I apologise for the brief gap in my author interviews. The summer holidays with the kids and a lack of computer time put pay to my interviews. I am pleased to say I’m back at the keyboard, perhaps a little pinker (burnt) around the edges and with my nerves shot to pieces, but I’m back!
Today I am pleased to introduce the talented American writer, Eldon Farrell, author of number of thriller novels including his latest blockbuster, Singularity. Eldon 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?
So we’re starting with the tough questions right off the top, huh? LOL. Let’s see, I was born and raised in Southwestern Ontario, married to the love of my life going on a handful of years now, have one amazing son, and love to write. I’m an avid reader of anything from non-fiction to fiction to comic books. Marvel and DC – no discrimination here. Favourite would still be DC though 😉
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing I’m trying to find time to write. Any parents out there know what I’m talking about when I say time is a precious commodity with a toddler underfoot! I love to watch movies or television (though I don’t see much of it anymore), and as mentioned before, read. I’ll read almost any genre, but tend to stick close to thrillers.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
Like a lot of authors out there, I do have a day job. My formal training is in accounting, and I work as a Certified Professional Accountant for a large multi-national corporation. I love numbers and am something of an Excel junkie, so my career choice has worked out perfectly for me.
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
So long ago now. I started writing short stories over thirty years ago, which is a number that both blows my mind and makes me feel old. Back then, it was all about a love for creating. No publishing or marketing, just a boy, an imagination, and a blank page. The stories weren’t the greatest, but the value of the lessons learned cannot be replaced.
I finished my first book in College, around 2001 if memory serves. It has never seen the light of day. What those who aren’t in the craft fail to realize, is that writing is a process and often times the only way we learn how to do it is by doing it wrong. I made so many mistakes crafting that story. But, if I hadn’t made those mistakes, I never would’ve had the skill to write Stillness and everything since.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
The famous advice given to all writers is to write what you know. There’s truth to that. For me, because I’ve read so many thrillers, it was just natural to write them as well. I write the kind of suspenseful stories I like to read. As to where I get my ideas from . . . after more than thirty years writing I’ve learned that ideas rarely come to you fully formed. The first draft of anything is so different from the final draft. As an example, the first idea for Singularity had aliens in the story. The concept didn’t work for me, and the story evolved to the harsher realism present in the final draft.
6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
What if I said I’m experiencing it with this interview, haha 🙂 Seriously though, I don’t know a single writer who hasn’t spent time on the block. I believe at least some of it stems from the self-doubt all good writer’s experience. It can be hard to create something and then wonder for months on end if it will be well received. In the back of your mind you always wonder if it’s good enough. Spend too much time wondering on such things, and you’ll find your creativity takes a hit.
But you’ll notice, I said good writers. It was once said to me that only good writers wonder if they can be better, bad writers know they can’t 😉 There’s wisdom in those words, I think.
7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I’ve done both actually. Early in my career, I wrote from the seat of my pants believing it would curb my creativity to have an outline. Sometimes this worked out, and other times it didn’t. Without an outline it’s easier to back yourself into a corner, or just have the plot unravel on you. These days, I avoid those issues by plotting out an outline before I sit down to write. It changes as I write and new ideas crop up, but it keeps me on track.
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I’ve been influenced by the works of many authors. In particular, the late, great Michael Crichton and the amazing Patrick Redmond. Reading Crichton’s fantastic novels (Jurassic Park, Congo, Sphere, the list goes on) taught me the value of truly original ideas. And from Redmond, I gained something to shoot for. I often remark that he could write about grass growing and keep you on the edge of your seat, such is his ability with the written word. One day, I hope to write a book in his league and will continue to reach for that star.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My first book went the self-published route, and as such, held a steep learning curve. When you publish yourself you have to consider everything. I did learn this the hard way. If you’re reading this, and considering doing it yourself, there are three key areas you need to focus your energies on. First, find an editor you can trust and work well with. To be taken seriously, your work needs to be professionally edited. Second, don’t design the cover yourself. Just don’t do it. Whatever you save in money by doing it yourself, you will lose in sales because you did it yourself. And third, unless you’ve committed to learning HTML programming, pay to have your ebook interior formatted. The common thread with all this is the reader experience is paramount and our challenge as authors is to make sure nothing stands in the way of that.
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 love this question. If I could do it all over again, there’s a few things I would change. Starting out as an author, most everyone makes some mistakes as we learn the craft. For me, the biggest regret I have is publishing my first book, Stillness, without having it edited first. I was younger, and foolish enough to think I could “edit” it myself. I’ve since wised up and am in the process of having each of my first three books professionally edited. But you only get one chance to make an impression on readers and I regret I didn’t put my best foot forward. For any new author reading this, invest in an editor. We all want to make sales, but your money will be far better spent on an editor than on marketing if your book is not up to par. It’s a competitive market out there, and you need to project professionalism in everything you do.
The other thing I would change is the release schedule of my second and third books. I listened to some bad advice regarding series and rushed them both out concurrently when I should’ve taken my time and spaced out the releases. Live and learn.
11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Marketing is always tough. There’s never a lack of suggestions or advice out there on what works and what doesn’t work, almost to the point of being too much. I will say this much, for me, I found sites like ENT and Book Gorilla to provide the best return on investment. If you’re lucky enough to snag a BookBub, that’s worth its weight in gold too. Aside from promo sites, building an email list is key. Just don’t succumb to the temptation to offer rewards for signing up. Remember, what you desire is not a large number of subscribers, but a list of engaged readers.
12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Not yet, and honestly, I can’t see this happening. In this age of print-on-demand and ebook publishing, there’s really no reason why any book you write can’t be published. The old barriers to entry are gone. The gatekeepers were put out to pasture and ushered in a brave new world.
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
August 14 was the big day for me. Release day for Singularity, a gritty, dystopian vision of the future and the start of a brand new series. Nothing says it better than the back copy:
Nathan Miller owns the streets of Union City. A rogue detective protected by a corrupt establishment—his rule is absolute. But nothing lasts forever.
Someone has betrayed him and now blog sensation Alexis King knows things she shouldn’t. Coming after Nathan she threatens his authority, giving the elite cause to question his worth.
To protect his reign, Nathan must silence his betrayer before Alexis learns enough to topple him. But he’s no longer the only thing to fear in the rotten underbelly of 2035. His search uncovers an evil preying upon the displaced beyond the city wall—making Nathan the next target.
Except of course, maybe the tagline: It takes a certain kind of evil to save this city.
14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Well . . . 😉 No, seriously most of what I write is pure imagination. Even more so for this story set in 2035. I’ll say I had so much fun writing this one, maybe because of the near future setting. An author friend of mine pointed out to me that it’s not so far in the future, but it’s far enough to be able to have some fun speculating with technological advances.
15. What project are you working on now?
Right now, I’m returning to my roots and expanding upon my world all at the same time. As mentioned previously, I got my start with short stories. But once I moved on to novels, I haven’t written many short stories. Because it can take a while for me to write a full length novel, I decided to keep the momentum of Singularity going with a collection of short stories set in that world. Dawn will hopefully hit digital shelves by May of next year. A collection of five stories that will give further insight into chosen characters and set up the second book in the series—Horde Protocol—before it’s 2019 release.
16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Singularity was published on August 14. Dawn: Singularity Stories out by May of 2019. And then Horde Protocol in November 2019. Keeping busy!
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’ve never been one for looking back. The characters I want to work with are all ahead of me. With that being said, I did have an idea before I started Singularity for a psychological thriller revolving around the disappearance of a little boy that I would love to return to one day, when I have the requisite skill to do the idea justice.
18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism came from a fellow author who pointed out my grammatical blind spot in a review of Stillness. It was her sage words that transformed me into a champion of editing, something for which I’ll always be grateful.
The best compliment had to be a comparison by a reviewer to Robin Cook. Undeserved, but appreciated.
19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Same advice I’ve been giving for years now, be humble. The only way—and I do mean the only way—you can improve as a writer is to admit to yourself that you need to improve. And you know what, we all need to improve. None of us are perfect, so we all have things we can do better. Be open to those who have gone before, and listen when they offer you advice. The indie community is one of the most helpful I’ve ever found, and aspiring writers can learn a lot more by listening to them then by assuming they already know everything there is to know.
20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Keep reading. Never be afraid to try something different, or give a new author a shot. After all, as Haruki Murakami said, “If you only read the books everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
Please join me in thanking Eldon Farrell 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 Eldon direct via the below social media links.
Please show your appreciation by checking out Eldon’s work on Amazon.com.
Realm of Shadows: https://www.amazon.com/Realm-Shadows-Descent-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01LA4S7Z4
Singularity: http://netgal.ly/rYgSBT (For a limited time, you can grab an ARC copy here for free!)
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