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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Author Interview: Drew Merten

Today I am pleased to present to you all the 53rd in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the gun-toting practical joker Drew Merten and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Drew:  I always write in order. I don't skip around. If I skip around too much, sometimes it's a pain for me to try to stitch things back together afterwards. Other than that, I put my shirt on backwards and eat exactly 3 pieces of Twizzlers before opening a manuscript. Yeah, I'm a weird guy.

Paul:  What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Drew:  My favorite all time author is Dean Koontz, because he writes books that I occasionally have to put in the freezer. Also because he tries to intertwine a love, and hope in his stories, something I also try to do. I also recently discovered Lee Child, whom I'm enjoying immensely. I generally read thrillers, science fiction, and fantasy, not necessarily in that order.

Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Drew:  Most likely a jumbled mess with very little structure, little bits and pieces of ideas floating around. Me with a butterfly net trying to catch them.

Paul:  What is a typical day for you?
Drew:  I get up, let the dogs out, make coffee. Coffee is the single most important part of my day. Two cups and I can sit and write for hours. Any less than that, my attention flags. Some writers wait until after they've written to do the usual checks on email, Facebook, etc. Not me. I do them all first to get them out of my system. Maybe this belongs under the ritual question.

Paul:  In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
Drew:  Well, in all the -ahem- months that I've been publishing, I'd say my biggest mistake has been not building my brand before I got started. Get on twitter, start following people, talking sharing. Start a blog. Do these things BEFORE you get published. That way when your book comes out, you're ready to go. This is something I had not heard of before I started publishing. If you've already published, then get on it! It's never too late to start.

Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
Drew:  That's easy. I'm currently unemployed.

Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Drew:  Don't tell them about the time I went out drinking the night before and woke up at home with my pants around my ankles, covered in puke, and have no idea how I got there. I never tell anyone that story.

Paul:  If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Drew:  Like most writers, I always wanted to be published the traditional way. When I got laid off from my job I decided to start writing full-time while I did the whole job search thing. During that time, I discovered Joe Konrath's blog and started reading it from start to finish. At some point I realized I could eventually make more money if I self-pubbed, so I went with it. It's been an amazing experience.

Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Drew:  I generally do a little bit of both. I like to try thinking the story all the way through, or at least have a general idea of what the ending will be, but I don't always know. When I do outline, I don't adhere to it religiously. If it takes a turn I didn't expect, I go with it and see where it leads. Sometimes it leads to deleting some writing, but sometimes it takes the story in a whole new direction that was even better than I thought.

Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Drew:  I have found that my writing is more fully formed. I have an awesome editor in the form of my wife. I turn each chapter over to her as I write it, and she picks it apart and gives it back. As we've gone on, there's less picking, so I must be getting better. Never underestimate the power of the wifey.

Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Drew:  That depends. I did extensive research on guns, mainly because I have a concealed permit and carry every day. The question of silencers and suppressors always comes up, so I dedicated a blog post to guns in general. What research I do just depends on what the book calls for. I usually just write until I reach a point where I need to know something. Then I do research.

Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it.
Drew:  My most recent novel is called Confessor. It's about a guy who has cataracts over his eyes that normally would have blinded him. He also has this unique ability to see souls, and that gets him into all sorts of trouble.

Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
Drew:  I've always had a love hate relationship with religion and faith in general. Over the years I've come to view things a bit differently than most religions teach, and I wanted to explore those in a book. Also, I just wanted to write a story about a guy who has a pretty awesome power, but isn't a superhero. I grew up reading comic books, and the stories that always stuck with me are the ones where the hero is reluctant, so that played a big part in writing this one.

Paul:  Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Drew:  I do write an occasional short story, I have one for sale called Traces, which is a precursor to Confessor. I have a couple other written that need editing, and then they too will be published. I don't really write poetry, but I'm also a musician, so I've written tons of songs, both the music and the lyrics. I guess those are sort of poetry.

Paul:  Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Drew:  My first novel. It would need a lot of work. I wrote it when I was nineteen, and it took me almost 2 years to complete. In my mind though, it was more a learning experience than anything. When I finished it, I knew I could actually write and finish something. But it's just too terrible to put out there.

Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Drew:  I'm still quite new to the marketing aspects, so I'm learning as I go. Recently I've learned a lot from you, especially where twitter is concerned. I'm still in the process of setting up a process, if that makes any sense.

Paul:  What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Drew:  My least favorite thing is probably the marketing. I've always been a writer, I'm most comfortable when I'm hammering out stories. I'm least comfortable with networking, but I'm getting better at it. My biggest surprise came when I learned my wife could edit. I took it for granted that she would be interested in my work. When I finally let her read one, she ripped it apart, questioned every last thing. It was exasperating, and exhilarating.

Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
DrewFor a minute there, I thought you said turn tricks. Which I don't, I swear. You'll never see me on the corner of 14th and Main. I've got a ton of hobbies. I play piano, guitar, sing, shoot guns, reload, kill plants (my idea of gardening) and next year I'm going to try raising chickens for eggs and meat. Should be interesting. As far as party tricks go, I do one that involves a sock, a bar stool, a bottle of ketchup, and a bra. You should see it. It's great.

Paul:  That was wonderful. I wish you every success for the future.

About Drew Merten: • I would give you the whole "he was born, and then he..." but I'll spare you. Does anyone really want a bullet list of my life? Didn't think so. I write thrillers, dabble in science fiction and fantasy, although the thrillers have currently taken up most of my time. When I'm not writing, I'm hanging out with my wife and our two dogs in Charlotte, NC, and in my very spare time I travel, read, shoot guns, cast bullets, and play the occasional video game. I've written two books so far. My second, Confessor, was just released, and I'm up to my elbows in the sequel, called Wrath.

Drew's Blog: Drew Merten
Drew on Twitter: @mertendrew
Drew on Facebook: Drew Merten
Drew's latest book: Confessor (Amazon)

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