- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I interview a smart and successful author from Calgary, Canada.
Welcome, Jeff ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I sat down one day and started writing a YA book for my youngest son. He loved it and I wrote another, then branched off into adult thrillers and never looked back.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I think I finally became a writer when I realized editing was equally as important as writing the first draft. Up to that point I was a guy putting stories on paper. Now the first draft is a template for what will eventually become a (hopefully) well-crafted thriller.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I have a really good idea where things are going when I sit down to write. I definitely know who my characters are and the ending of the book. Nothing is worse (well, maybe going to the dentist) than spending twenty hours reading a book that has a weak ending. That said, even though I have a solid plan for what the manuscript will look like, it meanders all over the place once I get writing – but it always comes back on track.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
That people actually read my work. As a writer, you create characters that don’t exist and put them in circumstances that aren’t real, then ask the reader to believe the story. It’s amazing when readers say things like, “I can’t believe you cut off their fingers.” Well, really, I didn’t.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Selling books. The marketplace is saturated with great writers and books these days and being an Indie author on Amazon is tough. As a writer, you take six months to a year to write a book, and another three to six months to edit the manuscript. Then you link up with a cover artist, an audio narrator, a social media guru, develop a group of trusted Beta readers, ferret out the remaining typos, format the book and release it. Now it needs readers to see it, have some degree of interest, then (finally) buy it. This is without a doubt the hardest part of being a writer.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Geophysicist, freestyle skier, realtor, single dad (not now, very happily married), and (I hope) a decent human being. I work very hard at that every day.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Getting published through New York. I was fortunate enough to have five titles through a NY house a few years ago. It’s incredible to see your books on shelves in Los Angeles, Boston, London and Sydney. The power of a traditional publisher is multi-faceted, but distribution is one thing they do very well.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Three series – Bobby Greco (ex-homicide in Orlando, Florida) in One is Evil, Curtis Westcott (Chief of Homicide in Boston) in A Killing Game, AJ Costa (retired homicide cop in Phoenix) in Size Four, and then some stand-alone titles. The Krubera Conspiracy and Bloodline will be out in the next six to eight months.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Everything. I love seeing people who are up against a challenge, whatever that might be, achieve success. I’m amazed by the diversity of our planet. I love to travel to new places and meet the locals. And coffee. Coffee definitely inspires me.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Thrillers, mystery, suspense and crime.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Yes – write. Everyday. And read. Everyday.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Never. What’s that?
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Mornings are best. I settle into the local coffee shop and start tapping away on the keyboard. Nobody has any idea that I’m kidnapping and murdering people.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Starbucks, mostly because they’re ubiquitous and consistent. Small stand-alone coffee shops with character are really my favourite though. I have found great writing spots in Auckland, London, Paris, Prague and Budapest just to mention a few.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
The actual act of writing is my greatest joy. Creating characters and plots that would never exist if I hadn’t taken the time to dream them up and put them on paper. Yes, writing is my greatest joy.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Tough question, but I’ll go with Leon Uris. His books were incredibly well-researched, beautifully written page turners that tackled some pretty tough issues. QB VII is likely still relevant today, and Trinity is a masterpiece that took a hard look at the Irish conflict from both sides of the story. Uris was a master.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
“I couldn’t put it down.” I’ve heard that quite a few times and it never gets old.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Oh, my, the questions are getting tougher. Let’s see – hmmm. I honestly can’t remember. I tend to blot out the negative stuff. But I will admit to having a few really awful comments.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
A bit. I think at some point I’ll open up and let more of myself out, but that’s tough. If you have the opportunity to watch Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass, he digs into the concept of being honest with the reader by putting your own experiences into your books. He says to be truthful with the reader you need to let out a bit more of yourself than you’re really comfortable with. I should try that.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Celia, my wife. Oh, and coffee.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I tried a few editors but never found one that I was happy with. Then Celia attacked one of my manuscripts with a red pen and I discovered I had married a very good editor.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Fly on a Gulfstream to Augusta, Georgia and play a quick 18 at Augusta National Golf Course with Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day. Then back on the Gulfstream with Celia (who was likely shopping while I was golfing) and off to Wellington to see our son and his family. Dinner and a good movie with the grandkids on my lap. Ahhhh, perfection.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Celia, of course. But let’s say that I could have two shots at this, my second choice would be David Bowie, which is really tough because he passed away a while back. I’d want to ask him about motivation and inspiration, about the time he sat by the Berlin wall and wrote Heroes, and about how, despite all the fame and money, he managed to be such a wonderful person. Yes, I would have liked to have met David.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Oh, god, don’t get me started. But, let’s go with – Please listen to Greta.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Write, write, write.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
No, I don’t think they do anything but cost the author a whack of money. I have some videos that we’ll be releasing soon, but they’re ads, not trailers. They’re specifically designed to make people think, Hey, that’s cool, I think I’ll check out this guy’s books.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
AJ Costa – when Celia read Size Four she said, “Jeff, this is you without borders.” AJ doesn’t really like rules, queues, or anything that gets in the way of AJ being AJ.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Of course. It’s tough to get an agent, and even harder for your agent to sell your book to a major publishing house. And even then there is NO guarantee that your book will sell once it hits the shelves. It has a short lifespan in the stores and then it’s gone. However, Amazon has changed all that and opened doors for authors that didn’t exist before.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
Size Four, because it was really just a stream of consciousness pouring out of my head onto the page. I love writing AJ, and it’s the only book I’ve written in the first person. (Size Four will be released in late 2020)
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
There are lots of levels to this answer. Financially, it’s making enough money to quit your day job. Emotionally, it’s hearing people say they learned something about themselves and others close to them by reading my books. And pandering to ego, it’s about readers saying they loved the book and want to read more. Inside me, where it really counts, it’s about knowing I wrote a good book.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Readers should learn something when they read a book, whether it’s about Pablo Escobar (Bloodline), caving (The Krubera Conspiracy), pharmaceuticals (Lethal Dose) or any number of other things. I think they should feel satisfied when they close the book – and then wonder what other books I have on the market.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I have some interest in a couple of my books at this time, and I’m working with a producer on a TV series set on the edge of the Canadian Rockies. I’ve never written a screenplay, but would love to work with an established screenwriter so I can learn the craft.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A lot. It needs to convey the genre and the tone of the book. It should NOT be a work of art that leaves the viewer confused about what’s inside. The artwork needs to be on task, the font specific to the tone of the book, and the snappy text or blurb on the front cover should make the reader want to find out more.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
I’m living it. I have a beautiful home, I’m married to the love of my life, and my kids are finally buying their own cars. I get to write every day and starting in 2020 we will be free to travel whenever and wherever we want. Yay!!
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Partially covered this in question #5, but let’s just say that as an author, you are the brand. Name recognition is EVERYTHING. It’s the number one reason people buy a certain book – they recognize the author’s name and click on the BUY button. I can’t stress it enough – as an author, you are your brand.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
At this point they are, but with a lot of behind the scenes work to make them stand out. Keywords, metadata, covers, blurbs, reviews, mailing list (super important), social media strategy, reader magnets, and so on. Self-publishing is a bit of an art these days and I’m working very hard to get better at it. And, I have an incredible behind the scenes woman who is irreplaceable.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Focused, compassionate, understanding (well, to a certain degree), grateful, impatient (they can’t all be positives)
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
It’s a tie. Bad coffee and coffee shops without bathrooms. Oh, and bad drivers. C’mon, it’s not that hard. Oh, one more – cold weather.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Buy it, read it. Wonderful.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
I’m assuming that this is about myself. He was a ninety year old wreck, but the operating system on his phone was up to date.
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Rebuilding my readership back to the point where it was when I was published through New York – or even greater. It means a lot to me when people read my books.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD
Your blog is awesome!
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Jeff. Great responses, and awesome covers. Good luck in the future. Keep writing.