When I tell people I’ve decided to put Hollow Reign online for free, it tends to elicit two very different responses: HECK NO and HECK YES.
The Heck No crowd are those who know me professionally, either through graduate school, a writing organization, a contest like #PitchMadness, YA Writer Twitter, or maybe a big conference like Writer’s Digest. The idea of putting any sort of writing online for free–essentially, the most half-assed version of self-publishing that exists–can be interpreted as the biggest failure within failing as a writer. For many of these folks, self-publishing is still a dirty word, even if that self-published work has been independently produced with higher-end touches and many of the same bells and whistles as it would’ve had coming from a major press. These same folks, I’ve noticed, are skeptical of smaller or medium-sized presses, too. It’s not that a creative piece ‘doesn’t count’ if it doesn’t come from an agented fiction writer working through The Big 5, it’s just that they sometimes don’t see why someone like me (or anyone else) might not strive for those things.
And then there’s the Heck Yes crowd, those that seem to know me more intimately, and know that I’ve been tinkering around with this tale and the universes included in it for literally more than sixteen years, and frankly, want me to move on by any means necessary. These folks are the folks that realize that my connection to this tale is rather atypical, not just because I’ve been working on it on and off since I was a child, but also because, as someone on the autism spectrum, developing the worldbuilding contained in these universes served perhaps a more expansive purpose in different parts of my life than the average story a preteen writes in a notebook under her pillow (which is, in no way to dismiss the already expansive-role in a young person’s life a first foray into writing can hold). These are also the folks who’ve watched me finish part one of graduate school, start teaching, and plan for a PhD, and a future in general. Many of them have ascertained, if only vaguely, that I am stuck — that I find myself needing to do something with this work to put it to bed in a place that isn’t a dark corner of a hard-drive.
There are, of course, plenty of people in my life who fit a bit into both categories. These are hasty generalizations.
I’m not someone who dislikes traditional publishing. My hippy-dippy mixed media Creative Writing grad program did open my eyes towards self-publishing and small presses in a way that I never considered before attending, as well as non-traditional narrative and multimedia techniques. In my Master’s Project, an essay about my life in Japan and coping with a sexual assault I experienced in America while living there, I used a mix of poetry, prose, image, video, and music to tell a story. I guess I got used to doing things like that, because when I picked Hollow Reign back up after I graduated, I knew I wanted to do some of those things with it, even if it meant traditional publishing would be out of the question.
Admittedly, there are some aspects of this story and the nature of this story that I feared didn’t map onto traditional publishing very well even before the art aspect was added, or that a traditional publisher would ask me to do away with in order to better-fit their label. This isn’t to say that I’m a horribly unreasonable writer who doesn’t work with editors and several other sound-boarding folks–I do–but there are certain aspects of representation that I’m unwilling to budge on, including character pronouns. I’m also someone who works in Disability Studies and, being disabled myself, am very concerned about the accessibility of anything I put out into the world. By web-publishing, I can assure that aspects of digital accessibility that a publisher might not care about are addressed.
And then there’s the more practical reasons: this story has, for me, always served as an escape, and a powerful tool for distraction and self-preservation. During these strange COVID times, the bi-weekly release schedule allows Rowan and I to continue to work on Hollow Reign in a healthy manner, to distract ourselves, and to find a little extra thing to look forward to and enjoy. I’d like to think some of that might apply to readers, too. Having a little piece of a story to read every two weeks and a new image or comic to read is wonderful to look forward to, perhaps even more than a full novel one can voraciously devour in one night. I’ve been growing up with this story for sixteen years. By only giving you small pieces at a time, I can ensure that you, too, spend some time growing up with it.
Thank you for your support. I hope Hollow Reign brings you enjoyment for many years to come.