Author Interview – Joe Prentis
Debra: Hello hello and good afternoon! Welcome to this edition of Talk Radio with NO Radio and let me start by saying, SORRY it’s been so long between posts. Work and launching the AHA! site has kept me too busy, but I am catching up and want to share the upcoming schedule – I will have some great book reviews for you over the next week, starting with Joe Prentis’ Civil War novel, Redemption. Joe will be joining me in the studio today so we’ll talk more about that when he arrives. I also have L W Montgomery and his novel Promise of Departure about ‘a broken mechanic, facing divorce, packs his motorcycle and heads to Haiti to repair his own crumbling life’ and that looks like an interesting read for this book lover. Also, Lilith Darville’s erotic romance novel Scorpio Awakens is coming up, can’t wait to read that one too and it is already getting rave reviews.
So, today, I am interviewing Joe Prentis and I am looking forward to meeting him in person. His profile is on his website at http://www.joeprentiswebsite.com with a list of all the wonderful titles he’s written, available in the US and the UK. We’ve chatted a couple of times while syncing up to do this interview and he seems like a really down to earth guy. He has lived and worked on a farm and lived and worked in big cities both, I get the impression he prefers the country life personally, as do I. Oh, I hear someone coming up the road now, let me take a peek out the window…yep, that must be Joe. <watches a pick up truck come up the drive, park and the door opens…he steps out and looks all around, breathes deep the cold and clean mountain air, then catches me standing at the open door to the studio>
Joe: Hi there! You caught me, it is so beautiful up here and COLD!
Debra: Hi yourself, yes we’ve been having some crazy weather this season, its a bit colder than it should be for this time of year. Come on in where its warm!
Joe: Alright, thank you, thank you, I’m Joe Prentiss, <hand shake> its nice to meet you Mrs. Hartmann.
Debra: You too and just call me Debra or Deb, let’s keep it casual now!
Joe: Well, I appreciate your invitation to do this interview and can’t wait to see how you like my book. <Debra is leading the way to the sitting area, they settle into comfortable chairs>
Debra: So glad you accepted and could make it today. Can I offer you anything to drink before we get started?
Joe: Well, by that accent little lady, I am bettin’ you have a some good iced tea on hand?
Debra: Yes, we southern girls are taught to make tea properly before we can tie our own laces you know?! Let me get us both a glass, you make yourself comfortable and I’ll be right back.
Joe: Thank you, I believe I’ll walk around and stretch my legs a bit then. Interesting studio you have here, love the decorations. A little cowboy stuff, nice civil war sword collection, music posters, such a variety, and all this biker stuff. Am I at the right place?
Debra: <hollers from the kitchen at the back> Yes, I work here so I like to surround myself with a variety of the things I like and have experienced, good writing atmosphere and all that. Surely you can tell by that desk over there that I spend a LOT of time here. <desk in front of big picture window with amazing few, barely visible over the monitors and stacks of books and messy junk>
Joe: Its nice to have a space at home, but separate so you can concentrate and focus I bet.
Debra: Here ya go, yes, it is, allows me to work even when my son is home, as long as I lock that door and he can’t come in here and “mom” me to tears. <laughs>
Joe: Thank you! <takes tea, sits and sips> Mmmm, that is good tea, thank you.
Debra: My pleasure. So shall we get started then?
Joe: Lead the way, you have my undivided attention!
Debra: Oh, let me turn that music off, sorry-
Joe: Leave it, sounds good actually, is that a radio station or a cd?
Debra: Oh, its just an internet station that I like, that’s an 80’s pop playlist.
Joe: Nice, I was listening to Lady GaGa on the way here-
Debra: No you weren’t! Really?
Joe: Yea, I like a wide variety of music and will listen to anything!
Debra: Well, let’s talk about your wide variety of writing shall we? You write more than one genre and I noticed that you are working on multiple books at the same time. Not sure I could pull that off!
Joe: Ya know, I have just had so many experiences to draw from and really just feel privileged to entertain and bring pleasure into the lives of the people I touch through writing. There are no limits to what I might write about! I write both Westerns and Suspense because I like to read both. It is rather easy for me to switch from one genre to the other because I write about life as I understand it. It really doesn’t matter if my character is a cowhand on a ranch in a bygone era, or if he is a diplomat in Washington D.C. I do a lot of research in an effort to flesh out my characters and the area in which the story occurs. I don’t attempt to write anything that I haven’t experienced to some degree. I have worked for the federal government, toured the west, lived in large cities, as well as on a farm. This widely diverse experience has enabled me to slip into the skin of various characters.
Debra: That’s fantastic and you are blessed to be able to do that. Tell me, why did you start writing?
Joe: I have always been a voracious reader. I read everything but porn, and my taste ranges from mysteries to suspense/thrillers, to westerns and historical novels. I started writing because there were so many books that fired my imagination. I believe that writers are born rather than made. That is not to say that any writer is born knowing everything about his/her craft. There is always room for improvement. My first attempts at writing were at a very early age when I tried to improve the ending of the books I read.
Debra: Interesting! So, who are your favorite authors, who inspired you?
Joe: James A. Michener, John Jakes, and LaVyrle Spencer. In case you are wondering how a romance writer got into the mix, I am thoroughly convinced that unless you have some romance in a novel, then you don’t really have a book. Even the most hardened soldier, criminal, or adventurer, has something he loves.
Debra: Well said! What is your latest book called and could you tell us in 20 words or less what it is about?
Joe: My latest book is REDEMPTION, and it is the prequel of the Renegade series. It involves the lives of two Civil War soldiers who find themselves in a difficult and dangerous situation at the end of the war. They think they have become battle hardened, but discover that the spark of decency is still very much alive. <counts off the words as he speaks on his fingers, then stops counting but continues> That was more than 20 words, no way to make it any shorter sorry.
Debra: <laughing> Good one, maybe I should say 4o words from now on-
Joe: It would have been close!
Debra: Oh my, your funny! Now you said it was the prequel of the Renegade series, would you expand on that a bit and do you have plans for how long the series will go on?
Joe: Sure, well, Redemption is the first book in the series. The following books take place in the Colorado Territory in the years following the end of the Civil War. There are many characters in the series and they each have a story to tell. I love writing about these characters. The series will go on as long as there are readers who are interested.
Debra: Oh good, so if I love it then I will have tons of reading material to look forward to, I like that!
Joe: You will love it, I wrote it so I know you will! <laughs>
Debra: Oh, we’ll see then! I do enjoy good series books though, when they are good, you don’t want them to end and not be able to read about the characters ongoing lives anymore. What inspired you to write this series?
Joe: I live in an area near one of the major battles in the Civil War. I did some extensive research about the families that endured the war, collecting family stories of the events, and also read extensively in the Records of the Union Army.
Debra: More of that voracious reader in you comes out! Sounds like the research was as interesting as I’m sure the book will be. What is it you love most about writing?
Joe: I am and have always been, a creative person. I dabbled in several different things such as sculpture and oil painting, but I was always drawn back to writing. I no longer try to sculpt or paint. I use whatever time I have for writing. There is nothing more exciting than sitting down in front of my keyboard and making a character or situation come to life. Did I tell you that I love writing?
Debra: You must love writing, Joe, so many books on your website! <laughs> Do you ever feel yourself becoming quite emotional when writing a particularly intense scene and is there a specific passage in particular where this was the case?
Joe: I don’t think I am stretching things too much when I say that any good passage in a book is the results of sailing along the tops of an emotional high. The story must have slow passages where the characters (and the reader) can draw a breath. Someone once said that plot can best be understood by picturing a bloodhound on the trail of someone in the forest. The hound runs all out for short distances, then stops and circles around possible places of concealment. Whenever the hound is at rest, the reader should experience a feeling that something yet unseen is happening just out of sight. Danger, romance, or indecision can do a number on me. I wouldn’t want to spoil REDEMPTION for any reader, but I became very emotional as I penned the last passage in this novel. I hate books with cardboard characters who feel nothing. You won’t find that in my books.
Debra: Well, now I really can’t wait to start reading it! I was planning on doing that tomorrow morning but may just have to order take out and start tonight! Joe, if you could choose someone famous to record your book in audiobook format, who would you choose as the voice and why?
Joe: I don’t even have to think about that one. Morgan Freeman would win hands down. There is something about his voice that makes you believe whatever he says, and that is one of the major requirements for fiction. You must make the reader suspend disbelief.
Debra: Oh I love him, he is such a great actor and yes, his voice does have that affect on you now that you said that! Do you have any marketing tips for other authors?
Joe: If you can imagine the city of New York breaking loose and floating out to sea, you have an idea of what exists in the world of book marketing. Floating on our sea of literature is an unimaginable pile of debris. Throw your book on top of the flotsam and see how quickly it will be noticed. Putting a book in the marketplace without any effort to market it and you aren’t likely to generate any sales. The short answer to marketing is ‘whatever works.’ The new writer must realize that marketing is an ever-shifting quagmire. The things that work today, might not work tomorrow. The only way to sell, is to try everything and try to figure out what you did that generated the sales. When I published Abraham’s Bones as an eBook, it quickly shot to the top of the suspense list in Europe. It stayed in the top 100 for over nine weeks and I sold many thousands of copies. I received countless emails from writers who wanted to know what caused the rapid increase in sales. I had to tell them the truth: I honestly didn’t know. So I would advise any author to spend as much time marketing as their schedule allows and try everything that has even a remote possibility of success.
Debra: Thank you, love that analogy, so true! One more question before we wrap up then…this is one of my favorite questions, here goes. If this was your last book and your last day on earth, what would be your last words?
Joe: I have some strict instruction concerning my last wishes. I want someone to put a placard in my hands in my casket with the cover of my last book and the address on the Internet where it can be purchased.
Debra: Spoken like a dedicated author! <laughs> That has to be the best answer to that question so far! I love it! Thanks so much for joining me today Joe, it’s been a real pleasure and I hope you’ll stop back by anytime.
Joe: Well thank you and I will! Hope you enjoy the book, can’t wait to read your review.
Debra: Thank you to everyone that stopped by for the show today. Here’s some links to help you find Joe’s website, books, and so on. He has a great blog site, be sure and check that out and tell him who sent ya! Until next time….
BONUS! Here’s some more interview questions and answers from Joe:
What do you think makes your genre special?
ANSWER: Our society is becoming too complex. I like writing books where the individual is able to accomplish something without having boots on the ground or the 7th fleet available for backup. You find that in the average Western or historical novel. While the Wild West was a long time ago, readers still identify with the situations and the characters. We are regimented, supervised, and observed to a degree where people resent the interference in their lives. People long for a time when they actually had control of their destiny. That is what Western books are all about.
What do you think makes a great story?
ANSWER: Oh, that is an easy one. Books are about the characters more than they are about plots and literary situations. Create a real character or two, place them in an understandable situation, and the book will write itself. I like rugged men who know who they are and where they are going. I can’t stand wimpy women who fold when the going gets rough. Give me a gutsy woman who can stand by her man, but can defend the house if he happens to be gone. One strong man with convictions, a gutsy woman, and a difficult situation—what else do you need to create a book that readers want to read?
Which kind of reader do you think will enjoy your book?
ANSWER: My book is an old-fashioned Western. People who have read and enjoyed John Jakes will find it pleasant going.
Do you already know what you are going to work on next?
ANSWER: I have another book in the planning stage in The Renegade series, and another in my series about politics and terror in the Middle East.
If you were to write a novel outside your usual genre, which genre would you like to experiment with and why?
ANSWER: I write both Westerns and Suspense because I like to read both. It is rather easy for me to switch from one genre to the other because I write about life as I understand it. It really doesn’t matter if my character is a cowhand on a ranch in a bygone era, or if he is a diplomat in Washington D.C. I do a lot of research in an effort to flesh out my characters and the area in which the story occurs. I don’t attempt to write anything that I haven’t experienced to some degree. I have worked for the federal government, toured the west, lived in large cities, as well as on a farm. This widely diverse experience has enabled me to slip into the skin of various characters.
When you first get the idea for a new story, do you find that the finished product tends to differ quite significantly from your original idea, or does the original idea remain more or less intact?
ANSWER: I research the subject rather thoroughly, but don’t cling religiously to any plotting ideas. Just as there are twist and turns in real life, the same thing happens in each of my books. An author must never forget that a novel is intended to be a reflection of the real world.
Have you ever had an idea which was inspired by a real life incident, but which you ultimately decided not to include in your story because readers would think it was too farfetched?
ANSWER: Two of my novels were inspired by real incidents that happened in my area. They are suspense novels, one of them dealing with a rather gruesome murder, and the other with abduction. The investigation uncovered some incidents that were over the top and I had to tone them down somewhat in the story. Trying to fit real incidents into a novel can give you one of those ‘you can’t make this stuff up’ kinds of situation.
Have you ever written a supporting character who took on a life of their own or turned out to be far more popular than expected and if so do you have plans to feature them as the lead character in a story of their own?
ANSWER: When I wrote INNOCENT and GONE IN A MINUTE, I created a young woman who was just out of high school and joined the sheriff’s department. Her purpose in the book was to be a ‘Watson’ to Sheriff Barrett’s ‘Sherlock Holmes.’ But she suddenly took on a life of her own as she interacted with the other characters. When I sent the first draft of her appearance in the book to friend and fellow writer Milton Burton, he immediately emailed back and said: “Damn! I love that spunky little girl.” I knew from his reaction that I was on the right track. In the next book in that series, she will take on a bigger part.
When deciding on your book title what influences you most; potential sales or artistic integrity?
ANSWER: It is very difficult for me to know where my titles actually come from. I sometimes have a working title when I start, by to date, the working title has never survived to the end. The title always pops into my head as I start to define what I am trying to say to the reader. I have seen book titles that I suspect have turned readers off and were probably pulled from someone’s wastebasket. A title should reflect what a book is about.
Do you foresee more and more authors making a living from their writing?
ANSWER: Just a few years ago, there were only two groups of writers: Those who sold very few books and made next to nothing, and those successful writers who sold millions of copies. The popularity of eBooks has made it possible for a new writer to make a decent amount of money for his/her efforts. As eBook readers are improved, I believe that they will command a larger amount of the total sales. The eBook market is now more than 40% of the novels sold. I think this will continue.
Do you have a favorite review or has anyone expressed a particularly nice compliment about your writing which stands out as your most memorable piece of praise?
ANSWER: I received one review where the reader said. “This story made me feel like I was in the woods with the characters.” That was very short, but the kind of thing I was trying to achieve.
I read a book review on amazon once where the reviewer described the book as a page-turner and had clearly enjoyed the book, and yet only gave it three stars out of five. Have you had any similar experiences with reviews yourself and if so did you take pleasure in the positive comments or frustration from the unduly ungenerous rating?
ANSWER: The strangest review I have received was one in which I received a one-star review from one reviewer, and then, later in the day, the same reviewer gave me a five star review for the same book. I have often wondered what happened between early morning and later in the day. I was relieved that she removed the bad review and left the one with five-stars.
Have you tried experimenting with different prices for your book(s) and if so what pricing strategy worked best for you?
ANSWER: Most writers believe that pricing the first book in a series low and the other higher is the best way to attract sales. For eBooks, pricing the first book at $0.99 and the others at $2.99 seems to work best.
Can you remember the moment when you logged into your author account and discovered you had made your first sale?
ANSWER: My first sale was a heady experience for me. It was for a short piece to Reader’s Digest. I felt as if I was floating. This sale was followed very quickly by a sale to another major magazine. Then I experienced a long period in which I sold nothing. I soon learned that sales were an up and down experience.
What other book would you regard it the biggest compliment to have your own work compared to and why?
ANSWER: Abraham’s Bones has been compared to Dan Brown’s work. You can’t get much better than that.