Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ian Walkley Interview with D.L. Wilson

Ian Walkley Interview with D.L. Wilson
Tell us a little about your background.
My love of novels evolved during my day-job in the fashion industry which took me to 32 countries. The countless hours on airplanes drew me into reading thrillers. My extensive international travel also spawned a fascination with world cultures and exotic locales. Eventually I was hooked and decided to write novels. The process was much harder and longer than I had ever imagined. I was extremely fortunate that my years of practice to become a writer paid off. My first novel, UNHOLY GRAIL, became a national bestseller and has been translated into eight languages. Clive Cussler called UNHOLY GRAIL “a tale rich with intrigue that grips the imagination. A must read.” You can find out more about my writing life at my website

Have you written another novel?

My second novel, SIROCCO, is a bio-terrorism thriller. I’m very proud to say it’s getting rave reviews from some of my favorite thriller authors. James Rollins said “SIROCCO is both a razor-edged thriller and a tour de force.” Steve Berry said “D. L. Wilson is a wry, appealing voice in the thriller world. This one is well worth a look.” You can view a SIROCCO video trailer on my website

Tell us about the protagonist and antagonist in the story—what do you like about them?
The protagonist in SIROCCO, Brett Reynolds an attorney representing the pharmaceutical lobby, rushes to Washington for an urgent meeting of Homeland Security to investigate a terrorist threat by Sirocco, a secret organization within the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
With a bio-terror looming that could devastate the U.S., Brett learns of his brother’s death in a bizarre murder/suicide. He discovers connections between his brother and Sirocco’s terrorist plot. His investigation leads him on a harrowing chase that ends in a deadly confrontation with Sirocco and a chilling climax in the Oval Office.
I enjoyed the opportunity to present a character caught in the maelstrom of a family crisis and a deadly threat to his country. I try to get my readers to envision the daily turmoil gripping my characters and to be there in the moment with them experiencing every joy and every pain.
The antagonist in SIROCCO, Sharifah Abbas, is an intelligent woman who turns to terrorism as a means of gaining power and control in a society that delegates women to a position of subservience to men. Many of my female readers expressed a strange attraction to Sharifah due to her ability to manipulate the restraints of her culture to attain total dominance in her secret terrorist stronghold.
I also used Sharifah to demonstrate how terrorists can manipulate a religion as a means of supporting their evil objectives. In my extensive research I found that it’s not a religion that creates terroristic ideals, it’s terrorists who translate religious manifestos to meet their own sinister desires.
I try to develop my characters as real people who my readers can relate to and feel, see, and experience their lives as my story plot unfolds.

How do you work on a story to bring the components like character and plot together into the final product?
My goal is to write Fiction with Content. I begin with a basic concept of the story line and my key characters. Then I do way too much research into fascinating aspects that support my plot and develop my characters. I focus on the history, technology, associations, people, and locations that become major factors in creating a powerful suspense/thriller. I interview fascinating individuals who work in the fields my characters represent. I want my readers to be caught up in the “thrill” of my novel, turning the pages to follow the tension and twists and turns of the developing story. When they close that last page, I want my readers to reflect on the “content” within the story that opened new interesting perspectives they had taken for granted.
My greatest thrill is receiving the many reader comments through my website telling me they thought some of the content I had presented was incorrect and then they did their own research and realized they had learned something new. If I can enhance readers’ understanding of important aspects of history, culture, and technology as they keep flipping the pages enthralled with the characters and plot of my story, I’m achieving my goal.

In order to bring all the aspects of my novel together, I create a very detailed story analysis that contains Chapters, Scenes, Time Line, Story Line, Point of View, Characters, Tension/Conflict, Setting, and General Comments. I use this to bring a balance to the development of the plot and characters. This becomes my map as I put on my creative hat and start the actual writing of the novel. It’s important to note that as I’m writing my manuscript, I may find a fascinating side trip that takes me from my detailed analysis. But just as I might take a detour during a drive, I always have my analysis like a road map to get me back on the road to my final objective.

What is one thing that has helped you develop as a writer?
The most important factor that has helped me is sticking to my goal of practice, practice, practice. Writing is an art and a craft and art is in the eyes of the beholder. In order to master the craft requires practice and mastering the art, which is constantly changing, requires reading your genre to keep up with the changes and more practice, practice, practice. Every little tweak that grabs your readers by the throat and keeps them turning the pages is a step toward success.

What is the most successful thing you’ve done to market your book(s)?
In today’s technology driven society, I don’t think there’s one simple marketing factor that can make an author successful. I’ve been focusing on the developing e-promotional arena to market my books. It’s a combination of many factors: a good website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Blogging, and new areas like Pinterest that bring your novels to new readers. I’ve gotten great comments about my latest marketing tool, a video book trailer. In today’s market people are attracted to things that are short and sweet. My book trailer is on the opening page of my website at where visitors can click links to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and my Blog.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing is an Art and a Craft

I waited until I retired from my day job before focusing on writing full-time. I learned that advice at a few writingconferences while I was trying to learn the basics of writing. Successful authors stressed it’s not a good idea to quit your day job to become a writer. Being a successful author is a long and arduous task. The big dollars are only earned by a very small percentage of authors. Before you can write that “successful novel” you must learn the skills and technology of writing. And that doesn’t come overnight. Learning can be achieved through university courses, writing seminars, Webinars, books on writing, workshops, and writing groups. During the learning process one mustn’t lose sight of the very import fact that writing is an ART and a CRAFT.
Don’t forget, ART is in the eye of the beholder. Not every reader will love your work. I could hold up two famous, but different style paintings and ask a number of people to vote on which they prefer. The result would be mixed. I have asked members at a writing workshop to write down the name of their favorite author on a slip of paper. At one recent workshop, 30 responses had only one duplicate name. In the words of the famous poet John Lydgate, or possibly P.T. Barnum, or possibly Mark Twain, or maybe even adapted by President Lincoln. “You can please some of the people all of the time. You can please all of the people some of the time. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
It is our job as writers to find what our readers are looking for and try to provide them with exciting enjoyable reads. To do that we must learn the art and the craft of writing. But no matter how many courses or workshops we attend in the technology of writing, success requires practice, practice, practice. A first chair musician at a major philharmonic orchestra does not get to that position after simply learning the art of music by taking music classes. It takes practice, practice, and more practice. A very small percentage of musicians make it to a major philharmonic orchestra, much less that first chair. The same is true for writers striving for a bestselling novel.
When I decided to write thriller novels, I attended conferences, went to workshops, participated in writers’ groups, and networked whenever I could. I was very fortunate to talk to an editor and an author who gave me the same very important advice. Learn the craft and write a novel just for the practice. Don’t intend to send your first attempt to an agent or editor. Treat it as your practice session. Make it your test surgery like the first surgeries a surgeon in training makes on cadavers. Learn from your mistakes without having to suffer the rejection, after rejection, after rejection. Put that first novel into your closet. Lock it in your file cabinet. Then try the real thing. Go for the gusto with a better shot at becoming a published author. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from the author and editor. But then I thought about my many years in the fashion industry and how often I learned from my mistakes and was better for it.
My first effort at writing fiction was CHILDREN OF THE SUN. Only members of my critique group ever read the words that went into that manuscript. I hid the manuscript deep in the back of my file cabinet. When I set about writing my next effort at fiction, I didn’t think I had reached a level where I could feel comfortable that my writing was on a close enough par with the thriller novels I was reading. I created outlines of a few thriller novels and used them as a guide to create an outline for my next effort. I re-read CHILDREN OF THE SUN and came to the conclusion that, as the book progressed, I was improving, but still had a long way to go. I decided to write another suspense/thriller and focused on developing a detailed outline to guide me. The title was PRESIDENTIAL SANCTION and I vowed to once again destine it to my own personal slush pile.
About two years ago when I was working on my latest thriller, SIROCCO, I participated in a monthly critique group that was providing me with great input on polishing SIROCCO. One day I brought a scene from PRESIDENTIAL SANCTION and read it to the group. I watched the expressions of the group changing into weird looks. Finally, one of the members said, “You didn’t write that.” When I asked them why, another member said, “Your writing is much better.” That made my day.

That experience showed me that maybe practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice does go a long way in helping us improve our writing. Practice, practice, practice. 
Image courtesy of Flavio Takemoto

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Passion of Writing

During my “day job” in the fashion industry I was fortunate, or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, to have traveled and worked in 32 countries. The unfortunate part was the countless hours I spent on airplanes or waiting in airports. What got me through those endless trips with some semblance of sanity was reading novels. I was fascinated by thriller authors like James Patterson, Richard North Patterson, John Sandford, David Baldacci, Clive Cussler, John Grisham, Leon Uris, Dean Koontz, the list goes on and on. I became hooked on the thriller genre. It became my reading passion. After many years and reading over a hundred books, I decided to try my hand at writing. Of course, I wanted to write a thriller.
My career in the fashion industry taught me it’s vital for your designers to understand the market before starting to design a new fashion line. Even though I had been an avid reader, I knew I’d better learn the basics before I started the writing process. Lucky an agent suggested that I be sure I knew the basics of what a “thriller” really was. He told me many beginning writers often confuse mysteries and suspense/thrillers.
I learned that the answer to the mystery versus suspense thriller question was harder than I had thought. Someone defined a suspense thriller as being similar to the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography, “I can’t define suspense thriller, but I know it when I see it.”
After much research I discovered that a mystery often opens with a murder or some sort of event that the protagonist spends the rest of the story solving. Mystery novels developed from the concept of “who-done-it and why?”
A thriller or suspense novel involves a chilling event that is threatening to happen or an escalating series of events or murders that build to a thrilling climax. One of my favorite thriller authors, James Patterson, defines thrillers as “a rich literary feast defined by the intensity of emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness, all designed to generate that all-important thrill. By definition, if a thriller doesn’t thrill, it’s not doing its job.”
The International Thriller Writers (ITW) characterizes a thriller as “the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant breakneck pace.” In short, a thriller thrills.
I found that the allure of thrillers comes from not only what their stories are about, but also how they are told: high stakes, non-stop action, plot twists that both surprise and excite, settings that are both vibrant and exotic, and an intense pace that never lets up until the adrenalin packed climax.
Was it the nature of the stories themselves, or the way in which they were crafted that made them so captivating? I reread a number of my favorite thriller novels and wrote analyses of their structure and content. I found it to be a combination of a great story concept and superb craftsmanship that captivated the readers.
In order to learn the basics I joined various writing organizations. At conferences and meetings I learned some of the basics of fiction writing and had the opportunity to meet published authors. That networking interaction was as valuable as the workshops and presentations. As I got to know a number of successful authors, I learned a very important basic lesson. I had ASSUMED the first novels they had published were the first books they had written. I’m sure you know what ASSUME makes out of U and ME. As I got to know these authors better, they shared the intimate details about their writing careers. I found out none of the top notch authors had gotten their first book published. Most of them had written numerous works before ever getting that first publishing contract.
One of the best thriller authors, Steve Berry, who has written numerous New York Times bestsellers and is published in 50 countries, shares his hard journey on his Website. After Steve decided to start writing, he spent 12 years producing 8 manuscripts. His agent spent 7 years submitting 5 of his manuscripts, each one was rejected, 85 rejections all total. On his 86th attempt, the right-editor-at-the-right-time-with-the-right-story was found. The rest is history. Berry went on to become president of the International Thriller Writers and become an icon in the thriller world.
Mary Higgins Clark
How did Mary Higgins Clark become a bestselling suspense author of 42 books with over 100 million sold in the U.S. alone? Mary Higgins Clark, a former Pan Am stewardess collected 40 rejection slips before her first short story was published in 1956. It took until 1969 for her first novel to be published and only in 1976 did she hit the paperback bestseller list. Perseverance and constant practice brought Mary Higgins Clark to the head of the suspense class.
Andrew Gross, the bestselling author of RECKLESS, DON’T LOOK TWICE,THE DARK TIDE, and THE BLUE ZONE, didn’t sell his first effort at a thriller, HYDRA. Andy and I were in the fashion industry while he was working on HYDRA and I was working on my first effort at a thriller. After I took a time out to co-author a university textbook, which took me 2 ½ years to complete, I contacted Andy and asked him about HYDRA. He told me he had gotten a number of rejections and one publisher asked if he would mind if they sent a copy of his novel to one of their authors who was looking for someone to co-author thrillers with him. He agreed. That author’s name was James Patterson! Andy went on to co-author some of the women’s murder club thrillers and 3 other thrillers with Patterson that hit all the bestseller lists.
The lesson from these examples is that successful authors learn to accept rejection because they have a passion for writing. The most important point to remember is: Stick With It! Don’t Give Up! Do it for your enjoyment, not as a road to riches. The road is very long and hard with many car wrecks along the way. Write for the passion and enjoyment of the process, not for the money. If the money comes, congratulations!
Image courtesy of

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Book Signings

by D.L. Wilson

Book signings are very important avenues for new authors to gain readers and improve visibility in the market place.  I’ve learned through a great deal of trial and error while promoting my first novel Unholy Grail what works and what to be cautious of in the fiction arena.  I’m polishing the signing approach with my latest thriller Sirocco.

When planning a signing it is important to determine the best day and time for each particular retail location.  Check out the volume of customers by stopping by the store at various times.  I’ve found that, in general, Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons are good times.  Ask the community relations manager or store manager for their recommendations.  Also be sure to arrive early so that you are prepared when the store sets up your signing table.

Provide the store with materials to promote your signing.  Posters highlighting your book and signing should be provided along with digital photo files of you and your book cover.  Some of the larger book stores like Barnes & Noble can make posters through their corporate system to promote your signing using your digital files.  Free book marks in presentation cases that mention the date and time of your signing could be provided to be displayed at the cash registers and information booths.  Notify local newspapers about your signings in their areas for possible media attention.

Ask the book store to place your signing in the front of the store near the entrance.  That will allow you to be able to approach customers as they enter the store.  That “first impression” is very important in attracting the attention of a potential buyer of your signed novel.  As customers enter the store approach each one and offer them a book mark that promotes your novel.  Most people coming to a book store will accept a free book mark even though they may not stop and look at your book.  As they go through the store they will glance at your book mark and if the blurbs and synopsis are powerful, many will return to review your novel and hopefully purchase a signed copy.

An image, like a picture, is worth a thousand words.  Dress according to your audience and provide posters or banners on stands next to your signing table to draw customers to your book.  Once someone picks up your book and reviews the contents, offer to answer any questions.  Provide clear, concise information about the plot, characters, and research you may have done to write the book.  Be sure your comments create a powerful incentive to buy a signed copy.
Image courtesy of Herman Brinkman