Interview with Author Ted Cross

I was fortunate enough to get an interview with author Ted Cross. His covers have been rated strongly in comparison to others on the website and I thought I would ask him if he’d answer a few questions.


Zoiks!1. First of all, where are you from? Are you married and do you have a family? Give us a little background about who you are.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona but lived most of my early life in Tucson, including graduating from the University of Arizona. When I realized I wasn’t enjoying Computer Engineering, I switched majors to Russian Studies. That led me, after graduation, to working at the US embassy in Moscow, where I met and married my wife. This year is our 20th anniversary. Our eldest son just turned 17 and our youngest is about to turn 15.

Although my sons are Americans, they haven’t lived in the States, as my career in the Foreign Service has kept us overseas, living in places like Russia, Croatia, China, Iceland, and Hungary. Currently we live in Azerbaijan.

2. Do you have any other hobbies besides writing? Is there a favorite place you like to dine?
I have too many hobbies, which is why it takes me so long to write my books. Chess is a big passion. Lots of sports, from soccer to basketball and softball. Photography. Guitar. Computers. Traveling. Reading (naturally). I even do a bit of acting when I can get the jobs.

3. When did you first start writing?
I’ve always been good at writing, but I didn’t start writing seriously until about nine years ago.

4. Currently, how many books do you have published and what are they?
I took eight years to write my first two books, and then I published them in reverse order from how I wrote them, first the cyberpunk thriller The Immortality Game, and then epic fantasy The Shard. Also, The Dragon Chronicles were recently released and feature one of my stories.

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5. How long did it take you to write “The Immortality Game”?
It took three years to write and another year for editing.

6. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Unfortunately living overseas prevents me from attending conventions or doing book signings, so I don’t meet anyone face to face. I’m stuck with the internet for now, so Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindleboards are my main hangouts. I’ve had a lot of wonderful feedback from readers so far.

7. What do your friends and family think of your writing?
My family is really proud of me. It’s hard to write a book, and they have witnessed that firsthand. What makes me proud is the fact that my kids only reread books that really grab them, like Harry Potter, and they have reread The Shard a number of times. I see them naming characters in computer games after characters from that book, and I know I’ve written something that truly hits the spot, at least for teen boys. The Immortality Game is a little too adult for their current tastes, but they did read it once.

8. If you could pick that one author that influences you to write, who would it be?
Early on I would have gone with Tolkien, but honestly it was George R.R. Martin who made me actually sit down and type out my first chapter. It wasn’t just loving what he was doing with the Song of Ice and Fire series; it was seeing the way he was writing them, with lots of characters and a weave of complicated plot lines, that appealed most to me.

9. As an author, there are so many things to focus on. If you had to give the biggest piece of advice to aspiring authors what would that be?
It’s really very hard to be patient enough when you have talent as a writer. You want things to happen faster than they do. You write a book and it was really hard work and you believe in it so deeply. You want it to go somewhere. You want an audience. You want the big publishers to pay attention to you. And of course everyone you meet in the writing world tells you that your book needs work. You need to not only believe that your book needs to be better than it is, but you need to simply invest more time in the writing process as a whole. Get experience critiquing hundreds of books on writing sites like Absolute Write or Authonomy, and have people critique your writing. Don’t take things personally when you are told about issues in your work. Read lots of blogs by agents, editors, and writers. Meet other talented writers in your genres and become friends so you might be able to swap beta reads. A first book is rarely going to be good enough. Even second books and beyond may not be. It’s really hard to admit that, especially when it’s now so easy to put books out via self-publishing.

10. What does the process look like when designing your book covers? In other words, when do you begin the process and how long does it take?
It is so hard to do a good book cover. You wouldn’t think it, especially if you have a good eye for design, but you wouldn’t believe what goes into choosing the right fonts for the design and getting every last little detail of the typography correct. I invested too much money in the artwork, so I didn’t have more to spend on the typography and overall design, and that hurt. I tried doing the design and typography myself. Once I got some tips from friends who know what they are doing, the difference was stark. With their help I still ended up doing it myself, and I know if I could have afforded a professional designer the covers could have been even better. Part of the dream of selling more books is simply to enable me to afford to hire better designers and editors.

11. Your book covers are definitely rating well right now. Did you expect that they would when you first uploaded them to ratebookcover.com?
I love the artwork of Stephan Martiniere, who did the cover art for The Immortality Game, so I knew it should do well. He’s an amazing artist, and so many people have complimented me on that cover. I love how he got all the tiny details exactly how I wanted them–the mafia pyramid casino with its hotel towers, the Russian cathedral, the heroine Zoya, and even the flurries of poplar seeds that are part of every Moscow summer.

I figured The Shard cover wouldn’t do quite as well. The art is a piece from a larger painting by Shane Tyree, and it’s nice, but it’s not what you traditionally use for a cover–it gives away a major plot point by depicting the dragon as already being dead. But I’m not wealthy, so I couldn’t afford not to use it once I invested the money. Plus I think the overall design looks more like a graphic novel than a fantasy novel. But I still like it. It gets the job done. At a glance you know what kind of story you are getting.

12. Who designs your covers?
I worked out the scene ideas with the artists. Then I tried to deal with the design and typography myself. That didn’t turn out nearly good enough, so I went to some friends because I just couldn’t afford to pay for a pro at that time.

13. Even though you have a significant amount of good votes on your covers and are ranking among the highest, is there anything you have learned or would do differently when designing your next cover?
If I have the money I will use professionals to deal with design and typography. I also learned from the first art I commissioned (for the fantasy) that I need to be less shy about the scene that I want. And that turned out well with the sci-fi because I was more sure about telling the artist what I hoped to see. Don’t get me wrong, Shane did a nice job with the painting for The Shard, but I had wanted a scene that didn’t give away a major plot point, but I didn’t push for it. That wasn’t Shane’s fault. I was too unsure of myself, having never commissioned anything before.

14. What are you working on currently and is it close to being published?
I’m working on a far future sci-fi duology (that could possibly be expanded into a longer series). It’s in the very early stages, because the world building is much harder in the far future. It was hard enough with a near future sci-fi like The Immortality Game, but that was at least on Earth and had some similarities to modern life. I have to think of every last detail for the far future setting. So it is slow going, but I’m excited about it.

I also have a book started that fits in between The Immortality Game and The Shard. I’m excited about it as well, but it will have to wait, as I’m simply too psyched up about the duology storylines.

15. Who is the one person living or deceased you would want to sit and have a conversation with and why?
It depends on my mood. If I’m into history at the moment I could have a talk with Julius Caesar (assuming we could find a way to communicate!), or maybe just Colleen McCullough if you want someone nearer to our time, since she did the fantastic Rome series. On other days I’d choose Stephen King, not just because of his amazing books, but because his On Writing book is a must read for all writers. I’ve read it three times already, and I suspect I’ll reread it every few years. If I’m in a musical mood, I’d like to talk with Chris Cornell or maybe Maynard James Keenan. If chess, I’d love to sit and talk with Magnus Carlsen.

Ted Cross
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Steven Remington is the creator of RateBookCover.com and the author of the Shadow King fiction series. Author Website

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