Welcome to the six hundred and seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with thriller author Ethan Jones. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Ethan. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Ethan: I have always liked to read and I tried my hand at writing when I was 13-14. I would read a story or watch a movie and then go to write how I wanted the story or the movie to continue. Then life happened. After finishing law school, I also continued my graduate studies and got a Master of Laws degree. As a part of my degree, I had to write a 150-page thesis. The process of research, writing, rewriting and editing inspired me to return to my childhood passion. I was blessed with time and I learned things as I wrote.
I live in Canada with my wife and my son.
Morgen: Oh yes, I know all about life happening. I left my job March 2012 and have got one novel online since then (I have another four written, they just need the dreaded editing). The time goes so quickly, it’s crazy. We (time) and I used to be good friends – I’m hoping we rekindle our friendship this year. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Ethan: I love spy thrillers and suspense stories and I like to write about things I love. Besides spy thriller, I’ve started to work on a murder mystery set in the US, called A Complicated Justice. A Court of Appeals judge goes missing and the detectives are trying to find him, the reasons why he has disappeared and the whole truth.
Morgen: That sounds great. Do let me know when that’s available. What have you had published to-date?
Ethan: My debut spy thriller, Arctic Wargame, was released on Amazon.com on May 22, 2012 as an eBook and paperback. At the same time, I released two short stories: Carved in Memory––which is a prequel to Arctic Wargame and explains an important aspect of Justin’s background–– and The Last Confession––about a dying NY mobster confession to his priest. Most recently Tripoli’s Target, which is the second book in Justin Hall series. This time, Justin and his partner, Carrie O’Connor, return to North Africa to meet with one of the masterminds of a terrorist network. The man in question has promised them high-value intelligence, related to an assassination plot against the US President during her visit to a G-20 summit in Tripoli, Libya. The US Secret Service is informed about this plot, and they take all necessary measures to protect the President. However, new intelligence points at a large flaw in Justin’s and Carrie’s plan. They must now scramble to avoid the disaster. Tripoli’s Target was released in fall 2012.
Morgen: Which have been 5am Flashes free eBooks a few times (and I have them, thank you). You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Ethan: I shopped my two novels, Arctic Wargame and Tripoli’s Target (out in fall 2012), to a few hundred agents and publishers over the course of 2009-2011. I received some great feedback. A few agents asked for a partial manuscript and two or three for a full. But no one was willing to make an offer or sign a contract. In the meantime, I kept writing. I had not considered self-publishing because it seemed like a lot of work and I had truly hoped an agency or a publisher would pick up my works. Upon the suggestion of a good friend, I dusted off my first novel, Arctic Wargame. I found three great beta readers, all published writers, and we took a new stab at my gibberish. Then I worked with two great editors and proof-readers, to create the best possible work.
Morgen: A “few hundred agents”? Wow, that’s determination. I stopped at just after a dozen, because I could see how simple it was (once you got the hang of it) to eBook. Are all your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Ethan: All my books are available as eBooks. I worked with an art designer to come up with intriguing covers that capture the feel of the book. And since my works are self-published, I worked also on page setting and formatting.
Morgen: Which isn’t as tricky as one might think (I have a ‘how-to’ guide on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/ebooks/how-to-create-an-ebook). Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Ethan: One of the advantages of self-publishing is the freedom of the author to decide on the titles and the covers of his work. No one knows them better than the author, who has created them. Titles and covers have paramount importance, because those are the first things the readers see. They need to grab their attention, stop them in their tracks, so they can take a few seconds and give your book a closer look. The title and the cover should perk up their interest, invite them to pick up the book and browse through its pages.
Morgen: They are, they do, they should. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Ethan: I wish I could write every day, but I have a full-time job and time is short. I try to do a little bit of writing as often as I can or at least think about the stories and the plots.
I experience writer’s block time after time. It is usually when I am around the mid-point of the book. The beginning starts with passion and then the story kind of tanks. I try to think about what to write and take a break for a few days. Do some promotion or marketing or brainstorm about writing or revising another story. Usually this helps. But not all writer’s blocks are the same, so sometimes it just takes longer.
Morgen: Ah yes, the tricky saggy middle. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Ethan: I wrote Arctic Wargame and Tripoli’s Target without an outline. I just planned the main storyline in my mind and went on writing. There were a couple of places where I really stumbled and had to think hard to come out with ideas and solutions. Now I use a somewhat flexible outline.
Morgen: I hadn’t up to now but have started a crime series, I struggled so am going to write an outline and see if that helps (I’m sure it will) when I go back to it in the next couple of months (hopefully). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Ethan: I like my characters to be believable and to have both positive and negative aspects, to be multidimensional. For example, Justin Hall, the main character of Arctic Wargame, is smart and tough, but has a difficult background. His mother died in a car accident and Justin blames his father for her death. Justin’s relationship to his brother is almost non-existent.
The names of the characters should reflect their personality, to a certain extent. I chose the name Justin because it is my son’s middle name and also because I like that it sound very close to “justice,” something that Justin is supposed to bring about.
Morgen: What a good idea. I like the name; it’s simple and easy to spell. Thank you, Ethan. It’s been great having you join me today and I look forward to hosting more 5am Flashes.
I then invited Ethan to include an extract of his writing and this is the prologue to his novel Arctic Wargame…
Ghadames, Libya – Six months ago – October 10, 3:00 a.m.
The sand dunes sank into darkness as a curtain of clouds dimmed the glow of the crescent moon. Justin limped closer to the small barred window of his prison cell. His bruised chest pressed against the rough surface of the bloodstained wall. He squinted and tried to stand on his toes for a better look. The rusty shackles clawed against the scarred skin of his ankles, and the heavy chain rattled on the cement floor.
“Quiet. Be quiet, you bastard infidel,” a guard growled in Arabic from down the shadowy prison hallway.
Justin stood still and drew in a deep breath, the cold night air of the Sahara desert filling his heaving lungs. Everything went silent again. No rapid steps rushing to his cell. No swearing bellowed by other inmates. He lifted his head, wrapped his free hands around the iron bars, and clenched his teeth, ignoring the jolts of pain from his fingers. With his eyes about an inch over the windowsill, Justin scoped the landscape, searching for the long-awaited rescue team.
Abdul, his connection within Libya’s Internal Security Agency who lay in the cell next door, had confirmed their escape was to take place early that morning. Their previous attempt the night before had failed, despite the inside help of one of the terrorists. Justin hoped this time their plan would be executed with no glitches.
At first, he noticed nothing except the rugged outlines of the steep dunes and the whitewashed walls of the sleepy town. Straining his eyes, he peered again. A small shadow slithered toward the prison wall. Justin blinked to clear his vision and stared at the approaching figure.
Bent at the waist, the shadow advanced at a rapid pace. It quickly disappeared from his sight, and he wondered whether the man had encountered a guard.
Justin’s heart pounded. He placed his ear to the wall and sensed a low grating noise. Someone, the shadow he hoped, was scaling the wall.
And a synopsis…
Canadian Intelligence Service Agent Justin Hall—combat-hardened in operations throughout Northern Africa—has been demoted after a botched mission in Libya.
When two foreign icebreakers appear in Canadian Arctic waters, Justin volunteers for the reconnaissance mission, eager to return to the field. His team discovers a foreign weapons cache deep in the Arctic, but they are not aware that a spy has infiltrated the Department of National Defence.
The team begins to unravel a treasonous plan against Canada, but they fall under attack from one of their own. Disarmed and stripped of their survival gear, they are stranded in a remote location. Now the team must survive the deadly Arctic not only to save themselves, but their country.
The author of Arctic Wargame, a spy thriller available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback, he has also published two short stories: Carved in Memory, a prequel to Arctic Wargame, and The Last Confession, both available on Amazon as e-books.
His second spy thriller, Tripoli’s Target, was released in fall 2012. His debut spy fiction novel, Arctic Wargame, and two short stories, Carved in Memory and The Last Confession, are available on Amazon. His blog is http://ethanjones.blog.com.
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