Interview with author Lincoln Cole

Since publishing with Kindle Scout, I’ve gotten to know some of the other authors in the program and they’ve all been so kind. In my experience, writers tend to be very generous with their knowledge and willing to help new writers rather than being competitive and guarded with what they’ve learned along the way. Lincoln Cole has been one of those writers willing to share his process, so I wanted to talk to him in depth.

When did you begin writing and when did you decide you wanted to be published? Can you talk about how you came to the Kindle Scout program? 

I’ve always loved to write, so making up stories and jotting down ideas was never something I really decided to do. When I settled on the idea of publishing (and gave up sending stories to agents or magazines) I read up on how to do it and put my stories together. Those first ones were terrible and I have since re-edited them and put a lot of work into making them better, but at the time my only shining star was I happened to meet a graphic designer who has become my cover designer. I convinced her to make covers, and it has worked out really well for both of us.
 
Finding Kindle Scout was sort of random, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was so excited the first time I put a book through the program, and I managed to get about three hundred page views and no contract. Since then, I’ve put two other books into the program and have a new one up now as well! When I started the Kindle Scout program there were a few blog posts about it, but very little other information for authors to use when running a campaign. I wrote a guidebook about the campaigning process to explain everything I’ve learned, and I keep adding information on my blog as I find out new things, both in and outside of the program.

You write in a variety of different genres. Do you consider genre before you start writing? Does your audience change?

I write things I enjoy and tell the stories I want to tell. I’ve never really stopped to consider my ‘audience’ because in my mind I don’t have one. I just enjoy writing and I hope that some people might read them. Writing in different genres, especially when I cross boundaries like horror and literary fiction, is more just to tell the story I want to tell. I am definitely not popular enough for any readers to actually tell me to stick to one genre, and since I only do it for the fun of it I’m not too worried about it. If I had to write to make money and support my family, things would be very different.

Interacting with social media seems to come naturally to you. Has that always been the case or was there a learning curve?
Haha, I’m terrible with social media. I post too much or not enough, and I have a hard time of balancing content and useful information with things that aren’t as useful. The thing is, I work full time, and then write as much as I can, and then social media is just sort of an afterthought for me to tell people what I’m up to. My saving grace is my blog, because I can write blog posts and then just click a button to have them share to social media, so my social accounts are getting constantly updated, but the actual content is centralized and frees me up to schedule things in advance and just do things when I feel like it.
There has definitely been, and still is, a learning curve to all of this. I like to think I’m getting better at it, but I still regularly mess up.
What do you find is the hardest thing about being published? What is your favorite thing?
The hardest thing is getting your book out there and just being patient. Sometimes I’ll do a lot of work and promote like crazy and sell nothing, and then other times I’ll do nothing at all and it will sell like crazy. There isn’t really a rhyme or reason to it, though if you spend long enough without promoting and releasing new content you are guaranteed to stop selling.
My favorite thing is when readers reach out to me to tell me they enjoyed my work. When you spend months and a lot of energy/ambition working on a project, it’s nice to see that at least some people found it enjoyable and relatable.
What are you working on now?
I have my newest Kindle Scout entry up for another couple of weeks and I’ve been doing a lot of blogging and website refreshing. I also spend a lot of time on projects like the Kindle Press anthologies (of which the third is just now releasing!). I’m also working on the sequel to The Everett Exorcism to hopefully build momentum with that series and then I’ll probably try to write the third book as well before moving to something new.
I have some major plans for this world and have at least another ten books planned out around my first Kindle Press book that began with Raven’s Peak. I love the characters and the world and it is always fun to see what happens next!
Apart from that, I want to finish my next book in the Graveyard of Empires series, I have a book about self-publishing (to complement my Kindle Scout Guide) coming out soon, and I have a few more series I want to begin in completely different worlds. I’ve had some ideas rolling around in my brain for a long while and I really want to get them out on paper.
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Interview with author and artist Bradley Wind

bw saturatedI first met Bradley Wind on a now defunct writer’s website. He got a reputation there for being the guy you went to for help with your book cover. If you check out his website, bradleywind.com, you’ll see why.

Bradley and I happened to go through the KindleScout process at about the same time so we were able to commiserate about the way it forced us out of our introverted comfort zones and the uncertainty of that long thirty days. We also got to celebrate together when each of our books was selected for publication.

I recently read A Whole Lot, a sort of coming of age tale for one of the most original main characters I’ve come across. Bradley was nice enough to let me pick his brain about the novel, the writing process and his experience with publishing.

Is this your first book or just your first published book? When did you start writing?

A Whole Lot is my second book but first published. I had an agent for my first too but he didn’t shop it as much as it deserved (or so I believe!) and I was busy working on my second so I didn’t push Bulb much after Luke stopped. I thought I’d see how AWL did before I approached Kindle Press to put out Bulb. I didn’t get started until my late twenties but stories were often the driving force of my paintings.

Abel is a very unique character. What were some of the challenges of capturing his perspective?

I started by reading whatever I could find (which wasn’t much at the time) on savant syndrome – as well as books on child prodigies, mathematicians/Descartes, con men, secret codes/Bible codes and autism. In the end I decided he would have autistic characteristics – be on the spectrum – but not exhibit an incapacitating form of autism. That would’ve limited the solo travel and other plans I had in mind. I was very pleased to discover Daniel Tammet after I’d written the novel – to know there are high functioning individuals with savant syndrome.

Also initially I thought I was creating something that didn’t exist, but then Dr Treffert let me know that there are cases of acquired savants. Still, I worried Abel’s skills would be unrealistic. I’d read about Kim Peeks and his astounding prodigious talents so I knew I wasn’t far off what could be. I had to purchase/send away for a few of the documentaries on savants that I found online and they helped a bit with the speech pattern.

Did you need to do a lot in terms of research or are you already pretty knowledgeable when it comes to math and philosophy and savant-ism?

I knew by the 10th grade I’d be going to art school, so took only the required math classes for entrance into college.

I received good grades but I can’t say I cared about math or know it well. That’s probably why I felt so nervous when I attended the math tea I was invited to at Princeton.

What if they ask me Anything math related?! But to some degree I’m a shy person and I spoke very little while I was there and also figured I could talk a bit about the mathematician biographies, or those books about some of the greatest unsolved theorems I’d read. I got to know certain aspects of the culture, and the outlook seemed connected to a creative process I could relate to as an artist. Neurological studies and books on philosophy have always been members of my cycling bedside stack.

When you began writing this, did you know how it would end? Do you plot things out or does the plot emerge as you’re writing?

I remember writing the section in the very beginning with Abel climbing the tree, talking about the freedom feeling and wanting the ending to have a similar quality.

In my notes, I had the novel ending on 11/10/1983-the same day Gates unveiled Microsoft Windows for the first time…that’s a little Easter egg for anyone interested.

No, I didn’t know the ending exactly but I knew it would be treetop freedom. I did not plot my first two. I had loose directions, knowledge of specific stations I’d stop at but nothing detailed like my latest. I find outlining to be freeing and confining at the same time – not sure if I’ll abandon it or ever try it again but it’s nice to check back in and have an idea about where I’m going but there have been occasions where all the detailed notes I include snail the process.

This book stands out for me from a lot of KindleScout books because it is pretty genre-less and more literary in style. Do you think about genre while you’re writing?

That was my fear when entering the Kindle Scout program, the winners mostly seemed genre focused and I had my doubts mine would fit. I felt somewhat surprised when my first agent talked to me about my book Bulb being science fiction. Luke got it, he talked about it being speculative more than straightforward scifi but for me the writing comes from ideas or characters not a desire to create a specific genre focused work. What if light was programmable and everything light reached was recorded in a grand archive for people to reference – a world where privacy didn’t exist? What if a child with prodigious savant syndrome went largely unrecognized? Those kinds of questions (sort of) come to mind and the story fills in around them.

What can we expect to see from you next?

During my commute this morning I was listening to Douglas Harding’s book On Having No Head. It had me thinking more about adopting ideas, the way that philosophy is born from geography and culture, from food and music – and the difficulty of transplanting it – of the efficacy of migration, the way philosophy twists over generations and for whatever reason I started thinking pickles pussy papaya, pickles pussy papaya. It had a rhythm bum bum bah-bah-yah – like something from the Paul Thomas Anderson’s documentary Junun that I watched this past weekend and have been listening to the album since. It documents Jonny Greenwood (from Radiohead) recording the album (also called Junun) with musicians in India. I’ve been thinking a lot about other brain potentials, about what is mind and what proprioception extension could mean, could accomplish. Set in the 90s, an accidental death, some MDMA use, and maybe a cult or folksy Buddhist belief or both thrown in. So far it feels like it has flavors of the first two books but mainly in the way I’m interested in brain potentials. I’m also working on illustrating a children’s book based on a reworking of Thich Nhat Hanh’s short story The River.

Looking forward to it. Thanks to Bradley Wind for sharing.

Interview with Mystery Writer James M Jackson

James M. JacksonJames M Jackson is a mystery writer and Kindle Scout winner. He’s in the  midst of writing a series of books, three of which are available on Amazon. I was recently poking around his website and became curious. He was nice enough to answer my questions.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Some authors say they always knew they wanted to be a writer. I may have been called at an early age, but I have a problem listening to people who tell me what to do. So, if called, I shouted down the voices in my head. I always enjoyed reading, and in grade school I did write a short story titled “The Mystery of the Red and Green Striped Zebra.” (Spoiler alert, the paint washed off when the kids gave it a bath.)
My poetry was good enough to be published in the high school and college literary magazines, but I considered poetry more as a means to impress girls than my creative spirit clamoring for an outlet.
I was a math guy (BS Mathematics, MBA Finance) and made my living with numbers and computers and eventually by explaining difficult financial concepts in ways that allowed executives to understand the important points so they could make decisions.
So, when did you figure it out?
In my early fifties I had an epiphany: while my job was math-based, what made me excel was the ability to tell stories about the numbers. In 2002 I finally figured out I wanted to be a writer.
I loved reading mysteries, knew a series could sell easier than a standalone, and so I started writing, and writing, and writing until I had a finished novel. I proudly gave my work to some trusted friends. They told me they liked it a lot. But it did start too slowly. Its middle was muddled and action slogged down to a crawl. The dialogue was chunky. Descriptions minimal. They couldn’t connect with the characters. But, gee, the plot was terrific.
Do you consider yourself trained as a writer or self-taught?
Those friendly critiques taught me the hard reality of Justice Louis D. Brandeis’s statement that, “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” With the help of the Cincinnati Writers Project’s Wednesday night critique group and immersing myself in writing books, classes, and conferences, I gradually learned to write.
I rewrote the first book in the series many, many times over the next three years. That book received an agent offer of representation, which I ultimately turned down because of contract provisions. I’m glad I did because in retrospect neither that book nor that agent was quite ready for the big leagues. I eventually put it away and worked hard on the second in the series.
The second book in the series was published first?
Yes, but that was not my first published book. My outlet while working diligently learning to write mysteries was to learn to play competitive bridge. I decided to write a bridge book for intermediate players. I wrote the book in about three months’ time, sent out a proposal to the largest English-speaking publisher of bridge books, and in a week’s time they offered me a contract. Just like that.
That book, One Trick at a Time: How to Start Winning at Bridge was published in 2012 and received excellent reviews in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Bridge World Magazine.
While I was making edits for that book, I landed a contract for the second book written in the Seamus McCree series, Bad Policy. It was published in 2013.
So, it took me ten years from deciding to become a writer for my first book publication and eleven years for the first fiction. I had had short stories and an essay published in the intervening years.
After your first mystery was published, then what happened?
The next Seamus McCree novel, Cabin Fever, was published in 2014 by the same small publisher as Bad Policy. Then I decided to revisit that very first novel attempt. My friends were right, the plot had been strong, but the writing no longer met my standards. I improved the plot and applied all I had learned when I totally rewrote the book for the final time.
The Kindle Scout program had just started. (Here’s a link if you are unfamiliar with the program https://kindlescout.amazon.com/) I figured it would be better to have Amazon, rather than a small publisher, help market my book. Ant Farm was selected for publication and Kindle Press brought it out in 2015. As it turns out, Amazon has a promotion running through March 15, 2016 on the Kindle version of Ant Farm, marking it down to $1.99.
What are you working on right now?
I am in the final rewrite of the fourth in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, which will be published in 2016. I have a completed first draft of the fifth Seamus McCree novel, Empty Promises, and I have written the first 20,000 words of the sixth novel, False Bottom.
What is your favorite thing about being published?
I get a thrill anytime I meet someone or get an email and they tell me how much they have enjoyed my book. I write to entertain, and knowing I have done so is a great pleasure.