THE MAGNIFICENT 7 INTERVIEW EVENT
FEATURING AUTHORS: Jeremy Robinson, Ryne Douglas Pearson, Larry Enright, Russell Blake, John Betcher, Rick Chesler, and Douglas Dorow
PART ONE: INTRO
2/1/12 - 2/8/12
Read all of the below and then take the quiz for a chance to win free eBooks from the authors and to pose a question to the author of your choosing.
Click here for all the details and to see which books the winner gets to chose from.
I know it's lengthy, but you have a week to get me the answers. PART TWO will be shorter!
Click here for all the details and to see which books the winner gets to chose from.
I know it's lengthy, but you have a week to get me the answers. PART TWO will be shorter!
Thanks for taking the time to be part of this. As the author of one of my all-time favorite series, I'm really excited to have you here. Before we jump into that particular series, I guess we should introduce you to the audience. What would the inside flap of the bestselling novel, Jeremy Robinson: An Author’s Life For Me read?
Jeremy Robinson is the bestselling author of fourteen novels including the upcoming thriller, SecondWorld, as well as Pulse, Instinct, and Threshold, the first three books in his exciting Jack Sigler series, which is also the focus of an expanding series of co-authored novellas referred to as The Chesspocalypse. Robinson is also known as the #1 Amazon.com horror writer, Jeremy Bishop, author of The Sentinel and the controversial novel, Torment. His novels have been translated into ten languages. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and three children.
How did you get into writing, and what was your first publication experience like?
I started out as a comic book illustrator and kind of fell into writing comics, too. Technically, my first published book was a comic book I wrote and illustrated, titled Ralph. My first book published was actually a non-fiction screenplay book titled, The Screenplay Workbook. My first novel published was The Didymus Contingency, which I self-published. And finally, my first non-self-published novel was Pulse from Thomas Dunne Books. That pretty much shows the path I took to publication, too—self-published to publishing deal.
You're consistently putting out an immense amount of work. Do you enjoy that kind of workload or is it mostly out of financial necessity?
Sometimes I enjoy it. Sometimes it drives me nuts. But I definitely overdid it in 2011. All of the books came out fantastic, many exceeding my expectations, but by the end of November I was burned out. Didn’t read anything for all of December and January. Starting to get back into it now. It’s not really about financial necessity. I get paid, sure, and that’s nice, but the eight novellas released in 2011 were more for the fans of the series. I knew there was going to be a longer delay than usual between Threshold and Ragnarok and wanted to fill the time in for the readers.
So The Didymus Contingency was your first published novel? What inspired the idea for that story?
Yup, Didymus was the first novel I wrote, and the first I self-published. It’s sold scores of books now and I still get lots of fan mail for it. The idea came about by asking myself the very same question posed on the back cover: If you could go back in time, to any place, and witness any event, where would you go? My answer was the death and resurrection (or not) of Jesus Christ. That’s how the story was born.
How many total different pseudonyms do you write under? Any particular reason?
Let’s see. I’m actually Jeremy Robinson. I write horror under the name Jeremy Bishop, which came about because I wanted to write grittier, nasty horror novels and I wasn’t sure if there would be an audience overlap. I also wanted to see if I could be successful again, without my name attached. It worked out nicely! I also have two other pennames, which are more for fun. Ike Onsoomyu, author of The Zombie’s Way and Kutyuso Deep, author of The Ninja’s Path. Both are humor books. Sound out the author names.
What is your favorite genre to write?
This is a tough call because my books skirt so many genres—sci-fi, action/adventure, thriller, horror, fantasy, etc. I think the real unifying element in nearly all of my stories is monsters. No matter the subgenre, I always have a creature of some sort. So I guess you could say my favorite genre is “Creature Feature.”
To Be Continued Next Week
Ryne Douglas Pearson
As a huge fan of your work, I'm delighted to have this opportunity to question you alongside your friends Larry, John, and Doug (as well as some other pretty successful authors). Thank you!
Now, before we get into your bacon obsession and The Donzerly Light, why don't you take us through a quick background tour of "Life As Ryne Has Known It..." Who are you, and what made you think you could write in the first place?
You know, I'm a pretty ordinary guy. Before I became a writer I was a bus driver, a plumber, a camp director, and a few other things. But I'd always written in school. It was not, however, something you actually made a living at. Then, one day, I just decided to actually write a book. It was nothing more than that. No grand plan. I thought it was pretty good, and maybe I'd be able to get an agent, and maybe it would get published. Turns out, those maybes turned in actualities. So, I'm glad I never gave into that 'no one actually becomes a writer' feeling on a long term basis.
If I remember correctly, you wrote a post not so long ago about all the rejection mail you had received while trying to find a publisher for your novel. How depressing was that process, especially in light of how much work you put into the book, and what lessons did you learn from coming out victorious in the end?
It really wasn't bad at first. I had conditioned myself to expect rejection. That was what everything I read said would happen. You'll be rejected, over and over.
But somewhere around the fiftieth rejection it kinda started to sting a little. Then, somewhere around rejection 100 I decided to look at my query letter again and tweak it a bit. As soon as I did that I started getting requests for the full manuscript. Then about another hundred rejections followed. Until, finally, an agent took a chance on me.
What I really learned from all that is pretty simple: ignore rejection, but reassess your approach. It's so basic it's silly. You can't change the past, learn from your mistakes, yada yada. But I had to walk that path to learn that in a meaningful way.
That's a great story in and of itself. How did you pass the time while you were waiting to hear back from people?
I wish I could say that I was busy writing the next book, but I wasn't. I kinda knew what the follow up book would be, but, in all honestly, just trying to get published was a part time job on top of my full time job at that time. I was constantly at the library reading through the new issues of Publishers Weekly and reading about every agent in the biz in Literary Marketplace. Because I was sending out about ten query letters at a time, the period after dropping those in the mail was filled with identifying the next batch of agents to target based upon the material they repped.
That sounds exhausting. I can't even imagine having to do all that without the internet... Your Art Jefferson novels have been compared to Tom Clancy's books. Was that the genre that most inspired you to write? Did you have some background knowledge in the techno-military world, or did you have to do a lot of research?
I was a huge Clancy fan. In fact, early on when I read that he was an insurance salesman who decided to write a book (The Hunt For Red October), that got me thinking that, well, maybe I could actually write a whole book, too. Turns out, I could :)
But, man, the research! And this was really before the internet was available. I bought books in bookstores, browsed the shelves at the Government Printing Office store in downtown LA, made phone calls, wrote letters. In fact, one of the funniest things to come from my research was a letter I wrote to some command in the Army requesting information on certain old chemical and nuclear weapons projects. About three weeks after I sent it, I get a phone call from a very nice woman who was trying to narrow down what I wanted. She then said something along the lines of "I'm just going to send you everything I have. Our base is closing, so, who's gonna care?" A week later I get SIX huge boxes that weigh a metric-crap-ton, and inside are all these books and reports and studies all with TOP SECRET stamps on them--crossed out, of course. These were recently declassified materials on some really amazing tests that were done using nukes and chemical weapons. Kinda freaky, actually.
From that I learned, don't be afraid to ask for anything :)
Wow. That is awesome... And scary! I think I just came up with a plotline for a new book, only you're just "posing" as an author looking for writing material:-) What eventually made you steer into other genres?
After the first four books, which are the Art Jefferson thrillers, I wanted to spread out a bit. My tastes in what I read don't fit into one genre, and I had plenty of ideas spanning everything from supernatural to horror to mystery to literary, so I just decided to write what I wanted to write. That didn't sit well with my publisher back then, but then that doesn't really matter anymore since the person who decides what to publish now is ME :)
Do you enjoy writing the novels that require tons of research more than the ones that need only your imagination? Or is the writing experience more fun without having to share the time with tedious amounts of study?
I'm much less into the highly technical research now. Or it could just be a factor of the ease of which information can be found compared to earlier in my career. But I do tend to focus more on pure character and story now.
To Be Continued Next Week
I really appreciate your taking the time to jump on board this little author event, an event that I consider to be of epic proportions considering that I'm huge fans of all of you! With that said, let's get started, shall we?
(Clears throat, shuffles papers...)
So... Mr. Blake... what I know of you is this: you live in Mexico, you write conspiracy thrillers, you're very smart, and, judging from your sales rankings, have found a certain level of success within the strange world of Indie publishing. So I obviously don't know much. I want to know more, I think we would ALL like to know more... Could you possibly fill in some of the blanks for us? Just who are you? How did you end up in Mexico? What made you start writing?
Well, I retired from my business about 10 years ago, and wanted to live abroad. I'd been to Mexico a bunch of times, and loved the beaches and the food, not to mention the blue water and cold beer, so I decided to make the jump 8 years ago. I never looked back, and it's safe to say that one can have a good life out of the States, contrary to what the media would have one believe. I took up writing when I retired, more as a hobby than anything else, with no aspirations of being successful. But one thing led to another, and I found I had a certain "voice" to my fiction that was distinct, and that some of my beta readers really liked. But I trashed all my early work, as it wasn't up to what I considered par. Last year, I decided to jump in big time and spend a full year doing this for real. The result was twelve volumes in 12 months. This year will probably slow down to 6 or 7. But you never know. I just finished up with my WIP, The Voynich Cypher, which will be done editing by mid-Feb, and I'm starting my next one, so by end of this year I should have 18 to 20 volumes out. Then I'll take a break, and see if I have anything more to write about. Maybe slow it to a couple to three books a year at that point and have a life. When you do it the way I do, life sort of has to take a back seat for the creative process to really work.
I've been very fortunate on my books to date. While the mix changes, my sales are about where I'd hoped to be within a year, but after only six months. My hope is I follow Konrath's trajectory and Jan 2012 sales are 10X what they were this year. I'd be a pretty happy camper at that point, and anything's possible. People seem to enjoy the books, and the following's going, so can't complain.
Can you please repeat that for the recorder? You said something about life able to be good outside of the States? (turns to other men in room). "Get the indoctrination tapes up and running, it's going to be a long night of reeducation for Mr. Blake."
Yeah, I've been to Mexico about half a dozen times, though only once was it for recreation. The other times it was building houses for the poor. My wife wants to start an orphanage there... but anyway... That is an incredible amount of writing, my friend! I don't know how you do it. Even being retired and having all the time in the world, I don't know how you can formulate so many stories! John Betcher is telling me how he makes time to write too... I need to be on whatever diet you guys are on.
Okay, so what opened your eyes to the stuff you write about... you know, the stuff you won't see on FOX or CNN... How did you get passionate about the themes you incorporate into your stories?
I've always been a big fan of Ludlum, and one of the undercurrents of all his books was conspiracies. I suppose I'm just naturally very cynical of the mainstream explanations of most everything, and I'm also skeptical in general, so when I hear an explanation that requires a leap of faith, I automatically respond, "Prove it." From that skepticism comes a propensity to dig deeper than whatever USA Today offers up as explanations. My experience with humans is that whenever there is money and power in play, there will be conspiracies. It's natural. I also am a student of history, which is literally filled with Byzantine conspiracies for as long as they've been keeping records. So when I look to material for my books, I don't have to look far. Essentially, every time a government entity says X, I assume it's a lie, and look into it. I'm right about 90% of the time, hence never run out of ideas. And not just the US government. All governments. It's just the nature of the beast, and is perennial. Use my recent blog as an example. The Fed assured Congress and the public it was being responsible, fought an audit tooth and nail, and now, after a limited audit, it turns out it handed $16 trillion to the banks that were instrumental in causing the global financial crisis. Which went unreported. Or take Cheney admitting that he issued the order to shoot down flight 93 on 9-11. Something the government denied for almost a decade. Or take that the US knew about Pearl Harbor several days in advance and did nothing. Or that Golf of Tonkin never happened, per Westmoreland. History is filled with governments lying early and often about everything. I just incorporate it into fiction, and throw a little action around events. So far so good.
It's a good thing you're in Mexico... I think you'd be labeled a terrorist here for saying that here:) But I completely agree. In fact, my novel Even The Elect is very similar in that it seeks to bring to light things like Northwoods, Jekyll Island, Operation Ajax, USS Liberty, and... well, as you said, the list goes on and on. In fact, I kind of wimped out and penned The Solomon Key as a second edition of ETE that was made to reach a broader audience... Meaning, I took out some of the more HOT button issues that you can basically get stoned in public for even questioning. Well, maybe not stoned, maybe just tasered:) But, as history shows (without a degree of media attention) what was once only an unpatriotic "theory", in a matter of years, somehow becomes accepted as historical fact - no apologies issued to the “tin-foil hat Nazi-propagandists” who had been blowing the whistle all the years prior.
Anyway, can you talk about the methods that you've found effective in self promoting your books? I mean, how do you move so many copies? And do you find that the more books you have for sale, the easier it is to move them?
I have found a few thing that move books. First and foremost, is giving away content. I wrote Night of the Assassin with an eye towards that - if I get 20K free downloads of that over the life of its free run, that's 20K readers I have a chance to connect with, who hopefully will find my work entertaining and meritorious enough to buy the next book in that series, King of Swords. I gave away the first book in the Zero Sum trilogy, and saw thousands of paid downloads of books 2 and 3 (I've since wrapped them into one bundled volume, and sales are holding steady, as new readers discover it through the course of reading my work). So free, in limited amounts, is a viable way to prime the pump.
I am finding it easier to sell more books as I have more titles, although there's a downside. I really should only be releasing one book every quarter or so, because I'm so busy writing I have no chance to promote the books. So they sort of just go up on Amazon, and when they're discovered, they're discovered. As an example, I don't think I've even mentioned my newest trilogy, The Delphi Chronicle, anywhere. I just uploaded it, and have been so busy with The Voynich Cypher, I haven't had time to give it a push. I'll do so later, I guess. But as my flagship free books draw readers, I figure they'll move through my backlist and discover what else I've done, and hopefully be positively surprised. But I can tell you that the sales ramp has been faster than I'd expected. I was resigned to a multi-year slog to get noticed, and it seems that it's happening faster than planned, which is good. Not to be overly deluded, but I'd like to think that most will read one or two of my books, and then go through all of them, as their trust in my voice solidifies. But that means I can't just toss out crap - each book has to be as good as I can do. I think I'm only going to be as good as my last book in this game, so I can't afford any missteps. That, and there's pride of craftsmanship in this for me. Whether I do 2 books, or 12, this year, I want each one to be a book that my readers would eagerly recommend to their friends as a great new find. That's a high bar, but I think setting it any lower cheats the reader, and is ultimately shortsighted.
Next Week We Get Russell's Inside View of Mexico and the Drug War
Thanks for being part of this event, Doug. It's a pleasure having you here. I understand that you live in the same state as John... And I also know that your novel takes place there! Tell us a little about where you live and how it impacted your story.
Minneapolis is the location for my thriller, The Ninth District. You get to experience it in the summer and visit places the regulars probably haven't even heard of. I've had people ask me, "Do those tunnels under the city really exist?"
They say you should write what you know. I'm not an FBI agent and I haven't robbed The Federal Reserve, but I have lived in Minneapolis for over 20 years, so I've used that to set the location and imagined the rest.
I think the Midwest with its weather is kind of a mystery to those who don't live here. We are referred to as "the fly over country." I think that's one reason why some other authors from here do well: John Sandford, Brian Freeman, William Kent Krueger. The other might be the long, cold winters, when it's good to just stay indoors and write.
So is The Ninth District really your first writing project or have you been perfecting your craft through other works and ideas yet to be published?
The Ninth District is really my first completed writing project, kind of.
I took a couple of writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. In one of those classes I decided to write a thriller since that's what I liked to read. I had an idea for the hero to be an FBI agent (because an old roommate of mine became one) and named him Jack Miller. The name and the profession is the only thing that remained from my early writing. I wrote a lot of scenes, parts of a couple of them may have made it into the book.
The story took off when I read an article in a local weekly entertainment newspaper about urban explorers who were exploring old tunnels and the sewer system under Minneapolis. In the article he talked about how they shied away from exploring across the Mississippi from the Federal Reserve after Sept. 11th because of heightened security.
I asked myself the "what if" questions, did some research and found that the Federal Reserve has never been robbed, and wrote the story from there.
During a couple of times when I got stuck I started two other stories, but The Ninth District is my first book that I finished.
So then it's not true that you already have a romance series out under a different name?
Ha! Me and romance...I don't think so. Just ask my wife. I don't think my nickname is Mr. Romantic. She usually calls me SFB.
And... To Be Continued
As the author of one of my favorite novels, it's an honor to have you here... (in a strange cyber reality sort of way). As with the other guys here in The Magnificent 7, there are questions I'm dying to ask you! But I guess we should cover the basics first. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got interested in writing?
Who the heck am I? I often ask myself that question. I was born in Pittsburgh four years after World War II ended and am the middle kid in an Irish Catholic family of five children. My father and mother were married during the war and started their family after Dad came home in 1945. I have their wedding photo. He was in uniform and my Mom was in a beautiful dress - her mother’s wedding dress. Things were very different then. People were happy to be at peace again after that terrible conflict and struggling to rebuild their lives, always hoping for things to get better. There were no personal computers, no Internet, we shared a phone line with the neighbors. TV - if you were lucky enough to have one - was black and white. And if you were a writer, you used a pencil and paper.
Since about seventh grade, I have been in a constant struggle within myself over moral and existential issues. About twenty-five years ago, this inner struggle started bubbling over into writing. I write fiction, but it’s really about my own exploration of the concepts of sacrifice, redemption, and self-worth. One of these days I may figure it out, and that’s when I’ll stop writing.
So you've been writing for twenty-five years? Do you have anything published besides the Ryan series? In what ways did your writing manifest itself throughout that time?
My earlier works went the traditional route of publishing: author - submission - trashcan. My first novel was written on a Northstar Advantage computer (one of those all-in-ones with a little green screen, a 5 meg hard disk, and 64k of RAM - yes, that was "K") and printed out for submission on an Okidata dot matrix printer. That was in the early 1980s. Called "The WindShaper Chronicles," it was a fantasy of epic proportions if measured by the cost to ship the voluminous manuscript to agents and publishers.
After that amazing failure, I was fairly discouraged and piddled around for years before getting on to another work. At that time, I was working for the Federal Government in Philadelphia, so I wrote a story of a man who, coincidentally, worked for the Federal Government. It was called "Forestwalker." He was a real sad sack, and addicted to an online video game called Everquest, which was one of the first and most popular at that time. That addiction played heavily into what was ultimately a mystery of love and betrayal. I thought the story was actually pretty good but the execution lacked in every category except "it stinks."
I went many years after that without a serious effort until Four Years from Home, and that was written, put on the shelf for a year, dragged out and reworked, burned, reconstructed from the ashes and then published. I went with self-publishing - I couldn't handle the rejection and I figured I didn't have the guts to reject myself.
My writing has always been a reflection of where I am in life. I was heavily into Dungeons and Dragons at the time I wrote "WindShaper." I was dabbling in the online video game craze when I wrote "Forestwalker." And Four Years from Home was written over a span of years during which I was missing things and feeling regretful. A King in a Court of Fools and Buffalo Nickel Christmas are primarily nostalgia pieces. I was trying to recapture feelings from my childhood (as opposed to actual memories).
Any chance you might bring back either of those other books, or have you completely disowned them, flushed them away to the Land of Misfit Stories forever?
I might resurrect them, but they would have to be rewritten. I was very tempted to adopt a pseudonym like "Dumptruck Jones" and just publish them under that name. Then I thought better of it - after all, I wouldn't want to give dump trucks a bad name.
To Be Continued Next Week
I want to also thank you for taking the time to answer some questions along with the others! Before we jump into the fray, can you give us some background on who you are and how you got started writing?
Sure. I'm a Minnesota native and have practiced law in the city of Red Wing, Minnesota for more than 25 years. I'm also an avid volleyball fan and certified volleyball coach. I mention the volleyball because it was my involvement in coaching that led to my first published writings -- a series of three articles in Coaching Volleyball Magazine. Following the penning of the cover story for the April/May, 2009 issue (http://www.virtualonlinepubs.com/publication/?i=13938) I decided I could expand my writing a bit. Later that year, I released my first book: The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching.
From there I had caught the writing bug and moved ahead with the first two books in the Beck Suspense/Thriller series. That was late summer, 2009, and I haven't looked back since.
So your first three books were all published the same year? How did you find the time to write so much?
First of all, if you wait to find time to write, you probably will be waiting a long time. You need to make time if you want to write.
Perhaps more applicable to my situation, though, is that fact that I was working on both of the two Beck Suspense/Thrillers at the same time. Since The 19th Element was my first novel ever, it needed a lot of rewriting and editing before it was ready to be published. I started writing that book in late summer, 2009 and published it in June, 2010.
While I was hacking away at the first book, I decided to give myself a break from editing by working on Book 2, The Missing Element. I actually published Book 2 before Book 1, because the editing of Book 2 was less arduous and the book was ready for publication sooner.
The third book with a 2010 copyright, A Higher Court, had been percolating in my head for a long time before I started writing it in summer, 2010. I know many folks probably think it's odd that after publishing two books in the Beck series I suddenly spit out a spiritual "thinker." But to be honest, A Higher Court was a book I felt compelled to write at that time. So I wrote it.
I know it looks like a lot of books in 2010, but in reality, it was only one book every six months or so. That's not an undoable schedule if one writes daily.
Currently, A Higher Court is ranked #1 in both paid religious fiction and spirituality for Kindle (124 overall!). That's pretty amazing, and as one with a theology degree, I'm fascinated. Crossing over into the other interviews making up this event, Larry Enright has said that since he was just 7 years old, he has been in "a constant struggle within myself over moral and existential issues" and that the inner struggle began bubbling over into writing. I, myself, tend to use storytelling as a way to "settle" some internal debate within. It sounds like A Higher Court was one of those brewing stories aching to be hashed out and set before the world. How fulfilling was it to finally have it all out on paper and available to the masses?
I'm not sure "fulfilling" is the best word for finishing and publishing A Higher Court. Relieved. Satisfied. Hopeful. A sense of accomplishment. Those are certainly some things I felt. But honestly, I'm still not sure if A Higher Court is a book that I was supposed to write because of my need to write it, or because it might benefit others to read it. I'm leaving that decision up to the Guy who told me to write it in the first place. I have confidence that it will get to all the right people -- whoever they may be.
Until a few minutes ago, I didn't know that it was written as a story, I thought it was a non-fiction work. Did you ever have any thoughts of publishing it under a pseudonym? What if it had been non-fiction? I only ask because I have something in my head and heart that's been trying to get written for a few years now, but it would be non-fiction and aimed at a completely different audience than who I write fiction for.
You know, A Higher Court is ranked by Amazon in both nonfiction and fiction categories (including both religious and literary fiction). All are probably accurate. The book is filled with tons of facts. But the construct is a fictional trial. The style is literary. So technically, it's literary and spiritual fiction.
I did actually consider writing A Higher Court under a pseudonym. Doing so might have allowed readers to peg my writing genre more clearly. On the other hand, I didn't think that I needed to hide my spiritual beliefs. So I pubbed under my real name.
As far as writing the book as nonfiction goes . . . I didn't believe I had the theological credentials for anyone to take me seriously as a non-fiction authority on spirituality. Besides, my fiction experience helped me bring a richer texture to the book's message. You'll have to read it to truly know what I mean. Sorry.
You are also correct that the audience for A Higher Court is different from the one for my suspense/thriller novels. I'm doing my best to promote to Christian and Spirituality readers. But because the book is so different from everything else out there, Christian and Spiritual sites can't seem to figure out where it fits -- where to put it on their virtual bookshelves.
Looking back, I wouldn't change how I went about writing or publishing this book. I am finding, however, that I have to rely on my faith for marketing success. And as I mentioned earlier in this interview, I believe this book will get where it is supposed to go.
What has the response been like for A Higher Court?
When I first released A Higher Court, reactions from the public were mixed. Some readers loved the book, couldn't wait to tell their friends, and bought multiple copies to give as gifts. One reader bought twenty copies as Christmas gifts. Another bought ten copies in each of two successive purchases to give to people at his church.
Critics loved the book! But online readers didn't seem to notice it. This is probably due to the novel's subject matter and its unique approach to the God vs. No God argument. Folks just couldn't imagine what lay inside the pages of this unusual book.
A few days ago, I launched a free book promo through Amazon KDP Select. I gave away more than 14,000 Kindle copies and have sold several hundred since the promo began. If these readers follow the patterns of early readers of the print book, some will buy (or recommend) multiple copies of the book for friends. Others won't even read it. I can't wait to find out. In a way, the book is something like The Shack. It doesn't have at all the same message; but its message is unique, and intensely interesting to some readers.
The first review I have seen resulting from the free book promo was a 5 Star offering that was really quite insightful and described the book quite well. I guess I'll watch and see what happens from here.
Next week we get into the Beck Series
Thanks for joining us, Rick! I'm excited to have you here... Wherever here is:-) Before getting into the background questions, I see that Jeremy Robinson gave you a blurb for your novel KiDNApped. How'd you get him to do that? He turned me down! Just kidding, he had a valid excuse and has been a huge help in this whole writing adventure. It's actually pretty funny because I was going to tell him about you, that I thought Wired Kingdom would be up his alley... And then I find his praise for it!
Anyway, it appears that your profession, passion, and writing material is, to a large degree, one and the same... How did you manage that hookup? Take us back to how and when it all started. How did Rick Chesler get here (and attain blurbs from Jeremy Robinson:)?
Thanks a lot for having me on your site, Shawn, I really appreciate it. My Tara Shores thriller series (Wired Kingdom (2010), kiDNApped (2011) and SOLAR ISLAND (coming 2012) all feature plots that somehow involve the ocean and science & technology. It also so happens that I have a degree in marine biology and have been an avid scuba diver for many years, so I guess the old “write what you know / love” thing does come into play somewhat…although only to a point. For example, I’ve never seen a blue whale in real life, much less dove with one, but Wired Kingdom is about a blue whale tagged with a webcam that broadcasts a murder at sea. I’ve also never sequenced DNA myself, but in kiDNApped a missing geneticist sends S.O.S. messages by encoding them into the DNA of living cells. So the premises themselves tend to be pretty outlandish, but I surround them with realistic details and a plot that wouldn’t be a stranger to the Lifetime movie network, and there ya go - technothriller magic!
When & how it all started…mostly from reading tons of thrillers, suspense, action-adventure, etc, when I wasn’t out having adventures for real. I read a lot of Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler, Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, etc. starting in high school. And one day, in my late 20s, I decided to try writing one of my own. It was a rain forest adventure thing that I finished but never did anything with. Wrote another one after that, finished again but never tried to do anything with it, I just didn’t think it held up to the same standard as the ones I read and liked. A few years past, life happened - moved for a job across the country, met my wife, etc., etc., and there were a few years where I didn’t write, but somewhere along the way I developed a new story idea in my head that just wouldn’t go away. In my late 30s I began to write an early draft of what would become Wired Kingdom. I eventually sold this book - after many, many rewrites, revisions, re-drafts, reworkings, re-re-re’s-! to a small press called Variance about 4 years later, direct without an agent.
It turns out that Jeremy Robinson (see, I’m getting to your other question, this ramble does have an end!) was a part owner of Variance, which had acquired his earlier startup Breakneck Books. I had read Jeremy’s Antarktos Rising from Breakneck, and was impressed by both the story itself as well as the production values. It was a while ago now, but I believe it was the Breakneck imprint that actually acquired Wired Kingdom. From there Jeremy was kind enough to say a few positive things about the book. Later he relinquished his stake in the company, but a couple of years after that when I released my second thriller kiDNApped with a different small house, Chalet Publishers, I asked Jeremy if he would be willing to provide a blurb and he graciously agreed.
So here I am in 2012, where I should have a few surprises in store for my readers. One thing I can let drop now is that kiDNApped will be released in audiobook format this spring from Audible.com, narrated by the talented Jeffrey Kafer, who also performed the Wired Kingdom audiobook version. Stay tuned to rickchesler.com over the next few months for some exciting new developments that I can’t mention just yet.
When you submitted Wired Kingdom, was Variance the first place you tried or had it been a long road that eventually led there?
Variance was the first publisher to which I submitted Wired Kingdom, but I did also query well known literary agents with it in the year or so leading up to the Variance sale. A few of them read some chapters, but in the end they all passed. When I realized that I would be able to sell the manuscript directly to a publisher, and for a decent advance, I decided to go that route alone without an agent. At some point, though, I would like to take on an agent in order to have someone else seeking new opportunities on my behalf. But when the Wired Kingdom deal was offered, even though I could have went back to agents with the offer in hand, I just didn't feel like delaying things any longer at that point.
So you've actually landed a publishing contract with a traditional publisher... I think only Ryne and Jeremy can say the same (though they did it in opposite fashion). How has that experience been? I think this will be an interesting contrast to us Indies. My first two novels were published through self publishing companies, one POD and one not... But I had to fork over money for that and, in the end, didn't think I was getting my money's worth so just decided to do it myself. What are the pros and cons of going the traditional route?
There are advantages and disadvantages to the traditional route. It was nice to be paid an advance when I signed the contract. It was nice to have talented cover artists and interior layout designers do a fantastic job of handling those aspects of production. It was nice to work with a great editor, all at no cost to me (or at least no up front cost - I think certain things are subtracted from royalties on the back end). But it wasn't so nice to end up waiting almost 2 years from the time the contract was signed until the book was actually published (that's why the second book, kiDNApped, was ready to go so quickly after Wired Kingdom came out - I had to kill all that time waiting by writing something new!). It also wasn't so nice to realize that things like price points are now beyond my control, decided by the publisher, or that I have sold my rights to that book, including ebooks, forever. So it's a tradeoff between less favorable terms overall but getting that advance and having people handle a lot of stuff for you, and not having all that support but having much more or possibly total control. I sold kiDNApped to a different small press, Chalet Publishers, for no advance, but also they only own the rights for 2 years and they still handled most aspects of production, although kiDNApped was a POD and not offset (mass market) print book. Basically, when I finish writing a book, I just try to get the best deal I can for it. I don't take sides on the indie vs. trad war. I just want the best possible opportunity I can get for each book, within a reasonable period of time from when it's finished.
Yeah, the waiting part would be tough. That's probably the thing I like the most about the Indie route is that you can put out whatever you want whenever you want. However, I think I would give anything to not have to worry about self-promotion. How active are you in promoting your books and how much does the publisher take on so that you can concentrate on writing?
I'm very active when it comes to self-promoting my books. My publishers also do some promotion, such as listing my books on their websites and blogs, hooking up occasional interviews and new opportunities, etc., qualifying me for International Thriller Writers membership, etc., but I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable depending on them for everything. Even if I were signed to a big 6 NYC publisher, I would continue to promote my novels the way I am doing now. If a publisher wants to do even more, then so much the better. But I will always do what I can do. Besides, I mostly enjoy it, anyway - interacting with readers and other writers, the publishing industry at large. Overall it's been a lot of fun, although there was definitely a fair amount of set up work up front. But with not much else to do while waiting for the first book to be published, it helped pass the time to establish my website and social network presence. Also, the larger your personal network as a writer is - the longer your reach - then essentially the less you depend on publishers to bring your work to its audience.
What inspired Wired Kingdom, or did it just come to you?
The concept for Wired Kingdom pretty much just came to me, but it did have some real-life inspiration from critter-cam type applications and the reality TV phenomenon in general. Once I had the premise that a whale tagged with a webcam would broadcast a murder at sea, from there it was just a matter of fleshing out the plot details (who's murdered, why, who's tasked with solving the crime, what happens then...)
Next week, we get into Rick's female POV
Write out the answers to the questions in the contact form and send them to me. All answers can be found in either the interview or my website. Remember, this is for a chance to win 10 ebooks, mostly of your choosing, and the oppurtunity to pose a question of your own to one of these great authors. Good luck!
1. Where do John Betcher and Douglas Dorow live?
2. How many boxes of declassified material did Ryne Douglas Pearson receive?
3. Which Russell Blake novel am I reading that deals with the drug problem in Mexico and the US?
4. How many booktrailers are there for my novel, EVEN THE ELECT?
5. What is the name of the Rick Chesler novel that revolves around a webcam on a whale?
6. What author gave Rick a blurb for his novel kiDNApped?
7. In Doug Dorow's THE NINTH DISTRICT, what is being robbed?
8. How long has Russell Blake lived in Mexico?
9. What is the #1 ranked book in the Kindle store for both Spirituality and Christian fiction?
10. Copy one review or blurb that was given for my novel PROGENY
11. During the two day free event, my novel THE SOLOMON KEY reached what spot in the UK Kindle store for action & adventure?
12. Which author worked in Philadelphia?
13. Which author's ealier works were compared to Tom Clancy?
14. Which author writes under mulitple names?
15. What was Jeremy Robinson's first published novel about?
WHAT"S AT STAKE?
1. A Kindle* gift copy of either PROGENY or THE SOLOMON KEY - winner's choice (my novels)
2. A Kindle gift copy of a Ryne Douglas Pearson novel - winner's choice
3. A Kindle gift copy of Doug Dorow's, THE NINTH DISTRICT
4. A Kindle copy of one of John Betcher's books - winner's choice
5. A Smashwords coupon from Russell Blake for his DELPHI CHRONICLE Trilogy (all three novels)
6. A kindle copy of either Rick Chesler's KiDNApped or WIRED KINGDOM - winner's choice
7. And an epub or mobi copy of one of Jeremy Robinson's novels - the winner's choice**
8. And the winner will also get to ask the author of his/her choice any question (come on people, within reason) they want. The question and answer will then appear in the following Part.***
* If the winner does not have a Kindle, he/she will be encouraged to download the free Kindle app to their computer or phone or other reading device. If this cannot be accomplished, alternative prizes will be given, though at this time, there have yet to be any decisions made as to what those prizes will be.
** Excludes INSTINCT, PULSE, and THRESHOLD
*** Unless, for some reason, the author cannot answer the question within the specified time frame, which, in that case, the answer will appear in the following segment.