A Conversation with Chris Kennedy
Eric S Brown
Chris Kennedy is a powerhouse in the world of publishing. He’s a well-known author, and successful publisher with a ten member staff and a raft of authors. As busy as he is, Chris took some time off to discuss his works and his company.
AR: What made you want to be a writer and do you have a favorite author that inspired you?
Kennedy: I’m told that 81% of people have a story they want to tell. That was never me, though—I never wanted to be a writer. And then one day…I had a story. I thought it was good, so I decided to write it down…but then I had no idea what to do with it. No agent or publisher wanted it, so I finally published it myself. When it started selling, though, I thought, “Wow, this is fun! I need to do it more!” So I did. Voila! The Accidental Author was born.
Although I never had a story of my own to tell, I’m not, however, a stranger to books. I’ve been an avid reader all my life—I read every scifi book in the library in High Point, NC, growing up, and I have a number of favorite authors. One of my all-time favorites is David Weber, who I am lucky enough to currently be writing a book with. Another favorite is one you may have heard of—a guy named David Drake.
AR: Tell us about how you got into publishing:
Kennedy: As I said above, nobody wanted my first book, Red Tide, so I did it myself. I then published a number of other books I wrote, and got to be pretty good at it. So good, in fact, that other people started noticing. Finally, someone asked me to publish their books, too, and my career in publishing took off. When I joined with Mark Wandrey to start the Four Horsemen universe, things really went crazy, and I went from publishing about a book a quarter to a book a week, which is a crazy amount of work!
AR: The Four Horsemen universe has been insanely successful. Can you tell about some about it?
Kennedy: Sure. In 2025, aliens make first contact with Earth. They arrive, hoping to find a rich new source of resources or advanced technological trading partners. After all, they’ve detected deep space probes and evidence of space travel. Needless to say, they’re disappointed. While they’re here, though, the aliens realize we have the ability to fight, which is a rare and valuable commodity, as there are only 36 races in the entire galaxy who are willing to fight and die for money. Humanity now has something to trade, and we go forth to be mercenaries. The books are set one hundred years beyond that, and we have developed giant mechanized suits of armor to help gain an edge over the aliens that are generally bigger, stronger, and meaner than us. The series is primarily about mercenary warfare in a mecha environment. With tens of millions of pages read in the universe, it has indeed been quite successful.
AR: What’s next for the Four Horsemen Universe?
Kennedy: There are a number of authors writing in the universe who are continuing to write books in two different lines. The main story line is the “Omega War” series, where humanity is currently fighting against the other races to regain our independence. We also have the “Tales” series, which has a number of books that help expand the universe, including several anthologies. There will also be a card game coming out in the next year set in the universe (the result of a successful Kickstarter), and we are working on a computer game as well!
AR: Your company has several imprints. What kind of titles are they releasing?
Kennedy: The company actually has five imprints. Seventh Seal Press is the one which publishes the Four Horsemen books, and it is certainly the leading imprint at the moment. I also have Theogony Books, which is the scifi imprint and is close behind Seventh Seal, Blood Moon Press, which does horror and post-apocalyptic books, New Mythology Press, which does fantasy, and Anticipation Press, which publishes young adult books. Sometimes, there’s a bit of crossover between them, but those are their main focuses. Besides myself, I think you, Eric, are closest to having a book with each of the imprints…or will be, when your next book comes out.
Mr. Brown says: Mr. Kennedy is referring to my novels Casper Alamo which is with Seventh Seal Press, Psi-Mechs Inc. which is with Blood Moon Press, and my upcoming SF novel, Miranda’s War, with Theogony Books.
AR: Has your military background helped you as a writer/publisher?
Kennedy: Absolutely! Because of my military service, I am not only a very disciplined person, I’m also good at planning. While the first one is important for short term success—I can force myself to put my butt in the chair, every day—the latter is more important for overall success. Planning not only helps me be a better plotter (for the writing side of my job), but also to look ahead for how to get books out on time and marketed appropriately (for the business side of my job). I will probably end up releasing 50 books this year—nearly a book a week—and that didn’t happen without an awful lot of planning!
AR: What do you love most about your job these days?
Kennedy: Every day is different…writing, editing, cover design…there are so many things that keep my life interesting. The best part of being an author and publisher, though, is getting to go to different conferences and conventions, where I get a chance to meet up with the readers. That truly makes it worthwhile!
AR: Do you have any words of wisdom for new authors, or publishers, just starting out?
Kennedy: I do, actually. If you want to write—do so. Write all the time; you’ll get better for doing so. Reading is important, too, as who you are as an author is—at least in part—based on who you’ve read. If you really want to be a writer, though—and to make a living from it—not only do you need to write, but you also need to spend some time improving yourself. That doesn’t have to be expensive; I spent 30 minutes, every day, for the first four years of my writing career, reading blogs on how to be a better writer and businessman. If I can be a successful author and publisher, having started out with NO experience in the writing industry, you can, too. It just takes effort, discipline, and desire.
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