25 February 2010

Author Answers with Jon F. Merz

Jon F. Merz is this week's guest author. Recently, he's teamed up with author Joe Nassie to write a seriel novel, "The Cerberus Protocol" for your cell phone and he graciously agreed to explain just how that works.

WN: "Cerberus Protocol" is written for mobile phones? How does that work?
MERZ: The Cerberus Protocol is delivered in installments through a basic subscription model. The first installment is absolutely free and anyone with a smart phone can download it by visiting our site at http://www.hellstalkers.com/. Future installments will be available through subscriptions. Once you subscribe, the installments are automatically delivered to your phone for your reading enjoyment.

WN: What was different about writing for this format than writing a "traditional book"?
MERZ: Actually Joe and I write this book the same way we write any other book. We didn't think in terms of the platform that would be delivering the story; we focused on telling the best exciting tale that we could. Of course, given that the mobile phone is a much smaller screen, there are obviously some formatting challenges to be overcome, but we think the end-result will be well worth it.

WN: Where did you come up with the idea for the story? (And what's it about, in a nutshell?)
MERZ: Joe and I had been tossing ideas back and forth for a while about several projects, and Joe suggested we do something timely around the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, Switzerland. We started churning out some possibilities, focused on a few key elements and before we knew it, we had the basis of the series. As for what the story is about, I think the blurb we have at the official HELLstalkers.com site says it best:

On February 5th, scientists at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland ran a short test on the newly completed Large Hadron Collider. For that brief period, protons swarmed back and forth along the seventeen miles of carefully constructed tunnel and slammed into each other with devastating force, generating power the likes of which had not been seen since the moment of the Big Bang. Just a few short hours. That was all it took for our world to be invaded. My name is Captain Memphis Stone, commander of the Hellstalkers, the armed response unit hastily assembled to face this growing threat. This is the story of the men and women under my command, those who stand in the gap and shed their blood to protect the rest of humanity from creatures that we never imagined we’d ever face, not even in our darkest dreams. Welcome to the front lines.

WN: Am I going to need a special phone/gadget/whatzit to be able to read this book?
MERZ: Joe had initially approached a Vienna-based company to handle distribution via mobile phone networks, which means that you need to have a smart phone capable of reading an ebook file (such as epub or .prc). But our overall goal is to acquire a print publisher and bring this series out in the "traditional" format as well. Joe and I are all about producing properties that lend themselves to a wide variety of platforms. In keeping with that, we want our audience to be able to enjoy our work no matter how they choose to read it.

WN: How does writing for a platform like a mobile phone change people's understanding of a "book?" Is this just part of the evolution going on in publishing right now?
MERZ: There's definitely an evolution happening, it's just a matter of whether people want to admit it or not. In the US, it would be fairly uncommon to see someone devouring a novel on their handheld cell phone, but internationally a huge amount of content is consumed this way. Ebooks, printed books, cell phone novels, social media - all of it is part of the ongoing process and writers need to be familiar with all of it. Our audience doesn't simply read books anymore and many of them are preferring to embrace new technology as their principal means of entertainment. Writers who are reluctant to explore new ways of delivering their work to the changing tastes of their audience will undoubtedly find themselves with an ever-dwindling readership. Personally, I happen to love the feel of traditional books. But I don't let my personal inclinations deprive my audience of enjoying my work wherever they prefer to. That's simply not very smart. So, yes - things are evolving and Joe and I are happy to be part of the evolution rather than the grumpy old guys in rocking chairs shaking our canes at those "young whipper snappers" who don't appreciate traditional books.

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