Interview with Self-Published Author Christopher Locke About His Debut Book
I first met author Christopher Locke through his wonderful wife, Jaya Bhumitra. Jaya and I first met at Natural Foods Expo West, and we chatted for a long time. I could tell she was a compassionate, warm hearted person when I first met her, and her husband was the same exact way. Not a surprise! Christopher wrote and self-published his very first book, Persimmon Takes On Humanity, of The Enlightenment Adventures series (and Jaya edited the book. What a team!). I thought it would be great to feature his work and discuss the process it took to create his dream project. If you have any questions for Christopher, please post them in the comments!
What was your inspiration behind writing Persimmon Takes On Humanity?
In 2004, I read Fast Food Nation, and the sections depicting cruelty to animals on factory farms disturbed me so profoundly that I immediately stopped eating meat. Soon after, I learned about the abuse that all animals endure in dairy farms, the egg industry, circuses, etc., so as a progressive person, I knew that to be in line with my values, I wanted nothing to do with these industries as well.
Since I’m a writer and it was a book that inspired me to lead a more cruelty-free life, I immediately wanted to write something that inspired others to do the same. It took about ten years to come up with the story for Persimmon Takes On Humanity, but when it all came together, I was certain this was the one I had been trying to conjure up night after night. It’s a page-turner with lovable and heroic characters fighting against insurmountable odds—all wrapped up in a thrilling adventure. And on top of that, the characters are on a quest to save all animals from human brutality, so as the characters learn about what other animals go through in places like factory farms, so does the reader. Hopefully, readers will have an epiphany that if they’re rooting for the characters in the book, why not advocate for all the real animals out there who are suffering?
You chose to self-publish your novel. I’m assuming this was your first time acting as the publisher and author of your own work. What were some lessons you learned that you’d share with anyone considering self-publishing?
The most important piece of advice I can give to those who are attempting to self-publish is to go into the process with reasonable expectations. You have to be prepared that it is going to cost thousands of dollars and that it will most likely take around a year to accomplish. If I had known that in advance it would have alleviated a lot of the stress I experienced during that time.
For every aspect of the process (from the copyediting to the interior design to the printing of the finished book) I kept thinking, “Surely this will only take a week or two, and will only cost $200 at the most.” And every time instead of a week it took a month, and instead of a few hundred dollars it cost a few thousand. And that’s not because I got taken for a ride, it’s because I had no understanding of just how long and costly these things are.
With that said, I don’t want to scare people away from self-publishing. I’ve heard many horror stories from author friends who had problems with traditional publishing, and I didn’t have to deal with any of those issues. Plus, at the end of the day, the finished book is exactly the book I wanted. It may have cost more and taken more time to produce than I had anticipated, but I can proudly hand this book to someone and say, “I poured my heart into this novel. This is my best work.” After dreaming about being a published author since I was a kid, that’s an amazing feeling.
You’ve been very active touring with your book. What have been some highlights of attending events and talking about Persimmon Takes On Humanity?
I absolutely adore doing events for the book. For some events, friends and family come, and it’s so heartwarming to see how proud they are of me. I also get to meet new people, and my favorite moment is when I tell them the premise of the novel and their eyes light up. “Oh wow, that sounds really good!” I get to actually see their excited reaction to the story.
The book has been out a few months now, so the new fun thing is that some people are coming to events who have already read the book and are excited to meet me. Writing a book is such a solitary experience, but with these events I get to chat with people about who their favorite characters are or what parts made them cry. I really enjoy that interaction with readers.
You worked with a design team to create your beautiful cover and the inside look of your book. What was that process like for finding the right designer and choosing a cover image?
The front cover illustration was designed by the brilliant artist, L.A. Watson. I met her by chance. My wife and I went to an exhibit at the National Museum of Animals & Society here in Los Angeles, and my wife pointed out that the artwork for the exhibit was wonderful and she suggested I chat with whoever created it to see if they’d be interested in designing the cover. So I asked around at the gallery and eventually met L.A. and she said she’d be happy to work with me.
I knew the general look I wanted for the cover, so I drew a rough sketch and then emailed it to L.A. Since drawing isn’t my forte, the sketch was meant to just give L.A. an idea of how I wanted the characters positioned (I wanted Persimmon bravely standing up to the menacing shadow of a human, protecting innocent calves behind her who are trapped in tiny stalls), but I needed a talented artist to actually make an illustration that’s a work of art. And boy, did she ever. She is such a gifted artist. I was lucky to work with her.
Then, I had to get someone to design the spine and back cover, so luckily I knew the talented design team at raven + crow studio. They nailed it. They took the mood and theme of the cover and made a seamless back cover and spine, and they created that awesome raccoon mask design you see on the top of the spine, which I adore.
As for the book’s interior design, that’s one of those things that I had no understanding about when I began this process. I had no idea how much work (and how expensive) it was, so when it came time to start figuring it out, it was overwhelming, to say the least. To save money, I tried to design the interior myself using both Microsoft Word and Scrivener, but after a month of pulling my hair out, I realized why it costs so much to get the interior designed: it’s tedious and complicated work.
I finally decided to go with CreateSpace, because I was already going through them to self-publish the book. It took a few months to make all the detailed decisions (What type of fleuron do I want?, What should I write on my Dedication Page?), but again, now that I look at the finished product, I am very proud of how it turned out. I was even able to add a fun detail at the last minute. I put the raccoon mask as the fleuron for every chapter. It’s such a small detail, but it really completes the look of the interior.
You are an animal activist and it’s clear through your first book how you feel about the mistreatment of animals. What’s one thing you’d like anyone—vegan, omnivore and everyone else in between—to take away from your book?
There is so much suffering in this world caused by humans—to other humans and to non-human animals. I’m hoping when people read Persimmon Takes On Humanity, it reawakens their compassion. Deep down I think people are decent. If they were to see a pig lying in the road, whimpering in pain because she had been hit by a car, they’d feel sympathy for her and try to help her. But when millions of pigs are trapped in cages, suffering horrendously day after day as they await slaughter, too many people feel no sympathy for them. In fact, most people prefer not to think about it, so they can just enjoy their bacon. But in order for that fatty hunk of meat to end up on your plate, an innocent and sweet being had to endure atrocious agony.
When people read Persimmon Takes On Humanity, my hope is that they’ll never be able to eat another piece of meat without thinking about Gilby or attend the circus without thinking about Nayana. They’ll connect their actions with the animals who are tormented behind the scenes, and as a decent person they’ll say to themselves, “I can’t be part of this system of abuse any longer.” What a great world that would be, right? A world where everyone is more compassionate. That’s my dream for Persimmon Takes On Humanity.