Me: First I would like to thank you for taking the time for this interview. I know you have a book release soon, and I’m sure you have many things going on. I hope this will not be too painful.
I’ve read The Old Man and the Wasteland (my review) and The Savage Boy (also my review), two of the three stories in your Wasteland Saga, due out mid October. The two stories I’ve read are both wonderful post apocalyptic (PA) stories. Is your current work(s)-in-progress PA, or are you tackling other genres?
Cole: No, the next novel is a piece called SodaPop Soldier. It’s Ready Player One meets Space Marines, or Aliens, if you prefer. I think of it as Game-Noir fiction and it’s getting the First Read at Harper Collins this week.
But, I think the PA genre is where I like to work the most and I’m planning on coming back to this in a few different ways. Maybe, sort of a Weird Post Apocalypse next, but we’ll see.
Me: Why do you like writing in the PA genre?
Cole: I would say I like it because I’ve always thought about it. It’s two things for me. It’s the Big Reset and the Ultimate game of survivor. Two things that appeal to me. It’s being free to make a new society, a new life, even if it’s just a civilization of one. And then it’s being pitted against life and the world. PA is challenge, discovery, reconciliation and new beginnings out of the ashes. To many that seems new and novel, but Human society has actually gone through this a number of times and it seems we may yet again.
Me: Why did you start writing and does it come easy for you?
Cole: I started writing because I had stories to tell starting back when I was about 9 years old. I’ve always written and writers should always write. A lot of people talk about writing, or even dream about writing. But writing is writing all the time, as much as you can, because you love it. Any other reason and it’s a waste of time. The dreams people have about writing don’t match the reality. Very few of the people you know will actually read your stuff. The Big Publishing contract with lunches at trendy spots whining to your agent and publisher who believe in you and know that the next great novel is inside of you, that doesn’t happen either. You will still have all the same problems. Which is great, because writers need things to write about and problems make great plot. Be grateful, as much as you can, for your problems. God just gave you something to write about.
Me: Can you give an overview of your writing workflow?
Cole: I write fast on the first draft. I don’t look back and I don’t read written chapters. I try to write a good solid chapter every day, sometimes two. I think it’s good to know what you’re going to write about next after you stop for the day. Have a good idea where the book begins and ends but don’t hesitate to take some detours and let the writing go. Stephen King likens it to being on a rollercoaster. That’s probably right. For me that Rollercoaster is from God. I pray before I write and then we take off. Put in everything because a large part of editing is cutting. So it’s nice to have some things to cut. Editing is where the real writing takes place. The best tricks I can give anyone for editing is learn to read your manuscripts out loud as though you are an audio book reader. Listen to John Grisham novels and imitate Michael Beck and Frank Mueller. Eventually you’ll find your own voice. Mine’s a cross between Garrison Keillor and Donald Sutherland.
Me: Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
Cole: Make notes as you go. Know that you need to be entertaining. You have got to entertain the reader. Contrary to many, I think that’s my job as a writer. To entertain. I think some people write books to lecture and hector and right wrongs and settle grievances and tell people how rotten their parents were and how noble they turned out to be. That’s boring. In short, if you introduce a gun, advance the plot quickly. Don’t wave it around and talk all about the ramifications of why life turned out so bad for the street thug and how George Bush and Dick Cheney are to blame. Just blow his victim away. That’s where the drama is.
Me: Is there anything you do to help your writing process (location, TV, music, food, etc.)?
Cole: No. All these things are crutches and a lot of writers make idols out of them because they think they need these things. You don’t need these things but the more you use them the more dependent you’ll get on ritual. The ritual of the right red shirt, and the perfect tuna sandwich and a cup of tea while you write listening to Zeppelin. Well, what happens if you can’t have those things and you need to write. Like, say, if you’re in prison. Tea and tuna fish sandwiches aren’t served in the big house by Warden Friendly so you can dream up the next great American prison novel. I write everywhere. Mainly in hotel lobbies because my wife is an opera singer. It’s is a luxury to use a laptop. But if I had to I’d use the roll of toilet paper in prison that I traded a pack of smokes for.
Me: The Old Man has been received well, and I’m sure your other works will be as well. Do you have any advice for us thousands of writers who are grinding away day after day?
Cole: You can do it. There has never been a better time to be a writer. The gates are thrown wide open and because of digital publishing anyone can put their novel up. Readers want to read and if you are faithful in executing your best effort someone will read your first novel. But, you only get one chance to entertain any given reader, so edit and edit and edit and then hire editors. Hire a cover artist. Hire a formatter. Learn marketing and have fun and keep writing and be entertaining. It’s a tough world out there so make a readers day, and tell them a good story.
Me: Any advice to other authors for self and/or book promotion?
Cole: Learn social media. Offer your fist 100 reviewers a free copy of your next book. Ask for reviews, but, the greatest book promotion you can perform, is to write the best novel you possibly can. You will be tantalized by tales of gold in them thar’ hills and ebook writers who’re making 68 grand a month and you just can’t wait to jump on the next train to ebook author-ville and be a part of all that. But, you must restrain yourself and hone that fist book to near-perfection. You will only get one chance with each reader. If you blow it, each reader equals a minimum of 5 other readers who would have purchased that book had you written something fun. And, should that un-entertained reader choose to voice their grievances on Amazon, you will find that the bad review is a tattoo that does not wash off easily. So, take your time and do it right. That is the best promotion advice I can give anyone.
Me: You started out as an indie author but are now with Harper Voyager. How did that come about?
Cole: My first book The Old Man and the Wasteland was selling really well on Amazon and then some major publishers started calling. Initially I rejected them because I was having too much fun checking the numbers each day, but then I decided it was time to get my agent involved and he set up a deal with Harper Collins.
Me: I have followed you on Twitter for a while, and you are obviously a Christian. How does your faith come into play (if at all) when writing?
Cole: My work is my witness. I love that God made me a writer and I embrace what he wants to say through me. My writing is generally clean and I don’t preach. Not everyone believes what I do. I think there are some universal truths and I happen to believe that God hardwired those into the universe. I think writing should be accessible and I have to wonder about people who set out to offend everyone. John Grisham once made the statement that he writes books you can read and then hand to your grandmother without feeling embarrassed. John Grisham sells a lot of books.
Me: According to your bio, you appear to be a Renaissance Man; Army veteran, actor, writer. What’s next for you, or do you plan to continue writing?
Cole: I’ve pretty much retired from acting, but if Hollywood called I come back, for at least a day. My soldierin’ days are behind me. I love writing and I feel free to do it for the rest of my life, or as long as God wants to use me. There are other things to do, always, writing is just a part of my life. I would like to do it forever. I would like to write when I get to heaven. I would like to meet a lot of the writers who went there. Which brings up a point. It’s always sad when you come to the end of a great writers body of work. You’ve read everything. But imagine when you get to heaven and all these writers have been writing. And will continue to write. That would be amazing.
Me: Thank you very much for the time you spent answering the questions. If you would like to check out Nick Cole and his books, I’ve posted reviews of his books and his twitter is @NickColeBooks.