Quickly I would like to apologize for the misspelling that has now been corrected!
Hi David Coons, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? First off I have to say, best author photo I have ever seen!
Hi, and thank you for the opportunity to do one of the things that I love: talking about myself. First off, I am originally from a small town in Idaho, but now live in San Diego, Ca. I am a military veteran (Go Navy!) and I love all things horror. I would say more here, but I have a feeling we will be getting to a lot of that during this interview. Anchors Away!
Discuss your newest book.
My newest book right now is Chaplain. It is only my second completed work, but hopefully 2016 will not pass us by without one – maybe two – more books being released. Chaplain is a tale set during the American Civil War and it follows a boy named Winny who gets captured by Confederates fleeing the battlefield at Gettysburg. Of course, this being horror, that kidnapping quickly becomes the least of his worries.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Not exactly, for I was very young. I have had a passion for writing since I was a kid and often found myself writing small little stories here and there. I often joke that the only homework assignments I ever completed in high school were for my creative writing class. Speaking of class, one of the first stories I can recall was for a class project way back in elementary school. We had to write a story – any story – based on Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle In Time, so I wrote a story about Indiana Jones traveling through the Tesseract. I’m sure if I was able to read that story today, I would laugh at how awful it was, but I’m still proud of myself for trying.
What are your current projects?
I am currently working on two projects. One is planned to be another novella, though it could easily grow beyond that. That one is set in the art world and was thought up after I was dragged to an art show. The other one I have actually been working on since I released By The Hour, which was over a year ago. I’m about 70% done with the rough draft and it is shaping up to be an epic length novel. This story idea is one that I have been fostering for over ten years, but was never sure exactly how to write it and hadn’t yet gotten my motivation to seriously try. I’m hoping to get it out by the end of the year, so keep an eye out for it. It’s called Sixteen Years Ago and I believe it’s going to be one helluva good read.
What books have most influenced your life most?
So many books; so many authors. I have read everything from Tom Clancy to Stephen King to many small independents. A lot of action and a lot of horror. Definitely my two favorite genres. Early on, in the 90s, it was more on the action side, but more on the horror side since then. It would be hard for me to say that any one book had a profound impact on my life, though when asked, I’d name a few that have most made me want to become a writer. Stephen King’s The Stand immediately comes to mind. Several books from David Hagberg got my engines fired up early in life, as well. One called The Swarm by Frank Schatzing – originally written in German – caught me by surprise while I was on a ship in the Persian Gulf. That is a novel that I often think of when people talk about “the best.” More recently I have been hugely inspired by the Infected trilogy from Scott Sigler as well as the Pine Deep trilogy from Jonathon Maberry. Both are excellent reads if you are into horror.
What inspired you to write your first book?
This question would be more accurately phrased as: What finally got you off your butt and inspired you to write something!? First off, I think part of what was holding me back was the intimidation factor. Writing a long novel is no easy feat; getting it published even less so. Most of the stories in my head tended to be of the longer variety (hence the Sixteen Years Ago mention above) and I was feeling overwhelmed before I had even began. Then, one day I was randomly clicking through Amazon and I came across an author named Matt Shaw who had these black cover books with all sorts of enticing warnings on them. “Contains extreme horror, sex, and gore,” for one. I decided to give a couple of his books a try and I was impressed. The stories were good and his warnings were definitely well-founded, but what really got me was the fact that these novels were fairly short – around 150 pages – and they were published independently without any nods, welcomes, or financing from the big publishing institutions. I began investigating the Amazon KDP platform and I quickly realized that one of my biggest fears (finding somebody willing to publish) was no longer a concern. That, and after using Mr. Shaw as a springboard to many other independent horror writers, I established that shorter stories like novellas and novelettes were selling fairly well and were perfectly acceptable for a platform like Amazon. All of this knowledge was what finally overcame my fears and prompted me to put that first word on the page.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
For the first book, By The Hour, the main character is a man named Michael Gorman. Initially, he’s just a normal guy. He likes to party and have a good time. Of course, as you read on, you realize that he also has other desires. Dark ones.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There is, but I’m pretty sure that message is obvious by the time they reach the end.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
For Chaplain, the main character is a nine year old boy, so I don’t have any ideas who would play him. Hollywood has been pretty good at casting child actors recently, so I am sure they would do a fine job selecting somebody. For the title character, however, I can see Max von Sydow killing that role.
Why do you write?
I write because I love it. I love entertainment; whether it be movies, television, or books. I have always felt that I would be good at entertaining and have held a burning passion to do just that. There are so many stories in my head that I feel the need to share.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Definitely part-time, for now. I still have a day job that eats a lot of writing time, whether it be time spent at work or just a tired state afterwards. I like to write when my mind is at its best and I find that difficult on most work days. I am due for a career change in about five years, though, so if any of my stuff starts taking off, maybe I’ll be able to begin dedicating much more time to the craft.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Getting over your own self-criticism. I like to do everything right the first time. I find that I’ll fight myself over things; simple things. Sometimes as simple as the use of a certain phrase and it’ll quickly eat up time and motivation. Especially the motivation part; once that starts to wane, everything can quickly come apart on you. I keep hearing that I should just get the ideas down on paper and worry about the editing later. Great advice, but hard for me to follow. Of course, no matter how well I think I have done at the end of the day, I’ll look over those words later and find mistakes. There really is no such thing as a perfect first draft, no matter how hard you try. Don’t you just hate it when yourself gets in the way of your writing? I know I do.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The hardest thing about writing Chaplain was having to constantly stop and fact check things about the Civil War era. Small, menial things like: What kind of oil did they use in their oil lamps? What kind of tools did the army medics have? I am by no means a Civil War expert and I had to do a lot of lookups to try to minimize the inaccuracies. I’ll admit that it is probably not perfect, but I’d like to think that it’s more than adequate for a fun horror novella. The Devil’s in the details.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Coming up with overarching story ideas. The details to make it work are definitely harder, but generalized story ideas seemingly hit me daily.
What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading John Connolly’s A Song of Shadows. I’ve been reading him for over a decade now. I love his work. His main book series, the Charlie Parker books, are mostly realistic mysteries with small dabs of the supernatural sprinkled in. His other books pull a 180 on you, though. Read The Gates and you’ll see that he can write with an incredible wit as well.
What is one random thing about you?
I love Heavy Metal music. So much so, that I always capitalize Heavy Metal when I write it, even though that is technically incorrect. However, that alone is not my random fact. My random fact is that – like even the most blood-gushing, hellraising Metal musicians out there – I have cats that I absolutely adore. Aww…a softie at heart. I won’t tell. 😉
What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer?
My handwriting is atrocious! So, I am definitely a computer guy. As far as tablets go, I wrote the first few chapters of Sixteen Years Ago on my iPad. I eventually switched back to a full computer, because I just don’t like typing on those little Bluetooth keyboards that tablets use. And their on-screen keyboards? Most definitely not. Lol I know the feeling.
What does your writing process look like?
I generally write in the morning. I’ll wake up, grab something caffeinated, and check my email and Facebook. I’ll take about five minutes to gather my thoughts and notes, and then I dig in. Some mornings, I will only manage about 500 words; but others I can sometimes hit 5,000.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Nothing too strange. If I am actively writing and I get stuck on something, I’ll take a break on my porch for a few minutes and enjoy the fresh air while letting my mind wander. If I’m between writing sessions, I love to plan my next moves while on the move. Mainly walking. I received a Fitbit for Christmas and I have hit five miles almost every day since. Walking in the cool, night air – Heavy Metal pumping in the earphones – allows my mind to be free and lets me connect the dots for an upcoming scene. Cool.
How important are names to you in your books?
Some are very important. Main characters, mostly. Especially the villains. For instance, when I came up with the idea for Sixteen Years Ago all those years ago, I instantly had the name for the main character jump into my mind. I have thought about changing that name many times since then, but I haven’t been able to. That’s his name! A lot of supporting characters are not as important. I just try to keep the names from being too similar, so that way the read will be less confusing.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
When I have a bad day of writing and I look back on my work to see that the words just aren’t flowing. They feel forced or inadequate. Motivating myself to revisit that section later for a rewrite is hard for me. I am not a fan of the editing process.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I haven’t been marketing long enough to have really learned any hard lessons. I also haven’t stretched myself too far in getting my books marketed. Not yet, anyway. Once I finally release Sixteen Years Ago, I plan on marketing the hell out of that. While novellas and novelettes are perfectly viable forms of writing these days, novels still sell far better, so I am holding off on any intense – and expensive – marketing campaigns until that book’s release. When I begin to go down that road, however, I am sure I will start learning many hard lessons and will be able to answer this question much more thoroughly.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
There’s a line from a song called “Deadly Sinners” by a Metal band named 3 Inches of Blood. The line is: “Enemies of Metal, your death is our reward.” Now, while that doesn’t sound very motivational, I have always taken an inspirational meaning from it. Since the first time I ever heard it, I have always taken that line to mean that you should do what you want to do – write, play, or listen to whatever you want to – while not letting the judgement of others influence or deter you. I know that my stories aren’t for everyone, just like my choice of music is not liked by most, but I will never let that stop me from writing the stories I want to write or listening to the music I want to listen to. I can see that from the lyrics and it is good advice. I honestly think heavy metal can get a bad rap.
What is your favorite book and why?
I honestly cannot answer this. There are so many books that I love. One that I didn’t mention above is a book called Society of the Mind by Eric L. Harry. As far as I can tell, this author hasn’t written anything in over a decade, but when he did, he wrote mostly military-themed novels. Society of the Mind, however, was completely different. That book was a well-written science fiction tale about the dangers of artificial intelligence and the human response to that intelligence, which has the potential to be far different from our own type of intelligence. I haven’t read that book in many years, but I have been intending to read it again. In fact, I was in high school when I read it and I enjoyed it so thoroughly that I lent my copy to my English teacher at the time. She was a great teacher and a huge inspiration to me. If she ever reads this, I’m sure she’ll know this is directed at her. Anyway, to sum up my point, she loved it as well. #Power2theTeachers!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Start writing now! There has never been a better time for writers than now with all of the options available to get your work out to the masses.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
We’ve already established I like listening to Heavy Metal music, so need to go into that further. I love movies of all types, though cheesy horror (never better than in the 80s) has always been my guilty pleasure. I own over 1,000 DVDs and more than 300 Blu-rays. And that’s with me not having purchased more than a dozen in the last four years. I also am a huge fan of NFL football. Go Dolphins! That is a lot of movies! I’m a Packer fan, living with Chiefs fans…
From where do you gain your inspiration?
All the above really. Movies, music, and other books. Of course, life experiences of all varieties come into play, as they do with every author. Luckily, for the most part, my life experiences are far different than those of my characters.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Self-publishing Advantages: 1) Freedom to write what you want. 2) The ease of getting your work out to readers for them to enjoy.
Professional Publishing Advantages: 1) The potential to reach a much larger audience. With the marketing of the large companies and their relationships with multiple booksellers around the world, far more people are likely to read your work.
How do you market your books?
Self-Publishing. Currently, my books are only available on Amazon, but I will most likely expand to other markets with Sixteen Years Ago.
Why did you choose this route?
The ease of the process and the surety that my work will be available to anybody that wants to read it. It’s a great place to start and if it someday leads to a contract with a professional publisher, I will be okay with that too.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I do not. Maybe someday in the future, but for now, I have no plans to do so.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
If you’re just starting out, don’t overlook the value of Facebook. Create a Facebook author page and start an ad campaign with it. It’s a relatively cheap way of attracting readers. Just be sure to have an enticing ad that will get people’s attention as their hurriedly scrolling down their news feed.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
My writing time and my marketing time are usually separate. I do most of my writing in the morning and most of my advertising in the evening. By advertising, I mostly mean checking on the ads that I already have out there, and seeing if any improvements can be made. Also, I try to post something on my Facebook Author page daily, or at least a few times a week.
What do you do to get book reviews?
I put reminders out on my various author pages encouraging people to review my books. Other than that, I just try to attract more readers. More readers = more reviews.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Not very. I assume people just don’t want to take the time to leave a written review. I can’t blame them; I haven’t left a lot of reviews myself. I am starting to take the time to leave more reviews on independently-published books, now that I understand the struggle.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
Not really. I have researched various book reviewer sites online, but it seems that most of them have a backlog of submissions more than a year long.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Obviously, I love getting a good review. I have received one mediocre review on Amazon.uk that I think is unjustified, but that’s part of the game. If I get bad reviews, I plan on using their criticism to learn and hopefully make my future works better.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
Not yet, but I’m hoping for lots of funny stories dealing with marketing. Ideally, good stories about how marketing worked for me, but good stories can be funny too.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
I think social media is one of the best – and most inexpensive – ways for young authors to start building a following. I highly recommend it. Plus, it can be a fun way to interact with your fans
Which social network worked best for you?
I’ve only used Facebook for the most part, though I will soon be expanding to other networks. You can never have too many followers.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
Read through this interview and I have given lots of tips.
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
I have not yet, but I plan to with my next releases. I have been building up my page on Goodreads and will be heavily utilizing it for my next release.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
So many…Everybody from the pharaohs of Egypt to Kurt Cobain. There is so much to learn and so much curiosity to be sated. And those are just the dead ones. For the living, any of the authors I have mentioned. I feel that I could learn a lot about the craft from them.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Probably The Stand. That is such an epic novel and I love epics.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read this interview and get motivated!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
The number one source is my Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/davidcoonsauthor/ . I am frequently posting updates on there and I am always willing to answer any questions the fans may have.
Also, my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/David-Coons/e/B00SUS44EM
And Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/DavidWCoonsJr