Friday, May 4, 2012
Meet Author Everett Powers
Amazon Author's Page
The Mighty T by Everette Powers Buy Link for Amazon.com
Canals Buy Link
Hello Everett and friends, readers and writers. It is great to have you here on Characters Well Met today. Or should I refer to you as Doctor Powers? You have managed to write two wildly successful novels, one of them a horror novel and the other a detective style thriller. All while keeping a thriving medical practice in Southern California and of course a happy home life.
1. My first question is how do you do it? I mean how do you keep all of your plates spinning on their respective sticks. What do you do to not suffer from the bane of all writers? Not enough time to write.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Reggie. You may call me Sir Powers if you wish, or Everett. Your choice. As my stepdaughters would say, I'm hecka old now and so am seeing far fewer patients than I used to. I see patients on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and write on Tuesday and Thursday. I also write a little on the weekends, depending on my motivation and whether my step-daughters are spending the weekend with their dad or not. If they're out of town, I like to loaf around the house with my wife or take her to one of our favorite overnight spots instead of writing. I used to be more disciplined.
When I'm really "on" and the creative juices are flowing, I can write almost anywhere and at any time. I could walk to my local Borders bookstore in five minutes, so I used to do a lot of writing and editing there. Now that they're closed, I favor the local library branch or one of the three McDonalds within five minutes of where I live. When out of the office, I write with my iPad and Apple wireless keyboard, using Dropbox to sync my files. That means I need a reliable WiFi connection, thus the McDonalds or the library. When I wrote my first novel, Canals, I wrote in the morning before everyone got up. Now I exercise first thing and write a little later in the day.
2. Okay I think I like Sir Powers. It has a nice ring. I enjoyed reading The Mighty T. I have to admit at first I thought it was going to be one of those nature books or something. The cover fooled me. From the get-go your story takes off with a sniper and car chases and never lets up. Where did you get your idea for the story?
The crosshairs aimed at the dam didn't automatically tell you it's a thriller? Hmm... I did the covers of both books myself, with my six-year-old computer and my even-older software. They could be better, and maybe I'll have them redone when I'm rich and famous, but I'm happy with the way they turned out, all things considered.
I live in the San Joaquin Valley, not Southern California—Northern California to you southerners but Central California to anyone who lives north of Sacramento. The City of San Francisco derives much of it's drinking water from the Tuolumne River, the "Mighty T". Congress allowed them to construct a dam that dammed the Tuolumne as it exits the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. The naturalist John Muir called Hetch Hetchy Yosemite's "little sister"; it's quite beautiful and it is a shame the valley was flooded in the first place.
Environmental groups hate the dam at Hetch Hetchy and have been trying to find a good excuse to get it removed for over fifty years. Unfortunately for them, it would literally take an act of Congress to remove the dam. Every now and then they come up with a new angle, and then feed the story to the papers. Three large underground pipes convey the water across the San Joaquin Valley to San Francisco, and they run right smack through the middle of Modesto, where I live. Mainly because of this direct connection to Modesto, our local paper runs every story about Hetch Hetchy. Having written a horror book, I wanted to try my hand at writing a thriller and was looking for a good plot. A story about Hetch Hetchy appeared in the paper and I thought, "Hmm... What if someone...?"
3. Your next novel Canals was quite a departure. With murders happening along one of California's irrigation canals. Do you like writing horror versus mainstream detective thrillers? And which genre do you read?
I wrote Canals first, then The Mighty T. I've been a big Stephen King fan for years and thought I was going to be the next King when I wrote Canals. When King went flat for a few years, producing snorers like Tommyknockers, I found new authors to read. Today I read little horror and more thrillers, with cops or without cops. I enjoyed writing both books but Canals was special because it was my first "serious" novel. (I'll say more on how I wrote both books when I answer question number six.) I've expanded the genres I read, mainly to support other self-published or independent authors. I put my foot down with romance books, though. I'd have to check my man card in at the door.
4. You spend much of your day tweeting and blogging to promote your work. Do you have any advice for new writers who are looking for ways to use social networking to get the word out about their novel's?
I spent a lot of time tweeting and blogging through June of last year, but don't spend nearly as much time on those activities now. I'm not convinced social networking helps sell many books. Sure, it can help you sell a few hundred copies, but not enough to pay the bills and put money in the bank. What you really need is for whoever is retailing your work to promote it for you. For me, that's Amazon. I pulled my novels from all other retailers because I was selling very few copies in their stores and I wanted to participate in Amazon's Kindle Select program. I know people have written that they sell a ton of books on Twitter and Facebook, but frankly I think they're pulling our collective leg.
You've got to get Amazon's software to take notice of your work for it to sell more than a few hundred copies. One way to do that is by taking advantage of their free book promotions. If your book is in their Select program, you get five free days. If your book gets downloaded enough times, their software sees it as successful and it starts showing up on their recommended lists. Being on Amazon's top-selling list is like having your books displayed in the front of Barnes and Noble.
I think blogging works better than Facebook and Twitter because search engines like Google like blogs. The problem with most blogs written by writers is most of their readers are other writers. Yes, writers do buy books, but they're often fickle. Authors need to reach the book-buying reader to succeed.
5. Do you see yourself sometime in the near future being able to write full time and be able to live off of it?
My goal is to support myself and my family with my writing by 2013. That's next year, and a lot has to happen by then.
6. When you start a project, do you outline or just have an idea and start writing to see where it goes? That is are you a plotter or a pantser?
I wrote my first novel Canals in the method King calls in his book On Writing "a found thing," which is writing by the seat of your pants. I began with a premise, there's a monster living in the canals in and around Modesto and it's killing people, and went from there. Knowing how important opening scenes are, I began with what I thought was an intriguing opening, a guy missing an arm, floundering in a canal, and introduced my main characters. I wrote a scene at a time, then waited for inspiration to lead me to the next scene. When inspiration was flowing it was a thrill ride. When it wasn't, it was excruciating.
When Canals didn't sell through queries to agents and publishers, I blamed it on the genre: "No one's buying horror right now." I wasn't aware of the changes coming down the pike for publishing, namely Amazon and the Kindle. When I decided to write a second book, I decided to make it a thriller. And I decided to write with a plot instead of by the seat of my pants. Still, The Mighty T was loosely plotted. The thought of deciding in advance everything that was going to happen in a book sounds dull and boring to me as it removes the inspiration I've come to love about the writing process.
7. You self-published both your novels. Do you recommend this way over the more traditional way?
The answer depends on your goal for publishing. Mine is it sell enough books to support myself and my family, and to take care of them in the future after I've left the planet. I thought that meant I'd have to get my books in retailers like Barnes and Noble and Borders. But Borders is gone and B&N isn't doing so well. Publishing is changing, as is the way people read books. (More on that in question nine.) For me, self-publishing was the only route.
What most writers fail to understand is, regardless of how their work is published they're going to have to do most or all of the marketing themselves. (Unless you're a breakaway author like Grisham and others.) Signing a contract with a publisher means little if your book doesn't sell. And if it does sell the publisher gets most of the royalties. A writer has to ask him or herself: do I want to make most of the profit from my writing, or do I want my publisher to? I choose me.
It's more complicated than this, of course. When I decided to self-publish last year I read up on the people who'd done it or were doing it successfully: Konrath, Locke, and Hocking. Find their blogs and read their stories, then do what they did.
8. Did you try and find an agent and publisher before you self published?
Yes. I had maybe one serious nibble and collected a pile of rejection slips that'd been photocopied so many times you could hardly read them..
9. Do you think ebooks are the future or do you stick to your guns and still use paper?
My understanding is while exact figures aren't available, it's estimated that eighty percent of books sales are still print books. But that also means twenty percent are ebooks. That's after what, only two or three years? In my opinion, ebook sales will continue to rise and print will continue to fall, but will likely never go away. I think you have to have both an ebook and a print version available to reach the largest audience.
Most of the people I personally know don't own an ereader, and millions likely never will. And I know a few people who've taken a religious-like dislike of ebooks. I sold a print book to a guy I know through the Internet who lives in Australia. He called Amazon "the devil" and ebooks "pure evil." I didn't have the heart to tell him the book was printed by CreateSpace, which is wholly owned by Amazon.
10. Could you tell us a little about your WIP?
No. Just kidding. The working title for my work in progress is "Murder in Stevinson." The more I see that title, the less I like it so it'll probably change. I finished the first draft a couple of weeks ago. It's the second Grant Starr thriller, set in the tiny towns of Hilmar and Stevinson, about thirty miles south of Modesto.
It opens when a matador gets his liver macerated by a bull. Even though bullfights held in Stevinson are bloodless, meaning the bulls aren't harmed or killed as they are in other countries, they're still dangerous and accidental deaths aren't unheard of. It turns out in this case the matador was drugged, which makes it Murder Two. The killer then kills a guy he thinks is the only witness, only to learn later there's a second witness.
There are two parallel plots. The mayor of tiny Stevinson has been negotiating with a company that grows and sells medical marijuana. They want the legitimacy of growing their crop inside city limits and are willing to pay Stevinson up to ninety thousand a month for the privilege. The mayor, greedy and ruthless, negotiates a nice, but illegal, commission: three hundred and fifty grand. All he has to do is convince three of five city council members to go along with the deal. Easier said than done in an ultra-conservative and religious town. Only one of the three goes along willingly, two others have to be extorted.
The deal starts to fall apart when the mayor, in a fit of rage, kills one of the council members, a former lover who'd figured him out and demanded a healthy cut of the graft. Another "yes" vote evaporates when a high school teacher, who likes his teenaged female students a little too much, unexpectedly leaves town. Suddenly the mayor is desperate for votes.
Grant and his team assume one killer is responsible for all three murders but have a devil of a time figuring out "who done it."
Thanks Everett for coming by and chatting with us today. Great success with your writing career and we look forward to reading more of your work as it becomes available.
I am posting my two Amazon reviews for your novels below.
Great horror that might just keep me up at night for a long time. I now purposefully steer around areas with canals running through them. This was a great read that grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go like a pit bull. The scenes are graphic but tastefully done and show rather then tell. Get it while it is hot.
The Mighty T
Everett has a good thriller here that I highly recommend. At first I didn't read it as I thought it was a documentary about a dam. Was I surprised. I could not put it down as we follow a group of terrorists on the order of Oklahoma City Bombers. They are intent on restoring the Toulome River to its original state before it was made into a reservoir. The salmon and other wildlife have suffered and now these crazy people are out for blood. This is the set up. Readers who like fast action whoop ass kicking, and things blowing up are going to love this. Great read and I loved it for great characterizations of the terrorists and the cops who are after them. The dialogue which kept me in it. The scenery descriptions take the reader on a vacation and you feel like you are there, right in the middle of the action.