"For a time, I believed that mankind had been swept out of existence, and that I stood there alone, the last man left alive."
H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds
Can you believe it's been 125 years since H.G. Wells released his groundbreaking SciFi tale, The War of the Worlds? Today, it is my pleasure to have as my guest, the multi-talented, award-winning author, H.E. Wilburson! His trilogy, The Martian Diaries, continues the famed saga of the perilous, Martian invasion in grand style!
I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two stories in the trilogy and am anxiously awaiting the new release, Gateway to Mars. In addition to his masterful ability to weave a gripping tale, H.E. is also a prolific composer, writing and producing the music for his audiobooks. Writers, if you're thinking of going the audiobook route, he offers a payload of sage advice and recommendations in today's post. Let's chat with H.E.!
Q1. H.E., I have been a fan of your War of the Worlds inspired Martian tales for some years now and am so looking forward to the final instalment of your trilogy, Gateway to Mars. Can you tell us about what inspired you to pursue and continue the storyline H.G. Wells originated?
I have loved The War of the Worlds for years and always hoped that someone would come up with a worthy continuation of the original story. I have been composing music for my own pleasure since 1991 and by 2012 I had created over 750 music compositions, which were digitally stored on over one hundred floppy discs containing everything I had ever done. I used a Korg 01WFD workstation with an onboard sixteen track sequencer and a floppy disc drive.
During 2012 I had been getting a strong feeling that I should do something with all the skills I had acquired in producing that music, so I gave myself permission and made a commitment to getting my music 'out there'. Then I realised that I needed to build my own recording studio and I certainly kept eBay busy with all the secondhand equipment I required! With all the technical issues I ended up feeling like a computer engineer, but eventually I found out why an Apple Mac Pro 'early 3.1' was the best and only machine for the job, after countless hours learning Logic Pro 9.
My ideal job would be to compose music full time for film and screen, but there are lots of talented composers in search of work. There was only one way I could see to land the perfect job without endlessly waiting for a call back from an agent, and that was to create a showcase. So it was that I decided on a sequel to The War of the Worlds and to compose original music for it.
I began by setting a golden rule for myself – it had to be recognisable as a continuation, and good enough to keep H.G Wells entertained from start to finish. Sounds simple, right? Yet in the first week of writing volume one, The Day of the Martians, I understood what it meant to be a full-time writer and I now sympathise with authors everywhere. I discovered that words can be tricky, troubling and tortuous, and achieving intended meaning is sheer agony. (Writing is challenging for me, unlike composing music which I can do all day long and thoroughly enjoy it.) And then after the writing there is the alchemy of editing which I have found the most painful thing of all.
I started my sequel to The War of the Worlds in 2015 and, after stops and starts, published book one, The Day of the Martians, as an audiobook with my original music and sound effects, late in 2017. There were several key moments when I questioned what I had taken on: a trilogy sequel to The War of the Worlds plus music and sound effects? Really? Blagging it was never going to put useful words on a blank page or produce a sound from a speaker. My motivation to keep going and finish the three books of The Martian Diaries series, was for a fan of The War of the Worlds to hear something new, and to enjoy it.
Q2. Your audiobooks are masterfully produced. Can you tell us how you plan and produce the music compositions for the stories?
I believe that having a tiny budget to work with, and keeping going through countless trials and errors, computer problems and system failures, gave me the resilience to believe I could get the story done. Once Harry Preston had narrated book one, I found adding music and sound effects enjoyable and a relatively easy task compared to writing. Mostly I have had to compose original music to suit the mood of each chapter and it's ironic that I've only used previous compositions on a handful of occasions. So, I still have 750 odd pieces of music looking for a home!
Putting The Martian Diaries together was pretty much like baking bread, and the better the ingredients the better the outcome. My main ingredients are text for flour, music for yeast, mixed with a splash of sound effects. I try not to think too much about how the ingredients are made because I believe inspiration is God-given. Even a few years down the line, sometimes I hear parts of the trilogy and I wonder, how did I write this? What's going to happen next? It's like hearing it for the first time. Perhaps I have been tremendously lucky – The Martian Diaries has been fun to make, but I find it even better to listen to.
Q3. The narration is delightful too--very suspenseful and entertaining. How did you go about selecting your narrator?
A good source for finding a narrator is through local amateur acting groups. They are filled with talented people who are only too willing to help. However, the way I found a narrator was unusual. My car had developed a mechanical fault, so I took it to a local garage. Within a day or so the problem had returned, and I took it back to get it looked at again. I was still in the process of writing a final chapter for book one so, not wanting to waste another couple of hours waiting around at the garage, I took my laptop with me and continued working on it. Another customer asked me what I was doing. When I told him I was attempting to produce an audio sequel to The War of the Worlds he got very excited and said it was his favourite book. I told him my next task was to find a good enough narrator. “You need Harry,” was all he said, and was insistent that I gave him my phone number to pass on. Harry Preston called me back a day later!
Q4. Many writers are interested in learning more about the world of audiobooks--it seems a bit intimidating.
Perhaps my years of creating music have helped to make me comfortable around a recording studio, but there's a fair bit involved in producing an audiobook on your own. However, there is plenty of good advice on the internet about how to do it yourself to a high standard, and the basic equipment you need to have. There are respected author/marketers who do blog posts and YouTube videos on audiobook creation and Derek Doepker and Dave Chesson are just two worth mentioning.
The Alliance of Independent Authors, which is a non-profit organisation, also has good articles and emails on the audiobook industry. Alternatively, Audible and others offer packages where you can choose narrators and have the recording done 'in house' through them. Check the terms and conditions carefully. The best advice I can give to anyone wanting to create an audiobook is to make sure the narrator's voice is recorded to the highest quality you can achieve at the outset.
The main benefit to making an audiobook is to showcase your book in a different medium. There are now many platforms who will distribute your audiobooks online but think hard about your financial investment and the way the royalties will work before signing up. Findaway Voices is an audiobook distributor that can place your work on a number of platforms around the globe, including library style services, but again, do read the Ts and Cs carefully.
Amazon's audio arm is of course Audible, but they have come under scrutiny recently for their lack of transparency, accounting issues and very small royalties, which are often even smaller than you expect. Audiblegate is a non-profit organisation formed a couple of years ago by a collective of authors who have involved accountants and legal advisers in an enquiry into Audible's operating procedures. You won't have heard much about it but The Alliance of Independent Authors @IndieAuthorALLI has posted updates via email, blog posts and Twitter. You can follow @Audiblegate on Twitter and probably other social media, and sign up for email updates.
A different option is the audio hosting/listening platform called Soundwise and you can check them out at mysoundwise.com (not to be confused with soundwise.co.uk) Once recorded you can sell your audiobooks, or anything audio, direct to the public at the price you set and keep almost all of the revenue. You have to direct traffic (listeners) to the platform yourself as it is not a retailer like Amazon or Audible. Customers cannot 'stumble upon' your audiobooks but you're not in competition with other authors.
Soundwise provides excellent templates to create your own landing pages, set your price, offer free samples and you can set up discounted prices easily, as and when you want to. The listener downloads the app and once they purchase your audiobook it's on the app, just like an ebook on your listening device. It's definitely an option worth looking into and could be used in conjunction with online retailers, to maximise your income.
If you enjoy audiobooks, it's a great time to be a customer as there are loads of deals out there and plenty of titles to choose from on many different platforms.
Q5. It seems unusual to launch with an audiobook first, rather than read-only text. What was the reason for doing it that way round?
Primarily I wanted a way to showcase my music and as a storyteller I decided to create an immersive experience for your ears, and at the same time tell a new story. I like to think I have contributed to a growing category of creative works based on The War of the Worlds.
Q6. Can you tell us about the process you go through to produce an audiobook? How do you get everything to align (ie the story, music, narration, studios, final cut, selecting an audio seller platform etc).
I use Apple Logic Pro 9, a professional music computer program to create tracks that can be chopped, edited and moved into any place you want. You can add all the elements together in any configuration. The way I mix the narration, music and sound effects is purely intuitive and I'm mostly satisfied with the results. Hearing my narrator Harry Preston say the opening line of book one, “The terror of the coming of the Martians...” petrified me more than anything else in my life. Suddenly I was in at the deep end, recording my own audiobook in my own studio and it had to be done right. There's something magical about a 'first take' (first attempt) that can never be repeated.
It was terrifying to press 'play' and hear the recording back for the first time with the narrator sitting next to me. Luckily, “The terror of the coming of the Martians...” sounded better over the speakers than I could have hoped and meant all the years of preparation were not in vain. I was completely in awe of Harry's storytelling ability, and it was a pleasure to work with a true artist at the top of his game.
Q7. Audiobooks v. eBooks--any preference?
In 2021 books one and two of The Martian Diaries were published as eBooks as it was evident there was a demand for read-only versions, and I was delighted with how well they were received. Once book three is complete the whole trilogy will be offered in multiple formats, including eBooks, paperbacks, hardbacks and boxed sets. I will also make the music soundtracks available separately. I personally enjoy audio over book versions as I can listen while doing other things, especially travelling.
Q8. Can you give us a sneak peek as to what to expect in your next tale, Gateway to Mars?
The first part of book three is about a mission to the moon in the 1940s to find a cure for the terrible pandemic on Earth caused by Martian Red Weed, as detailed in book two Lake on the Moon. Familiar characters appear again in the second part of Gateway to Mars, set in 2129 in an established colony on Mars, facing an invasion of Martian tripods. The book has been very challenging to write, not least because I have aimed to bring
H.G Wells' story full circle as well as incorporating futuristic themes for Earth and Mars in a believable science fiction plot.
Q9. Enquiring minds want to know, what's next in the H.E. Wilburson author pipeline?
If I get a chance, I hope to complete my adaptation of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress that I started prior to The Martian Diaries. It's my audio version of the classic book retold for a modern audience, with my music and sound effects. I plan to use the skills I have gained in creating The Martian Diaries and bring a new dimension to an old story.
It's my dream to have my music for The Martian Diaries played live one day and, even better, to have it attached to a film version. When I first heard the completed recordings of books one and two of The Martian Diaries, I knew how Jeff Wayne must have felt back in the 1970s, hearing his completed The War of the Worlds album for the first time as a finished product. In my case, along with the music I got the added bonus of hearing a new story that continues H.G Wells' original plot. I hope that with book three, listeners and readers will be entertained by how the story concludes in the 22nd century.
H.E., thank you so much for being my guest today. The audiobook insights and recommendations are fabulous---a plethora of information and lessons learned for writers wanting to go this publishing route.
Best of luck with your new release, Gateway to Mars, I cannot wait to read it! It will be a fantastic end to a wonderful trilogy, and an inspiring addition for The War of the Worlds fans! H.G. would be proud!
To learn more about Author Wilburson's works, check out these links:
Learn about The Martian Diaries sequel to The War of the Worlds and hear audio samples at: https://www.martiandiaries.com
All other links including retail options, free samples, social media etc. here:
Another #FridayNightFrights book trailer reveal!
This week Bibiana Krall and I debuted the trailer for one of my short stories in Wicked Mist, Unrequited! I hope you've enjoyed the trailers so far, we have three more to go. See you next Friday night for another #spooktacular reveal! What does your garden grow? 💀💔
A haunting tour through the streets of Savannah this week from the writers of Twitter...
Author Cathleen Maza, Savannah in Daylight, Book 2 of the Haunted Savannah Series, 5 ⭐
The spirit of Savannah returns, this time bringing her ghostly magic out in broad daylight. She's on a mission to soothe the souls of this enchanted, southern town and send the ones with nefarious intentions packing!
In each story, we meet the residents of this sometimes-haunted town--ones who still reside on this earthly plane, and others who cling to it, refusing to let go. Grieving hearts; those hardened by earthly judgments; playful entities out for a bit of fun; soul sucking vampires; and those who seek the light are given a gentle (or not so much) nudge. Some will stay and some move on. Savannah watches them all.
Author Maza once again delivers a ghostly collection that will mesmerize and entertain you, page by page. As we travel through the streets and into the stately homes, each rich with history, we uncover the mystery and magic behind each door. Savannah's mystique touches the characters in each story, giving the reader a heartwarming and at times, chilling, view of the lives who made this southern town their home. I can't say enough about this series--it's absolutely fabulous! Savannah in Daylight, a fantastic collection of haunting tales, highly recommended!
Next up in the reading queue:
Wrapping up Christmas in July...
Just a few more days 'til we close out the mid-summer holidays---good-bye Hallmark Christmas movies (no worries, they'll be back just before Halloween if my memory serves me right from last year, LOL). I want to thank the readers who picked up copies of my Christmas themed books this month! I hope you enjoy them---there'll be one more to add to the choices on November 1st. Until then, #HoHoHo! 🎀🎄
Welcome to my world. Enjoy the rest of your week and weekend, friends!
Crowns and Kisses,
P.S. The summertime fun continues--art, theatre, more authors, and ghosts coming up in the August posts! Gemma and Rikkhe approve 💖👑