I have received a number of questions via comments and e-mail since posting a blog several weeks ago asking for interview questions, and because I’m a considerate, kind example of humanity, I thought I’d respond to the more interesting ones. Unlike my invented, humorous “interviews.” I (mostly) answer these sincerely. Most are writing process related, which doesn’t surprise me since most of my Twitter followers are writers. So, in no particular order, here they are.
Question: Why do you have such graphic torture scenes in Fatal Exchange, and yet in Geronimo Breach you have no graphic violence?
Me: I was trying a number of different things in both books. In Fatal, I wanted to craft a book that worked like a season of “24” – a series of short, percussive scenes with high impact and a racing plot, with two distinctly different story lines – that of the foreign government counterfeiting US banknotes and sending a hit team to silence the leaks, and that of the serial killer who is stalking the bike messengers. Part of my experiment was to see if graphic scenes could shock the reader’s system at desired beat points, compelling them to stay engaged. Another major experiment was to see if I could write a convincing female protag that worked for both sexes. Some love the graphic shock, some not so much. Mostly positive, though.
On Geronimo Breach, I wanted to do a different experiment – write the most offensive protagonist on the planet and see if I could make him engaging so readers root for him even though he’s a despicable sh#tgrub of a human. And I also wanted to see if I could sustain an element of suspense over the underlying conspiracy plot till the final two or three pages. For that I didn’t require violence – it’s a different approach to the thriller genre than Fatal, so I wrote what I needed to in order to successfully accomplish what I’d hoped to achieve. Both have gotten rave reviews, but Geronimo’s have been particularly good, so I think both approaches are valid depending upon what you want to achieve. My instinct is that future books won’t have much graphic sex of violence, as it’s proved unnecessary to moving the story along or making it more compelling.
Question: Have you sold a Gazillion books yet?
Me: As described in my book, How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), I am on an exponential curve to sell a Gazillion shortly. An understanding of math and physics will tell you why I’m confident. Critical acclaim has been overwhelmingly generous, and sales are on track with expectations.
Question: How do you incorporate layering into your books? What is your reasoning for doing so?
Me: I try to make the books work on a number of levels. At the obvious level, and then at a deeper philosophical level, and finally at an experimental technique level, for authors. I do it using proprietary approaches only Goldman Sachs and I have access to. I do it because I bore easily, and I enjoy when I can reread a book and get an entirely different experience out of it the second or third time around. And also so I can take an intellectually superior tone with anyone foolish enough to cross me.
Question: What’s next for you? Are you going to serialize a character as John Lock advises? Write a heartfelt blog about someone topical?
Me: If I thought I could write a blog about someone newsworthy and insert myself into the discourse to broaden awareness of my work, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But I don’t believe that will ever work again, presuming it ever did, claims notwithstanding. The reason is one of efficient market theory: once all facts are known, and a technique is broadly understood, it by definition loses its effectiveness. Unfortunately, while Locke’s book is filled with interesting advice and techniques, I have yet to see them work for anyone but him, thus I find it interesting as a post hoc reasoning piece and a historical analysis of why he thinks he hit when he did, but not particularly helpful as a moving-forward guide. Perhaps I’m an A-hole, and others are having miraculous success with his approach, but I have yet to see it. If you are aware of anyone, speak up. We would all love to know the secret sauce and see it validated via reproducibility. Because that’s the test of any hypothesis – can you repeat the experiment, in a vacuum, and achieve the same result? So far, not so much, as far as I’m aware.
As to serializing a character, I want to see how my next trilogy does. Zero Sum is a trio of Wall Street thrillers, which follow the trials and tribulations of Dr. Steven Cross as he battles a powerful financier adversary in a biotech pump and dump scheme. I don’t have any particular drive to serialize any character thus far, but I’m open to it. If I do so it will because I feel that character has more to say, or is appropriate for another story – not because it appears to be a favorable marketing strategy. Ludlum had a pretty good run of it without serializing until he did the Bourne trio, and Grisham and King and many others have done nicely without serializing, so in the end I think it’s a function of what you want to write – what interests you. If Zero Sum does well and acclaim is uniform, I’m thinking of using Dr. Cross as the protagonist in one of my next novels.
As far as other characters go, I love Al from Geronimo. He’s was one of my favorite characters to write, ever. But I’m not sure he has another adventure that requires telling. Tess, from Fatal Exchange, is another compelling character, in my own admittedly not-so-humble opinion, but I’m not sure she’s going to ever appear again.
I’m not that calculating in my process. Generally, I get an idea, generally a “What if X was true, and as a result Y happened” and then I scribble an outline. Sometimes it goes into a drawer, and I add to it over time, and sometimes I’m compelled to sit down then and there and write the bloody thing. I have no control over it. With Gazillions, it started out as an idea for a 1200 word blog, and manifested into a book. With Geronimo, it began with conceptualizing Al, and a burst of insight over a possible conspiracy that would be world-changing in significance. With Fatal, it was the idea of doing a dual plot book in a post-“24″-sensibility manner. I wish I had more control over it, but I don’t. I just get an idea, and sometimes it sucks and I kill it, and sometimes it has legs.
Question: How long does it take you to write a book? Fiction and non-fiction?
Me: Depends. Generally speaking, however, non-fiction is much faster than fiction. Gazillions was written from July 2 to the 7th. 12 hours a day writing it. Laughing aloud much of the time, to the alarm of my dogs. Fiction, depending upon length, for a first draft,takes me between 140 and 200 hours for an 80K to 110K word novel. Also 12 hour days; generally contiguous days with no distractions. I find it far easier to immerse myself in the fictional world and scenario and remain there until done. But I usually have an outline of the plot on fiction before I start, so that speeds the process as I have a rough roadmap of where I want to go before I start.
On Geronimo, and Fatal, I did a chapter by chapter summary, two to three sentences, of what’s going to happen and who’s going to do what to whom. That makes it fast to write once I sit down and start. On Zero Sum, I tried it with no outline or chapter summaries. It took longer, but not that much longer, so I’m unsure how I’ll write in the future. Probably with outlines and chapter summaries, as I think it makes for a more coherent, and more complex, plot. It’s easier to keep 3 to 5 story lines running simultaneously with that approach, and I think it enforces intellectual discipline for the writer. You have to really think through all the pieces before you start, which enables you to ask yourself questions like, “Is it a good idea for the reader to know X at this point, or does it work better if he discovers X far later, and then realizes X was important earlier in the narrative?”
Question: Do you use any organizational tools, like Scrivner?
Me: Nope. I use MS word, and index cards. The glamor of technology hasn’t really had any appeal for me, mainly because I can’t maintain attention to figure out how to make the SW work. So far so good.
Question: You Tweet a lot. How as social media changed your approach, if at all?
Me: I do tweet a lot, but it runs in waves. If I’m working on a book, the tweeting will drop off to nothing. If sitting around, bored, I’ll tweet a bunch. I try to keep it random, and interesting, and funny, and not just a bunch of “Buy my book” clogging crap. I hate that, as it smacks of desperation and flop sweat, and ignores the obvious – it ain’t working. Again, if there are authors who have found twitter to have increased their sales significantly, I’d love to hear about it. But I don’t see it as a big contributor in the long run. Same with Facebook. I have a page, but I rarely update it. It’s just a timesuck. Most of the social media stuff seems to be.
Having said that, I’ve made some great friends on Twitter and Facebook, so from that aspect it’s been valuable. But overall, I don’t think most writers buy other writers’ work, so tweeting to a bunch of followers who are mostly writers, in an effort to get them to buy your work, seems low impact to me. We writers are usually a self-involved bunch, focusing on our own projects, so the work of others is not a priority. Or again, maybe that’s just me. But if I get to one book a month of my fellow writers, I’m doing well. Next on my list is David Lender’s Bull Street, and then Steve’s The Jakarta Pandemic.
Well, that’s the lot of them. I did get a few that asked some personal questions, but I’d prefer to keep some parts of my life private, so those won’t be seeing the light of day. No offense to anyone who sent one. But some things are none of anyone’s business but mine. You’ll note I actually tried to answer everything sincerely, and without my usual mockery and derision. That’s probably a rare exception, so don’t get too used to it. If I haven’t answered something here that you are curious about, as always, e-mail me or leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the next round of these.
A status update. Well, first off, acclaimed Aussie novelist Kath McDicken has devoted a marvelous new blog to reviewing several noteworthy authors’ work, not the least of which is John Locke, and the complete works of Russell Blake. She’s a fabulously entertaining writer with a style all her own, and I think her blog is one of the best I’ve read. It can be viewed here.
Next, I was invited to write a guest blog on the ins and outs of being a book whore, or more specifically, on being a book pimp, at John Mierau’s blog. John’s loose topic idea was “Book Pimping,” and what resulted was my first guest blog at his site, titled, “The Art of Pimping.” John’s a talent in his own right, and I have no idea why he’d sully his reputation by allowing my ramblings on his site, but it’s too late for him now — the blog is live. You can check it out here.
And finally, lest it gets lost, a few days ago author Steve Konkoly wrote a glowing review of The Geronimo Breach, which can be viewed here.
I’m hard at work editing my new Wall Street financial thriller trilogy, Zero Sum, which will be available, er, shortly. Please take out a moment to check out the above, and if you’d be kind enough to tweet about this blog, I’d owe you big time.
It’s rare that I blush. Generally speaking, at least several bottles of good Shiraz or Malbec are involved. OK, maybe not all that good, but several. In any event, as all authors know, it’s hard to tell how your fellow writers are going to react to your work. The reasons are legion. They’re tough critics because they’ve had to forge their talents by having a zero tolerance policy in their own work for slop or grammatical error. They know the theory of story, they understand character arcs, and they’re jaded – they usually read a lot, and are picky as hell. So surprising a good author with something in their own genre is a tough task. Really. I know I read an awful lot of work from established names where I’m groaning aloud halfway through, wishing for death, or at least regretting the hours of my time I wasted on a substandard offering. It sucks. I hate it. So should you.
It is with considerable surprise and no small amount of joy that I read author Steven Konkoly’s review of my latest thriller, just out in the last few weeks: The Geronimo Breach. This is a man of no small literary talent of his own, who is as positive as I think it’s possible to be about my book. But what makes the review significant in my mind, as you read it, is that it’s clear that he has a grasp on all the elements of story, language, grammar, character development, etc.
I won’t belabor the review. I think it’s worth reading it for yourself. And then I think that you should take me up on my offer – if you don’t agree that The Geronimo Breach is the best thriller of the year from a new author set in Panama, I’ll gladly refund your money. Seriously, though, if you like thrillers, take Steve’s words to heart. He’s not just blowing smoke. The review is honest. Probably more so than I am. That being said, thank you Steven for the review.
And thank you Lawrence Block for your positive review of How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated). And John Lescroart, and David Lender, for your kind reviews of it as well.
I understand this seems shamelessly self-promoting, and perhaps it is, but there is also a sincere part of me that really wants you to read Geronimo, just to hear the reaction. It has nothing to do with money. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. If you’re a reader, you know the joy of discovering something new and exciting. I’m hopeful Geronimo Breach gives everyone something to cheer about.
Till next time…
First, an update. Fatal Exchange has 18 rave reviews on Amazon to date. Geronimo Breach, just released a week or so ago, already has 4. And How to Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) has 11, plus some wildly flattering reviews from literary luminaries like Lawrence Block, John Lescroart and David Lender.
Now, to the point of this blog. I need your advice. Sincerely. No gimmicks.
I’m working on a host of projects right now, and I’m sort of at a crossroads in terms of what to write, when. I’ve talked to all my usual suspects, and everybody has a different opinion. So I figured I’d ask you, the reader, your opinion.
Here’s what I have in the pipeline:
Zero Sum – a Wall Street financial thriller trilogy, in edit.
Project B – International intrigue thriller tentatively titled The Delphi Chronicle
Project C – treasure hunt type thriller tentatively titled The Manuscript Cipher
Project D – Satire/humor book on why men are the way we are
Project E – True story of the best dog in the world and his trials and tribulations
Project F – International conspiracy thriller
So the question is, which would you rather see next? Of all the above? Actually, you’ll see the Zero Sum trilogy next, as that’s in editing, but of projects B through F, which would you most want for Christmas? I’m working on all, and have anywhere from 20K words to 30K words completed on many, so it’s more an issue of, what would most interest you? You want another Gazillions style book on being a man? An international chase? A heart-wrenching story of the canine love of my life? A Raider’s of the Lost Ark type thriller/adventure novel?
Tell me. Assume all will be executed as well as it’s possible for me to write them.
Then the second question is, should I do some genres under a pen name, to avoid confusing fans? I mean, it’s bad enough already with me being a thriller writer, who also writes snarky parodies on all things grammar and writing related. Will it dilute my brand to throw some of these even odder genres into the mix? Dog book? Dick-lit? And if so, should I be thinking up a new moniker for those genres?
Tough questions. But then again, I’ve got some of the smartest readers on the internet, so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Leave them as comments with an OK to publish and I’ll approve them, or of you have something more confidential, mark secret and only I will ever see it.
I’m dead serious about this. I have 4 months left. I can turn out a non-fiction ready for editing in a couple weeks, and a novel in a month or less. So what do you want your next couple books from me to look like by Xmas?
Appreciate the feedback. As always. But please, no more adverts on how to make $5K from home in my spare time – I already tried the pedophilia server-hosting thing, and collections are an issue they don’t tell you about. So I know you’re lying. Stop lying.
Please leave the suggestions as comments. Much appreciate it.
First off, let’s discuss the brand new book from yours truly, just released a few days ago: The Geronimo Breach. It’s getting critical acclaim, for which I’m grateful, as I take a lot of risks in this book, a sample of which can be viewed here. I sort of wrote a novel where I broke as many of the traditional rules as I could, without crossing over and becoming a twat.
My reasoning was simple: I wanted to write an anti-hero, a protagonist who was so filled with objectionable traits he was barely tolerable, much less likeable. I also wanted to open the book with a dream sequence – but not just a dream, rather a dream inside a dream, the only purpose of which was to throw out some gratuitously fun literary beats, and to introduce the offensive protagonist. And I wanted the entire novel to be based upon such a controversial predicate that it would infuriate, but also wanted the plot to remain unknown until the final pages, when realization hits the reader with a roar. Yet I wanted the story and characters to be engaging enough to carry this hidden plot for 80K+ words. And finally, even though the events in the book date it to just a few months ago, I wanted to create something that would be timeless.
So we have a book that was written in a short, intense period of time, that understands all the rules and deliberately breaks them for effect (and the hell of it) and which comes off as entertaining and fun, and in the end, troubling, where you have as despicable a protag as possible, whose arc in the story benefits almost entirely from dumb luck favoring his making the wrong choices at virtually every turn, and for whom any sort of redemption is not only unlikely, but almost unthinkable.
Fortunately, it appears that the mission was accomplished – upon reread, I enjoyed it rather a lot (I have to put the book down after editing for a few weeks and get busy on something else so I don’t own the words, and thus sort of forget how a particular sentence was structured or what precisely comes next). Early readers also liked it quite a bit, awarding it 5 stars. And it was just featured on an editing blog that is rather influential in the UK – Write Into Print.
I’m hopeful more of you who have read Fatal Exchange will post commentary on it at Amazon (we’re up to 16 four and five star reviews thus far), as well as for Geronimo Breach and Gazilions – which has gotten so much critical acclaim I almost blush to think of how kind my critics have been.
So that’s the update for how I’ve been keeping busy. Even as we speak, I’m editing another thriller that’s largely financial-world driven (I want to get as far from the jungles of Panama and Columbia as I can in this book, given Geronimo is set there), and more up the alley of Wall Street than Calle 12. Once done with that, I have two more books set for this year (actually 3, but I don’t think I’m going to get all 3 done) – one an international chase conspiracy/thriller, one a treasure hunt type book a la Da Vinci Code, and one a humor book in the vein of Gazillions, which skewers male/female relationships. I’ve completed 25K words of the chase book, 20K of the treasure hunt (of which I’ll probably trash 10K), and 90% of the humor book. So I’m a busy boy, but if it’s a choice, I think I prefer to get the treasure hunt book completed next, and then move to the others. Given that the second humor book will likely kill my career it’s so abjectly offensive, I may shelve that for a while. Dunno.
On another topic, I’ve just completed a guest blog which should come out next week or so, and now want to try something a little different.
I’ve been getting comments from fans asking for a real interview, as opposed to the simulated ones that have appeared thus far. So I’m going to propose that anyone with a question leave it as a comment on this blog, and at some point shortly I will organize the questions into interview format, and answer as many as I feel like fielding. This may not work, or it may work great, so we shall see – comments are moderated so you smut-mouthed trash talkers who usually comment can be appropriately censored, however that also means that your questions won’t appear until I publish the interview. So leave your questions, and I’ll assemble them and answer them as a separate blog post within the next week or two.
Finally, the new action/thriller The Geronimo Breach is available for purchase from Amazon.
Hopefully this will stop the recent rioting, which was incorrectly blamed on disenfranchised youths angry over lack of financial opportunity. What actually happened is they were pissed, and rightly so, as Geronimo was supposed to go live on Saturday, and when it was delayed due to technical issues, they went as frigging berserk as paint-huffing circus freaks. While it is lamentable how unstable readers can be, I can feel their disappointment – but stealing big screen TVs or stereos or bags of Basmati rice isn’t the answer. Stop the madness, and go buy the book, and apologize to the people you’ve harmed, and be glad they didn’t call me in to lead a charge of man-killing grizzlies to shut your asses down, or spray the crowd with acid as I suggested to sources high up in the government.
It will also hopefully stabilize the global financial markets, which were similarly roiled by anger and disappointment when the book took an extra few days, and investors sold their shares, causing one of the worst daily percentage drops in market history. Folks, The Geronimo Breach, at $2.99, now that a US dollar is basically worth a small ball of twine and a few battered bottle caps, is ridiculously cheap at the price. Consider the recent collapse of the world’s reserve currency as your chance to exchange virtually worthless paper for a high value asset that will give hours of reading pleasure. Dump your dollars now, buy the book, and soon everything will be well again.
I do want to dispel internet rumors that all my books have some miraculous curative effect. While it’s true that unexplainable spontaneous remission of horrifying metastasis has been reported from all over the world by readers of Fatal Exchange and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) the truth is nobody’s really sure why purchasers seem to be basking in a glow of perfect health and near miraculous longevity. It will take years of research to establish the exact reasons for this phenomenon, however in the meantime you can expect that The Geronimo Breach will also possess whatever quality that’s causing it.
So do yourself a favor. Be one of the first to get the book that is going to change everything in the publishing game – a work that will challenge your beliefs about life, government, democracy, love, heaven and hell, as well as virtually every other aspect of existence of any importance. Don’t be a twat, too cheap to spend the few bucks, and be forced to sit alone in the area reserved for lepers and those with flesh eating bacteria, because you didn’t download it. That doesn’t have to be you. No, yours can be a non-stop thrill ride set in the jungles of Panama, with a sensational anti-protagonist who will teach us all lessons about our human frailties, as well as inspire hope for redemption in even the most base of us. You can claim to have been there first, when the entire Geronimo Breach sensation was just starting, and sneer at others in smugly self-righteous superiority at having known about it far before the great unwashed lumbered to the trough and finally figured it out.
Go check out the excerpt at The Geronimo Breach page, and then go to Amazon, and vote for world peace and stable markets with your inconsequential three bucks. Do it for the circus bears. Do it for the kitties, and the puppies, the pandas and the penguins, and especially the children. And do it for yourself, and your loved ones. Because if you don’t, your life is going to be a miserable wallow in a miasma of sewage and spew, and you’ll be both sickened by your fall from grace with nothing to show for your short, painful stint on the planet but crushed dreams and a dead soul, as well as be repellent to anyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with you — making you a rejected outcast whose only company is the humiliation of having had the chance to change it all, but having failed even that simple test, are now an empty husk praying for a swift, merciful death.
Personally, I’d buy the frigging book. But that’s just me. Do as you like.
We can now all get back to a normal life, although if you aren’t holding Swiss Francs and bullion, along with bullets and cans of food, you’re hosed. But get the book. It’ll change everything for you, and is sure to get rave reviews from delighted fans nearly giddy with satisfaction. Each word was personally chosen by me for you, dear reader, and each scene carefully crafted to amuse, entertain, and teach. Don’t waste the opportunity to jump on the train and take that ride. Go buy it. Now. You’ll be glad you did. Because for a limited time, if you don’t agree that this is the best novel set in Panama about a clandestine scheme gone horribly awry to be released this year, I’ll return your money to you. That’s how sure I am you’ll like it. So now you have absolutely no reason to be a twat. Go buy the book, and join the anointed circle of the fortunate. For once in your life, do the right thing. Please.