Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stacey Cochran – Writer/Author/Educator, visits…


The following is my ‘stop’ on author Stacey Cochran’s Blog Tour.

Bio - Stacey Cochran was born in the Carolinas, where his family traces its roots to the mid 1800s. In 1998 he was selected as a finalist in the Dell Magazines undergraduate fiction competition, and he made his first professional short story sale to CutBank in 2001. In 2004, he was selected as a finalist in the St. Martin's Press/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Dr. Susan K. Miller-Cochran and their son Sam, and he teaches writing at North Carolina State University.

Should you have a question or comment for Stacey, please utilize the below comment space provided. Stacey will answer as many questions as possible within the next few days. Please check back.

Without further ado, I proudly introduce Stacey Cochran. Thanks for visiting with us today Stacey…

STACEY: Thanks for having me.

GARRY: With all the components necessary to write a great thriller, like Claws 2, how come reviewers say you’re ‘the best’ regarding ‘Scene?’

STACEY: Someone said I was “the best”? I’m sure they had me confused with someone else.

I’m kidding, of course. The truth is that I pay them.

GARRY: Do you teach ‘Scene’ as the more critical element to your writing students?

STACEY: I’m a big fan of scene writing. It’s true. It’s right up there with character, plot, and setting. Novels where there’s pages of internal monologue or someone’s wandering thoughts in some undefined setting aren’t interesting to me.

A good scene has at least two characters who have different wants and needs, and their wants and needs should conflict. This should be shown through the characters’ actions and dialogue in a specific setting (a car, a bus, a living room, a meeting room for members of alcoholics anonymous, etc.).

GARRY: Stacey, your first Claws book is generating more sales now that Claws 2 has come out -- is this the benefit of having a series?

STACEY: Definitely. And this is something I didn’t wholly anticipate. Seriously. Like when I first conceived of the books as a series, I could not have imagined how they would sell, where they would sell, or how they might work in tandem. In fact, eBooks were not even on my radar when I wrote the novels back in 2004 and 2005. At that time, there was no viable market to sell them.

And so, yes, I was surprised to see how strongly the first novel was selling during the first month of launch for the second book.

In recent weeks, I’ve even lowered the sequel’s price and actually raised the price of the older novel.

GARRY: A lot of my readers who are ‘self-pub writer-types’ are beginning to understand the importance of ‘marketing,’ which even the big traditional publishers are doing less of for their author’s...what word of advice can you contribute about marketing?

STACEY: The single best marketing tool is to write a great novel. After that, though, you’re absolutely right. Marketing is everything. It’s so much a part of everything that I do, I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess the best piece of advice I can give to your audience is to be absolutely fearless. Fear no one. Fear no critic. Fear no establishment. There is a sense among relatively new authors that they don’t want to say or do something wrong for fear of being perceived as a bad author… or an author behaving badly.

The best publicity comes when you’re getting tossed out of a place for doing the right thing. That alone will sell more books in the long haul than any ass-kissing, well-behaved douche-baggery.

GARRY: JA Konrath, I’m a big believer in this eBook thingy, it’s become a phenomena with Amazon, eReading devices, lower book pricing...what does a long-time author like you think about this new ‘industry?’

STACEY: You should read my 2004 introduction to the paperback version of THE KIRIBATI TEST. It’s remarkable to me in that I was basically saying that the time was here for a proletariat group of writers to change major publishing. In 2004.

So in a lot of ways, none of this is surprising to me.

GARRY: Your so damn young with a lot of writing ahead of you...does all this publishing industry confusion encourage or worry you?

STACEY: Great question. I find it immensely encouraging. It is the single most democratic thing to happen in the history of publishing. Period. Readers are deciding which books thrive. That is a good thing.

GARRY: You had mentioned somewhere that you’d really like the Claw’s series to be picked up with movie-rights...what’s happening with that?

STACEY: Realistically, nothing. That said, I have completed one short film project on my own under the Stacey Cochran Productions banner. We are currently shooting our second film. I could (at least in my own imagination) see one day filming the CLAWS movies on my own, if I have to. I could probably shoot the first book for under 200 grand, in case there are any investors in our audience today who want to get in early.

GARRY: Many writers rush their works to publish (like me) less some needed this ‘editing component’ the critical aspect of the book writing process?

STACEY: It’s definitely critical. I can’t tell you how many dozens of drafts CLAWS went through before the final published version. I had feedback from a writers’ group, a literary agent, and nearly a dozen of the best thriller editors in major publishing. And still I spent about four years in the editing phase once the first draft was completed.

GARRY: I see by your site ‘pic-page’ you’ve met James Patterson...tell us about that?

STACEY: I met Patterson at Thrillerfest a few years ago. We were staying on the same floor in the hotel, and we struck up a conversation waiting for the elevator the night of the awards banquet. I think his wife took the photo actually. Inside the elevator.

GARRY: Stacey, please accept my sincere appreciation for you taking the time to participate in my Authors Tour there anything you’d care to say generally?

STACEY: Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.

Thanks again to Stacey Cochran. His next tour stop is August 30th, at this blog location.

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  1. Hi, Stacey,

    I have 2 questions:

    You've spoken about the importance of marketing, and I couldn't agree more. But could you be more specific about what strategies and/or techniques you would recommend, especially to a newly-self-published author?

    And what do you think about the "stigma" of self-publishing that still exists? I've encountered it in both media people I've approached and in creative writing faculty, both of whom have reacted negatively before even seeing the particular book I want to talk about?

  2. Stacey-

    Interesting interview. Quite often a writer will get caught up in the editing process before all the idea's are down on paper. Could you please expound upon this process of writing. Do you tend to just free flow write, and then come back and make corrections and plot changes, or do you try and get it down right the first time through?
    On the same topic do you develope the story in your head first, or just have a rough idea, and let it develope as you write?

  3. Great interview, Stacey and Garry!

    Stacey, I love that you used 'douche-baggery' in an interview.

    Also, I have a question...these days, we hear a lot about platform for both non-fiction and fiction writers. It seems easier for non-fiction writers to do this than fiction writers. As a fiction author, what advice do you have for building a platform?

  4. @JJ Wylie: Thanks for the question. If you're totally brand new to this whole thing, I would recommend picking up a copy of Joseph Marich Jr.'s LITERARY PUBLICITY. I read this about four or five years ago and it helped to open my eyes to aspects of literary publicity. Also, read Jaqueline Deval's PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK. It's maybe the single best book on the topic.

    Obviously a Blog Tour is an inexpensive way to spread the word about your book... but beyond that you need to master the communities you're selling to. For example, I am getting pretty well established locally in North Carolina. I've started non-profit writers groups in Raleigh, Wilmington, and Charlotte and our groups count more than 2000 members. It's taken three years to build that, but it's a powerful grass roots force locally.

    In addition to that, I've powered my way to the front of the Kindle authors community... largely by interviewing dozens of Kindle authors, chatting with them on the Amazon discussion boards and on Twitter, and by generally having a solid presence online.

    Then, thirdly I've forged my way into the crime fiction and sci-fi communities by attending writers conferences and networking with the writers my age in those communities.

    I think community building is key, and you've got to be able to separate the different communities you're going to target and for what specific purposes.

    @Anonymous, great question as well. I definitely do not free flow write. I wait until a scene is practically tearing at my arm for me to write it. If the characters are begging you to tell their story, then you probably don't need to tell it. My latest novel THE ETERNALIST took three years to write; it's about 80,000 words long. I wrote one chapter at a time, and some periods as long as two or three weeks would go between chapters. So patience is really important in my opinion.

    But like Dean Koontz, I don't move on to a new chapter until the previous chapter is perfect... AND until the new chapter is so perfectly clear in my mind that I cannot miss it.

    @V.R. Leavitt, platform is huge. I started my platform 7 years ago by interviewing authors. For several years, I did this in print or online via websites. Text-based interviews. Then around 2005, I began experimenting with video-recorded interviews... some were very crude and basic interviews in those early days. But I recorded everything. Events I did in stores, interviews with authors, open mike readings. Anything. And I got good at the video-production process. Then in 2007, I started my TV show on local community access. That was a huge step, and eventually I had interviewed Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Carl Hiaasen, Robert Crais, Jeffery Deaver, and damn near everyone else on the New York Times bestseller list who would come to Raleigh.

    This skill has most recently started to lead into filmmaking opportunities and I've developed some powerful contacts in that community.

    But I guess the point is that I built this platform out of thin air.

    You just have to be creative and persistent and work toward (self) improvement.

  5. Thanks, guys, I'm going to be on the road and then in the backwoods until Saturday night, but I'll be checking back in then to answer any more questions.

    Excellent questions, guys.

  6. Are there any mistakes you made in publishing or marketing that you would warn other authors not to do?

  7. Hi Ruth Ann, great question. I don't think of it as a "mistake" so much, but I do wonder how my writing career would be different had I gone to New York in my mid-20s and gotten a job in some sort of editorial position with a major publisher. It's a great question because it makes me realize that there's not a whole lot that I would do differently.

  8. THANK YOU EVERYONE for your interesting questions and comments. A special THANKS to Stacey Cochran for taking the time to answer the commenter’s broad range of questions and concerns.

    I particularly like Stacey’s comment:

    “...I guess the best piece of advice I can give to your audience is to be absolutely fearless. Fear no one. Fear no critic. Fear no establishment...”

    A lot has changed in the book publishing industry with certainly more to come. It’s as if Stacey is saying: “Be bold or go home!” This mantra can only serve new writers well.

    In continuing this ‘Author Tour’ blog visit from new and old writers alike...the next visit will occur during the last two weeks in September, 2010. Please look for my pending announcement. Should YOU like to schedule a visit, please leave me a post.

    Thanks Again, --gg


What are "The 5 Most Important--But Fleeting Virtures?"

Honesty, Integrity, Courage, Compassion and Humility.

.....this is a portion of the "introduction" or prologue to the book (not yet completed) with your comments.

The books title; Character Happens! The 5 Most Important—But Fleeting Virtues, describes my belief these five important virtues (Honesty, Integrity, Courage, Compassion, Humility), are sporadic in use and diminishing in personal character. The books message is in recognizing this “fleeting” nature and from that reinstitute a more virtuous choice in your decision making.

The paradox of the two words; Character Happens, with another two words: “S### Happens”* (decorum prevents use of actual word) is not without merit. My belief is that observed human character is much like, well...s###! This kind of observation can be disconcerting at times. So confusing that society can hardly make the distinction between the two words and there obvious different meaning. Individuals make virtuous and un-virtuous choices/decisions for innumerable reasons, both consciously and without deep thought. If we postulate; can an individual make a 'more' virtuous choice in life’s decisions should they want to do so? Answer—perhaps. How does one 'reinstitute a more virtuous choice' into their personal makeup...making the response more automatic? Answer—practice. With a concerted effort at 'practice' I individual might just develop a more 'repetitive' decent response...much like grooving a golf swing.

I love golf. I think the game is like no other. The five stories that make up Character Happens! have a golf storyline. Some readers may not be able to relate to the game of golf or its vernacular or for that matter, why people...a large number of golf. Too bad! You should try it sometime...because it’s more than a can be a life experience. The golf course environment alone is enough to put most people at ease.

Golf is a game played by the individual as opposed to being a member of a team, like baseball. Baseball has umpires who enforce the rules of the game. In golf you are the umpire. Because of this unique method of enforcing the games rules—golf is a “hotbed” for testing the players character...their honesty, their integrity, their courage and sometimes their compassion. And, because all golfers started from knowing nothing about the game; like how to swing, how to putt or chip... they also learn of humility. Now doesn’t it make perfect sense that a book about character would juxtaposition a storyline with the game of golf? Anyway, I thought so.

There are five stories, one for each virtue. The book has six main characters that make up a group of what I call 'golf buddies.' The storyteller, Spencer Madison, in reality is me. Well, somewhat like I have a better golf game than Spencer. The five others vary in age, gender, education, religious beliefs and definitely personality. The 'binder' of the group or what brings them together; golf.

The reader will hopefully discover in their own lives a similar incident with one of the story’s in Character Happens! If not, that’s okay the stories are earnest while humorous, carefree yet compelling. And, I believe each chapter or story makes a 'point' in this wonderful, wacky, dynamic world in the 21st century.

The stories are fictional as are the characters. Names, personalities or incidents are fictional and in no way resemble or refer to a living person. I’ve used paraphrasing of many authors’ ideas and concepts and have referenced them in a special section. Because of these references and the specific genre where the book is to be found, it’s categorized as a non-fictional, personal development book.

for the language but this word best describes the thought I want to convey. In Forrest Gump the term was used to describe situations that happen to all people for no particular reason.