Student uses crowd-funding to publish first novel
Marcus Gray, a senior double major in speech communications and professional and technical writing, recently raised more than $3,500 to publish his book through the increasingly-popular crowd-funding website called Kickstarter.
Gray said that his entrance into the writing world was not one of formative inspiration. In fact, his title as author is not much older than his title as UALR student.
In summer 2011, Gray joined his speech communication adviser, Julien Mirivel, on a week-long study abroad trip to Paris. He said he understood the reason for trip to France’s capital was not to study the language.
“We were just there to study the culture, and see what we thought about the culture (this is what you see; how does it make you feel?). There were no right or wrong answers. And we had to journal a whole lot,” he said.
“As I was [writing in my journal], I sort of ‘caught the bug.’ Especially since I was a missionary, I’ve always liked language—what you can do with words.”
He did not stick to journaling for long, however.
“I do like the process of reflecting and processing reality [in a journal] and then spitting it out on a page in a pure, unadulterated truth,” Gray said. “And while that’s cool and fun, I’m a big extrovert, so I didn’t feel like I was sharing enough with it.”
Once he returned from Paris, Gray said it was this mentality combined with a conviction that his normal life was too boring that let him pursue different forms of writing. “I was like, ‘Maybe I should just write something and see where that goes,’ and here I am now. The idea of writing these personal feelings in a medium to where it can go to other people and maybe mean something to them – or maybe not – that just felt more appealing,” he added.
Before Gray decided to follow the writing path, he had intended to earn a Ph.D. in speech communication and pursue a career as a professor. Recently, he said a Ph. D. may not be feasible, but he still intends to go to graduate school for writing.
The young writer did not want to take the time to be published through traditional methods, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I knew early on that I just didn’t have the patience to go through the mainstream avenues of finding an agent, being published, etc. I wanted something immediate,” he said.
“I just don’t feel like I have it in me for the long haul to send countless queries to agents and editors and get rejected 90 percent of the time—which is what every writer has to do, if they want to get published [by the traditional route]. So I discovered self-publishing. While you have to market it yourself, I just liked the idea of getting my work out there and building a fan base.”
However, he insisted that he wanted to present a quality piece of work. “I didn’t want my work to be crap. I’m in love with everything I write, so I need someone objective to tell me what’s wrong, what’s right, and what could be better. So I knew that I would need to consult with a professional editor—one that I couldn’t afford.”
His luck changed when he took a persuasive writing course with Joe Williams.
“The last project we had in the class was to do a mock Kickstarter project. So — I can get money for a project that I want, that’s creative and personal? — Yeah, sure! So within two weeks, I had it done. Like, I made the Kickstarter project. I didn’t do a mock one.”
Crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide an avenue of revenue for aspiring authors, artists and designers—basically anyone bursting with a creative idea but without the funds to make it a reality.
The novel that Marcus Gray raised the money to have soon published is, “Son of the Solace”. The premise of the novel bares a coming-of-age theme common among Gray’s most cherished works.
“I really like coming-of-age books like Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and Stephen King’s The Body—books about kids growing up. I think that we’re all sort of going through those phases [common in coming-of-age tales] all at once.”
Gray said that these changes and moments of insight are not bound to only adolescence; but, they often continue into adulthood.
“I wanted to write a book about someone who’s going through a similar life-changing event and the truths and the conclusions they come to while having these moments. But I’m a big fantasy and sci-fi reader, and I’ve always been enthralled with vampires.”
For these reasons, Gray was determined to feature those elements in his first novel.
The author explains that his book is about a grad student who wakes up one day and he cannot remember the night before, but he is a vampire. The protagonist must continue on with his life and adapt to this new change.
“I guess in some ways it reflects my own experiences in college, because I didn’t necessarily come from a pious background, but that was a path that I chose to take when I was an older teenager. So whenever I started taking classes [in college], it made me seriously question the views and values that I’d held for all these years. And the main character also had certain views his whole life, but one day, he wakes up and he’s a blood-raging monster. As the novel progresses, he figures out means to be human by becoming a monster.”
Those who think “Son of the Solace” will be one of those novels featuring a three-way love triangle between a mortal, a werewolf and a vampire can put those those worries away.
“It’s not a love story,” Gray said. “That doesn’t make it better or worse, but definitely different from the mainstream vampire novels.”
Gray’s writing style is marked by his straightforward approach and relatable material. It may come as no surprise then that his favorite type of work to read is in a similar style.
“I just find it refreshing to read an honest opinion. The more genuine the writing, the more it resonates with me. I think one of the marks of a good writer is when you read something and you say, ‘Hey, me too! I didn’t know anybody felt that way.’”
Now Gray continues to write. “I’ve got a few projects. I am 80 pages into the sequel. Whether it’s profitable as a career or not, I see myself doing this for a very long time. Instead of playing tennis, or whatever other people do,” he said.
The writer made a point to stress the accessibility of his feat: “Anyone can do it. You don’t need to feel brilliant or ‘intellectually certified’ to write a book. You can just use avenues like [Kickstarter] to share your dream with the world,” Gray said.
“If anyone takes anything from the success of my project, I hope it is not, “Wow, this kid’s great! He’s a smart author.” They should just remember, “He’s an average Joe like me, who was able to make things happen.”