Monday 25 July 2011

Jarrett Rush interview: Chasing Filthy Lucre

Chasing Filthy Lucre by Jarrett Rush

Amazon UK, Amazon US, Nook, Smashwords

Jarrett Rush lives in the Dallas area with his wife, Gina, and their chocolate Lab, Molly. His short fiction has appeared at A Twist of Noir and Shotgun Honey. He blogs at Jarrett Writes.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

In a world where cash is king and data is a drug, a group of reluctant rebels team up to fight a rising corporate power.

How's that? Twenty five words exactly.

How long did it take you to write?

From writing the first word to writing "the end" it was probably about 6 months. I don't have firm dates, but I started it around June 2010 and finished around Christmas. I worked on other short pieces while I wrote Chasing Filthy Lucre so that dragged things out a bit. But that was good for me. It allowed me to develop a rough outline and keep myself following it. If I had just charged straight through I think I would have started to deviate from the path I'd worked out.

This was the first thing I'd written with an outline. I typically wrote from the seat of my pants. I knew the beginning and the ending, but not much in the middle. With Chasing Filthy Lucre, I had much more of the structure figured out before I wrote it. I think that helped quite a bit.

Who designed your cover?

I did my own cover. I work in newspaper design so I'm not unfamiliar with layout and typography. I knew what I wanted and executing was pretty easy. Chasing Filthy Lucre is the first in a planned series and I wanted a look that I could replicate across all the books. Basic colours. Simple typography. Iconic imagery. I'm sure that professional cover designers can look at it and pick it apart, but I'm happy with it.

How important is a good title?

When I'm buying a book it's critical. The title has to catch me. There's no arguing that a great cover is vital to sales, but a great title can overcome a mediocre cover. At least it can if we are talking about me spending my own dollars.

Typically, I like shorter sharp titles. Something with punch. However, that's not always the case. I have been drawn in by the longer title. But again, it's got to grab me. Give me something in that longer title to pique my interest. The titles that don't do anything for me are those that are basically labels. Not to pick on Dickens, he was a great writer but A Tale of Two Cities does nothing for me.

How important is a book's central character?

Again, it's critical. The character doesn't have to be a good person. There are plenty who aren't. But, as long as they're relatable, central characters can typically overcome any flaws an author wants to lay on them.

Speaking for me, I don't like the perfect character. I can't relate to perfect. If I'm reading and a couple chapters in we still haven't found something that the central character struggles with then I'll put a book down.

I was reading something a few months ago that I'd heard lots of good things about. It was a thriller and the story itself sounded good. Once I dived in, though, the central character was the smartest, most athletic, best looking guy, and the only person in the world who could fix the novel's central problem. I take that back. There was one other person with the skills necessary to save the world. It was a woman and she was also the prettiest, smartest, and most athletic. I never finished that book. I don't mind smart. I don't mind athletic. But when a central character's main flaw is that they are too perfect there's nothing there for me to grab onto. I need them to have a problem bigger than being too good at everything.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Write. You hear it all the time, but it's really true. Just write. Don't worry about getting the words perfect the first time. That's what revision is for. Besides, you can't edit words that aren't on the page. Worry, at the start, about just getting a first draft.

I love process. I love hearing how others go about creating, but I think too many times we can get so caught up in trying to emulate how someone else does things that it can paralyze us. I know it's happened to me. I'd read an interview or an article and someone who I admired would say they did things a certain way so that's the way I'd try to do it. It never worked for me. We are all unique. We all have the way that works for us. The only step in the initial creative process that we all share is that we have to write if we want to finish anything.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

The best part is writing that first draft, when the story is unfolding before you, when you get surprised by a character's actions. Thomas Harris said in an interview I read somewhere that he felt like he was a reporter in the scenes of his books just observing and recording everything that's happening. When I read that originally I couldn't relate. Now, I think there's some truth to it. I feel a bit like that myself. Yes, I know generally where the story is going, but I can still be surprised. Your characters do take on the personalities you give them. They do make their own decisions. Sometimes, we have to override those decisions for the sake of the story. We are the gods of the worlds we create, after all. But when the words are really flowing and the scenes are coming and you are just along for the ride, there's no better feeling.

That's my favourite part of the writing process.

What makes you keep reading a book?

A compelling plot and a compelling lead character. Give me a protagonist who I can relate to and stick him in a plot that it looks like he might not get out of and I'll keep reading. I'm a genre fiction guy. Literary fiction doesn't really do it for me. Honestly, some of the books that are the most exciting to me are in the Young Adult genre. The kids don't have time to waste on navel gazing. They like action from Page One and that's what authors are giving them. One of my favourites is the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. The stories start quick and never stop, and Artemis is a great character. Who doesn't love a kid super genius who is also one of the world's greatest super criminals? But there's more to him and it's the "more" that makes you read on. The books are a series and they read quickly. Pick them up if you can to see what I'm talking about. All action. Satisfying story.

Where do you find out about new books?

Lately, all my purchases have been because of recommendations from Twitter, either from the writers themselves or from other writers sharing books they've found. I also find some recommendations on blogs and through Facebook.

When that fails, I can always go to the bookstore and find something. It's usually a good title and an eye-catching cover that will get me first. Read the blurb and a page or two. If I'm hooked I'll pick it up.

Honestly, though, most of the time I'm going off of recommendations from folks on social networking sites. They haven't let me down yet.

What's the best collection of short stories you've read?

I'll give you two. The most recent was 8 Pounds by Chris F. Holm. The writing, the voice, the variety of stories. It was all great.

The other is Rumble, Young Man, Rumble by Benjamin Cavell. I found it a few years go on a discount table at one of the major chain bookstores. The book sticks out in my mind because of the opening story, Balls. It's about a guy who runs a sporting goods store and is obsessed with the standing of his competitive paintball team. It stands out because of the voice. The character is so arrogant and thinks so much of himself, but there is a real insecurity behind his words. It's fantastic.

What are your views on eBook pricing?

Overall, my philosophy is to each his own. You have to price where you're comfortable. I went with 99 cents because Chasing Filthy Lucre is a 21,000 word novella. With where pricing was at the time, I chose 99 cents because it didn't seem fair to price it at $2.99 since many full-length novels were priced there. Ideally I would have loved to try and make a go at $1.99, but that seems like a bit of a pricing black hole so I went with the lower option.

In general, though, I think that self-published and independent works are priced too low, traditionally published books are priced too high, and that it will all work itself out in the end. Once everything settles, I think you'll see many independent novels priced at $4.99, or close to it. That seems like a fair price for both the reader and the author. It also leaves some flexibility to work out a pricing standard for shorter works, like novellas and short stories.

As far as traditionally published works, I can't see how pricing an ebook the same price as a paperback is sustainable. There are continuing costs associated with a print book – the paper and the printing of more books. With an ebook all of your costs are one-time things. You only edit the book once, you only format it once, you only upload it once. You aren't printing new copies. That makes it hard to justify the current pricing, at least to me.

What are the greatest opportunities facing writers these days?

The greatest opportunity is the chance to take things into their own hands and have some success at it. For a long time self-publishing wasn't a financially viable option. The cost to get started was prohibitive and then the chance that you'd make any of that money back was slight, at best. With the Nook, the Kindle, and all the other ereaders, all of that changed.

I went to my first writing convention a couple of years ago. I was excited. I was going to listen to authors and experts speak on the one thing I've wanted to do my entire life. I just knew that I was going to come away from there a better writer and have the knowledge I needed to barge my way into the publishing world.

Instead, I left discouraged. All the authors leading the discussions I attended left a few minutes at the end for questions. Multiple times these authors were asked about finding an agent and breaking in. More often than not they answered the same way: "Don't go by me. I got lucky."

Now, writers don't have to rely on that luck if they don't want to. The ereaders and epublishing have made it possible to actually make a living self-publishing. I know that self-publishing doesn't guarantee any kind of success; there you still need a little luck. But now more writers can get their work in front of readers.

How do you feel about the ease with which anyone can publish?

I think it's great, obviously. I wouldn't have done it this way if I didn't think it was a good idea. There are some who will complain that now readers have to wade through too much junk to find the gems. No one was going to the book stores in years past and just picking up any old book and buying it because it had been through the traditional publishing process. That was no guarantee of quality. The unfinished books sitting on my shelves are testament to that.

Yes, there will be more books to wade through. And, no, not everyone is meant to be a writer. But things will naturally sort themselves out. Most of the good stuff will find an audience eventually. The stuff that's not as good will falter.

Chasing Filthy Lucre by Jarrett Rush

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