Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, L.A. Tell us about your latest book, STRIKE PRICE.
When several people involved in bidding for an oil refinery are murdered, the situation becomes far more than a billion-dollar business deal.
A self-made woman in the oil industry, Lynn Dayton fights to save lives as escalating attacks reveal a hired assassin’s plan to disrupt oil trade, wreck world economies, and draw another global power into dangerous confrontation with the United States.
Are the killers rogue civil servants challenging the Cherokees’ financial independence, Sansei operatives again wreaking violence, or sinister investors swapping the bidding war for a real one?
Lynn Dayton and Cherokee tribal executive Jesse Drum must learn to trust each other so they can find and stop the killers. Can sobering up really be fatal? How have so many of the deaths been made to appear accidental? Who’s creating weapons with modern poisons and ancient Cherokee arts?
Okay, I’m hooked. Being of Cherokee heritage, I’m really intrigued with this story. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
In fiction, I read thriller/mystery authors like Vince Flynn—my thoughts go to his family upon his recent death—as well as Dan Brown, Taylor Stevens, Alex Berenson, Jamie Freveletti, Joseph Finder, Linda Fairstein, Daniel Silva, Tana French, Michael Connelly, and John Grisham.
I also like to read international authors and those who give a strong sense of place like Tom Rob Smith, Martin Cruz Smith, Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger, Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, everything by Herta Müller and Ferdinand von Schirach, George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. I recently finished Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, a book first published in 1928 that is not about a house at all but about a year spent observing nature where the ocean meets the land on Cape Cod. The liveliness of what could have been tedious nature writing was instructive.
Very sad news about Vince Flynn. I love his work. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I am repeating a truth I’ve heard from other writers—promotion starts with writing the best book you can. Getting good reviews for a well-written book is never assured, but from both my business and reader backgrounds, third-party endorsements are more persuasive to readers than simple self promotion.
Extending this thought, while it’s a do-it-yourself world, it’s helpful to realize that publicists are better-equipped than authors to reach out in certain ways. If an author can afford a publicist, even on a limited scale, it makes the author’s own efforts more time-efficient.
When I give a short talk at a signing, I vary the selections I read depending on the audience’s interests. Promotion is about selling the book, yes, but at the most basic level that comes from connecting with readers, inviting them into the world one has created.
Great answer. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Of course I enjoy it when people tell me they’ve read and liked my books. As writers, we all hope to communicate well and are pleased when told we have done so.
One of my favorite times as a writer is when my muse and my internal editor have a congenial meeting (no scotch or hallucinogens involved): I read something I’ve written arising from who-knows-where, and think, “That’s good.”
I do love that feeling! Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I find inspiration in experience, in conversation, in news, in overheard phrases that are especially colorful. I meet occasionally with two fellow writers who kindly provide critique and feedback (a quick plug for Gary Vineyard’s The Grave on Peckerwood Hill and Richard Holcroft’s Patriot’s Blood.)
I get inspiration from travel—anything that jars routine is valuable.
I read for fun, but I try not to mimic the style of what I’m reading.
I also get inspiration from considering all five senses—it’s too easy to over-rely on the sense of sight.
I have attended International Thriller Writer’s summer conference, Thrillerfest—which in fact starts next week—when I can afford it, though not this year. Thrillerfest features terrific panels for authors at all stages.
And finally, to be frank, deadlines are definitely underrated as a source of inspiration.
Five senses – I’ve had to teach myself to tap into this when writing. And deadlines – best inspiration I’ve found yet since I’ve become a procrastinator. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “Write what you know”?
Riffing on Elmore Leonard, I would say that “write what you know” is good advice, if what you know isn’t boring. The first draft of my first book was hypertechnical for any reader who didn’t happen to be a refinery engineer: the very definition of a limited market. So the first draft required a lot of reworking.
What I know is the warp and woof of certain situations, but others—forensics, some action sequences–require research. Overlaying all is the importance of plot and of character interactions, the meat that leads to emotional involvement for readers.
I have found through writing a love for research. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I categorize my books as thrillers with strong mystery subplots. In many mysteries, a death or deaths has happened, and the quest of the protagonist is to discover the killer. In both modern thrillers and mysteries, as in my books, the protagonist is also at personal risk.
In thrillers, we know the villains and the quest of the protagonist is to stop their deadly schemes, which are usually global in scope, with hundreds or even millions of lives at risk. Moreover, in thrillers, there is an escalation, and usually one or many chases. INFERNO by Dan Brown is a current example of a thriller that can be characterized as one long, fascinating chase scene.
In my books, the reader knows one of the villains but not all of them; thus, she knows some of the scheme but not all of it. The threat is international, and it escalates in each chapter.
Beside “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?
I grew up in the energy business and worked in engineering and finance for well-known oil companies. I continue to consult, speak, and teach on the subjects of energy economics and investing via my company, Starks Energy Economics (SEE). In addition to articles on the SEE website, I have been published a few times on the investor website Seeking Alpha.
Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?
This book is dedicated to the memory of my younger sister, who died from a virulent, difficult-to-detect form of metastatic breast cancer. I stopped writing for about two years to spend time with her. After her death, it was difficult to resume writing. I pushed through completion precisely because I’d promised myself this was her book.
In the first book in the series, 13 DAYS: THE PYTHAGORAS CONSPIRACY, there was one character my sister felt deserved a different fate. I took that into account when I wrote STRIKE PRICE.
So sorry about your sister but what a wonderful tribute to her. Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
Yes, and they still are.
An area in which I’ve made a big time commitment the last few years has been as board treasurer of the Friends of the Dallas Library, a fund-raising and advocacy group that supports the 29 branches of the Dallas Public Library. This involvement stems directly from my affection for the summer reading programs at my hometown library when I was growing up.
My love of books began with childhood trips to the library with my mother and siblings. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
Yes, and I am about to buy an improved model. However, I was glad when Lisa Smith at L&L Dreamspell decided to publish STRIKE PRICE in electronic and print editions.
I understand business models and so appreciate that e-publishing radically lowers physical operating costs once—and this is a big once—e-readers are manufactured and sold: no warehouses, no shipping, no retail except a website. E-publishing reduces the immediate book costs to readers and reduces the barriers to entry for authors, making hundreds of thousands more books available. And e-readers are portable, although there is a prediction they may lose market share to more-portable-and-useful smart phones and tablets.
At the same time, because it is an enormous market and there is less differentiation, e-publishing imposes additional search-and-sort time costs on readers and exponentially increases author and publisher effort to stand apart from the crowd. In addition, sometimes using an e-reader can feel like just more time staring at a screen, e.g. work.
As an engineer I like print books as physical objects—their design, color, heft. I appreciate the thought and cost of a print book’s exterior and interior design. When I talk to a group at a signing, it is easier to sign and sell print editions. And, in the case of STRIKE PRICE, the publisher was able to use the authentic Cherokee syllabary font in the print edition that was impractical in e-reader formats.
Overall, e-publishing benefits readers and authors because it expands the diversity and channels of distribution.
Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
I am subject to writer’s block when I don’t have a deadline and when, as now, the next book’s outline is still amorphous. So it helps to create intermediate deadlines to pull myself along.
Like other authors who crave research and information, I find the Internet a huge distraction, so I look for places to write where there is no ready Wi-Fi. In fact, I have a separate laptop, and office, specifically to limit online access and to escape my barking dog.
I tend to suffer from writer’s block for the very same reason and agree about the distraction of the internet. Thanks for joining us today, LA! For more information about LA and her books: http://lastarksbooks.com/
13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy: http://www.amazon.com/13-Days-Pythagoras-Conspiracy-Starks/dp/1933285451/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1295445095&sr=8-2 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/13-days-the-pythagoras-conspiracy-la-starks/1105643010?ean=9781933285450 http://www.booksamillion.com/search?id=4391452838551&query=13+Days%3A+The+Pythagoras+Conspiracy&where=Books&search.x=53&search.y=8&search=Search http://www.gohastings.com/product/BOOK/13-Days-The-Pythagoras-Conspiracy/sku/240405533.uts http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/home/search/?keywords=13%20Days%3A%20The%20Pythagoras%20Conspiracy&pageSize=12&cookieCheck=1 http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/13-Days-The-Pythagoras-Conspiracy/book-Za1qXXGyC0CWbrwsvDfKyg/page1.html?s=J9jFDmRLTUSUZN3OFz6u5g&r=1 http://www.indiebound.org/hybrid?filter0=13+Days%3A+The+Pythagoras+Conspiracy&x=53&y=4