Saturday, January 12, 2013

Alon Shalev - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on award-winning YA Author Alon Shalev. He is the author of the YA epic fantasy, At The Walls of Galbrieth.

Author Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Website: Alon Shalev - Author?
Author's Blog: ElvesWriter - A Fantasy Author
Blog: Alon Shalev - Social Justice
Twitter: @Elfwriter
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
LinkedIn: Check Out LinkedIn
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description: Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice themed novels, including The Accidental Activist, A Gardener’s Tale, and Unwanted Heroes.

Alon Shalev writes what he is passionate about. Politically active and constantly seeking social and political injustice, he writes to inspire action for change. He lived in Israel for 20 years, serving in the Israeli army. Being new to the US, however, he was shocked to see so many homeless war veterans. This is the motivation behind Unwanted Heroes. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two sons, and can be found exploring San Francisco, a city he has fallen in love with.

Alon Shalev was born in London in 1964 and spent much of his teen years campaigning for the Anti-Apartheid movement, the release of Jews from the Soviet Union, and the burgeoning green movement.

In his early 20's, Alon joined an idealistic and committed group to create a kibbutz, an egalitarian intentional community, and remained a central member for twenty years.

Now living in Berkeley, California, Alon runs a non-profit that provides education and support for Jewish students on the campuses of San Francisco. He arrived in the US as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast and has successfully recruited and taken students to New Orleans to help rebuild houses and communities in the area.

He is the lead writer of the political blog, Left Coast Voices, and never expected to be delving into the world of fantasy.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease.

I do. I actually wrote three Young Adult epic fantasy novels in consecutive years, so the second, The First Decree, is due out in March. The first - At The Walls Of Galbrieth - came out in 2012. They are stand-alones, but follow on from each other. The third has yet to be edited and begin all the publishing process.

I have also completed a manuscript that follows on from my latest social justice-themed novel, Unwanted Heroes, but I think my publisher has a few more authors in line before they get to me. My writer's group is critiquing it now.

You have a great following on Twitter. (Over 20K followers) How important are the social media relationships that you’ve formed to your writing success?

I actually have 20K followers on @elfwriter and just less than 20K on a second twitter account - @alonshalevsf - that focuses on my social justice-themed novels. Writing in two genres really needs separate social media platforms, so there is also a blog for each - and

There is an absolute connection between the relationships created from the blogs and twitter and my readership. My whole marketing strategy is based upon offering a genuine value and connection between author and reader. Hopefully, people become regularly engaged with me through the blog and twitter and therefore are already invested when each book comes out.

Not only that, but the cover designer, editor and interior formatter for the epic fantasy novels all came from either referrals or directly as followers of my blog and twitter. They are amazing people and I am so grateful to have such a supportive team. The physical beauty and quality of the books, exterior and interior, are all due to them and I am in awe of their commitment.

Do you do book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when is your next place where your readers can see you?

I do, but a knee operation has held me back the last few months. I did a virtual book tour in November 2011 and a series of reading this past spring when Unwanted Heroes was originally coming out. I am putting together several in Northern California now for this spring and will put the details on my website (

While this isn't a marketing priority I do cherish the interactions with readers and fellow writers. There is something richer in the face-to-face conversations.

You have real good book covers. How does your cover development process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

The artist, William Kenney, designs the epic fantasy covers. I send him a couple of paragraphs about the plot and what I envisage on the cover. He produces some sketches and solicits my feedback. The end result is always far better than anything I imagine.

Ironically, with my social justice-themed novels, my publisher Lloyd Lofthouse, encourages me to be involved. In fact, the cover for Unwanted Heroes is from a photograph I took in San Francisco's Marina District, overlooking Alcatraz. This is based on a scene in the book.

Have you create a book trailer for any of your books to promote your books online?

No, but I am excited by the medium. I do think that the book trailers I see are either excellent or bad - there is little middle ground. I would need to outsource and it is a question of finance. I also think that given my market for fantasy is Young Adult, it becomes an even more compelling marketing tool.

You run a non-profit organization that provides education and support for Jewish students in San Francisco. Now rewarding is that? Do the students give inspiration in your writing?

Do you belong to any author support groups? Do they help with writing, marketing and the publishing process?

The students definitely inspire me for the social justice-themed novels. The Jewish Student Center is very social justice-orientated and we volunteer with different organizations in San Francisco. I was very impacted by all that happened around Hurricane Katrina (I had just arrived in the US) and have organized and taken groups to New Orleans ever since.

All these experiences produce interesting and fascinating people and conversations – in the writing business, we call this novel fodder.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?

It hasn't changed how and what I write. An author has a responsibility to write the best book possible. There should be no compromise on quality. As you might read between the lines, as e-book production has become cheaper and more accessible, there are people who are churning out books and not investing in an outside editor or formatter. Even if someone is paying $0.99, they should not be reading a book littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. It is a question of pride in the craft of writing.

Having said all that, the opportunity to sell books cheaply (book price, delivery, production) means that books can be sold for under $5. This gives the new or struggling author a great opportunity. Who isn't willing to spend the price of a cappuccino and take a chance on the book by a new author?

Finally, it puts pressure on the more established authors. John Grisham writes social justice-themed novels. His e-books cost x4 the price of mine. He now has to offer x4 the experience to satisfy our shared target audience. By the way - I love John Grisham's novels and have all of them on my bookshelf.

Does being from Israel present any unique selling and marketing situation? Do you publish your books in other languages?

Actually I was born and bred in England and my first two novels (A Gardener's Tale and The Accidental Activist) are situated there. Since a lot of my stories come from personal experiences this has a bigger influence - in fact the protagonist from Unwanted Heroes and the subsequent novels is also British.

There are scenes that happened to me in Israel. For example, there is a scene in Unwanted Heroes in which a war veteran tells of the time he was in Israel for Soldier's Rememberance Day and compares it to how we recognize Memorial and Veteran's Day in the US.

I have a small following in the UK but I am not aware of other countries. I would love for my books to be translated into Hebrew, for my own satisfaction rather than financial potential. Israel is a very small country and my target audience are probably reading in English anyhow.

There are apparently two people in Scandinavia who buy all my books. I don't know them, but definitely appreciate their loyalty!

Do you belong to any author support groups? Do they help with writing, marketing and the publishing process?

Absolutely. I have facilitated the Berkeley Writer's Group, a weekly critique group, since 2006 and we learn so much from each other. I have no doubt that my novels are considerably better for the feedback that I receive.

I am also a member of the California Writer's Club and attend their monthly meetings.

Again, I have the opportunity to network with other writers and accomplished authors. At this club, a small group meets an hour before the regular meetings to discuss marketing. We teach each other different forms and techniques and help each other when people get stuck.

Author's Book List
Unwanted Heroes
Unwanted Heroes brings together an old, battle weary Chinese American war vet and an idealistic and somewhat pretentious young Englishmen, who share a love for San Francisco, coffee and wine. They soon discover they share even more when repressed memories bring them together—finding in each other an unlikely ally to free themselves from the tragic past that binds them both.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
At The Walls Of Galbrieth (Volume 1)
The young elf desired only to follow in his mother's footsteps and become a healer. But when the Emperor's army attacks his village to punish traitors and conscript youth, Seanchai flees to the mountains, seeking safe harbor with an uncle he has never met. He is shocked as many people sacrifice their lives to ensure he reaches a Wycaan Master, an enigmatic woman named Mhari, who can teach him to wield a powerful death-and-life magic that might just free the races of Odessiya. In a world defined by strict racial boundaries, where humans rule, dwarves hide deep underground, and elves are a slave nation, Seanchai must find a way to create friendships and trust, unheard of since the fall of the Wycaan Masters, and reunite the races into an alliance that will bring freedom to all. But sometimes one must choose between his companions and his destiny. Seanchai abhors his ability to kill and, in the friendships he forges, discovers something potentially more powerful than his magic. Friendship, however, can be a double-edged sword.
Buy Page: Amazon
The Accidental Activist
David meets Goliath in the law courts of England in the 1990's. The advent of the Internet is leveling the playing field as a multinational corporation tries to silence two young political activists in a riveting court case that captivates the political and business world's attention. The company will try anything (sex, espionage, bribery and coercion) to stop or win this case. In fighting the corporation, a self-absorbed computer programmer discovers romance and a way to change the world one mega-pixel at a time.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
A Gardener's Tale
The garden has seen it all: the cruel events of a thousand years of noble English history, a family now tragically dispersed, a village community falling apart. Birth, love, death and rebirth remain its never-ending cycle. Now a quiet and mysterious Welshman comes to tend the neglected grounds. Attuned to the ancient ways of the land, he offers an answer for the family, its tenants and the injustices of past and present. The magic of nature, the purity of love and the power of true friendship in the hands of a gardener, who can harness them all…
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author's Spotlight plus the blog: eBook Author’s Corner. Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

1 comment:

  1. Did not know you wrote YA. This looks interesting.
    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers