Over the next week or two, I'll be interviewing a few authors I know, who write books similar to my own. I've read nearly everything these folks have written and hope you'll give these guys and gals a read too. First up is Pendelton C. Wallace. Penn's an experienced blue water cruiser, based out of San Diego, California. His books can be found by visiting his page on Amazon: Pendelton C. Wallace on Amazon
Welcome aboard, Penn. How about going back a little first, tell my readers a bit about your family.
Thanks for having me, Wayne. I have a rather unconventional family. My father is of Scottish heritage; my mother’s parents came from Mexico. I grew up with a foot in both worlds. When I was little, we interacted mainly with my mother’s family. I remember my first day of kindergarten. There were all these kids with yellow worms growing from their heads. I had never seen a blond before.
But somehow, I’m not a Latino. My Spanish is poor, but I can make myself understood. I stand out as a gringo in Mexico and fit into American culture.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
This is a really tough question because I rarely have self-doubts or fear. If you read my first book Blue Water & Me, Tall Tales of Adventures With My Father, you will see that Papa exorcised fear and self-doubt from me at an early age.
I’m kind of like the bumble bee. Scientist have proven mathematically that a bumble bee can’t fly. Someone just forgot to tell the bumble bee. I don’t know what I can’t do, so I just go ahead and do it.
What scares you the most?
Dogs. I can honestly say that the only thing in the world that I have ever been afraid of is dogs. When I was three years old I was attacked by two German Sheppards. To this day, the sight of a German Sheppard makes my blood run cold.
This is particularly important since Dawn, my significant other, had two Great Danes when I met her. Like everything else in my life, I swallowed my fear and just plunged ahead.
What makes you happiest?
Wow! There are so many things that make me happy it’s really hard to choose. Sailing on a downwind reach off the coast of Baja California with just Dawn on my boat was one of the best experiences of my life.
How could you ask for more? The temperatures were in the eighties, we had about a fifteen knot wind on our quarter, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Pods of dolphin and whale played with us for days. We were off shore far enough that we couldn’t see land. We had the world to ourselves.
What’s your greatest character strength?
Honesty. I value honesty and loyalty above all other traits. When I meet a person, I assume that they are honest. I give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. Once a person has been dishonest with me, I can never trust them again.
I have been told by employers that my honesty is a flaw. They said that I was too honest for my own good. They wanted me to lie for them and I wouldn’t. I also did not spend many more years at that job.
What’s your weakest character trait?
Self-control. I know I have a problem with food. I’ve been fighting my weight most of my life. For me, food is like a drug. I’m hooked. Even though I know I shouldn’t be eating that greasy bacon for breakfast, if it is there, I will take it.
Why do you write?
Because I have to. My mind is overflowing with stories. I just have to get them down on paper (or under glass).
I write character sketches and a fifteen to twenty page outline before I begin writing the book. Then I sit down to write. By this time, my sub-conscious knows the story and the characters and the words just flow from my fingers. I almost never think about what I’m writing.
I’m as enrapt as any reader as I see the story unfold in front of me. Sometimes it surprises me.
In The Inside Passage, I thought that Meagan was a certain kind of person, but as the story unfolded in front of me, she refused to be pigeon holed. She evolved and changed into a whole different person by the end of the book.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes. When I was in the sixth grade the teacher gave us an assignment to write “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” I wrote thirty pages.
What motivates you to write?
Ego. I have all of these stories that need to be told and I have enough ego to think that somebody might like to read them.
What writing are you most proud of? (Add a link if you like)
I think that I am growing and improving as a writer with everything I write. I think that The Mexican Connection is my best work yet, but I’m the most proud of Blue Water & Me, Tall Tales of Adventures With My Father.
Blue Water is a tribute to my father and it may not be as polished as my later works, but it will probably always be my favorite.
What are you most proud of in your personal life?
My daughters. They have grown into fine young women. They are strong, brave and independent, just like their mother.
What books did you love growing up?
Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Mars series, Tarzan of the Apes. Much of my writing today is influenced by his style.
I also loved Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
Who is your favorite author?
Larry McMurtry. He is fantastic. I think Gus McRae is the greatest single character in American Literature. I envy Larry’s ability and only wish I could write like him.
What genre of books do you like most?
My favorites are thrillers. However, I love good historical fiction as well. The Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien and the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell are my favorites.
What book should everybody read at least once?
Lonesome Dove. It’s my absolute favorite. Everyone should have the opportunity to meet Gus McRae.
Is there any book you really don’t enjoy?
I hate to be a wet blanket and I don’t want to disparage any other authors, but I really didn’t enjoy Fifty Shades of Grey. The story just didn’t interest me. I couldn’t understand why she would willingly submit herself to such abuse.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
That’s tough. How about that he entertained a lot of people? That he influenced a lot of peoples’ lives.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and
where you now live?
I was born on San Juan Island in Washington State, just a few hundred yards from the Canadian border. I spent a few years in Southern California, then we moved to Oregon. I grew up in the Eugene/Springfield area of the Willamette Valley.
I moved to Seattle when I was 27. I now live on my boat. We lived in La Paz, Mexico, for two years. This year we returned to San Diego so I could have knee-replacement surgery. Where will we go after that? Maybe Panama. Maybe the US Virgin Islands. Perhaps the Florida Keys. I really don’t know yet.
How did you develop your writing?
By making every mistake in the book. I knew instinctively that I was a literary genius. I sat down and started writing. When I finished my masterpiece, I hired a good editor, just on the off-chance that I missed something.
She tore me to pieces. Actually, she tore my book to pieces. After I nursed my wounds and got over the sting, I cut more than a hundred pages from my manuscript and started over. Her second pass through the manuscript was a much more pleasant process.
I also joined a writers group. It took me several tries to find the right group, but eventually I ended up with a group of writers who were better than me. By working with them every other week, I gradually improved my writing.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The headlines. Read the newspaper. I could never make up stories as bizarre as I see in the news every day.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
Marketing. I suffered through the writing process. I endured the fight to get published. Now I am struggling with marketing my works. If no one knows about your book, you could write Gone With the Wind, and no one will read it.
I work daily to find my market. I’ve tried everything I can think of and have made very little progress. I hear that it’s about a five year process to get your books out there and known.
What marketing works for you?
BookBub is by far the most effective tool that I’ve found. I pay about $275 for an ad and usually make that back by noon. The problem is that they’re very picky about what books they feature. I’ve submitted to them six times and only have been selected three times.
As with everything in life, there are no short cuts. I believe that you have to put in the work every day, day in and day out, if you want to succeed at anything. I think that writing is the same. If you want to sell your books, it is not enough to write a masterpiece. You must spend effort everyday marketing it.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
Not at all. I put my work out there all the time. I know that some people won’t like it, but I hope to find an audience that will. I also am very receptive to criticism.
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to change something just because it has been criticized. It means I will listen and consider the suggestion.
I just got a review by a woman who said that my writing was too obsessed by breasts and legs. My characters are two men in their early twenties. Of course they are obsessed with breasts and legs. If she does not realize or like that, then I guess she is not in my target audience. I seriously considered her criticism, but in the end, I am not going to change my characters’ points of view. That’s who they are.
Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?
Yes. Dawn, my significant other, listens to everything I write and gives me her criticisms. Sometimes she likes what I’ve done, other times she has creative suggestions.
My best friend, Susie, has edited everything I’ve written since grad school. My other friends are very supportive. Some actually read my work, but they’re all positive.
Do you plan to publish more books?
Does a bear . . . no, seriously though, of course. I have written three of the Ted Higuera novels and am in the editing process for the fourth. I have the plots for two more books in that series. I expect that Catrina Flaherty will spin off at least one novel of her own.
I would also like to write some historical fiction. I have a civil war story just begging to be told.
But here’s my biggie: I have discovered that people love dogs. If you want to write a best-seller, put a dog in it. So . . . I’m thinking about writing a book with Odin, Dawn’s Great Dane’s story. It’ll be a block buster.
What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full
I am “retired.” I have income from my retirement savings. I also own and charter a 56-foot sailboat. However, that’s even more “iffy” a profession than writing.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
I have been a restaurateur. That includes everything from mopping floors and washing dishes to owning two of my own restaurants.
Then I took a major career detour and became a software engineer. I have also been a project manager and a business analyst.
If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?
If I could go back and do it again, I would probably major in either naval architecture or aeronautical engineering.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Where I’m living now. On my boat. Home is where ever we drop anchor. Currently we are in San Diego, but we’re talking about sailing down to Panama, then maybe the American Virgin Islands. After that, who knows?
Tell us about your family?
I married up. Connie was one of the most wonderful people I ever met. We adopted two girls from Korea and had a lovely family. Then she got ovarian cancer.
She spent ten years in a valiant struggle against the horrible disease. I watched her waste away before my eyes. It is the hardest thing I ever did.
After I lost her, I decided to totally change my life. The lesson I learned from the experience is that you have to live for today. You never know what tomorrow will bring, of if you’ll be there.
For fifty years I dreamed about buying a big old sailboat and sailing down the coast to Mexico. So, after Connie was gone, I did.
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
I’m a keyboard kind of guy. I currently write on my laptop, however when I lived in a house I preferred the desktop computer because I liked the keyboard better.
I get up every morning and write before the house (or boat) comes awake. When I was working I got up at 4:30 every day and wrote for a couple of hours before I went to work. Now I get up at sunrise and write before the world comes alive.
It is 3:44 am right now. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up to write.
Where do you get support from? Do you have friends in the industry?
My girlfriend and friends. Then there’s my mother. She is extremely proud of her son, the author. She won’t read eBooks, but she is very supportive of my efforts.
I know several other writers, but only have a couple of friends who are doing well at selling their books. I use the lessons I’ve learned from them to help my marketing effort.
How much sleep do you need to be your best?
Six to eight hours a night. I have had trouble sleeping since my wife ot cancer. During the last couple of years of her life, I was up all night long helping her. Now, I can’t get back into a sleep pattern. I’m often up in the middle of the night and I hate it.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
Without a doubt, my mother. She hated the first draft of Blue Water & Me because she was in it and she is a very private person. After not talking to me for about three weeks, she finally gave me her permission to use the material she objected to.
Since then she has been 100% in my corner. I am most grateful for her support.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
The adulation of millions. Not being able to go anywhere without the paparazzi following me around. No, seriously though, I would like to be able to sell enough books to subsidize my travels and live comfortably on my retirement income.
I’m not thirsting for a million-seller. I would like to be able to tell my stories and have people read and appreciate them. But if I got a million seller, I wouldn’t object.
It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your
My marketing campaign is a mess. So far it is not working very well.
Last summer I did a three-state book tour. I sold less than 100 books. At two book stores no one showed up for the readings.
I used Google AdWords to announce the free give away for another book. I gave away about a thousand books and only sold fifty or so.
My next book, I used FaceBook groups to try to stir up some interest. I only gave away a couple of hundred.
On my last book I used a couple of “free giveaway” sites to promote the book. I gave away about three thousand copies.
The goal of all these give aways is to get people interested in my writing and get them to buy one of my other books. It has worked only with limited success.
I have been told that you have to have at least five books available before this kind of marketing really kicks in. Preferably, the books will be a series so that the reader is anxious to read prequels and sequels. I have two books in my series written and the third on the way. My other two books are independent from the series.
When I find out what works in marketing, I’ll be sure to let you know. What I do know is that persistence wins the day. No one ever won a race by giving up. You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you finally break through.
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?
Bikini Baristas has been a fun project. It’s about the somewhat shady owner of a chain of coffee shacks in Seattle, Dick Randall, where his employees wear bikinis or work in their lingerie. He launders money for the Mafia, he’s behind on all of his bills and his houses are being foreclosed on by the bank.
His pickup is found burned out in the California desert. The police suspect his wife (wife number 4 and 6 in his ex-wives club) of doing away with him. She goes to Catrina Flaherty, PI and one of our heroes for help.
Ted and Cat follow a sleazy trail as they try to find out what happened to Randall.
The B-story is about Chris. He is now a full-fledged attorney in his father’s firm. One of the senior partners asks him for a favor.
His wife’s cousin has a son who is always in trouble with the law. Can Chris help to straighten the boy out?
This gets Chris involved with the young man who will become the Fly Away Bandit, a national folk-hero in the Jesse James tradition in a chase that leads from one end of the country to the other and garners national attention.
What, you ask, do these two stories have in common? You’re going to have to read the book to see how they come together in the end.
I’ve had beta readers doubt that these kind of things could really happen. Guess what? They are real stories. I have does extensive research on both of these cases and only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask?
Sofia Vargara and Selma Hyak and maybe Kathryn Zeta Jones. To heck with the dinner, let’s go straight to the drinks.
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?
Sailing is my passion. We sailed down the West Coast from Seattle to Mexico and back to San Diego. I expect to head south again soon.
Other than that, I love to cook and read. I am a world-class Mexican chef. You want to be invited to my boat for dinner.
Do you have any tips on how writers can relax?
Like anybody else, just do what you like doing. Some people garden, some play golf or bridge. Some sail. Whatever your passion is, do it. Get you mind off of your writing and let it run free.
Then, when you go back to work, your mind will be rested and ready to go.
How often do you write? And when do you write?
I try to write every day. Sometimes life gets in the way. Like right now. I just had knee-replacement surgery and the drugs that they’re giving me for the pain has my brain all frazzled. That severely limits my ability to write, but normally, I write every morning.
I get up, make coffee and write for a couple of hours. Then I have breakfast and write for a couple more hours. My most creative time is in the mornings when I’m fresh.
After I break for lunch, I go back to work. I usually write for six or eight hours a day.
Do you have an organized process or tips for writing well? Do you have a writing schedule?
Everyone writes differently. I start by writing character sketches for the major players in my book. As new characters develop, I go back and write character sketches for them. I want to know who they are and how they will react in situations before I start writing.
Then I write the outline for the book. It is usually fifteen to twenty pages long and describes most of the scenes in the book.
After I’ve done my homework, I start writing. By this time I know the characters and story so well that I don’t really think about what I’m writing. The words just flow from my finger tips.
At this point, I’m always discovering new scenes that I hadn’t planned on or new twists to my characters personalities. It’s a journey of discovery.
I try to write every morning. That is my most creative time. I like to get up and write before the house (or boat in my case) is awake. That way I don’t have any distractions.
Sometimes it’s so hard to keep at it - What keeps you going?
I’m just stubborn. When I start a project, I plunge head long into it and keep going until it’s done. I don’t allow distractions to tear me away. I am determined to finish.
Have you met any people in the industry who have really helped you?
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make
I just want to entertain people. I’m not trying to change their lives or provide some great hidden truth. I want them to relax and forget the world for a few minutes and just enjoy the story.
What’s your favorite meal?
Chile Verde. Mama used to make chile verde for special occasions. I make it whenever I have an excuse.
What color represents your personality the most?
Color? What’s that? People ask me my favorite color and I look at them like they’re teched. How could one color be any better than another?
By the same token, I really don’t understand the question. How could a color represent a personality?
What movie do you love to watch?
This is tough. There are so many. I love Dr. Zhivago. I have watched Master and Commander over and over as I have The Blue Max. Maybe my favorite movie to re-watch is Spiderman. Check that. I’ve watched Captain Ron dozens of times.
How do you feel about social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter? Are they a good thing?
Facebook is a good way to waste a morning. If I don’t discipline myself to get to work, I can spend hours there.
It’s nice to see what your friends are up to. It has limited value in interesting people in your books. We are bombarded by so many would-be authors hawking their goods you have to find a way to stand out of the crowd.
I don’t see much value in Twitter. What can you say in 149 characters?
However, I use both of these sites to promote my work. I guess I’m working on name recognition as much as anything there.
If you could do any job in the world what would you do?
Play centerfield for the Seattle Mariners and lead them to the World Series.
What are you most passionate about? What gets you fired up?
I don’t have any burning passions in my life right now. I love to sail, but I’m living on my boat, so that passion is satisfied.
I love to write, but I do that every day, so that passion is satisfied.
What makes you angry?
Politics. I hate where our country is today. On 9/11 our country was the most united it had been since Pearl Harbor. Today we are as divided as we have been since the Civil War.
What happened? How did we waste all of that good will?
Why can’t we fix our education system? Our infrastructure? Any of the other problems that are dragging this country down?
It angers and frustrates me no end.
What’s your most embarrassing moment of your life?
You’re going to have to sit down and get yourself a drink for this story. It may take a while.
When I was in grad school, our final project was to write a business plan for a new business. We worked in groups and wrote a masterpiece.
This was during the dot com boom. The school invited a group of venture capitalist to attend our presentations. They said that if any of our business plans looked good to them, they would fund them.
My group nominated me to make our presentation. I had just started taking a medication that made my mouth dry.
I got up and started talking. My mouth got drier and drier. Finally, my tongue swelled up and I had a hard time articulating. Then my tongue stuck to the top of my mouth and I couldn’t speak.
I had to dash from the room to find a water fountain. Then I returned and finished the presentation.
In case you’re wondering, our group did not get funded.
Are you a city slicker or a country lover?
Me a city boy all the way.
How do you think people perceive writers?
I don’t think they give writers a lot of thought. A typical reaction is “Oh, you’re a writer . . . Did you see the Mexico/Brazil match?”
What’s your next project?
I am just completing the forth book in the Ted Higuera series. It should be released in June of this year.
What would you love to produce in your life?
I’d love to write a book that captures America’s imagination. It’s probably a pipe dream, but Dan Brown had to start somewhere.
I have to take this opportunity to tell a little story. I love John Steinbeck. What, you haven’t read him? Shame on you. Go to the library right now and pick up one of his books.
Anyway, as I was preparing to make my epic voyage to the Sea of Cortez, I had to read Steinbeck’s The Log of the Sea of Cortez. I struggled and finally found a copy. While I was looking, I discovered his first book, A Cup of Gold. A Cup of Gold is about Captain Morgan the pirate.
Steinbeck and pirates, what’s not to love? I couldn’t believe the book. I loved it. It was one of the worst novels I have ever read. If John Steinbeck could write that crap and still grow up to be John Steinbeck, there’s hope for all of us.
What’s the reason for your life? Have you figured out your reason for being here yet?
Goodness. I have no idea. I have helped a lot of people in my time. I’ve been a leader, a mentor and a role model, but I don’t think that was my purpose.
I don’t think it has anything to do with work. Work is what you do to get by. Family is what it’s really all about. I suppose my purpose was to care for Connie when she was so ill and to raise my daughters. If so, then my life’s work has been accomplished.
How do you feel about self-publishing?
This is a loaded question. Self-publishing has changed dramatically in the last ten years. When I started writing, it was basically vanity press. That is, if you couldn’t get a traditional publisher to publish your work, you paid someone to publish it to feel good about yourself.
Then we went through a period where Print on Demand allowed authors to publish their own work without forking over a mint and having cases of books in their garage.
We are now in the eBook age. It costs next to nothing to publish your work and it is available worldwide. However, the problem is still finding people who want to read your masterpiece. Marketing your eBook is no easier than it was selling your POD book.
What bothers me the most is the number of poorly written books I have seen self-published. In essence, they are first drafts. The author finishes writing his/her manuscript and shoots it up to Amazon.com.
I see lots of poorly edited (make that not edited) books and many that have never seen a proof-reader. If indie publishing is to flourish, we authors need to police ourselves and only publish work that is ready for prime time.
Do you know your neighbors?
Yes, in the slip next to me is a nice couple from Vancouver BC in a C&C 45. Gene on the La Brisa is on dock 5. Dave and Rhonda are on dock 3. I could go on and on.
How important are friends in your life?
This may sound callous, but not really very important. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of friends and I love them dearly. However, I pulled up stakes and sailed off around the world, leaving my friends behind. I communicate with them via the Internet and my blog, but they were not important enough to keep me at home.
How many friends does a person need?
You can never have too many friends.
What does love mean to you?
I don’t even know how to begin answering this question. Upon further reflection, I think love is putting another person’s interest above your own. And, if things work out really well for you, they will reciprocate and put your interest first. This is a good relationship.
What social issues interest you the most?
Education and shipping our jobs overseas.
I am concerned with the education system in our nation. What really bothers me is that we have so few young people going into math and science. These are the areas that build our competitive advantage over other nations and we are having to import people from other countries to fill these jobs. And they are high paying jobs. Why don’t kids want to be scientists?
The other area I’m concerned with is the outsourcing of our jobs overseas. If we ship off all the jobs, who is going to support the economy here at home? I see a widening gulf between the haves and the have nots. I see a declining middle class. These are things you see in third world nations. Is America going to allow itself to become a third world nation?
When you get free time on the internet or you go to the library – what do you want to read
I read a lot of thrillers and mysteries. I guess I’m looking for escapist literature.
Do you find the time to read?
Yes. I usually read while I eat breakfast and lunch.
Last book you purchased? Tell us about it
I just read Mary of Angels by Linton Robinson. It is a tough read. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK if you are squeamish. It is about life on the San Diego/Tijuana border and it shows it with all of its warts and boils. But it is a really good book. I highly recommend it.
Who do you admire?
Winston Churchill. Abe Lincoln. Larry McMurtry. Charles Darwin. Leonardo Da Vinci. I could go on and on.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Wow! I never think about such things. I can’t really name a bunch of qualities about myself, much less my favorite one. How about my modesty and self-depreciating character?
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
See the preceding answer.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
“Never give up.” Sir Winston Churchill.
Because amazing things can be accomplished if you just keep plugging ahead.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
Raising two wonderful young women
What is your favorite color?
Favorite color? How should one color be any better than another? I don’t have a favorite.
What is your favorite food?
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
I haven’t seen the entire world yet.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
How could it not? My father was a communist who taught us to question everything. He never went to college, but was the most educated man I ever met.
He was a stickler for English grammar. It kills me when I hear someone say “where’s it at?” or “Me and Sally.” If you see bad grammar in my books, it is because the character talks that way, not because I don’t know better.
I think I look at the world a little differently than your common garden variety author. I am very liberal and open minded. I’m willing to accept things in people that others might question. This allows me to see and write about these people without being judgmental.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My father was a frustrated writer. He wrote a book about the tuna fishing industry that he tried to get published for fifty years. I grew up in a writer’s house. It just seemed natural.
When and why did you begin writing?
I had surgery and was out of work and going out of my mind. I had been thinking about writing my father’s story for twenty-five years. One day, while I was laying in bed recovering, I asked my wife to bring me my laptop and the rest is history.
How long have you been writing?
About ten years or so.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
I never knew I couldn’t.
What inspires you to write and why?
Life. I see people, places and things all around me and think “That would make a good story,” or “She would be a great character in a book.”
I’ve met people who inspired characters that I just had to find a way to get into one of my stories. There are plenty more waiting in the wings too.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Memoir. I’ve had an interesting life and there’s lots to tell. Unfortunately, no one wants to read about a non-celebrity. I guess I have to sell a lot of thrillers and become famous to warrant further memoir work.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My father. He was this bigger than life character. He strode across the planet wearing seven league boots, leaving devastation and waste in his path. I had to tell his story.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
I got a lot from Edgar Rice Burroughs. The quick scenes with parallel plot lines that come together at the end and cliff hanging scenes. I loved him when I was a teen ager.
More recently, I aspire to write like Elizabeth George. She writes mysteries, but her characters are more important than the plot. I want to know what’s going to happen to Inspector Lindley or Sergeant Havers more than I want to know who done it. I would like to write thrillers that are character driven, but still have exciting plots and world-ending danger.
Robert Ludlum and his Bourne series was a big influence on me. The way he wrote action blows me away.
Who or what influenced your writing over the years?
The Legion of the Plume, my writers group in Seattle really taught me to write. All of the other members were better writers than me, so I learned and grew while contributing what I could.
I was lucky enough to meet Jinx Schwartz in La Paz. She has the ebook marketing business down. She put me on the track that I hope will eventually lead to success.
What made you want to be a writer?
I had a story and was egotistical enough to think that the whole world would want to read it. When it was published, I was sure that Disney would come pounding down my door wanting to make a movie.
I don’t think I could not have written Blue Water & Me at some point in my life. My father’s story was too compelling not to be told.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Finding an audience. After you’ve written your masterpiece, the cards are stacked against you for ever getting it published.
I am more and more feeling that finding a publisher is mostly a matter of luck. I have seen some really good manuscripts get rejected time after time and I’ve read some really bad books that have been published.
But once you have made the hurdle and have your book in print, you have to find a way to let the world know it exists. You could find the cure for cancer, but if no one knows about it, it will do no good.
I know that there is an audience out there who would enjoy my books. I just need to find a way to let them know I exist.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
My previous book, The Inside Passage, was a compelling story, but it started out too slowly. I had several agents tell me that I needed to just jump into the story, then go back and fill the reader in on what they needed to know. They even questioned whether the reader needed to know that stuff.
It took some serious re-writing to get The Inside Passage ready for publication.
I didn’t make that mistake in Hacker for Hire. I decided to start with the action and let the reader stay in the dark for a while, trying to figure out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. I hope that when the reader gets to the end of the book, they will reconsider who is who one more time.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
Yes. I have finished two other successful careers. Now it’s time to start over again.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
I hope so. I like to have short, action filled scenes, parallel plot lines and cliff hanging scene endings. Hopefully, that will make the reader want to turn the page to see what happens next.
Of course, it all depends on the story. You have to have “good bones” to hang your meat on.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
I can accept criticism. I take my work to writers groups, I ask beta readers for their opinions. In the Ted Higuera series, Ted originally talked about himself in third person (“Ted really likes that.” As opposed to “I really like that.”). I got so much negative feedback that I changed it, even though I loved that part of his quirky character.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Huh? What’s writer’s block? I have so many stories to tell that they just leap off of my fingers onto the key board. I don’t have time to write them all down. How can you be blocked?
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
In The Mexican Connection, the sequel to Hacker for Hire, Ted and Chris get lured to Mexico and into Mexico’s drug wars. An old enemy is back seeking revenge, but Ted and Chris don’t know that they’re the targets.
It’s a little bit gruesome, but I can’t make this stuff up. I am showing what is really happening in this horrible situation, but I have already received criticism that it is too graphic.
How did you come up with the title?
I usually brainstorm the title. I make a list of possible candidates, nothing is too stupid to add to the list. Then I share it with my friends and ask for their ideas and input.
Once I have twenty or thirty possibilities, something usually suggests itself.
There was a comic book when I was a kid called Hero for Hire. Somehow, when I started writing Hacker for Hire that memory resurfaced in my mind.
Ted is a computer security analyst. Corporations hire him to try to hack into their systems to find vulnerabilities before the real hackers find them. To me, this was a Hacker for Hire.
Can you tell us about your main character?
Ted Higuera is the son of Mexican immigrants. He grew up in the barrios of East LA and has a little of that hermano still in him.
He was fortunate enough to be physically gifted. He set scoring, touchdown and yardage records at Garfield High School in LA and won a football scholarship to the University of Washington where he met Chris Hardwick.
Chris is the kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His dad is the head of one of Seattle’s most prestigious law firms. Chris grew up in a million dollar estate overlooking Puget Sound.
Everything comes easy for Chris. He has an eidetic memory and finished first in his class. Ted has had to scrape and claw for everything he’s earned in his life. The two come together to make a great crime fighting duo.
How did you develop your plot and characters?
I don’t have to make this stuff up. I just read the newspaper. Hacker for Hire is a real life situation that happened in one of the Fortune 100 companies in this country. I have moved the story to Seattle, changed the company name and thrown in a murder or two, but the basic plot was already there.
I should say something about Catrina Flaherty. Cat is a new character in the series. You can expect to be seeing more of her. She is a kick-ass female private investigator.
I modeled her on a PI that I did some consulting work for a few years ago. I remember the sales guy asking me what I thought about her and I said “I wouldn’t cross her. She can kick both of our asses.” I love her character and think she would make a great stand alone protagonist.
As a matter of fact, I have a Catrina Flaherty short story called Mirror Image.
Who designed the cover?
Brandi McCann has been designing my covers and I like them a lot. I am trying to keep a consistent look and feel to them. I just had her do a cover for a short story that I will publish shortly that is about one of the characters in the Ted Higuera series, but Ted and Chris aren’t in it. I wanted to keep the same feel without the trademark bulls eye on the cover. She did a terrific job.
Who is your publisher?
My first book, Blue Water & Me, Tall Tales of Adventures With My Father, was published by Aberdeen Bay Press. I will be eternally grateful that they took a chance on an unknown author.
However, I felt that they overpriced my book and it has not sold well. They also don’t give their authors any marketing support. Once the book is published, you are on your own.
I decided to take the plunge and publish my second book, Christmas Inc., myself, using Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing. It hasn’t sold so well either.
I will continue to publish my own books. I have heard that you need to have at least five books out before you can build an audience. This makes sense.
If a reader finds your book and really likes it, they immediately want another one of your books. If you don’t have one available, they will move on to another author and forget about you.
I did this with a young author in the 1970’s. I read his first two books and loved them, but he didn’t have anything else out yet. I promptly forgot about him for thirty years, until I re-discovered Patrick O’Brien who had about twenty-five books available for me to chain-read by then.
I also understand that if our books are in a series, it will make the marketing easier. People will fall in love with your characters and want to know what they are doing next.
Why did you choose to write this particular book?
I needed a sequel to The Inside Passage and the story of corporate greed and narcissism in this tale was so compelling to me that I had to write it.
When do we have enough? Here were a group of people already in the top 1% of income earners in the country and they were squabbling for more. What’s wrong with these people?
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Writing the book was not hard at all. I already knew the characters from the previous book, I had numerous newspaper and magazine articles to glean the story from and I was intimately familiar with the setting and technology. Writing the book was easy.
Selling the book was hard. I tried many agents who all turned me down. I finally decided to go the self-publishing route. Now my problem is finding an audience for the books. How do I reach the people who will enjoy this kind of tale?
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I wanted to write a book that sucked you right in. I started with a compelling character (is he a good guy or a bad guy?) and dropped the reader into a situation that they don’t know what is going on. Then I went back and introduced our main character and gave the reader a little bit of insight into his angst.
Hopefully this formula will work. I hope that people will start the book and be so intrigued that they have to keep reading to find out what the heck is going on.
How do you promote this book?
I am running a free giveaway promotion right now. I couldn’t get BookBub to take it, so I signed up for several other web sites. In mid-May I will do a BookBub promotion for Hacker for Hire.
When I run a BookBub promo for one of my books, I sell hundred of copies of my other books. I expect that I will see lots of sales for The Mexican Connection as a result of this promo. I’ll try to do a BookBub promo for The Inside Passage in June and hopefully, but July, they will do a promo for The Mexican Connection. If all goes well, I hope that I can do a BookBub promo for Bikini Baristas in August.
Of course, all of this depends on whether or not BookBub will accept my books for promotions.
Will you write others in this same genre?
Yes. I am already writing the third book in the series, The Mexican Connection. I’ve already told you about that, but book four will be a kick to write.
The fourth book will be about the owner of a chain of bikini barista coffee stands who gets into trouble with the mob and disappears. Ted and Cat will be called upon to find out what happened to him.
The fifth book in the series is going to focus more on Chris. He will be working in his father’s law firm when one of the senior partners is accused of serial raping immigrant masseuses.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t believe in Hollywood endings. Life isn’t that way. In The Inside Passage one of the major characters is killed at the end of the book. In Hacker for Hire the ending will surprise and chill you. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say that, in the end, justice prevails, despite our messed up court system. In The Mexican Connection one of the team gets killed in the big finale.
But what I really want the readers to realize is how greedy these people are. They already have everything and are willing to go to extreme lengths to get more. How much do they need?
How much of the book is realistic?
Been there, done that. The story came from a real life situation. I spent a quarter century in this world so I know it well. All of the technical stuff (with the exception of Delphi) is real. I’ve tried to make it realistic enough to engage the reader, but not get so bogged down in detail that I put them to sleep. It’s a fine line that I walk.
Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot?
You betcha. The opening scene, where Justin McCormack hacks into Millennium Systems is from a real life incident. I took a couple of classes from the man who is Justin’s model.
I did some consulting work for the real-life model for Catrina Flaherty. People like her really do exist.
I’ve worked with most of the characters in the book. Richard Freeman, the CSO at Millennium Systems, was a real piece of work in real-life.
I haven’t done the kind of hacking that I portray in the book, but I have talked with people that do it. I have also read how-to manuals, should I ever decide to go over to the dark side.
How important do you think villains are in a story?
Villains are the story. Can you imagine The Silence of the Lambs without Hannibal Lecter? What about the Wizard of Oz without the Wicked Witch of the West?
In order for your hero to stand out, he/she must face a villain of at least equal ability. That’s why Doyle had to create Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, to give Holmes an adversary that was worthy of him.
To build tension in your story, the villain must be able to manipulate and mislead your protagonist. He/she must appear to have the upper hand so that your hero can overcome the odds and everyone can live happily ever after.
By the way, I hate happily ever after. I despise Hollywood endings. I try to have my stories end on a more realistic note. The readers might not like it, but I feel it’s true to the world.
What are your goals as a writer?
I want to be able to keep writing and support myself. I have many stories I would like to tell. I really want to write some historical fiction. I also have a manuscript that my father wrote. I want to publish it and let the world see what a wonderful story teller he was.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I spent the summer last year traveling from Washington State to California on a book tour.
As far as going to the locations of my books, I have so far. The travel wasn’t particularly because I wanted to write a book about the location, after I had been to these wonderful places, I knew I wanted to use them in a book.
What books have most influenced your life?
Probably the most influential book in my life was Don Quixote. Since I read the book as a teenager, I have been tilting at windmills, trying to right the unrightable wrong.
Have you ever considered anyone as a mentor?”
Who is your favorite author and why?
I don’t know where to start. I love Patrick Conroy. He paints with words. I often read a paragraph and am overwhelmed by the beauty of the words. Then I have to re-read it to get the meaning.
Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum are great thriller writers. I love the way Clancy built a whole universe around his cast of characters. I love to see what they are up to now.
But my all-time favorite author is Larry McMurtry. He is a master at building characters and places. You feel you know these people and want to return to visit the places. I think that Gus McRae is the greatest character in American literature.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
You betcha! I am writing the sequel to Hacker for Hire right now and I have the story lines for at least two more Ted Higuera adventures.
I have another character I want to write about. He is a former crime reporter for the Seattle P-I who now lives on his boat and writes true crime novels.
I also have a couple of historical fiction tales that I want to tell.
Yes, you can be looking for quite a bit more from me.
Have you started another book yet?
Yes. In The Mexican Connection, Ted and Chris are lured to Mexico by an old foe bent on revenge. They get caught up in the drug wars and all hell breaks loose.
For those of you who read Hacker for Hire, we’re not through with Catrina Flaherty yet. She will be back in The Mexican Connection. I know my female readers love her.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Sitting in the cabin of my sailboat in some quiet tropical lagoon writing the next Ted Higuera adventure. Oh, wait a minute, that’s where I am now. As I write this, we are in the Pacific Ocean, about fifty miles off Punta Abreojos on the Mexican Coast heading north for San Diego.
What are your current writing projects now?
I am working on the sequel to Hacker for Hire and I have a Catrina Flaherty short story, Mirror Image, that I am about to publish. Brandi McCann did the cover and I think it’s striking.
The next Ted Higuera story, The Mexican Connection, takes place in Mexico where Ted and Chris are lured by an old enemy bent on revenge. They get sucked into the Mexican drug wars and all hell breaks loose.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?
I have been reading Death is Not Enough by Collins Opuro. It is a very tough read. Mr. Opuro is Kenyan and English is his second language.
The style is very different from American novels, but the content is disturbing. He is a native Kenyan, so I assume that what he is writing is true about life in Africa. It just keeps me up at night thinking about what a horrible place it is.
What contributes to making a writer successful?
You have to be able to get your thoughts down on paper in a coherent way. You need to comply with the current reading habits of American readers. You have to have a story to tell, but most importantly, you need to be persistent.
I know many writers who want to write in their own style. That’s well and good, but they are severely limiting their audience. A few years ago, I would have said that it’s the kiss of death, because no agent would pick up an author who doesn’t write for current tastes. However, with electronic publishing, anyone can publish a book. Now you just need to find an audience that enjoys that style of writing.
I read my father’s work and it reminds me of 19th Century writing. Charles Dickens comes to mind. It is a great story, but I don’t think a modern reader is going to slog through all of the purple prose.
The most important part of writing success is just showing up. Being there every day. Writing. Working on publishing. Spending hours each day marketing your work.
I always ask people why they write. If they write because they love it, that’s fine. They may have a story that they just have to tell, that’s good too. To many of my friends, it’s a hobby. They have no intention of ever publishing their work.
I have other friends who are so caught up in the writing that they never look beyond that to what happens when their manuscript is complete.
Writing for a living is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The book is about 50% of the job. Getting it published is another 50%. Then selling the finished work is the final 50%.
Wait a minute, that doesn’t add up. You can’t have more than 100%. That’s right. Writing is one of those jobs whose parts exceed the total of the sum. Could you call it reverse symbiosis?
Do you have any advice for writers?
As my old friend Winston Churchill said, “Never give up.”
Don’t let anything stop you. Don’t let bad reviews or critique slow you down. Use them to improve. Be impervious. Accept the criticism and learn from it.
Find your own voice. Not everything you write will appeal to everyone. Define your target audience and be true to them. They are your bread and butter (should that be frijoles and tortillas?).
I just had a review by a woman who said I spent too much time focusing on women’s breasts and legs. I really thought hard about this. But in the end, I decided that she probably wasn’t part of my target audience. I’m writing for people who will like the focus on a woman’s appearance, as well as the content of her character. I write for people who enjoy the occasional sex scene. My books are R rated.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t write of women as sex objects. I believe that all of the women in my books are fully fleshed out characters. It’s just that the books are told from the point of view of a twenty-three year old man. We see what he sees. If the books were told from the point of view of an older woman, these things would never be mentioned.
Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?
Keep reading. I don’t care what you read, but keep your mind working. Read for fun, read for education. There’s a whole universe out there for you to enjoy.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Right now it would be a big Margarita, a dip in the pool and a plate of appetizers.
I read a lot and I love to sail.
What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
I’ve gotten to tell a story that I’ve wanted to write for fifty years.
Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
On June 13th I will be doing a reading of Blue Water & Me, Tall Tales of Adventures With My Father, at the Chula Vista Marina in Chula Vista. Drop by if you’re in the neighborhood.
If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?
In those immortal words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up.”
When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts
would you like to have?
I don’t expect to change the world. I hope that I will have entertained a few people, given them a laugh or two and made their burdens easier to bear.