In this episode of Books in 30, C. G. Cooper interviews USA Today best-selling author, Ernest Dempsey. Ernest takes it back to the beginning to talk about his love for adventure as a child and just how that led him to write the archaeological thrillers we love today.
However, Ernest soon switches gears to talk about his newer projects that lie outside of those set boundaries. Most importantly, Ernest talks about how he has stayed inspired during the process of writing in a new genre, including reading Vince Flynn novels and even working with his 9th grader cousin.
[2:02] How being an adventure-filled childhood lead Ernest to being a writer
[6:08] The steps Ernest has taken to understand the new genres he is working with
[11:03] Everyone’s love for a revenge tale, and how captivation is key
[14:12] A sneak peek of Ernest’s newest book When Shadows Call
[19:20] How readers react to Ernest’s commitment to keeping his books profanity-free
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Visit Ernest Online at ErnestDempsey.net
Connect with Ernest on Facebook
Watch Ernest on Youtube
The Fourth Prophecy: A Sean Wyatt Archaeological Thriller by Ernest Dempsey
When Shadows Call: A Shadow Cell Thriller by Ernest Dempsey
American Assassin: A Thriller by Vince Flynn
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Contact C.G. Cooper
"My favorite thing about being an author is freedom. I can work anywhere (…) I’m never tied down."
"I don’t like rules too much, so making my own rules is amazing."
"’Write more books’ is the best advice I’ve ever gotten. You’re never going to do worse by creating more content for your readers."
"It’s a little different from the stuff I normally I write, so I wanted to see how Vince (Flynn) did it."
“It’s funny because I get comments from readers about how much they appreciate (the lack of profanity) in my books."
C G Cooper: Welcome to Books in 30 with C G Cooper. Bringing you must-read books according to today's hottest authors. We'll discuss everything from their current selection, favorite genres, and even the latest reviews good or bad of their latest work. It's time to go cover-to-cover with your host and fellow author, 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. Welcome to our listeners, and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest, Ernest Dempsey.
Ernest is a USA Today best-selling author, and he is an archeological thriller writer from Chattanooga, Tennessee, two hours south of me. His Sean Wyatt series has sold nearly a half a million copies worldwide. After leaving an English major behind, he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a masters in counseling, but his passion was always with telling stories.
After 12 years working in the education system, five of which were writing part-time, he quit in 2015 to write fiction full-time. When he's not writing, he's torturing himself by cheering for his favorite sports teams. His two new books, "The Fourth Prophecy" and "When Shadows Call," are available through all online retailers. To learn more about Ernest and get his free digital starter library, visit ernestdempsey, that's D-E-M-P-S-E-Y dot net, [inaudible 00:01:45]. Welcome, Ernest. How are you doing my friend?
Ernest Dempsey: Doing good. Thanks for having me on here.
C G Cooper: Absolutely. Well, I gave your official bio, but could you give the readers a little snapshot of why you become an author? A little bit more detail.
Ernest Dempsey: I've always been making up stories. Some people call me a fibber or a joker or a kidder. I was always joking around with people, making stuff up. I just decided maybe I should start doing that for a living, start selling those stories, so I just made them larger. It's like I tell lies for a living, but I don't want to be called a liar. I don't know.
C G Cooper: Well, you know what? It's fiction. We can do what we want.
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah, but ever since I was a kid, I've always enjoyed reading and enjoyed stories, and especially things to do with ancient treasures or treasure hunts, stuff like that. One of the biggest inspirations for that was The Goonies movie in the 1980s.
I was a kid growing up in the '80s, and The Goonies was huge. I just thought it was so cool that these kids could find a treasure map and go through all these adventures, and find this old pirate ship and all this gold and stuff like that. That was probably the beginning, and then the Indiana Jones movies were huge in the '80s and I loved those. I've always had kind of a desire to do stuff like that. When I found Clive Cussler's books I don't remember how long ago, that was like the tipping point for me. I was like, "I need to do this. I can write stories like this." That's kinda where it comes from.
C G Cooper: That's awesome. Goonies, definitely one of the tops on my list. I was the same thing. I was a kid of the '80s and I have no idea how many times I watched that movie. I know probably too many lines that I really don't want to admit how many lines I know. But gosh. That was just, for me, the adventure of it ... As a kid, that's what you wanted. You wanted to be Mikey, right? You wanted to be out there looking for One-eyed Willie.
Ernest Dempsey: That's right, yeah. It's funny, because I remember I wasn't playing a trick on my neighbor, but I actually took an old tin box and put some stuff in it and buried it and then created a treasure map and hid it in this old lumber pile. I burned the edges of the paper to make it look older, and I was probably like 10 years old when I did this. Then I kinda forced this little neighbor boy into finding the map and then making him follow the steps in the map to find this treasure that I'd buried. It was like a stupid little story from the past that nobody knows about with me. That was my first foray into creating a fictional treasure. It's just kinda blown up from there I guess.
C G Cooper: Isn't it funny? Now you're just being a kid all over again, just on a different level.
Ernest Dempsey: That's right, and it's interesting. I was working on this this morning, but it'll be coming out I think in January. I'm working on a new series called "The Adventure Guild," which is a kids-based adventure archeological thriller series. It'll have a very similar feel to the Goonies with maybe a hint of Scooby-Doo in there. It's gonna be for a younger audience but the same genre. I'm actually co-writing that with my ninth-grade cousin right now.
C G Cooper: That should be interesting.
Ernest Dempsey: He's excited about it. He thinks it's cool.
C G Cooper: That's awesome. Well, cool. Let's get to the meat of things. Let's get to what the listeners are here for. They want to hear about books, and they wanna know, just like I do, what is a book that you're currently reading or finished recently that you think the listeners would love?
Ernest Dempsey: Well, right now I'm reading my first ever Vince Flynn book, so I'm reading "American Assassin."
C G Cooper: Your first ever?
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah. A lot of readers have recommended Vince Flynn to me, and I hadn't read him yet. I'm reading American Assassin right now, which is also a motion picture, and I gotta say, it's awesome. He was so good. It's a shame that he's passed. Man, it's such a good read. I've been hooked from the first page.
C G Cooper: He's fantastic. He was a huge influence for me. I'm so glad you're finally gettin' into those, 'cause I think I've read 'em multiple times, and they're all sitting just to the right of me on my bookshelves right now.
Ernest Dempsey: I'm partly reading it for pleasure, but I'm also partly reading it because I have a new series that has nothing to do with archeology. I took one of my characters from the main series and had her recruited by an anti-terrorist organization in the UK. Based on her set of skills, they recruited her and wanted her to come in, so she's going to work for them now, so to really get a good idea of what that looks like ... It's a little different than the stuff I typically write. I want 'em to see how Vince did it because he was awesome from what I had gathered.
It's been good. It's been eye-opening, but it's also neat 'cause I just released that first book about that character, and as I'm reading through, I'm like, "Okay, good. He doesn't do things too much differently than I do." I guess it's good to be on point with somebody like that.
C G Cooper: Heck yeah, man. Tell the listeners for anybody who hasn't read that book or any of Vince's books, why should they pick up "American Assassin"?
Ernest Dempsey: You know, one of my favorite things so far, and I'm not even halfway through it yet, but one of my favorite things about it is the dialogue is really snappy. I'm a big dialogue guy. I don't get into 300 ways to describe a bar. I don't like being slowed down with too much description, and he puts just enough description there, but it's really short and choppy and to the point, so that you get the setting. Then the dialogue and the action ... The action's really good. It's crisp. It moves you fast through the scene.
But the dialogue is something ... I try to take pride in good dialogue, and his dialogue's awesome. It's on point. It always makes you feel the emotion of the characters involved. It makes you understand the relationships of the characters involved, and I think that's hard to do. A lot of people don't get that because a lot of people don't naturally have those voices in their heads, and the psychologist in me says "That makes you crazy." I think that's so hard for a lot of people to do right, and he absolutely nailed it.
C G Cooper: I think it's just so well rounded. You talk about the 360 ways to describe a bar. That's how I always describe Tom Clancy's stuff, who I love, but he can talk about a bullet for 10 pages. I'm going, "I can't do that. I just can't."
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah. He's that, but Clancy was also the master of character development. Man, he could build characters like nobody else. I try to take some learning from that and to distill it into a shorter version of character development so that the reader can keep moving through the story, 'cause I never want my readers to slow down or pause or think, "Eh, I'm gonna put this book down and get some sleep." I kinda want my readers to sleep when they have my book open. One of my best reviews ever was, "I'm mad at you, because my husband got mad at me 'cause I was up til 3:00 in the morning reading this book." That was a cool little review. That's what I want. You don't ever want 'em to put it down.
C G Cooper: That's exactly it. They need to buy it. They need to go straight to their Kindle, their tablet, whatever, and just start reading. I'm with you.
Next question. This is the loaded question of the interview, the one that authors always love because obviously, we read a lot. What is your favorite book of all time?
Ernest Dempsey: The Count of Monte Cristo. No question. Yeah, Alexander Dumas, that book pulled me in and it didn't let me go. I was in college and I was on vacation with my girlfriend and her family. They were from Florida down in Orlando, and we all went to the beach. I remember her being so mad at me because I was not spending any time with the family. I didn't wanna go swimming with the manatees. I didn't wanna hang ... all I wanted to do was sit on the sand and just keep reading. I couldn't put it down. The character development and the plot development and the plot twists were so good.
I don't understand how somebody back then had such a firm grasp on all those concepts, because they feel like they should be modern concepts, but he was so ahead of his time. It was just an amazing story to me, plus I love a great revenge tale. Everybody loves a revenge story, right? The Count of Monte Cristo is like revenge times three. He gets revenge on everybody and in the most in-depth and incredible ways. That's my favorite book.
C G Cooper: Nice. I finally read that a couple years ago. I've always been a fan of the movies for the exact reason that you said. I love a good revenge story. You talk about a slow burn revenge, that's decades before the bad guy finally gets his due, and wow! The other thing I love too is it's mentioned in one of my favorite movies of all time, which is The Shawshank Redemption. Do you remember that part? How he picks it up ...
Ernest Dempsey: Oh, yeah.
C G Cooper: Dumbass! What is that about? Who is Alexandre Dumbass? And DuFresne says, "You'd like that. It's about a prison break."
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah, it's a prison break. Yeah. I watched it.
CG Cooper: I think that was one of the reasons I actually finally picked up the book, because I watched the movie for the 30th time, and then I'm like, "You know what? Maybe I should actually read this now." That's cool, man. You're the first to say "Count of Monte Cristo," but I agree with you. What a fantastic read.
Ernest Dempsey: Shawshank, yeah. It is a great read. Shawshank is tied for my favorite movie of all time, so whenever it's on TNT or one of those other networks, it gets on and I'm flipping through, I cannot not watch it. I have to stop whatever I'm doing or whatever I'm looking for and just watch Shawshank. I have to.
C G Cooper: Well, there you go. We both live in Tennessee,
Ernest Dempsey: I've probably seen it as many times.
C G Cooper: And we both have Shawshank. Apparently we have a lot of things in common. We're gonna have to talk more after this.
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah, for sure.
C G Cooper: Shawshank, Count of Monte Cristo, now let's talk about your work. Did you happen to bring a snippet to read for the listeners?
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah. I did from the new book, "When Shadows Call," which is the Shadow Cell Thriller Book 1, that just came out it would have been like a week ago. Or this week. It came out this week. [crosstalk 00:14:26].
C G Cooper: Congratulations.
Ernest Dempsey: Thank you. But I'm not supposed to-
C G Cooper: Whenever you're ready. Go for it.
Ernest Dempsey: Oh, okay. Just go for it? Okay.
C G Cooper: Yeah man. If you want to give us a little setup and then roll on.
Ernest Dempsey: This chapter is set in Liverpool, England. Our main character Adriana Villa has just been basically interrogated but not interrogated. She thought she was being interrogated, but it was actually an interview. She was kidnapped by these people and taken to this abandoned building on the docks, and basically told why she was there and what they wanted from her.
The people work for an organization called The Shadow Cell, which is a counterterrorism organization that uses sometimes unethical means to fight terrorism. They've brought her in because she's a master thief and she is also really good in a fight and a tough person, and she comes to find out that they knew about her because a friend of hers works for them.
This is an introduction to that friend sort of. Actually, this little snippet, I put it out on my Facebook page for my readers to decide what I should read on your podcast. This is what they chose.
C G Cooper: Sweet.
Ernest Dempsey: This is Chapter Two from "When Shadows Call," and I'm just gonna read the first seven paragraphs, okay?
C G Cooper: Go for it, man.
Ernest Dempsey: Adriana stepped through the creaky metal door and out into a drizzling rain. She pulled her thin jacket tight around her arms. It did little to keep the cool air from her skin. She was next to the River Mersey. That much she knew.
From the looks of things, the docks hadn't been used in a long time. The warehouses appeared to have been abandoned long ago, with a few rusted forklifts and flat carts sat silently along one of the crumbling brick walls. It was a dreary setting in a perfect location for a secret group of assassins, or whatever they were. No one would think that underneath the cracking streets and derelict buildings a group of people was running some sort of counterterrorism unit.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner," a familiar voice said from around a corner. Adriana didn't turn her head. She knew someone was there. In fact, she'd assumed it was June. Her instincts, it seemed, were as sharp as ever.
June stepped around the corner of the building. She was wearing a black trench coat and held a clear umbrella over her head. "I knew there was more to you than met the eye," Adriana said. "Your precision, your movements, something about you screamed "[inaudible 00:17:20]" underneath that cheerful disguise.
June shrugged. "But fear isn't a disguise. It's real. If you aren't at least a little afraid in my line of work, then you'll get sloppy. Fear keeps us alive. It keeps us sharp.
There you go. That's it.
C G Cooper: Awesome, man. Fear keeps us alive. I like it. I like it. Is that the first book in a spinoff? Is that what that is?
Ernest Dempsey: That's exactly what it is. I took a couple of characters from my main series because my readers asked for it. They said they wanted more June, more Adriana. They always were telling me, "Man, there's something up with June. What's with her? There's more to her than meets the eye, " and I was like, "Well, I'm not gonna give that away yet." Now I'm giving it away that she's actually not just some boring research assistant that sits in a lab all day analyzing relics and artifacts. She actually had a purpose behind that, and that was her cover.
This is gonna be a whole series. These are smaller books. Most of my books are between 300 and 400 pages or whatever, and I guess sometimes 400 plus. These are gonna be shorter, 125 to maybe 200 at the longest, because I think my readers also wanted some shorter stuff that they could go through in a day or a couple days. Some of them read ridiculously fast. I release a book and then they send me feedback that evening.
They wanted some shorter stuff but some more spinoff stuFF, so I'm doing that. I'm gonna be doing it with some of the other characters [inaudible 00:18:59] as well. This is the first in that new spinoff series.
C G Cooper: Awesome. Can't wait to check it out. Listeners, make sure you get a copy of "When Shadows Call" so you can hear the rest of the story.
Now, let's move on to some fun stuff, not that we haven't been having fun, but I always love to hear mean reviews. You said you brought one with you, right?
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah, and it's funny because I know you keep everything clean on your podcast. There's no profanity or anything, which is ... None of my books have any profanity. There's not one cuss word in any of my books. There's no sex in them. There's a lot of violence and fighting and shootouts and stuff like that, but there's no sex and no profanity because I write them so that my 74-year-old mother will read them. Well, she's 73 right now. I hope she doesn't hear me saying that.
But yeah, she's a 73-year-old Christian woman. She loves NCIS. She loves those kinds of shows, so she's okay with the violence and the shooting and all that stuff, but she's not okay with profanity and the sex. I said, "I'm gonna write this series so Mom can read it," so I will never put that sort of stuff in my stories.
It's so funny because I get comments all the time from readers how much they appreciate that. One guy even emailed me who used to be an assistant to the Reverend Billy Graham, and said he loved my stories and he loved the fact that there was no profanity in them.
That as the backdrop for this bad review, I got a review, I don't know, 2016 maybe, from this person who posted a one- star review on Amazon, and she said, "I couldn't get past the second chapter because of all the profanity in this book."
C G Cooper: Jeez.
Ernest Dempsey: I emailed Amazon, and that was like, "Okay. You take down legit reviews all the time. This is completely not legit at all. There's no way this is a legitimate review. If you've read my books, you know there's no profanity in them. You have to take it down." They never took it down. I'm pretty sure it's still there.
C G Cooper: So you go to great length not to include that, and still somebody posts that.
Ernest Dempsey: I think the worst thing I say is "crap," which I was taught that's okay. That's a socially acceptable version. I've used "crap" a few times, but I don't think I used it in that book that she mentions though. I don't know where she was getting that. I think it was probably just a troll. Most of the one- star reviews are just trolls hoppin' around tryin' to mess with people. I don't look at the one-star reviews because they're typically not helpful.
I only look at ... I look at all the three-plus, so three and four-stars usually have a good reason why they didn't like it or give it four or five stars, so I'll read those. Then the five ones, I do read them, because those are usually loyal readers or new readers that are excited. But I don't like to pat myself on the back too much, so I don't get too excited about those. It is nice to see 'em, but the one-stars I just ignore.
C G Cooper: Yeah, it's hard to sometimes though, right? You see the most recent reviews, I've mentioned this so many times on the show. Your eyes kinda wander down into the right on your screen. You're goin', "Aargh. Where'd that come from? Son of a ..."
Ernest Dempsey: Then the customer service person inside of you wants to reach out to them and try to make it better, but that'll be a fruitless endeavor.
C G Cooper: Oh, yeah. I did that early on, and man, did that just make things worse. I was nice about it, but like you said, it was just somebody who wanted to vent because, I don't know, maybe something was goin' on in their life, and you're like< "Wow. I guess I shouldn't unravel that one. Holy cow!"
Ernest Dempsey: Right. Yeah.
C G Cooper: That's not to engage. Just say, "Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the feedback." That's what I say now.
Ernest Dempsey: And actually, one thing I've learned too is not to engage at all, because A, it makes it worse, but also, the more engagement a review gets, the higher up it gets pushed in the sequence of reviews that are displayed, so if you start getting into a war of words, or my readers will start coming to my aid and start defending me to these negative reviews. I'm like, "Guys. Back off. The more you chat with them about it in these comments, the higher that review goes."
C G Cooper: I know.
Ernest Dempsey: Don't trigger the algorithm. Just leave 'em alone.
C G Cooper: Yeah, too bad we can't turn off that chat feature sometimes. But, whatever. It is what it is, and we deal with it.
Well, cool. You ready to move on to the speed round and answer some quick questions?
Ernest Dempsey: Yes.
C G Cooper: Awesome.
Ernest Dempsey: Sure. I'm a little afraid of the speed round. It sounds intimidating.
C G Cooper: No, it's easy. I could name it something else, but "speed round," I'm to the point. These are easy. The first one I know you'll like. What's your favorite thing about being an author?
Ernest Dempsey: It's freedom, man. I can work from anyway, and I do work from anyway. I can go on vacation with my family to the beach and pound out some work in the morning before everybody wakes up, or I can go to a coffee shop and work. I'm never tied down. The thing that I hated most about working in the public school system was the rigidity of my schedule, and all my vacation time was based on the school schedule and all that stuff.
The other thing too is that I'm in control. I don't like rules very much. Being able to make my own rules is amazing.
C G Cooper: I'm with you. I'm with you. Amen.
Second question. What is the best advice you ever received?
Ernest Dempsey: Yes. I knew I was going to get asked this question, and I had a good answer, but I have forgotten the answer I had prepared. But as far as my writing career is concerned, it's funny that it's the most cliché thing, but "Write more books," actually was the best advice I ever got, because you're never going to do worse by creating more content for your readers. It's a form of giving anyway, so I'm a big believer in that, in giving people something good. Writing more books, it was the best advice I've ever gotten as far as my career as a writer is concerned.
C G Cooper: Awesome.
Number three. What is one thing you wish you could change about publishing?
Ernest Dempsey: Oh ... One thing I wish I could change about publishing? I wish that the powers that be like the Amazons and the Barnes and all those, I wish they were a little more diligent about eliminating scamming books. There's been some stuff happening lately where people are scraping other authors' books and copy and pasting them into books and then putting them into like Kindle Unlimited and all this stuff. It's straight up plagiarism. I wish that these big retailers would be a little more diligent about their review process and making sure that these types of [inaudible 00:27:05] brought into the retail spaces where it hurts authors and then it also hurts readers. Readers spend their money on these things, and then they find a book that's poor quality or written by someone, like it was outsourced somewhere or ghostwritten somewhere, it wasn't done very well ... I wish that would change. That's part of the downside of the new way things are going, like the easy accessibility for authors and self-publishing. It's also opened that Pandora's box for scammers, so I wish that that part would change.
C G Cooper: Yeah, maybe they'll come up with some new AI that'll figure out how to crush those ... Now, I've seen the same thing on YouTube, that things are goin' YouTube route with audiobooks. Anyway, hopefully that'll get figured out. I try not to worry about it much, 'cause it's not something I can control. It's out there. It's something we gotta deal with.
Number four. What is one piece of technology you could not live without?
Ernest Dempsey: That's easy. That's my laptop. I couldn't write books, I couldn't promote them, I couldn't get them to readers, I couldn't do anything without my computer. I could do it with my phone, but that would take a lot longer. I know Kevin Tumlinson is an archeological thriller writer, and he's actually writing a book on his phone right now, 'cause he travels so much. I was joking with him I don't understand how he could do that with his thumbs, but he's doin' it.
C G Cooper: He must be really fast. Really quick thumbs.
Ernest Dempsey: He's a quick texter.
C G Cooper: There you go.
Last question, and this is a fun one. If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ernest Dempsey: Nachos.
C G Cooper: Nachos!
Ernest Dempsey: My favorite. Yeah.
C G Cooper: Nice.
Ernest Dempsey: Yes.
C G Cooper: That is a first. I like it. Wait. What do you put on your nachos?
Ernest Dempsey: Nobody else has ever said nachos?
C G Cooper: Nobody's said nachos. Pizza's a really favorite one, but nobody's said nachos.
Ernest Dempsey: Yeah, I figured pizza, probably a lot of people said pizza, [inaudible 00:29:15]. Nachos is sort of like, it's the Tex-Mex version of pizza, 'cause you can get all sorts of different things on there. You can get all different toppings. You can change it up. Nachos are never boring.
C G Cooper: I like it, man. I like it. That is so funny. Watch, now more people are gonna be saying nachos. I guarantee you.
Well, we just ran out of time. Can you give a few last words to our listeners, let 'em know where they can find you and where they can find your work?
Ernest Dempsey: My home base is ernestdempsey.net. There's another Ernest Dempsey out there. He uses my name as a pen name. He has the dot-com, so don't go there. He writes different stuff than me. But yeah, ernestdempsey.net is where you can find my blog and all my stuff and the bio and the books and all that stuff.
Of course, my Facebook page, Facebook.com/ernestdempsey is a good place to interact. I do some special promos and contests on there to give away books sometimes for my readers. They also get a first glimpse into some of the stuff that's coming next. That's a really good place to check it out.
I also shoot YouTube videos. If you go on the YouTube and search Ernest Dempsey you'll find videos that I shoot for my readers. I answer reader questions and put them on YouTube and sometimes just chat with the readers with the camera so that they can kinda get to know me better and see what's comin' next.
C G Cooper: Awesome. Well, thanks again, man. Listeners, make sure you visit ernestdempsey.net. Check out Ernest's new book, "When Shadows Call," because I wanna find out why fear keeps us alive. This has been Books in 30 with C G Cooper. Thank you for listening, and don't forget to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
- How To Make A Spaceship
- Sense And Sensibility
- The Dispossessed
- Tomorrow's Kin
- Big Magic
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. Welcome to our listeners, and a big Books In 30 welcome to today's guest Nancy Kress.
Nancy is the author of 33 books including 26 novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Much of her work concerns genetic engineering. Kress' fiction has been translated into, get ready, Swedish, Danish, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, Croatian, Chinese, Lithuanian, Romanian, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, Russian, and Klingon, none of which she can read. In addition to writing, Kress often teaches at various venues around the country and abroad, including a visiting lectureship at the University of Leipzig and a recent writing class in Beijing. Kress lives in Seattle with her husband, writer Jack Skillingstead. Did I pronounce that correctly, Nancy?
Nancy Kress: Yes, you did.
C. G. Cooper: All right, and Cosette, the world's most spoiled toy poodle. Welcome, Nancy. How are you today?
Nancy Kress: Fine, and I'm delighted to be here. Thank you for asking me.
C. G. Cooper: Absolutely. Well, 20, or no, 33 books, 26 novels. Can you give the listeners a quick snapshot of why you became an author?
Nancy Kress: Yes, but it was not necessarily planned. When I was a kid and I was reading fiction by Louisa May Alcott and Zane Grey, I thought that all writers were dead. I didn't realize that more writing was actually being produced. I considered it a finite resource like oil. Then when I learned better, eventually, I started to write when I was pregnant and at home with a baby and expecting a second child and going pretty nuts, so I started writing while the baby was napping. Eventually, that grew to displace the career I'd originally had, which was a fourth grade teacher.
C. G. Cooper: Wow. You thought-
Nancy Kress: That's the snapshot.
C. G. Cooper: That is fantastic. That is a first. You thought that everybody was dead. That's fantastic. You were just going to step out-
Nancy Kress: When I was eight or nine, yes.
C. G. Cooper: Were you going to be the first living writer? Is that what you told your parents that you want to be when you grew up?
Nancy Kress: No. I didn't tell them I was going to be a writer at all because I thought that, I didn't know that was possible. I grew up in a very conservative Italian-American household, and it never crossed anybody's mind that anybody would be a writer. We lived way out in the country. I didn't have access to a bookstore, and all the books in the library look sort of old, so I just assumed there was no more writing being produced.
C. G. Cooper: That is fantastic. Have you, by any chance, written a story about that because I feel like there's a novel in there somewhere.
Nancy Kress: No, I have not. Not yet. Now I'll have to think about it.
C. G. Cooper: Exactly. I love it when authors dive back into their childhood for story ideas. I was recently reading Shonda Rhimes' book The Year of Yes, and she talks a lot about her childhood and why she became a writer. That's always fascinated me, and it's the reason it's one of our questions on the podcast; everybody's got a completely different story, so thank you for sharing yours. Hopefully we can hear a little bit more in the coming minutes. Let's jump to the meat of it, what everybody wants to hear about. What are you currently reading, or what's a book that you've finished that you think the listeners would love?
Nancy Kress: Well, what I'm reading right now is a nonfiction book, I read a lot of nonfiction, called How to Make a Spaceship, and it is by Julian Guthrie. It's about Peter Diamandis winning the prize, the space X Prize with his ship, SpaceShipOne. You probably remember this.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah.
Nancy Kress: A prize was offered of 10 million dollars, and there was a lot of competition, and this is really an important book because not only is it well-written, but this is where space travel is going. Governments seem to be too tangled up in budget problems, political problems, regulations, and private industry is forging ahead with space travel. This book tells exactly, starting with Peter Diamandis' childhood, you mentioned childhood - boy, his was a doozy - moving forward to the point where he eventually decided he was going to go for it. There's a foreword by Richard Branson and an afterword by Stephen Hawking, and the writing in this book is very good. For anybody at all interested in the future of space travel, I think this book is something they would absolutely enjoy and should read.
C. G. Cooper: Wow. See, and again, I've said this on other episodes, and I probably, I will keep saying it until the end, until people tell me to shut my mouth, that this is why I love talking to other authors about new books because I've never heard of this. Last year, I read Elon Musk's biography, which kind of jumps into that, and obviously, he tells that story, or the author does, but it's fascinating. It's like you said, it's where everything is going. Because governments are so bloated and there's so much red tape, it's amazing to see what people like Musk and like the author of How to Make a Spaceship have done to advance that technology in the private sector. Walking away from that book, what was that main "holy cow" that you walked away with?
Nancy Kress: Well, partly, a feeling that I don't want to go. My husband would absolutely love to go into space, but I'm the kind of a person who throws up after being on a rollercoaster, and I don't think weightlessness would work at all for me, so I want everybody else to go, and then send back pictures to me.
C. G. Cooper: I'm with you. I can't do the tea cup ride at Disney World with my kids because my stomach is just, I don't know. Then there was that movie with Sandra Bullock where she was out in outer space, and that just confirmed my dislike for anything, me, personally, going into outer space.
Nancy Kress: Well, I had a lot of trouble with that movie, but then I have a lot trouble with almost all science fiction movies. I write science fiction, and I object to what Hollywood usually does, which is they just completely ignore the actual science and turn it into either magic or just blithely change the parameters of what's possible in order to make the story better. While I'm all in favor of making the story better, I think there are limits, and that science itself, real science, is exciting enough that you don't have to do some of the really dumb things that movies, science fiction movies do.
C. G. Cooper: Absolutely. No, I agree. I agree. All right, well, then that's a perfect segue, I think, into the most loaded question of the podcast, and that being: what is your favorite book of all time?
Nancy Kress: Well, I have two. When I was thinking about this, I decided I absolutely could not choose, and you're just going to have to endure hearing both of them-
C. G. Cooper: That is fine.
Nancy Kress: ... because, on the surface, they look wildly different, but I'm going to explain why I think they are not. One is Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I did my master's work on Jane Austen, and I have been a lifelong fan. I can practically recite entire sections of those six novels. The other one is a science fiction novel called The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin about a group of anarchists settling a small planet.
Now, you're going to say, even if you're too polite to have to say it, you're going to think it, "What the hell could they possibly have in common?" Here's what it is: Both novels are about people who are struggling to reconcile the practical and the ethical. In Sense and Sensibility, the main character, Elinor, who is the most sensible person in her family, is trying to reconcile the fact that she needs to keep this family afloat financially, and she is in love with someone who is engaged to someone else, and in those days, an engagement was an absolute promise, so there are ethical problems with pursuing that, which she doesn't do. She's wrestling with those issues. She's also wrestling with issues of emotional truth versus practical truth.
The same is truth of Shevek, the protagonist of The Dispossessed, who is dealing with capitalism versus a very ideal socialism in which nobody owns anything. Actually, it's anarchism, but it reads a little bit more like an idealized version of socialism. He is also wrestling with ethical issues. That's what interests me, Carlos, about fiction, books where the main character has some kind of ethical problem, and although Regency England or Jane Austen and the setting on a small planet in the far future don't seem to have much in common, those are my two favorite novels, and it's because of the characters, which is what I'm always interested in when I read.
C. G. Cooper: That's fantastic. Do you go back and read those novels multiple times? We've had authors on that every time they read they're starting a new book, they read a certain novel again or they read it every year. Are these ones that you keep going back to?
Nancy Kress: Yes, I do. Whenever I get a little bit stuck, I pick up The Dispossessed, and I read it because Le Guin's prose is so good that sometimes, that gets me moving. Whenever I'm feeling distressed, I go to Jane Austen because her sensible approach to things always cheers me up a little bit and lifts me out of any depression.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome.
Nancy Kress: Yeah, I reread. I reread a lot. I had this conversation once with a friend who never rereads. She said, "Well, why would you want to reread a book when you already know what happens?" I said, "Well, do you ever listen to a song again even though you know what the music is going to do?" and he said, "That's different," but, you know, it's not. It's like going back to music that you love. You know what it's going to sound like and you know what the book is going to sound like, but you still want to hear it again.
C. G. Cooper: I completely agree. For me, I kind of equate it to that familiar blanket that you had as a child. It's super cozy, you can wrap yourself in it and just enjoy it once more. I've read, there's a few books that I continuously go back to, and whether it's finding that little detail that you didn't notice the 20 other times that you read it or just that familiarity of those characters that they feel like family, and it's just, they're part of who you are.
Nancy Kress: They do. They really do, although I'm not crazy about the blanket anthology, because very few blankets pose ethical dilemmas.
C. G. Cooper: I guess it depends on what kind of blanket it is, then.
Nancy Kress: I don't know what your blankets are... Blankets don't pose ethical dilemmas.
C. G. Cooper: Well, I guess it depends on what part of the world you're in too. Well, cool. Well, let's move on to your work. I'm fascinated. I would love to know if you brought a snippet for the listeners to listen to of your work.
Nancy Kress: Yes, I did. My novel Tomorrow's Kin came out in July. It's the start of a trilogy. It's from Tor, which is the science fiction imprint of Simon and Schuster. It concerns a dilemma that's about to hit Earth, but the opening takes place at a faculty party, and that's what I want to read. My main character, Marianne, is a scientist. She's also on the faculty, and she does not really want to be at this party. As a veteran of a whole lot faculty parties, that's what inspires this.
C. G. Cooper: Great.
Nancy Kress: I hope everybody out there who's on a college faculty isn't going to get mad at me.
C. G. Cooper: No. No, they should take it in stride.
Nancy Kress: [reading from Tomorrow’s Kin] "The publication party was held in the dean's office, which was supposed to be an honor. Oak-paneled room, sherry in little glasses, small-paned windows facing the quad, the room was trying hard to be a Commons, some place like Oxford or Cambridge, a task for which it was several centuries too late. The party was trying hard to look festive. Marianne's colleagues, except for Evan and the dean, were trying hard not to look too envious or at their watches. 'Stop it,' Evan said to Marianne from behind the cover of his raised glass. 'Stop what?' She said. 'Pretending you hate this.' 'I hate this,' Marianne said. 'You don't,' Evan said.
"He was half right. She didn't like parties, but she was proud of her paper, which had been achieved despite two years of gene sequencers that kept breaking down, inept graduate students who contaminated samples with their own DNA, murmurs of "Lucky find" from Baskell whom she'd never gotten along with. Baskell, an old-guard physicist saw her a bitch who refused to defer to rank or to back down gracefully in an argument. Many people Marianne knew saw her as some variant of this. The list included two of her three grown children.
"Outside the open casements, students lounged on the grass in the mellow October sunshine. Three girls in cut-off jeans played Frisbee, leaping at the blue flying saucer and checking to see if the boys sitting on the stone wall were watching. Feinberg and Davidson from physics walked by arguing amiably. Marianne wished that she were with them instead of at her own party. 'Oh, God,' she said to Evan, 'Curtis just walked in.' The president of the university made his ponderous way across the room. Once he had been a historian, which might be why he reminded Marianne of Henry VIII. Now he was a campus politician, as power-mad as Henry, but stick at a second-rate university where there wasn't much power to be had. Marianne held against him not his personality but his mind. Unlike Henry VIII, he was not all that bright, and he spoke in cliches. 'Dr. Jenner,' he said, 'Congratulations. A feather in your cap, your paper is an accredit to us all.'"
That's the opening of the book.
C. G. Cooper: The Henry VII and how you described that is fantastic. I love it. How much of that did you draw from personal experience?
Nancy Kress: More of it than I care to admit.
C. G. Cooper: Got it, but it's fiction, so it's not really real. Right, Nancy?
Nancy Kress: It is. It is. The story's not really real. I think, like good fiction writers try to do is, the story is made up, and if you're writing science fiction, it can be very made up, but the details and the psychology of the characters and what makes us human, that has to stay real.
C. G. Cooper: Amen. Amen. Well, tell us about what drew you to that focus of genetic engineering within the science fiction genre.
Nancy Kress: Carlos, I'm not exactly sure. I started out a million years somewhere back in the early Jurassic writing fantasy. My first three novels were fantasy, and then, for some reason, science fiction became more interesting, and then, as time went on, genetic engineering became really interesting. This is the future. This is where we are going to go because once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't put it back in, and we are going to need this. I'm going to give my stem speech for genetic engineering because that's not what this podcast is about, but let me just say that if we're going to feed the nine billion people that the planet is going to hold in another couple of decades, we're going to have to genetic engineer at least crops and possibly animals, or we just can't do it.
Yes, and there is already incredible advances in medicine from genetic engineering, and there will be even more. I'm not trained as a scientist. I wish I were, but the more that I read about it, the more excited I get, and I hope that some of that excitement transfers itself into my novels.
C. G. Cooper: I'm sure it does. I know it's a subject that fascinates me because it has, there are so many possibilities, and I love to see when fiction brings in that reality. I'm a big fan of the old saying "ripped from the headlines." I love being able to take reality and throwing it into a world that we can make up at a whim. Genetic engineering, you're right. It's here. It's not going anywhere. I'm fascinated to see where it goes. It's very cool that you're not a trained scientist, and yet you love diving into that. That's one of the fascinating things to me about being a creative is you could do that as much as you want.
C. G. Cooper: Let's move on to a very fun part of our show, the mean reviews. Did you happen to bring any mean reviews or interesting reviews of your work?
Nancy Kress: When I first moved over from fantasy to science fiction, I had a reviewer, and I'm not going to name him, who reviewed a story of mine. He said ... I'm really not going to name him, despite the temptation. He said, "Kress has written books of fantasy that have been very well-received. They have a lot of raw passion, and I think they're good, but she should not write science fiction because she doesn't understand the genre at all."
Well, in the years after that, I have won a lot of major awards in science fiction and educated myself more, but I think it underlines some of the short-sightedness that reviewers can have because it's fine for them to review the work that they're talking about. It's not fine to predict the future of what a writer can and cannot do. They don't know that.
The other kind of review that always startles me, and there have been a number of these, is when they say, "Kress is doing some interesting variations in works by X, Y, and Z," (and I will never have read works by X, Y, and Z). They'll say, "She's very influenced. The influence that is exerted by so-and-so in her work is obvious," and I will never have read so-and-so.
Do you encounter that with other writers?
C. G. Cooper: Oh, absolutely. Those assumptions that, "Oh, yeah. He took that from this," or, "She was definitely influenced by so-and-so," and you've never heard of that person, or maybe you have or ... But yes, I ... This is why it's interesting to have this segment within the show because everybody's had, if you've been doing this for a while, you have these reviews that you just kind of sit there, and you scratch your head, or, as I've done a few times, you lay on the ground, and you kind of cry inside for a little bit because somebody was really mean to you. But it's the ones that are confused and they make a certain assumption about who you are or where that inspiration came from ... I'm so glad that there are so many mind-readers out there because I wish I had that talent.
Nancy Kress: Yeah, me too. Me too. There are some very good reviewers, but I have to say, there are also a whole lot of abysmal ones.
C. G. Cooper: I love the good ones. I love the ones that are, and we've had some doozies on here that were, they were not very nice about other authors, but holy cow, could those people write. I mean, I wanted to read a book of those reviews if they would just sit down and, "Hey, write me a book of all those reviews because you are super creative," but maybe we'll get that at some point.
Nancy Kress: Yeah, you should. You should get reviewers who've written books of reviews on there. You don't want to follow followism though.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, exactly. Well, Nancy, Let's move on-
Nancy Kress: I was offered a reviewing gig on a major science fiction magazine a few years ago, and they said, "Would you like to review science fiction novels for us," and I thought about it, and I said, "No," because even though I may have decided opinions, I also don't want to make that many enemies. Science fiction is a very small and insular world. We all know each other because there are so many science fiction conventions. We all know each other, we marry each other, we divorce each other, we publish each other, we aid and shift each other, we edit each other. If I were to review and give my actual opinion of a lot of books, I would end up with many more enemies than I really want, so I said, "No."
C. G. Cooper: It's probably a good call. It's like, as much as I would love to be a food critic, I really don't want to be that guy that wants into a restaurant, and everybody cringes. I mean, I love food, don't get me wrong, but that's just, that's stepping into, I feel like it's a karma swamp. That's going to come back and get you at some point and drag you under.
Nancy Kress: Not only that, you inspire fear. They get, "Oh my God, the food reviewer is here. What have we got that's good? How can we get him to order it?"
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, I'd rather they just gave me free food, and I could just keep my mouth shut. Do you think anybody would do that for me?
Nancy Kress: You could go heavily disguised.
C. G. Cooper: Maybe I could. Maybe I could. Well, Nancy, how about we move on to the speed round, but we've got some time, so don't feel like you gotta speed through these answers because I am fascinated by ... I keep using that word with you, fascinated, so Nancy Kress is fascinating. I'm not usually a repeater of too many words. Let's go on to the first question. I can't wait to hear your answer. What's your favorite thing about being an author?
Nancy Kress: My favorite thing about being an author ... This does not happen every day. I try to work most days on writing, and this doesn't happen every day, but when it does, this is the best thing: when you are so deeply into the writing that the room around you disappears, the world around you disappears, and in fact, you disappear. You're not you anymore. You're the character, and you're in the world that you created, and then when you get interrupted, if the phone rings or my husband comes in and the dog barks, there's a genuine moment of physical disorientation as you get jerked back from that other place to this place. I love that because it's like having other lives, not just a simulation of other lives, but actually being there in that way that is so intense, it seems just as real as reality.
I once was a subject, one of the many subjects, interview subjects for a book that a PhD candidate was writing about, flow state. That's what that is. It's a flow state. You can get into it with anything that you are intensely committed to, but you can't summon it, or at least I can't. It happens when it happens, and when it does, that's my favorite thing about writing.
C. G. Cooper: Gosh, you put that so well. I'm not even going to try to top that other than to say: getting in that flow, there's something about it, though, isn't it? I mean, you wish you could snap your fingers and get there in a moment's notice, but sometimes, it just surprises you when it hits, and you have to go with it. If you don't, like you said, there's that moment of disorientation if you're interrupted, and it's like you just want to get back. It's like that best dream that you want to go back to sleep and get part of it again.
Nancy Kress: It doesn't happen with every story. I think the stories that I write in three classifications: There's the very rare gift story. Usually, they're very short where the whole thing comes to you at once, and you write it down, and you don't have too many changes. Then there's the usual writing of the story, where you're trying this and trying that, and sometimes, that's where the flow state happens. Then there's the third class of stories, which I think of as, and please excuse the vulgarity, as the shit-and-rocks story. You have to push and push and push to get the damn thing out, but what I'd noticed is that the quality of the story is not necessarily dependent on which kind they are.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, it's the work you put in, right?
Nancy Kress: Well, sometimes, but sometimes, you just get a gift story, and it's almost no work. My first award-winning story was a gift story. The whole thing just came to me, and I sat down, and I wrote it, and it was a success. Other stories that's happened to have been abysmal failures, even in my eyes. You just never know. I guess what I'm saying, Carlos, is that I don't feel I have a lot of control over this creative process.
C. G. Cooper: I wish we had more control sometimes. Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic?
Nancy Kress: No. Tell me about it.
C. G. Cooper: It kind of delves into that. There are ideas floating around everywhere, and inspiration is, it's in the air. It's up to us to grab it, and if we let it go, then it kind of flies the coop. It's just, it's a fascinating look into inspiration, into creativity. I highly recommend it. I've recommended it to a couple of authors we've had on, but you, especially, because you've been a creative for so long, I think you could probably write most of the book anyway, but you'll sit there and shake your head like, "Yup, that's happened to me. That's definitely happened to me."
Nancy Kress: All right, I'm writing it down. Elizabeth Gilbert, and what was the name?
C. G. Cooper: Big Magic. I'm looking at it on my shelf right now.
Nancy Kress: Okay, I just wrote it down.
C. G. Cooper: Fantastic book. All right, next question, and this one, I can't wait to hear your answer, what is the best advice you ever received?
Nancy Kress: When I saw that this was going to be a question, I was thinking about it, and I think that the best advice that I ever received wasn't about actual writing. It was more about being a writer. It was that some stories are going to fail. I know that it sounds very simple but when you're starting out, and you've written a story, and everybody rejects it, and it doesn't go well, and even you see it isn't good, the big temptation is to think, "Oh my God, I can't do this. I'm never going to be a writer," especially if you get two or three of them in a row, but then somebody said to me, a much more established writer, "Look. Some stories fail. It doesn't mean that all your stories are going to fail. Even if you have a string of failures for a year, it still doesn't mean that all your stories are going to fail. As long as you're out there doing it, you have a chance of succeeding. If you stop doing it because you think you failed, then you don't have a chance."
Because I teach all the time, I have students sometimes who back me into a corner, their eyes all shiny with eagerness, and they say, "Do you think I can make it as a writer?" The only honest answer is, "I have absolutely no idea. I can look at the work you just gave me, and I can evaluate it. I can tell you whether I see signs of talent there, but I don't know how persistent you're going to be. I don't know how much rejection you can take. I don't know if you have the capacity, or the willingness, to change and learn and grow and experiment. I don't know if you're willing to tolerate the financial uncertainties that go with most writers' life. I don't really know anything abut you, and so I have no idea whether you're going to make it as a writer." Then they look very disappointed.
C. G. Cooper: Nancy. I think we could talk about that for about three hours if we wanted to,. Okay, I'm going to have to have you back on the show, and we will, maybe we'll just talk about that because that, I think there's a lot of writers out there that they struggle with that. They want the rubber stamp for somebody to say, "You're going to make it," or, "You are a writer," rather than to step up and say, "I am a writer, and I'm willing to do the work and go through all those trials that you mentioned." It can be a lonely career, but that's the great thing about what we're doing right now. It's two creatives, two artists that are talking, and we're always trying to get better. Do you feel this way that you can always improve, especially with your teaching. I'm sure you're super critical of maybe everything you do, maybe you're not, but do you always feel that there's something that you can do better in your writing?
Nancy Kress: Oh my God, yes. Whenever I have to reread a book that I wrote a couple of years ago, and I really don't like to do this, but sometimes, it takes that long for the galleys to come in or something like that, or somebody wants me to write an ancillary story, so I have to reread the novel, I'm always cringing because I'm thinking, oh, I could've done that better, I could've changed this, I wish I thought of that. Yeah, you do, you're constantly aware of the gap between the story that was in your head and the story that actually ended up on the page.
C. G. Cooper: I love that. You're always aware of the gap. That, okay. That one, I'm going to use, and yes, I will give you credit for that as well, but, well, we just went out of time, but Nancy, thank you so much for joining us. Could you give our listeners a few last words and let them know where they can find you and your work?
Nancy Kress: Well, my latest novel, Tomorrow's Kin, which is the first of a trilogy, is out from Simon and Schuster from Tor, and it's available on Amazon. You can order it at any bookstore. Ask for it. Most of the rest of my work is also available on Amazon. Not all of it, but some of it is. That's one place you can do it, or you can ask your bookstore to order it.
C. G. Cooper: Fantastic. You heard it here. Check out Tomorrow's Kin by Nancy Kress. This has been Books In 30 with C. G. Cooper. Thank you for listening, and don't forget to email me at cgc@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 Ark
- The River Between Us
- A Short History Of Nearly Everything
Visit Mike at http://mikemullinauthor.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. So welcome to our listeners and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest Mike Mullin.
C. G. Cooper: Mike first discovered he could make money writing in sixth grade. His teacher, Mrs. Brannon, occasionally paid students for using unusual words. Mike's first sale as a writer earned 10 cents for one word: "tenacious." Since then, Mike has always been involved with literature. One of his early jobs was shelving books at Central Library in Indianapolis. Later, he paid his way through graduate school in part by serving as a reference assistant for Indiana University's library. Mike has worked in his mother's business, Kid's Ink Children's Book Store, for more than 20 years, serving at various times as a store manager, buyer, school and library salesperson, and marketing consultant. Mike wrote his first novel in elementary school, Captain Poopy's Sewer Adventures. He's been writing more or less nonstop ever since, but fortunately for his readers, Ashfall was his first published novel. Mike holds a Black Belt in Songahm Taekwondo. Did I pronounce that correctly, Mike?
Mike Mullin: Close. “Songahm.”
C. G. Cooper: Songahm.
C. G. Cooper: He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. He is represented by Kate Testerman of kt literacy. Welcome, Mike. How are you, my friend?
Mike Mullin: I'm doing great. How are you, Carlos?
C. G. Cooper: I am very good. It's a Thursday, at least as we're recording this. That means Friday is tomorrow and I am loving the fall weather. How's the weather where you're at?
Mike Mullin: Oh my gosh. It's just a beautiful, sunny day. I went for a walk earlier, stopped, wrote for three hours, walked home. It was wonderful.
C. G. Cooper: I love October. I think it might be my favorite month for weather. That and when spring finally comes.
Mike Mullin: Yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Well, tell you what, I read your bio, but how about you give the listeners a little snapshot, a quick snapshot of why you became an author.
Mike Mullin: Oh. I'm an author today because I got fired from every other job I tried. You laugh, but that's true. Finally, I got fired from my latest string of jobs I absolutely hated. I turned to my wife and said, "Honey, I'm going to write a novel and I'm going to sell it."
Mike Mullin: She turned to me and she said, "Fine. Whatever. Just do something, would you?"
Mike Mullin: So I did. I wrote this young adult horror novel called Heart's Blood. Now, if you cut that into internet, you'll notice that doesn't exist. It never sold because it sucked. Oh my God, it was bad. Then I wrote Ashfall. I actually broke through very, very quickly. I was very fortunate.
C. G. Cooper: Well, good. Good. Tell us a little bit about what Ashfall is and where that came from. What was your inspiration?
Mike Mullin: Yeah. Sure. Ashfall is about a teenager struggling to survive and find his family after the Yellowstone super volcano erupts and plunges the world into this horrible natural disaster. I got the idea from that book, like I get the idea from most of my books, by reading other people's books. At the time I was trying to write this, of course, I wasn't earning anything. So we were trying to live off my wife's income and we're just dirt poor. I mean, really. We thought we were going to lose our house for awhile. So I walked to the library, checked out all the books. I still walk to the library and check out most of the books I read, even though I can buy them now.
Mike Mullin: As I'm walking though Central Library in Downtown Indianapolis, near where I lived at that time, and I saw this huge book on display: Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. At that time, I didn't know Bryson's work. I hadn't read any of it. So I picked it up and I kind of paging through it. I'm thinking, "No. No. No. No way. This is not a short history of nearly everything." Because I'm a history nerd. My favorite history of just the Revolutionary War, Angels and the Whirlwinds, is like 1200 pages. This book is 600 pages. So he had to had missed something, right? Yeah, so I checked this book out because I was going to read it. Then I was going to write Mr. Bryson a snarky letter about everything he missed in his book. You can do that now. You can write snarky letters to authors. I know because I get some.
Mike Mullin: But instead of being history like history class, this book was a geological history of the earth. In the middle, I learned about the Yellowstone super volcano. I thought, "Ah. That's what I ought to write about." So I did.
C. G. Cooper: Nice. So did you have any bad dreams about that? I know I've ... With my writing, sometimes it comes from the dark place. You know, it's something that I'm afraid of. Was the super volcano something you worried ... You're going to Yellowstone and it happens to you? I mean, did you put yourself in that place?
Mike Mullin: Yeah, I mean, at first a little bit. But as I researched it more and more, I actually learned more and more about the super volcano, because I didn't know anything about it when I started writing Ashfall. I got actually less and less nervous about it because it's actually very unlikely to erupt in my lifetime. You know, these things happen over a geological time scales of hundreds of thousands of years. You know, I'll be really, really lucky if I get another 40. So yeah, I don't worry about it a whole bunch. Although, I did think ... This makes me a horrible, horrible person, but I gave a copy, a very early draft to my mother. She read it and said it gave her terrible nightmares. I thought, "Yes. I nailed it. I got into her head." Yeah, I'm a bad, bad son.
C. G. Cooper: It's for all the peas she made you eat as a child, right?
Mike Mullin: Exactly. Yes. Yes. The awful medicine I was forced to consume. God, I hated that stuff.
C. G. Cooper: Well, hey, let's dig into the meat here. Let's talk about something that you're reading right now or something that you've finished that you think the listeners would love to know about.
Mike Mullin: Yeah. I just finished it up this morning. I read all kinds of stuff, lots of what I read. Yesterday, I started this book The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson. It's sci-fi and it really... I saw something about it on Twitter, I think. The description kind of appealed to me because it's a remnant of humanity fleeing after the earth is destroyed. So they're in this ark type spaceship that only holds 50,000 people. They've selected the very best and brightest of humanity and created this utopian society within this ark fleeing to Tial City. Obviously, things go horribly, horribly wrong. That kind of utopian fiction and the whole premise of having kind of a mystery, a murder mystery within a sci-fi novel. Oh, very much appeal to me. I like gender bender. Not gender bender. Ha ha, GENRE bending books of any type and especially genre bending sci-fi.
C. G. Cooper: Very cool. The Ark by, you said, Patrick Tomlinson.
Mike Mullin: Patrick S. Tomlinson.
C. G. Cooper: Okay.
Mike Mullin: Yeah. First book I ever read by him. I guess he's got three or four out. This is the first in a trilogy. So, yeah. I don't know. I got it from the library. I think I'm actually going to order the trilogy because usually when I find a book I really like from the library then I go ahead and buy it because, I don't know, authors like money.
C. G. Cooper: No, we don't. Do we? Oh, yeah. We do.
Mike Mullin: Oh, yeah. We do. Amazingly, I've tried and tried and tried to go to Kroger and trade words for groceries. They never will go for it. I don't know what the deal is. They want money.
C. G. Cooper: Maybe you're not saying it right or maybe you're just giving a piece of paper. Maybe you should try that.
Mike Mullin: No, no. I'm pretty convincing.
C. G. Cooper: Well, let's move on to the one that seems to be ... It's turning into the most controversial of questions on the show. What is your favorite book of all time?
Mike Mullin: Well, it's really hard, but I do get asked that question quite a bit. I got a list, if you go on my website you can find a list of my 30 all time favorite books. I realize I find fantasy. So it's C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and Dune. But if you going to force me to chose just one, I'm going to choose something a little more obscure just because I wish it were read a lot more than it is. It's The River Between Us by Richard Peck. It's actually a work of historical fiction. It looks at the Civil War and race during that time period in a way nothing I've really read before does. I love this book. I've read it many, many times since it came out in the late '80s. You know, it's kind of a book I wish were written more often. I think it belongs on shelves with Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird.
C. G. Cooper: Wow. That good.
Mike Mullin: Yeah. Richard Peck is just a wonderful human being. A really nice guy. He's been writing 40 years. He's probably like the author I look up to the most or would like to most be like when I grew up, if I grow up. I don't know. Yeah. Yeah. It's just amazing work. If you enjoy historical fiction, look it up. It's YA, but, you know, YA is for adults too. I mean, various majors anywhere from 50% to 80% of our readership is adults. This is definitely work that can be sophisticated and can be very much enjoyed by adults, as well as teenagers.
C. G. Cooper: Nice. A River Between Us. Historical fiction.
Mike Mullin: Richard Peck.
C. G. Cooper: Richard Peck. Got it. Got it. I'm a huge historical fiction buff. Do you read any of the Michael and Jeff Shaara books like ... Oh my goodness. Good grief. Now it's totally flying off my head. The Killer Angels. Have you read that?
Mike Mullin: No. I haven't.
C. G. Cooper: Oh my goodness. If you're into history ...
Mike Mullin: I should, huh?
C. G. Cooper: Absolutely. Civil War.
Mike Mullin: What time period do they deal with?
C. G. Cooper: The Killer Angels is specifically Gettysburg.
Mike Mullin: Oh, cool.
C. G. Cooper: It was required reading when I was in the Marine Corps, but I think I read it before that. I've probably read it, I don't know, 10, 15 times. It's just the way they do, you know, Josh Chamberlain who was from Maine who basically saved the battle for the Union Army and then Robert E. Lee on the other side. All these characters that we've read about for years and years, but, you know, they've thrown into a fictional world. But heavily, heavily based in historical fact.
Mike Mullin: Well, that sounds like it's right up my alley. I'm going to see if my library's got it after we get off this call.
C. G. Cooper: It definitely does. The Killer Angels. It's fantastic. All right. Well, let's move on to your work. Did you happen to bring a snippet with you of something that you've written?
Mike Mullin: Oh, yeah. My most famous book, most popular book is Ashfall. It's the first book in a trilogy, so it's really the one you want to start reading, if you're interested in following my writing. Yeah, I got a little section of this I very often read, if you want me to go ahead and do that.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah. We are all about it. If you want to set it up and then read for us.
Mike Mullin: Yeah. So Alex is a 15 year old who lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa. One week, his mother said she wants the whole family to visit relatives in Warren, Illinois, about 140 miles away. Just for the weekend. Alex doesn't want to go. He's got his friends, his bike, his computer games. Everything he likes is in Cedar Falls. The only thing in Warren on his uncle's farm are goats, stinky goats. So Alex complains and complains and talks his mother into letting him stay home alone just for the weekend. She figures he's 15. He's a pretty responsible kid. What can go wrong?
Mike Mullin: Well, what does go wrong is while he's home alone, the Yellowstone super volcano erupts. So this is what it's like for Alex. He's home alone. He's on the second floor of his house. He's playing a computer game and this is what happens to him.
Mike Mullin: [Reading from his book, Ashfall]: There was a rumble, almost too low to hear, and the house shook a little. An earthquake maybe, although we never have earthquakes in Iowa. The power went down. I stood open the curtains. I thought there might be enough light to read by, at least for a while. Then it happened. I heard a cracking noise like the sound the hackberry tree in our backyard had made when my dad had cut it down last year, but louder. A whole forest of hackberries breaking together. The floor tilted and I fell across the suddenly angled room. My arms and legs flailing. I screamed, but couldn't hear myself over the noise. Boom and then a whistling sound. Incoming artillery from a war movie but played in reverse. My back hit the wall on the far side of the room and the desk slid across the floor toward me. I wrap myself into a ball. Hands over the back of my neck. Praying my desk wouldn't crush me. It rolled. Painfully clutch my right shoulder and came to rest above me, forming a small triangular space between the floor and the wall. I heard another crash and everything shook violently for a moment.
Mike Mullin: I'd seen those stupid movies where the hero gets tossed around like a ragdoll then springs up unhurt and ready to fight off the bad guys. If I were a star in one of those, I'd suppose I would've jumped up, thrown the desk aside, and leapt to battle whatever malevolent god had struck my house. I hate to disappoint, but I just laid there, curled in a ball, shaking in pure terror. It was too dark under the desk to see anything beyond my quivering knees, nor could I hear the noise of those few violent seconds that had left my ears ringing loudly enough to drown out a marching band, if one had been passing by.
Mike Mullin: Plaster dust choked the air and I fought back a sneeze. I lay in that triangular cage for a minute, maybe longer. My body mostly quit shaking and the ringing in my ears began to fade. I poked my right shoulder gingerly. It felt swollen and touching it hurt. I could move the arm a little, though. So I figured it wasn't broken. I might have lain there longer checking my injuries, but I smelled something burning. [end reading from Ashfall]
Mike Mullin: So Alex is trapped in his house. His house just fell on its head and the house is on fire. That's just the first chapter.
C. G. Cooper: All right, man. Thank you. Do you do theater on the side?
Mike Mullin: Oh, no. But I do a ton, a ton of public speaking. So I travel all around the country and talk at high schools and middle schools and colleges and sometimes even to adult audiences. That's the reading I always do, so I practice it just a little bit. In fact, that's memorized. I looked at the book while I was reading it just now and realized that I'd been reading one sentence wrong for months, but that's okay. Nobody called me on it, so I think it's cool.
C. G. Cooper: That's good. Well, thank you for reading that. That as great. I really appreciate it. Well, how about the favorite part of our show, which isn't always a favorite part for the author. I know it's not always for me when I'm reading mine, but mean reviews. Did you happen to bring any or any funny ones?
Mike Mullin: Yeah. I just got a couple little snippets and kind of a funny story. I really believe in the right of reviewers and readers, in general, to receive the work the way they want to, right?
C. G. Cooper: Yeah.
Mike Mullin: I mean, I sort of create ... I mean, I have one movie running in my head when I'm writing, but the reader has a different movie running in their head when they're reading. I think one of the cool things about books is their movies just as valid as mine. So yeah, you know, I appreciate all reviewers. Actually, very soon after Ashfall came out I got this one star review that was just ... It was very well written and interesting, made a bunch of good points about the book. I could definitely see where she was coming from. But yeah, it's hard to read the first time.
Mike Mullin: But then I shared it around. Just said, "Hey. This is a really cool, good review. I thought it was really thoughtful." Probably got more response to that, to sharing a bad review than I ever got through the good ones I sent around. In fact, then my publisher used a pole quote from it when they printed the paperback version of Ashfall. There's like pages and pages, four or five pages, in the front of nice things people had sad about the book, which I thought was really cool. Publisher's weekly and the Horn Book, Library and Media. Blah, blah, blah. Then they put a pole quote of the bad review right on the imprint of the front of this, which I thought was just brilliant. It says, "This book is going to have you running in the opposite direction like a bat out of hell."
C. G. Cooper: Well, that will grab you, right?
Mike Mullin: Absolutely loved. Then they did some other goofy stuff. I think whoever was putting this together was, you know, enjoying a little liquid refreshment while they were doing it. Right in the middle of the English edition: "Ashfall, a un bellisimo libro, bien scripto, y gente." I can't read Italian (?) very well so there's all these weird Italian and bad reviews and whatnot right in the middle of the first four pages. I don't know if people pick it up in the book store and notice those or not, but I think it's funny so I love it.
C. G. Cooper: That's good. Well, tell me, I mean, how do you personally deal with that when you get a bad review in?
Mike Mullin: Oh, I just usually pour some whiskey and try and move on.
C. G. Cooper: Best not to deal with it, right?
Mike Mullin: I have a really good bottle for that. I break out the Glenlivit when I've got a bad review.
C. G. Cooper: The mean review bottle of whiskey. I like it.
Mike Mullin: You know. Yeah. You know, the other thing I always remind myself, and it's hard to do this but it's true. The best research on reviews that's been done was actually conducted by the business school at Wharton. They did this huge study using a Nielsen book scan data and New York Times book reviews. Basically studied what happens when you get a good or bad review in the New York Times. The interesting thing they found out is that for authors who were last well known, they define that as people who had 10 or fewer books out at the time the review appeared. A bad review did more for their sales than a good review. Their sales increased more when they got trashed in the Times than when they got a good review in the Times.
Mike Mullin: Now, for authors who are very well established and they define that has people who had 10 or more books out. You know, they're household names, basically, at least among readers. That was not true. A bad review actually hurt their sales. But for people like me, I mean, you know, my fourth, fifth, depending how you want to count it book is coming out in May. Yeah, bad reviews are only helpful. Go ahead. Trash my book. You know. I don't mind. I don't share them around as much as I used to just because now I have kind of a fan base and I worry about people ganging up on them. Or I'm worried about the whole internet mob thing. So I can't really share them the way I used to. But I don't mind. Whenever I meet people that have read my book, whether they liked it or not, you know, I say, "You know, if you like it or not, please leave a review somewhere. That's a real big help for me. I'd love it if you did that." I never ask them leave me a good review either. I mean, leave an honest one. Whatever you believe.
C. G. Cooper: I do the same thing. An honest one. Now, you know, you hope that they skew towards the four, five star, but, you know, whatever. It's life, right?
Mike Mullin: I don't know. I'm not sure if it's true, but I heard that the number of reviews you get on Amazon matters way more than the quality.
C. G. Cooper: It does. I mean, you can't have a below average rating and still do super well, but yeah, definitely the number of reviews helps. But, you know, it is what it is. You encourage people to do it and, like you said, encourage them to write an honest review.
Mike Mullin: Absolutely.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah. Well, cool. Well, hey, I'm curious, because of your background, I've got a question that I hadn't shared with you before, but I think it'll be right up your alley.
Mike Mullin: Yeah. Yeah. Sure. No big deal.
C. G. Cooper: It's sort of a kind of a pet project of mine. I love helping kids learn to read. Not teaching them to read, per se, but to love books. So how do you think that we can help kids learn to love reading?
Mike Mullin: Well, I mean, various perspectives to that. I mean, if you're a parent, read to them. Keep reading to them, even after they're so old that they think it's geeky or stupid, right? Even after they get to that stage. You know, that's how I learned to love to read is my parents read to me and continued reading. You know, we had this sort of a "chapter every weekend book" that was always running in our household right up until I was probably 13 or 14. There's no reason you can't continue it after that unless you have a really horrible kid like I was.
Mike Mullin: But then from an author's standpoint, I mean, what I was kind of looking at is there's an enormous drop off, right? In the later years of middle school, seventh, eighth grade. Particularly among boys reading. Boys, by in large, quit reading around seventh or eighth grade. Thinking about it, why is that? I think about my own development. I skipped from reading middle grade and YA adults, right to adult. I mean, that was about the time I went to started reading Stephen King and Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert and just kind of left the young adult world completely. I think a lot of young men do that. You also have girls and sports and all these other things and video games that are, in some ways, more compelling than some of the fare we're offering as authors.
Mike Mullin: So what I was trying to do with Ashfall, and to a certain extent think I exceeded with, is write something that would be so fast paced, so compelling, and honest that it might attract a few teenagers to spend a few hours with that instead of Call of Duty, for example. So like in Ashfall, I don't shy away from violence at all. I mean, I depict the apocalypse as realistically as I possibly can. That includes, sadly, I think it would include quite a bit of violence. So it's kind of an unusual YA novel in that sense compared to a lot of the fare out there. It's also unusual in that the vast majority of the YA audience right now, 70% plus is young women. Certainly there are lots of young women who enjoy Ashfall, enjoy my work, and that's great. But I was really writing from the standpoint of let's try to keep some of the young men in this market and reading.
Mike Mullin: The best kind of fan mail I get and I do occasionally get these letters is sometimes it's mothers saying, "This is the first book my 14 year old has read in four years." Sometimes it's high school students. I was giving a presentation on the south side of Chicago last year and a kid got up and asked me a question. Senior in high school and after I finished answering it, he librarian whispered to me, "I'm pretty sure that's the first book he's actually read cover to cover while he's been here." So, yeah. I love that.
Mike Mullin: Like you, I'm all about how can we get more kids to read more. Specifically teenagers to read more, in my case. It's an important question. I mean, it's not just because I'm an author and I make money off of people reading, right? There's all kinds of research on this question. Kids who read for pleasure are better at math, which you wouldn't think. But there's a huge study. 8,000 teenagers in Britain approved that. They're obviously better at reading. They have stronger vocabularies. They're less likely to get involved in the juvenile justice system. They're less likely to try illegal drugs. They typically delay the start of sexual activity. When they do start having sex, they're more likely to do it responsibly. I mean, those things are things that pay off to our society as a whole, right? I mean, it costs us ... I don't know what the number is in Indiana, but nationally, it's over $40,000 a year to keep a kid in juvey. You know, we can turn a few of those kids into readers, we save cold hard cash with that. Not to mention that we make their lives better.
Mike Mullin: So, to me, it's really important. Aside from, you know, making a decent living and having some fun, that's what I'm trying to achieve as an author.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. I love it. I'm so glad I asked that question. I had a feeling that you had more insight than you were letting on before. So I'm really glad I asked that and thank you for answering.
Mike Mullin: Yeah. It's a great question.
C. G. Cooper: Good. Well, all right. Let's move on to our speed round. I got four questions left. We'll just get through them pretty quickly. Are you ready for the first question?
Mike Mullin: Shoot.
C. G. Cooper: All right. Number one, what's your favorite thing--
Mike Mullin: Oh, wait. You're an ex-Marine. I probably shouldn't say shoot.
C. G. Cooper: You're good. What's your favorite thing about being an author?
Mike Mullin: I don't have a boss. I love that. Man, I hated working for other people. I also discovered, I owned a company for a while, and I discovered I also dislike customers and employees. So I sort of had customers. I don't have any employees, thank goodness. I don't really have a boss. My editor's sort of a boss, but I can go a month without even emailing her, so it's a boss with a pretty light touch. So yeah, I love that.
C. G. Cooper: Good. All right. Number two, what is the best advice you ever received? This is not just about writing. I'm talking about life in general.
Mike Mullin: Oh. Wow. Best advice I ever received. I don't know what to say to that. That's pretty good. I don't have a great answer to that. I always tell people, writing advice I always give and I've heard is just read a lot and write a lot. That'll make you a better writer.
C. G. Cooper: Fair enough. All right. Number three, what is one piece of technology you could not live without?
Mike Mullin: You know, I've very briefly been without a toilet. I really dislike that. I mean, I can live without it. I don't absolutely have to have one, but I'm not sure. I don't know. Yeah, no. No. I like toilets. As far as computers and the internet and all that, uh, yeah. It's helpful. I kind of like it. I kind of feel though like we're running an enormous experiments on the human race that we haven't really ... Like maybe, we should've done a trial run first to see what it actually does and how it turns out. So I'm not a 100% sold on pretty much any technology, except toilets. I'm 100% sold on those.
C. G. Cooper: I am 100% with you on that. All right. Number four and we'll keep this super brief. Who do you look up to?
Mike Mullin: Oh, Richard Peck. He started writing when he was about the same age that I started. Now he's in his 70s and still going strong, still putting out a great book every year. Yeah, I'd like to be Richard Peck when I grow up.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. You might still get there. All right, Mike. Thank you so much for visiting. Thank you so much for answering my questions honestly. Can you give a few last words to our listeners. Let them know where they can find you.
Mike Mullin: Oh, sure. I'm at MikeMullinAuthor.com. That's my email too. Mike@MikeMullinAuthor.com. You can find my books anywhere. Barnes and Noble, Amazon, your local independent book store. Love it if you'd support them. Any way you like to buy books. So anyway, I hope you give them a try and I hope you enjoy them. Ashfall's the best one to start with because it's the beginning of my trilogy. I will have a new book called Surface Tension, a young adult thriller out in May. So I hope you'll look for that when it comes out.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. All right. Check out Ashfall by Mike Mullin. This has been Books in 30 with C.G. Cooper. Thank you for listening and don't forget to email me at email@example.com to say hello or let me know about an author you'd like to see as my guest on the show. Thanks for tuning in. C.G. Cooper out.
- The David Wolf Series
- Foreign Deceit
- You Are The Universe
- Rendezvous With Rama
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. So, welcome to our listeners, and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest, Jeff Carson. Jeff, how you doing, man?
Jeff Carson: Hey, good. How you doing? Thanks for having me.
C. G. Cooper: Oh, yeah. How's where you're at? Are you in Colorado today?
Jeff Carson: Yep, I'm in Castle Rock, Colorado, which is about 30 minutes south of Denver.
C. G. Cooper: Awesome. Is it chilly out there yet?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, it was like 22 degrees last night. It was real cold bringing the kids to school this morning.
C. G. Cooper: I'll bet. Getting out the winter clothes already, right?
Jeff Carson: Exactly.
C. G. Cooper: Nice. Well it's not too chilly here in Nashville, not quite yet, but it's blowing in. Well hey, let me read a quick bio for the listeners. Jeff Carson is the Amazon bestselling author of mystery, thriller, action, and suspense novels. His popular David Wolf series has ten installments chock full of action, mystery, realism, suspense, riveting plots, and thrills. Jeff graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Environmental Science, used that degree to weigh down paper on his dresser for over a decade, worked in the golf industry, and now writes fiction full-time. The first novel in the David Wolf Series, Foreign Deceit, is an international mystery thriller he wrote while living in Italy for 11 months with his wife and son. The next nine books in the series are set in the mountains of the Western United States. Jeff and his wife, Cristina, live in Colorado with their two sons.
C. G. Cooper: Once again, welcome Jeff. Anything to add to that bio?
Jeff Carson: Who wrote that? It sounds great. No, nothing to add.
C. G. Cooper: I specifically was chuckling when I was reading the degree weighing down paper on your dresser for over a decade. Environmental Science, what led to that one?
Jeff Carson: I don't know. I don't even know what ... Yeah, I didn't know what I was doing in college other than kind of drinking a lot and ... You know, had to pick something.
C. G. Cooper: No, none of us did that in college, did we?
Jeff Carson: No. Never, never. No, but I like science. I like Earth Sciences type of stuff, and that's what I was going for, yeah. So there you go.
C. G. Cooper: And now you're a full-time writer.
Jeff Carson: Exactly, yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Nice. Well, I went from serving in the Marine Corps to being a writer, so I don't know. I don't know how we connect the dots there. It's a weird, weird thing. I always love to hear how did you end up being an author? What was your ... What was that moment where you're like, "Alright, forget the rest of this stuff. I want to do this for the rest of my life"?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, that's ... Yeah, I think I hit ... During when we went to Italy, I had, like, a bug up my butt to start blogging. I had been doing affiliate marketing and stuff like that online for a couple years. And I just wasn't very good at it, and I wasn't making very much money at it. And, yeah, I just kind of ... I don't know, it was like a rock bottom-type thing, and I was just like, "Alright, I want to do something that I really want to do, you know." And at the same time I learned that people were making money doing this, and I was just like, "Holy crap. Wait a minute. You can do what, you know, for money?" And that was it. I think it was ... Like, you know your friend L. T. Ryan, I knew him through some other forum and he was talking about what he was doing and I just said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, man. Tell me everything you're doing here. What's going on?" And from that moment on, you know, I've been just ... I haven't looked back. I've just been obsessed with writing fiction and learning how to do it and just doing it.
C. G. Cooper: Well, awesome. Well let's get down to the meat of things. Let's talk about books. Tell me about a book that you're reading right now or something that you finished recently that you just fell in love with.
Jeff Carson: Well, I think that I'm, like, always reading ... I'll read, like, fiction at night, but during the daytime, I'll do a lot of walks in between writing and stuff, and I'm just hooked on self help stuff. I just constantly just bombard my brain with self help stuff. Right now, I'm reading Unshakeable by Tony Robbins. It's just all about investing and stuff like that. And then I guess I just finished You Are the Universe, by Deepak Chopra, which I thought was super, super cool.
C. G. Cooper: What is that one about?
Jeff Carson: It just breaks apart everything we know scientifically. Or, what we think we know, scientifically, up to this point. And kind of just shows that we might be going along the wrong lines or the wrong direction. I know this is out there, but I mean, we might be going the wrong direction with science. We're not taking into account consciousness enough. We're trying to be too objective with the laws of physics and stuff like that, even though everything is pointing towards, it's all about consciousness. I think I got hooked on this whole consciousness thing because I want to start a new series about a guy who might be somehow enhanced, consciously. And I just was like, "Okay, what does that even mean?" So I've been diving into, like, consciousness and stuff like that.
Jeff Carson: Anyway, that book is super interesting. I would recommend it for, like, the real scientific-minded person. But also the person who is open to spiritual stuff like that.
C. G. Cooper: Cool. Is that, like, a Limitless thing? Like, the movie and the show? Or are you talking even deeper? You're talking about a different state that Deepak gets into?
Jeff Carson: Well, it's Deepak and some, like, PhD scientist, physicist guy who writes this, so it's not just Deepak. And it's not just self help stuff, as much as just kind of realizing that the universe is like a participatory thing. You know, like, if you look at an electron, it can behave as a wave or a particle at the exact same time, depending on if you're looking at it or not, or trying to measure it or not. It's just like... It's super mind-blowing. And you'd have to read it so they could explain it better than I can.
C. G. Cooper: Got it. Alright, so You Are the Universe. What about Unshakeable? What's been grabbing you, reading that one?
Jeff Carson: I've been just getting into investing recently, just now that I'm making a little bit of money as a writer. I'm trying to figure out what to do, and I'm not very savvy with investing, so I just needed to do that. And I'm just realizing, like, there's just all sorts of hidden stuff. Which I knew instinctually, as I talk to these investing people. You know what I mean?
C. G. Cooper: Yeah.
Jeff Carson: But, I don't even know what's going on, you know what I mean? I just don't know what's going on. So, I feel like this book is really good.
C. G. Cooper: Sweet, well Tony's the guy to listen to, too, right?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, exactly. And then as far as fiction, I'm reading ... I just finished reading Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke.
C. G. Cooper: Okay.
Jeff Carson: I read a lot of sci-fi, as well.
C. G. Cooper: I didn't know that about you.
Jeff Carson: I know.
C. G. Cooper: You're a sci-fi guy, too?
Jeff Carson: Yeah. I've been threatening to myself to start writing sci-fi, but I just don't know if I can pull it off.
C. G. Cooper: I've written some of it, and just make sure you get the audience right.
Jeff Carson: Yeah. Is that right? Okay, yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, just make sure you know which subset you're going after, and I'm sure the listeners will tell you the same thing. Well, alright, let's move on to your favorite book. What's your favorite book of all-time?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, this is tough. I guess I'd have to say The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum. I don't know if you've read that before.
C. G. Cooper: Is that one of the Borne books? Or, is that something else?
Jeff Carson: No, it's a Paul Janson book, and I think it was his last book that he wrote before he died, or right before he died he wrote this. And it was actually published, yeah, right after he died. But, I haven't read all of his books, but that one I have, and it stood out as just awesome. Like, there's such a major twist at the end that you're just like ... You know you like cross your eyes a little bit as you're reading it. You're just like, "Oh!" I don't know, it's such a good book and the way he introduces the character and his intelligence and how badass he is and stuff. It's great.
C. G. Cooper: How has that affected what you do? I mean, I know I kind of pick and choose. If I read something great like a Vince Flynn or a Tom Clancy, inevitably some of that, kind of, drips into my writing.
Jeff Carson: Oh yeah.
C. G. Cooper: How has that book kind of influenced you on the writing level?
Jeff Carson: Well, the next book that I'm gonna write ... I just finished writing the eleventh book of my detective series, and I'm gonna start writing an espionage series, and I'm halfway through this book, and it's definitely bleeding in there. Just, I think it's like the point of view characters. How he switches back and forth and just really shows them so well. Yeah, he works through four or five different flashbacks in the book, too, which I've always read ... You know, I read a lot of books on how to write, and they always say, "Don't go into flashbacks," but he does such a good job, and it really helps with his story, so I've kind of thought about doing that with this book, too.
C. G. Cooper: How many rules do we actually follow when we're doing this, though? You know? Like, personally when I read a book, I love flashbacks. It gives us some insight into who a character is and some of their history. I mean, who is the one that said, "No flashbacks? That's so taboo, you're not supposed to do that."
Jeff Carson: I know, and then I tried that on my tenth book, doing flashbacks, and I feel like it was my best book, finally. Yeah, I agree. I totally agree with you there. I think it's something really cool to do. That, as long as it's not, like, a certain spot where the reader really wants to know what's happening next and you kind of pull them out of that, you know?
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, I agree. As long as it doesn't totally screw up the flow. But if it's something that builds up a character, absolutely. I mean, I never hesitate to throw those in anymore. I've learned my lesson, and plus I don't really like following the rules anyway.
Jeff Carson: Right. Well, I think the only rule that I would say ... Well, that I would say is a good one, is to not do cliffhanger endings. My first book used to be a cliffhanger ending, and it got some bad reviews for that, but I had to fix it.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, I've been there, done that. In fact, we kind of did that with our most recent launch, and we got some nasty notes because of that. But, whatever. Alright, well let's move on to-
Jeff Carson: Move on.
C. G. Cooper: -a snippet of your work. Did you bring something that you could read for the listeners?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, this is from my ninth book. I'm not even sure why I picked this, but I did. So, are you ready?
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, set up the scene for us.
Jeff Carson: Okay, yeah the scene is: David Wolf is my main guy. He's a detective in the Sluice Byron County Sheriff's Office in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, and there's been a murder, and a woman's body was found along the river. The FBI has shown up to the scene before they even showed up, so it's kind of a little weird. And now he's working with the FBI, and they're on their way up to a suspect's house.
C. G. Cooper: Cool.
Jeff Carson: [Reading from his book, Signature]: County Road 34 ran up a well-populated valley at the northern perimeter of the Rocky Points Ski Resort, doubling as an access road to the area in summer months. Clusters of condos and town homes built in the 1980s with their straight, boxy lines and faded blue paint littered the narrow valley on both sides. Jeremy Attichy's place was one of these, an end unit in a row of three town homes with a decent view of attractive forests to its north side. It was small, the type of place Denverites snatched up for a seasonal retreat because one could technically ski in and then ski out, though one would have to ski up the valley for a few hundred yards to get to the nearest ski lift. But there were shuttles that ran year-round to the base, and when people were done, they could point their skis to the door, which meant that even though the units were small, they were pushed north of expensive. According to department records, Attichy rented.
Jeff Carson: By the way, Attichy ... Excuse me, I'm poking in here. Attichy is a fellow deputy on the force.
C. G. Cooper: Got it.
Jeff Carson: [Continues reading from Signature): Wolf drove himself, trailing Special Agents Luke and Hannigan, who rode in Luke's black Tahoe. Behind Wolf, Lorber and Gene Fitzgerald followed in the county meat wagon, as Lorber referred to it. A Ford Econoline van equipped with the latest and greatest tools of the medical examiner's trade. Wolf parked in a vacant spot and got out into a cool breeze that whistled through the pines to the north. It looked like the clouds of yesterday were gone and not coming back, replaced by wind, blue sky, and piercing sun. Luke and Hannigan were already parked and appraising the place. Carrying matching aluminum cases, Lorber and Gene got out of their van and joined the huddle behind Luke's Tahoe.
Jeff Carson: "Kind of a sh8$ hole," Hannigan said. "I live two buildings down," Lorber said.
Hannigan raised an eyebrow and looked at him, "Really?"
"Well, I'm sure they're great places." Hannigan took a big breath through his flared nostrils, "It's good to be back in the mountain air. No smog, no crack hobos, just mountain air. Smell those pines."
Wolf wondered how the man could smell anything because they were standing in the eddy of his metrosexual cologne. The special agent's jacket flipped open, revealing his muscled physique through an expensive looking button up shirt. The tie was held firm by a silver bar clip that matched the platinum chunk of a watch on his left wrist. He'd taken the FBI dress code and added a few chapters of his own to it.
Jeff Carson: And, that's it.
C. G. Cooper: Nice, man. So, I'm not even ... I was about to ask, "What happens next?" But I don't want to ruin it for the listeners. You said that's from your ninth, or your tenth book?
Jeff Carson: That's my ninth, yep.
C. G. Cooper: And what's it called?
Jeff Carson: Signature.
C. G. Cooper: Signature, alright, cool.
Jeff Carson: A serial killer who leaves, like, a signature on his victims.
C. G. Cooper: Alright. Well for the listeners out there, if you want to get the rest of that story, make sure you pick up Signature. And now, on to definitely our author's least or most favorite part of the show, Mean Reviews. Did you bring some mean reviews to read?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, I brought a couple. It was a nice exercise in depression, thanks.
C. G. Cooper: You are welcome. I seem to have this same conversation every time we have an interview.
Jeff Carson: Yeah.
C. G. Cooper: But it's therapeutic. Just get it out, laugh about it, and the listeners ... They tend to enjoy this part, too. So, let's hear it, man.
Jeff Carson: Alright. First one is one out of five stars. And it's called "Wow....": "This book could be summed up in just one word, 'SUCKED.'" And sucked is really big in capitals. Yeah. And then the next one, and it's ... The more I read this now and after reading my last snippet, it starts making me wonder ... Okay, one out of five stars: "Was a good book all the way through except for being too..." [And then it goes on]: "Was a good book all the way through except for being too ... descriptive. But the final chapter? Come on, why did it end like that? That's absolutely stupid. Why would a man who had been through all that roll over? I don't think so. Won't make me read the next one. Loser."
C. G. Cooper: Just that one last jab in there, huh. "Loser."
Jeff Carson: Yeah, just one last word, loser.
C. G. Cooper: Nice.
Jeff Carson: I don't even know what he's talking about. He didn't roll over at the end of the book, either. Anyway, whatever. I didn't, you know, move on from that one ...
C. G. Cooper: You mean you didn't call up that reviewer and say, "Hey, I was just wondering what you were talking about?"
Jeff Carson: Come on, what are you talking about? No, but yeah that's it. That was my two that I found.
C. G. Cooper: Alright, well cool man. Alright, let's move on to the speed round, shall we? I've got some questions for you. We've got some time, so feel free to take a little extra if you'd like. Normally we keep it short, but you've got time, so we'll use it. Alright, number one. What's your favorite thing about being an author?
Jeff Carson: I guess I have a couple things, since we're taking time. Well, the creativity, I think is just, like, so cool. Just the act of not knowing what you're gonna come up with and then just 30 minutes later having something come out that's just, "Holy crap, what was that?" You know, it's just almost a magical thing, whatever. Authors say that all the time, but it really is.
C. G. Cooper: Birthing that idea out of thin air, right?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, exactly.
C. G. Cooper: Well, cool. Alright... Sorry, go ahead, I was totally interrupting you.
Jeff Carson: I was just gonna say, the freedom and the positive feedback from people that you get. Like, people will email you and tell you how cool it is, and it's just ... I went from getting hate mail from people with the job before, you know, doing that affiliate marketing stuff ... Just people really angry. And it was just; it really made me quit. I mean, that's what made me quit. And then just to go to people showering you with, like, "Dude, thanks so much for writing ..." Or, not, "Dude," but you know, "Thank you so much for writing this book. It really helped me through a tough time," or something, and you're just like ... You know, getting those type of emails is just awesome.
C. G. Cooper: I love those, too, and then you get to have those personal conversations. And I know you are one of the guys that actually answers your emails. Can you remember one of those times where you got an email that said thanks or they said something, and you're just like, "Holy cow, it all makes sense. This is what I should be doing for the rest of my life"?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, I mean ... Yeah, some person ... One lady told me that her mother died, and reading the books was helping her through that. I was just like, "Oh, wow. Really? Okay, that's heavy, you know? I didn't know that kind of stuff was going on." And then there was like another really old guy that I know that I just constantly talked to who lives on a farm in Tennessee, and he just kind of lets me in on what he's doing. And then his son, like, emailed me and just thanked me for doing that. It was just like, "Hey, I'm just a normal guy," but I feel like, "Wow, okay, cool." Anyway, just stuff like that. I guess those were two things that stand out.
C. G. Cooper: I love that. And you said it, "We're just normal guys, you know, trying to entertain people and hopefully make a little bit of money in the process." You know, it's like I tell listeners, "Email me. I will definitely ... I might not give you a novel back. I might not write a lot, but I'm definitely gonna say, 'Hello.'" And I appreciate other authors like you that actually respond. I mean, we have plenty of peers who don't do that, and so when I run into other guys and gals that actually do respond, I feel like it's like a little family. We're actually real people, like you said, you know?
Jeff Carson: Right, yeah I hear ya. I really hear ya on that, because I've done the same thing. I've tried to communicate with some people and they're just ... Well, they're too cool for that, so it's like, alright, you know? Move on?
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, amen.
Jeff Carson: Exactly.
C. G. Cooper: Amen. That's all you can say, you know? So why get mad at it? It is what it is.
Jeff Carson: Oh, exactly.
C. G. Cooper: Alright, well number two. What (and this is another loaded question), what is the best advice you ever received?
Jeff Carson: Well, okay I took this in the context of my writing career, and the first ... I took a course by this guy, Geoff Shaw. I don't know if you know him, the Kindling?
C. G. Cooper: Oh yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeff Carson: And I just remembered he said, "Don't listen to the losers." And it was just, like, a simple statement, but then he just went on to tell what he meant by that, and it really stuck with me. You know there's plenty of people who don't make it out there and have all the reasons in the world they didn't, but why would you listen to them? Why wouldn't you ... If you want to ... If you want to be a winner, why would you listen to the losers in anything you do?
C. G. Cooper: I think it's one of the reasons that you and I kind of latched on to L. T. Ryan. You know, he's not only a good dude, he not only answers his emails, but, I mean, he's done it.
Jeff Carson: Right, that was exactly it.
C. G. Cooper: And I always wanted to kind of model it, you know?
Jeff Carson: Yep, yep.
C. G. Cooper: I like that. "Don't listen to the losers." I know my readers would appreciate that.
Jeff Carson: Exactly.
C. G. Cooper: I think I sprinkle that in my writing. We don't have much time for losers.
Jeff Carson: No.
C. G. Cooper: Alright, number three. What is one piece of technology you could not live without?
Jeff Carson: Yeah, that's my MacBook Air. I gotta take it, you know. I take it everywhere and write with it. That's it, right there.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, me too. I've got mine sitting in front of me right now, looking at your picture on Skype.
Jeff Carson: Yep, me too. Looking at myself, too. No, I'm looking at you.
C. G. Cooper: Okay. Alright, number four. Last one. Who do you look up to?
Jeff Carson: I did put L. T. Ryan. I put L. T. Ryan here because of the same thing ... Just the way he was one of the winners, you know, that I could look up to. You know, guys like you, you know. Guys like David Archer, any of those self-published guys that are doing it and are nice enough to talk about it and stuff like that.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah, well there's not much to hide, right? I don't understand the people that try to hide stuff.
Jeff Carson: Right, exactly. And then, C. J. Box was just a really big author that I liked and tried to emulate at the beginning, and you'll see that. If people are C. J. Box fans, you would find my books to be similar in that regard.
C. G. Cooper: She was the doctor, is that right?
Jeff Carson: Well, C. J. Box is the author, and he writes the Joe Pickett series.
C. G. Cooper: Oh, okay. That's right. C.J. Box. I'm thinking C.J. Lyons.
Jeff Carson: Oh, yeah yeah yeah. So, C.J. Box, and he writes Joe Pickett, and he's like a game warden in the middle of Wyoming.
C. G. Cooper: Got it, okay. Yeah, I mean I should know that. I see the name all over Amazon.
Jeff Carson: Well, because at the beginning of my career, I was wondering if people would want to read about a cop in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, and I was trying to figure out who my character was gonna be, and I figured, well, if someone can be successful writing about a game warden in Wyoming, the least populated state in the United States, then, you know, I could do this.
C. G. Cooper: And the rest is history, right?
Jeff Carson: The rest is history.
C. G. Cooper: Yes. Alright, well we're wrapping things up. Can you give us a few last words to our listeners? Let them know how they can find you. Maybe a work that you have that's coming out or recently released.
Jeff Carson: Yeah, I'm not sure when this will be published, so it might be just recently released. My next book is called Rain, and it's the David Wolf Series, Book 11. And you can find me at jeffcarson.co, without an m, and/or on Amazon.
C. G. Cooper: Alright, cool. Alright, so jeffcarson.co to talk to Jeff. As we said, he will actually answer emails, so feel free to email him.
Jeff Carson: Oh yeah.
C. G. Cooper: And then his new book, Rain, number ... Did you say 11 of the David Wolf series?
Jeff Carson: Yeah.
C. G. Cooper: Alright, number 11. Jump on the first one, too, if you haven't started. And thank you again so much for being with us, Jeff. I'll give you one last shot. Any last words for our listeners out there?
Jeff Carson: Just thanks for having me and for listening.
C. G. Cooper: Yeah man. Hopefully we can do it again, and I can't wait to share these books with our listeners.
Jeff Carson: Thank you very much.
C. G. Cooper: This has been Books in 30 with C. G. Cooper. Thank you for listening, and don't forget to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to say hello, or let me know of an author you'd like to see as my guest. Thank you for tuning in. C. G. Cooper, out.
- The Jericho Quinn Series
- Power And Empire
- Field Of Fire
- The 48 Laws Of Power
- The Force
- The Cartel
- A River Runs Through It
Visit Marc online at MarcCameronBooks.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.
Welcome to our listeners, and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest, Marc Cameron. Marc is the author of the New York Times best selling Jericho Quinn thriller series. Cameron's short stories have appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and Boys Life magazine. In late 2016, he was chosen to continue Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan campus thriller series and Tom Clancy's Power and Empire was published this past month. Cameron is a retired chief deputy US Marshall who spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement.
His assignments have taken him from Alaska to Manhattan, Canada to Mexico, and dozens of points in between. He holds a second degree black belt in jujitsu and is a certified scuba diver and man tracking instructor. Originally from Texas, Cameron is an avid sailor and adventure motorcyclist. His books often feature boats and bikes, including OSI agent Jericho Quinn's beloved BMW GS Adventure. Cameron lives in Alaska with his wife and BMW GS motorcycle. Welcome Marc, how are you today?
Hey great. Thanks for taking the time and letting me be on.
C. G. Cooper:
Absolutely. We are super excited. I know my readers have been excited to hear from you. They're all military and action thriller fans. If you wouldn't mind, could you tell the listeners a little bit more about why you became a writer?
Well, you know, I wanted to be a writer since I was a small boy. My aunt was a librarian, both my parents are teachers, I ended up marrying a teacher, and I've been surrounded by books my whole life. In fact, my aunt used to give us boxes of discarded books, just the kind with a crayon mark in them or a ripped page or whatever. Every year we'd visit her, and she'd give us a big fruit box full of dozens and dozens and dozens of books.
One year, she actually gave me a signed copy of Wilson Rawls’ Where The Red Fern Grows. I think I was about eight and struggled my way through it because I was still learning to read. I took it into my third grade teacher and she read it to us and cried. I had kind of a crush on her and I thought, man if a book can move this beautiful lady like this, I might like to write. So I wanted to write, my first memories of it have been since the third grade.
C. G. Cooper:
That's awesome. I love that you had a little crush on the teacher and that somehow, the romance actually fed into your writing career. That's fantastic. Well, obviously people are gonna know you big time now because of what you're doing within the Tom Clancy universe. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about and where you see it going in the future?
Sure, I was fortunate enough to meet a guy named Mark Greaney at Long Beach, at a writers’ conference in Long Beach, and we became friends. Mark's just a good guy, a good mentor, and I've watched him help other starting writers and sort of “new to this” writers and I had just broken into the list but had a successful series of my own, but not near as successful as Mark. At that point, he had done I think six of the Clancy's, and we talked over the years and became good friends.
Last year, about maybe 18 months ago, he offered to do a cover blurb, or a blurb, for my newest Jericho that I was finishing up at the time called Field of Fire. I sent him a PDF of the proofs and he read it and, unbeknownst to me at the time, he was deciding (at that time, he’d written seven) to step away from writing Clancy. At that time, he had done seven, and he was deciding to step away from the franchise and work some more on his own projects. So he recommended me for the gig and forwarded those manuscript pages to Putnam and they read it and liked what they saw and offered me the job.
C. G. Cooper:
That is amazing. Well, congratulations. I know that must have been exciting in it's own little whirlwind and you said that you'd just gotten back from doing interviews. What was the most challenging part of that process of getting that book produced or getting it out there in the world or just taking over the reins?
That's a really good question. I'm often asked if it was surprising to me or if it was scary or what, and the answer is yes and yes. In fact, I think I was talking to Tom Colgan, the editor that I work with at Putnam for these books, and I kind of came to the conclusion, because when I did hear from my agent, it came out of the blue. I'd spoken with Mark about writing and my books and his books and Clancy. We talked about his experiences writing the Clancy franchise because I've been a Clancy fan for years and years.
In fact, I picked up The Hunt for Red October early on, before there was a movie and people got excited about it. I go back all the way to the beginning as a Clancy fan. I'd read Without Remorse on the way to a protective detail after the first bombing of the World Trade Center when I was with the US Marshalls. So I remember right where I was when I read Sum of All Fears, and the airplane trips I was on when I read Rainbow Six. So I've been a Tom Clancy / Jack Ryan / John Clark fan as long as there's been a Jack Ryan and a John Clark. It just was stunning to get this opportunity and I was telling Tom Colgan that I think if it would not have been I probably wouldn't be the guy to do it. Because nobody's gonna imitate Tom Clancy, but what I try to do is make sure that I have those characters as Clancy envisioned them.
In this book, for instance, there's a big human trafficking plot and Clark runs up against these human traffickers that are brutal, they're evil men and women, and he reacts as he did in Without Remorse and some people who haven't read all the Clancy titles may not like that and they might think, "Oh my gosh, Clark's mean." Well yeah, he is mean and he just hasn't been confronted with that sort of theme in the past few books, so I'm not really taken a turn on the character. I think I'm writing the character the way I believe he was envisioned. I think really striving hard to make sure Clark is Clark and Jack Ryan is the Jack Ryan that Clancy envisioned, that's been the ... I don't know if hard is the right word but I certainly have worked hard at it to try and get those right.
C. G. Cooper:
Again, I can't even imagine. Without Remorse is still probably within my top five books. I remember when I first read that and the John Clark character, he's always been my favorite, him and then Jack comes right behind him because I just ... I don't know, something about that pain that he went through in that book just resonates. It's like, what if that happened to you? What power do you have to seek vengeance? I'm really excited that you're bringing that back out again because I've always wanted it, reading through all the Clancy stuff, I want evil John Clark to come back so that's very cool.
Obviously I do too, we'll see how people respond.
C. G. Cooper:
Well good. Let's get to the meat of the show, our listeners love hearing about books. They would love to know about a book you're reading or one that you've recently finished that you think that they would love.
You know as an adventure writer, thriller writer, I read a lot of thrillers in the genre, but I also read a lot of nonfiction. I read a lot of history and I'm rereading now a book by Robert Greene I think. That's the thing about Robert Greene, called The 48 Laws of Power. It's actually just this series of philosophical ideas, but what I like about it is all the little snippets from history and vignettes about people's lives and Benjamin Disraeli and what he did when he was prime minister and little things like that. I read that and marked it up (I read everything I read with a pencil or a highlighter in my hand) which really gets me in trouble in the library, but I really go through these books and it's been a long time since I read that one and I just finished rereading it. As far as fiction, I read pretty much anything Don Winslow puts out, so I just finished The Force a little bit ago and The Cartel and all those others.
C. G. Cooper:
That's the kind of stuff I read.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, I actually started reading some of Robert Greene's. He's got a ... I guess you would kind of call him a protégé, Ryan Holiday, who recently wrote another nonfiction book called The Perennial Seller. He talks about The 48 Laws of Power quite a bit because that was kind of how he came up in the world was reading that book and following Robert Greene. The 48 Laws, I'm definitely gonna have to check that out because it's on my list and hopefully the listeners will pick that up as well.
Let's get to the loaded question, the one that's always fun to ask other authors. What's your favorite book of all time?
You know this may come as a surprise to some people because my books are fairly - my mother-in-law calls it lurid - but my books have a lot of real world violence in them and they're drawn from my experiences in law enforcement and some of the bad guys that I've investigated, tracked, and arrested and transported. But my favorite book of all time and the one that I use to sort of wash my brain every few months and at least twice a year is A River Runs Through It.
I love the lyric prose, I just love the way Norman MacLean puts words together. I just think he's a ... I could read that book over and over and over again and frankly I do.
C. G. Cooper:
I finally read that book last year. I'd seen the movie; I know it's crazy to say. I've seen the movie a ton of times and I finally went and finally went back and I read The Green Mile because Bob Dugoni told me to read it. Yeah, same thing and it's not that long. How long is The River Runs Through It?
No, not long.
C. G. Cooper:
It's probably what 150 pages maybe?
Yeah, if that. My book is actually, the one that I keep on my writing desk is maybe 100 and ... I've got it right here, 104 pages, but my book is a collection of his three works which are all worth a read, and I read them all as if they're A River Runs Through It because his voice is the same. But A River Runs Through It, The Ranger, The Cook, and a Hole in the Sky, and then another one called Logging and Pimping and ‘Your Pal, Jim’. They're just vignettes from his life, but so well written and you just feel like you're sitting in a coffee shop with a poetic older dude in a John Deere hat and hearing his stories with a dry fly stuck in the top of it. Anyway, so that's what I read.
C. G. Cooper:
I like how you say that that's like a reset button. That's like how you kind of clear your mind. So at least two times a year, you're reading that book, pulling it out?
Oh yeah, it's right here on my desk and in fact, through the whole time writing Power and Empire, my office is set up so I have credenza behind me with a small bookcase, so I'm careful with the books I keep there. I have my Clancy books, my kind of battle-worn paperback Clancy books that I've carried around with me.
During Power and Empire, Without Remorse was on my desk. In fact, there's like hot chocolate stains and I don't know what else on it. I think a dead mosquito on the front of it from reading it outside but a copy of A River Runs Through It and I mean there's a lot of crummy fiction out there too and whenever I read something that's crummy, I turn right back to it because it's kind of a brain washer, goes over my brain and cleans it up and like you said: resets it.
C. G. Cooper:
That's awesome, that is awesome. Well, like I mentioned earlier, you provided some notes. You've been doing the tour for the new book and I was really intrigued about the part when you talk about where you get the most work done. You're up in Alaska, explain to the listeners how you get away, how do you get stuff done, how do you put pen to paper?
I try to unplug. I know myself and I love to research and I can start .... You're a writer, I'm sure you understand that once you go down the rabbit hole of research, you can be like Scrooge McDuck throwing your words and research around in the air and really never getting anything done except research. I can spend four hours looking at something that's very interesting and even positive and even something I might need to know and not get any writing done. I try to go someplace that allows me to ... that has either like really expensive internet or no cell phone service or something like that with my notepad, pen and pencil, and do a lot of writing.
My wife and I go away for a couple of months every year during the darkest, coldest time in Alaska. Which we love living in Alaska, but we have some friends in the South Pacific in the Cook Islands that let us stay at a little bungalow there on the island of Rarotonga. It's kind of south of Samoa and Tahiti and Tonga and all of that. If you were to fly from LA to New Zealand, get on another plane and turn back around and fly back three hours, you'd be in the Cook Islands.
C. G. Cooper:
We spend a lot of time there, so you can look on my Facebook page and my website and see some of the pictures that're just incredible. It's like Hawaii must have been 75 years ago. There're no franchises, there are people but you go into the towns and it's crowded like any tourist place but not really bad. It's not uncommon for us to have the whole beach to ourselves on a Saturday, I'm talking no one. It's a great place to write and the internet's a bit expensive, so we have to drive up the road and park in front of a dressmaker’s shop to spend our $50 for three gigabytes. So I do all my research and then drive back home and write, write, write and so on.
C. G. Cooper:
That's awesome. I better not let my wife listen to this one. Although she's probably gonna be going through the transcripts because ... yeah two months in the Cook Islands, I think I could deal with that, I think I could. All right, let's move on to-
Well you know it sounds good, but there's a lot of opportunity to write.
C. G. Cooper:
The typical day, even though it's paradise, a typical day will see me writing 10, 11 hours a day. I just get to write in a beautiful spot. So it's work, it's just fun work.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, exactly, in a beautiful location. All right, noted, that's going on my bucket list too, thank you very much, I appreciate that. All right, how about your work? Did you happen to bring a snippet to read for the listeners?
Yeah, I did. I really hate ... I mean I'm gonna read you one, a little bit of from Power and Empire. It's one of the little short little military scenes without giving too much away. In the beginning of the book, as a set up, there's a container ship that explodes, so one of the premises of this book is that things are not always as they seem. I remember when I was interviewing for Chief Deputy spot, one of the questions they asked me is if you've ever received bad information from the field. Of course I have, it's like playing that telephone game, so oftentimes as responders we don't know exactly what we have until we get there.
I got a chance to work with / interview and sit down and have a tour of the Air Station Port Angeles, with Air Station Port Angeles Coast Guard has a station where they fly the dolphin helicopters out of and do the rescues up and down the Straits of Juan De Fuca and around Seattle. It was just incredible to hang with those guys for a day, a couple of days, and get to know them a little bit. That's one of my favorite parts of the books.
The ship is 15 miles away and on fire and people are jumping in, but they don't know that, they just think there's a man overboard.
[Reading from the book, Power and Empire]
In the rearmost seat of Rescue 6521, mounted almost flush to the deck, Rescue Swimmer Lance Kitchen checked his gear for a second time since boarding the aircraft. He was five-feet-ten, 172 pounds. At 24, and a recent graduate of a monumentally stressful thirteen-week Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He was in the best shape of his life. The darkness was nothing to him now. Dangling on a spinning cable above an angry sea was second nature. Black water and big waves called his name. What he feared was failure. More specifically, any failure brought about by something he'd missed.
Unlike the other members of the SAR crew, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kitchen's gear reflected the fact that he planned to get in the water. The scuba mask and a snorkel were affixed to the top of the windsurfing helmet, along with a strobe that would allow the pilots to keep him in sight in heavy seas. His black Triton swimmer vest harness contained, among other things, a regulator, a small pony bottle of air, a Benchmade automatic knife, a 405 personal locator beacon, and a waterproof Icom radio with an earpiece. An EMT paramedic, he'd leave the bulk of his trauma gear on the chopper to utilize it once her got the guy in the basket and hoisted back up. Heavy rubber jet fins hung from a clip on his high-vis orange DUI dry suit. He'd slip them on once he got on the scene, just before he attached to the hoist. With the gear and mind-set checks complete, Kitchen set back in his seat and looked to the Seiko dive watch on his wrist. Eleven minutes out. One man in the water. Simple. He could do this.
C. G. Cooper:
That's great, thank you so much. I'll tell you what I'm glad you read that. I've always been fascinated by those Coast Guard swimmers and obviously the crews of the helicopters too. You've been through some rigorous training, I've been through some rigorous training in the Marine Corps, but man, I'll tell you what I don't know ... How many Coast Guard rescues swimmers actually make it to that station up there? There aren't that many, are there?
No. I don't know the exact number but there's one on call. You know they have their immediate response, their B zero response time crew and that's just a rescue swimmer, a mechanic, and two pilots and they rotate through on shifts. There can't be more than three or four or five at the Air Station Port Angeles.
We have this view from the movies and you know from the Marine Corps we have this cultural view of kind of knuckle dragger cops, knuckle dragger military, but I'm always so gratified and so fascinated. Because I have a son in the military, son in law enforcement, it's so nice to see how incredibly intelligent and well spoken and not just fit the Coast Guard pilots, the mechanics, the rescue swimmers, they're all incredibly fit, particularly the rescue swimmer. Also just well read, articulate. That's the kind of stuff that I want people to know when I write these characters, the realities, and I think that's one of the things that Tom Clancy really got across. I mean if you read back in The Hunt for Red October ... I'm having a mind black the Sonar Operator.
C. G. Cooper:
“Way to go, Dallas.” I can't remember his name. But in later books, he's an enlisted sonar operator in the Navy. In later books, he's got graduate degrees and he's moving up. You see these are smart people, these are extremely intelligent people, and I like reflecting that, not making stuff up. I'm just reflecting, hopefully, not near as good as Tom Clancy did it, but reflecting the realities.
C. G. Cooper:
Yeah, I was always impressed with the Chavez, the Dean character. He was the same way.
C. G. Cooper:
How many languages did he speak? That was a smart, smart dude.
C. G. Cooper:
I think someone would brush it off as he's an enlisted guy, yeah he's a sniper, but he's just an enlisted guy. Man, they're way smarter than me, I'll tell you that.
Me too, me too.
C. G. Cooper:
Well, that's cool. Are you ready to move onto the speed round?
I'm ready when you are sir.
C. G. Cooper:
All right, well, let's see. Let's start with a good one: what's your favorite thing about being an author, Marc?
Research, research and travel. I just love seeing people. You know law enforcement is a people business, writing is a people business, it's all about observation and getting to know people. When I can go to a spot and discover something new. Like in this particular book I've been to Japan several times, half a dozen times, and I had never been to the little area around Kabukichō called the Golden Gai, G-A-I, which is just a little labyrinth of streets, alleys really, they're from World War II times. It is like a little maze and certainly a fire hazard but it's historical so they let it stay there, but what a great place for a foot pursuit and it ended up in the book. I didn't know it existed, and I'd been there many times. Just finding those little serendipitous discoveries, I love that.
C. G. Cooper:
So cool, I feel exactly the same way about travel. It's funny what it brings to mind. All right, next question, what is the best advice you ever received?
I had a college professor once tell me (he knew my personality, I guess) but he told me, "Marc, you will never amount to your full potential unless you use those 15 minute spots in life that other people waste. The spots where other people are waiting for a train or waiting for an airplane, whatever, use those." I really took that to heart.
I remember I had a friend in the Marshall service, we were going on some trip, and I was writing at the time, already I'd been published and got some westerns out. We were sitting, waiting for a plane to go fly somewhere, pick up a prisoner or something, and he said, "Man, it must be nice," he was kind of joking but kind of sour grapes, "It must be nice to get that little extra paycheck," and I said, "You know what? The reason I get that extra paycheck is because I'm writing right now and you're playing Angry Birds." You got to really use that time. I've tried to take that to heart.
C. G. Cooper:
Love it, love it. All right, next question, what is one piece of technology you could not live without?
I'm kind of a Luddite and so I do a ton of my writing on yellow pads and with a fountain pen and I think of all the writing instruments that I can't live without. It'd be a small notebook and I have like 30 moleskin notebooks but I really ... because I do so much writing remotely, I mean, I write on a laptop. I like having an email and all that, but really a lot of incredibly good writing was done with paper and pencil and paper and pen. So I'm pretty good without technology.
C. G. Cooper:
Well you know what? At one point those things were high speed technology so it's all good. I'm the same way, I type, but there's nothing better for me than a great journal with a pen or a whiteboard and pen, that's where all my ideas come out. It's good to hear that you do the same thing.
I'm glad to hear somebody else.
C. G. Cooper:
Oh heck yeah. Next question: What is one thing you wish you could change about publishing?
I think I mentioned to you when we were chatting before the program that I don't read my own reviews. I wish people had to work a little harder to leave a review. I think it's so easy to be ... you know good or bad, it's so easy to just fire off some snarky anything, but I think somebody outta have to put a stamp on an envelope or even open up an email or something like that. I just think we authors work very hard, and so I frankly stay away from reviews. I guess if I was gonna change anything it would be that, but frankly I think a lot more about writing than I do about publishing. I try to just focus on the craft and the characters and all that and let the other people worry about publishing side of things.
C. G. Cooper:
I like it, I like it. All right, if you could teach a college course, what subject or class would you teach?
I would like to teach a class on tracking and human behavior. Actually people think tracking is just looking at footprints on the ground, but tracking is really about human behavior and guessing and sort of sussing out through the evidence, where someone might go with the evidence that you find on the ground, and that's what I would do. I love to study. Again, that's the people business, which is all a part of writing, so I enjoy studying human behavior.
C. G. Cooper:
I love that, I love that. I know as a kid I was always fascinated by Indian trackers. Way back in the day and I've always been fascinated by whether it's scouts or interrogators, just anything that it's not just using the environment but actually looking into somebody’s mind if you can, always fascinates me. Cool, I love hearing that.
Yeah, one other thing to add. I used this in the book already, so it's not like somebody could steal, but it's one of my better stories. If you see where somebody, say goes to the bathroom in the woods. Because women are generally more frightened the way that they leave their, shall we say, leavings behind is a little more sort of half moon spread out shape because they're constantly looking over their shoulder and afraid of being found. But men do not, it's more like a pile. Little things like that that you learn about human nature and so when I take somebody on a rescue out and we see where somebody went to the bathroom in the woods and I go, "I think this is the guy we're looking for," or "These are the girls that are lost," they say, "How do you know from looking at that it's a female?" Well human nature, so that kind of thing. It's interesting to me.
C. G. Cooper:
That is really interesting, gosh. All right, now I really need to pick up the new book. Well Marc, thank you so much for joining us! Can you give the listeners a few last words, tell them where they can find you and your work?
Yeah I'm online at MarcCameronBooks.com and Facebook @MarcCameronAuthor and the books are Jericho Books and that new Tom Clancy’s Power and Empire, everywhere books are sold.
C. G. Cooper:
All right, well thanks again and this has been Books in 30 with C.G. Cooper, thank you for listening, and don't forget to email at cgc (at) cg-cooper.com to say hi or let me know of an author you'd like to see as my guest. Thanks for tuning in, C.G. Cooper out.
BOOKS IN 30 Podcast