Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hi, my name is C.T. Phipps and I am the author of the Supervillainy Saga, Bright Falls Mysteries, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, Wraith Knight, Straight Outta Fangton, Red Room, and Agent G series. Which sounds like a lot (because it is) but most of which take place in one of two worlds with some crossover between them. My most popular books are by far the Supervillainy Saga books that are a humorous Pratchett-esque take on a superhero world where the protagonist gains great powers only to be completely irresponsible to them. The first book, The Rules of Supervillainy, sold its 20,000th audiobook this month and I’m extremely pleased by its continued popularity.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
All of my books have a story but a lot of them boil down to, “I’d really like to read a book in this genre.” I wrote The Rules of Supervillainy with the idea of creating just a wonderful brain candy romp through my favorite things in Marvel, DC, and their various spin-offs. Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain without MercyTM is a bit like Peter Parker if he had wizard powers rather than science-based spider ones as well as none of the soul-crushing guilt. Gary just wants to make money, be famous, and get revenge on all those who ruined his life–but can’t bring himself to be EVIL ENOUGH to be a proper supervillain. I think a lot of us would go a bit mad with power were we to get superpowers.
The story for Lucifer’s Star was equally funny, though it’s not a comedy. I came up with the idea for it after watching The Force Awakens. I’ve always been a huge Star Wars fan and while there’s a substantial hatedom, my feelings were more “some of this is very good and some of this is not for me.” So I wrote Lucifer’s Star as a mature-rated version of war, peacetime, and clashing laser swords in the far-far future. I ended up writing a story from the perspective of a Imperial-style pilot after the Battle of Endor equivalent going, “Well, crap, what do I do now?”
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
For me, I feel the best way to inspire yourself to write is to immerse yourself in the kind of books that you want to write yourself. Stephen King once said that books are like milk. They taste like whatever they’re left next to in the fridge. While some authors worry about being derivative, I think it’s inspirational to fill your mind with examples of the genre you’re writing in. It’s often a decent cure for writer’s block as well. It’s also a good excuse to watch superhero stuff when writing the Supervillainy Saga or immerse myself in stuff like the Star Wars novels or comics for Lucifer’s Star.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
For me, the biggest mistakes are two fold. The first is believing that your work is perfect. Every single book you can write can be improved by three or four edits as well as some beta-reading. What you think of as great is probably something that is nothing close. As George Lucas said, movies are never really finished, only abandoned and the same applies to writing. The next thing to note is that writing a book is only the beginning of your struggle. Even if you get a magnificently polished product, you still have to deal with the fact you will be required to do a lot of the lifting to get your work out there. Even Stephen King did conventions and his own promoting, so don’t expect to rely on your publishers alone for success. In the modern age of social media, you have to be available to your fans.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Titles need to be easily memorable and catchy if you can manage it. Covers are best to be commissioned art if you can manage it but always eye-catching. Pre-created art can be very helpful but don’t be surprised if other people have used pregenerated art. I think my favorite art pieces are I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER (Bright Falls Mysteries), WRAITH KNIGHT, and LUCIFER’S STAR’s covers. They were all done by the same magnificent artist. Sadly, he’s retired now.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
One of my all-time favorite reviews was a two-star review for one of my books. It explained that the reader found the character irritating, that he didn’t much care for the plot, and he went into detail about what he disliked. I didn’t agree with everything they said but it was an intelligently written out work. Other reviews I’ve saved, particularly those where they trash my progressive politics by including gay, minority, or trans characters in my books. If I’m offending those people then I’m doing something right.
I think negative feedback is important and an author who can’t take criticism should probably find another career. It’s also vital from beta-readers, editors, and proofers that you learn what your weaknesses are as an author before you put out a bad product.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’ve become much more aware of my own weaknesses as a writer. I try and watch for those and also have learned to distance myself from my writing a bit more. Now I can read and critique my work much better than I used to. I’ve also learned much about pacing myself so that even when I’m not feeling particularly inspired, I can manage to get a little work done that adds up over time.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
I think a big surprise was the fact that more people gravitated to my silly, humorous, and short fun books like The Supervillainy Saga than my serious epics like Lucifer’s Star. People just wanted something to relax to and they eagerly embraced the chaotic whimsical adventures of the World’s Worst Supervillain over the dark as well as serious world-building I did. This isn’t a bad thing but it did make me think about the best way to grow my audience.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I write books that I would want to read. I think that’s the best way to serve my audience and that the kind of books you write for yourself will find their audience eventually. I do think that authors have a contract with their readers to finish their existing works once they get them invested, though. Preferably in a timely manner. Not naming names but I think we all know an author or two who have suffered schedule slip.
What are your plans for future books?
I am presently working on wrapping up my Lucifer’s Star trilogy as well as the next book of my Supervillainy Saga, THE KINGDOM OF SUPERVILLAINY. I just released the previous book, THE FUTURE OF SUPERVILLAINY, out on audiobook. From there, I’ll be working on wrapping a lot of my existing series like the Bright Falls Mysteries, Red Room, Straight Outta Fangton, and Wraith Knight. Here’s the art for LUCIFER’S WORLD which is the third book of the LS trilogy.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I am religiously Jedi. 🙂