Welcome back to Sunday Brunch! In an effort to spotlight some of the SPSFC contenders, I openly offered to host any author who has been eliminated so far! Next up in this series is Dito Abbott, author of Debunked
I have to admit after this interview that I’m absolutely dying to read Debunked. Dito spotlights some great themes and travelling adventures. I just can’t get over the flying airship either – and there are photos! Talk about family bonding! Read on for those things plus convention tips and much more
🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?
🎤Thanks for having me!
Every year my family celebrates a holiday we invented called the “GingerSLAM Tournament of Champions”. We invite friends over to build the mightiest graham cracker and candy structures possible, then destroy them with a wrecking ball.
Each year is slightly different, but the order of events always includes:
– Parade of Nations (homemade flags and marching to the Olympic theme song)
– Opening Ceremony (a speech imploring competitors to show no mercy and cheat at every turn)
– An Intimidation Circle (Competitors gather in a circle to glare and hurl outlandish threats)
The competition has two categories:
1. Most Beautiful – The trophy is a tiny improvised cardboard hat with small writing on it. We don’t want to encourage people to aim so low.
2. Grand Champion of Awesomeness – Awarded for the strongest structure design. The trophy is a much larger makeshift cardboard hat with ornamentation befitting their life-changing accomplishment.
🥞 What’s your brunch order today?
🎤If I need to save room for lunch, I’d like a Nutella crèpe. If I’m cruising till dinner, a breakfast burrito, please.
🥞Congrats on making the SPSFC semifinalists! How do you feel about the competition overall?
🎤I’m so grateful for competitions like the SPFBO and SPSFC. Marketing books is a never-ending challenge, so when a high-profile event offers to promote your book (for free!), it’s a dream come true.
Since Debunked is my debut novel, the competitions were a double blessing. Not only did I reach new readers, I was adopted into a thriving community of like-minded authors.
I don’t look at the SPFBO and SPSFC as competitions, but celebrations. Assuming solid prose and storytelling, judging books is a matter of taste. Some readers adore gritty, bloody war sagas. Others can’t get enough of space werewolf haikus.
By catering to all comers, SPFBO and SPSFC help authors find their readers.
Side Note: Shout out to all the judges, organizers, and bloggers who volunteer time and resources to highlight indie books. You are amazing and deserve magnificent cardboard hat trophies.
🥞Also a HUGE congrats on winning the cover contest! Want to spotlight your artist? How did you connect with the person?
🎤Thank you! My book cover journey was a lot like the first part of Frodo’s ring quest: everything started out chill, then a Nazgûl stabbed me, and Elrond saved the day.
A bit of background info: In addition to writing, I spent a year illustrating the Terravenum world map. Even though I’m comfortable with graphic design, I heard so many horror stories of authors shooting themselves in the foot by designing their own cover that I decided to hire a professional.
It proved to be the best marketing decision I’ve ever made.
The first artist I hired gave me a six month lead time, then dropped the ball when he started on my book. Concept art didn’t come together and it became clear we were a bad fit.
I resumed my search for professional designers. A fellow author’s cover led me to Kirk DouPonce, whose style fit Debunked like a glove. When I saw a time lapse video of Kirk illustrating his kids riding a pterodactyl to the soundtrack of Europe’s “Final Countdown”, I knew we were soul mates.
He asked for a copy of Debunked to get the spirit of the story. A few weeks later, I sent him concept ideas and illustrations.
Kirk produced a draft that was remarkably close to our final cover, using my illustrations to suggest whimsy, fantasy, and adventure. I was blown away. After a few rounds of revisions, we were good to go.
A great cover tells people who love your kind of book that this book is for them. Kirk knocked it out of the park.
🥞It looks like you travel quite a bit and have a long history of doing so! What was your favorite destination ever?
🎤That’s a tough one. I spent the majority of my life overseas, either growing up in Saudi Arabia or living on a sailboat. I’ve done three extended sailing voyages with my family:
Voyage 1 (1994-1995): Florida to New Zealand
Voyage 2 (2004-2006): Australia to Florida
Voyage 3 (2018-2020): Attempted to sail from Florida to Oz, got quarantined in Galapagos when Covid hit, then sailed north to the Sea of Cortez
If I had to choose one country that offered the most variety and bang for the buck, I’d go with Panama. It offers everything from tropical paradise (San Blas islands) to backpacker paradise (Bocas del Toro), engineering paradise (the Canal), and desert islands (Las Perlas).
If we’re talking sheer fun, it’s hard to beat Thailand. Affordable, fascinating culture, delightful people, and delicious food!
🥞I love the theme of adventure and travel in a scifi book for younger readers! What themes and topics do you think are important for young readers to be introduced to?
🎤A good portion of my readers are adults, but I wrote Debunked aiming for a novel that would have lived on my nightstand when I was thirteen. Fun, adventure, and imagination were my highest priorities.
The young adult years are tough. With one foot in adulthood and the other in youth, every day is a Battle Royale with insecurity. With this in mind, I explore themes like self-confidence, the inherent discomfort in adventure, and forgiveness (of yourself and others).
Debunked’s fifteen-year-old protagonists, Alexandria and Ozymandias, are in over their heads for most of the book. As they muddle through impossible situations, they gradually gain self-confidence and agency. This arc will develop over the next two books, as Ozzie deals with an unwanted prophecy about his destiny.
🥞 So you built an actual airship and bring it to conventions!? That’s amazing, can we hear about the process and maybe have a photo?
🎤When I started worldbuildng Terravenum, airships topped my list of Awesome Things to Build Around. For a sailor like me, they are the ideal form of travel.
As Jack Sparrow said: “That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and hull and deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is…what the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.”
It was only a matter of time before my Dad and I built a scale model of Angelus (“Ann-jealous”), our heroes’ airship in Debunked.
The build started with a hull I found on FB Marketplace. We bought canvas and sewed an envelope (balloon). A candelabra from Goodwill served as a frame to hang the vessel. I contacted a 3D printer on Etsy about making replicas of my engine design. Dad and I hammered copper pipes to create engine mounts and scaffolding. I watched Youtube videos about painting miniatures, then went to town adding vibe to the vessel. Most recently, I added dragon wings and a skull to her bowsprit and LED lights to her engines.
Angie is a work in progress, but I’m excited for all the conversations she’ll start with airship aficionados.
🥞I see that you go to a lot of conventions as well! Which is your favorite so far? Any advice for authors who might want to try to participate in one?
🎤Last year, I attended 19 shows, ranging from comic-cons to dog adoption drives.
My favorite event was the Tucson Festival of Books. It was massive, but well-attended and smoothly run. It was fun to hang out with a crowd of readers.
A few tips for authors interested in trying their hand at live events:
1. Present your booth in a way that tells readers who love your kind of book that THIS is a book they will love.
2. A well-designed table runner and banner go a long way toward looking professional.
3. Hone a tagline that describes your book. Your window for connecting with readers is around 4 to 5 seconds. Let them know what your book is about. (My tagline is: “Indiana Jones meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!”)
4. Engage people who walk by. Unfortunately, this means you can’t look at your phone.
5. If physically possible, stand as much as you can.
6. Rehearse a 30 second elevator pitch to give readers a sense of your story.
7. Collect names for your mailing list
🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?
🎤My favorite sci-fi trope is when a trigger-happy warrior goes through security and is forced to remove an impossible quantity of hidden weapons from their body.
I’m also a sucker for sarcastic smugglers who have a heart of gold.
🥞 What can we look for next from you?
🎤 I’m currently working on a couple of projects:
1. Volume 2 in the Terravenum Chronicles
2. Illustrated Debunking Field Manual (and Bathroom Companion) – a creature and survival guide to Terravenum
In the meantime, I’m excited about the upcoming convention season! My 2023 schedule includes a few new events and some of my favorites from last year.
🥞Thanks so much for taking the time to interview! The last question is an open forum, so please use this space to talk about anything else you’d like to!
🎤Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work!
More than anything, I’d like to thank bloggers and readers for promoting indie books. Your recommendations and word-of-mouth are game changers.
There you have it! You can find Dito and Debunked online at: