I’m super excited to be part of the Notorious Minds blog tour this week! Today’s post is a Q&A with Adam Alexander, author of Masters of the City, in which he shares some of his best tips and some fun facts about his own writing. Hope you enjoy!
HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER? I think I’ve always been a writer, but I spent a long time listening to the wrong voices, and not believing enough in myself. If I’d listened to my own inner voice instead of the people in my life who told me I couldn’t, or I shouldn’t, I would have published my first book years before I did. What made me finally finish my first novel wasn’t a change in my abilities, or some magical formula that I suddenly discovered. I simply found someone who believed in me more than I did, and I started listening to that voice. Once I finished my first novel, writing the next one became easier and easier.
YOUR JOURNEY TO FINISHING THAT FIRST NOVEL. There are about a dozen half-finished and abandoned attempts at writing books on my computer hard drives, and even one written on paper before I even had my first computer. That’s going back a long time. What finally made me start and finish my first novel was a dream, oddly enough. I had a dream of a girl in a forest in the darkness, burying something. I woke up and this dream was still vividly implanted in my mind, and I figured it would make a great opening scene for a book. A girl is burying something in the forest because she has to hide it. But what’s she burying and who wants it so badly? Then I came up with the idea for Lost Soul: Immortality. She’s burying her soul because she can’t let the evil wizards get it, because she has this gift that only comes around once every thousand years, and if they get it, it will give them immortality. But if you’re an aspiring writer, you’re well aware that having an idea is not the same thing as writing a book. The writing part takes hard work. Lots of it. Up until that point, I’d never shared my writing or my ideas with anyone because I was afraid of the reaction. Would people like it? Would they hate it? What if they did hate it? They’d think I was dumb. I only had that state of mind because of people in my life up until that point who had done exactly that. Anyway, heart in my mouth I shared the idea with my wife and she loved the idea, and demanded the first chapter. And so began my journey to the end of my first novel. I’d write a chapter, give it to my wife to read, and she’d love it and ask for the next one. At that point in my life writing was a dream. I remember clearly sitting in my study writing those last words, throwing my hands up in the air with a sense of triumph having done something that I’d literally waited half my life to do.
DETAILED ADVICE FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS. Start early and don’t give up. If you believe you’re good enough, and if you have a story you want to tell, write it and don’t look back. If you feel like your writing sucks, get better. Get into a habit of writing, whether it be a target number of words every day, or every week – set a goal for yourself and break it down to a daily goal and write. Join author groups online an get involved in a writing community. Contrary to what you might think, communities of authors are amazing places to find help and encouragement.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE NOVEL IN THIS BOXSET? In the Notorious Minds Boxset, you’re getting Episode 2 in the Matt Porter Series. I created Matt Porter because I had always wanted to write a thriller, in the genre of the Bourne Identity, where the hero is out there on his own, and all the odds are stacked against him.
Episode 1, Slave to the City, introduces you to Matt Porter, a cop in a big city doing his best to bring in the bad guys, but his only weakness is his constant downfall. As long as he stays away from women, he’s fine. But every time he gets involved, things don’t end well. I won’t spoil Slave to the City by telling you too much here, but what you get from the blurb of the book is that Matt Porter steps in to help Grace when he sees her in the diner surrounded by the guys in dark suits, and from everything falls apart for him. He crosses so many lines and ends up on the wrong side of the law with people trying to kill him, the police after him, and he has to figure out why fast before he ends up dead.
Matt Porter returns in Masters of the City for an even more nail biting adventure. The opening scene sees him positioned on the roof, aiming his rifle and he’s about to pull the trigger. He’s supposed to be one of the good guys – how the hell did he end up here? I wanted to put Matt Porter in an even more impossible situation in the sequel to Slave to the City, and the opening scene does just that. Matt Porter takes on a new client, but things fall apart again right from the start, and it all goes back to his golden rule. Rule #2 – all women are trouble. No exception. I think the very character of Porter lends itself to the situations he finds himself in. He’ll never walk away from a woman in trouble, yet stepping in to help always gets in in trouble.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALISE YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR? I started writing a book about a homeless guy who gets hit by a car late one night and ends up in hospital, and the book was going to be about how the guy ends up winning Wimbledon. That was the idea anyway. I think I was about eighteen, and that’s when I got the writing bug. I won the Editor’s Prize for English at school, and I figured I had some writing talent and I saw myself penning this amazing novel, getting published and making millions. It didn’t pan out that way. I soon realized that having a beginning and an ending for a story is not the same as writing a novel. The bits in between are what make a good story.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK? It takes me anything from 6 to 9 weeks to write a book. I used to write whenever, and finish a book when I felt like it with no deadline. When that was my approach, I finished one book a year, maybe. Then I set myself an impossible target to finish a book in 90 days. I made it with 4 days to spare. Now I try to bring that down by writing a little more each day. I wrote my latest book in six weeks.
WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING? I’m not a full-time writer. I run a growing IT business so my days are pretty busy, and my mind is usually preoccupied with work when I get home in the evenings, so I can’t just switch off from work and flip over to writing. I do a lot of my writing on weekends. First thing in the mornings is best for me. A good start to my writing sets a good pace for the rest of the day. If I procrastinate and let fear of the blank page get inside my head, my day’s
writing is doomed.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INFORMATION OR IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOKS? Right now I’ve written two series and three standalones. That gives me established characters to work with, and worlds I’ve created to explore. It makes it easier to find new ideas for books. For example, I wrote Garage Band as a standalone, and I got the idea for that one when I went shopping one Saturday morning in Sandton City. My wife commented on how ridiculous it was that we like to drive our fancy expensive cars, and looking around the parking garage I said that the cars in the parking garage must be worth more than the building. Then as a joke, I said that if you wanted to do some damage, you didn’t have to blow up a whole building, just blow up the cars in the garage. That got me thinking, and I started developing the plot for Garage Band. You take a complete anti-hero, the kind of guy you want to smack upside the head and say, “get a life!” and you make him the hero of the story, give him a reason to want to blow up all the cars in Sandton City, and so began the best comedy thriller I’ve ever written. That gave rise to the sequel (the book I wrote in my first 90 day challenge). And the world I created gave rise to a prequel based on one of the characters that I mentioned in a one-liner in Garage Band, and now I’m writing another prequel based on one of the other supporting characters in Garage Band. If you let your imagination flow, there’s no shortage ideas. Just don’t make the mistake of sitting with a blank page in front of you stressing that you’re not coming up with ideas. You don’t find them that way.
WHEN DID YOU WRITE YOUR FIRST BOOK AND HOW OLD WERE YOU? I wrote Lost soul: Immortality in 2013. I was 42 when I finished my first novel.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRITING? I think about writing.
WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK OF YOUR WRITING? My wife is my biggest fan. She reads all my books first, and she was in the inspiration behind getting my first book on paper and making me finish the book. Family have to love your books, that’s their job. The real test is putting your books in the hands of total strangers.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN? WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE? I’ve written 9 fiction and 1 non-fiction books. My favourite is probably Garage Band – it was a comical thriller, and I had great fun creating some of those moments. My wife’s favourite is Lips of an Angel, without a doubt. I can tell by the amount of time it takes her to read the manuscript. Normally it can take three to four weeks for her to read one of my books. She’s always up before anyone else in the house, and she reads in the early mornings while she creates amazing pictures with her canvasses and brushes. I used to hear her laugh out loud with Garage Band, and I really enjoyed that. But when I wrote Lips of an Angel, she devoured it in three days, and she literally couldn’t speak when she finished it.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS TO HELP ME BECOME A BETTER WRITER? Write lots, and write often. You get better the more you write. Read lots too. Find a great team of editors. Editors are gold. Join writing groups and mix with writers you aspire to be.
DO YOU HEAR FROM YOUR READERS MUCH? WHAT DO THEY SAY? I get to hear from my readers in the reviews they write. Obviously I have a close circle of friends who interact with me more than my regular readers. The best comment I ever had was from a friend who was beta-listening to the Garage Band audio book. He was supposed to be driving to a meeting and became so wrapped up in the story that his mind went into autopilot and he ended up driving home and totally missed his meeting.
DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE BOOKS FOR ADULTS? All my books are for adults, but not the naughty kind.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A GOOD STORY? Characters with depth and a well-crafted plot.
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