Author Spotlight with Lee Chambers

Lee Chambers is an indie author who came out of nowhere, whose book The Pineville Heist has gone from self-published experiment to somewhat of a sensation. It started off as an award winning screenplay by Lee Chambers and Todd Gordon, and went on to become a #1 thriller on Amazon. Plans are now underway to make it as a film with Twilight star Boo Boo Stewart (Seth Clearwater) attached to star. Lee was gracious enough to stop by and answer some annoying questions recently, and the uncensored responses follow.
LC: Wait. I didn’t come out of nowhere. I’ve been here just waiting for you! lol
RB: Uh, sure thing, kissyface. Seriously though, how did a screenplay turn into a self-published book on Amazon? What drove the idea of turning it into a book, and what was the process? How long did it take you?
LC: The screenplay went through a long process with lots of script consultations over the last few years. But it’s only a movie blueprint… average folks don’t read screenplays. Actors, producers and directors read them. So for most people they hafta wait till the movie comes out, which will be years away from cinema release. With the book out, I can share the story now and build an audience. I teach film production at Confederation College in Canada so I slowly worked on the novel version over the school term. About 8 months… A slower pace than you my friend. But, then again, I have a day job – which I love.
RB: Do you think that having the book in screenplay format made it easier to write? Obviously, it was already organized and outlined. Or did you feel that it limited what you could do with the book?
LC: I loved the fact that the outline was there. Plus the characters were real for me already. The book is the screenplay but it freed me to delve into things deeper. More backstory.
RB: You had some amazing results with Amazon’s KDP Select program, and their free giveaway. Tell us a little about how that worked for you.
LC: I credit you here. I saw what was working for you via your nifty blog and decided to gave it a go. Prior to that I tried to be everywhere – all the eBook sites. I launched a few days free last month and 25,567 people snapped it up for free. I actually cut the free off and went to pay. Surprisingly, I sold more books in the eight hours back in the paid store than I did in the previous 8 months combined. I’d say that’s pretty successful. Last month was just over 1600 books sold for cash. I hit #3 for all books and #1 in the thriller charts. Helps having good reviews and the movie connection. Also at #3 I was next to The Hunger Games. This lead to upwards of 1100 downloads an hour. Crazy. Still blows me away.
RB: Let’s talk process. Do you have a set amount of time to write every day, or is it more fluid than that? Word count goals?
LC: I don’t just write books. I write short and feature scripts, make short films and I’m busy hunting down the $2 million to make THE PINEVILLE HEIST movie. My schedule is all out of whack! lol I am two weeks away from the first draft of the next book. Taken 4 months… so, a bit quicker!
RB: What’s the biggest difference between writing a screenplay and a book? Which do you prefer?
LC: A screenplay can only feature what is SEEN and what is HEARD. You can’t talk about feelings and emotions. This can be hard to do so the book format can be quite liberating. I like both forms to be honest. Just need to get my head in the right space depending on the format. I guess I am always thinking about how I can turn my words into movies.
RB: How did you come to writing? What motivated you to start down this path?
LC: I am a storyteller… Always have been. Scripts, shorts and features. This just happens to be me in a longer format that stands alone as it’s own entity. Sure a movie is in the works, but it still works for readers.
RB: Editing and rewrite. How important, and do you have an editor, or do you do it yourself?
LC: Very important. Crucial. The screenplay has gone through about 18 drafts. Eight story and script consultants guided it – including a former Senior VP of Production at Universal Pictures and the author of the Screenwriters Bible. The book version had a main editor and then a proofreader.
RB: Writer’s block, or lack of motivation. You ever deal with it? If so, how do you move past it?
LC: My problem is I have too many ideas.
RB: What are you working on now? Can you tell us about it?
LC: I am drafting up THE SUM OF RANDOM CHANCE. Another novel based on a screenplay. Catch the details on my website as I have a cool contest for readers to possibly become a character in the book.
RB: Do you outline when you write a novel, or do you wing it?
LC: Oh I need to outline. Then… I wing it! Then I re-write and outline some more… then I wing it again… lol
RB: What would you say the most important lesson you’ve learned from your self-pubbing journey has been?
LC: To ignore people reading your book that are outside your target audience. One media reviewer thought my book was a dreadful mess. But he was 75 and cranky. I’d rather focus on the mother from Puerto Rico who read it to her 13 year old son and loved it.
RB: If you only had thirty seconds to impart advice to fellow authors, what would it be?
LC: Umm… oh crap, times up. Seriously, life is short – so have fun and write your story. Then smile when someone loves it!
RB: Anything else you want to add? Shameless self-promotion? Tout?
LC: Well, let’s see… I just took home the Screenwriter of The Year Award for an Australian film I wrote and directed last year called HUGH JACKMAN SAVES THE WORLD at the Northern Ontario Music & Film Awards. That was cool. And like you, I have a bar tab so please buy THE PINEVILLE HEIST. Here’s a tip. Catch it May 20th for free.
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