- The Silver Wolf
- The Red Cobra
- Orphan X
- The Discworld Novels
- The James Ryker Series
- The Enemy Series
- Game Of Thrones
Buy a copy of Rob's new release, The Silver Wolf, HERE.
Visit Rob at http://www.robsinclairauthor.com/
C. G. Cooper:
Welcome to Books in 30 with me, C.G. Cooper.
Here at Books in 30, we discuss great books with some of today's top authors. Don't forget that you can snag the full list of books we discuss in this episode at CG-Cooper.com/podcast, along with the full transcript.
So welcome to our listeners and a big Books and 30 welcome to today's guest, Rob Sinclair. Rob is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series and James Ryker series of espionage thrillers. His books have sold over a half a million copies to date with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob's work to authors at the very top of the genre including Lee Child and Vince Flynn.
Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a can't put down thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from the University of Nottingham in 2002, specializing in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full-time.
Originally from the north east of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities including New York and is now settled in West Midlands with his wife and young sons. He's got a new release coming out on November 17th, The Silver Wolf which is the third book in the James Ryker series. Welcome Rob, how you doing today my friend?
I'm doing great, thank you. Thank you for having me.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, well no problem. Tell you what, I read off your little bio but our listeners always love to know, can you give us a little bit of a snapshot of why you became an author?
You did a great intro there so I think you've given a lot of information I was going to save for my intro anyway. But why did I become an author?. It's quite hard to figure out now exactly where it all came from. But the biggest reason I like being an author now is because I just like working for myself. Like you said in the intro, I worked for 13 years for a global accounting firm, which was a very high pressured job and lots of traveling. You're always in an office in the UK or somewhere around the world. And it just wasn't the lifestyle I wanted. So being an author is a completely different life to that and it's a fantastic life really.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, I mean I know I love it. There's a reason we do it.
I'm just curious, forensic fraud investigations. Do you bring that kind of stuff into your writing now?
You know, I don't make a point of doing it because it sounds quite interesting and to be honest, the job was interesting in a lot of respects. You know, I got to go on some quite high profile cases where we're chasing very high scale fraudsters or people on corruption charges. And so there was a lot of dirty dealings we were investigating which could make good fiction, could make good TV drama. But for me, it was still work whereas me writing is something more than work, it's something pleasurable. So I don't make my plots directly involved in accountancy or in the world of forensic fraud investigations. But there is a lot about that life which kind of fits nicely into the thriller world. So for example, some of the exotic locations I got to travel to and things like that.
C. G. Cooper:
So do you still travel when you're researching novels?
I don't now. I've never felt the need to. You know, I saw a lot of places through work anyway and just through traveling the world for leisure. So between that and then just what I know about places, I do tend to use places I know of in my writing. But haven't yet jumped on a plane just for research purposes. Maybe in the future.
C. G. Cooper:
Well have to start that habit for you because I know I have enjoyed it the last couple of years. And you and I are currently working on some things offline with Jeff and Andrew obviously. And hopefully we can all get together. Maybe we can make it a group thing and go to an exotic locale and write all together or something.
Alright, well cool. Let's get into the meat of it, what the listeners are here for. Obviously they love us but what they really want to know about is books and what we're reading. So tell the listeners a little bit about a book that you're currently reading or just finished, that you just fell in love with or want to tell everybody about.
I read a couple of really good books over the summer. I signed a new book deal with Orion recently for a book called Sleeper 13 which is coming out next year. When I was discussing the project with the publisher, he recommended I read a couple of books which he wanted me to make my book a similar style to those. And one of them was Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz which I think was released in 2016 and it was quite a big hit around the world. And it's a really gritty, action thriller, so it was the kind of book that I write anyway.
What I found quite compelling about that book was it tells a story about this guy whose code name, Orphan X. It picks up with him at various points of time in his life so it's kind of like an origin story in that it starts off in a certain place as a child. And then through the experiences of his childhood, shows you how he's being shaped into the person that he is in the present. I like stories that do that. They give you the full backstory of a character, you show how the things that happened to him in the past have shaped who they are in the present.
C. G. Cooper:
I love that. Now, obviously I've seen the book. Did they also make a TV show out of that? Or with something in the works?
I'm not sure. I haven't seen anything. I wouldn't be surprised. It's that sort of story where you could easily imagine transferring to screen. I know there is a second book out now which I haven't read, which is a sequel to that. So I'm definitely picking that one up at some point.
C. G. Cooper:
Very cool. I'm a big fan of the background. I don't know how much of that you do in your writing but I know when the readers tell me that I'm doing something right, it tends to be when I've actually built a character, I've actually told their history. Is that kind of how you attack yours too?
That is yeah. I've done that in a couple of my stories. I get a lot of satisfaction from doing that. Well, as you know, the present timeline in your stories is the most important for the plot. I think it really helps the reader, to explain to the reader why a character is acting a certain way if you can show what happened in their past. I'm quite a big user of flashbacks or using even two time periods in my books to try to get those points across. It's a very effective tool.
C. G. Cooper:
It really is. Especially if you do it well. I can't remember who I was interviewing last week about this. How flashbacks tend to be ... when we were reading craft books or seminars or whatever, there seems to be the rule of don't use flashbacks. But I think they're fantastic.
I like it too, yeah.
C. G. Cooper:
Use them the right way, they're fantastic.
Because you can drip feed information with them. You don't have to do it all in one chunk. I think it's a good way to reveal certain aspects of the story.
C. G. Cooper:
Amen. Alright, so Orphan X. What about your favorite book of all time? I know this is always a hard one for writers.
It is, yeah.
C. G. Cooper:
One, maybe two that are just your favorites that you keep going back to at least in your head. Or, maybe something that you read maybe every year.
You hit the nail on the head. I hate answering this question. Which books? Favorite book? You know, I'm not going to say one book because it's too difficult. I've read so many books over 36 years that it's too difficult to pick one. But what I'd say was the books that had the biggest impact on me as a person, I guess, were some of the books that I read when I was younger. So my early teens. And my favorite books at that point in time was Terry Pratchett's Discworld series which is completely different to what I write now. You know sci-fi comedies. I just absolutely loved those when I was a kid and those are still very familiar to me even 20 years after I've read them.
C. G. Cooper:
So you started with sci-fi? I started with fantasy and now we're thriller authors, right?
C. G. Cooper:
What was it about those books that just pulled you in? At what age do you think you started reading those?
I must have been 12, 13, I think, when I started to read those. And I read those all the way up to when I was 17, 18. And I think what pulled me in was that fantasy element. Something which is so different to modern day life. You know, there's lots of historical aspects in there. I'm also a big lover of things like Game of Thrones on TV. I haven't read that book series but I absolutely love the TV series. I just like things where you can get a real release and watch something that is completely different to real life.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, so does that mean you're ever going to write a unicorn into one of your thrillers?
You never know. It's probably not going to happen but it could do.
C. G. Cooper:
Well cool. Alright we've got something that you've finished, your favorite book of all time-ish. Obviously, we as writers and readers, we've a long list. How about a snippet or your work, did you bring something today that you could read for the listeners?
Yeah I did, yeah. This is ... I'm going to read a small snippet from the first chapter of The Red Cobra. So the Red Cobra was the first James Ryker book which came out in April this year. Like you said, at the start, the third book in that series is due out on the 17th of November.
The snippet I'm going to read here is part way through Chapter one. Just to give a very brief background before I dive into it, this chapter's opened up with an unnamed assassin, an unnamed female assassin who's on the run. So she's running away from a crime scene and she's being pursued by a mysterious character. So shall I dive in?
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah man. Go for it.
With each step she took, the roar of the crashing waves grew louder. Soon it filled her ears. On the distant horizon, the clouds began to part. A sliver of bright white light from the moon became visible. For the first time, she could see the endless expanse of inky water below. And the edge of the cliff just a few paces ahead.
She closed her eyes, preparing for the leap into the unknown…
The next second, she was shoved from behind. She lost her footing and ended up face down in the mud. Maybe he slipped too. Or maybe he’d simply thrown his whole body at her in order to bring her down. Either way, his big frame thudded onto the ground next to her.
In an instant, she turned onto her back, moving away from him, then leaped onto her feet. He did the same. She pulled out the long knife and swung it in a narrow arc as he raced toward her. She caught his arm and heard a slicing noise as the blade tore through skin and flesh.
He didn’t cry out. Didn’t even murmur.
He smashed into her. The knife flew from her grasp and they tumbled back to the ground, him on top, straddling her, pinning her arms with his knees.
Within seconds, two thick hands were wrapped around her neck, choking her. She rasped and gasped for breath.
The open wound on his forearm glistened in the moonlight. She reached out as much as his restrictive hold would allow, and dug her nails in. Dug deep. She squeezed as hard as she could.
Not so much as a flinch from him. It was like he wasn’t even there. No humanity behind those pearly eyes. Just a… machine.
His strength, his determination, his focus, was too much. Her eyes began to bulge. The shadowy vision of him on top blurred.
But then she saw it. A faint sparkle in the darkness. Metallic. Not her knife. A gun. On the wet ground next to them.
He was armed after all. At least he had been.
She stretched out her hand, the pressure from his knees on her upper arms giving her little room to maneuver. She clawed at the soggy mud. Her fingertips were just an inch from the weapon. Her whole body strained…
She got it.
Grabbing the gun’s barrel, she swung the grip toward his head. He never saw it coming. The thick metal handle crashed into his skull. He barely seemed to notice. She hit him again. Then a third time. Finally, the grip round her neck weakened. Slightly.
It was all she needed.
She bucked and pushed up with all the strength she could muster. His body gave a couple of inches. Enough for leverage. She swiveled and took him with her. A moment later, she was the one on top, the gun’s barrel pressing against his forehead.
In the darkness, all she could clearly make out of him were his sparkling eyes. When she’d first met him, she’d thought him handsome. Out in the cold, dark night, his penetrating gaze was sinister and unforgiving.
She stared down and he stared right back.
"If you were going to shoot me, you’d have done it already," he said, still eerily calm and composed. A stark contrast to how she was feeling. " Do it. Do it now. You won’t get a better chance."
Her finger was on the trigger. In fact, despite her hesitation, she was actually pushing down on the trigger as he made his move. He grabbed her wrist and pushed the gun up. She fired. Three times. The bullets sailed away into the night. The noise of the gun so close to her head was deafening. And disorientating.
The next she knew, he’d taken back the gun and was turning it round on her.
She was sure there would be no hesitation from him.
She was on her feet and hurtling to the cliff edge when he opened fire. A bullet caught her in the ankle. Then another in her side. As she leaped over the edge, a third bullet sunk into her shoulder.
She plummeted into the darkness below.
C. G. Cooper:
Nice. And of course you have to stop it there, right?
That's the end of Chapter one, yeah.
C. G. Cooper:
That's fantastic. So that's the very beginning of the story?
That's the beginning of the story, yes. They're both unnamed characters at that point but you find out that those are the two main characters in the book.
C. G. Cooper:
Man, I got to say, I like your style. That never stopped. When you go back and you read your own work, how do you feel? Are you still picking it apart? Or are you like, "Wow, I really like this story?"
It's a bit of both actually yeah. You kind of get into a mindset. Sometimes you read it back and go, "Wow. I can't remember writing that, I really like it." Other times, you can read something which you thought you liked the last time but this time, you can just see where the holes in it. It really does depends. If I have to read one of my books all the way through, I'll always make changes. So you always get to a point in time where you got to say, " Enough is enough."
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah. I mean I had to learn that early on. And of course, as you go farther in your writing career, you get better and better at self-editing. And now it's almost like I got to a point where it was easy to put them aside. And now I'm getting to the point again where it's like, "Alright, I'm having a harder time putting it aside because I know there's little things in there that I want to tweak a little bit more and make better." How do you balance that? The editor eye with the, "Hey, let's get this published?"
It is a balance, isn't it? I mean sometimes, I just say, "One more time," so I'll just do one more read through. And I know whatever happens after that, I'm done. Like I said, you could go around in circles for months on end otherwise. So I normally do it by the number of times I read through it.
If there's a big problem, obviously you've got to tackle it. I also rely a lot on the editors I use. So if something isn't quite right and I know it's not quite right, I don't try to hide it. I'll make sure I tell them, "I'm a little bit concerned about still. What do you think?" I think you've got to have that kind of collaborative approach. Otherwise, the worst thing to happen is you end up publishing the book with something you're not happy about it.
C. G. Cooper:
And then you can't change it, can you?
C. G. Cooper:
No, I know. Having that team whether it's editors, beta-readers, whatever that will give you that constructive feedback. I know my career would not be where it is without them. How do you use that team?
It's exactly the same. I don't have a big team of beta-readers. I think it's a useful thing to do. I can see why people do it. But I've always just trusted enough my own instincts and the instincts of the editor which I've used for seven books now. Between me and her, I think we kind of get onto the right page quite quickly. I have my family read it as well before it gets published. My wife and my mom and dad. And they give me some piece of ... tips. They're probably too nice.
The editor I use, she's not nice at all, she'll tell me exactly what's wrong. But she's good. That's what you need.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, yeah. Definitely need that honesty. Speaking of honesty, let's move on to the next part which is ... It can be your favorite or least favorite part of the show depending on the type of writer you are. Mean reviews. Did you happen to bring some mean reviews you can read for the listeners?
As most writers will have, I've got plenty of mean reviews and they're very disheartening, they do cut right through to the heart every time you read one of them.
C. G. Cooper:
Well, we like to laugh about them here. How about we hear about a couple and we'll laugh about it.
I picked a couple of snippets. I don't know how this will sit with your audience. I guess your audience is going to be mainly American. And one of things which kind of grinds me a little bit is when people point out the fact that I've got English spellings in my book because I'm English. My characters are English and it's set in England. But people point out the spellings as being incorrect. It's one thing to say it's being put in English. It's another one to say, "Oh my God this book was so bad because the spelling was all over the place," because that's not true. I use spell check and I spell my words in English. Just not American English.
This one I'll read out a snippet.
"There was no attempt to get beyond the weird British language usage and it becomes a distraction requiring looking up words like curb in the dictionary. Because I happen to be an American. There are ways through more a universal approach to language that supplies a smooth reading experience. So we have a self-serving main character who betrays the protagonist in an emotionally dysfunctional love relationship. An inept main character that constantly misjudges the situation and language that requires a dictionary, not too fun to read."
C. G. Cooper:
Is it really that painful to get through the slightly different English?
Well, exactly. It's slightly different. And the one they picked out was curb, which to be fair, looks slightly different. It's K-E-R-B versus C- U-R-B. It still says curb. When I'm reading an American author's book, you kind of just glide over it. I recognize it's different spelling but I know fine well what the word is.
C. G. Cooper:
That's a new one for me. I didn't know that one either. Alright. Maybe I'll throw that one into the book that I'm finishing right now.
C. G. Cooper:
And I'll quote you on it.
Alright, did you bring one more?
Yep. I won't go all the way through this one but again, it's a very similar thing that says, "Content good. Spelling horrendous." They then go through five different words which they accuse me of spelling incorrectly all of which were actually spelled correct. And at the end says, "Has no one ever heard of spell check?"
C. G. Cooper:
Oh geez. Do you put anything at the front of your book stating who you are and why you write that way?
No I don't. I could do but in fairness, these are few and far between. Like I say, when I get one, it feels very frustrating because I know that the book is ... Of course I use spell check and the editors have looked at it as being proofread and everything.
It's just more the frustrating aspect that people can't get over it. The most frustrating thing is they feel very aggrieved by it as well. And that's fair. I mean they've paid for my book so of course they want it to be perfect. It's very frustrating that you can't, as a writer really get over that because you can't respond to the review. You'll just going to dig a hole if you do that.
C. G. Cooper:
Right. And it's your baby right? That book is your baby. You put who knows how many hours into it. And you think it's a beautiful thing and you put it out in the world and then all of a sudden, you spell check. And oh, by the way, use American spell check when you write next time.
Well cool. Alright. Well let's move on to our speed round. I've got, like I told you, I added some questions in here which I don't think will trip you up at all. But actually some of these have been submitted by listeners. So listeners out there, if you have questions that you want us to add to speed rounds, just let me know. CGC@CG-Cooper.com.
Alright. So we'll get right down into it. Number one, what's your favorite thing about being an author?
Without a doubt, my favorite thing about being an author is just that I work at home. I work to my own schedule, completely flexible in life now. I don't have to take four or five weeks holiday a year. I get to go and pick up my kids from school whenever. Every day I don't have to leave work early and things like that. And just being my own boss. It's a great way to live to be honest.
C. G. Cooper:
I feel exactly the same way. I miss it when I can't pick up my kids from school or from the bus stop. It's part of my routine now.
C. G. Cooper:
Okay, number two. Where do you read? Like in what location do you love to read?
I would say in Spain. I know you're probably thinking [crosstalk 00:20:54]. I love to read on holiday to be honest. Somewhere sitting by a pool, on a lounge, in sunshine, sunglasses on, cold drink. That's my ideal place to read.
C. G. Cooper:
Do you read paperbacks? Or do you read on a Kindle or tablet or something?
I normally use a Kindle these days, yeah. Most of my books sell on Kindle so I'm a big proponent of Kindle and e-book readers in general. I think they're fantastic, I really do. Brilliant, yeah. Up in your holiday bags and you just put one Kindle in and have 10,000 books on there.
C. G. Cooper:
As a lifelong reader, I used to have a backpack full of books, every time we went somewhere. And one of my traditions and every time I go through an airport, I like to buy one book at the bookstore. It's just one of my traditions. But now, it's just one book plus my Kindle, so it's not that bad.
Alright, number three. What do you wish you can change about publishing? About the publishing industry or just the process?
Oh, that's a tough one. What I'd change about the publishing industry? My first three books were self-published. And they still are self-published even though as time's moved on, I've had two book deals since the Enemy series came out. But I still think there's a big stigma about self-publishing. Not just with readers, but actually within the industry as well. You almost feel like a spare part, or you're not really part of the crowd. And I think that's always riled me a little bit even though I had books out that I had self-published that were doing very well, I was still looked down upon by people within the industry.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, and we all struggle with that. I'm independent and I'm proud.
C. G. Cooper:
I now own a publishing company and we help other authors do it. But it is. There's that stigma and luckily with great readers, they get behind us and they're the reason that we can do what we do.
C. G. Cooper:
It's nice getting away from that establishment. And now for you, you've done both. You get to taste both worlds which is ... Of course and now-
C. G. Cooper:
Hopefully, my kind of experiences are helping to break down those walls. You obviously have got people like yourself in the independent camp. You've got people completely in traditional publishing camp. The more hybrid authors we get, then the more those walls are going to be broken down between the two camps.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, absolutely. Alright. Number four. And this is a weird one I know. If you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would have to say pizza.
C. G. Cooper:
Me too. My wife and I talk about this all the time. Definitely pizza because you could go different flavors, right?
Yeah of course.
C. G. Cooper:
Alright, well that's good to know over on your side of the world that you feel the same way. Alright. Number five. What genre do you wish you could write in if you stopped writing thrillers?
I always come back to the sci-fi fantasy just because I still have a big interest in that. I love reading those kinds of books. I love movies like that. So I definitely want to be able to do that kind of genre but I'm not sure I can.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah I know. I've done it. It's a different audience and it definitely takes a different voice to do. Well, that's cool. You always go back to your roots a little bit, don't you?
C. G. Cooper:
Alright. Number six. What is the best advice you ever received? And this does not have to be about writing.
You know I'm going to give a writing one and it's get your book professionally edited. And this is one that completely changed my career path in publishing because I was a self-published author or an author without a published book I should say. I was making so many mistakes. You know I'd send to ... my drafts off to agents and publishers left, right and center and was getting rejected all over the place. Rightly so because my book, at that point in time, was not very good.
And it wasn't until I had professional editing help that it actually started to take proper shape. So, anybody who's starting out in the business whether they're going to self-publish or they're going to send their book to agents, just get some help before you do it.
C. G. Cooper:
How would you tell new writers or even established writers how to find that good editor and to vet them? Because obviously there's a lot of people out there that say they're editors. But how did you find yours and how did your establish that relationship?
So originally, it was just through a Google search. You've got to bear in mind budget and that sort of thing, there's a vast range of prices you can pay for editing. And I went for one who was reputable in that she had a good CV. You could see who she worked for in the past. You could see which books she had edited. You know she had worked in a publishing house before she was a freelancer so you can see that she had a good track record.
And then after that luckily we kind of clicked in terms of me trusting what she was telling me about my book. So I think you got to have that relationship. Initially, you just got to find somebody who's got that right background.
C. G. Cooper:
And that can tell you the truth, right?
Yeah, absolutely, yeah.
C. G. Cooper:
Well cool. We're just running up on time. I want to thank you again for joining us, for being part of this interview, for giving us a little glimpse into your world and the books that you're reading. But can you give us a few last words for the listeners and let them know how they can find you?
Yeah sure. The easiest way to find out some more about me is on my website. It's Robsinclairauthor.com. You'll find a bit about me there and some intros to each of my books and some links to buy as well.
C. G. Cooper:
Sweet. Alright, well check out Rob's stuff. I know I already have and I'm going to be picking up a couple more.
And thank you so much again for being on the show, for listening in. This has been Books and 30 with C. G. Cooper. Thanks for listening and don't forget to email me at CGC (at) CG-Cooper.com to say hello. Or let me know of an author you'd like to see as my guest.
Thanks for tuning in. C. G. Cooper, out.
- Good Morning, Midnight
Visit Tabitha at http://TabithaLordAuthor.com
Support Project 3.8: http://www.3point8.org
C. G. Cooper: Welcome to Books in 30 with me, C. G.Cooper. Here at Books in 30, we discuss great books with some of today's top authors. Welcome to our listeners and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest, Tabitha Lord.
Tabitha lives in Rhode Island, a few towns away from where she grew up. She's married, has four kids, two spoiled cats, and a lovable black lab. The house is noisy and the dinner table full. She holds a degree in classics from College of Holy Cross and taught Latin for years at an independent Waldorf school where she now serves on the Board of Trustees. Her debut novel Horizon won the Writer's Digest grand prize for self-published fiction in 2016 and was named a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Awards. The sequel, Infinity, was released in June 2017. She also has short fiction published and soon to be published through World Weaver Press, Grimbold Books, and Belanger Books.
Welcome, Tabitha. How are you doing today?
Tabitha Lord: Great, thanks for having me.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah. Well I read your bio. I know that's not everything about you, so would you like to give us a little more about who you are and how you became a writer?
Tabitha Lord: Well, yeah, it's an interesting path. I'm one of those people who, when they say, people ask "How long have you been writing?" I say, "Well, since forever, you know since I could hold a pencil." But I never thought that I could complete a full length novel. That was always sort of the stumbling block. I had a completely different career teaching and as the admissions' director in a small school. Before that I thought I wanted to be a doctor and I actually went to medical school for a while and dropped out because I had too many children, like Old Mother Hubbard, you know. I've had this really interesting happy career and as my kids got older I started thinking do I want to go back to medical school, is that a thing or has that ship sailed? The only thing that got me as excited as medicine was writing. Again the stumbling block was sort of creating the full length novel.
Tabitha Lord: The last project I did at the school I was working at was lead us through the accreditation. Anybody that's ever done an accreditation knows it's a two year process. You're writing this document, that I affectionately called my thesis. I did the document on behalf of the school, so I did all the single voice writing and all of the compiling of different data points and that sort of thing. While I was doing that, it was about a nine month project, I said "Wow you're in this habit of writing every day why don't you try writing something else in the evenings."
Tabitha Lord: So I started the draft of my first book and at the end of nine months, which I find as a mom kind of telling, I birthed this science-fiction novel. Of course, it was terrible in its initial form, but I had gotten over that stumbling block of "can you write a book?" So, I pretty much just dumped my whole heart and soul into turning writing into a career. I've had some interesting projects along the way. I write for a site called Book Club Babble (BookClubBabble.com). I think it's a little bit similar to what you're doing here except we actually do review and post about books. We don't criticize, but we promote. I've gotten to meet some great authors, so that's a wonderful piece of my career.
Tabitha Lord: I write short fiction as well that I've sold to a few places. I guest-post for Writer's Digest and Writer Unboxed and some other blogs. I blog myself and I've worked on a really cool nonfiction project last year called Project 3.8 working with families with children with cancer where I was profiling the families. That was about a six month assignment. So it's been an adventure.
C. G. Cooper: You have had an eclectic career haven't you?
Tabitha Lord: Yes, I have. I really have.
C. G. Cooper: Project 3.8, tell me a little bit more about that. That's fascinating.
Tabitha Lord: Yeah, it was an amazing thing. I have a very good friend who's a photographer and she took a picture of a little boy that had cancer, and he was wearing a set of boxing gloves. His name was Dorian. The hashtag Dstrong (#DStrong) went viral all over the world of this little boy in the boxing gloves. It was his wish that before he passed that he would be famous in China, that was his child dream. It spread all over the world. There's actually pictures of people spelling out #DStrong on the Great Wall of China. Then when he did pass, my friend who had taken that photograph was friends with his mom, said "You know there's got to be more. There's got to be more that we can do to bring light to this pediatric cancer plague," basically.
Tabitha Lord: She started a project where she was going to photograph 20 more children in the state of Rhode Island that were either in some phase of their cancer life. Basically, they're just recently diagnosed, in the middle of treatment, or some months out. Twenty families were a part of the project and about two months into it, she asked me if I would do the writing piece for her and interview the families and create profiles for everyone. We did that together. It was an amazing experience to go right into the homes of these families and have them open their doors and they're in the midst of probably the most difficult time they'll ever face. You know, watching their child suffer and struggle. Yet ... I still talk to some of them and we're still ... They're just amazing people and these kids are amazing.
Tabitha Lord: The reasons it's titled 3.8 is because only 3.8 percent of all federal monies for cancer research goes into pediatric research. While it's considered relatively rare in the grand scheme of all the cancers in the world, the amount of impact that it has is so huge that we really all just feel like 3.8 percent is just negligible and ridiculous. We had to bring awareness as best we could, so we did a bunch of gallery openings with the photographs and with the written pieces. We had a website and a blog and they were featured all over the place. We ran it for several months and I think did some really good work.
C. G. Cooper: That is fantastic and I'll bet it was probably comforting for the families as well. I mean I know when you're going through something like that it's tough to talk about but it's probably also therapeutic to talk about it.
Tabitha Lord: Yes.
C. G. Cooper: I mean, you must have felt like you weren't just taking something way, you were able to give something back to these families in that horrible situation.
Tabitha Lord: They really wanted their stories told. They really wanted them told on behalf of their children. The thing is that when you're so deeply into it you can't step back and do that yourself, but Robin and I who don't have children with cancer or with illnesses like that, could kind of be the observer coming in and have the wherewithal to walk away and do the work behind getting this out to the world in a way that can be received. I think these families are just in too fragile a position and too emotionally taxed right now to be able to do that. Some of them I'm sure will come back later and be able to tell their stories, but while they were in the midst of it you almost needed two people who were observers to be able to tell the story and that's what we did.
C. G. Cooper: Wow, well thank you for doing that. This is a perfect example, you know you do your own show, and one of the reasons I love this show is because I find out stuff like that. You know the general questions I'm going to ask, but I have no idea what your answers are going to be.
Tabitha Lord: Right, what direction you could go.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, I could talk to you for six hours about just Project 3.8, so we'll save that for another time.
Tabitha Lord: Okay.
C. G. Cooper: Let's jump into books, because that's definitely what listeners want to hear about.
Tabitha Lord: Sure.
C. G. Cooper: What are you reading right now, or what's something that you just finished recently that blew you away?
Tabitha Lord: Alright, so I do read for that site called Book Club Babble, and I have the pleasure of being able to sort of pick and choose what I get to read. I'll often say yes to things I don't know much about because I want to broaden my own reading experience. You tend to read the things you really like, I'll read military fiction until I, you know, or whatever, but I enjoy a good literary novel sometimes, or I enjoy a women's novel or something like that. So I will accept books that just look good based on the story.
Tabitha Lord: I got sent an arc several months ago now at this point, the book's been out for a while, and it was a book by a woman called Lily Brooks-Dalton, and the title of the book is Good Morning, Midnight. I just said yes to it, I said "Ah that looks like kind of a neat cover and interesting premise." I really fell in love with it. I would say it sticks in my mind, I loved it so much that I had my actual book club in the neighborhood, that I actually belong to, read it. They really enjoyed it and we had a great discussion about it. I know that it has mixed reviews because it's a literary sci-fi, if you can imagine.
C. G. Cooper: Really?
Tabitha Lord: It's a kind of paradoxical, but you know the premise is, it's speculative so it's set just in the sort of the near future, the sort of familiar future. It's not dystopian or anything. There's a team of astronauts that are on a Jupiter mission, so they're able to travel into our galaxy a little bit further. It's a long mission, so it has all this honest, you know, we've been on a spaceship for 18 months together and that kind of thing. It's a tight knit crew. Meanwhile, back on earth there's an old aging scientist who's up in the arctic circle studying radio transmissions, etc. All of a sudden, that outpost is evacuated, and the people on their mission lose all contact with planet earth. You actually never know why, you know, what has actually happened on earth that this man is stranded in the arctic circle by himself, and these guys are stuck in space not knowing what they're coming home to.
Tabitha Lord: It's a really interesting psychological sort of investigation of what happens when you actually think you're the last people alive, the last of your species almost. I just really really enjoyed it for that premise and that question, that existential question. I find, and her writing was so beautiful. It was very literary writing, and I think the complaints about it were that it wasn't, the plot wasn't as "science fiction-y" as some people like 'cause it is billed as a sci-fi. I thought it was really elegant and something really different that I hadn't really read before.
C. G. Cooper: That's very cool. That was something out of the blue that you got, that wasn't something that you were looking for?
Tabitha Lord: Yup, nope, it just came to me, somebody asked me "Hey, could we send this?" and I said "Sure, that sounds good. I'll give it a look." I actually did an interview with the author, a written interview with the author, and it was really fun to get inside her mind too.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. So that was called Good Morning, Midnight? Is that right?
Tabitha Lord: Good Morning, Midnight, yup. Lily Brooks-Dalton. I believe this is her fiction debut too. She had written something nonfiction before this, but she's a pretty, you know, pretty much a debut fiction writer.
C. G. Cooper: Got it. Well, very cool. Let's move onto the next question. The loaded question for all authors.
Tabitha Lord: Oh my God, no!
C. G. Cooper: Yeah. What is your favorite book of all time?
Tabitha Lord: Okay, I have to say two because they're two completely different things. If I really had to pick, I don't know if I could. It's funny because I read them all. I read these books ... I don't reread, I'm not a re-reader. There's so many good books out in the world I just can't bring myself to go back to something and read it again because I feel like I'm missing out on the new thing. The Stand by Stephen King is one of my all time ... I just, you know, is it the most fabulously written book in the world? No. Is it the scariest? No. There was just something epic about it and in its apocalyptic grandeur that I have thought about from the moment I read it and it's stayed with me ever since. I have gone back and I have read the unabridged edition that he re-released years later. Every once in a while I go back and just say wow, you know. It's, of course, dated at this point, time-wise. It's still, it's terrifying in its creepy apocalyptic whatever.
Tabitha Lord: So that's on my list. I don't read a lot of horror any more, that's one genre that I ... I'm dabbling with a little bit of writing in horror but I don't read too much of it, 'cause the darkness stuck in my head is not really where I want to go. That one is just a darn good book. If you remember it all these years later, I have to put it on that list.
Tabitha Lord: The other one would be East of Eden. I'm not a huge Steinbeck fan. I read some of his other stuff and I go "Oh God, shoot, stick pins in my eyes." It's so depressing, you know, but that is such a great story. It's such, you know, the Cain and Abel paradigm retold and with such beautiful writing. That was one of the books that I remember reading a long time ago and then rereading a couple of times since, so I said you can be both a good story teller and a great writer. Isn't that the goal?
C. G. Cooper: Is that the only Steinbeck that you've read?
Tabitha Lord: No, I've read most of them and I just don't love any of the others. I find that the subject matter, I mean I recognize them as the great fiction novels that they are, novellas, but I don't enjoy them. But I really enjoyed East of Eden and didn't want it to end and have gone back to it several times.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. So, you have reread one?
Tabitha Lord: Yup, those are the only two and that's why they get on this list. They're the only ones that I ever really go back and reread.
C. G. Cooper: That's a very good test. How many, I'm curious now, how many books do you think you read a month or per year?
Tabitha Lord: Oh gosh, I probably read between two and four books a month because I have to do that to put out content for Book Club Babble. I'm not keeping up well with my actual book clubs, of which I belong to two, so often if I'm hosting the book club, I will have them read one of the books I'm reading for Book Club Babble, so kind of economy of the soul. Yeah, I would say between two and four books a month.
C. G. Cooper: Okay. Alright. Good. I'm always curious to hear how much people read because obviously the listeners of the show read a lot. I mean I've talked to some people who read multiple books a day and that just blows me away.
Tabitha Lord: That's crazy. For me, two to four a month is about all I physically have time for between the writing stuff that I have to do and this line up of crazy deadlines and things that I'm sure, we've got the same ones, to be able to squeeze in the reading time. I love to read and I feel like, as a writer, I have to keep reading so that my mind stays fresh and I'm learning all the time from other writers. But, yeah, it's becoming more challenging. I used to be able to for sure read a book a week and I would have piles of books from the library, but the more that I'm writing the less time I have for reading.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, something happened to me when I really got going full-time that I had a hard time reading fiction. I can read nonfiction all day, especially business stuff or craft stuff, but I had to go to audiobooks for fiction because now I can just listen in the car or while I'm going for a run or going for a walk, and it's like it almost forces me but also lets me kind of tune out and get something while I'm doing something that I usually wouldn't accomplish anything except maybe some exercise. I feel it. I used to read a lot more physically, but now it's thank you Audible, make it so much easier for me.
Tabitha Lord: Yeah, I'm going to start shifting over to Audible too for my reading for pleasure. Not that the Book Club Babble books and all these books aren't for pleasure, they certainly are, but they're also now they've become part of the job. There are some books I want to pick up just by my favorite authors. When they release a new book, that I'm like I want to read that one, but when will I squeeze it in? I'm really working on getting myself into the Audible habit.
C. G. Cooper: Well good. I know I listen, I've ramped up, I think it's 2 to 2 1/4 times listening speed, so I really squeeze in a lot of reading now. You've got what, four kids, and I've got three, so we definitely have some driving time that we can use.
Tabitha Lord: We definitely do.
C. G. Cooper: Well, good. Let's move onto your work. Did you bring a snippet that you can read for the listeners?
Tabitha Lord: I do. I have a snippet. I'll just read a little bit from the beginning of my book, my debut novel Horizon of which the second book in the series released this summer. I think you mentioned that earlier. The premise, when I'm at Comic-Con or I'm doing a signing and people are always like "What's your book about?" The first Comic-Con I went to my son was my table buddy and I was signing and selling the whole weekend. I went off on this rambling explanation of the book and when I finished my son was like "Oh, Mom you have to do better. I saw their eyes glazing over." I'm like oh, no, he's right. I hadn't pitched it in so long, because once you go into production of it and you're in your editing and you've written your blurb, you don't really think about that piece anymore, in the same way as when you were pitching and writing your blurb. So I kind of lost the plot a little bit and couldn't talk about it so well. But now I'm back in practice.
Tabitha Lord: I would say there's a premise for me of: What if on a distant world there was a small population and some of the population evolved differently from their neighbors and could do things with their minds that their neighbors couldn't, like read minds or heal? How would that impact the fabric of the society? Of course, it doesn't go well, and the "cannots / have-nots" are threatened by their neighbors and so they stage an invasion, and a near genocide. My protagonist is a survivor of that. When we meet her, she's alone and on the run. She witnesses a spaceship crash near her camp and that pulls her into this greater intrigue of realizing that her world was once a colony and they'd been isolated for so long. Then now she's pulled back into the drama of the greater galaxy, I guess you'd say. It's a traditional space opera; in that sense, it's intended to be a trilogy. I will just read a little piece of chapter one.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome.
Tabitha Lord: Alright. "She felt them before she heard them. The sudden wave of panic gripped Caeli so fiercely that she fell to her knees. Sweat beaded on her forehead and her body shook with another person's cold fear. "We're losing altitude. I can't keep the nose up. Time is running out." A voice echoed in her head, frantic. The words were strange and foreign, but she felt their intent.
Tabitha Lord: A ship pierced the white clouds overhead. Frozen in place, Caeli tracked it streaking across the sky. Her consciousness now fully merged with one of the desperate occupants onboard. Her breath came in short gasping bursts. Seconds later, a shattering pain exploded through her body and she screamed. The ground shook violently beneath her and then nothing. She collapsed onto the ground barely conscious, her body spent and her mind blank. For a few silent moments, she lay empty and still.
Tabitha Lord: Her sense of smell returned first. She inhaled the earthiness of decaying leaves and the tangy scent of sea water in the distance. Familiar things. She'd fallen face down with her pack on the ground next to her, bursts of red berries scattered over gray-brown dirt. Her memory crept back in fragments. She'd been gathering fruit and exploring this section of the forest. The ship. The crash. Her eyes flew open, and she sat up trembling. Reaching her mind out, she searched for any trace of life. There it was, nudging against her consciousness like a persistent but incoherent whisper, and it was fading quickly. Whoever was in that ship wasn't going to live much longer."
Tabitha Lord: There you go.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. Now what, I won't ask what happens next.
Tabitha Lord: What happens next? Good. Good.
C. G. Cooper: What was the inspiration for that book?
Tabitha Lord: Well you know people ask me that all the time and I have to say, I've marinated in Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica. As a child that's been my whole ... So where my mind goes when I'm writing, right now at least, is certainly speculative fiction and sci-fi. I had this image of, like I had this scene playing over and over in my head, that very scene, of a girl feeling somebody nearby and a spaceship crashing near her and her having some kind of skill to be able to save this pilot. It was just like a kind of a freeform that would be interesting, what an interesting premise. Then I also had this sort of separate idea of what would happen if on a distant planet part of the population evolved differently and could do things? What would that do? What would that look like? Then I thought, well, maybe I'll make her one, and I married the two ideas and I just started thinking about that plot. That's, yeah, it's been spiraling around for years.
C. G. Cooper: That's awesome. Isn't it funny how that picture pops into your head and you can't get it out? I know that happened with my very first novel and it got to the point where it was almost like a headache and I had to get it out on paper. Is that how you felt?
Tabitha Lord: Oh yeah. It's just like it starts to swirl and swirl and swirl and itch away and kind of dig away at you until you start to tell the story.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, well awesome. Okay, so that's Horizon by Tabitha Lord. Check it out, make sure, so you can find out what happens after the first chapter. Now, let's move onto, I know you're excited about this because most authors are, mean reviews. Did you bring a couple mean reviews with you?
Tabitha Lord: Okay, I have a great mean review from Goodreads. I swear Goodreads is just so awful, they're not, I mean I love Goodreads in so many ways, and I have some great reviews on Goodreads, but I also have this. Okay, so now I just read the beginning so I don't think my book is this, but hey, you know what, it's her opinion. She wrote "This book is about as exciting as a bowl of plain tepid oatmeal. Seriously. The book is a snooze-fest." I thought wow, alright, she really didn't like it. Then there's a couple of others on here but they're just sort of generic "We hated it" "It was terrible" but there was one and I can't find it and I really searched because I was like "where is that review?" I know it was on Goodreads, and it was buried somewhere in here but I swear I've looked through everyone and I can't find it. Someone was making fun of my naming conventions in the book and was talking about how everyone sounded like a Disney princess.
Tabitha Lord: I'm like well for Caeli's name, the way I have it spelled is Latin for "sky." It means sky. It's the genitive singular, so it's a declined noun in Latin. I'm a classics major so I really did this right. I'm like I'm pretty sure there's no Disney princess named that. Then the planets you know I look up on star charts and I actually find real stars and real planets. I'm just like wow, fan fiction with Disney princesses, that like a stretch with my book. I really tried to find that review and I can't find it, so maybe it got pulled down, I don't know. Those are my fun favorites, bowl of tepid plain oatmeal and Disney princesses.
C. G. Cooper: Fan fiction with Disney princesses. I know I haven't gotten that one in my reviews, thank goodness. I mean, I love Disney princesses, but I don't think mine could be-
Tabitha Lord: Yeah, me too.
C. G. Cooper: That's interesting.
Tabitha Lord: In space? Alright, sure, there's I guess princesses in space, I guess.
C. G. Cooper: Maybe you should talk to Disney and get that into a show or movie.
Tabitha Lord: Get an option.
C. G. Cooper: There you go. Somebody believes in it. Well, cool. Let's move onto the speed round, if you're cool with that.
Tabitha Lord: Okay.
C. G. Cooper: I've got four questions. We've got some time, so you can stretch these out a little bit, if you'd like. We'd like to know, number one, what's your favorite thing about being an author?
Tabitha Lord: Wow, I like telling stories it turns out. I like the freedom of this lifestyle that I have now, of really being able to write until midnight if I feel like it. It's just a different flexible world that I live in now. Mostly, I like the telling of stories. That's the best part I think.
C. G. Cooper: Cool. Alright, number two, what is the best advice you ever received? Another loaded question.
Tabitha Lord: Well, so I guess it would be, I mean writing advice? I'm assuming you mean writing advice.
C. G. Cooper: No actually, life advice, it doesn't matter.
Tabitha Lord: Alright. How about if I give one piece of writing advice and one piece of life advice?
C. G. Cooper: Totally.
Tabitha Lord: Okay, so a college professor my freshman year of college said to us, and I remember feeling slightly offended by this at the time because I didn't realize how wise it was. She said "When you decide what it is you people want to do with your lives, and it may change over time," she said "choose something that you love and are passionate about of course, and also choose something you're good at." Now we grow up, our generation grew up hearing you can be anything you want to be, and you want to love what you do, it's not going to be ... You know, and I thought ... All these years later it's always going to be work. No matter how passionate you are about something, it's always going to be work. I think it's good to do something that resonates and that matches, suits your temperament and suits your skill set. That magic combination of "you love it AND you're good at it" was really a good piece of advice and I pass that on.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. Yeah, I feel like I'm hearing that more and more recently. Like it's not just about passion and what you love, it's also about what you might have a talent for and how hard you work at it. I love that message. Isn't it funny how you couldn't internalize that when you were that young? I know I couldn't either.
Tabitha Lord: No I couldn't. I was offended. To say, what am I good at. I could be good at anything if I just work hard enough at it. Well, no actually I'll never be an astrophysicist, no matter how hard I work at it. Even though I love many things about science, it's just not my natural aptitude. That was really good advice. I have a good piece of dating advice.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, tell us.
Tabitha Lord: This is dating advice I give my children, and one of them is an adult, two are adults now actually. One's in college, one's out of college, and then I have two teenagers. I tell them, well I actually use the F bomb, but I'm not going to do it on the air.
C. G. Cooper: What! You use the F bomb with your kids?
Tabitha Lord: I did. I said, “don't date anyone more ___ upped than you.” That's my advice. I think it's pretty good advice. People are not projects.
C. G. Cooper: I wish somebody had told me that when I was 12.
Tabitha Lord: Don't you, though?
C. G. Cooper: Absolutely. God.
Tabitha Lord: That's why I didn't mince words for them. They seem to have taken me up on it and the few that have had little misadventures with dating and have had actually not taken this advice, they'll come back and go like "Mom, you were right. This is way too much work." It was like, "she's crazy." I said "Yeah, well, people aren't projects though. You want somebody that's, you know, everybody's got issues so, but you just don't want somebody with way more than you have."
C. G. Cooper: Yes. Just so you know I'm writing that down right now, 'cause I have younger kids, and I'm definitely going to be telling that to each and every one of them soon.
Tabitha Lord: I wrote a whole blog post about it. I'll send it to you when I'm done and you can save it, file it away.
C. G. Cooper: I'm in. Totally. Then did you say you had one about writing too?
Tabitha Lord: Yeah. Well the best piece of advice I would tell, and I tell people now too, is just finish something. I'm sure you've heard it too. If you don't have a draft, you have nothing to work on. So finish the piece, worry about that later. Then the other thing that I've realized in the course of this writing adventure is that, you know finish the piece, celebrate. Open that bottle of champagne. You did it! You wrote a book! Yea! Really own that.
Tabitha Lord: Then realize that only about half your work is done. Then move on from there.
C. G. Cooper: Do you have, and I know I've been doing this long enough now that I have a hard time with the celebration part, because I'm already onto the next thing. It's like okay, stop, and just take a deep breath, enjoy what you did, work will be here tomorrow, but maybe take a day for yourself and think about what you just accomplished. I'm trying to be better at that. Are you, is that one of your fortes? Are you really good at that?
Tabitha Lord: No, I'm not. I'm not very good at it 'cause I have, always, a million other projects. I do really try to take the day. The day that I finish a draft, I try to say "okay, I'm going to binge watch a television show now. I'm going to reward myself." Actually, when I finished Infinity, the second book in the series, I binged watched Jessica Jones. It took me only like two days. But that was my treat to myself.
C. G. Cooper: I like it.
Tabitha Lord: But, that was all I could do. After that, I'm like alright you've got that short story, you've got a contract to finish, and you've got to start working on the next. You've got this thing due. I'm like okay, so that was it, but I did do that. That was my reward.
C. G. Cooper: Good. Well I've got to think about that. I've got to remind myself. Alright, two more quick questions. Number one, what is one piece of technology you could not live without?
Tabitha Lord: Well I don't know, I guess you can live without it but I can't imagine writing longhand. I need my laptop. I can't think about how would I do that, how would you cut and paste, do you just squiggle and cross out? I mean obviously when I was a kid I used to write longhand, I mean we've all done it, if we're old enough we've done it, but boy, how do you live without your word processing programs?
C. G. Cooper: I hope I never have to be there.
Tabitha Lord: I don't want to ever find out. The other thing that I find that I use a lot, and this isn't really technology, but it kind of is similar, is thesaurus.com. I use that thing pretty much 20 times every time I sit down to write. I'm like I need a word for "blah." I guess it's made us lazy in the same way that MapQuest and ... what do you call it ... Waze has made us a little bit lazy about knowing where we are in the world. I guess that's made me lazy about actually thinking about all the words I know that mean the same thing as that word. But I hit thesaurus.com with absolute ease.
C. G. Cooper: Good. Alright, one more quick question. We're right up on time. Who do you look up to?
Tabitha Lord: Okay. That's such a tough one because I could always say my mom, then my dad, then my husband. But I would say in terms of the writing piece, when I really think about not being inspired, not being encouraged, but actually technically writing well, my tenth grade English teacher. I really have to say I am grateful to her. She held our feet to the fire about how important it was. It's like when you're a dancer and you have to take classical ballet training even if you're not going to be a ballerina, because you have to understand, you have to know how to do the basics. You have to be able to move in your body. You have to know how to write technically, in order to write creatively, I think. Maybe you don't, but it's my experience that you, that that's a gift to be able to do that so you can then focus on the creativity. So I am thankful and grateful and admired her dedication to that for us.
C. G. Cooper: Great. It's always good to have good mentors growing up. I know I still need them to slap me around and put me back in place every once in a while. Tabitha, thank you again, so much, for being with us. Can you let the listeners know one more time how they can find you and your work?
Tabitha Lord: Sure. I'm TabithaLordAuthor.com so all of my social media can link to from there. My first book Horizon is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and all the ebook ibook outlet distributors, and so is Infinity, now that's been released since June of this year. The short fiction, I have a contribution in an anthology called Sirens with Word Weaver Press and I'll have two more coming out in the next six months with other anthologies and other publishing houses, and they'll be linked on my website. That's how you can find me.
C. G. Cooper: Great. Awesome.
Tabitha Lord: Thank you so much
C. G. Cooper: Thank you. Listeners, check out Tabitha's stuff. We will have all the links on the website cg-cooper.com just click on the podcast tabs. This has been Books in 30 with C. G.Cooper. Thank you for listening and don't forget to email me at cgc (at) cg-cooper.com to say hello or let me know about an author you'd like to see as my guest. Thanks for tuning in. This is C. G. Cooper out.
- Chasing Hope
- Sure Thing
- Asking For Trouble
- A Broken Us
Visit Amy Daws at amydawsauthor.com
C. G. Cooper: Welcome to "Books in 30" with me, C.G. Cooper. Here at "Books in 30," we discuss great books with some of today's top authors. Don't forget that you can snag the full list of books we discuss in this episode at cg-cooper.com/podcast, along with the full transcript of the episode. So welcome to our listeners, and a big "Books in 30" welcome to today's guest, Amy Daws.
Amy is a Amazon Top 100 best selling author of the Harris Brothers series, and is most known for her punny, footy-playing, British playboys. The Harris Brothers and her London Lovers series fuel her passion for all things London. When Amy's not writing, she's watching "Gilmore Girls" or singing karaoke in the living room with her daughter, while daddy awkwardly smiles from a distance. For more of Amy's work, visit amydawsauthor.com. Welcome, Amy. How you doing today?
Amy Daws: Hey, good. How are you?
C. G. Cooper: I am good. I love that last line, " When Amy's not writing, she's watching 'Gilmore Girls'" and then "daddy's awkward smiles from a distance." How often does that happen?
Amy Daws: My daughter and I, we are a pair and my husband is just always shaking his head. He's just always shaking his head at us. So, yes.
C. G. Cooper: Well, cool. Tell me, where are you calling in from today?
Amy Daws: I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I'm originally an Iowa girl, but I'm right by the border between Iowa and South Dakota. So I'm technically in South Dakota, but I always identify more with Iowans.
C. G. Cooper: So are you, do you guys have snow yet?
Amy Daws: No. We got a few flurries right before- I went to Las Vegas for a signing this past weekend and we had flurries when I was flying out. And then Las Vegas was, of course, super hot so that was just weird.
C. G. Cooper: Going back and forth between that.
Amy Daws: Yeah, yes.
C. G. Cooper: Cool. Can you give the listeners a little bit of a snapshot of when or how you became an author?
Amy Daws: Sure. I had kind of an interesting start in the book world. My first book was a memoir that I wrote called "Chasing Hope" and it was my story of infertility. I had a lot of miscarriages before I had my daughter, Lorelei, and it was just a really hard time then. But once I had my daughter, I was so happy, but for some reason I didn't want to forget the bad, I always like to say because the bad got me to the good.
So I started writing all my memories of the miscarriages that I had - very detail for detail, dialogue my husband and I would have - and I realized I was kind of writing it like a book. And I was like, "You know, I think I could turn this into a book and maybe other women that are going through this might feel a little bit more understood." Or they could pass it off to their mother or their sister who maybe doesn't understand what they're going through, and they kind of get a little glimpse of what the daily struggle someone who's either gone through either miscarriages or infertility goes through. So I wrote "Chasing Hope," and it was a really great experience.
But the problem is, I love reading romance. I've always been a romance novel junkie, and so I knew that I got the itch for writing but I didn't want to continue in non-fiction, so I started writing romance novels. Two months ago, I published my 10th book, so I have nine romance novels and one memoir. So as you can see, my career has taken a turn but it's a very fun story that I'm excited about, what "Chasing Hope" brought into my life, because it's brought lots of adventures. So, yeah.
C. G. Cooper: That is awesome. Isn't it interesting how therapeutic our writing can be sometimes?
Amy Daws: Yeah. Oh, man. It was totally therapeutic. I mean, it just really helped me see the whole picture of the experience I had. And even though I had so many dark years, by the time I got to the end it was a beautiful story. So, yeah. I totally see what you're saying there.
C. G. Cooper: Have you been able to have some good conversations with readers or friends, anybody that's experienced that book?
Amy Daws: Oh, yeah. There's always a tiny little pocket of readers that show up to these- Because most of the signings I go to are romance signings; they're romance conventions. Romance readers are ravenous, so they come in hoards for these big conferences where lots of authors all show up. But there's always one or two that have read "Chasing Hope," and it's always an emotional meeting because they really ... with "Chasing Hope," you get a really close glimpse of my life and I don't hold anything back. So it's very personal, it's very graphic, and it's heart wrenching. So I think when they see me, it's just a super emotional moment to put a face to the book.
And they're always really surprised because I'm a very happy person, and I think they expect me to just look like "Debbie Downer" or something. And I'm like, "Don't be sad. Look at my table of books. Look at all that's come from that." So it's a really cool ... I love when I meet readers that have read "Chasing Hope." It's very special.
C. G. Cooper: That's neat. I had a conversation - actually, her episode went live today - with Laura Pritchett. And she wrote ... it's supposed to be funny and uplifting, but basically her close, her struggles with death. And it's interesting because most of her other stuff is fiction, but this was very much based on her life. And it's amazing to me- First of all, kudos for having the courage to actually write something like that because as artists, we're a little freaked out by that sometimes, being in the spotlight and putting ourselves out there, so that's- It's just I love meeting authors that have the bravery to stand out and say, "Hey, this is my life. Maybe you can relate to it."
Amy Daws: Yeah. I'm definitely not a shy writer. There's a lot of writers that are introverts, and even going to signings really drains them. But for me, it feeds my extroverted personality. So I think I'm a unique one in that regard.
C. G. Cooper: Well, that's good. There needs to be more of us, right?
Amy Daws: Yeah, right.
C. G. Cooper: All right. Well, let's get into the meat of it. Let's talk about a book that you're currently reading or one that you've finished that you think the listeners would love to latch on to.
Amy Daws: Sure. I just got done reading a fun book. I like to try to space my fun books with my soul searching books. So I just finished a fun one that I'm going to talk about because it's fresh in my mind.
It was called "Sure Thing" by Jana Aston. Jana is an indie author like myself. I met her for the first time this year, actually, at a signing in Atlanta. And it was just this really fun, froppy, romantic comedy where the hero was British which, obviously with my love for London, that appealed to me. And the heroine was a twin and she was kind of posing as her sister through most of the book and the hero didn't know it. And so ... there's this really fun, a lot of information that they weren't telling each other, and you're just waiting until the end until they finally reveal who the other person is. Because it turns out that they guy, the British hero, was actually the girl's boss. And she didn't know that, and she's posing as her sister at her job. And so it was so fun. I laughed a lot. It's like one of those epic love stories, so the ending has this great, big, grand gesture, and that's what I love to read.
C. G. Cooper: Very cool. So I have a couple of follow-on questions for you. The first, because as guys we're like, "Oh, we don't want to read romance. It's not my thing." But I'm a great example, okay? I'm maybe a manly-ish man. I was a Marine; I do all these things that are manly-ish. But then I love movies like "Love Actually." "Notting Hill" is one of my favorites. "You've Got Mail"- all these romance-laced stories, but I've never read anything like that. So being a guy, how do you get into what you do? Where should somebody start if you've never even touched that genre?
Amy Daws: You know, my husband read my first romance novel. So I wrote "Chasing Hope" and then I wrote my first romance novel, and he was like, "So, you just made all this up?" It was so funny. And he's such a sports guy, so he's not a reader. Reading for him is not something he enjoys. And I always tell people that aren't big readers - because I have a lot of friends that are trying to read my books or they just never get around to them - I'm like, "Don't worry about it. If reading feels like homework to you, you might just not be a reader. That's okay."
But my husband, though, he started reading it and then he was hooked. And every night he had to grab it and pick it up until he got to the end because he didn't realize how much it can pull you into the story because it's not just the sappy romance exchanges. It's the funny secondary best friends that are the perfect punchlines. And it's usually an emotional journey for the heroine or the hero, where they're trying to find themselves either in a career or something like that, so there's always a secondary aspect.
For guys, though, I really do think they would like rom com just because it's lighter and fluffier. Sports romance, which is something I write a lot of, would especially appeal to them I think because there's usually always a good sports aspect in. And my husband's read my sports ones and those are definitely his favorite, too.
C. G. Cooper: I'm going to admit something right now that I actually didn't realize it until you were just talking. I'm going to admit something to you and to my listeners, and obviously to my readers who are used to military thrillers that I write, that I'm pretty eclectic. I just realized that I've read all the "Fifty Shades of Grey" books, and I've also read, I think three times through, all the "Twilight" series as well.
Amy Daws: See?
C. G. Cooper: So you got me. All right? You got me.
Amy Daws: That's romance, that's romance. Those are great places to start, especially because they have such a presence in our pop culture right now. So it's fun to at least be at a party and you know what they're talking about when they talk about, what was it, the silver balls or something. We won't go any further than that. Don't worry. But you know, there's people that make jokes about that because they've all seen the movies now.
I have a male, Australian reviewer that reviews all my books, and he's married with six kids. Him and his wife have six children together. I think his blog is called "Dave Loves Romance" or something like that. And he is so funny. He's kind of the token male in all the Facebook romance reader groups. And don't know, I think there's a lot of benefit from a man reading a romance novel. It just kind of makes your more hyper aware of the feelings of a situation, and just maybe being more in tuned to having more of an emotional connection with your wife or girlfriend, your partner, whatever. Because it's all the fields; we write all the fields in these books, so I think it could be highly beneficial.
C. G. Cooper: All right. You heard it, guys. If you're listening right now, Amy said it. If you want insight into the female psyche, you might want to start reading her stuff. All right, next question, which is the loaded question I think of the entire show: what is your favorite book of all time?
Amy Daws: That's a hard one, but I think I have to go with, it's called "Asking for Trouble" by Elizabeth Young. It's hard because you love different books for different reasons. But "Asking for Trouble" by Elizabeth Young, she's a British chick-lit author, and if you've ever seen the movie "The Wedding Date" with Debra Messing, the movie was based off this book, which most people don't know. I tell people in the romance industry and they're like, "What? I love that movie. I didn't know it was based on a book." And like most movies, the book is better only because you get more in a book than you ever can in a movie. They really have to condense a lot in a movie.
So it's "Asking for Trouble" by Elizabeth Young because it is just British chick-lit at its finest. It's like such- I don't know, the British humor to me has always been really appealing, which is probably why I base a lot of my books in London because I love their dry, sharp wit. It's what got my start in reading. I wasn't much of a reader in my 20's. I was in college and all I could do was read textbooks. And my sister's like, "You just try to read something for fun. Here, read this. It's about the movie. It's what the movie 'The Wedding Date' was based off of."
And I was hooked. And then I consumed all Elizabeth Young's novels. And then I got hooked on British chick-lit, so I moved on to Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, and just a lot of those British chick-lit greats. And now I'm basing my books in London, so I think it's kind of all come full circle for me.
C. G. Cooper: Well, that was actually my second question, was why the love for London? And tell us more about that.
Amy Daws: My first novel that I wrote after my memoir was called "A Broken Us." And I wanted, my goal with that was ... as wonderful as the memoir industry is and that genre, if you're not a Kim Kardashian book sales are never going to blow up for you because most people care about reading about the real life of Kim Kardashian or somebody famous than someone who's maybe just undergone a struggle.
So I really wanted to get the world of infertility brought into a larger platform, so I thought, "I'm going to write a romance novel with an infertility storyline for the heroine." And so I had my heroine break up with her boyfriend right at the beginning of the book, and she moves overseas to London to live with her best friend. And I just think I thought ... I remember when I was going through miscarriages that there was a time in my life where I was like, "I just want to get away. I want to move to a different country. Start over. Stop obsessing about babies and fertility charts. And I want an adventure that's not family-oriented."
And I'm in the Midwest. Women have babies in their lower 20's around here. It's just a very family-friendly place to live in the States. And so it was just around me all the time and I thought, "I could go to London. There's no language barrier." So that kind of started my obsession with London. And then the British chick-lit aspect I think added to that.
So yeah, my first heroine went overseas, and then she met all these cool friends, and I just kind of happily got stuck over there with the series called the "London Lovers" series, and then that spun off into my "Harris Brothers" series, and they're all a bunch of Brits.
C. G. Cooper: Do you have a big following overseas?
Amy Daws: Yeah. Actually, I do have a pretty good following. My best book signing to date happened in Birmingham, England. But the British are ravenous romance readers, too, I've noticed. And I think when a United States author comes over there, they want to buy all the books because- for signed copies at home, because I think they're ... you might never come back or it could be years until you come back. I did really well in Birmingham, England. That was a lot of fun. Those British readers are fun.
C. G. Cooper: That's awesome. That is cool. That is something that I still haven't done. I don't know. I've got three young ones at home, so getting away for something like that- Now, we do go overseas for research trips for books, but London is still on the top of my list. I've been all over the world; I've never been there before. I finally got to Paris for the first time last year and loved it. So I know as a history buff that London is right up my alley.
Amy Daws: Yeah. We had the best trip to London when we went recently. And it's always research for me, so I never say 'no' to a trip to London.
C. G. Cooper: Maybe we'll meet you over there sometime. How about that?
Amy Daws: Yeah, sounds good. We'll book that trip.
C. G. Cooper: There you go. All right, cool. Well, what about your work? Did you bring a snippet to read for the listeners?
Amy Daws: Yes. Let me find my page. I'm literally reading out of my paperback. This is just a little half a page I'll read from my book called, "Keeper." It's my book that just released two months ago. So this is the third book in my "Harris Brothers" series, and my "Harris Brothers" are about these four brothers that all play professional soccer in England; it's called 'football' in my books. They're British. I always have to be very clear about that because the British people or Europeans get mad at me if they hear me say 'soccer' in videos. And they're like, "But you write in England. You need to make sure you say football." I'm like, "All right, okay, I'm sorry."
So this "Keeper" is a best-friends-to-lovers romance novel about Booker Harris, who is the youngest of these four brothers, and he is the goal keeper for the team that two of them play on. And his best friend, Poppy McAdams from childhood, returns after being away for six years. She went to university and to grad school in Germany, and now she's back. And she needed a place to stay, and she's going to be staying with Booker.
So my heroine is British, but if I try to do this in a British accent, it's going to go Australian and it's going to get ugly. It's going to get ugly real quick, so I'm just going to read it in the Amy Daws accent of South Dakota.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. I do the same thing. Why do we slip into Australian? I don't know.
Amy Daws: I don't know. I just gets worse, it gets worse. I read some of my daughter's children's books in a British accent and it sounds so good. But my own stuff? I don't know. I just can't do it. I can't; I tried. So I'll go ahead. This is from Chapter 3, and it's in Poppy's point of view.
I'm moving in with Booker Harris. I'm moving in with Booker Harris. I'm moving in with Booker Harris. I sing the last bit in my head because then the statement seems to resonate a bit longer. It sounds peculiar, even in a B flat. I was prepared to take my time moving back to London when my lease started in July. But one good job offer later, and here I am in Booker's building with his brothers like nothing's changed.
Booker's offer was awfully sweet and incredibly unexpected, especially considering the last time we saw each other was six years ago, and it wasn't the best of goodbyes. But, commuting would have been a nightmare and his flat is very close to the school I'll be working at, so it was silly of me to try and refuse. Right? Right. That's totally it. Booker's my best friend and I haven't seen him since I was 19. What better way to reconnect with an old friend than move in with him for an extended period of time, where there's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide? Nevermind that I'll have to share a bathroom with him.
Oh, wait. I don't want to read the rest of this page and I want to stop. My humor can get a little saucy, so we'll just end it at that.
C. G. Cooper: Okay.
Amy Daws: It's clean. It's clean this way. I thought I could read the next paragraph, but it escalates.
C. G. Cooper: I think you were just about to dive into an Australian accent. That's why you stopped, right?
Amy Daws: That's probably it, yes. That's totally it.
C. G. Cooper: Well, cool. Well, thank you for sharing that. And again, just for the readers, that's "Keeper" right?
Amy Daws: Yeah.
C. G. Cooper: And you said that's the third book in the one series.
Amy Daws: Yes. And they're all standalones because each book covers a brother. But it is the third one in the "Harris Brothers" series that's been released. So, yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Good to know. So they can pick them up in any order they want.
Amy Daws: Yeah, absolutely.
C. G. Cooper: Fantastic. All right. Well tell you what, Amy, you ready for the speed round? You ready for some good questions?
Amy Daws: I'm ready. I did not prepare myself. I was like I just want to answer cold-
C. G. Cooper: Yeah.
Amy Daws: so I'm ready.
C. G. Cooper: It's more fun that way. Why prep, right? We're casual around here.
Amy Daws: Exactly.
C. G. Cooper: All right, first question: what's your favorite thing about being an author?
Amy Daws: Working from home in my pajamas.
C. G. Cooper: Yes. All right. What is the best advice you ever received? And it does not have to be about writing.
Amy Daws: I was going to say "just keep writing." The best advice I've ever received, it was "finish." You've got to finish what you're doing. It's very easy in the author world to start a project, leave it; start another one, leave it; start it, leave it. And then you have all these unfinished things all over, whether it's writing or business marketing tasks. You've got to finish everything you do before you can move on.
C. G. Cooper: Amen a thousand times. All right, third one: what is one piece of technology you could not live without?
Amy Daws: It's my phone. I'm addicted. It's my phone.
C. G. Cooper: Aren't we all?
Amy Daws: Yep.
C. G. Cooper: All right. What is one thing you wish you could change about publishing? And it could be about the industry, the process, whatever you want.
Amy Daws: Hmm. I need a quick answer, don't I? There's so much. For some reason, this came up - and this is going to get a little bit deep quickly - but it's very prevalent in the romance industry that interracial couples on covers is a big no-no, or people are afraid to market that because they think it won't sell, and that makes me really sad. And I think we need to try harder at pushing different races on covers besides just Caucasian people.
C. G. Cooper: I like it, I like it. Inclusion, right?
Amy Daws: Yes.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah. All right. What genre do you wish you could write in?
Amy Daws: I would love to write a sick vampire romance.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah? Okay.
Amy Daws: Still romance, but I want some vamps sometime. Someday.
C. G. Cooper: Me, too. I have this thing about vampires. I've read all of Anne Rice's novels-
Amy Daws: Yes.
C. G. Cooper: -and her non-fiction stuff, too. I read that stuff back when I was I think in my early 20's. And I don't know, something about that vampire world. I tell my wife that I want to be a vampire one day.
Amy Daws: Yeah, right? Me, too. They never need sleep. We could write all night and all day. It'd be amazing.
C. G. Cooper: Heck, yeah. And forever and ever. What's wrong with that?
Amy Daws: Exactly.
C. G. Cooper: All right. What's on your bucket list?
Amy Daws: I really want to go to Africa on a safari.
C. G. Cooper: Safari.
Amy Daws: Yeah.
C. G. Cooper: You are brave. All right, next one: if you could teach a college course, what subject or class would you teach?
Amy Daws: Probably ... no, not a writing class. I hate teaching writing; I think it's very hard. My background is in video production, so probably video editing.
C. G. Cooper: Really?
Amy Daws: Yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Video production?
Amy Daws: Yep.
C. G. Cooper: See? I love it. You figure out interesting things about interesting people when you do this kind of stuff. All right. Last one; this is a fun one since I'm a foodie: if you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Amy Daws: Oh, man. It's got to be ... I love British chocolate and I almost said that, but I'd get tired of it. It's probably something salty like chips, like Pringles, the originals.
C. G. Cooper: Ooh, the original Pringles. In the tube, right?
Amy Daws: Exactly.
C. G. Cooper: Yes. All right. Well, cool. Well, Amy, thank you again so much for being on the show. Can you give a few last words to our listeners and let them know where they can find you, and maybe something ... I know you've got a new book out, so please let them know about that.
Amy Daws: Sure. My newest, "Keeper," just came out on audio just literally on the first of this month. And my audio is really cool because it's duet style narrating for most of my audio books, all my "Harris Brothers," and one other book of mine. And duet style is a little bit different than what you're used to because-
So there's male and female point of view chapters, but the male reads all the male dialogue in any chapter, and the female reads all the female. So it's very conversational, and it's like a movie in your ears. And I'm always really proud about duet sound narrating because there's not very much of it in the audio industry yet because it's a little bit, it takes a little more production to do.
So, yeah. "Keeper" is available on audio now. All my books are on audio. You can always find more information about my stuff at my website, which is just amydawsauthor.com.
C. G. Cooper: Amydawsauthor.com. All right. Well Amy, thanks again. Listeners, this has been "Books in 30" with C.G. Cooper. Thank you for listening, and don't forget to email me at cg (at) cg-cooper.com to say hello, or let me know of an author you'd like to see as my guest. Thanks for tuning in. This is C.G. Cooper. Out.
- The Expanse
- The Mistborn series
- The Wizard Of Earthsea
- Beyond The Stars anthology
- The Legacy Fleet series
Visit Nick at http://nickwebbwrites.com
C. G. Cooper: Welcome to Books in 30, with me, C.G. Cooper. Here at Books in 30, we discuss great books with some of today's top authors. Today I'd like to introduce you to my good friend Nick Webb. Nick became a scientist so that he could build starships of all things. Unfortunately, his ship is taking longer to build than he had hoped. So fictional starships will have to do for now. When he's not adding to his starship collection, you can find him Tweeting and Facebooking about NASA, science, space, sci-fi and quoting Star Trek Two. Nick, welcome to the show, man. How are you doing?
Nick Webb: Good, how are you?
C. G. Cooper: I am good. Hey, just to start out, can you give the listeners a quick snapshot of why you became an author?
Nick Webb: Yeah. I think I need to update that bio, 'cause I don't think I've Tweeted in three years.
C. G. Cooper: Gotcha.
Nick Webb: But yeah, I'm on Facebook. I used to be, well, I am a scientist, I did science for quite a while. Went to grad school and all of that. I did physics. And worked for First Los Alamos National Lab and did some work for NASA. And then, one day I decided to start writing. It was actually for ... Long story. Funny story. I had been playing Xbox for a year at that point. Xbox keeps track of the hours that you play. Once I hit 300 hours in this one game, I was like, "What am I doing with my life?". I sat down on New Year's Day one year, about six years ago or so and said, "Hey let's take all this Xbox time and do something creative with it." I wrote my first book in three weeks with that Xbox time. That's where it all started for me with writing. I kept doing it as a hobby for a few years until my breakout book was Constitution. That's what basically enabled me to write full-time and then turn into a full-time author. I still want to get back into science someday. But for now it's all story-telling.
C. G. Cooper: Sweet man. Now I'm curious and I'll bet the listeners will be too. Was it one game that you played all 300 hours?
Nick Webb: There were a few that had multiple hundreds of hours each on them. My favorite at the time and still is one of my favorite games is Skyrim. I think I must have played through it two or three times. Each time you play it through is at least 100 hours. It's really fun. I just get lost in it. It's kind of a story-telling all on its own. You're basically in your own fantasy novel. It's an open sandbox. It's got a story that goes along with it. But otherwise, it's a sandbox that you just get lost in.
I think authors, especially fantasy, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller authors, they just naturally get pulled to stuff like that. They just get lost in those stories. And I'm several hundred hours on that one. Star Wars, I played Star Wars for a while. But yeah, I found a much better thing to do with my time. I'm actually creating something instead of consuming something.
C. G. Cooper: Was your wife happier when you started doing that instead?
Nick Webb: Oh yeah. Funny story, so my wife's an editor, she edits other people's books for a living. I did not tell her I was doing this.
C. G. Cooper: Really? I didn't know that. Just for the listeners out there. Nick is actually a very good friend. We've gotten together a few times. There's four of us for a writer's retreat and I haven't heard these stories yet. So I am intrigued dude, come on, tell me.
Nick Webb: Yeah, it was January. I was starting to write this book. It was 2012. Every night after we put the kids to bed, I'd go to my office, well the TV room. My wife thought I was just watching all the political commentary shows. 'Cause it was the election year and I was really following politics and everything. She thought that's what I was doing. I let her think that. Every night she'd say, "Hey how was the news. What's going on in the news today?" I'd tell her. In fact, I would still watch the news? For a month there, three weeks, she thought that's what I was doing. I went through an edit of my book.
Nick Webb: On Valentine's Day, we went out to lunch. This was still in Los Alamos, in New Mexico. To our Valentine's Day lunch, I brought this binder with my first book completely printed out on paper. I plopped it right there on the table in front of her and said, "This is probably the weirdest Valentine's Day present ever. But Happy Valentine's Day."
C. G. Cooper: "Now get to work?"
Nick Webb: Now get to work. And it was actually really good. She was..."mildly surprised" is an understatement. But surprised in a good way. She was just shocked that I had done something like this. That's just not something you go and do on a whim. It was fun. She read it and she liked it. She gave me a lot of feedback. 'Cause that's what she does. She edits books and helps authors get their writing up to snuff.
Nick Webb: Mine, at the time, it was awful. It was my first time writing a book. It was not great. But she gave me her notes. She told me how to make it better. I tried to learn the things that she was trying to teach me. I think I did. The second draft that I gave her was a lot cleaner.
Nick Webb: And then of course, really the only way to get better writing, and really to do anything in life is just do it again. Write the next book. And then the book after that, and then the book after that. And eventually, you're going to get it. You're going to learn how to do it. That applies to just about everything in life. As long as you don't give up, as long as you try to keep learning how to do it better, you just gotta try it and do it again and again until you get better.
C. G. Cooper: Amen. And five years later you're still doing it, right?
Nick Webb: Yep. I just finished my 12th or 13th book, or something like that.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, yeah.
Nick Webb: I'm not like some of these guys are writing like 10, 12 books a year. I'm not quite at that level yet. But I'm doing a few books per year. I feel like I'm getting better.
C. G. Cooper: I think so. I think the sales are a good indication that you're doing pretty well.
Nick Webb: Yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Cool dude. Let's jump into the show's meat and potatoes. Number one question for you: What are you reading right now that's blowing your hair back? Or what's something that you've currently finished that you think the readers would like to hear about?
Nick Webb: I am currently reading The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. That's the sci-fi series that is being turned into a ... Is it Netflix or is it, I think it was Netflix.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, I think so.
Nick Webb: Yeah, it's a Netflix series. I think they just put out season two of the Expanse on Netflix. But in terms of the books, they're now up to book six. I am making my way through it. The problem with, at least for me, the problem with being a writer and then trying to read other books in that genre is that you get busy with your stuff. So you try to read a book and then you get bogged down with your own stuff. And then you set that other book aside for a while. I actually started the book back in, oh man I started it several months ago and I haven't quite finished it yet. But the series as a whole, it's phenomenal. I love it. It's easy to see how it got chosen to be turned into a TV series.
C. G. Cooper: Talk about that. 'Cause I've had the same issue. Reading fiction, when I'm a fiction author. How do you get past that? I know for me it was all about jumping onto Audible, because then I can walk, I can drive, I can do whatever I need to do and listen to the book. But reading it was, I couldn't do it.
Nick Webb: Something that helps me, at least last year, the year before that. I would read outside my genre. That made it different enough that ... Not that it's not interesting to me, reading sci-fi right now. But it feels like work sometimes.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah.
Nick Webb: That might explain why I have not made it through the sixth book yet of that series. Even though I love the series. The writing is phenomenal. But you know, for example, last year I read all the Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn series. We've talked about him at our writing retreat. "Sandon Branderson."
C. G. Cooper: Good old, "Sandon Branderson."
Nick Webb: Brandon Sanderson, he write fantasy. He does world building so ... He does such an exquisite job. I just get sucked into it. It's different enough from sci-fi, it's fantasy, that it's a pleasure to read it, I get lost in the book and hours, hours later, I look up and like, "Oh. I just spent the whole day reading."
C. G. Cooper: Just like your Xbox, right Nick?
Nick Webb: Just like the Xbox. It's the world-building that just grabs you and sucks you right in.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, that's so cool.
Nick Webb: That's one thing. Reading outside the genre. Really, it's learning how to just let go of your own stuff for a little while and ... If I want to read a book, I really have to set my own stuff on hold for three, four, five days. And not think about my own books and just dive into someone else's book. Otherwise, I'm thinking: "Oh how can I make this one scene in my book better based on what I just read from this author?"
C. G. Cooper: I do the same thing, man. It's that critical eye always looking to get better and to find out new ideas. We all share ideas left and right. But yeah, and I know for me, especially as my editing, my personal editing has gotten better, I'm reading slower because I'm reading a book as if I were editing my own work. That kills me.
Nick Webb: That's how I know a book is really good when I finish it and I immediately want to go write a book just like it. I just read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. Now I want to go build my own fantasy world and write seven books in it. That's how I know it's good.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, heck yeah. That's a perfect segway into the next part of the show. Your favorite book of all time, what is it and why?
Nick Webb: I think it would have to be what's her name, Ursula Le Guin, she mainly wrote fantasy. A little bit of sci-fi back in the 60s, 70s, 80s. But her favorite book of mine was A Wizard of Earthsea. It's actually a, I think it's technically a YA novel, young adult novel. But I think I go back to read that ... And it's rather short. It's like only, I don't know how long it is but it's like 40-50,000 words, which translated into pages, that's like 200 pages tops. A shorter novel. But I go back and read it like every two or three years. Just 'cause it's so magical to me. It just grabs me and sucks me in. It kind of reminds me of, what was his name, he played Saruman on Lord of the Rings.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, I can't remember his name, but yeah.
Nick Webb: Christopher Lee, right?
C. G. Cooper: Yeah.
Nick Webb: Yeah. I watched an interview of him. He said, "Yeah. I read the Lord of the Rings, once every single year, because it just sucks me in. I've got to go back to that writing, that story, that world, every year." It's the same way for me and Ursula Le Guin and A Wizard of Earthsea. Have you read it?
C. G. Cooper: I have not read it. I don't think I've even heard of it. When did you first read that?
Nick Webb: I think I read it when I was maybe 12 or so. I was really young. It's targeted for younger readers. But it's such a, I don't know how to describe it. It's such a deep book. It's for younger readers but the lessons learned, the themes presented are very adult themes. I get lost in that world-building that Ursula Le Guin builds in this book.
Nick Webb: It's basically about a young wizard, young magician kid who his parents died. He's raised by this other silent wizard who never speaks, on this little tiny island. When he comes of age he gets sent off to, basically his Hogwarts. It's a Harry Potter story, but just a little bit more serious. He gets sent off to the wizarding school and he basically, he's a little menace. He's a rebel. He grew up without parents. He's this rapscallion of a kid. In a moment of showing off to all his friends, he works this incredibly powerful, complex piece of magic.
Nick Webb: As a result, he summons this evil spirit into the world. It almost kills him. It kills the, basically Dumbledore's figure. It kills the Dumbledore figure of that school. The rest of the book is him coming to terms with what he's done. He has to go and ... The first half of the book is spent running away from this shadow that he has released into the world. The second half of the book is him pursuing it and finally conquering it, basically.
C. G. Cooper: So basically it's the story that you and I wanted to live as kids, right?
Nick Webb: Yeah. We all wanted to be wizards right?
C. G. Cooper: Oh heck yeah. I always did. I always wanted magic powers. I'm going to have to check that out. That sounds really good.
Nick Webb: It's a much different feeling than Harry Potter. Harry Potter is kind of fun and silly with some very serious stuff woven into it. This is much more, it's got a, not a darker feel but it's a more almost like an ancient feel to it. It's not our world. It's another world in a very, very fantasy world time. It was swords and wizards and that kind of stuff.
C. G. Cooper: Is it kind of like, have you read Lev Grossman's The Magician series? Have you read any of those?
Nick Webb: I haven't read it, but I've heard of it, yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah. It's sort of ... To me it's almost like C.S. Lewis type, Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe thrown in with darker, YA type themes. But yeah, I'll have to check that. So that's A Wizard of Earthseam? Or The Wizard of Earthseam?
Nick Webb: A Wizard of Earthsea, as in the earth that we live on plus the sea, like the ocean.
C. G. Cooper: Oh sea, okay I wrote seam. There you go, listen up C.G. Cooper, come on. Well cool. Let's move on to the next spot, which is a snippet of your work. Did you bring something that you could read for the listeners?
Nick Webb: I did, yes. Let me slip over to it real quick. This is, I mainly write novels, but I've also written a few short stories. I hate writing short stories because they're so hard. You basically have to do the work of a novel but condense it down into a tenth of the space. I generally don't do them. But this one, I really enjoyed writing.
Nick Webb: I think it's my best short story I've ever written. It's called Second Place. It's about the guy who was ... It's in the future. It's like 60 years in the future. It's about the guy who was the second man to walk on Mars. Kind of like the, what's his name, the Buzz Aldrin figure to... who was the first man to walk on the moon?
C. G. Cooper: Neil Armstrong?
Nick Webb: Neil Armstrong. Yeah. So Buzz Aldrin to Neil Armstrong, that kind of thing. This guy is the second man to walk on Mars. He feels like he's been in the shadow of the first man to walk on Mars for his whole life. Now he's getting really old. He wants to be the first man to die on Mars. That's going to be his claim to fame. He manages to get a trip up to the colony, which has been started on Mars. He sets into motion this intricate plan to die in an accident, making it look like he saved the whole colony.
C. G. Cooper: Wow. Nice.
Nick Webb: What was that?
C. G. Cooper: I said, nice I like it.
Nick Webb: It sounds morbid, but it's actually a comedy, it's a comedy short story with a heart filled twist at the end. In this scene, there's been an accident and he's at the bedside of this kid who got hurt in an accident. All through the story he's been trying to keep other people alive to give him time to do his plan so that he can be the first to die. I'll start here.
Nick Webb: Thirty minutes later. The blood transfusion was quick and painless. But the baggy circles under little Wixon's eyes were disconcerting. Frank glanced nervously from Wix to his parent's, sitting nearby. His mother, a small pretty woman was making a valiant effort to contain her despair. She tousled the boy's hair, shows him a thin smile. His father set stoically in the corner.
Nick Webb: "Are you feeling okay Grumpy?" Said the boy.
"Me? You're asking me if I'm feeling okay? You're the one in a hospital bed, kid. Have you looked in a mirror lately?" He said with a good-natured smile. He'd gotten the impression early on from little Wix that he was the type of kid that appreciated a gentle ribbing and his giggles confirmed it.
"They said I'll need your blood for a long time."
"Yeah, well let's not think about that. I'm sure they'll come up with a good way to fix you. You'll be healthier than I am within a few days and I'm as healthy as they come."
Wixon nodded solemnly, "I thought maybe, instead of just coming to the hospital for more transfusions, I though maybe we could just stuff you into my backpack and just hook up a tube between us."
His father looked mortified. His mother's jaw hung half open. Frank laughed. "You got it, kid. If you can carry me, I'm all yours. Your own personal bloodbank on tap at all hours of the day. Just save a few pints for me, would you?" They continued their banter and before long little Wix's eyes got droopy and he fell asleep.
Frank glanced from one parent to the other. They both looked like they hadn't slept in days. "Mr. Bickam, thank you so much for doing this. I have no words." The mother trailed off.
The father nodded. "I don't know what we would have done if you weren't here. If there's anything you need, anything at all, please let me know. My father is the Vice President of Interplanetary. Just one word from me and it happens, whatever you want."
A wicked thought crossed his mind. "Can you revoke Jerry Suez? The first man to walk on Mars? His colonist application?"
"Just kidding." Frank said with a wry chuckle. The father laughed nervously and yawned.
Damn these people needed sleep. Frank tapped a finger on his armrest. "I know what you could do for me."
"You name it."
"Go to bed. Both you and your wife. Get some sleep. I'll be here all night. I'll look after Wix." They both stared at him. "No I mean it. He needs you." He says, pointing at the sleeping boy. "But he needs you to be awake, alert and healthy. Go to bed. Don't make me pull rank." He added with a grin.
After another round of profuse thanks, they left. "Just you and me kid. And I'll be damned if you leave before I do." An hour passed and he was dozing off when something jolted him awake.
"Mr. Bickam?" Dr. Prat was looking at him through the half-open door.
"Would you mind coming back tomorrow evening? I want to build up a short-term supply of your blood. Just in case, well you know."
Frank nodded. It wasn't immediately clear to him what 'you know' meant. But it didn't matter. "Very prudent, in fact, how about we build up a long-term supply? I can come in twice a day for the next two weeks or so if needed. Let's make sure we have at least a year's worth. Wouldn't you say? At least until the next shipment comes in from earth. I assume they're going to send over a supply of his blood type, right?"
Dr. Prat's face broke out into a huge smile. "Yes they will. But you never cease to amaze me Mr. Bickam. Yes, that would be perfect. God bless you." Prat left him alone with the boy and his thoughts.
Two weeks. Build up enough of a supply and make sure that the boy would live a long and happy life. And then Frank Bickam was heading to the history books. First man to die on Mars.
"Grumpy?" The boy's small voice made him jump.
"Don't ever go anywhere, okay?"
Damnit, kid's not helping. "I'll be right here kid, on Mars, forever."
"Good." The kid's voice sounded remote and slurred as if he was sleep speaking. "I'm glad you're here Grumpy."
"Me too, kid." And it was even true.
And then that ends that little chapter.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome, man. Have you published this or is this just something you've been keeping?
Nick Webb: It's actually in a short story anthology put out by Patrice Fitzgerald, who does a little sci-fi, short story anthology series. The title of the anthology itself is either called, oh man I can't remember the name. She's going to kill me. [Beyond the Stars.]
C. G. Cooper: It's alright.
Nick Webb: But Patrice Fitzgerald is her name. Actually, I'm going to take this short story and I'm putting together a little compendium of all my short stories. Plus the first 10% or so of a few of my novels. I'm putting it all together into a free compendium I'm just going to give away to people.
Nick Webb: So people can just go to my website and it'll be there. You can just download it for free. You can get all these short stories, read them for free and then if you want to buy them that's fine. If you want to buy the novels that have the excerpts in this compendium, you can go do that. But pretty soon it will be free.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome, man. Thanks for sharing that. I appreciate it. I can tell you were feeling that one when you wrote it.
Nick Webb: Yeah, it's a fun story. This guy, he's trying to die. And yet at the same time, so many people are depending on him and come to depend on him. They're seeing him as this hero. He doesn't want to be a hero, in that sense. He wants to be the hero in his mind, this hero that he's been thinking of in his mind for so long. To go out in a blaze of glory. And then he learns in the end that, that's not what being a hero is. *Being a hero is being there, day by day. Not dying for someone, but living for someone.*
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. That is quite poignant right now. I appreciate you sharing that. I think you should probably, when we get the transcript for this, make sure you go back and get that quote so you can post it on your website too.
Nick Webb: Which one?
C. G. Cooper: The quote you just said that don't even know you said. But go back and listen to it. The listeners know what I'm talking about. Alright, on to the next. Probably our favorite part here. Mean reviews, please tell me you brought a couple mean reviews with you.
Nick Webb: I brought a few.
C. G. Cooper: Nice. Let's dive in.
Nick Webb: These are painful. To get those ones that I feel like I can read on air, you gotta go through the ones that are actually critiquing things about your book that are true. Lots of these bad reviews, they're pointing out very true things. I don't want to make fun of people posting earnestly written reviews about how my book can be better. Those are great reviews, even if they're one star. But then some of them are just kind of short and sweet and funny.
C. G. Cooper: Let's hear them dude.
Nick Webb: And they're usually just these one-liners. Number one, "Was this written by a robot?"
C. G. Cooper: Yes, it was.
Nick Webb: And I want to say, "Yes. Yes it was." Someone else, they're very succinct, they just ... I think they might be from England. They just said, "Rubbish."
C. G. Cooper: That's it? Just one word?
Nick Webb: That's it, just "Rubbish." Okay. Another guy, another one word review. He just says, "Okay."
C. G. Cooper: Does he at least spell it out or is it just the letters O and K?
Nick Webb: I think he spells it O-K-A-Y. Maybe I'm imagining the tone of his voice. Maybe he just says, "Okay." But I imagine him saying it like, "Okay." Like, "I just read that, okay."
C. G. Cooper: So much loaded into one tiny four letter word.
Nick Webb: Oh yeah, that's a very, yeah. Another one says, "I love sci-fi.... this book fell flat on its face." Ouch. There's so many of them. So many good one star reviews. "This book was laughably bad."
C. G. Cooper: What about the ones that really get to you? Or do any of them get to you?
Nick Webb: The ones that actually hurt?
C. G. Cooper: Yeah.
Nick Webb: You know, that sounds pompous to say, but I think I've gotten to the point where it just rolls off my back. Because I'm-
C. G. Cooper: So wait a minute. You really are a robot?
Nick Webb: I am a robot. Okay, the ones that really drive me crazy sometimes, are the ones that they're saying something that's true, but they don't get it. That was the point. Like I did something where that was the point. But then they call me out on it and saying it was a bad thing. I'm trying to find an example.
Nick Webb: Okay, here's one. "The whole novel could be summarized as an elder grumpy man yelling, 'Get off my lawn.'" That was part of a one star review. And I'm like, "Yeah. That's the point. It's this old guy, yelling 'Get off my lawn.'" He's this old guy that can't change the times. He's old and worn out. And now at the very end of his career, he is the one who's called upon to be the hero of earth. That's the point.
C. G. Cooper: Maybe he's got something against old guys.
Nick Webb: Maybe, I don't know.
C. G. Cooper: Jeez, way to go Nick, Mr. Robot. Jeez, golly. Well I'll tell you what. Let's segway that into our really quickly, our speed round. I've got four quick questions for four quick answers. Are you ready?
Nick Webb: I am ready. This will be true speed round since I have not even looked at these questions.
C. G. Cooper: It's alright. I'll only ask you questions that a robot could answer truthfully. Alright, number one, what's your favorite thing about being an author?
Nick Webb: Working for myself.
C. G. Cooper: Working for yourself. What is the best advice you ever received?
Nick Webb: I think I even just gave this advice to everyone listening, early on, is don't give up, just do it. How to put it pithily and succinctly, you only get better at something by doing it.
C. G. Cooper: Amen.
Nick Webb: If you're starting off by sucking, just keep on sucking until you don't suck.
C. G. Cooper: I like that. That's even better. That's right up my alley. Alright, number three. What is one piece of technology that you could not live without? Other than the oil that you put into your robot body?
Nick Webb: The refrigerator.
C. G. Cooper: The refrigerator.
Nick Webb: Without which, I would not get my daily exercise.
C. G. Cooper: Nice. Alright, Nick, number four. Who do you look up to?
Nick Webb: I look up at those authors that are just able to put out a large quantity of high quality entertainment. We know a few of them. Robert Crane, I think we're both friends with him.
C. G. Cooper: Yep.
Nick Webb: I think he might even be doing one of these shows with you.
C. G. Cooper: Oh, yeah. He's got an episode.
Nick Webb: Yeah, okay. He, I read some of his stuff and he is just a phenomenal writer. And yet, at the same time, he has got such a strong work ethic that he sits down day after day and somehow generates this massive amount of high quality, fun entertainment, every day. He's the one that puts out, I don't know, like 10 books a year or something.
Nick Webb: He's the robot. I'm not the robot, he's the robot. And yet it's all good. I've read his stuff. I've seen the reviews. His fans love it. And there's other authors like that. Like Elle Casey is another one of them who is just able to put out a ton of high quality entertainment. And it's not so much that I respect the number of books these people put out. I respect their work ethic. They're able to sit down, day after day and they just do it. Sometimes they don't feel like doing it, but they do it anyway. The result is remarkable.
C. G. Cooper: I feel the same way. It's funny. I actually reached out to Elle Casey and I think she's going to be on the show.
Nick Webb: Oh good.
C. G. Cooper: This year, we're going to try to get her on. Fingers crossed because I feel the same way about her. I've been watching her work for a long time. Alright. Well let's finish up. Can you tell the listeners something of yours that you'd like for them to check out? Where they can find you and come say hello?
Nick Webb: Yeah. My website is, what is my website? http://www.nickwebbwrites.comand I'll have links to all my series and books up there. In terms of where to start reading my stuff, I think my best selling series is the Legacy Fleet Series. That starts with Constitution. It's up to ... I'm writing book number six right now. I'm planning on there being, I think there's going to be nine books in it. We're about 2/3 of the way through.
C. G. Cooper: Nice.
Nick Webb: But I've structured the series such that if you want an off ramp at book number three or book number six, you can get off. You don't have to read all nine books.
C. G. Cooper: But they should, right?
Nick Webb: But you should.
C. G. Cooper: Yes.
Nick Webb: 'Cause really, the story arc across all nine books, I think is really fun. You'll miss that larger arc if you skip out early. And then Facebook, you know I'm on Facebook, Nick Webb. I've got my news releases coming up, let's see, there's that one, book six of Legacy Fleet. It's going to be called Liberty. It'll be out in maybe a few months.
Nick Webb: But I've got other series that I'm working on. I'm doing one called, what's it called? The series is called Earth Dawning. Book one is Mercury's Bane. Book two is Jupiter's Sword. I'm just about to publish Neptune's War in two months. It's done, I just have to let the audio book narrator narrate it for me. That usually takes about two months.
Nick Webb: And right this moment, I'm working on finishing book four of my very first series that I ever started writing in sci-fi, which is the Pax Humana Series. My fans hate me. My readers hate me for this. But I wrote the first three books. And then I let it sit. I let the series sit for two years. I just left them on a cliffhanger at the end of book three. I have been chipping away at this book for the past two years now. And it's almost done. So don't worry fair readers, you are about to get book four. And then I'm not going to let two years go past between book four and five.
C. G. Cooper: Promise?
Nick Webb: Yeah, I promise. And I originally was planning ten books. I have shrunk that back, given my track record. I shrank that back to I think I'm just going to do seven books for that one.
C. G. Cooper: Okay, well awesome. Check out the Legacy Fleet series by my good friend, Nick Webb. And we're going to wrap things up now. This has been Books in 30 with C.G. Cooper. Thank you for listening. Don't forget to email me at cgc (at) cg-cooper.com to say hello or let me know of author you'd like to see as my guest. Thanks for tuning in. This is C.G. Cooper out.
- Lost City Of The Monkey God
- The Descent
- The Wall
- The Shroud Of Heaven
Visit Sean at http://seanellisauthor.com
C. G. Cooper : Welcome to Books in 30, with me C. G. Cooper. Here at Books on 30 we discuss great books with some of today's top authors. So welcome to our listeners, and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest Sean Ellis. Sean, how you doing man?
Sean Ellis: Doing good thanks. Thanks for having me.
C. G. Cooper : Thank you for coming. You're calling me from Arizona, is that right?
Sean Ellis: That's correct. Phoenix.
C. G. Cooper : How's the weather out there right now?
Sean Ellis: It's pretty mild. We had a little rain this morning.
C. G. Cooper : That's always a good thing, right?
Sean Ellis: Definitely.
C. G. Cooper : Good. Well, can you give the listeners a little snapshot of why you became an author.
Sean Ellis: I think I always wanted to be a writer. I grew up with Hardy Boys, and the Danny Dunn science detective stories. I mean, those were my earliest experiences being back when I was six years old, and I just always loved stories, and I liked writing them as well.
Sean Ellis: I always wanted to write the stories I liked to read. As I got into my teen years, I kind of dipped into science fiction fantasy a little bit more, but then when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, I'm like, "I want to write that story."
It took me years to get that first novel, but I think I always wanted it.
C. G. Cooper : Hey, Raiders of the Lost Ark is not a bad place to start. What a great movie. I just introduced those movies to my kids, and one of them wasn't a fan just because of the monkey brain episode in Temple of Doom, but other than that, I mean, I think those things have just stood the test of time. What great stories.
Sean Ellis: I want more.
C. G. Cooper : Well, rumor says we might get another one, so we'll see. Let me rewind a little bit. Completely forgot to read your bio. I totally wanted to hear it from you, but let me give the official bio, your bio, to listeners.
C. G. Cooper : Sean Ellis is the author of more than 30 action adventure novels. He's a military veteran with a bachelor of science degree in natural resource policy. He currently resides in Arizona, as we said, where he divides his time between writing, adventure sports, and trying to figure out how to save the world. Some noble pursuits there. Tell us a little bit about the adventure sports.
Sean Ellis: Well, I grew up in Oregon and discovered surfing late in life, and that kind of led me to exploring the other ... They used to call them extreme sports. I don't know if they still do anymore, but I always loved being outside. Hiking, trail running. Then I started surfing, and I wanted to get into snowboarding, and things like that. Mountain biking, and I'm just lately trying to get ... Now I'm here in Phoenix where there's not a lot of big waves, I'm really trying to get into rock climbing, and that's a journey, but it's a lot of fun to do, and of course it's great to have stuff that your character's going to do in the stories.
C. G. Cooper : Oh, heck yeah. Well, I've tried rock climbing before and I wish I had time and a place to do it because wow, what a workout. I mean, that just ... You try climbing up even the easy ones and you walk away with arms and legs shaking. What a rush, right?
Sean Ellis: Yeah. It's a huge money suck. To really get out there and enjoy the rock, you've got to drop tons of dollars and gear. Mostly I've been limited to the gym, which is nice because you don't need as much gear. They can rent you what you don't have, but I'd like to get out on some real rocks soon.
C. G. Cooper : Very cool, very cool. Well, why don't we jump into it. I know the listeners want to know, I want to know, what are you reading right now? What's a book you're reading or something you currently finished that you really enjoyed and kind of walked away with that, "Holy cow that was a great read."
Sean Ellis: Right. So I just finished Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston, which is non-fiction, but I think books like that are really useful. Especially for me, that one, which is about a search for an actual lost city in the jungle, the jungles of Honduras, because that's the kind of stuff I write about, and this is people actually doing it.
Sean Ellis: What you realize is that you take lots of shortcuts when you write it in fiction because the actual process even in this day and age, just horribly complex with all sorts of logistical challenges. But it was good to do that because then I can start to add more authenticity to my stories as I can compare.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah, we're all sharing notes as we're writing anyway, right?
Sean Ellis: Right.
C. G. Cooper : I know I find that. In fact, I finished a book that another guest had shared with me a couple weeks ago, and now my mind's spinning. The Red Sparrow. It was all about Russian female agents, and the Sparrow School, and my brain is just ... It won't stop. I love that you're going back to ... Obviously, that Indian Jones hasn't left you, has it, if you're reading that book?
Sean Ellis: No. In fact, usually when people ask me what my books are like, I will start by saying, "Do you know who James Rollins or Clive Cussler are?" And they'll always say, "No," because people don't read anymore. So then I'll say, "It's a lot like Raiders of the Lost Ark," and that they get.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah. Well, I will tell you that the listeners around here will know who you're talking about. Definitely Douglas Preston. Well, cool. Well, what about your favorite book of all time. Maybe it's something like you said, you started with Hardy Boys. What just kind of was that aha moment in your life where you're like, "Holy cow. This is the best book I've ever read"?
Sean Ellis:I saw this question and I knew it was coming, and this is like the impossible question to ask a reader, "What's your favorite book?"
C. G. Cooper : You are welcome.
Sean Ellis: But, I think I'm going to go with The Descent by Jeff Long. It's a story about the discovery of a giant cave system that runs under the entire surface world connecting all the continents, and is inhabited by these creatures, which may have inspired stories of hell and demons.
Sean Ellis: In terms of it's plot, it's not necessarily that much different than other stories of going back to Jules Verne, but Jeff Long's prose is so beautiful, that after I read his books I'm like, "What am I doing? I should quit writing and just go do something else." Because his writing is really that good. I highly recommend The Descent, and really anything by Jeff Long.
Sean Ellis: I guess he's in retirement or something. He hasn't put anything out in a while, but his books are really just that ... They're a little bit horror, a lot of high adventure, a lot of rock climbing. He actually, I don't know if you're familiar with Jeff, but he wrote the novel that was adapted into the screenplay for Cliffhanger. The Sylvester Stallone movie.
C. G. Cooper : Really?
Sean Ellis: Right.
C. G. Cooper : This is exactly why I wanted to do this show. Jeff Long, somebody that I've never heard of, and you already pulled me in. Right? You love this book and that's right up my alley. The horror-ish but high adventure, that is very, very cool. When did you read that book? Is that a recent thing or was that something you read a long time ago?
Sean Ellis: I'm going to say I probably discovered that around 2001. It's been awhile. I could not even tell you how I stumbled across it. Maybe I saw it in a bookstore, but I read The Descent, and then I started checking out some of his other stuff.
Sean Ellis: I've got all of his books except for a couple of his very early stories. One of them was a non-fiction, and then of course the story that Cliffhanger was based on, I haven't found that one yet either. But he wrote actually, the sequel to The Descent, and that wasn't as well received. He was talking about a third book, but that may have fallen by the wayside.
Sean Ellis: I just actually just read for the second time another one his books called The Wall, which is about a rock climber, kind of an aging rock climber who wants to go for one last hurrah up a fictional route and ends up ... The story is kind of a ghost story really. So you've got these guys climbing this vertical wall, and all the things that go horribly wrong during the climb, and ghosts, so.
C. G. Cooper : Holy cow. Well, I remember watching that movie, and I'd be curious to see what the book of Cliffhanger is compared to the movie. I am not a heights guy. Like I said, "Rock climbing fascinates me, but I could not go up that high." But holy cow, I mean, if that movie is any indication of the type of adventure he puts into his novels, it's got to be pretty good.
Sean Ellis: Like I said, "That's the one I haven't read," but it's his prose really more than anything else that just ... It's almost lyrical. He's a beautiful writer.
C. G. Cooper : That's awesome. We'll have to check that out. Let's move on to the next part of the show. Did you happen to bring a snippet of some of your work that you'd like to read to our listeners?
Sean Ellis: I meant to ask you earlier, do you have a word limit?
C. G. Cooper : You know what? A couple paragraphs, a page, whatever. We've got some time.
Sean Ellis: This is about 600 words. This is from Exile, which is the name of my latest collaborative novel with David Wood. It's about a female archaeologist named Jade Ihara, who gets in a lot of trouble. In this excerpt I'm about to read, this is actually Jade's ... Jade has been kidnapped and her sidekick who goes by the name Professor, which would be a whole other discussion. Professor is looking for her. She disappeared in Port-au-Prince Haiti, and he is now about to meet with a local gangster who he believes may have information. So I think that's enough set up. I will launch right into it.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome. Let's hear it.
Sean Ellis: The old man regarded him with a vaguely indifferent stare. The whites of his eyes were the color of old ivory, probably the result of the lifetime spent in . When he spoke his mouth barely moved. "You've gone to a great deal of trouble to see me." Cesar's voice was a trouble monotone, gravely like that of an old woman. Professor was mildly surprised to hear English. "This will be a very costly visit for you, I think."
"Like I told your man," Professor replied holding up the case, "I didn't come empty handed. $5,000 dollars. American dollars. It's yours. I just need to ask you a couple questions."
Cesar did not smile, "and if I don't answer your questions, you will just take it and walk away." Professor turned to the linen suit and offered the case to him. The man shied away from it, turned to Cesar, and jabbered in Creole.
Professor just shrugged and placed the case on the concrete floor. "I assume he was just telling you about the bomb in the case. It's true. If you try to force it open or put in the wrong combination it will blow. The charge is big enough to bring this whole building down. It's just insurance. The money is yours whether or not you answer my questions, my gift to you. Explosives too. I'm sure you can find use for them."
He grinned and tipped a wink at Cesar. In truth there weren't explosives though for not a lot of trying. Getting $5,000 dollars had been simple enough, but procuring five pounds of C4 would have taken time he didn't have. "Once Dr. Pierre and I are safely away, I'll call you with the combination."
He didn't pause to let this sink in, but pushed ahead. "My colleague, my friend, Jade Ihara was abducted from her hotel room last night. I don't know who took her, but Yan tells me if it happened in Port-au-Prince, you know about it. I want her back, unharmed, no questions asked, and I'm willing to pay for it. This," he pointed to the case, was just to get me in the door. Name your price."
Cesar's yellow eyes narrowed into contemptuous slits. He took a step forward, and as he moved his hand rotated on the nob of his walking stick, revealing it to be an extremely detailed carving of a human skull, but slightly smaller. A child's skull, perhaps. "That's not a carving," professor thought, and for the first time since entering Cesar L’Enfant’s subterranean lair, felt a shiver of apprehension.
The old man raised his walking stick and thrust the skull end towards Professor. At the gesture, the four men surrounding him lurched forward as one, swarming around Professor. They moved so suddenly without any precursory warning, that he barely had time to react.
He managed to curl his fingers around the handle of the aluminum case and draw it to his chest, but that was all. His plan, admittedly a desperate one, had been to play the bluff for all it was worth. With a threat to trigger the non-existent bomb by attempting to open the case, but the men caught his arms, and pulled them out away from his body, immobilizing him.
He tried to pull free but the lean wiry Haitian men were prodigiously strong. They did not even seem to be exerting themselves. Their faces remained dull and expressionless like sleepwalkers. The chill he'd been filling spiked into a full-blown panic when he realized the significance of this. "Zombies," he gasped. "Son of a bitch."
And I'll leave it there.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome. I like it. I like it. Thank you for reading that. That's fantastic. When was that book written?
Sean Ellis: I believe I finished work on it in August .
C. G. Cooper : Okay.
Sean Ellis: We just got ... Go ahead.
C. G. Cooper : So has that been published yet?
Sean Ellis: Yeah. I put that out late September.
C. G. Cooper : Okay, and that was Exile by Sean Ellis with Dave Wood. David Wood, right?
Sean Ellis: Yeah. I think David's name appears ahead of mine in the credits, but yes.
C. G. Cooper : Okay. Well, you're on the show, so we can say yours first.
Sean Ellis: I like it.
C. G. Cooper : Well, very good. Well, thank you for doing that. It's funny, the mix that we see. Some people just want to see a couple lines, but honestly, I think our readers like it when we get longer passages like that. So thank you for reading. Let's move on to the next portion of our show, the mean reviews. Did you happen to bring any of your favorite mean reviews from your work?
Sean Ellis: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome. This is my favorite portion because I've got plenty of mean reviews. I'd love to hear a couple of yours.
Sean Ellis: Well, I should set this up a little bit. The person who offered these reviews ... I ran into him way back in the day when I was a regular on a Clive Cussler fan forum. For whatever reason, he just kind of took a liking to me, and I remember one day when Cussler was changing up one of his co-authors, this fellow actually went on another forum and said, "Let's just hope he doesn't get
C. G. Cooper : Oh, geez.
Sean Ellis: And I'm like, "Wow. I guess you really esteem me pretty highly to think I would even be in the contention." I said that, and for whatever reason he decided he wanted to take a shot at some of my novels. So he actually wrote reviews for two of my Nick Kismet novels, and then also for a novella.
C. G. Cooper : Lucky you, right?
Sean Ellis: So I'm going to read these, and we'll start with ... This is the review for The Shroud of Heaven, which was my first Nick Kismet novel.
It's, "Did I read anything? To quote Basil Rathbone from the 1939 film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Lady Conyngham gives the kind of party where one comes away with the feeling one hasn't been anywhere. That's similar to the feeling one gets from The Shroud of Heaven. It's just a series of random action set pieces designed no doubt by quotes, author, end quote, Sean Ellis, for a major film studio to pick up for a movie franchise. Let's hope that happens when pigs sprout wings. That have no literary value other than to illustrate the inadequacies Ellis has in becoming a serious writer of this or any other genre. I mean, really? An ancient artifact with unimaginable power, Oh no. A lone hero hardened by combat with the mysterious past who can only save the day with a beautiful woman on his arm, oh my. A pseudo intellectual spade of hokey religious mumbo jumbo, oh yes. If this excuse for a novel was any more original, the sky would be littered with the afore mentioned flying pigs. This genre is better served by the likes of James Rollins, Matthew Reilly, Jack Higgins, and Lee Child with his Reacher series, among others. You as a reader have much better ways to spend your precious reading time, and in this economy, much better ways to spend your money."
C. G. Cooper : Holy cow.
Sean Ellis: So he loved it so much that he went ahead and bought, and reviewed the next novel, Into the Black. I will keep laying it on.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah, please do.
Sean Ellis: This one he titled "Empty Head Adventure."
"Boring as hell. I mean, there's no substance or any real story. It's just chase scene after chase scene, or is it one big chase. Hard to tell the difference really. Where's the plot? I suppose if you're 10 years old, it's okay, but if you're an adult looking for an intelligent adventure, this is not it in any form. Sean Ellis appears to be a Clive Cussler wannabe, and one wonders why he would do so. Cussler is way past his prime, who tries to accent his weak writing with silly cameos of himself in his adventure stories. Ellis is showing signs of being past his prime, and hasn't even written that many books. His books are a waste of money unless you need something to prop up some broken furniture, and Into The Black continues that trend."
C. G. Cooper : He really likes you, doesn't he?
Sean Ellis: He does. He does. He's my favorite reviewer. He kept it short and sweet for the novella called The Devil You Know. I'll just read this one real quick.
"Beep beep. Well, if you don't mind wasting your time reading a road runner cartoon, then this is the book for you. The only thing missing is the quotes hero Nick Kismet saying, 'Beep beep.'"
C. G. Cooper : Do you know what this guy does for a living? I mean, we don't want to call the person out, but I mean, he's pretty creative. I got to say, I enjoy his writing.
Sean Ellis: Yeah. He did most of this back in say, I think 2008, 2009, maybe later than that, but it was before I'd ever heard the term internet troll. I gradually realized that ... I saw this a lot on the Clive Cussler forum, that he just seemed more interested in stirring things up, which is the only explanation I can think of for reviewing books, and buying and reviewing books, that you already hate the author.
C. G. Cooper : Good grief. Well, that's a new one. I haven't seen the personal attacks yet, so thank you for sharing those with us. I know it's not always easy for people. I know when I get bad reviews, it's kind of a kick in the gut, and sometimes it knocks me down. But you know what? The best thing to do is to come back, and enjoy it, and laugh when you can. Man, like I said, that guy, he's pretty creative. So kudos to him.
Sean Ellis: Well, on a more serious note that may be of use to the readers who are aspiring authors out there. You really should read your reviews, even the bad ones. Even the hateful, spiteful ones, and you should think about what is it that they're drawing attention to.
In this case, he wasn't completely wrong about my overdependence on the protracted chase scenes. That was my intention in writing those stories, but I think I've grown a lot as a writer, and I've realized now that it doesn't have to be balls to the wall action all the time. You can probably reach more readers if you use that more assiduously.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah. I agree. I read all of my own at least when I get the guts to actually do that, and they pointed out ... Readers are great at pointing out stuff. Now, it's the constructive feedback that I enjoy. It's the, "This guy is racist, this guy is this, and that ..." Whatever. Why did you finish the book? Why didn't you just return it because Amazon will give you a full refund if you'd like.
So that's always interesting to me, but thank you for that. You're right. Writers out there, prospective writers, keep reading those reviews even though it hurts sometimes because you can learn something from it. Well, thanks again for that. Let's move on to our speed round. Let's see. Today I've got four questions for you. We'll keep these short, and just expound how you'd like to. Number one. What's your favorite thing about being an author?
Sean Ellis: Telling lies for a living.
C. G. Cooper : Telling lies for a living. I love that. Have you put any unicorns into your stories yet?
Sean Ellis: Gee, not yet, but there could be a place for it. There's lots of other mythical creatures.
C. G. Cooper : I know. All right. What's the best advice you ever received?
Sean Ellis: The next book sells the last book. That's just advice for everybody out there who's a writer. Don't get so wrapped up in marketing your book because what's really going to sell that book is the next book you write.
C. G. Cooper : Amen. What is the one piece of technology you could not live without?
Sean Ellis: Word processing software.
C. G. Cooper : Which one do you use?
Sean Ellis: I'm really pretty faithful to Word. It just seems to be the most functional, but really anything would work. Back in the day, I did hammer out a full 400 page novel on a typewriter, and I can't imagine doing that now, and I can't write long hand to save my life. So just something ... I wrote one of my first novels, I wrote it on a Brother word processor, and I was lucky to be able to transfer the files with a floppy disk to the computer I had at the time, and save those files, but something like that. To have that in order to be productive.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah. It's our tools now. I have no idea what I would do without my laptop. Absolutely none. Last question. Who do you look up to?
Sean Ellis: Many people, but if I had to choose just one person, it would probably be Clive Cussler. Reading his novels was kind of one of the things that really made me want to do this. Not just because of the stories, but also because of the way they described his lifestyle in the bio. That's always been an inspiration to me. How he looks for treasures, and gold mines, and things like that. That made me want to do this.
C. G. Cooper : Very cool. It's funny how us creatives have somebody that we watched and read. For me, it was W. E. B. Griffin and Vince Flynn. I just could not get enough of their work, and I finally got something on paper. So that's cool to hear that Clive is your guy, and I assume that you probably read pretty much everything he's written, right?
Sean Ellis: Just about. I haven't read his children's stories but ...
C. G. Cooper : Well, you're a grown-up. So I won't hold that one against you.
Sean Ellis: I'm not a completeist.
C. G. Cooper : Well, I am not either. I have not read a lot of people's children's stuff, other than my own. Well, tell you what, Sean thank you so much for visiting. For letting us know about the books that you're reading, some of the stuff that you've done in your writing world. Can you give a few last words to our listeners? Let them know how they can find you?
Sean Ellis: Okay. So my website, which has pretty much links to all my works, a lot of my collaborations and co-authored works with David Wood, Jeremy Robinson, and so forth. The website is seanellisauthor.com.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome.
Sean Ellis: Also, of course, go to Amazon. That's got all the books, and my Amazon author page. Please follow.
C. G. Cooper : Yes. That's a big deal these days. You mentioned Exile that's been recently released, is there another work that you've got coming that you would love listeners to pick up?
Sean Ellis: Nothing in the next few months that I'm aware of, but I got a lot. If you haven't read anything, get started now. I'm going to be writing ... Working on the third book in my Mira Raiden Adventure series. Those books are kind of in the Tomb Raider vein. So lots of lost cities, and monsters, and guns a-blazing.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome man. Well good. Well, Exile. Recently out. Sean Ellis with David Wood. Sean, thank you again so much for joining us. This has been Books in 30 with C. G. Cooper.
C. G. Cooper : Thank you for listening, and don't forget to email me at Cgc (at) cg-cooper.com. To say hello, or let me know of an author you'd like to see as my guest. Thanks for tuning in. C. G. Cooper, out.
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