina. We also selected the stock photo of Siena. So we do have quite a lot of input, but then we relied on Regina’s talent to bring all the elements together into an awesome cover that would stand out amongst the myriad YA books that are out there!

Fire Country spends some time on the topic of bullying, which makes this book really relevant to today's kids. In your opinion, has bullying changed much since you were a kid? And what do you think is the answer to the problem of bullying?

Another awesome question and I’m so glad you noticed the theme of bullying in the book. Although it wasn’t originally my intention to write a book about a girl who was bullied, this was Siena’s story to tell, and unfortunately, she had to withstand quite a lot of bullying.

From what I can tell, bullying hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. I can’t pretend like I was traumatized from bullying as a kid, but I did have a number of experiences with it, both toward me and toward other kids. It has to stop, plain and simple. The awful stories of teenagers committing suicide because of being bullied should be a wake-up call to our society, and yet they are mostly ignored.

I believe there are two major things that have to change:
1) Bullying in the entertainment industry: Let’s face it, as much as we wish parents had all control over molding the people their children will become, it’s TV, movies, and the internet that plays a major role in how they think. When I see reality TV shows such as American Idol focusing on the worst singers, many of whom seem to have some form of mental illness, and mock them, laugh at them, and basically make them feel horrible about themselves, it sends a clear message to our children: bullying is OK. I applaud the rival show, The Voice, for going in the opposite direction and only giving airtime to talented singers who should be the focus of these “singing” shows. On that show, they build people up, rather than tearing them down. Shame on American Idol for exacerbating the bullying problem. As a side note, I have noticed that the most recent season of American Idol has been giving less airtime to the terrible singers and more time to the talented ones, but it’s still not enough. They need to go all the way! This is just one example, but there are numerous others.

2) Bullying education and consequences: This is a hard one, because each situation is so unique that it’s hard to make blanket rules to cover bullying. That being said, there need to be harsher rules and more education, and kids need to feel empowered to stand up for themselves without fear of retribution. Many kids who are bullied and are later asked why they didn’t tell anyone say “I didn’t want to make it worse.” That’s the wrong message. Our kids shouldn’t feel afraid to raise their hand and say they’re being bullied for fear of being bullied more. Now I’m not saying that it’s only schools and educators responsible for handing out punishments for bullying. It’s us as parents, too. Although we love our children, we can’t always assume they are the perfect human beings we hope we raised. We need to open our eyes to the fact that our kids might be bullies and in need of an attitude change.

These are just a couple of my thoughts and I’m sure there are many other solutions possible by people who have far more experience than I. In any case, one of my goals with Fire Country is to show kids the power of perseverance and standing up for oneself. It’s the story of a bullied girl who overcomes her perceived shortcomings to do extraordinary things.

If you could go back and change one thing in Fire Country, would you, and would what it be?

You know, that’s a tough one, because I’m not one to live in regret. Even my earlier works, which are full of plenty of flaws, are all part of my journey and growth as a writer. With Fire Country, I might consider toning down some of the hints I gave to the twists that occur later in the book. A few of my readers thought some of the big twists were a little too predictable, while others surprised them. I would have liked all the twists to be surprises, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Let's play a little game of “What If?” If you were in jail for any length of time, when you were released, what is the first AND second thing you would do?

Ha! Love it! First…hug my wife and family. Second…eat something I love that I didn’t get to eat while in prison. Maybe lobster tail or a hamburger or something. So yeah, family and food, in that order!

Still playing the “What If?” game—If you were stuck on a deserted island with no other people, what are 5 things you'd like to have with you (not people)?

Ugh, I already feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away! Okay, here goes, I’m not going to cheat and say anything that could help me get rescued, like flares or a satellite phone or anything like that…

1) A mint-condition boxed set of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This has been my favorite series since I was a kid, and would do wonders to pass the time.

2) A good, sharp knife. It would really come in handy for all kinds of things, like making shelter and foraging for food.

3) A sturdy fishing pole. Fish would undoubtedly be a major part of my survival.

4) A thick tarp. Tarps are extremely useful and would help me stay dry!

5) Waterproof matches. Eventually I’d have to learn to make fire without them, but it would help to have a little while to learn without having to eat raw fish!

Do you have any other talents or hobbies besides writing?

Well, I guess technically I’m pretty good with numbers and accounting, since I did that for almost ten years before becoming a full time writer, but it’s not exactly a talent I brag about!

I’m also quite good at most sports, which I love playing in my free time. I’ll play pretty much any sport, and tend to pick them up quickly. I love competing and sweating and challenging myself.

You are a very hard working writer, writing every day of the week. How do you keep yourself motivated?

Thanks for noticing! For me it’s just part of the way I’m built. Anything I do I like to do 110%. When I decided to be a full time writer, which was always a dream of mine, I promised myself that even if I wasn’t the most talented writer in the world, I’d be the hardest working one. So although it might seem like I’m a bit of a workaholic—I do write seven days a week—I get to work on my terms and my schedule, because I’m my own boss. I usually work four hours in the morning (writing), take time off for lunch and to enjoy the afternoon with my wife, and then get back to work in the evening (promoting and business side).

I’m motivated to keep up my manic schedule and aggressive publishing timeline because I want to achieve my dream of being a career writer. I don’t want to go back to working in a cubicle doing something I don’t really want to do. So I’ll work as hard as it takes to allow me to write for a living. Another thing that motivates me is my readers. I get quite a lot of positive messages and reviews from them, and those are HUGE in making me smile and keeping my motivated to write an even better book the next time for them. All I want is for them to get great enjoyment out of reading my books.

You and your lovely wife Adele are just finishing up your two year trip around the world. Which place was your favorite that you visited? Why?

The last two years have truly been an amazing experience, one I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy with my best friend. Adele is the most important person in my life, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do a world trip with anyone else. Honestly, we loved EVERY place we visited, which is a testament to what an incredible world we live in and how many genuinely good people there are.

If I had to pick just one as my “favorite” for the trip, however, I’d go with Morocco. For me, the main reason was because of how different it was to every other place we visited. In a lot of ways, it was like stepping back in time. The country has so much to offer in terms of diversity as well. One day we’d be in lazy beach town, the next in a hot manic city, the next in the middle of a desert oasis with giant sand dunes all around us, and the next in the chilly mountains. And each place was beautiful in its own way.

Do you ever think you'll ever branch out and write different genres? Say a romance? Or a contemporary?

YES! Although I’ve clearly focused on YA dystopian and post-apocalyptic books thus far, and will continue to do so for the next year or so, I love all different genres and have many book ideas to try out. I’d love to write a standalone contemporary at some point (I already have a title for the book and plot worked out), as well as a high fantasy novel (still working the kinks out of this idea). I’m also hoping to write more children’s books, continuing my The Adventures of Nikki Powergloves series, which is about a girl superhero. Usually all my books have a touch of romance in them, but I won’t go so far as to say I’ll ever write a “romance” novel ;)

So yes, I absolutely hope to surprise my readers along the way with new ideas in all different genres.

And what has been your favorite moment so far on your journey as a writer?

You saved the toughest question of all for last! Picking favorites has never really been my thing, but if I had to narrow it down to one moment that really changed my life, it was when my agent said she loved my new book and that she couldn’t wait to start pitching it to major publishers. It was like all the hard work, long hours, stressing over reviews, and self-doubt had been smashed together into a single moment when one person validated everything I’d been working towards. Even if this particular novel isn’t sold to a publisher, I finally know that I’m capable of having my books on the same shelves as the books of the authors I look up to. And that means the world to me.

Thanks so much, Jenny, I loved this interview and it’s always fun stopping by your incredible blog!!

Thank you, David, its always a pleasure to have you!  


  1. What I love about the Country Saga is the fact that it tackles a lot of issues that are still happening today, including bullying and missing children. I really enjoyed reading this interview!

  2. Thanks so much for all your kind comments!!

    And thanks to Jenny for the awesome questions and for having me on her blog :)

    1. You're welcome, thank you for such great answers ;) And you are welcome anytime!

  3. Great questions Jenny!

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  5. Lovely review David and Jenny, I absolutely loved it! I remember stumbling upon a review book of David's in a Goodreads groups and absolutely being blown away by this personable writer who connects with his fans so well, and his amazing talent for dystopians as well. When David picked up an agent I was so excited I got the message wrong ahaha! Anyway, great interview.

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    1. Jeann, that's exactly how I felt when I first heard of David Estes and joined his fan group, you hit the nail on the head! He has so many loyal fans :)

  6. Great interview Jenny! And I loved reading David's answers! I can't believe it's already a year since Fire Country was released. I still remember reading it for the first time and how much I loved it! I have even re-read it, which is something that I don't do often.

    1. Thanks, Lola!! I really want to reread all 7 books, and I will when my physical copies arrive ;)

  7. This is probably one the best interviews I've seen with David, great work. I absolutely loved both the Dwellers and Country saga, for those who haven't read them, gosh you're missing out. Nab Fire Country up there ^ for free while you can. Thanks for sharing Jenny.

    1. Awww thanks so much, Kelly! I really had fun doing this interview, so it must show :) I LOVED your interview with Perry!!!


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