Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Everett Powers Interview
3/3/2012 9:57:50 PM
Author Everett Powers discusses his novels and the writing life!
LTS: Kicking off the list of authors to be featured during the month of March, I’d like to introduce you to the talented and engaging Everett Powers, the author of The Mighty T. I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Everett. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
EP: Let me begin by saying it’s a pleasure to be featured on your blog. You’re basically living my dream life: writing full time and writing and advising on a motion picture based on your work. What a thrill that must be! Thanks so much for thinking of me, Lorna.
My favorite thing is to get away with my wife for a night, a weekend, or as long as we can manage to leave “life” behind. We live in Modesto, California, so we’re an hour or two from just about everything. We can be in Yosemite National Park or Monterey (coastal) in two hours, San Francisco in ninety minutes, the beautiful foothills of the Sierras in an hour forty-five. I love photography and have spent many hours wandering Central California with my camera. I’m all digital now but I have several boxes of slide and print photos. Photography is also something my wife and I enjoy doing together.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
EP: I wrote my first story in the third grade: “The Case of the Moving Stairs.” My teacher, Mr. Dolley, praised it for having a lot of dialogue, but also chided me for slanting my letters the wrong way; I’m right-handed but wrote like a left-hander. I still have the story, squirreled away in a box in the garage. Unfortunately, that was all the fiction I wrote until about 1993, when I began fantasizing about becoming a writer. I read an interview about John Grisham and decided I wanted his life: lots of money, fame, praise for your work, time to coach your kid’s Little League baseball team—what’s not to like? It was just a dream then and I never thought it would be anything more than that. Like being a professional baseball or basketball player; I wanted to, fantasized about doing it, but knew I wasn’t tall enough, fast enough, or good enough. The time wasn’t right for my writing then, but it is now.
LTS: How does your latest novel, The Mighty T differ from your debut novel Canals? What was the inspiration behind these stories and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonists?
EP: The Mighty T is a thriller while Canals is a horror novel. I suppose you could call Canals a thriller, too, because it’s certainly thrilling. Canals has Sci-Fi elements whereas The Mighty T has nothing of the sort.
I live in the middle of very productive farmland made possible by modern irrigation. When the canals were dug, Modesto was fairly small so they were all out in farmland. As Modesto grew, it grew around the canals so much that many subdivisions have one running through or around them. I drive over and by one every day on the way to work. One day, after I’d decided to write a complete novel, I noticed someone walking on the canal bank, a common sight, and thought, What if there was a monster in that canal? I got to thinking about it, and got to writing.
When I had trouble selling Canals to publishers and agents, I blamed it on the genre. I thought they just weren’t interested in horror, so I decided to write a thriller. Surely they’d be interested in a thriller, they print thousands of them. I can’t recall exactly how I came upon the idea of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park being the target of an eco-terrorist, but it was likely from the local paper. The City of San Francisco built a dam at Hetch Hetchy and flooded it ninety years ago. It provides much of their drinking water and the electricity generated by the stored water powers city government buildings. It’s a hot topic that’s not likely to go away until the dam has been removed. There have been several articles and editorials about the dam in the past two months. I recall having the thought, What if someone got tired of waiting for the politicians to do something and decided to take matters into their own hands?
Daniel Lawless is the main protagonist in Canals. I know Lawless sounds like a corny name for a cop, but it grows on you as you read through the book. He’s not your ordinary cop: he likes shoes, a lot—has about eighty pairs in a custom-made shoe closet—and thinks sex is too messy to bother with. Physically, the inspiration for Lawless was a local Sheriff Department detective I did a disability evaluation on. Lawless is pale and flabby, not at all a handsome macho cop, yet he ends up with a hot twenty-five-year-old female deputy named Sandra Jensen. Oh, he didn’t just get lucky, they were made for each other. Literally.
The main protagonist for The Mighty T is Detective Grant Starr. His character is (very) loosely based on Lucas Davenport, the main character in twenty-five or so Prey books by John Sandford. They’re both well-off, handsome, and single, but Lucas is much more of a bad boy than Grant. In fact, Grant’s not a bad boy at all. He does have a temper, though, when he’s pushed too hard.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open one of your novels?
EP: My goal is to write the kind of stories I like to read. I suppose every author does. I like a novel that’s comfortable to read, meaning the words flow from page to page. I have a post-graduate degree but I purposely leave big words out of my books. I don’t want my readers to have to stop reading to look some word up in the dictionary. I also want my stories to be believable. I know, monsters and aliens don’t really exist (or do they?), but there can’t be huge logical gaps in my stories. They have to make sense. Both books are story-driven rather than character-driven. Sure, the characters are developed, but the books are all about what’s happening and not necessarily about what people think about what’s happening. The main reason I don’t read Dean Koontz anymore is he spends much of his books inside his characters’ heads. I want things to happen! I trust they’ll find the stories so interesting that they’ll carry them to work so they can sneak a few pages in on break and at lunch.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?
EP: Frankly, I turned to self-publishing because I had failed at getting my books published through traditional methods despite what I thought were valiant efforts. I was quite ignorant about publishing. I knew I’d get a lot of rejection slips but I thought I’d win in the end if I just stuck with it. I had no idea the entire industry was about to be shaken up. I recall the day in March, 2011, when I Googled “self publishing” for the first time. What an eye-opener! I eventually landed on Smashwords, which finally gave me the confidence that I could publish my own writing without it looking like... Well, like I’d done it myself instead of it being done professionally. J.A. Konrath’s blog was pivotal. Any writer interested in self-publishing must read his blog. If your writing is good and you keep at it, you’ll eventually succeed. He’s a real morale-booster for me.
LTS: Would you recommend this method of publication to others? Why?
EP: I recommend self-publishing to people who like to be in control. When you’re the publisher, you control everything whereas with traditional publishing you relinquish all control, except perhaps for the content of the book. You can raise or lower the price and choose where and how to sell your books. It comes with a price, of course. Since you’re the publisher, you’re responsible for the book’s success. And it’s unlikely, at least presently, that you’ll see stacks of your books in Barnes & Noble. But hey, if you can get a huge book deal from a major publisher, go for it. I’m convinced you won’t make as much money in the long run but you’ll have someone else doing most of the grunt work.
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
EP: If you believe in your writing, NEVER give up.
LTS: I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
EP: I write best when I’m disciplined. When I wrote Canals I wrote seven days a week until it was done. I got up every day at the same time (I did sleep in an hour or two on the weekends) and wrote in the same room. We’ve since downsized and I lost my dedicated writing room, so I wrote most of The Mighty T at my office, in the morning before seeing patients. Although the times I’d write were inconsistent, I wrote something almost every day. I’m working on a first draft now and this is the first time I’ve had specific writing goals: 1,500 words per writing session. It’s been good for me because I didn’t write for five months last year for personal reasons; I have a lot of catching up to do. When the muse is strong and the words are really flowing, I can write anywhere and at any time. Before my local Borders closed (what a sad day that was), I often sat in their café and wrote or edited. I can sit in a Starbucks and write if I have to, if the muse is on. Our local library branch is a good place to write if you get there early enough to reserve a private room.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
EP: I was a pantser with Canals but switched to a hybrid style with The Mighty T. The thought of plotting an entire book before I begin writing sounds horribly dull to me. John Grisham says it’s essential, but then his legal thrillers have sucked for years. With The Mighty T, I began with a general idea of where I wanted the story to go, but I had no idea how I’d get there. I like my hybrid style because it’s more exciting to write by the seat of my pants than it is to plot. Extensive plotting sounds too much like work, and writing is fun. Yes it’s hard, but it’s also a blast.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
EP: I had to laugh at that: “ones that can be shared with the readers.” I can’t share that I strip and jog around the block five times before I write? My brain needs caffeine to create, but not so much to edit. Since I can’t write at home anymore, I like to get up in the morning and get going. Hanging around the house too long makes my brain lazy. I get my favorite caffeinated beverage and sit down in front of the computer, if I’m writing at the office, or my iPad, if I’m writing somewhere else, and write. I usually begin by reading the last several paragraphs of my draft to get the feel of the scene again. If I haven’t written for a few days—which, shame on me, has happened too often the last few months—I have to go back further in the text to pick up the flow. I don’t recommend rereading much of your draft because the temptation to start editing is very strong, and editing isn’t creating. You’ve got to get the first draft done as quickly as possible, and that means minimizing editing. It will suck up all your writing time and leave you with no new words written.
LTS: My last author to be featured joked that he did a rain dance in the nude to call upon his muse, so running naked doesn’t surprise me! lol (And what is it with authors being nude all the time?!?) Now, at one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
EP: I have a couple of techniques that have worked for me. One is, I simply start typing. You can always start the next paragraph: “The next morning at the station, Grant sat in his chair, staring at the computer monitor.” It’s not too hard to figure out what could happen next. Who sticks their head into his office to say hello? Does the phone ring, if so, who is it? That seems to get the muse going and ideas begin popping into my mind. If I’m at a point in my story where I don’t know what should happen next, not a rare occurrence for people who write without a plot, I take a piece of paper, or a new document on the computer, and write out what’s going on with my main characters—who’s doing what. This helps me see the big picture. I then ask, “What could happen next, that would make sense?” I jot down several possibilities, then think through them. As believability is important to me, I discard ideas that seem too farfetched. After a few minutes of this I’m usually ready to begin writing. I have file folders and notebooks filled with these papers. Someday, probably after I’m dead and gone, they’ll be auctioned off for charity. I bet they’ll fetch millions.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
EP: John Sandford has been my favorite writer for five or so years, maybe longer. I appreciate his clean writing style: no extra words. I aspire for my fiction to be as easy to read as his. I wanted to write like Stephen King when I wrote Canals but ended up with a 200,000 word manuscript. I had to lop 60,000 words off. Canals is a King-like book, though. It’s been compared to his It, but my ending is better; I mean really, a spider? He couldn’t come up with anything better than a spider? Incidentally, one of the dangers of being a pantser is it’s easy to end up with goofy story elements that defy logic. A lot of King’s books have lousy endings.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
EP: I don’t write to change lives, I write to entertain. Life is tough for a lot of people these days so I try to give them a few hours of pleasurable escapism for five or six bucks. (That almost sounds illegal.)
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
EP: I’m reading Larry Enright’s King in a Court of Fools. I know Larry from Twitter and was won over by the fact that he’s such a nice guy and everyone seems to love this book. And they’re right: it’s a terrific book. I’m a big supporter of Indie writers; my to-read list is nothing but Indies. I was stuck in a reading rut for many years and am just now starting to read different genres. Recently I’ve read historical fiction set in Jerusalem circa 60 A.D.; some book about a single man, a player, who decides to have a baby through a surrogate; a book about a woman who wakes up one day to find she’s obsessed with a boy she dated for a few weeks when she was fifteen, I mean obsessed—that was a strange book; and I’ve read a bunch of books in my preferred genres.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to The Mighty T in the near future?
EP: I’m currently working on the follow-up for The Mighty T. It’s untitled, but that’s not unusual. The Might T had a different title until one of my sons said it was dumb. My goal is to publish two Grant Starr thrillers this year, then write and publish a “literary” novel in 2013. Ambitious goals, I know. I want to retire from practice in 2013 and write full time. I’ll be fifty-five this year so I figure I have a good twenty years to write. I hope the ongoing royalties will make life a little easier for my kids and their families.
LTS: All the best, my friend! Thank you for taking the time to discuss your novels and to share in your writing experiences! For more information about Everett and his novels, check out:
Follow Everett on Twitter: .EvPowers
Where to buy the book: (Amazon author page, with links to books.) http://www.amazon.com/Everett-Powers/e/B004ZZ5MHM
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