Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Paul Mansfield Keefe Interview
5/16/2011 7:15:16 PM
Author Paul Mansfield Keefe discusses his debut novel, 'Digger's Bones' and the writing life!
LTS: If you like action-packed thrillers, you’ll enjoy meeting today’s guest blogger, author Paul Mansfield Keefe.
I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Paul. I know you were born in Massachusetts and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. Can you share with us what you like to do when you’re not writing?
PMK: Currently I’m spending a lot of time on developing software for writers. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag or get too far off subject, but the application allows you to keep track of all your characters, places, event, and things—weapons and such. Keeping you organized so you can focus on writing. I hope to release it sometime in early summer.
Of course, this takes away time from my other loves such as music and art. There’s never enough time to do all the things we love, is there? But given enough time I like to play guitar, practice martial arts, and dabble in art, using Painter, on the PC.
LTS: You’re a multimedia artist and your interests include music and animation. When did writing stories fit into your life?
PMK: I started writing poetry in high school and had a bad experience with an English teacher that turned me sour toward writing; I’ve written about this on my blog. Several years ago I started thinking about writing scripts for the movies that float through my head on a regular basis. Before long I realized a movie wasn’t enough to hold all the various dialog and story elements I wished to portray and I had my eureka moment—I needed to write a novel.
Once I began writing again I couldn’t believe how much I missed it! Cathartic and engaging are the only words I have for writing. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in the world of your characters.
LTS: Your debut novel, ‘Digger’s Bones’ has been receiving some great reviews. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Angie Cooper?
PMK: The inspiration came from many years of Catholic school and church. Kung Fu, the television series, was my childhood introduction to Buddhism. These two seemingly antithetical religions paved the way for my own thoughts and feelings on religion and spirituality. That mixed with a good dose of science and philosophy got me questioning just about everything.
‘Digger’s Bones’ at some level is an expression of my thoughts on Christianity and religion in a more general sense. But it was important to me in writing the book not to get bogged down in philosophic discussion; it is after all a thriller. With that in mind I forged the story around Angie Cooper and her feelings about the loss of her father, her love life, and her relationship with her colleagues. Right from the start I wanted Angie to be an “every woman.” She’s not a hard boiled, whiskey drinking, detective, but a scientist just trying to do her job. A job she truly loves. Then I threw in a couple of antagonists that will make your hair crawl.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open ‘Digger’s Bones’?
PMK: Archaeologist Angie Cooper's colleague and friend, Tarek “Digger” Rashid, is murdered in front of her. But not before giving her cryptic photographic clues to a hidden tomb and the two thousand year old bones within. Angie must battle a ruthless hitman, hired by a U.S. senator with presidential aspirations, and a sociopathic religious zealot while overcoming severe acrophobia.
Caught in a web of lies, deceit, and betrayal, she works to unravel the mystery of Digger's bones and discovers her own feelings about her father’s death, her failed career, and her lost love. Touched by the significance of the bones, she learns forgiveness and inner-strength while challenging herself and her beliefs.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation from a literary agent?
PMK: Since I was unable to find representation myself I feel I would be the wrong person to give that advice. However, what I can say is that giving up will not get you published. The industry is going through many changes right now and the publishers and agents are not sure what their next move should be, making it difficult to get their attention.
If you can’t find an agent, than do what I and many thousands of other Indy authors have done, self-publish. It is extremely easy to do today, the hard part is promotion. But if you can either afford to market yourself or have the tenacity and will to find your audience, I believe you will.
LTS: What made you decide to self-publish your novel?
PMK: I went through some one hundred plus agents and publishers and got turned down. I know that my book is a thriller and, in some sense, they’re a dime a dozen, but I felt my story was worth telling and worth reading. So, I printed my book through Amazon and then produced an eBook for every other possible market, kindle, nook, kobo, etc.
LTS: What is the best advice you can give to an aspiring author considering self-publication?
PMK: Do it. Have faith in yourself and your work and get it out there. Let the readers decide if your work is worthy. Just be aware that it take a long time to see sales and don’t get disappointed too easily. You need thick skin to be a writer, no matter how you’re published.
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?
PMK: I’m much more the relaxed type, however, my novel, ‘Digger’s Bones,’ took loads of research. It was important to my writing style to depict the locations in the book with some accuracy. I wanted the reader to feel as if they were right there alongside of Angie. So, I had no choice but to be disciplined in order to get it done. I’d say I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer by nature and a disciplined writer by trade.
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.
PMK: I think you can tell by my answer above that I am a bit of both. I start with plot because it’s the plot that gets me excited and my style is certainly plot driven. But as I write, especially because I don’t use an outline, I discover things about my characters and their environment that change the story in a natural way. That’s why I’m both a plotter and a pantser, a plantser.
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?
PMK: A simple human sacrifice is all I really need. No, all kidding aside, I don’t have a particular ritual except that I like total silence. It’s much easier for me to hear the voices of my characters if there is no extraneous noise piping through my ears.
LTS: Good answer! A simple human sacrifice! 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?
PMK: This is the most common question I hear from other writers. I can understand it; it’s like stage fright to an actor. But I only have one piece of advice if it happens to you, write anyway. Don’t stop, sit down and write, write, write. Because of the block it will mostly be garbage, but eventually some gem will shine and catch your attention. That’s when the inspiration will come back and the words will flow again.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
PMK: That’s a great question, how even the choice of genre might be influenced by our heros. I, like most authors, have many favorites. To be more specific, especially in light of the question, I would have to say, David Baldacci. I’m not so sure how much of my style was influenced by his, but my choice of genre certainly way. Baldacci got me excited about writing my own story because his writing is so non-flowery and yet impactful. I imagined that I would be able to write about Angie in that way and make her seem down to earth and yet an unstoppable protagonist.
My love of thriller movies has been another major influence on my writing style. I always loved Harrison Ford’s ability to seem like an ordinary guy stuck in extraordinary circumstances. Film had a tremendous influence on how I wrote Angie Cooper.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
PMK: I think making Angie a believable woman, especially as a male writer, has given me the most insight into my own abilities. I wasn’t sure I would be able pull it off in the beginning. I remember my eighty two year old mother getting excited about Angie’s relationship with Jack Reilly and I knew I had captured what I had hoped for. Making a character real for the reader is the most thrilling part of writing for me.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
PMK: Funnily enough, I’ve just started reading your book, ‘Imago Chronicles: Book One, A Warrior’s Tale.’ The influence wasn’t only that you were nice enough to interview me on your blog, but because I have to read it before the movie comes out! I think it’s very exciting—and most every author’s dream—to get optioned for a movie and can’t wait to be first in line when it hits theaters. But, I have to read it first, the book is always better than the movie!
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from thrillers into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to ‘Digger’s Bones’ in the near future?
PMK: I must say that I wrote ‘Digger’s Bones’ with film in mind. I wasn’t sure I’d be lucky enough to get optioned, but I wrote it with that type of big-screen action-adventure in mind. But that’s more of a dream than a goal.
I do have two more books for Angie in the works. I have the basic plot for the third and I am writing the second now. However, I am way behind! Writing software, and my job (yes, I have a day job), have squeezed in on my writing time and Angie is suffering for it. She’ll be okay though, she’s a pretty tough cookie.
LTS: Thank you for taking the time to share in your novel and your writing experiences, Paul! For more information about Paul and his novel check out:
Follow Paul on Twitter: .thrillerXpert
Where to buy the book:
Digger’s Bones in Print
Barnes & Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Diggers-Bones/Paul-Mansfield-Keefe/e/9781456313753
Digger’s Bones for Kindle
Digger’s Bones for Nook
Digger’s Bones for other eReaders
Digger’s Bones for iBook can be purchased through the iBookstore
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