Hello, Tom. Thanks so much for stopping by. Why don't we start by letting you introduce yourself. Who is Tom Abrahams and what made you start writing?
Hi Shawn! Thanks so much for the opportunity to exercise my narcissism by talking about me.
I am, first and foremost, a husband and dad. That's the best part of my life. As for my day job, I am a television news reporter and anchor in Houston, Texas. I've been doing this for about 20 years and love it. I specialize in covering politics, energy, the environment, and other issue oriented news.
I read voraciously, though it tends to be more current events (websites, newspapers, magazines) than books. Still, I fit in books whenever I can.
I've always been a reader, and I think that's what drives my desire to write. I've always been fascinated by a novelist's ability to transport me into a world he/she has created. And so I like the idea of returning the favor.
Yeah, I'm with you on the husband/dad thing. It is wonderful. A reporter, huh? I've always thought that would be an awesome job! I'm jealous! Tell us about SEDITION. Is it your first novel?
Sedition is my first published novel. Though it's not the first I've written. I wrote one about 12 years ago. It's wasn't very good. At all. Really. I've also started and stopped four or five other manuscripts. But this one, SEDITION, had me hooked from the moment I decided to write it.
I call it a political thriller, because I'm not sure what else to call it. It's based on an 1820 British plot called The Cato Street Conspiracy. After the death of King George, a small group of activists schemed to kill the prime minister and his cabinet. I took that idea, modernized it, and set in modern day Washington. I then took my reporting/research skills (as limited as they might be :-)) and tried to create a world as realistic as possible. Through extensive research, I wove the fictional narrative into real current events. There's a real message in the book too. While it is fast-paced and thrilling, it's not a typical thriller per se.
How long did it take you to complete? I know it's not easy finding time to write while you're busy being a dad and husband and working full time.
It took me about seven months to write the first draft. Then I spent the next six to nine months rewriting. My wife was my beta reader. She suggested a few changes, one of them pretty major, which I agreed would help the story. That took some time.
I am not as disciplined as I should be. I know I should write every day. But I just can't seem to fit in into my schedule. So I tend to write in chunks. I'll write 50 pages one week and then maybe two or three the next. I think if I could stick to a schedule, I'd have finished my next book by now.
Though I have found myself taking a break from marketing SEDITION to write the next one. It's motivating...
I hear you. I've recently made it a goal of mine to write 2,000 words a day. Don't come close to accomplishing it on a daily basis, but it keeps me writing and at a quicker pace than ever before. Did you sign with a publisher or are you an indie? What has that journey been like so far?
2000 a day is great. I keep setting these goals in my mind...and they sound a lot better there than they do when I try to put them into practice. But I'll get there. I am a proud, though somewhat reluctant, indie author. I tried the traditional route. Of 50 or so queries to agents, I had 15 requests for fulls. So that was good. But I could never get over the hurdle. So, after letting the book sit for a little while, I consulted some traditionally published authors I respect and asked them about the self-publishing market. Both were very positive about it and knew the market had changed. The key, they suggested, was finding a way to get noticed without the backing of a publisher. And they are right. The journey, though only about three weeks old at this point, has been challenging. There are SO MANY good authors out there, that I find it tough to get reviews from bloggers who might actually make a difference. And I find that with some people, if you are self-published, they tend to think your work stinks until proven otherwise. So it's good...but it's a real learning process. I will say that, in a very short period of time, I've found some very cool and supportive indie authors. There's a real community out there... Sorry for rambling a bit.
Yeah, the Indie community is a great one. Most of what I've learned has come from the willingness of other authors to take time out of their schedules to correspond with me. That aspect has been wonderful! Three weeks in, have you found that your background is a suitable platform for selling your book? I would think your experience would automatically give you a leg up on say...me:-)
I have found other authors to be great. Just about everyone to whom I've reached out seems to have a "pay it forward" attitude. That's been very encouraging.
Regarding my background, it's maybe a little bit of an advantage. But not as much as you might think. Being in the media did help me get a mention on a couple of blogs that otherwise wouldn't have happened. And because I cover politics, I have a lot of contacts who likely would have interest in reading SEDITION. But I have to be careful. I can't reach out to everyone I've interviewed and ask them to buy my book. That crosses a line I think. Plus, while my employer has been very supportive of me, I can't use the station, the network, or the station owner in any promotion. So I really haven't seen my day job helping sales yet.
I think ultimately what will sell the book is whether or not it's written well. If it is, it'll find an audience. If not, it won't.
Have you discovered anything you've done in the way of marketing that seems to have gotten you positive results? I know different things work for different authors at different times, I'm just curious if you've found something that seems to be working for you.
I'm not sure yet. Since I am still less than a month into this, and I didn't do any social promotion pre-publication (probably a mistake), I haven't seen one platform work much better than another. I am still building my twitter following @seditionbook. I only have about 15 Facebook followers. And my blog is still in its infancy. But in looking at the analytics for http://seditionbook.com , I notice that a lot of traffic is coming from Facebook. I think it's from other people connecting from shared links. I am also getting a lot of direct traffic to the website. And while I am noticing a little bit of traction from LinkedIn, I think that the website itself is the best promotional element so far. That makes me glad that I put a lot of work into it, making it essentially a supplement to the book.
I am expecting several reviews from book bloggers and authors in the next month. And interviews like this one (thank you Shawn!) may help expand the footprint.
Have you joined anything like the Independent Author Network or the World Literary Cafe? They have great communities of indie authors all helping to promote each other.
Yes I have. I've found a bunch of great sites that promote for free, WLC being one of them. I've also signed up for Promocave.com, which is a new site that features books for free. And I joined Kindle Book Review, Awesomegang.com, and Bookgoodies.com. I've also tried some of the free tweet services too. I've also signed up on message boards/groups at Goodreads and LinkedIn. So far, I have not paid for any placement, tweets, or reviews.
I am hopeful that if a couple of four or five star reviews role in, that'll help...
You're doing more than I am! Are you enrolled in KDP's Select program?
I'm not...yet. I decided to try my hand at iBooks and B&N too. I wanted to be available to everyone with an ereader. The print version will be available the first week of November (election time!!). I think once I've noticed a dead period in sales, I'll try KDP Select. I've read about a lot of authors having great success with it. And I have to admit that my Amazon sales, so far, equal iBooks and B&N combined. Amazon is...well...an Amazon.
Yeah, Select was what really helped me out. I think I jumped on the tail end of the phenomenon though. But that's something you can spend weeks reading about from blog to blog. I think I've only sold a handful of Nookbooks in the last year. Not sure why there's such a huge difference between Nook sales and Kindle sales, but...at least one's sort of working. I never tried Smashwords or anything yet. Anyway, when you're not worrying about how to promote Sedition, and you actually have a block of time to write, what is your ideal setting?
I love writing on a laptop, sitting next to my wife while she reads. She is a voracious reader and I wish I could write as much as she reads :-) It's usually late at night after the kids are in bed, or on my days off (I work weekends) when the kids are in school. Unfortunately it's not always how I get to write...but it's my favorite way to do it. Sometimes I can interrupt her and read her a passage I'm particularly pleased with having written. She's great at listening, telling me what she thinks, before going back to her book.
That's awesome that you have that support from your wife. I think a lot of authors would be jealous of that! When you're writing, do you find that it helps or hurts your craft to be reading other fiction at the same time? I find it a must for myself (if it's a great book that makes me want to write), but others insist they can't be influenced by another author while writing their own fiction.
I am very fortunate to have my wife's support. She, in fact, is the one who gently nudges if I've gone too long without writing. As she gave me a tangential plot line for my next book.
Regarding reading/writing, I am certainly influenced by those I've read. But I don't think it matters one way or the other to read while I am writing. Sometimes I'll notice phrasing differences in my writing, based on what/who I have read most recently, but I fix those in edit if it needs it.
I always find it interesting how the writing process differs so greatly among authors.
Who are some of your favorite authors/books?
I love Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain and Sphere. I've read the vast majority of Crichton's work...even the stuff he published under s pseudonym. I am also a big fan of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears. George Orwell's Animal Farm is another great one...
And believe it or not, Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. And yes, I read the books before the first film came out. The layers of political/societal messaging were so complex. I think a lot of that gets lost by it being considered YA (and a hit movie). The first (and the second to a lesser degree) were brilliant. I read them while thinking, "I wish I could write like this." I didn't care for the third as a whole, but the ending was completely satisfying.
I read a little bit of crime/police procedural stuff, but mostly it's reality based and/or politically themed fiction.
I love Sphere! It's the only novel I've ever read twice! So, when you're not working or writing, what do you enjoy doing? What are some of Tom's hobbies?
Sphere is great. A lot of Crichton's books end with dues ex machina as a way to save the hero (Congo being the worst example of it)...but the end of Sphere is inspired. Loved it.
My hobbies...hmmm...I work such an odd schedule as a reporter that my free time is limited. I don't golf or fish. I just spend a lot of time with my wife and kids. We cart them around to school and extracurriculars...we travel some. We love taking our kids to national parks and monuments whenever we can. I am a huge college football fan too. And I have to admit to a guilty pleasure. My wife and I love a couple of mindless reality tv competitions. They fill up our DVR.
I love most of Crichton's novels. I read some pretty venomous reviews from mindless trolls expressing their disgust for Sphere (I'm talking restraining order-type reviews). It's amazing how two people can read the same thing and come away with two completely opposite opinions on it, one person thinking your the best, the other threatening to hang you from a tree! But enough about evil reviewers. If Sedition was made into a movie, and you had a say in the casting, who would your lead characters be played by?
Nice question. Funny enough, a lot of people who've read it tell me that I should write a screenplay. I don't know if that means they can see it as a cool movie, or if they think it'd be better without all of the writing ;-). Who would I cast?...it's difficult to say, because I didn't visualize them as actors....but...
Matti Harrold: Rachel McAdams
Sir Spencer: Christopher Lee, if he gained weight
Bill, The former AG: Jeffrey Wright
George, the artist: Michael Fassbender
Ings, the barkeep: Scott Glenn
Thistlewood, the professor: Richard Gere
Speaker Jackson: Glenn Close
If you could use one movie and/or book to compare your novel to in order to draw the right audience, what book and/or movie would you say Sedition is similar to?
I think the closest, in terms of complexity and feel, would be STATE OF PLAY. That's a film starring Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe. The plots are dissimilar, but the tones are the same.
Well, you just hooked me. Can you explain your writing process? Do you outline first? Do character sketches? Or do you just sit down and write?
A little bit of everything. I have a long commute to and from work (45 miles), so I think a lot about each section of the book before I commit it to paper.
I know the beginning and the end. So I make some notes about that. Then I start writing. With Sedition, I knew that I wanted a female protagonist. That's where I started. The rest of the characters kinda came to me as I wrote. I am very lucky to be able to store a lot of useless information in my head, so I am able to avoid continuity errors without an outline. Sometimes there a hiccup now and then. But nothing major.
Sometimes I wish that I had a long train ride to and from work every day, a time slot for writing that was unavoidable! I see you got your first Amazon review yesterday. Five stars! That must've felt pretty good to see. Can you tell us anything about your next project?
Thanks for noticing the review. It was great to see somebody think that highly of the book. I've been working hard to get reviews from well-known bloggers and frequent Amazon reviewers. I've asked family and close friends to refrain from reviewing for now. I want the reviews to be genuine (good or bad).
My next project is a little different than SEDITION. It's still a political thriller. But it takes place in Texas (instead of DC) and is told in the first person (instead of third person). It's called SECESSION and it combines politics, oil, and nanotechnology. I know, kind of an odd combination...but I think it works. I don't have a publish date yet. Still have a lot to write and rewrite.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about SEDITION with you. It's been a lot of fun, and I love the way you conduct an interview.
So here are my links:
THE BOOK'S SITE:
THE BOOK BLOG
Thanks, Tom! Good luck! Can't wait to read it myself!