Wednesday, February 16, 2011
A- "Anybody would think you'd never seen a ghost before," Alice says to me as we walk down the drive to Bedford Manor.
B- The living sculpture could no longer control its body, even to blink its eyes or turn them away from the horror in the mirror.
C- There was no heroic last stand to stop the invasion.
D- "You're here to kill me aren't you?"
Sunday, February 13, 2011
1- How does it feel to have an actor like George Cloony reciting your words on the big screen? Do you mostly cringe or smile?
All smiles. It's one of the best things about screenwriting, especially after working on a script for months and only hearing the dialogue in your head. With Clooney it was always better than I had imagined. All actors
are different--some improvise more, etc. But with actors like Clooney and Sam Jackson, they tend to stick to the script, more or less. And whenever they do stray from the written words, they make it their own, and that makes it better. Actors of that caliber can take my worst stuff and make it sound good.
2- The plot for Killer is unique. Crime novelist Jack Rhodes discovers a series of murders which mirror the plots of his novels. Only the murders take place before he'd even written the books, making him suspect numero uno. Nice twist. Was that technically hard to pull off?
Very hard. The book changed a lot as I was writing it. The hardest part was making the judgment call about how much to give away and how much to hold back from the reader. I wanted to lead them in a certain direction without making it seem like I was cheating when the final twist was revealed. It was one of the hardest things about writing the book--that and the change of tenses and point-of-view.
3- Are you surprised by the success of Killer?
I'm stunned. Especially since it is my first novel. I was satisfied with the final version of the book, but not at all sure that readers would respond. When the numbers from Amazon started coming in it was like opening night--I didn't sleep much. As the weeks have passed I have just been in a kind of state of shock at the response. I really credit Amazon for their internal promotion process, in the way they target readers who might like the book.
4- Which do you enjoy more, directing a story you've written, or writing the story itself?
Each job has its challenges. Writing can be very isolating, as you know, and sometimes the problem-solving gets a little overwhelming to take on by yourself. Directing is a completely different ballgame. It's physically demanding, the hours are brutal, and you have to answer to the studio about cast, budgets, everything imaginable. Directing is not something I'd like to do all of the time, although it can be very rewarding. I'm much more suited to the writing process. It's nice to only have to worry about the story and the characters. I prefer it to getting up at 5 every morning and worrying about schedules and studio notes and constant rewrites and working 18 to 20 hour days for months on end.
5- What's your take on this entire digital publishing revolution? Freeing, or frightening?
I think it's an incredible step forward for authors and readers alike. I read a columnist the other day who likened the development of the e-reader to the Gutenberg press, in terms of progressing the written word. That's obviously an overstatement, but I think it's great that so many people have access to so many books inexpensively--and that so many authors can publish without going through traditional channels. I still buy paper books, and I always will. I just bought Keith Richards' autobiography and I chose the hardcover edition for the quality of the photographs, among other things. But I read a lot, and when I get on a plane I'd much rather take my Kindle than lug around ten pounds of books, I can promise you.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
I hear from authors everyday—Facebook friends, writers who read my blogs or novels, people I meet at conferences. They often ask about my e-book publishing experience, then many close the exchange by saying, “But I’m still holding out for a traditional publisher.” I politely make no comment.
On one level, I understand this. A publishing contract is a writer’s dream and it’s hard to let go of. But as the industry goes through a major upheaval, writers need to ask themselves: What is more important? Having a traditional publisher or making money? Being one of the chosen or having thousands of people read your book? Some authors seem to have it all, but most midlist writers are already facing these choices.
Just how long should you hold out for a publisher?
After twenty years of having major publishers (and film producers) say “I love this story, but I’m not going to buy it,” I finally self-published my first novel, a police procedural called The Sex Club. I released it in a traditional way and many people, including reviewers, never knew it was self-published. After the book gained traction, I found a small press to pick up the series. That was late 2008 and I still thought I needed a publisher for respectability. I soon came to realize that having a small publisher was more of a liability than an asset.
1.) There is nothing a small publisher can or will do for writers that they can’t do better for themselves. I don’t mean literally do each thing yourself, but authors can contract for production services as well as a publisher can. Small presses are often run by a few dedicated, but overworked individuals, who typically contract out most services and pay bottom dollar. As an author, you can shop around and find the best editor/graphic designer/e-book formatter that you can afford.
2.) A small publisher will not have a sales staff and or a distribution network (no bookstores) and is not likely to spend any money promoting your book. What a small publisher will do is keep most of the profit of the few hundred books you manage to sell on your own.
There may still be some advantages to signing with a large press. An advance can buy time to write another book, and the Big 6 can get your novel into bookstores. But as the author, you have to sell the book no matter who publishes it. Meanwhile, chain bookstores are closing and Borders is going bankrupt, so the distribution network is crumbling. So that advantage won’t mean much in a few years, especially since e-books are capturing more and more of the market.
What’s left for the author is the label of being traditionally published and the convenience of having someone else contract the production work. Giving up most of the profit for those small advantages is a crappy bargain I finally decided I was done with.
Early last year after being laid off my job, I realized something had to change and I took a hard look at my own situation. No matter which way I looked at it, I kept coming back to the idea that self-publishing e-books was the only way to save my career and my house.
So I left my publisher and released all of my completed stories as e-books. In January, I had one book on Kindle and sold 31 copies. In December, I had six books on Kindle and sold more than 10,000. I also worked like a maniac at production and promotion for eight months to make it happen. I had set a goal of making a living from e-books by mid 2011, and I got there considerably faster than I dreamed.
So far, the numbers and the reviews keep getting better. In April, I’ll release my fifth Detective Jackson novel, and for the first time, thousands of readers are eagerly waiting for it. For me, that is significantly more rewarding than industry approval.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
1- Your novel is a medical thriller involving the sport of horse racing. I realize you're a medical doctor, but have you ever been much of a handicapper when it came to betting the ponies?
I used to be a pretty fair handicapper, but recently I just don’t have the time to devote to it. What I enjoy most about the sport currently is mornings on the backside, watching the horses work and just taking in that whole scene. It’s a unique culture and a world unto itself on the backstretch, and that world is also an important part of the story in Shedrow.
2- Since the anatomy of a horse is different from a human's, did you rely on any help from veterinarian friends to help with some of the medical scenes?
You raise a really important point with that question in terms of authenticity in writing fiction. I wrote about two worlds that I know rather intimately—the medical world and the world of thoroughbred racing. But there are always certain areas that need to be researched in one way or another. Much of the research can be done via the internet, but I never hesitated to check with an insider whenever a technical issue arose that I needed help with. So yes, I did in fact speak with a veterinarian about certain aspects of equine medicine.
3- Do you see the Shedrow thriller as a series?
There is a bit of a “Twilight Zone” ending to Shedrow—one that most readers don’t see coming, and also one that begs for a sequel. I do have an outline and a start on a sequel.
4- What made you decide to write fiction--that seems like such a creative departure from Oral Surgery?
It is a huge leap. I had published a fair amount of work related to my profession, but I set my mind to a work of fiction after meeting novelists Robert Dugoni, Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritsen. Palmer and Gerritsen, both best-selling authors, also had careers as physicians, and Dugoni was a practicing attorney for many years before he published his first best-seller. I learned a great deal from each of them.
5- With the entire publishing world scrambling to get ahead of this digital thing, where do you see most of your readers finding your work 5 years from now?
You can read excerpts and reviews, view a book trailer and more at http://www.shedrow1.com/.