Welcome to the two hundred and ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with thriller / suspense novelist S. Eric Wachtel. 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, Eric. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Eric: A history buff, I crafted my first historical based short story while in college. An exciting business career got in the way, but I’m back at it again.
Morgen: Exciting? What could possibly be more exciting than writing? 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Eric: I write thriller / suspense novels. In my debut novel, The Essene Conspiracy, I created dynamic fictional characters from composites of personalities with whom I crossed paths during my business career.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Eric: I do it all. That includes: maintaining a website, blogging, social networking, interviews, guest appearances, & book signings.
Morgen: Wow, definitely a full-time job. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Eric: I’ve just recently found out that I’m a Winner of the 2011 Authors Show “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading”.
Morgen: Well done, that’s incredible! I bet you’re chuffed. 🙂 You mentioned your debut, is it available as an eBook? If so what was your experience of that process?
Eric: Yes my book is available on Kindle, Nook, and Google eBooks. It’s been a good experience, especially with Kindle.
Morgen: I have that to look forward to (mine are just on Smashwords so far) so that’s encouraging. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Eric: A new thriller featuring charismatic security consultant, Harry McClure. Hope to have it ready for publication in 2012.
Morgen: Names are funny, ‘Harry’ does sound like he should be charismatic. 🙂 With so much else going on, do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Eric: Not every day—only when I’m in the right mood. 3000+ words are the most I’ve written in a single day. I find writing in the early morning works best for me, though I’ve often done research late into the night.
Morgen: Oh me too, I’m an early bird. 🙂 A question some authors dread, where do you get your inspiration from?
Eric: I get inspiration from the many readers who have asked, “When’s the next Harry McClure book coming?”
Morgen: Wow, that’s great. I’ve only had my eBooks out there for a month but every piece of feedback (even the non-committal ones) put a smile on my face. 🙂 Writing thrillers / suspense do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Eric: I outline my story line before starting to write. Sometimes there is a small deviation, but I generally have a good idea, from the start to finish, where I’m heading.
Morgen: That does make sense. You’ve mentioned Harry, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Eric: I tend to create my characters from composites of people I’ve known during my business career. I then assign to them names that are easy to remember (ie; Harry McClure, Max Eisen).
Morgen: Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Eric: I generally show my first drafts to my wife and daughter. They’re both excellent writers so their input –sometimes brutal – is important. Then it goes to several outside readers, and finally a professional editor.
Morgen: Brutal is good providing it’s constructive; just saying it’s rubbish but not explaining where you’re going wrong doesn’t help. My writing groups (and editor) are great – all firm but fair, as I am when I red pen. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Eric: Though I’m more comfortable with my early drafts, I still go back and edit.
Morgen: Me too, it’s amazing what we can miss because we know the meaning behind it (I do, anyway – ‘thought’, ‘though’ and ‘through’ are often my pitfalls). How much research do you have to do for your writing?
Eric: Prior to developing the plot for The Essene Conspiracy, I did a lot of historical research. Actually, it took several years, and it was a great learning experience.
Morgen: Research is my least favourite aspect although the internet has softened the blow. 🙂 You mentioned earlier about receiving feedback from your readers…
Eric: Many readers have contacted me to say that they enjoyed my blend of historical content and fiction.
Morgen: Historical is an incredibly popular, as are thrillers so I think you’ve chosen wisely (or maybe it chose you? :)) Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Eric: I write only on a computer, and I can’t image writing any other way. I know some writers prefer old fashion typewriters—not me. I love computers.
Morgen: Me too, although I prefer to edit on paper – different parts of the brain apparently… that and the masochism of scribbling with a red pen. 🙂 Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Eric: I like to work in a quiet office. Sometimes a little classical music helps. Concentration is a key.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Eric: My debut novel begins with a prologue, and I’m continuing that approach in my second novel. I think a prologue, especially with thrillers, is an effective staging tool.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Eric: If you want to be a successful writer develop a “thick skin”. Writing is subjective, so don’t expect that everyone will like your work. Keep in mind that even Hemingway and Dan Brown were rejected.
Morgen: Rhino hide, definitely and Dean Koontz was apparently rejected over 500 times. I have 470+ to go. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Eric: I make it a point to read a lot of thrillers and historical non-fiction. My favourite author is Frederick Forsyth. I would also recommend Sam Eastland, an author who writes under a nom de plume.
Morgen: Your cover does look Forsythian. 🙂 I’d not heard of Sam so did a bit of digging (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Watkins_(novelist)). What do you do when you’re not writing?
Eric: I’m an avid reader, photographer, woodworker, traveller, and epicurean.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Eric: I recommend Joe Konrath’s website http://www.jakonrath.com/#ebooks. It’s a terrific resource filled with marketing tips and encouragement for aspiring and self-published authors.
Morgen: And he’s definitely an inspiration. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Eric: I’m based in the U.S., but I am exploring ways of marketing my book in the U.K.
Morgen: Hence you being here, let’s hope this interview helps a little. 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Eric: On many, all the regulars. How valuable? Good question.
Morgen: 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Eric: Lots of opportunities, but competition for exposure is fierce.
Morgen: It is but we just have to keep plugging away, don’t we? 🙂 If you could have your life over again, is there anything you’d have done differently?
Eric: Perhaps, I would have started writing earlier.
Morgen: Me too (earlier than late 30s). And what does the future holds for you?
Eric: I’m looking forward to completing my next Harry McClure thriller.
Morgen: As are your readers. 🙂 Well, thank you Eric for chatting with me today.
I then invited Eric to include an extract of his writing and the following is the beginning of the prologue of ‘The Essene Conspiracy’…
Jerusalem, March 5, 1991 – 7:15 a.m.
The mild morning air hinted at the promise of a brilliant spring as Israeli Finance Minister Uzi Kopelman walked briskly along an ancient narrow corridor of the Jewish Quarter leading to the Zion Gate.
Earlier that morning, in remembrance of his father who was killed, three years to the date, by a powerful bomb a Muslim terrorist had detonated in a crowded Tel Aviv restaurant, he had prayed at the Western Wall.
On his way to an emergency meeting with the director of Israeli Intelligence, his thoughts dwelled on the alarming magnitude of the financial transactions he had uncovered a day earlier.
Moments after passing an alleyway, Kopelman felt a subtle sting on the back of his neck. Instinctively raising his open right hand, the former captain of the Israeli Army soccer team swatted his neck and continued walking.
Less than a minute later, his limbs suddenly gripped by muscle paralysis, he staggered and fell to the stone pavement. Unable to move his body, he stared up in terror at the masked figure garbed in an Arab caftan looming above him. Knowing he couldn’t defend himself, his heart sank.
Brandishing a dagger, the figure glared at Kopelman and said, taunting him, “You think you can stop us—you’re wrong. Let this be a lesson to those who would challenge the will of God.”
His energy drained, gasping for breath, Kopelman murmured in a low voice, “Please . . . I mean you no harm. Don’t—”
But it was too late. Intent on fulfilling his mission, the assassin raised his dagger and plunged it deep into Uzi Kopelman’s chest.
S. Eric Wachtel was born and raised in New York City and graduated from the University of Missouri. While in college he crafted his first historical based short story.
Recruited by the CIA, he opted out in favour of a business career. Starting on Wall Street, he was later a vice president of an international conglomerate, director of a management consulting firm, and then president of a medical technology company.
Eric lives with his wife, Lynn, and Russian Blue cat in Washington, D.C. and Vermont. A member of International Thriller Writers, he is at work on the next Harry McClure thriller.
Update November 2012: Salzburg Austria publisher Kulturverlag Polzer GmbH has released THE ESSENE CONSPIRACY as a German language eBook. It’s available on their new eBook website: http://www.polzer-thrill.at/s-eric-wachtel/22-the-essene-conspiracy-eric-s-wachtel.html
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