I had the pleasure of interviewing a favorite author of mine: Evan Ronan. He is the author of The Unearthed series, a series that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I’m waiting very impatiently for the next of that series to come out.
Why don’t we start off by you telling us a little about yourself.
Evan: I’ve been writing seriously for almost ten years (yikes!). After years of hearing “No thanks” from agents and editors (or getting no response at all), I decided to give indie publishing a try and so far it’s been such a rewarding experience. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from happy readers, which is awesome, and am slowly building a readership. I hope some day I can write full-time for a living.
Career-wise, I’ve done many different things over the years which has provided me with a diversity of experience that informs my stories. I have a full-time job and fit in writing wherever I can, usually late at night, and I’m normally trying to juggle multiple stories at the same time, for better or worse.
I’m happily married to a wonderful woman that supports me in my dream of writing for a living and I’m father to a couple great kids. I’m a lucky man.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Evan: When I’m not at work or writing, I spend quality time with the family. And by that I mean not watching TV 😉
I’m a voracious reader and love movies. One day I’ll try a screenplay. I also love exercising–but with having essentially two jobs and a family, I certainly don’t do enough of it!
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Evan: At a very young age, but I didn’t really begin in earnest till almost ten years ago. Lot of reasons why, none of them good 😉
What made you decide to write each book in The Unearthed series as a different genre?
Evan: Lots of reasons, and thanks for noticing 😉
First, while I loved writing The Unearthed, I found the haunted house story to be self-limiting–there’s only so much you can do with it–so I decided it would be best for the series to constantly explore new territory. I didn’t want Eddie essentially going through the same plot each time out, and that’s why The Lost is (SPOILER ALERT) basically an anti-haunted house story. Those who’ve read it will know what I mean.
Second, genre hopping and blending makes for more interesting reading as Eddie is continually forced to step outside his comfort zone. So he’s always in over his head, which is good for dramatic reasons, and this forces him to grow as a character. I’ve enjoyed developing him over time and many readers have commented favorably on this, about how they’re watching him change and mature. In addition to the immediate problem facing Eddie I always try to give him a personal problem to overcome as well.
Third, I read widely and get bored easily, so for my own sanity I wanted to try writing different kinds of books. So every book becomes its own unique challenge.
Now with all that being said, there is a more generic formula to the Eddie books and readers have picked up on this. Boiled down, it’s this: there’s a mystery with paranormal elements that only Eddie can solve through his wits, and since I love twists in stories I always try to put one in close to the end of the book. Readers will recognize these twists as Eddie’s “a-ha” moments, which are usually accompanied by him cursing and which lead into the final act. So the common elements are: paranormal, thriller, mystery, some action, the “oh shit” twist, and climax.
Until we get to–
Would you like to share anything about the next book in line, The Hysteria?
Evan: Hey! Nice segue, Ashley 😉
All the books are a little different from each other, but The Hysteria is the most different. The fourth book in the series has a lot more action, some gore, the unexpected return of a previous character, and loads of violence, especially in the final act. Because it was so different than the rest, it (so far) was the most difficult in the series to write. It’s a bit of a departure, so hopefully readers enjoy it as much as the other books.
And now that I’ve completely buried the lead, here it is: The Hysteria will be out at the end of January!
What does your family think of your writing?
Evan: My parents love my books, but they have to because they’re my parents 😉 My wife loves them too. (I hope she’s not just being nice. But I’d like to thank her if she is.)
What do you think makes a good story?
Evan: All my English teachers told me otherwise, but plot is just as important as character.
Many things make a good story, but basically: interesting people are faced with an interesting problem and they make interesting decisions. Yes, I just wrote the word “interesting” three times in one sentence, which isn’t very writerly of me.
Is there a subject you would never write about as author? If so what is it?
Evan: Good question. The first thing that came to mind was violence directed at children. But of course I did that in The Unearthed so I guess that makes me a hypocrite.
I’d love to write a literary novel but I don’t think I’m that kind of writer. Just not wired that way. I can’t see myself writing erotica–not because I find it objectionable–but again because I don’t think I’d be any good at it. Shame too, because good erotica writers make a ton of money!
Do you create an outline before writing?
Evan: My process is constantly changing, but let me try to answer as thoroughly as possible without boring your readers.
Early on, I outlined extensively. These days I try to come up with three or four major turns in a story and keep those in mind while I’m going. But I have a rule when I’m writing: In The Moment Evan always beats Outline Evan. To better explain that…if while I’m writing, the story is telling me to ignore the outline then I ignore the outline.
I find myself “outlining” less with each Eddie story, but I think that’s because I really know the character, I have the general formula established for these books, and the universe of the stories is well-defined at this point. For my other projects–standalones, first books in other series, or in my collaborations–I find myself outlining more. One of these days, though, I’d like to write completely into the dark and see what happens.
Anticipating one of your questions below, I think the best piece of advice for all writers is to experiment and see what works for you and for the project you’re working on.
Any advice for getting through the dreaded writers block?
Evan: First: trust yourself. Our brains are amazing and more often than not our subconscious will work out a solution. Trust that it will come. This is easier said than done but you must have faith in your ability to get through a block. Or you won’t.
Second: if the block doesn’t clear in a day or two, switch to something else. Try another novel or another short story. Then come back to the project you’re blocked on.
Third: it’s okay if a project dies. Because you have an endless supply of words and other ideas and you will think of other things to write about. This sort of goes back to the first point: trust yourself.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors, like myself?
Evan: Style is incredibly subjective, so I won’t even go there 😉 Using my own books as an example, many readers think dialog is my strong suit, while others have specifically singled it out as my weakness.
In terms of process, the key takeaway is: find what works for you. King never outlines, while Follett spend months outlining and coming up with his characters. Both are wildly successful authors.
Believe me when I say this: if I can do it, you can do it.
Study the kind of books you want to write. The first time through a book is for fun, the second time through is for learning. Try reverse-engineering your favorite books to understand them. This sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn’t take long and it’s actually a lot of fun.
For the most part, I try to follow Heinlein’s Rules. Slightly tweaked, they are: write, finish what you write, don’t edit the book to death, submit/publish it, move on.
Corporate America has taught me there are two main reasons anything ever gets done well (or at all): projects have deadlines and the people working toward those deadlines have measurable intermediate goals. Try this approach with your writing. Give yourself a deadline and daily or weekly goals to chart your progress. Courtesy of the Hawthorne Effect, your productivity will instantly go up.
Finally, to achieve even modest success in any endeavor you must deliberately practice it for 10,000 hours. It’s a long haul and I still have a ways to go, but the journey is a lot of fun.
How is the publishing process? Any advice?
Evan: So far I’ve only published through Amazon but I can tell you that self-publishing is not as hard as many would have you believe. There are dozens of free or cheap resources on how to do it. You can find a good editor for cheap. You can get good cover art for cheap. You can teach yourself how to format your manuscripts over the course of a weekend, and then you know how to do it forever. There’s always more to learn, and that’s pretty cool.
Speaking of learning, every writer needs to learn the publishing business these days, no matter which path they follow. I think writers have the best chance of success through self-publishing and retaining complete control over their work, but everyone’s mileage will vary.
What’s next for you?
Evan: 2015 is going to be a fun and really busy year!
For The Unearthed series, the next three books will be out this year. They are:
-The Hysteria (out this week!)
-The Traveler (probably March)
-The Dream Machine (later this year)
I’m real excited about the historical novel I have coming out in April. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of and I was fortunate enough to write it with a great friend and very gifted author, Nate Green. That book is tentatively called: Language of the Bear. It’s set in Pennsylvania, just before the French and Indian War. A young British officer, new to the Colony, and a brash Susquehannock warrior join forces on a secret mission to assassinate a rogue English lord who’s stirring up trouble on the frontier. We like to describe it as Last of the Mohicans meets Lethal Weapon.
I love saying that 😉
I have three other books planned, not sure I’ll get to them all this year. And in between these projects, I want to finish my two short story collections. I have one more story to write in my humorous Close of Business series, and three or four more to write in my zombie series, In the Blood.
Okay now for some lighter questions.
Coffee or Tea?
Evan: Diet soda 😉
Do you write more in the Morning, Afternoon or at night?
Evan: Whenever I can. During the week, this ends up being at night. On the weekends, I literally block out a stretch of time during the day to get out of the house and work. I treat writing like a job. Because I want it to be my job.
Are you an early bird or night owl?
Evan: Early bird, but to get any writing done I force myself to stay up late.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Evan: I read anything I can get my hands on but tend to enjoy thrillers the most.
What book do you wish you could have written?
Evan: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. It’s a perfect book.
Or Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty. Also a perfect book.
What is your favorite book?
Evan: Impossible to answer so I’ll cheat and say my favorite trilogy of books is Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord series, which is his take on the King Arthur legend. Best. Battle. Scenes. Ever.
Is there anything else you would like for your readers to know?
Evan: I’m grateful for their support. As a reader myself, I know how difficult it is to give a new author a chance, so I really appreciate it when readers try me out. And the feedback has been really helpful.
Most readers might not know or care about this, but really the only way for an indie author to get noticed online is reader reviews. So I humbly ask readers to leave me honest reviews. Even if it’s only one sentence, or just a few words, it goes a long, long way. More reviews lead to more sales, which in turn makes it possible for me to write more books.
And I’d like to thank Ashley for reviewing my books and offering this interview! Ashley maintains a great website and offers fair, honest reviews to authors, even newbs like me. Thanks, Ashley!
It was great to get to chat with you Evan! Thank you so much for your honest answers and kind words. I will definitely be talking to you in the future about self publishing since I know very little about it. One day I hope you’ll be reading my books, a girl can dream right?
I can’t wait to read The Hysteria, to see what Eddie is up to now!