Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce, Ellington Norris, multi genre author of number of novels including, “Killer’s Forest” and “Immortal Curse.” Ellington has opted to take the self-published route with his novels and has offered some cogent advice for anyone planning to undertake a similar journey.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My pen name is Ellington Norris, I’m in my 30s, and I’m married with four kids. I decided to write under a pen name because my wife was concerned that my co-workers and other acquaintances would read my writing and feel perturbed by the intensity of it all.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Outside of my day job, I enjoy reading, I just read “The Maltese Falcon” and I’m reading “Watership Down” right now. Having four kids also keeps me very busy taking time with them. Other than that, I enjoy movies, TV shows, and a few other odds and ends here and there.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
Yes! I’m a lawyer for a mid-size law firm. I primarily do litigation and court-room work, but also help with contract drafting and negotiating. It has helped in my writing career because I can represent myself.
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was about 9-10 years old, and I wrote all sorts of things all the time from that age on. My first book I wrote was a collection of short stories I wrote with my brother about our experience selling alarm systems door to door in Kansas City. Killer’s Forest is my first novella, and it took me about 3 months to write my first draft, followed by about 2 years of editing!
5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’m not tied to one specific genre. My next book after Killer’s Forest will likely be a detective-noire, meanwhile I have a spy novel and a sci-fi novel idea I’m working on as well. Many of my ideas come from long contemplation where I adapt little experiences in my own life into bigger, grander events. I also get quite a few ideas from dreams, as well, and adapt those into actual stories.
6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Of course, who doesn’t! My biggest struggle is getting through the middle-part of a book. I usually have a great beginning and an idea of where it will end, but bridging the middle-part is toughest.
7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I usually know where things are going, so I just write. Sometimes I’ll put an outline together for more complex stories with lots of characters to make sure I don’t forget anyone in the story.
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Novels by Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton really spurred me forward in reading and writing in my teens. Those books were what kept me interested in reading for years, and really helped me get a good sense of what a book should feel like.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My biggest hurdle was editing my story into a stronger piece. Between the family, the day job, moving, selling my house, changing jobs, starting the new job, moving to the new job; all of that took time and energy and editing my novel just took a back-seat to all of that. Once I had it edited and in final form, I knew that if I took the time to shop around to agents and publishers, it’d be another year before it hit shelves due to my limited time, so I opted to self-publish.
10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would do it the same. I love the writing process and love seeing a story come together, and Killer’s Forest came together so well in so many ways that it just felt right every step along the way. I don’t mind being self-published, so I have no qualms there, either.
11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I enjoy marketing to “writer twitter” because there are great folks online who are happy to retweet or help you promote your work. I also am considering a small run of ads on amazon, but I haven’t taken the dive, yet.
12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
While Killer’s Forest is my first novella, I have a few other short stories and works that will likely never get widely published because of the limited market for short stories and the limited time I have to market my work.
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Yes! Killer’s Forest is a dark psychological thriller set in colonial Pennsylvania. It is about Al, Will, and Johnny. After Al and Will witness a murder in the forest near their small village, Al starts to feel himself drawn towards the idea of death. His friendships with Will and Johnny are tested, and when the new girl moving to the village takes an interest in Al, Al spins a web of lies to keep his dark desires a secret. It twists and turns several times before a great ending. I really enjoyed writing it and really feel like it is a book driven by the main character’s interactions with all of the side-characters. Killer’s Forest comes out August 26.
14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
When I had the original idea for the book, it was actually supposed to be based upon four young boys who spur the Salem Witch Trials–telling lies and staging events so that another “witch” would get burned/hung. I thought that was too predictable and campy and moved it forward 50-100 years to 1750s Pennsylvania, instead, and that’s where the first paragraph of the book opens.
15. What project are you working on now?
Next up is my detective noire, set in modern day. The book opens on a suicide note that reads “this is not a suicide note.” The detective assigned to the case is a once-famous, turned lazy detective who has to dig deep and resolve his own demons to solve this one. I’m still not sure how it will end but its going to have a similar psychological feel as Killer’s Forest, but with many more side characters and a bit of a “whodunit” feel as it all comes together in the end.
16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
So Killer’s Forest comes out August 26, then the detective-noire book will hopefully drop late spring of next year. My hope is to keep the releases around 9 months apart for all future books.
17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I know that series are all the rage, but I have a hard time bringing myself to draft a series. I feel like character development is just so much fun to do, and having a series you really have to stall that character development in order to break up the book, and I hate to do that to my characters. I’d rather see them start, grow, and end (or die, in many case) instead of pause the growth for 25 chapters so that I can get a 2nd book out of it.
That said, I do have a few books that I think could work as a series, but they are much more story-driven than character driven…or they have so many deaths that the characters change a lot from book to book.
18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
As far as criticism, I have had a few of those “1-star” amazon reviews that are not helpful, just something along the lines of “you have bad grammar your the worst writer” (ironically with poor grammar, itself) or people who just say “I just don’t like this kind of book.” The worst criticism to receive is the criticism that you don’t understand or that you cannot work on because its either vague or is based upon something you can’t change, like the genre of your work.
As for the best compliment? People saying they couldn’t put the book down is an amazing one. I’m the type of reader that, when I pick up a good book, I will not put it down for anything. I love knowing that someone felt the same about my book.
19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
There’s the basic ones like “never stop writing” and “believe in yourself,” but here’s something else: write something real. Every story will have something real, whether that’s real emotion or real situations. Even if your story features space pirates or medieval dragons, you can write some real emotion from your own experience to make that book real to your readers. As an example, Killer’s Forest is a dark psychological thriller, but I put something of myself in each and every character to make sure that readers will find someone to connect with, and I’ve had numerous people say they either liked Al, Will, or Johnny the best of the three, which tells me I did something right. You can do the same. Make your characters real people with real feelings and your readers will accurately respond.
20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
To my fan(s), thank you for reading my work and sharing it with friends. To readers who aren’t fans yet, please keep reading! I write the kind of books and stories that my mind has had trapped inside for years, and I’m sure I’ll tap into something you’ll love.
Please join me in thanking Ellington Norris for his candid and insightful responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Ellington direct via the below social media links.
Please show your appreciation by checking out Ellington’s work on Amazon.com.