Today’s Debut Author Q&A features a fellow thriller writer, Paul Mansfield Keefe. And if you read all the way through (and why wouldn’t you?), Paul’s got a special promotion JUST for readers of this blog. Gosh…
Name of book: Digger’s Bones
Book genre: Thriller
Date Published: October 31, 2010
Publisher: Keefe Publishing
What is your day job? I’m a web developer by day, a long stone’s throw from writing thrillers, I know. I used to get the chance to do more creative design work—which I love to do—but these days I do mostly programming. Of course, that gives me additional impetus to write creatively.
What is your book about? Digger’s Bones is the story of Angie Cooper and her search for the truth about an archaeological find of tumultuous significance, a find that could change the course of history and religion forever. Angie finds herself on the run from a ruthless hit man and a sociopathic religious zealot while following cryptic photographic clues left to her by her murdered friend, Digger. Along the way, she discovers her own feelings about her father’s death, her failed career and her lost love. More importantly, she learns forgiveness and inner strength while challenging herself and her beliefs.
Along with some incredible locations—Bandelier National Monument, the Churches of Jerusalem, the Zugspitze in Germany—there are some memorable characters in the book. There’s also a bit of controversial text on Catholicism, and so readers who enjoy books such as The Da Vinci Code will find lots to whet their appetite in the pages of Digger’s Bones.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? I think for most writers, especially on their first novel, the challenge is in believing in yourself. It can be difficult not knowing if the quality of your writing will pay off in a great novel at the end. Believing in yourself is the key to finishing that all-important first manuscript. After that, the great challenge is going to market!
What motivates you to write? The process of discovery. Each time I come up with some new character, some new plot twist that changes the way I think about my novel, I get excited. That’s when I can’t stop writing—the words flow on endlessly as I put my character into untenable situations, or find some new character that twists the story in an unexpected way. That’s the real journey of writing: self-discovery through character and plot development that uncover your innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s cathartic.
Did you experience writer’s block? I’ve never had writer’s block in the traditional sense, not being able to write a single word. Nevertheless, many times enthusiasm may be lacking and you look at your writing and think, this is awful. My fix for this is to write anyway. Pick up pen and paper or open up your laptop and write as if you have something to say. Soon the words will find you and the outcome will surprise you.
How long did it take you to write this book? About two years. I did quite a bit of research of locations for the book and of religious doctrine. I wanted to give a sense that you were really there with Angie, seeing what she’s seeing, touching what she’s touching, experiencing everything firsthand. The churches in Jerusalem are a perfect example. I spent months ensuring that I could picture myself walking down their halls and into their cathedrals, feeling what the characters would feel, so that I could convey authenticity in my writing.
Why did you decide to self-publish this book? I did try going the traditional route, getting an agent and publisher, but it was a dead-end. I read somewhere that it’s become particularly difficult to get a publisher behind a new thriller because the market is so saturated. Most publishers are sticking with their big name authors that guarantee sales. I don’t know if this is true or not. I just know that after going through a rather large list of potential agents and publishers that I didn’t get a bite.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble and others make it easy, even advantageous, to publish on your own today. In addition, the financial problems in the publishing industry, brought on mainly by the eBook revolution, make self-publishing even more desirable. I would recommend to any up and coming writer to, at the very least, research the possibilities presented by these new technologies like Print-On-Demand (POD) and eBook publishing.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That writing a great novel equals success. Yes, some novelists are recognized for the quality of their writing and have great success because of it. However, there are far more writers who write emotional, poignant prose, and you may never hear of them. Why? Marketing largely determines what books the public knows about, certainly when it comes to the bookshelves of the major bookstores.
Some would say this is becoming less important in the age of social media where the little guy can compete against the large marketing budgets of the big publishers, but I believe that just means the marketing vehicle has changed. Eventually publishers will understand the methods that work for marketing their wares and will compete well against the self-published author.
I don’t think this should discourage one from writing. It’s just that the playing field has changed, but success still depends on marketing of your book. The onus is now on authors, at least in self-publishing, to grab the social media bull by the horns and market themselves as a brand.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Finding nuggets of truth in my research and turning them into major plot twists. Using historic evidence or biblical verse to inspire or block the progress of my characters was very intriguing. For instance, research about the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa helped me to choose the right churches to portray certain scenes with Brother Elias.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? One of the best things is getting blog interviews, like this one! Getting a chance to talk about your process and not just blurbs about your book allows readers to get to know you a bit. That in turn allows you to brand yourself, which in the end is more important than selling a single book.
The other main social media vehicles are Facebook and Twitter. Taking advantage of these turns into sales, but it takes massive amounts of time. Do be wise, and save time for writing your next big novel! I’ve heard from several well-established indie writers who claim that earning a living at writing only comes after you have several novels on the market. I hope that’s not true, LOL.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? Since I’ve had no real success, yes I would have to agree. The preparation is there, I’ve written a novel, and I am promoting it as much as I can. However, the moment of opportunity hasn’t presented itself. After all, if Oprah reads your book the moment of opportunity is when she tells the world about it. Perhaps it’s even when someone recommends the book to her. You can’t cause either of those things to happen without knowing someone high up in the world of publishing or television. If you’re truly lucky, somebody in Oprah’s camp is reading, and loving, your novel right now. If you know someone with Oprah’s ear, tell her about Angie Cooper and Digger’s Bones! ;-)
Paul is extending a special promotion to readers of makingbabygrand.com. Yay! Through March 31, 2011, readers (I really have to come up with a name for fans of this blog, a la Lady GaGa’s “Little Monsters”) can get Digger’s Bones as an eBook for only $2.99 at Smashwords.com using the coupon code: TT55Q. That’s 4 bucks off, so if you’re thinking of checking out the adventures of Angie Cooper, now’s the time.