D. M. Livingston has been a pin monkey, nude model, logic tutor, pizza maker, graphic designer, and web developer.
He grew up in the sparse beauty of the Mojave desert, and his first school was actually called Tumbleweed Elementary. Since then, he lived in San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Hollywood before settling down in the lush beauty of Oregon with his wife and son. Being from the desert, the rain doesn’t bother him. In fact, it’s still kind of exotic, as are all the green things growing right out of the ground.
What are the most challenging aspects of writing a fantasy novel such as Nyx?
The most difficult part is knowing what’s good and what’s crap. When you’ve been working with the story and the characters for years, it can be tricky to have a fresh perspective. Fortunately, I have an excellent editor who’s saved my butt more than once.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love the feelings of freedom and discovery. I know I’m making things up, but when everything clicks, it feels more like finding than creating. And when I write something that I think is funny, I like thinking, “Hee hee, I can’t believe I’m getting away with this.”
What writers have inspired you?
Tolkien (of course), Terry Pratchett, Iain M. Banks, and Stanislaw Lem.
Nyx begins with the words, “I flew through Hell, looking for a fight,” which sets the tone for the story to follow. In your opinion, how important is a good first sentence?
As a reader, the first sentence and paragraph is extremely important. I’ve put books back on the shelf because they didn’t grab me right away. So, it was important for me to start Nyx with a strong, intriguing sentence. I probably went through twenty different opening sentences before landing on the current one.
Are there any specific first sentences that come to mind that are particularly memorable to you?
The Gunslinger by Stephen King: “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed him.”
The Hobbit by Tolkien: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
On your website, you discussed the process you went through in creating and deciding on a book cover. What did you learn from that experience, and what advice would you give to other self-published authors regarding cover design?
The one bit of advice I have is to make your cover look as professional as something you’d see in a bookstore. Too many self-publishers settle for really terrible (or even just mediocre) covers.
What have your marketing experiences been like? What methods have worked for you, and which ones haven’t?
A good marketing plan continues to elude me.
Advertising hasn’t worked at all. Book signings haven’t worked at all. I tried being a blogger, but honestly, I’m not that interesting on a regular basis and I’d rather spend the time writing the next book.
Everything I’ve read says that the best marketing for your book is to write the next one. So I’m doing that, and I’m curious what will happen, sales-wise.
You’ve traveled a fair amount in your life. What is it about Oregon that makes it feel like home?
I love the seasons and the greenery everywhere year round. The whole place feels lush and alive. And the people are down-to-earth, warm, and friendly. It’s wonderful raising a kid in an outdoorsy environment.
Your wife is children’s author Annie Auerbach. On a creative level, what is your relationship like? Do you collaborate much? Is there any competitiveness?
We bounce a lot of ideas off each other, and I ask her to edit everything I write. In fact, we’re collaborating on a big project right now, but I’m not allowed to talk about it. There’s no real competitiveness, though — we support each other.
According to your bio, you spent some time as a nude model. How did that come about?
Ha! You’re the first person to ask about that. The modeling happened in college. I was looking for the best-paying job I could find, and I had two choices, both of which paid eight bucks an hour. One was translating Romanian, and the other was being a nude model for art classes. I didn’t know any Romanian, so nakedness it was! It was more difficult than I expected—you have to hold certain poses for up to an hour and it can get pretty tiring.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on the sequel to Nyx. I’m hoping to have it out later this year.