Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ethan Cross Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?

For me, there really is no such thing as a typical writing day.  I'm not at the point in my writing career where I can do it as my full-time job (darn kids keep telling me they want to keep hold of the whole food and shelter thing).  This means that I write whenever I can find the time.  Typically, this is from the hours of 11:30 PM and 3:00 AM.  It will be nice to someday be able to get more than four or five hours of sleep in a night, but for now, caffeine is my best friend.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?

I’m actually the kind of person who doesn’t use paper at all.  Papers are just more things that will clutter up my desk and I’ll end up losing.  I carry an iPhone and iPad with me pretty much everywhere I go, so I do everything digitally, not just writing.  I have a friend who writes 600 page novels longhand into notebooks and then types them up into digital files.  I think that he’s out of his mind :-)

3: What do you draw inspiration from?

I think the simple answer to this is “everything.”  I draw inspiration from life, the world around me, news stories, family, friends, other books, etc…really anything and everything.  For example, I’ve become a really good listener, and I’m always on the lookout for something interesting to use in a book.  Someone may have some small event from their childhood that they share with me.  That small idea (or usually just a tiny portion of it) sends my mind spinning in the different directions for which I could use that information in a book.  Moral of the story: always be careful what you say when speaking to a writer…you never what may end up in the next bestseller.

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?

I do set goals, and I try to stick to them.  However, if you don’t hit your goals on a few days, you can’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that you’re already behind and then let it drag you down.  They’re more guidelines than rules.

5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?

I am published by a great company that is really behind my work.  The head of my publisher is a great friend who was the head of the several of the “big” houses before breaking out on his own and trying to do things outside the box.  So we’re small, but we’re mighty.

In regard to cover art, I actually designed my own cover.  My background is in technology including programming and graphic design.  So it seemed like the natural thing to do.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?

Telling stories on a grand scale has been my dream for as long as I can remember.  When a fireman or a policeman would come visit my school, most of my classmates’ heads would swim with aspirations of growing up and catching bad guys or saving someone from a blazing inferno.  When these moments came for me, however, my dreams weren’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; I just wanted to make a movie or write a book about it.  And my dream has come to fruition with the release of my first book, The Shepherd.

It started as early as I can remember.  I wasn’t an only child, but since my three sisters are so much older than I am, it felt that way growing up.  I’ve always been an introvert and my favorite pastime as a young boy was playing pretend with my action figures and my imaginary friends (as my parents called them).  But I’m not sure if they were truly the imaginary friends that we traditionally think of.  I say this because they were more like characters in my own little movies.  At the time, it was a boy playing with his imaginary friends, but I still do basically the same thing as an adult, only my imaginary friends find life on the pages of my books.

I’ve also been an ENORMOUS fan of movies since I was very young.  How many ten-year-olds do you know that had a calendar hanging on their wall marking the release dates of every major Hollywood production?  I would force my parents to take me to sometimes two or three movies in a single weekend.  We would often hit the 4:30 matinee at the theater, walk out, and drive straight over to get a good spot at the drive-in or turn around and walk back into a 7:00 o’clock showing at the same theater.  In high school, I would rent a couple of movies every night from our local video store, although I did still find time to date, sing and play guitar in a rock band, play sports, and serve as our senior class president and valedictorian.  Not much has changed since then; my wife and I still take in a movie every weekend.  Shortly after college, I also discovered a great love for reading, sometimes consuming three to four books a week.  For me, movies and books have always been and always will be magical experiences.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?

I own two actually.  I was one of the unlucky people who purchased a Kindle when they were priced at around $500.  I loved my Kindle for a while, but then the iPad came out.  My iPad goes everywhere I go, and my favorite app is the iBooks app.  In my opinion, it’s the most pleasurable reading experience out of any of the e-reading apps or devices.  But the great thing about the iPad is that you can also purchase Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc books using their apps.  Then, you also have an incredibly powerful device that can do pretty much anything else you can think of.  I think that when someone releases a $50 e-reader, that will become the standard, but the iPad will always be the best experience.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?

I pretty much enjoy any book that’s action-packed, regardless of genre.  There are also those rare books that are a slow burn but are still completely enthralling for a variety of reasons, but those are few and far between.  I love David Morrell, James Rollins, F. Paul Wilson, Dean Koontz, Jeffery Deaver, James Patterson, Douglas Preston, Clive Cussler, and many, many more.  Currently, I’m reading Hannibal by Thomas Harris.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?

Book trailers are nice, but a big percentage of the ones out there are so cheesy that they’re painful.  I have one for The Shepherd that I designed, and while I’m not saying that it’s the greatest, it is simple and direct.  It has some exciting music, shows a quick animation, lists a few blurbs and the website, and that’s it.  It doesn’t have overly dramatic narration or homemade video clips of me pretending to stab someone with a rubber knife.  In my opinion, a lot of the trailers on the market are way, way too long, give way too much information, and try to do too much.  I think the best trailers I’ve seen were for the newer Dean Koontz books such as What the Night Knows.  They’re quick, professional, give you a basic idea about the story, and then get out of your way.

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?

The original idea for The Shepherd started out years ago as a short 40 page story for a college English class.  I was watching a movie called Frailty (great movie, by the way), and it got me interested in the idea of turning the tables on who we saw as the villain and the "good guy".  The short story asked the question, "Do the ends justify the means?" and dealt with the abuse of power, which is where the title of The Shepherd originated.  The serial killer in the short story (the character that later evolved into Ackerman) was actually not a character at all, since the story centered upon the finding of the killer's dead body.  I originally intended to use the short story as a starting point for the novel, but the book took me in such different directions that there is basically nothing recognizable left from the short story.  The class was a senior level English course, and the story came on one of the last days before graduation.  The day after I turned in the story the teacher asked me to stay after class and urged me not to stop writing.  Her words meant a lot and really stuck with me.

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?

Beyond The Shepherd, I have written detailed outlines for the next two books in The Shepherd series (with at least five others planned after those).  I’ve also begun work on a new action adventure series and a stand-alone suspense thriller called The Darkness Never Sleeps.  It deals with a repentant serial killer that must fall into his old habits in order to save his daughter from a group of drug runners being financed by the CIA.

But there will most definitely be more Shepherd books on the way soon. The first of these will be a prequel novella tentatively titled The Cage. It will chronicle Ackerman's escape from a maximum security mental institution and has an entirely different cast of characters (other than Ackerman). That will be coming in the near future. Then, the next book in the series is called The Cleansing. It will bring back all of the characters from The Shepherd...those that survive anyway :-)
Thank You,

Ethan Cross

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