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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


Adam Niswander, Author and Bookseller

Current Agent: Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency

Partial List of Published Works:

  1. “The Charm”, Integra Press, Phoenix, AZ, 1993, Hardcover

  2. “The Serpent Slayers”, Integra Press, Phoenix, 1994, Hardcover

  3. “The Hound Hunters”, Integra Press, Phoenix, AZ 1994 *appeared only as an uncorrected proof/advance reading copy

  4. “The Sand Dwellers”, Fedogan & Bremer, Minneapolis, 1998, Hardcover

  5. “The Repository”, Meisha Merlin Publishing, Decatur, GA, 1999, Trade Paperback

  6. “The War of the Whisperers” – not yet released

Adam, how did you get started writing professionally?

My first published work was a poem in the Stars and Stripes in the early 1970s. My first novel was published in 1993.

About what subject?

The poem was patriotic drivel.

The novel is a modern-day dark fantasy with Native American medicine people struggling against an ancient wind-demon. But the message of the novel is cross-cultural cooperation.

What interested you about that subject?

I wanted to try to find a mid-point between Tony Hillerman and Stephen King. They were both best sellers at the time. I found that point. Unfortunately, it did not result in best-selling.

Did/does the subject tie into something in your personal or professional (pre-writing) life?

I live in Arizona, near the reservations. Native American cultures fascinate me.

And, have you always written, as while you were growing up and long before trying to get published that first time?

I wrote a lot of poetry as a youth. Some of it is not too embarrassing. I started writing seriously in 1977. I sold my first novel before I sold my first short story.

What type of worker are you when you write, i.e., do you write at certain times, or for a certain amount of hours daily, in long stretches straight through, as the spirit moves you, or???

I write every day. I generally arise, make coffee, turn on the computer, check email, do business, and then start writing. I usually start writing at about 10am and finish around 2am. I take breaks, of course, and am not always as productive as I would like.

Did you ever take any school or adult education courses in writing? If so, what, and did they help you? If you are a technical writer, have you taken courses in that area?

I had the usual course in high school and college – English, creative writing, etc. Nothing special. I studied the writing of authors I liked and tried to do what they did. I started a writers’ group in the 1980s and learned the most from that experience.

Do you conceive of an entire story or subject line to be covered in your head before starting to write, or do you get just an idea and sit down, outline it and flesh it out, or???

I hate outlining.

I have a general idea about my story – how it starts, how it will end. The hardest part is the first third of the book because I have to get to know the characters before their actions and words start to flow smoothly onto the page. Once I know the characters, things move almost as fast as I can type.

If you have had a deadline for submitting work to a publisher, how did/does that affect you, i.e., have you ever found that having to produce on a schedule causes the creative juices to dry up?

I love deadlines. They mean something I’m doing is a sure sale. I have only missed one deadline (by a month) and that was because my life turned upside down. As it was, the deadline wasn’t firm in the first place and I need not have worried. I prefer writing with a deadline as it is a motivator hard to ignore. When I am tempted to take a break, I feel too guilty to do so. For me, this is a good thing.

Tell us how you first got published, and whether it was difficult that first time. Did you have an agent for that first published piece? Was it a book, an article, a paper, or what?

Nothing really counts before “The Charm”, my first novel.

I’ll try to make a long story shorter than it is.

I began the story in 1978. I showed the first rough chapter to a girl friend, who had grown up next to an Indian Reservation. She bawled me out because I really knew nothing about Native Americans and was just faking it.

As a result, I shelved that first chapter for a few years before returning to it. When I did, her ire (though we were no longer together) was memorable enough that I decided to do all the research I could in order to make the book accurate. I read over 150 books on Native Americans, conducted over 200 interviews, and visited reservations all across the state.

When I went back to the writing, I had a solid grasp of the cultures I had selected – and there were 12 different tribes involved, so that was no easy task.

When I had finished “The Charm”, I began submitting it. I did have an agent already, but it takes time for a publisher to read and make a decision on a novel – and most do not want to read anything that someone else is reading, so it has to go out one at a time (no simultaneous submissions is the rule). Each publisher can take from three months to a year to decide. “The Charm” went out over a four-year period, but ended up being rejected by everyone. They all seemed to agree it was a good book, but observed that it was too different to market it successfully.

My agent finally gave up on it, but I didn’t.

Eventually, a friend read the manuscript and was so impressed that he went out and bought a small press. He then contracted with me to publish the book.

The book got panned by The Library Journal (who has never liked anything I’ve ever done) but got a rave review from Publishers Weekly. The first printing sold through in three days. The reviews (heh, except for Library Journal) are available on my web page.

How do you feel about editors?? Does it disturb you or comfort you to have someone checking your work pre-publication?

I love editors. I have never had one do anything but help improve my work.

How are you (or your publisher or agent) publicizing your current work?

Unfortunately, I’m between publishers at the moment. Small Press publishers are not terribly affluent and I seem to find acceptance with small presses. This means small print runs, no advertising budget, and less exposure. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t my fault, but there has been some bad luck.

Integra Press had a hit with “The Charm” and followed six months later with “The Serpent Slayers”. Then, just before the scheduled release of “The Hound Hunters”, the distributor stole all the money (for both the first two books) and put Integra essentially out of business (though they did come back and do another book about three years later). That’s why “The Hound Hunters” appeared only as an uncorrected proof. My most recent publisher, DarkTales Publications, just closed their doors. Nothing to do with me, but it has short-circuited my immediate plans.

I do hope to announce a new deal shortly. I have a verbal commitment from a new publisher, but the contract isn’t signed yet.

Have you ever been on a tour with one of your books? If so, what is that like? Did you find that it helped increase sales of your book?

I spent 1993-1995 attending conventions and doing signings. I spent more than I made writing. I think one good Publisher’s Weekly review sells a lot more books than personal appearances. I love doing the appearances, of course, but I don’t think they really do much to sell books in any kind of significant number.

Can you tell us a bit about a book (or whatever format you are writing in) that you might be working on now or plan to start soon? If you do have another in the works, are you writing a series, on the same subject as your last work, or on something totally different?

I’m currently working on the fifth Shaman Cycle book, titled “The Nemesis of Night”. Assuming the new contracts come through, the first two novels will be re-released in early 2004, then “The Hound Hunters” and “The War of the Whisperers” (books three and four) will come out for the first time in 2005. Then the balance of the series (13 planned novels) should follow each year.

Could you please give us a synopsis of your current book/work and, if a series, what the whole series is about?

The Shaman Cycle is about a Great Gathering of Native American medicine people who get together, despite tribal rivalries, to battle ancient evils released in the modern world. The shamans are wise men and women who understand that a combination of ancient tradition plus modern technology is a desirable combination. Twelve Native American tribes are represented in the Great Gathering, with the white man functioning as the legendary thirteenth tribe. That is why the series is planned to comprise 13 novels.

“The Charm” tells the story of a demon dust-devil, “The Serpent Slayers” deals with a 500 year old winged serpent, “The Hound Hunters” tells the tale of a drug dealer who has created a designer drug that opens the door to another dimension admitting creatures called the Hounds. “The War of the Whisperers” is the story of invisible creatures who manipulate man by whispering in dreams. “The Nemesis of Night” tells of creatures who can only function at night – who would die in sunlight (like vampires).

“The Sand Dwellers” introduces a Private Investigator named Aiden Mardian. I plan to tell more of his tales, as well.

“The Repository” features Ambrose Bierce, the famous writer, who now is an investigator for Satan’s Legions making a report to his boss about their failed battle with a fellowship of magicians.

Tell us a bit about how you go about doing research for your work?

I read, of course. I do interviews. I work very hard for accuracy – especially since I am writing about a culture other than my own. I also maintain an extensive reference library.

Any stories about the hazards of trying to make your way as a writer, particularly when starting out?

I never used to believe in luck. I was raised to believe that one can achieve any goal, be anything one wants to be, if one works with discipline and dedication. I never minded sacrificing comforts to achieve my goals. But I have come to see that there are factors beyond my control and that luck is a factor.

The business of writing is very competitive and the chances of financial success are slim. That is just reality. Mergers and closings of various publishers and publishing lines have cut the market down to a fraction of its former size. IF financial success is the goal, I advise new writers not to bother. Most, however, can’t be discouraged by such talk – which is the way it should be. I write because I can’t not write.

Any advice to aspiring writers on finding an agent or contacting publishers?

You don’t need an agent until you have something to sell. Just work on your writing. Start something and finish it, then refine it, then submit it. When some legitimate publisher tells you they want to publish your work, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding an agent to negotiate a decent contract.

Also, just to save new writers from a misconception I labored under for years, agents do not sell your work. You sell your work. Agents negotiate your contracts.

Are you a reader? If so, what types of things do you enjoy reading? Do you ever buy your own reading material online (had to ask that one!)?

I am a reader, but I learned long ago that reading is not writing. I try to read one leisure book a month. I read whatever is necessary for research.

I do buy research materials online and books.

What other types of things do you enjoy doing, besides writing? Any hobbies? Pets? Sports? Traveling? Gardening? Music or art, etc.?

I collect books and original art. I play with the Society for Creative Anachronism – which is an international group that re-creates the better parts of the middle ages. This usually involves camping and large battles with rattan swords – but, no, I’m not a fighter. I am known as Friar Adam in the SCA and my camping tent is a large canvas monastery I had custom-made (it is larger than many apartments I’ve lived in). It looks like a stone castle with turrets. I also attend conventions whenever I can.

Please tell us anything else about yourself you’d like us to know, either personal or professional, and thank you very much for allowing us to interview you!

I am also a bookseller. I opened a brick and mortar bookstore in 1983 and closed it in 1995. I now sell exclusively online. While my profession is writing, I have never made enough money doing that alone. Being an online bookseller provides the extra income that meets my immediate needs and lets me stay home to write. Since I love books, it is the best of both worlds.

Adam’s Bookstore specializes in Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Dark Fantasy), though I do carry general titles as well. My listings have been on ABEbooks, but I am in the process of leaving there and listing on, a new service. Why? I hate marked-up prices. I hope book buyers learn that they should always contact the dealer when ordering books online, no matter where they find the books listed. That’s good for dealers and good for buyers.

[Last minute note from Adam Niswander: Just signed contracts with Meisha Merlin Publishing and my Shaman Cycle novels will come out in two-novel omnibus volumes under that imprint in early 2004, early 2005 and the rest (nine more) separately after that.]

or visit Adam’s Bookstore online at:



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