Tony Bertauski

The Claus Universe Series

My writing career began with magazine columns, landscape design textbooks, and a gardening column at the Post and Courier (Charleston, SC).

My first step as a novelist came when he developed a story to encourage my young son to read. This story became The Socket Greeny Saga, which tapped into my lifetime fascination with consciousness and identity.

After Socket, I thought I was done with fiction. But the ideas kept coming, and I kept writing. Most of my work investigates the human condition and the meaning of life, but not in an ordinary fashion.

About half my work is YA but I also writes adult fiction – so I can cuss!

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How long have you been writing for and how much of that time have you spent writing fiction?

20 years. Started as a technical writer for trade magazines, wrote two textbooks on landscape design, write a gardening column for Charleston’s Post and Courier. Last 15 years or so writing novels and short stories.

What’s the average word count for the books you write and how long does it take you to write your average book?

Average word count about 80,000. In the past, about 6 months start to finish. Recently, one book a year.

What is your writing routine (Do you have a daily word count goal? Do you write whenever the spirit moves you?)

Write when I have the time. Works best on days off from teaching, late mornings and early afternoons. I teach horticulture at Trident Technical College.

How much do you research for a book before you start writing?

Depends on the book. Often times will research concepts, names, some historical facts. But since I write primarily in alternate universes, I don’t have to stick to facts in our world.

What do you find most difficult about writing a book?

Time. I’m very lucky I don’t usually write on a deadline. That way I can let the story unfold as it become available. It’s so much more enjoyable that way.

Which of your books are you most proud of and why?

Probably the Socket Greeny Saga. It was the first trilogy I wrote. It was written in first person and very personal. I think I rewrote the books half a dozen times. Really connected with that character. Felt emotional when I read the audiobook.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write and why?

Drayton. I don’t know why I just can’t get traction with that character. Drayton is a modern day vampire but very different from any other trope. Some fans want more but I just can’t squeeze another drop out of him. I wrote several short stories and one novel and the novel was like dragging concrete blocks.

Which self-publishing platform do you like the most and why?

I’m Amazon only. Kindle Unlimited has proved to be so much more effective for me. IngramSpark is very good for paperback and hardbacks.

Would you publish with a traditional publisher if they contacted you? Why?

Maybe. I think the Claus Universe Series has potential for a streaming service, so only if the trad offered that potential.

How many unfinished or unpublished works do you have?

I wrote 2 or 3 novels in the very beginning that never made past the home printer. They were good exercises, learned a lot about writing, but when I revisited them realized they just weren’t good stories. Also wrote an autobiography on my experience with Zen since my early 20s. I’ve toyed with publishing it but, for now, it’s still on the hard drive.

Do you prefer creating stand-alone books or series?

Series, for sure. As a reader, I love getting invested in a character or world. Knowing there’s more books is a hook.

What book do you wish you would have written? Why?

I’d say Harry Potter because of the oodles of money, but who wants that kind of fame? I’m most envious of William Gibson’s books.

Do you find it challenging to write characters of a different gender, race, or culture than you? Do you do any special research for these characters?

Yes! I just don’t have the life experience to do many of them justice.

What does success as a writer look like for you?

Connecting with writers. And making money to pay the bills is a nice perk. Since I write part-time on the side, I treat it like a serious hobby. Maybe that’s why I really enjoy it.

Writing can be a lonely job. Do you take any special steps to ensure you remain part of the world?

Well said. It is lonely inside the dome. I schedule writing when it doesn’t interfere with family or social time. Since I teach, I get my social interaction quota each week. If I was writing full time, that would be an entirely different game.

Constantly sitting and writing can be physically debilitating. How do you take care of yourself, physically?

Exercise five days a week. Sometimes I write on the treadmill or standing up. In all honestly, it feels great to write slouched on the couch.

Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?

Rarely. I often check on the number of reviews a book is getting, but don’t often read them. The good ones feel great. That bad ones, when they really hit the mark, are like losing a finger.

What books have you read that were particularly inspiring?

William Gibson’s writing style is so delicious. And King is just a great storyteller. Herbert a phenomenal world builder. But books like Animal Farm and 1984 are stories that left a permanent mark.

Do you have a favourite author? A favourite book?

Did I mention William Gibson? He’s been it for a few years. Neuromancer still my fave.

Do you plot your stories in great detail before starting to write, or fly by the seat of your pants?

Plot. Loosely. I cannot pants a story. Once I know the general direction, I outline a chapter on legal pad. That’s where the story cooks. I just can’t go directly to the computer. And, for the life of me, I don’t know how people dictate books. Wish I could.

Of all the characters in your stories, which is your favourite?

Probably Socket Greeny. Although I really liked Jack in the Claus Universe. He was so quirky and misunderstood and innocent and dangerous.

Have you based any characters on real people? If they found out, how did they respond?

None. Sometimes I’ll think of traits, but there’s so few of them I can’t even remember them.

What’s the best thing about being an independent author? The worst?

Do what I want, when I want. It’s fun. The worst part is marketing. Wish someone would just send me a check.

Do you make a living selling your books?

No. But I pay a lot of bills and take a few vacations.

What advice would you give to a new author?

Enjoy the ride. If you want to make a living at it, treat it like a real job.

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