Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Debut Author Paul H. B. Shin Discusses Journalism, Fiction, and Martial Arts

This week I'm thrilled to interview ITW Debut Author Paul H. B. Shin. Paul H.B. Shin’s debut novel follows a career as an award-winning journalist for more than 20 years, most recently for ABC News. 

He was previously a reporter and editor for the New York Daily News. He was born in South Korea and lived in London during his childhood. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York. 


You spent twenty years working as a reporter and editor before you published your first novel. How did those experiences impact your fiction writing?

As a reader, I enjoy pure fantasy stories as much as everyone else, but as a writer, I wanted to craft a novel grounded solidly in reality. So, the main way that my work as a journalist influenced my novel Half Life was that I took a very reportorial approach—intermingling real-life events and real-life characters with fictional ones. (I love this, Paul, I’m also a big fan of real-life aspects in fiction)

Also, because Half Life deals with North Korea, a subject that most Western readers aren’t that familiar with, I wanted to give them mileposts that they could recognize—not only to enhance the reality of the story, but also to make it relevant to their lives.

You were born in South Korea, grew up in London, and now live in Brooklyn. Half Life is about North Korea. What made you interested in writing a novel about that? Did your own history inform that decision? In what way?

The genesis of Half Life was a real life event that happened in New York City in 1997—an incident involving the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations that I eventually adapted and worked into the novel. 

I was looking for a way into telling a story about North Korea in an authentic way. There’s that old adage to write what you know. So, I hit upon the idea that I could write something authentic if I based the story mostly in America, centered around a North Korean main character who was a diplomat based here.

One of the things that I’m proud of about “Half Life” is that I believe it’s a story that no one else could have written because of the way it straddles different cultures. I tried to incorporate my own personal history to inform that. (I think shaping a story using things we are invested in always brings more to our work)

After working so many years in the fast paced world of journalism, how has your writing routine changed? Tell us about your process of writing a novel.

The difference between writing for journalism vs. writing a novel is kind of like a left-brain, right-brain thing, but they do influence one another. For “Half Life,” I knew it would take a long time to write—both because of the research and because I had a full-time day job. So, I knew I would need a road map to keep me on track. That’s one reason I outlined the story quite thoroughly, marking out the major plot points and the emotional arcs that I needed the main characters to go through. Having that outline was invaluable. Many times when I began to lose momentum, I went back to the outline to reconnect with main thread of the story.

In terms of the actual process of writing, I tend to write in the morning before the day gets away from me, because I find that my mind is fatigued by the end of the day, and the last thing I want to do is sit at a keyboard again and struggle to hammer out something creative. (Me too! I’m not a morning person, but once I’m up, I’m definitely more creative before the day wears me out.)

What has been the biggest surprise for you, now that your first novel is on the shelves?

The biggest surprise for me was learning about the marketing and promotional aspects of the publishing industry. Because “Half Life” is my debut novel, I was woefully unaware of what’s involved in promoting the book. That’s been a steep learning curve, but at the same time, I’ve enjoyed delving into that process, and it’s given me a new appreciation for what it takes for an author to have both critical and commercial success. (Right! I think so many of us go through that. I sometimes wish I had a background in marketing.)

Tell us something about you that is not about your writing career—what are your hobbies or interests outside of writing.

I’m an avid practitioner of two related forms of Japanese martial arts called kendo and iaido (pronounced ee-eye-doh). They’re forms of fencing once practiced by the samurai. In fact, I’ve been the U.S. national champion in iaido three times. (Awesome! Congratulations)

I also used to do the occasional triathlon, but I was sidelined by a hip injury that required surgery. So, I’m gradually working my way back to fighting form, so to speak. I recently got back into running, and I realized how much I missed the Zen-ness of it. (Hope you are fully recovered soon.)

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel about a samurai who travels to Elizabethan England. So, it’s historical fiction. I guess you could say it’s partly related to my martial arts practice. I’m trying to bring a kind of journalistic rigor to the story as well, because there are a lot of misconceptions about both the Elizabethan period and the feudal era in Japan that are perpetuated in popular culture. So, I’m striving for something that’s historically authentic in addition to being a good story. (That sounds fascinating. When I’m teaching theater I like to remind students that the events in Shakespeare In Love could never really have happened…)

Final Words of Wisdom:

Writing is a craft, so to get better at it, you have to keep practicing it. But I think for new writers, that advice can be rather obvious and not that helpful. When you’re at the beginning of your writing career, you’re often dissatisfied with what you’re creating. But I once heard some advice from Ira Glass, the host and producer of the public radio program “This American Life,” that made me sit up and nod in agreement. He said that the fact that you’re not satisfied with the quality of your own work when you’re starting out is a good thing, because that means you have good taste. So, through practice, you narrow that gap between the quality of your own work and your good taste. Because one could argue that good taste is harder to learn than good writing.

I would also add that it’s important if you want to make a living as a writer not to wait for inspiration to strike you. That’s a luxury that you can’t afford. It’s really important to just plug away at it. Some days the words will flow easily and some days it’s pure torture. But I think I’ve created some of my best work by battling through some of those deep valleys. (Great advice. Thanks for joining us this week!)

Hollie Overton: From Television Writer to Novelist

I'm thrilled to have Hollie Overton as my guest blogger this week. In addition to being a member of the ITW Debut Author classHollie Overton is a TV writer and producer. She has written for Shadowhunters, Cold Case, and The Client List, Hollie's debut thriller, BABY DOLL is an international bestseller and was published in eleven countries.  Her 2nd novel, THE WALLS will be released Aug. 2017. An identical twin, Hollie grew up in Kingsville, Texas but now resides in LA with her husband and rescue dog.

For more information about Hollie, you can visit her on social media. Click on the links below:
Facebook               Twitter


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with telling stories. From my elementary school days, scribbling in my floral colored journals to my teen years spent writing terrible poetry and experimental fiction, writing became my therapy. But my dream was to become an actress. I moved to New York City to study acting but kept writing, too insecure to show anything. It wasn’t until I moved to LA that I began to try my hand at screenwriting and found the courage to put my work out there. I wrote several terrible scripts before one landed me a coveted spot in the Warner Brothers TV writing workshop.  Since then I’ve worked on Cold Case, The Client List and Shadowhunters.

It was during an extended period of unemployment (an unfortunate side effect of pursuing a career in showbiz) that I began to consider writing fiction. Reading was always a passion. From an early age, I’d devour three or four books a week, but writing a novel seemed daunting. How could I possibly compete with the greats? I guess that’s why when I originally started writing prose, I didn’t set out to write a novel. I had an idea and a character and I just kept writing. Before I knew it, I had written ninety pages of my debut novel, BABY DOLL. Since then I’ve completed my second novel, THE WALLS which will be published later this summer.  Of course writing a novel requires a different process and set of muscles. It wasn’t always easy translating my skills from TV to fiction but I learned four important lessons along the way.

One of the major similarities with writing screenplays versus novels is that character is everything.  In order to connect with a reader or a viewer, you must create unique and interesting characters.  As the story unfolds, each character must have specific wants and desires and be in constant pursuit of a goal. I want the reader or viewer to connect with the characters, to find themselves swept away. It’s what I strive for in everything I write. 

One of the pivotal differences with writing TV versus novels is that in television, scripts are blueprints. They’re unfinished until they go through the process of production and editing.  You need actors, directors, costume designers, and editors to bring a TV show to life. But in fiction, you are all of those things rolled rolled into one. It’s your job to create the world, the look, the characters and evoke those same feelings with nothing but words on a page. While I was writing Baby Doll, I took a fiction workshop with Eduardo Santiago, a novelist and creating writing instructor. He was crucial in developing my writing process. In an early draft, I wrote that a character was devastated. Eduardo reminded me I wouldn’t have an actor showing the reader what devastated looked like. It was my job to really explore what devastated looks like. What was character’s facial expression? Their body language? The setting where the character experienced that emotion. Now when I write fiction, I’m constantly asking myself is this a place where I need to dig deeper and paint the picture more clearly.  

When I began writing TV, the mantra from every teacher and mentor I had was outline, outline, outline. In TV and film, you have a limited page count, so knowing exactly where you’re going and how you plan to tell your story is critical. I can’t imagine writing a script without a blueprint. But because I started writing my first novel without an outline, that’s what feels natural. There are times when I end up having to cut things or rework the novel because it needed to move faster or make cuts because a certain character’s storyline was weighing down the book but I like being surprised when I’m writing fiction. In some ways, it’s much more freeing than when I’m writing TV.

As a TV writer on a staff, your job is to assist the showrunner in bringing their vision to life. Unless you’re the creator, you’re not in control of the finished product. When you’re writing a novel, it’s the exact opposite. A book is your baby from start to finish, for better or worse.  There’s pressure that comes with being solely responsible but there’s also a huge sense of pride that comes with completing a book, that joyful moment when you type THE END.

Debut Novelist Micki Browning Chats about Law Enforcement, Diving, and Conflict Resolution

This week, I'm thrilled to interview ITW Debut Author Micki Browning. 

An FBI National Academy graduate, Micki Browning worked in municipal law enforcement for more than two decades and retired as a division commander – wonderful fodder for her current career as a full-time writer. 

Her mystery, Adrift, set in the Florida Keys, won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished mystery and unpublished book of the year. It was published January 2017 by Alibi-Random House.

Micki resides in Southern Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment. She’s currently working on Beached, the second in the Mer Cavallo Mysteries.

To learn more about Micki - visit her on social media.

The Website


Since retiring from the police force, you’ve earned your professional divemaster rating and diving plays a huge role in your first novel Adrift. Tell us about an exciting dive experience.

I find every dive exciting. I’ve had the pleasure of diving with giant Manta rays in Hawaii, Goliath groupers in the Keys, and exotic reef fishes and sharks in the Caribbean. I’ve dived in caves, caverns, and kelp. I’ve even been diving with Mickey Mouse at Epcot. Of all my experiences, I have to say I enjoy exploring wrecks the most. Swimming along the bones of sunken vessels spurs my imagination into high gear as I imagine the stories left behind. (The photo shows Micki about to enter the USS Spiegel Grove, the ship in Adrift).

Your background in law enforcement makes you very well suited for understanding both crime investigation and insights into criminal behavior. We often hear about how authors relate to the good guys in their novels - how do you relate to the bad guys? Are they based on real people or incidents?

My background certainly informs my writing. I’ve learned that not all criminals are bad people and not all victims are angels. Life is messy. Complicated. A cop’s most crucial skill is communication, the ability to build rapport. I’ve discussed Chaucer with an arrestee on the way to jail, and learned how to juggle from a traumatized seven-year-old. Everyone wants to be heard. Listen long enough and everyone can find common ground. The people I’ve met in life are inspirational, but their stories are theirs to tell. I write fiction. It’s the humanity I try to get right. (By the way, Micki, I'm stealing this line).

You've lived on both coasts, Santa Barbara to the west and the Florida Keys to the east. You've also lived high in the mountains in Durango, Colorado. How much are you impacted by environment as a writer? Place takes a central role in Adrift, can we anticipate Mer Cavallo traveling outside the Keys? Or future books or series taking place in the mountains? 

I find setting to be as integral to the story as character. I want to experience what the character is experiencing. Is it humid or icy? Does she hear a raptor or a seagull? What does he see that makes an impression? What childhood memories are evoked by the location’s scents? I love when non-divers tell me how much they enjoyed my underwater scenes. They’ve never worn a tank but I’ve introduced them to diving. Mer will never be landlocked, but considering seventy percent of the earth is covered by water there are many places she can explore—above and below the surface.

As to future books? Mer’s next adventure is all wrapped up and I’m currently working on a story that takes place in the mountains during the dead of winter. The mood is very different. (To see more photos of the Florida Keys and locations used in Adrift, visit Micki's blog by clicking HERE)

As a police officer, you've done a lot of conflict resolution, everything from pulling someone over for a traffic violation and needing them to agree with your request for their license to working as a crisis negotiator. Tell us about a situation where you expected a violent reaction, but you were able to talk someone down.

One busy weekend night, I was dispatched solo to a man suspected of being high on PCP and creating a disturbance. This is not a good call to have to go to on your own, as a person on PCP is impervious to pain and highly excitable. When I approached, I saw he was seated on a bus bench, rocking back and forth, his hands fisting and unclenching. And he was BIG.

I lowered my voice and introduced myself. “It looks like you want to hurt someone.”
He rocked faster. “Yeah. I do.”
Great. “Do you want to hurt me?”
“I don’t want to, I might though, yeah.”
Wonderful. I began second-guessing my career choice. “Would it make you feel better if I handcuffed you?”
His rocking stopped. I steeled myself.
“Yeah.” He turned around and put his hands behind his back.

Moral of the story? Know how to speed-cuff and always be prepared to offer alternatives to the obvious.

What made you decide to create an amateur investigator rather than either a police detective or a private investigator with a police background?

I enjoyed being a police officer, but after 22 years, I wanted to focus on something else. My husband and I relocated to the Keys so we could dive and figure out what we wanted to do next. Enter a bit of serendipity. He became a scuba instructor, and I became a divemaster with a writing itch. My favorite wreck dive is the USS Spiegel Grove in Key Largo. A documentary crew was filming a night dive on the ship when one of their divers suffered a medical emergency at depth. Happily, the diver recovered, but the event sparked a whole bevy of what ifs that eventually became my novel, Adrift.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a police procedural. It’s time to put all that training and experience into action.

Final words of wisdom:

The best bit of writing advice ever given to me was simple: plot from the point of view of the antagonist and write from the perspective of the protagonist. A character can’t solve a crime if the author doesn’t know how it was committed. 

Author Walt Gragg on the Cold War, Military Life, and Launching his First Novel.

I'm very happy to have ITW Debut Author Walt Gragg join me for this week's author interview. Walt has a remarkable background, priming him to write a complex military and political thriller, right out of the box. 

Walt Gragg lives in the Austin, Texas area with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He has been one of the truly fortunate individuals who have had the opportunity to live in many places around the world including Europe, Asia, and in every time zone within the United States. Born in Los Angeles, he has spent his life experiencing some of the world’s largest cities and smallest towns.

He is a retired attorney and former Texas State Prosecutor. He has a Bachelor’s Degree Summa cum Laude from the University of Maryland, Master’s Degree from Pepperdine University, and Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas. The Red Line is his first novel.
You can find out more about Walt on social media:
Twitter               Facebook(Author)            Facebook(Personal)         Facebook(The novel)

What prompted you to write a novel about World War Three? (and how scared should I be given how much you know about these things?)

In the middle of the first Cold War, I served at United States European Command Headquarters in Germany. While there I was able to observe a great deal of the American plan for the defense of Europe and experience through multiple war games how we viewed such a war would unfold. I knew our weaknesses, concerns, fears, and what we anticipated the Russians would do. From those elements, the story just appeared. At that moment, however, I had neither the time, nor the ability to write it. So I filed it away in some small corner of my mind and went on with my life. I carried the idea for The Red Line around for nearly twenty years. 

What seemed to trigger the need to finally present it was the casual attitude toward war that has been developing in this country for the past 25 years. War is being celebrated and glorified by far too many. We are at a point where many Americans actually view war in a positive light. Our citizenry has grown detached and almost enthusiastic in their view of the horrors of such occurrences. That, most certainly, hadn't always been the case. Just a couple of decades earlier, during the Vietnam War, everyone knew someone in the military. We all had a neighbor, classmate, or relative involved in the fighting. And that heightened our understanding of the cruel truths of these hideous events. As the years pass that has changed. 

In the present day, few of us know anyone in the military. Such a circumstance has greatly increased the average person's tolerance for these nightmarish developments. War has quickly become little more than a video game or macabre form of home entertainment. My hope, more than anything, is that The Red Line is able to change at least a few of those perspectives. If we insist upon blindly reveling in the senseless slaughter of others, the result will be something none of us will want to see. If we continue to view war as a first response, rather than a last resort, we will all suffer in the end. (What a great sentiment, Walt, I hope your book succeeds at changing a few perspectives.)

To answer the second part of your question, I don't know if terrified is the correct word at this moment in history, but we should all be concerned. Americans need to understand from where Putin and his people are coming. World War II ended over 70 years ago, but for Russia the festering wounds from that ghastly conflict remain fresh. Over 20 million Russians died at the hands of a ruthless invader from the West bent on conquest. During the First Cold War the Russians had the security of the buffer provided by the countries of Eastern Europe to protect them from the West's immense power. They, however, lost such security at the peaceful end of that decades-long test of wills. NATO now hovers on their doorstep. 

There is little doubt they would like to change that by reconstituting something like the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. There are certainly signs of a Second Cold War emerging. Putin desperately wants to return his country to its rightful place on the world stage. To do so, he is strengthening both his conventional weapons and nuclear arsenal. This year alone, Russia is building 700 new tanks and armored vehicles and 170 additional military aircraft. Russia's seizure of the Crimea was just the first act in an ongoing play. It will continue. We survived 45 years of a First Cold War, but there is no guarantee we will survive a second one. 

Although the threat of thermonuclear war had been relatively dormant since the early 1990's the capacity for such an event has always been present. Everyone needs to understand we have developed weapons so powerful and frightening that should the unthinkable happen all of mankind could be destroyed in a few swift minutes. More than ever, if we wish our children and grand-children to have long, happy lives, we need to find the wisdom to prevent such a world-ending holocaust from occurring. (Great insight into aspects of recent history many of us don’t know)

You first started thinking about the story for The Red Line during your time in the military, what was the journey of this story to finally coming out in print?

Unlike so many of my follow authors who were compelled to write from an early age and typically pursue that career in college through an MFA degree, I only began writing because I felt I had a story to tell. My journey, like so many writers, was long and painful. I actually began developing The Red Line in 1994.  Because I hadn't grown up planning and preparing to be a writer, I struggled for a few years to actually figure this stuff out. It took about a year to put the story on paper but the quality of the writing wasn't yet there. So we kept working on it. 

By 1997, I had developed my writing skills enough to begin presenting the work. I entered the manuscript in a writing contest and ended up taking second place. One of those at the conference was an editor from a major publishing house. After reading the first chapter he requested the entire thing. A few months later the phone rang with the editor on the other end of the line. His enthusiasm was over the top. The book was "incredible" and I was a "remarkable talent." Eight days later he called again to tell me his publisher had rejected it. The story was just too controversial. I began attending more conferences and sending out endless queries. Yet nothing worked. No one gave it a second look. 

I wrote another novel with no luck. After a few years of continual rejection I reluctantly put both manuscripts on a shelf where they gathered dust for about ten years. I promised my wife that once we retired we would try again, but honestly didn't know if I could go through all of that again. In 2014, it was time to try once more. In the process of giving it one final attempt I stumbled across the ThrillerFest website and immediately knew this was a conference I had to attend. 

Thoroughly prepared to pitch my book, we headed for New York. PitchFest went reasonably well, with a number of requests for the manuscript. Little did I know, however, it would be the next day that would change everything. To my surprise, the editor who had loved the book was on a panel. I went up afterwards and reintroduced myself. Of course, after 17 years he didn't remember me or the book. But that was okay. I thanked him for the kind words years earlier and left. The next morning, quite by accident, we ended up having breakfast together. A couple of weeks later he indicated he was willing to look at the story again. 

So I contacted the agent I'd liked the best at PitchFest. She got her readers right on it, and by the end of the day I had an agent. We gave the editor an exclusive and he didn't disappoint. Just fifteen weeks after ThrillerFest, Penguin Random House acquired the book and we were on our way. (WOW – talk about overnight success just taking twenty years….)

How did being in the military and being a Texas State Prosecutor impact you as a writer? How did those two careers compare and contrast in terms of your worldview?

While in the military, I got the opportunity to live in both Asia and Europe for over three years. I've viewed the Third World firsthand. I've experienced other cultures. Like most soldiers, I've seen things most people cannot even imagine. They say our experiences are what make us as writers. And I've been fortunate to experience many things. 

What attending law school and being an attorney did was to structure and refine my writing abilities. While writing legal briefs and appeals is certainly different than the type of writing I do now, it was quite useful in developing how to put together an effective story. Every trial attorney will tell you a huge element of any case is creating a narrative, a story, that simplifies and explains the actions occurring in real life. 

A soldier, like myself, gets many opportunities to examine a wide world. Lawyers seldom have such a chance. For the most part, their world is limited to the case in front of them. Yet, both lives helped further my ability to write The Red Line.

Your work is being applauded for its complexity - both a political and military thriller, but also as a work with tremendous literary skill. How do you feel you achieved such a remarkable feat in a first novel? Any advice for new authors?

Honestly, I'm not sure. I simply worked as diligently as possible to write the best story I was capable of writing while refusing to settle for anything less. My goal in the story was to be able to present an entire war in a single novel. That alone necessitated complexity. I needed to provide a big picture political/military view of how such a conflict would likely unfolded. That created the need for the development of a political backdrop and the involvement of high level characters and roles - president, dictators, generals, and so on. But I wanted to do much more. 

The best stories relating to war, Saving Private Ryan, for example, were about average soldiers involved in a desperate fight. My intent was to tell the majority of the tale through the eyes of ordinary men and women facing extraordinary circumstances. In putting such a story together it became apparent no one soldier would have the ability to see the entire war. Their vantage points naturally would be limited. So I ended up actually writing five different, intertwining stories occurring at the same time. 

Making that work wasn't easy but it did have one advantage for a beginning writer - whenever I bogged down in one story, I could simply move on and write portions of another. So there was never any writers block. I don't view writing as a linear process. I see it as more like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle with many pieces. It is not unusual for me to write chapter 17 before chapter 13, or the middle or end of a chapter before the beginning. I'm not certain I demonstrated great literary skill, but it's nice that a number of reviewers have said so. My approach was to just keep writing and rewriting until the words jumped off the page. Hopefully, that will be enough.

Advice for new authors - first, understand that there are two parts to this job...Writing your novel and finding someone willing to publish it. For most writers the first part is by far the easiest. Once you've created a great product, you need to put just as much effort into finding it a home as you did into writing it. Lots of writers, even exceptionally talented ones, fail at the second part of the job. Next, write about things you know. Write about things you are passionate about. There's nothing wrong with putting your heart and soul into your writing. In fact, there's a great deal right in doing so. 

Don't fall into the trap of attempting to write what's "hot." Even in the best of circumstances the process is a slow one as you work your way through writing, finding an agent and editor, and completing all the edits and production work to get it ready for the bookstores. With rare exception, this takes years. By the time all of that occurs your "hot" novel is long past. Focus more on creating compelling characters and a great story rather than getting enticed by the latest craze. Try to be the first "you" in your writing, rather than the tenth someone else. In creating your story, make sure you entertain. The reader needs to enjoy the story before all else and you have no right to expect them to read it if it doesn't do so. Depending on the type of story, it's often okay to just entertain. 

Unfortunately, far too many books in the present market do just that and nothing more even where a true opportunity exists. We all enjoy a nice "summer read" from time-to-time, but if that's all the book world is providing, reading soon gets old. I like to learn from my reading and believe most readers do also. There is nothing wrong with actually having something important to say that will cause readers to pause and reflect. Go ahead and say it. 

I'm giving you two options here - because you may not feel the first is something you want to respond to, so either A or B is fine. A. (Luckily for us, Walt was willing to answer both!)

Given current events, do you feel as if your fictional future war is becoming more or less likely to occur in the real world?

Far more likely to occur. While I certainly don't want to spend a great deal of time commenting on where our policies stand today, our present administration seems relentless in their quest to engage in war with someone. From all appearances we have a President with a fanatical craving for popularity who believes one of the best ways to achieve that is by starting a conflict with the potential to take many brave lives. 

Until the American people find a way to ensure he understands that with a few exceptions any President willing to blindly take us into war is almost always demonstrating an abject failure of leadership, we are in a great deal of trouble.  

We often hear how hard authors, especially debuts, have to work on self-promotion. What are your plans to support the launch of your novel? Any surprises as you begin the business side of being an author?

We've worked extremely hard for months to try to get the book in front of people. Ultimately, nothing else matters if people don't read your story. Along with our Penguin Random House publicists, we also went out and hired private publicists to further promote the work. Both are doing a great job. We have had a number of major reviews, the vast majority of which were incredible. Publishers Weekly gave The Red Line a highly coveted "boxed" "starred" review which they award to approximately one out of a hundred books they look at. They liked the book so much they did a followup interview with me in March, a rare event for any debut author. 

We have optioned the movie/television rights to producers in Hollywood who are turning the story into an 11-episode television event. We just completed what we believe is the greatest launch party in the history of Austin. Over 500 personal invitations were sent. Three excellent guest authors participated. Free food and drinks, and music from one of the best Beatles cover band around. We are presently involved in a fairly aggressive book signing tour along with stock signings wherever bookstores are interested. 

I am doing around 20 radio interviews, at least two of which are national. As a debut, you're an unknown and need to accomplish three things to be successful. First getting potential readers to hear about the book. Second, getting them to consider the book. And, third getting them to buy it. How successful we'll be at completing those three steps is yet to be determined. (Okay – I’m exhausted just thinking about all this… What a great launch for your first novel.)

What hasn't been a surprise in learning the business side of being an author?  Every day is a new day.  Like every profession, publishing has its own language, rules, and protocols. Things that are now simple for fellow writers, agents, editors, and publicists are all brand new to you. Your responsibility as the debut is just like a new worker in any job.  Listen and learn. I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, but am doing my best to not make the same one twice. Hopefully, that will be enough. (Great advice)

What are you working on now?

When I can find the time to work around a busy release schedule I'm working on my third novel, The Long November, which is about what could happen if the Pakistani government and military collapsed and a fanatical terrorist group seized that country's huge nuclear arsenal. My second novel, The Chosen One, is presently under consideration by my publisher.
Final Words of Wisdom:

At ThrillerFest, as I prepare the 300-400 aspiring writers to participate in PitchFest, I always tell them something that outstanding writer and ITW board member, Sandra Brannan, told me. Getting published is a marathon not a sprint. It's those writers who understand that and stay in the race who have a chance of making it in this business.