This week: A Reluctant HeroEdited by: Shannon
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Welcome to the Short Stories Newsletter. I am Shannon and I'm your editor this week.
It is my great pleasure and honor to bring you the second in a 4-part series of author interviews I plan to conduct in 2016. This edition's spotlight is on Keith C. Blackmore, author of the beloved Mountain Man series. The books earned Blackmore something of a cult following, and as a result Mountain Man was recently opted for film.
"All in all, the last five years haven’t been too bad at all, and going forward, we’ll see what happens." ~ Keith C. Blackmore
One of my favorite things to do is read a good story, and when a beloved story morphs into three, even four books ... well, that's just downright delicious. It doesn't happen often, but when it does I'm as excited as a prepubescent on Christmas morning.
I recently stumbled across such a story in the Mountain Man series by Keith C. Blackmore (The Hospital, Mountain Man, Safari, and Well Fed): "Augustus 'Gus' Berry lives a day-to-day existence comprised of waking up, getting drunk, and preparing for the inevitable day when 'they' will come up the side of his mountain and penetrate his fortress. Living on the outskirts of a city and scavenging for whatever supplies remain after civilization died two years ago, Gus knows every time he goes down into undead suburbia could be his last." I fell in love with Gus, finding him to be the most fantastic reluctant hero I've ever come across, and I couldn't wait to find out what happens to him.
Keith C. Blackmore, author of the Mountain Man series, has agreed to chat with writing.com members today, and I couldn't be more delighted. Without further ado, please join me in welcoming Keith to writing.com.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to the writing.com community today. For the readers who don't already know, please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a writer who’s been self-publishing for the last five years now. My most popular title is a 4.5-book series called Mountain Man which has been optioned for film by Roughhouse Pictures. MM was also picked up by Podium Publishing, who produced the audiobook narrated by the talented RC Bray (same guy who narrated The Martian). Podium is also producing the Breeds series of books, which is a werewolf story.
Tell us one thing people would be surprised to know about you.
I don’t really swear that much. I do enjoy Captain Morgan rum. And Jack Daniel’s whiskey. And if I’m not reading, I might be working on a jigsaw puzzle.
How has your past influenced your desire to become a writer?
Stephen King was certainly an influence, and like him, I was always watching monster movies on Saturdays, or reading comics and novels when I could afford them, and generally geeking out. I’ve always been a fan of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and weirdness in general.
Speaking of comics, if you could be a superhero, which one would you be and why?
I really can’t think of one, which is a shame because comics were a big influence on me, back when they were 50 cents a pop. Stopped buying them when they became a buck apiece.
What were you like in high school?
Ha. A total geek. A nerd. Bad breath, body odor, you name it. Managed to elude acne so it wasn’t all bad. Otherwise, pretty much an introvert more or less. Awkward in social settings unless it was sports or a game of RISK or D&D.
Tell us about your road to publication.
I wrote when I could. I found work here and there. Moved overseas and facilitated conversational English classes for fourteen years. While working abroad, I continued to write in the evenings, on weekends, and during vacations. The plan was to pay the bills with the day job, write in my free time, submit to publishers, and when I finally got a contract, return home triumphant.
Except I never got a contract.
I spent 14 years overseas, working in both Korea and Japan during that time. While I was in Korea I stumbled upon JA Konrath’s website, and read how he went from uploading a few ebooks to Amazon just to see how they sold, to where he is today. Konrath’s experience with self-publishing convinced me to try the same thing, so back in 2010, with enough cash in the bank to keep myself alive for a year, I moved into my parents’ basement and self-published three titles.
The plan was to write full time for at least a year and see how things went. If this self-publishing venture didn’t work out, then it was back to the regular work force. If it worked that first year, I’d continue on to the five year mark and re-evaluate things once again.
I came very close to going back to a regular day-job in late 2011. Sales for only three titles weren’t enough to keep the business going. My savings were being slowly depleted. I was working on Mountain Man at the time and decided that, if sales continued to be uninspiring, I’d find a day job to pay the bills.
Luckily, Mountain Man--a zombie story focusing on a lone protagonist about two years into a zombie apocalypse--immediately sold and continued to sell very well, having been released during perhaps the height of the zombie and apocalyptic genre. The sequels did well too, and I managed to refill my coffers enough to get a few more books out there.
I managed to get through that first year and reached my five year goal in self-publishing.
Not sure where things will go from here as nothing is ever certain, but I’ve decided to take things one year at a time going forward. I’ll be releasing at least four stories this year, two novels and two novellas. And each new release is another book that will hopefully find and increase my audience.
You're quite prolific--I counted seventeen novels since 2010. What are you working on now, and when can we expect to read it?
Yes, about 12 full novels, a few novellas, and a separate short story or two. Not as prolific as some, but I manage to chug along.
I’m presently working on the final book in the Breeds trilogy. Hopefully it’ll be on the market around Halloween. I have the next installment of 131 Days with me, but the second draft of that one has been going slow. I still hope to get 131: Book 5 to market sometime late this year or early next.
Do you have a writing practice? If so, what is it?
You mean a routine? I’m up at five or six in the morning and I try to get in about nine 20-minute sprints (not familiar with that? Check out Chris Fox’s “5,000 Words Per Hour”). Nine sprints is a very good day for me. After lunch, I try to do some editing. Some days I can’t get anything going, and some days life steps in and throws a fridge at me (for example, last year, I had a new hip replacement, and this year I’m scheduled to get the other hip replaced), but nine sprints is what I go for and then I’m done for the day.
What do you read in your spare time? Do you have a favorite author or book?
Mostly read a lot in SF, Fantasy, Horror, Westerns, and Crime fiction. Some comedy works (Catch 22, being a favourite). Even straight up fiction if the story looks interesting. Lots of favourite writers. Stephen King (of course), Robert McCammon, Larry McMurty, and Haruki Murakami, to name a few.
Your stories are about fear and things that go bump in the night. What scares you?
Honestly? Losing this job. Seriously. I don’t want to go back to working 9-5 doing something where I had to write in my spare time. Story wise, I think the creepiest movie I’ve seen in the last few years is, of course, the original Blair Witch Project. The folks behind that flick understood exactly what horror and movie creepiness is all about.
You write about werewolves, mercenaries, gladiators, trolls, ninjas, aliens, and zombies. You've said there won't be another installment in the Mountain Man series and that you're done with zombies, at least for a while. Is there anything you haven't written about but would like to? Any topic you wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole?
I’d like to try a weird Western. A few writers I know have done so--Steve Vernon’s Rueful Regret comes to mind, as well as Brian J. Jarrett’s The Saint, The Sinner, and The Coward, Tim Curran’s Skin Medicine, and William Meikle’s The Valley. I’m actually making notes and ideas that go into a folder with the “weird western” name on it. An uncle of mine actually wants me to write a full blown western without the gore. I told him I was planning a weird west story and he asked, “Will there be any gore in it?”
Well, yeah. Probably a little.
I’d also like to do a straight up fiction book without any violence or spooks or anything like that--just to show folks I’m not a freak.
There probably are topics I won’t touch, but I can’t think of any right now.
If you could invite three people from history, living or dead, to a private dinner party, who would you invite and why?
Ah, my grandparents, because they left too soon, and I miss them. That would be four people I guess. I know you meant notable historical folks but, if it’s my dinner party, then, hey…
If you could do it again, is there anything you would do differently?
I think I’m stilling working on it. But, yes, there would be one thing. I tend to jump from genre to genre with my books. I’ll do a heroic fantasy novel and then I’ll write a couple of horror books and then I’ll go on to something else.
I think if I had to start over again, I’d stick with one genre, establish myself in that, and then slowly branch out into others.
Mountain Man has been opted for film. What can you tell us about it?
Not a lot, which probably says a lot. But I can say that Roughhouse Pictures is producing and they are working on bringing it to the big screen.
You mention mixed martial arts in your books, things like Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Are you a fan of MMA, and if so, who is your favorite fighter?
I am indeed a fan and one day hope to get back into training of some kind--hopefully Aikido or Kung Fu. Ultimately, it’ll depend on where I move and what’s available in the area.
Favourite fighter? I don’t see too many events these days, but when I was watching, I really enjoyed Georges St. Pierre when he was competing. A class act all the way.
You have an author page on Facebook and communicate with readers on your blog. While social media enables writers to cultivate a more personal relationship with their fans, it also makes them more vulnerable. Have you ever been stalked, and what can writers do to protect themselves?
Can’t say I’ve ever been stalked. I don’t really blog much and tend to stay away from other social media platforms. I try to focus more on the writing, which is the main reason I have an audience. Now, I do keep a log of all correspondence just in case, so if I ever have to take action, I have evidence to report and validate my claims. Keep a lawyer handy if you have access to one.
Is there anything you'd like to say that we haven't discussed today?
No, I’m good. Thank you for having me and for reading. If you’re interested, Breeds should be on sale at the time of this interview. And my newest horror novella Isosceles Moon should also be on the market. Breeds has also been picked up by Podium Publishing and it’s in production with the great Sean Runnette narrating. And thank you again for the interview.
There are published authors on this site as well as aspiring writers. Is there any advice you'd like to share?
Nothing they haven’t already heard or know. Just keep writing. Keep reading. Read different genres. Make a study of why a book works for you or why it doesn’t and apply those observations to your own work. Make time for your writing, and don’t worry about the amount of words you are producing as long as you are consistently producing. Strive to improve your craft. Connect with people who will read your work and give constructive feedback. Always listen to feedback, especially if two or more readers point out the same issue with your work.
If you feel your work is ready, and you haven’t hooked the attention of an agent or publisher yet, then consider self-publishing.
Now is a very good time to be a writer.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My work is available through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks.
Otherwise, check my blog or facebook page for news on new books or such.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Keith! I love your work (the 131 Days series is next on my list), and it was my great pleasure and honor. Best of luck to you and much continued success.
Newsletter readers, in addition to the .99 Kindle edition of Breeds that Keith is offering, you can get a copy of the Kindle edition of The Hospital, book 0.5 in the Mountain Man series for FREE by clicking here. It was this deal that introduced me to Keith's work, and it's the best money I've never spent discovering an author. If you like reluctant, sympathetic heroes, I promise you won't be disappointed by Gus Berry.
Check out Keith's books today, and write on!
"I don’t need approval from the pros anymore. I have the approval from someone I value much more.
That's why I went Indie." ~ Keith C. Blackmore
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The following is in response to "Earth Abides" :
Sum1 writes, "Earth Abides is one of my all time favorite novels! I read that back in dinosaur times, around 1970 or so. Loved it then, looking to get a copy and read it again." YES! It's wonderful. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't already read it.
Write 2 Publish 2020 writes, "I have not been reading much in the last few years. I couldn't find books that interest me. I would rather write than read. I chose a book written by an author I just met. I actually liked the story even though it was a challenge for me to get through. It has slow points and I kept referring to the prologue which made no sense and didn't come into play until the end of the book. I would rather she not even put it in. I wish I could find more books to read that held or pricked my interest. I don't know why I have this block to reading. I hope it gets over soon." My problem is almost everything interests me. LOL I have literally hundreds of books in my queue. For every one I read I add ten more. I'll never be able to read them all, but I'm sure gonna try. Stephen King once said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I think he may be on to something.
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