Author Interview Series – Dave Lee

This is the first in what will be a monthly installment series. I seek to interview independently published authors regarding their debut novels and the process they followed to bring them to life.

We start with Dave Lee, of HCS Publishing, whose debut novel “Country in Ruin: 1865” was published on March 1, 2013. His responses are marked with D. Any comments I had to add are in italics.

N) How long did it take you to finish your first book? 

D: It took roughly a year to write and about three months worth of editing. Just to write that seems impressive to me as I’ve been writing the sequel for nearly 4 years now. I should probably omit that but at least folks will know that these things are a serious labor of love.

Not omitted, because it’s true! You might have a book that takes an eon to complete compared to another. But never give up.

N) How long did it take you to publish your first book?
D: I had already developed our process for publishing during the process of getting my daughter’s books out there so my book only took about 2 weeks. During the course of writing the book, I imagined the cover so when it came down to doing it, I had a good idea already.
N) Did you consider trying the traditional route? Why, or why not?
D: I did actually and had little to no success. I did receive one offer from a traditional publisher but it was pretty terrible so we decided to go the self publish route. As for why, I don’t think it was because no one wanted it but rather that no one was willing to gamble on a Steampunk book. Traditional publishers are struggling with the changing world and therefore I decided to take advantage of that and the opportunities self publishing offer. There were still gaps though, which is what led us to establishing HCS Publishing.
N) If so, why did you change your mind and independently publish?
D: I really wanted to do things our way and I really wanted to establish a business model for HCS Publishing that was, to my knowledge, extremely rare. HCS Publishing is a non-profit publisher where the authors keep all of their sales profits. This should show that we value our authors more than anything else and that what we publish is truly something that we love and believe in. Why else go through the work when you aren’t getting paid?
N) Do you formally outline?
D: I didn’t in the first book but am doing so in the second. Perhaps this is why the story is still being written three years after starting while the first only took 1. I see value in it, especially with a complicated plot and global scope but it is easy to get lost in the organization. I assume that I’ll get better as time goes on but that remains to be seen.
N) The bit about “the popcorn,” did you know that would happen? 
D: The scene, much like the majority of the book, happened organically. It was more silly fun than anything. Some time later, while at a convention, a notable author suggested that I come up with an inside joke for signing books as it would hopefully spark interest in the reader and provide an “ah ha” moment when they got to it. I thought this was a good idea and chose to use the popcorn scene as my inside joke. So, consequently I sign all books with “I hope you like popcorn”.
N) Do you like your antagonist? As in, would you hang out with them?
D: Normally I favor antagonists that blur the lines between good and bad. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a Vader fanatic. In this story though, I chose to keep him as despicable as possible. There are parts where you sympathize with his family and those that care about him and try to steer him in better directions but I’m a firm believer in consequences of one’s actions. Regardless of how noble he thinks his intentions are, things rarely go as we plan and his actions compound on themselves, keeping him an antagonist that I’d rather punch in the face than hang out with.
There is a literary theory that claims strong antagonists also need to be sympathetic to the reader to some degree, hence my question. Dave Lee has truly mastered this dichotomy of love and hate in Country in Ruin!
N) Is this the story you Wanted to tell, or the one that Needed to be told?
D: I suppose it is the story that I wanted to tell rather than anything else. It started as back stories for props I made and then grew a life of its own. I’m pretty stubborn as my wife would tell you so if I determine it is something I want, it becomes something I need and consequently something that I will do. So in summation, to answer your question: both. 😊
N) Any last words?
D: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about myself. Certainly a topic I like talking about. 😊 For more information, I’d ask folks to check out HCS Publishing at There is no shortage of great stories for people to check out, this book being only one of many.
Curious? You can purchase “Country in Ruin: 1865” at AMAZON.COM in Kindle and Paperback versions. And be sure to visit HCS Publishing’s website above for more great titles as well as how to invite Dave Lee to present at your next event.