Today I have an interview with Sabrina Ricci. Her first book, The 13th Cycle, was just released last month.
What inspired you to become a writer?
First, thank you Sarah for interviewing me!
I think it’s a combination of having a love for reading, and having a need to write. If I go for long periods without writing, I start to feel anxious and like I’m missing something.
Admittedly, some days are harder than others. Lately I’ve kept to a writing routine, where I write something—blog post, short story, outline, etc.—for at least ten minutes a day. It’s not much, but it helps prevent writer’s block.
What kind of research did you do to write this book?
My book is about the Maya calendar, so I did a lot of research to keep the Maya part of the story as accurate as possible. I included most of my research in the book. My protagonist actually goes through a similar process researching the Maya, so in the ebook version there are hyperlinks to videos, websites, and books, and in the print version I created a “notes” page at the end that can show readers where to find my research if they’re interested in looking it up. I thought it’d be a cool way to make my fiction story a little more interactive.
Aside from reading as many books as possible—there are a bunch of great books that talk about all the different Maya calendars and what the cycles mean—I found a lot of interesting websites and articles online. There were also several universities and museums with Maya exhibits, and though they were too far away for me to actually attend, they provided a number of videos and facts on their sites. I also watched a couple documentaries, including the PBS Nova titled “Cracking the Maya Code.” That one was really interesting, PBS has an interactive element on their site called “Decode Stela 3.” Basically it shows you how to read Maya glyphs.
The idea for this book was sparked by an initial fear of the Maya calendar and its end date on December 21. By doing research and learning about the Maya culture and the Long Count calendar, I have a better idea of what December 21 would have meant to the ancient Maya. From what I understand, they would have celebrated the end of this cycle and looked forward to the next one—and that makes me feel a lot better!
How long did it take to write your book?
About two months. I got the idea back in May, when my mom came to visit me and insisted that I come home on December 21. She told me, “If the world ends, I want my family to be with me.”
I let the idea percolate for a few months, and in October I started to write it. I used my idea to experiment in agile publishing, which is when readers give feedback to writers as they’re writing their books. It sounded like an interesting concept, and I figured it would help me shape the story into something people would actually want to read. I got a lot of good feedback, though a lot of it was private, and it was a great experience. You can see how it all turned out at my 13th Cycle blog.
Anyway, it took about three weeks to write the first draft, and then I hired an editor to me revise and polish. That process took about three or four weeks, during which I was still incorporating feedback from readers. Then I hired a copy-editor to proof it, and once she was done I was still tweaking it based on feedback from readers—they had a lot of good insights!
What are your thoughts on ebooks? (i.e. love them, hate them, wave of the future)
I’m an ebook developer by day, so of course I love them and think they’re the wave of the future. Having worked on ebooks for a number of companies, including Simon & Schuster and NBC Publishing, I know that ebooks have their issues—but I like that they’re easy to update and that they can be interactive.
As for the future, I don’t think ebooks will always be the way we see them now. They’re so new, and five, ten, or even twenty years from now I’m sure they will be different. A few weeks ago I went to a conference called Books in Browsers, and there were so many innovative ideas. One of my favorites is having web books, where you read in the browser. I have a lot of other ideas of what might happen to ebooks, which I wrote in a blog post, “The Evolution of eBooks”.
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes, first, I hope that anyone who reads The 13th Cycle comes away feeling optimistic about the future. It’s a thriller, but it’s also a feel good kind of story.
Over the next year I plan on writing a lot more books, starting with a mini series on how to make high-quality ebooks. Finding the right people or company to make ebooks can be expensive for indie writers, so I want to help people figure out how to do it on their own. And later on I’ll be writing more fiction! You can stay updated on my projects by visiting my site.
Lastly, I want to help indie writers with my startup, Write or Read. It’s a site that will provide authors metrics and insights into their ebooks, such as basic demographic information about their readers and what percentage of their ebooks readers finish. We’re launching the beta early next year, and I think it will ultimately help writers be more successful.
A California native currently living on the East Coast, Sabrina Ricci is a writer who makes ebooks for a living. She also started a company, Write or Read, to help other indie writers figure out who is reading their ebooks, what readers like about the books, and other metrics and insights that could potentially make authors more successful. Someday she hopes to get back to California. Until then, she will preoccupy herself with her obsession with dinosaurs.
Amara Randall is a college student with a passion for exposing the truth. When she sees the havoc the Maya calendar predictions wreak, she decides to debunk the myths and try to restore the peace.
Mahaway is a charismatic young scribe in ancient Maya. But her world is torn apart when a greedy new king declares war on her city.
Now at the end of 2012, Amara’s obsession leads her to uncovering a deadly conspiracy, one with roots dating back more than a thousand years. Using clues Mahaway has left behind as a guide, Amara must stop the conspirators’ terrifying plan before December 21. If she doesn’t, the world really will end.