Thursday, August 1, 2013

Interview with Matthew Keith

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
My latest book is currently my debut, Watchers of the Night. It is the first in a series (the Watchers series). I’m about 3/4 of the way through Book two now. I expect it will be ready for release late 2013/early 2014.

Watchers of the Night is a story about Paul, a high school senior who roams the night free of his body from sunset to sunrise. Because his ability causes him to fall sleep each night when the sun goes down, he is isolated from friends and family. When he is approached by Astralis, an organization that uses people with his talent to gather information for the greater good, he agrees to become a member of their agency.

He finds inclusion and friendship on a level he’d never before had, but soon finds out that Astralis is an agency under siege from within, a siege in which Paul soon finds himself a centerpiece.

Watchers of the Night is Jumper meets X-Men.

Do you have a favorite character?
By far, my favorite character in Watchers is Steven. He is Paul’s sidekick and confidant. He is loyal beyond question with a heart of gold. He is also a proud, born and bred Kentucky redneck with a smart mouth, quick temper, and a love for all women. Steven always says the wrong thing, but always does the right thing. He’s the kind of pain in the ass friend you always bring to the party because even though he’ll either end the night in jail or beat up, it’ll be a wild ride.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
That is happening in Book Two already. I won’t say who it is, because anyone who hasn’t read Book One yet will be disappointed that I’ve given up a spoiler.

In this instance, it didn’t change the direction of the novel. I’ve already mapped out the entire three-book series in a very detailed outline, so the emergence of this character as a major player has been planned for over a year. I’m a planner. I plan.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?
I have a friend who works with someone whose wife is a successful self published author. Through that connection, I was encouraged to use Smashwords.

Self publishing has been made so easy and so affordable that I had to try, and I have to say; I haven’t been disappointed. I haven’t sold thousands of copies (yet!) but I have done moderately well.

The most challenging aspect of self publishing has definitely been marketing. For that reason alone, I feel like it might be worth it to try landing on agent for my next project.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
I need silence. Always silence. When I write, it’s almost like a daydream. I need to stay in that daydream to keep myself “in the moment” of each scene. When I don’t do that, like the times when I’ve tried to write in a coffee shop, my writing turns to crap.

My process starts with the good-old-fashioned legal pad and a pen at first. I take general concept and start free associating anything that seems interesting. When I have a page full of thoughts, I organize them. Then I free-associate again, but include the parts of the first page that I liked. I repeat that process again and again until I have a beginning, middle, and end. Then I commit it to a spreadsheet, print that spreadsheet, and start writing.

From the first page of free-association to the printing of the spreadsheet, it’s usually about a month. That may seem like a long time, but when I’m done I have a very clear plan for the story. When I’m feeling lost in any way through the actual writing, I can go to that spreadsheet and see what I’m supposed to be leading toward. It always puts me back on track.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Yes, I did. I’m somewhat of a grammar Nazi and spell-check generally takes good care of me, so I was shocked at how many mistakes I made. Every writer needs an editor.

Any writers reading this, I say again - you need an editor!!! I know a lot of writers are so confident in their ability, they think they can push through without one. They’re wrong. And anyone that knows me knows that’s a fairly big leap for me: I’m a cheap, cheap bastard. I hate paying for anything that isn’t necessary, especially expensive things. Editors are absolutely a necessity.

And no, your mom doesn’t count.

Unless she’s a professional editor.

And then only maybe. :)

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
I am available exclusively on Amazon. I was listed through Smashwords at a half dozen other sites, but Amazon’s KDP Select program is pretty amazing and they require that you publish exclusively with Amazon to be a part of it.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I use Facebook and my blog, primarily. I am on Twitter @AuthorMatthewK and am a member of a few forums. Generally, Facebook has been best for me to make in-roads with other authors and reach fans. My blog has been a lot of fun and has allowed me to try a few marketing techniques that I couldn’t do anywhere else, but it’s hard to judge whether it has actually created any sales for me.

I’d like to try a few paid marketing services, but they’re all pretty pricey. It’s a tough business, promoting a book, because so many other books are out there and many of them are great books. It makes it hard to substantiate any serious investment, because you wonder if you’d ever see a solid ROI. I’m still looking for the kind of advertising for my book that will track actual sales it creates.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Very. There have been times when I’ve set aside a two hour block for writing, get side-tracked by a Facebook post or a reply to a blog post, and that two-hour block gets swallowed up. I could easily spend all day, every day, marketing myself and my book. I see now why publicists cost so much.

What’s next for you?
My next project after the Watchers series is Sway, a story about a man who’s arrived back in a recurring nightmare he used to have as a child. It is very dark, definitely a horror story. I’ve begun working on it in small bits when I feel like I need a moment to find clarity for Book Two of Watchers. Although I’m only about 10,000 words into it, I feel great about where it is going. I think it could my breakthrough novel.

Having been born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1972, I am as much a product of the 80's as anyone from that era can be. Back in high school, I was a 6'3" bean pole with long scraggly hair, a jean jacket that I wore nearly every day of my life. I drove around in a loud, busted-up '76 Cutlass that I bought from my big brother and thought it was the greatest thing on four wheels. Guns 'n' Roses, ripped up jeans, radio way too loud - I was that guy.

Back then I didn't have many ambitions except to get out of high school as quickly as I could. I'd always envisioned myself one day becoming a teacher, but the road that led to that career included a minimum of four years additional school and I wanted nothing to do with that kind of commitment.

I'm older now, not much wiser, with a lot less hair and more around the middle. I've been a partner in a pizza business for over fifteen years. I live in Kentucky now and have two wonderful children, one who will be starting college in August (2013) at the University of Kentucky on a music scholarship and one who will be a sophomore in high school. I have been married to the same beautiful red head for the last sixteen years and from the way it's going I'll be happily stuck with her until the day I die. Truly, without her I would never have finished my first novel let alone been able to be halfway through a second and third. She has supported me in every aspect of my life - it is that support that gave me the belief that I could write something worth reading.

As far as my writing, it is something I'd always wanted to do but never allowed myself to find the time for. As any writer will tell you; it's a discipline and what starts out as 'fun' or 'romantic' turns into actual work at some point. Compound that with the fact that most writers, like myself, work 'real' jobs to pay the bills and it becomes ever harder to do. For me, it can sometimes be next to impossible because there are twelve pizzerias that I operate and they always comes first, leaving little time in the day for writing. My first novel, Watchers of the Night, took over two years to write - an hour here, 30 minutes there. Sometimes I would go for weeks or even months without writing a word simply because I was just too busy with life. That's beauty of working without an agent or publishing contract. Until I'm offered that six-figure advance, I see no reason to sign with anyone or hurry my writing along. I would prefer to keep it a labor of love instead of ... just a labor. I hope you'll all be patient with the pace I set.

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