Friday, March 29, 2013

D.J. Swykert, Children of the Enemy

AUTHOR: DJ Swykert
BOOK TITLE: Children of the Enemy
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Books, an imprint of Write Words Inc.

What gave you the idea for this particular story?
Answer: It began with a short story with the character Ray, who is modeled after an actual junkyard operator I saw many years ago in Houghton Lake, Michigan. He was an older man sitting out side of a house trailer at the junkyard smoking a cigarette, sunning himself, surrounded by a world of broken possessions, everything you can imagine. I thought he’d make an interesting character and I wrote a short story with a character coming to the door of the trailer one night and a confrontation occurring between them. Later, I developed a plot around the two adversaries and turned it into a full length story.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Answer: I am a retired 911 operator. I am fulltime at being retired and part time at writing, I have a lot of interests. I generally write during the day, mornings are best, and spend my evenings with social activity.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: The first thing I ever wrote was a poem to a young art student I was trying to impress. I think I was about sixteen, the poem sucked. But she said she liked it and I took her to the prom. A couple of years later I managed to publish a couple of early poems in a few journals, would read some at the coffee houses in downtown Detroit, and started to believe I could actually write a book. I did try, but it would be quite a few years later before I ever actually wrote a book. 

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
Answer: I’ve always liked reading stories with strong characters. I believe good characters can carry a weak plot, but a great plot will never be able to carry a story with poor characterization. I just hope my readers find the characters interesting, and the story compelling, anything else they get from it is a bonus.

Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
Answer: I’ve written more crime stories than anything else. I worked as a 911 operator for a decade, which gave me a lot of characters to write about, most of whom were not altar boys, or girls.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Answer: This is the easiest question you’ve given me: rejection. We all hate it, not just writers, all of us except for a small band of narcissists; fortunately they’re not a large group in our species. You have to take some positives from your critics and improve your work from the criticism.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
Answer: I really did know a Three-fingered Jack Davis. They probably call him Two-fingered Jack by now. The lifestyle of some of the characters is drawn on people I’ve known. But the story itself is completely fictional.

How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
We are both cynical with a strange sense of humor. Ray is a lot tougher than me.

What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
Answer: I didn’t do a lot of research. It’s a fictional story, and I’m familiar with the lifestyles and thinking processes of the characters. I worked in law enforcement, so I can write police procedure.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
Answer: Violence bothers me because I know it exists. The violence in the story is excessive. But I wanted the reader to sympathize with certain not so likeable characters, so, I felt it was necessary to distance the bad guys from just the unsavory ones. I think readers will understand why it was written this way by the time they finish the story. As violent as the story is, there is nothing in it that doesn’t happen to people in this lifestyle.

What about your book makes it special?
Answer: I think the characters in the story are likeable, even though they are flawed. There are situations in the story that allow even the worst to redeem them selves. I think people want and need to believe in redemption.

What is your marketing plan?
I’m focusing toward social media like your blog. I think it’s the best way for a beginning writer to find and develop a platform of readers. So, I’ve been pursuing blogs that will do interviews or review the book. I’ve distributed some free copies to Indie bookstores and will a send review copy to a reviewer. I have a friend of mine who is a marketing consultant and she’s been helping me with some promotional ideas.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Answer: On my website: This is a website, where I have a section, but is also open to artists, musicians and photographers to showcase their work. The idea is in the future it will contain a database of artists where viewers can interact with the artists. 

Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
Answer: I believe in the principle of write what you know. If you have an idea for a story, research it; find out what you need to know about the story to write it authentically.

What’s in the future for you?
Answer: The future is the same for all of us: temporary and uncertain. But I have a couple of writing projects I hope to finish, another story about wolves for certain.

 Children of the Enemy - synopsis

Parson and Swallow have murdered Jude’s wife Ariana, and kidnapped his daughter Angelina, in order to locate Jude who has made off with a large stash of crack cocaine belonging to them.

Raymond Little is a former convict with a second degree murder conviction in his past. He is on a mission to rescue Jude St. Onge’s twelve year old daughter from kidnappers he knows the police will never catch. Ray knows the kidnappers will certainly kill the girl once they recover the drugs from Jude.

Detroit Police Detective Charlie Ebinger asks newspaper reporter Ted Rogers to run a story in hopes of contacting Jude. Ted does reach Jude and Raymond, but refrains from turning them in because Ray persuades him this would only serve to expedite the murder of Angelina. They arrange a meeting with Parson and Swallow to exchange the drugs for Jude’s daughter. During the exchange Jude is killed and Parson and Swallow recover their drugs without surrendering Angelina.

With Ted’s help he kidnaps Parson’s two young sons and a standoff ensues between the men with the children as pawns. The story concludes with a confrontation as they exchange the children.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Paul Western-Pittard, Undreamed

            Paul Western-Pittard
            Self Published / Amazon

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
I grew up in a mining town in the desert region of Western Australia, a ferociously hot place that was occasionally decimated by cyclones. It was the kind of place that was so vast, your mind stretched just by living there. From childhood I knew I always wanted to tell stories, and later moved to Melbourne to get involved in the film and TV industry, where I still work. 

Genre is such an interesting question. I know writers who get laser-focused on specific sub genre and don’t budge from that, which I think probably helps give readers a reliable expectation of what they’re going to get, but I prefer a slightly wider spectrum. I’m drawn to psychological thrillers, dark fantasy and love, though probably won’t write ‘hard’ science fiction. Undreamed, my first novel is a psychological thriller, whilst the next books on the list are a dark urban fantasy, then a paranormal thriller. What is common to these stories is a sense of reality being challenged, either literally or from the point of view of the protagonist, and how they are forced to change to resolve that.

Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.
Undreamed is my first novel, and tells the story of Alice, a woman caught between waking life and a dream. She leads two lives: when she sleeps in one she wakes in the other. Her problem is that she doesn’t know which of them is real, and not knowing this, struggles through a kind of half-life in both. Then she meets a girl dressed in green, who she realises is the key to her escape.

Undreamed started life as a ‘spec’ screenplay, then after a number of false starts and many re-writes it came to me that the only way I could really tell Alice’s story would be to write it as a novel. The story is dark and verges on surreal at times. It’s told from Alice’s point of view, in the present tense, which turned out to be a huge challenge, but I think well worth while.

You can check out the first two chapters here:

How long have you been writing?
My first paid writing work was fourteen years ago when I was asked to produce a series of short animations for a small health-media company.  I wrote some scripts and suddenly a whole bunch of things connected, and I realised that this is what I wanted to do a lot more of. Up to that point, I’d been involved in the technical side of production with a vague intention to move over to the creative side when the time was right. It occurred to me then that the time would only be right when I let it.
Writing is a kind of compulsion. I’ve written all my life. It’s like breathing. Most writers would share this, but the decision to become a capital ‘A’ author was a big step. It meant making the time to finish my first novel, then to take it seriously enough to open up it to criticism, proof it and so on. Coming from a creative background in film/tv this was difficult because I’d always held my personal writing as something separate from that process.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
After the mine closed down my family moved to Geraldton, a small (not so small now) town in mid-west of Western Australia. There, I discovered an amazing second hand book shop called “Look Books”. It was run by a fascinating, bespectacled terror who loved chasing kids and ‘time wasters‘ — his term — out his shop. Except me, for some reason. Maybe he just got that I loved reading, but I spent many, many hours in that place, quietly reading in a corner as the owner ranted about rates and the shocking state of the world. I was literally awash in the scents of binding and pulp, lost in that cool, odd sanctuary. When he wasn’t pricing stock (or insulting customers) we’d talk books, authors, cover art, publishers, you name it. At some point as I worked through rows of pulp-horror, I realised that this was my world.
Now, I love the process, the flow of words, the chiseling away at ideas and characters. Most of all though, it’s the what if questions: what if things were different… What if I went right instead of left… What if I was dreaming and couldn’t wake up…
That last question was the trigger for Undreamed. What if everything your senses told you was a lie? What if you weren’t the person you thought you were? It would drive me insane, and I began to wonder how someone would actually cope in that kind of situation. And of course - what kind of disaster would create that problem in the first place.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?

Yes, I outline as much detail as I can. I have four or five novels-in-progress that imploded because I got distracted (plot wise) and they lost direction. Also, outlining is central in script writing, and I’ve carried some of that process with me to my books.

Having said that, the plan usually goes off the rails about two chapters in. I outline as much to explore possibilities of the story as to actually nail things down. It’s a way to scrutinise and define characters, see how they’re traveling. The reality of the process is that the outline usually stays fixed at the big picture level — certainly things like key turning points and the story resolution are locked in, but quite often a character will evolve in an unexpected way and I’ll adjust the story to fit.

I expect as I go on I’ll end up plotting a little less and putting more time into character development, but for now it’s comforting having a sense of structure around the work.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
They spiral outwards from one another, I think. For me, plot is a consequence of characters in conflict, and once events are in motion, other characters must respond.  As I mentioned earlier, the starting point for me is that what if… But it’s never quite that dry - the question will come disguised a flash, almost like watching a small edit from a film. At that point I’ll get a glimpse of something — characters in some sort of crisis —  that may evolve into a story.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
There were two choke points for me — the first was actually committing to writing it as a novel in the first place. As I said before, it started life as a screenplay and I hung onto that for a very long time, and multiple re-writes. It was difficult to walk away from all that work and start a fresh format. The second major difficulty was in finding the voice of the story. I originally wrote it 3rd person, past tense but it just didn’t convey the sense of claustrophobia and doubt that I wanted, so after completing the first draft I made the decision to re-write.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read, and have a reading list as long as my arm. I’m an avid, but definitely amateur photographer and generally annoy my family by sticking lenses in their faces when they’re not looking. Whenever possible, I get to the beach and swim.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?

I’m not sure about influencing my writing, but plenty of writers have changed my life.  William Hope Hodgson, weird fiction writer, Raymond E Feist for his Magician series, Jack Vance, John Fowles, Mikhail Bulgakov for that incredible The Master and Magarita, Greg Egan, China Mieville, Cormac McCarthy, Greg Bear...the list goes on.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

Ubiquity, for one thing. Common as mp3s, but that’s obvious.

 I wonder about the role of advertising in media, and can see a day where the pages we read (for free) may be sponsored or dynamically linked to cleverly embedded products, all as an automatic overlay on the author’s work. That’s not a future I want, but we can see the shadows of it even now.

What else - discovery? That will be a challenge. As more of us bypass traditional publishers the market will be swamped, and it will become difficult for readers to find new authors in all that content. I think that some reviewers will take over the roles of publishers - or perhaps publishers themselves will skew this way as well - where the role transforms into something more like Curators. It’s already happening in the broader web, and you only have to look at something like the software, flipboard to see where this is going. Readers looking for that ‘social proof’ may come to trust reviewers as much as authors, insofar as they can find new talent and endorse it.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for

I have book one of a short-story scifi comedy series released on Amazon — Jan and the Spooky Periscope Incident which is some geeky sci-fi fun. Undreamed, the psychological thriller was released this September. I’m currently working on a dark urban fantasy, The Transcendent which I plan to be the beginnings of a series, targeted for release about this time next year. If I can possibly squeeze it in, I’m plotting a paranormal thriller, Godless, hot on the heels of that.

What is your marketing plan?

It would be generous to call it a plan… I use Twitter as my key social media tool, which links to a blog and from that, things like book teasers on youtube. Twitter really is an excellent way to meet like-minded people. I thought initially that the value of having these things was the ability to showcase work and direct interested readers, but what I’m learning is that the real value is the capacity to build relationships. So the plan is to use those tools to help have conversations with readers and other writers. Right now I’m approaching reviewers for Undreamed, and away from the web, talking to book clubs in my area. I’m not sure it falls under marketing, but starting mid October, I’ll also be running author interviews and guest posts on my blog. Probably the single biggest element of the plan now, is to be conversational.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Finish it. No matter what, just finish your work. Be it a book, short story, screenplay, comic, whatever — just get it done. Nothing’s perfect so don’t stress about that. Do it as well as you’re able and then do the next thing better. There’s something inside all of us that responds to people with vision, so show yours. Ideas are worthless unless they’re expressed.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Twitter: @cerullean
Undreamed book-teasers:

— Synopsis —
Alice is trapped in a nightmare. She leads two lives, both real to her, both flawless in their logic and texture, both filled with people that she loves and hates. One of these is a dream. She has no way of knowing which. A borderline junkie heiress in Manhattan, or a recovering psych patient in Sydney, when Alice sleeps in one life, she wakes into the other. Other than her own memory of them, her worlds are separate and seamless. In both her lives she tries to find clues to discover the root of her sickness, but nothing crosses over. She may as well be two completely different people. Caught in this impossible status quo, never able to bring herself to believe that the life she’s leading is true, Alice is trapped. Not believing either, she believes nothing. Then one day, her lives are fractured when something does cross over. First in Sydney then Manhattan, Alice meets a girl dressed in green. She knows this girl for what she is: the key to her escape.
But as she unravels the girl’s secret, the realities of not one but both lives are challenged.
The question becomes: who is it that she’s really waking?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Douglas Dorow, The Ninth District, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR: Douglas Dorow
PUBLISHER: Douglas Dorow
GIVEAWAY?  Gift/Giveaway two ebooks kindle or epub - Be sure to leave contact information to be entered into the drawing.

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

I’m a thriller writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. They say write what you know, I write what I like to read: thriller, suspense, action adventure stories.

Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

The Ninth District is a story about an FBI agent who finds himself up against an adversary who has been robbing banks. They discover that the ultimate target is the Federal Reserve, which has never been robbed, and they want to keep it that way.

How long have you been writing?
I started writing in a couple of creative writing classes in college. After a break and working in my real life career, I took a couple of writing classes and started writing again. That was probably 18 years ago, when my daughter was born.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve enjoyed reading thrillers, spy and espionage, suspense for a long time. I decided I wanted to try writing one and found I really enjoy the creative writing process. With my first thriller, I decided I wanted to write about an FBI agent with a family.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?

I don’t write a detailed outline. I start with an event and start asking “what if” and trying to answer the questions. Then I just write quick scene notes in a timeline. I note the main event of the scene, time, point of view character and start writing. New scenes and ideas will pop into my head as I write, as well as some minor characters. 

An example of this is with The Ninth District. I knew I wanted to writer about an FBI agent in Minneapolis. Through some research I discovered that the Federal Reserve has never been robbed. And after reading an article in a local paper about urban explorers who visited the sewers and tunnels under the city, but were avoiding sites across the Mississippi river from the Federal Reserve after 9/11 heightened security, I brought these things together into my story.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
With me, they come together and influence each other. The inciting incident comes first and sets the location that the characters are playing in. Then, probably the plot.
Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?

The book took some research. I used google and some books to learn some things. I have a friend, who is now an FBI agent, so I asked some questions of him.

I don’t write full time, so it’s hard to say how long it takes. I write in spurts as I find time. It may be a few sentences or a few pages per sitting.

What are some of the challenges in your writing process?

The biggest challenge I have is finding time to write. I have a full-time day job as an Information Technology Manager and a family which keeps me busy.

Describe your writing space.
I don’t have a regular writing space. I have a laptop and write where I can. Often, I’m writing in coffee shops after I’ve dropped my son at soccer or hockey practice. While I write I often have my earbuds in and listen to music. I find that it keeps the distractions out and part of my brain engaged so errant thoughts and ideas aren’t distracting me either.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
I like to read, so there have been a lot of authors. Earlier in my reading I liked Stephen King, Ken Follett, my favorite book was Trevanian’s Shibumi. Some of the series thriller authors I’ve read, include: Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Lee Child, Nelson DeMille, James Rollins, Clive Cussler,Vince Flynn, Brian Freeman and William Kent Kruegger.  Notice some of these are other Minnesota authors? 

Lately, I’ve started to explore other indie thriller authors, authors I wouldn’t have found in a bookstore, but now that the ebook revolution is alive I’ve found lots of new, fantastic writers.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

I wish I had a crystal ball. Ebooks will continue to grow. It will be interesting to see how the physical bookstore changes. There will always be people who prefer the paper book, but we’re already seeing the impact of ebooks and the mail as a distribution system for paper books impacting the brick and mortar store. Publishers will need to change as well. Their value to an author is changing.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for

The Ninth District is my one book out now, in English and Spanish. 2012 I worked on broadening its availability with ebook, paper and audio. 2013 is a year where I’m focusing on writing, planning to release book two in the FBI series and the first in a spin off novella series I plan to write following a new FBI agent from the first book into the elite FBI Hostage Rescue Team. After those two new books, I’m writing a new Action/Adventure novel.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Write. Learn your genre, your craft. Don’t release your book too soon. Use beta readers to get feedback and when it’s ready utilize the pros to get our book ready to publish. Hire an editor and a cover designer and then write your second book, your third….

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

I have a website where I have info on my writing, some interviews with thriller authors and my blog.

I’m also active on twitter @dougdorow and have an author Facebook page

The Ninth District is available as an ebook, paper book, audiobook and in Spanish as an ebook/paper book.

The Federal Reserve has never been robbed. 

FBI Special Agent Jack Miller, pulled into a high-profile case to mentor a new agent, finds himself in a clash with the toughest opponent of his career. The chase culminates in the bowels of the city, in the storm sewers and tunnels beneath The Ninth District Federal Reserve of Minneapolis.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Erec Stebbins, The Ragnarök Conspiracy

AUTHOR:  Erec Stebbins
BOOK TITLE:  The Ragnarök Conspiracy
PUBLISHER: Seventh Street Books (imprint of Prometheus Books)

1. Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

I am a biomedical researcher in New York who has been writing in a number of genres for many years.  These efforts were mostly for the “art” of it, and I had not initially thought about offering my work up for sale.  In 2008, I wrote a thriller born from the emotions of the September 11 attacks, and when I finished I decided to try and publish it. 

The success of that endeavor now has me plotting a series of political and international thrillers, even as I now consider publishing some of my previous writings in other genres.

In general, my stories usually are born from the raw emotional conflicts created by contemporary events around me, either personal or societal. I also feel that the best stories challenge us, so for stories beyond personal events, I try to create art with a certain kind of relevant edge, at least as I experience it.

2. Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

My debut novel, The Ragnarök Conspiracy, is the thriller I mentioned that was engendered by the 9/11 attacks. One of the best summaries that doesn’t reveal too much was given by author Alan Leverone when he said that it “turns the traditional terrorist thriller on its head.” 

At its root are two divergent responses to the threats revealed by those attacks.  My protagonist and antagonist each suffered a terrible loss, but deal with it in two ways that lead them in the end to a global clash.  John Savas is an FBI counter-terrorism agent who finds himself battling a new terrorist group that is driving the world to a global conflict between the Islamic and Western nations.  He must overcome the emotions of losing his son to Islamic terrorism in order to work with a Muslim CIA agent to stop the diabolical plan of a madman with the resources to set the world on fire.

3. How long have you been writing?
I became passionate about creative writing in high school.  With three close friends I published an “underground” magazine called WoR?PeD.  Using PC’s pre-Windows and a Commodore 64 (dating myself), it was a good example of DIY self-publishing in another era!  Since we were the writers, editors, and publishers, we had total freedom to experiment, and I would write essays, humor, poetry, sci-fi, you name it.  Later, the burdens on my time of a science career and family made writing something of a forgotten hobby for many years. As my two daughters grew up, however, I rediscovered my old passion.  I’m hoping that the arrival of our newborn son will not interrupt that rediscovery too much! Maybe with age will come some scheduling wisdom
4. What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
In general, my interest has always been in creating things, building things, giving birth to things.  I always liked Tolkien’s quote that “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker. 
Whatever an artist’s religious leanings, there is this calling, this (often obsessive) drive to create.  It can be manifest in construction, in fashion, in the traditional arts, and of course in writing.  I long ago learned that no amount of effort on my part would make me able to produce graphic arts (at least by hand), but I was more adept with the written and spoken (or sung!) word.  So, writing allowed me to create entire worlds, characters, events, the stories already playing in my head with an over-active (or properly active?) imagination.
As for my first book, that would be an unpublished novella called Junk Man, a work with no discernable commercial potential (as far as I can tell).  What led me to write that was the usual: the story demanded to be told.  I had no plans to write Junk Man – it had plans for me. My old friend Insomnia visited in Greece while seeing family there, and suddenly in the middle of the night my protagonists began speaking in my mind. Taking forms.  The story was fleshed out roughly by morning. Their voices were strong, real, and would not be denied.  So, I wrote them as best as I could.
As for my first published novel, The Ragnarök Conspiracy, as I mentioned, it was my own idiosyncratic emotional response to the attacks on my city on 911.  Perhaps cryptically, one could say the germ of the story came from a simple question I asked in the years after those events: “Why hasn’t there been an American bin Laden?”
5. Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
Yes, I’m an outliner.  But I’m also a scientist who used to write a lot of computer code, so perhaps I’m doomed to structuring things. Especially for the thrillers with multiple story threads that must intersect in chronologically realistic ways, I simply have to flow out timelines and outlines of the events and story/character arcs.  I even posted my outline for The Ragnarök Conspiracy at one point on Facebook because I found my hand-drawn timeline entertaining.

6. What comes first: the plot or the characters?
A conflict.  Always there is at root an emotional storm of some kind.  That storm then becomes incarnate in characters, who act, creating events.  When a few strong events based on that emotional conflict won’t leave my mind for some time, I decide to write the story.  The events are then used to seed a larger plot, depending on the nature of the story, the genre, etc.
7. Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

Tough one.  A toss up between John Savas and Husaam Jordan.  To me, John Savas is the quintessential wounded soldier.  A former NYPD cop who lost his son on 911, he saved himself from an emotional downward spiral by channeling his anger and hurt into counter-terrorism.  His life is thereby focused on a never-ending war, and therefore he can’t allow himself the range of human emotions he possesses internally, spanning the spectrum from love to spirituality.  He suppresses them to stay sharp and focus on his personal war with terrorists. His “bunker mentality” is challenge badly by the Muslim CIA agent Husaam Jordan.  Jordan pulls at me because he is a young black male who pulled himself out of the ghettos and gang violence.  Part of that journey involved his embrace of Islam, and he is passionate and unflinching in his devotion to both God and justice.

8. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
As my first thriller, The Ragnarök Conspiracy required me to shed my 20 plus years of academic and research oriented style.  Re-write after re-write I tried to find ways to make the pacing more in line with the expectations of the genre.  Initially, as many agents told me in rejections, they loved the premise but it was too slow, too academic.  Too many meetings and discussions.  Too many characters.  See, I’m the kind of person who found “The Council of Elrond” in The Fellowship of the Ring to be one of his favorite chapters!  That chapter is epic in length, with nested narratives, multiple unknown characters barely introduced.  But not everyone likes that sort of thing!  So, it was a learning experience, but I knew the story could best be told as a thriller.  My second thriller was written from the get-go with a different mentality, and is far more intensely paced.  Hopefully that book will find a home soon!

9. Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?

I do research for a living, so I’m comfortable diving into information. Since I’ve never been training in law enforcement, military operations, firearms, explosives, Old Norse, or visited most of the locations in my book, let’s just say there was a lot of googling.  In today’s world, nearly all of human knowledge is online, and specific information is just the right search keywords away.  Not just information, but locations, satellite images, floor plans, blueprints of weapons, explosives, factsheets on ballistics, troop formations, terrorist groups, and even ancient Northern languages!  Not everything is there (the CIA is so uncooperative!), but truly it’s astounding how easy it is to find things out now.  One danger, however, is getting caught up in the research and spending too much time with the endless internet library and delaying the writing.

As for how long to write – I write very quickly.  Not always polished, not close to finalized.  I’m good at getting the clay thrown onto the wire skeleton in a short period of time and roughing out the basic shape.  This is my MO because psychologically I need to see a creation coming to be.  It may be rough, but it seems real, tangible, 100 pages already!  I then go back and do rounds and rounds of revision based on my review and the critiques of others.

I wrote the first draft of The Ragnarök Conspiracy in about three months, between the hours of 10pm-2am when my wife and children were sleeping.  My second thriller was written in a similar total time frame.

10. What are some of the challenges in your writing process?

Love scenes.  It has been frustrating and humbling to find out that I am terribly stereotypically “male”.  I easily write action scenes that most find very engaging.  I struggle with romance and the product of such efforts has received, shall we say, very mixed reviews.  For The Ragnarök Conspiracy, while there was an important romantic subplot (very critical to the emotional journey of the protagonist), it saw progressively decreasing “air time” as critiques came in and I did re-writes. My second novel has even less romance, even though there is again a core element of a love story there. A challenge for me is to find a way to awaken my inner 50 Shades of Grey.

11. Describe your writing space.
Wherever I can sit with my laptop.  Basically that’s it, although it has to be distraction free. And coffee or tea must be near.  Or at night, whisky.
 12. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Between running a lab and spending time with my family, there isn’t much time left!  But I also have a strong interest in music.  I play a few instruments very “amateurly”, and the last few years began making Native American style flutes, an instrument I especially love.  I began with wood, paperclays, and ceramic clays, and then involved my technical side and began designing flutes on the computer for use in the new manufacturing method called “3D printing”.
I also like making videos, and put a lot of amateur time into designing and producing “book trailers” for my novels.  You could link to them, perhaps!
Trailer for The Ragnarök Conspiracy:
Teaser for my next thriller:

13. What books or authors have influenced your writing?
 J.R.R. Tolkien was a dominant early influence, even, or especially, his long historical accounts of his legendarium. Others that have meant a lot to me over the years are Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Ludlum, George Orwell, Dan Simmons, Tom Clancy, Frank Herbert, and Olaf Stapledon.  I think Stapeldon’s “Star Maker” remains one of the more profound works I have encountered, followed closely by Dan Simmons’ more entertainment oriented Hyperion/Endymion novels. Some of the thrilling protagonists of Clancy and Ludlum inform my sense of what a thriller “should” be to this day.

14. What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
Ebooks are already, and will only grow as, a huge part of publishing.  I think recent numbers show that about 1/3 of adult fiction is purchased as an ebook?  While paper is familiar and has certain advantages, it also has disadvantages.  There is nothing like carrying around a library in a device thinner than a notepad, or partaking in the convenience of reading about a novel online, talking with friends on Facebook about it, and then “1-clicking it” to your living room faster than you can make coffee to sip as you read.  And many of the “advantages” of paper are likely more perceptions of old folks like me who grew up with the medium, and the coming generations may have very different assessments of the value of different media.  Already, even the dinosaurs are switching en masse to ebooks for a large percentage of their fiction consumption. 

I think there is going to be a dramatic flux in the next 10-20 years, but a sure thing is that paper will diminish (perhaps significantly, even to a niche market).  Publishers are scrambling to come to terms with this brave new world, many will go under, many will merge, some will reinvent and perhaps help transform things.  Amazon is the new prince and we’ll see how long that lasts.  But the technology is bigger than any company. 

Also, it makes self-publishing trivial, which for many who write works that lack commercial potential (but not necessarily skill or significance), they can realize the call of their muse.  Some complain that “now everyone is an author.”  Sounds to me like what some medieval scribes might have said about the printing press!

15. What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for

To date, only my debut, The Ragnarök Conspiracy, is out.  My second thriller, tentatively titled “Extraordinary Retribution”, is finished, and I’m looking for a publisher for this far more intense (even than Ragnarök) political/action thriller.

I am also planning to take advantage of the ebook/POD revolution to produce and release some of my old efforts that are unlikely to pass any marketing filters.  For 2013, these include Junk Man, which I’ve tentatively classified as “trashheap redneck mystic lit”, Reader (“dystopic cosmic quest”), and, of all things, a storybook “for not-quite grownups” called The Caterpillar and the Stone to be released in print and as an interactive iBook.

16. What is your marketing plan?

For The Ragnarök Conspiracy, I read all the how-tos, and went for it.  I have a small publisher, so while they could work with the traditional publishing lines, a lot was up to me.  I set up author and book websites and Facebook pages.  I did interviews, signings, tried Facebook and Google ads (I still think my Hannity ad is a masterpiece).  I made a series of trailers into which I sunk a good bit of time and money.  I thought to myself “This book has many deep contemporary touchstones, and maybe it can gain some traction if I can somehow get it above the white noise of 8 million books a year at Amazon.” My advance is basically gone on all this!  I do recommend day jobs.

Currently, I’ve backed off a lot from this initial, frenzied surge.  I’m not really a salesman, and I tired quickly of marketing.  I have now redesigned my webpage to be less “thriller branded”, and more representative of who I am and what I will do artistically.  Perhaps this is not what the mavens would recommend, but it’s better for and more true to me.

17. What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Since I am still a relatively unknown writer, I’m not sure I should give out much advice!  I have been traditionally published, so I can say that this was for me a long slog, and a tough one to find representation and a publisher.  Traditional publishing in this age of DIY offers great advantages in getting talented people to edit and distribute your book.  But there are “loss of control” disadvantages as well.  If you want to go traditional, I can say persistence is likely more important than method (although both are obviously important).  I sent out over 1000 query letters over several years.  I nearly self-published on multiple occasions, including just a month before I was offered a publishing contract!  Patience and persistence and a thick skin were essential.

If you finally throw in the trad-pub towel, and decide to self-publish, remember most don’t make much money from it.  Also, remember that most authors don’t make much money through traditional publishing, either!  In addition, the more tech savvy you are from documents and layout to graphics design, the better for DIY.  Otherwise, you will end up with a cheap looking product or end up paying free-lancers a lot of money. 

18. Where can people learn more about you and your work?

My website at has information on my books as well as links to my flute and science websites.  I am also on twitter (@erecstebbins) and have an author page at Facebook (  I’m also available for scheduled events at Togather if you want me to sign books and come talk about anything from terrorism or toxins (!