Interviewed by James Moushon of HBS Author’s Spotlight

This is a fantastic interview (not because of me) by James Moushon of HBS Author’s Spotlight. He clearly put a lot of time and effort into his questions, and I enjoyed taking the time to delve deeper into my own process. Take a look.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author:

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Event Horizon. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes! I just wrapped up Event Horizon, the second book in The Perseid Collapse Series. It’s available now for preorder on Amazon, and will be released on March 20, 2014. The Perseid Collapse Series is a gritty, post-apocalyptic story set in New England that chronicles the collapse of society from an “event.” The “event” is a devastating combination of a natural phenomenon with a sinister, manmade attack. The first several chapters of the novel focus on the big picture conspiracy and mechanics behind the “event,” but the reader is quickly put in regular shoes, to experience the disaster on a personal level.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

My Twitter following can be a little deceptive. While I do engage with readers on Twitter, most of the impact there comes from retweets by other authors or followers interested in my genres of writing (Post-apocalyptic and political/espionage thrillers).

It’s an easy way for readers to reach out to me, without a ton of expectation. 140 characters makes for short conversation. Twitter also draws people to my blog. I keep a Twitter feed rolling with book reviews (for other authors’ books) and articles that I have posted to my blog. I see these retweeted quite often. The bulk of my regular social media presence comes from Facebook, both my personal page and thriller-writing page. It’s probably the best place to catch what I’m doing, besides my blog.

All of my news filters through Facebook. Blog posts, new release updates, exclusive content releases, contests, genre related news pieces. Beyond that, I do keep a mailing list, which I regularly (2x per month) update with new release information, exclusive content (sneak peek chapters), and upcoming book deals. I converse regularly via email with many readers on this list.

Finally, I’ll talk about finding a niche and expanding it— on my blog at http://wp.me/p1knlr-8h. Sorry to do that to everyone, but I can’t possible do justice to this important topic without sending this interview’s word count through the stratosphere.

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I have to admit that this is one part of the writer’s world in which I am conspicuously absent. Prior to quitting my day job in September of 2013, my time was divided between day job, family and writing, which left little time for anything else. The prospect of giving up weekend time or evenings to sign books didn’t appeal to me.

I have started to do radio interviews, which typically occur later at night and do not interfere with home life. Last week I spent an hour talking to a radio host and listeners in Fairbanks, Alaska. Reaching out and expanding my public exposure is one of my 2014 goals.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Jeroen ten Berge is a gifted artist. I truly wish I could say that I had a direct hand in creating these amazing covers, but I don’t. I send Jeroen an early draft, sometimes just half of the book, and he starts to conceptualize the cover. He’s a big post-apocalyptic fan, so we talked back and forth quite a bit about the story, but I never dictate what I want to see. I leave that to him, and the results are incredible.

What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?CATCH THE REST AT HBS AUTHOR’S SPOTLIGHT!

 

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First Contact (Part One in the Genesis Series)

1082 KW PINES_Konkoly_GENESIS part oneI know I just hit you with book 2 in The Perseid Collapse Series, but I have one more offering that should interest some of you. First Contact. Let me explain.

Blake Crouch, a talented author I’ve admired for years, asked me to write a novella based on his runaway hit series, Wayward Pines. If you haven’t heard of Blake Crouch or Wayward Pines, you’re in for a treat. Part apocalyptic and horror—all thriller, Crouch’s thought provoking series is unforgettable. I can’t recommend the series highly enough.

First Contact is a prequel to his series, and unfortunately contains some spoilers that would ruin the unbelievable, mind-bending twist that unfold in Crouch’s books. Even the Amazon description of my book might undermine the twist. Seriously, the ending to book one in Crouch’s series is THAT GOOD!

If this sounds like your “cup of tea,” I hope you check out the series and give my novella a try. Coincidentally (for real), both of the books in his Wayward Pines series are on sale for $2 each at Amazon. Links below:

Pines by Blake Crouch
Wayward by Blake Crouch
First Contact by Steven Konkoly

This is a great opportunity to discover a series that has created an incredible amount of buzz in the book writing world and Hollywood. The Wayward Pines series was picked up by the FOX television network to be a miniseries staring Matt Damon and Juliette Lewis. Executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, the series has been filmed and will likely air this fall.

http://www.fox.com/wayward-pines/

Thank you again!

Steven Konkoly

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EVENT HORIZON has been released

For public consumption.

1051 Steve Konkoly ebook EVENT HORIZON_3_LEVENT HORIZON: Book Two in The Perseid Collapse Series in now available as a Kindle book on Amazon. The hard copy version follows on March 23 (will ship on the 23rd if you preordered a hard copy). An audiobook version is in the works, expected to be ready by the 1st or 2nd week of April. I’ll keep you posted on that. Here are the links for each version:

EVENT HORIZON Kindle book 

EVENT HORIZON Hard copy

***If you haven’t signed up for my email update list, you’re missing out! THREE Chapters from book 3 are available exclusively to my mailing list folks. If you sign up, I’ll get the chapters to you shortly. SIGN UP HERE.***

Thank you again for your continued support and readership! This has been an exciting year, and I couldn’t have done it without you!

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A quick look into the prepping world of The Perseid Collapse series

Readers of The Perseid Collapse series know that I teamed up with Randy Powers from Tactical Practical  to put a professional eye on the survival/homesteading/prepper aspects of the novel. The Perseid books take these themes to the next level, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t too far into left field with my ideas and theories. I reference a Handbook created by Randy in the acknowledgments of The Perseid Collapse, which contains an incredible amount of valuable, distilled information. I thought I would share one of his blog posts, which explains the BOLT Kits used by Alex Fletcher and his family. Randy has a unique take on the heavily popularized “Bug out Bag.” Enjoy!

Practical Tactical B.O.L.T. Kit©: What It Is And What It’s For

You’ve probably heard of a Bug Out Bag (BOB) or a Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) bag that can be used as a grab and go kit in case you have to leave an area during an emergency situation. At Practical Tactical, we urge our clients to build what we call a B.O.L.T. (Basic Operations for a Limited Time) Kit. This mobile kit based on the basic tenets of preparedness: shelter, water, food, fire, comms/defense and psychological…and is geared towards executing your plan that was developed based on the threats in your area and your individual circumstances and will allow you to maintain your Basic Operations for a Limited Time as you BOLT to your next location that will hopefully be your safe haven from the immediate threat.

BOLT packBOLT pack II

Now, what makes our B.O.L.T. Kit any different from every other Bug Out or GOOD Bag out there? A focused philosophy, that’s what. Often when people talk about emergency bags (regardless of what you call them) the idea starts out the same…put together a bag of essential items like food and water in case you have to leave in a hurry because of an emergency that will help you survive the event…simple, right? But from there, things tend to spin out and become ever more nebulous. Inevitably you end with Jack the Survivor strapping a pack to his back that contains everything from his favorite comic books to ammo for his Barrett 50 cal. which by the way, he has lovingly cradled in his arms as he treks into the wilderness to live off the land for the duration of the apocalypse, and if you don’t do that too you’re doomed to fail miserably and die immediately or be swallowed up by the very mindless hordes you were trying to escape in the first place.

Whew! Just thinking about that was exhausting.

READ THE REST HERE!

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I don’t often cry…

but when I do, it’s usually because I just completed the plot board for one of my novels and realized—I have a long way to go! Each Post-It represents a chapter. I typically add Post-Its as I go. Now I’m really crying.

Point of Crisis: Book Three in The Perseid Collapse Series promises to be a game changer.

Point of Crisis

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Book Review of David Jacob Knight’s The Pen Name

The Pen NameGood horror is hard to come by—very likely because I don’t follow the genre as closely as I should. I love horror with a supernatural twist, which is why Stephen King has always been one of my favorites. With limited reading time, Stephen King’s bi-annual offerings have kept me fairly occupied, satisfying my “horror” craving. I guess I’ll need to make more time. David Jacob Knights first entry into the horror genre instantly earns him a place on my “to read” list. Check out my review of The Pen Name. 

“The Pen Name takes the age old premise of the Faustian Bargain and fashions a unique, utterly horrifying contemporary tale. A devilish blend of psychological thriller and supernatural horror—this one will keep you turning the pages long into the night.

Meet Ben, a struggling writer on the verge of failure. Reality, both financial and family-related, is one step away from crushing his lifelong dream. Armed with his self-published novel, The Mark, Ben takes a chance on a book convention, ordering hundreds of copies of his novel. The books never arrive, crushing his hopes even further. The single bright spot of his day is a chance encounter with Jack Fleischer, New York Times bestselling author, who happens upon Ben at the convention. Fleischer has somehow procured a copy of Ben’s book and asks him to sign it. Ben’s career is about to take off—in a direction he never anticipated.

Knight captures the essence of Ben’s character. His hopes, dreams, frustrations and fears—all play a significant role is the terrifying suspense that unfolds after the “deal of a lifetime” is waved in front of him. The particulars of the deal are sketchy at best, the contract is several hundred pages long, and the Fleischer’s literary agent is impatient. Das Verlag Publishing needs an answer right away! Within the span of minutes, Ben has to make a choice. The rest is white-knucked ride through psychological hell, masterfully twisted and turned the moment you get comfortable.

Das Verlag is a force to be reckoned with, watching his every move—and if Ben violates the terms of his agreement, terrible consequences lie ahead. The problem is that Ben doesn’t have a copy of the agreement, and all efforts to secure one after signing it have failed. When his publisher’s requests start to cross the line of sanity, Ben is catapulted into a life or death struggle to uncover the shocking truth about his contract with Das Verlag.

The supernatural element is present, but never overdone. The scenes inside Das Verlag publishing are awesome…a skyscraper in the middle of the cornfields of Pennsylvania, reachable by taking an unmarked highway tunnel that doesn’t appear on any map. You have to take the trip with Ben to see it. The devil is in the details, and Das Verlag doesn’t disappoint.

I look forward to future offerings by Mr. Knight.”

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Book Review of Michael McFarland’s BLOOD ON THE TRACKS and DUPLEX

Michael McFarland recently notified me that he released a new novel—apparently the first book he’d ever written. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed McFarland’s work in the past, so I was naturally excited to hear the news. Then it dawned on me that I haven’t shared my reviews of his work on my blog. Not sure how that slipped past my ever vigilant radar (not difficult, I suppose). Here is my review of Michael McFarland’s most intriguing novel to date, BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, plus a quick review of a novella he published a year or two ago, DUPLEX. Both excellent supernatural horror/thrillers. Trust me, either novel will impact your electric bill—you’ll find yourself turning on ALL of the lights to walk around at night!

Review of BLOOD ON THE TRACKS:

Blood on the TracksMichael McFarland delivers a brilliant supernatural horror novel with his latest release, Blood on the Tracks, landing him a place next to masters of horror like Stephen King and Blake Crouch, on my must read list.

The story terrified me from start to finish, leaving me afraid to walk around in my own home. This is not an exaggeration. There is something so menacing and chilling just behind the surface of the novel’s narrative, that my imagination ran wild, conjuring up images and concepts of what lurked in the Condon House.

McFarland primarily delivers the tale through the eyes of Detective Gary Murdoch, summoned to the fated Condon House to investigate the latest tragedy to cast a shadow over the house: The suicide of a rising musical artist, with eerie and inexplicable links to the house’s bizarre and twisted past. As evidence mounts to suggest horrible undertakings within the basement’s recording studio, the final pieces of the Condon House mystery start to fit together, culminating in a finish that left me speechless.

There is considerable history surrounding McFarland’s fictional mansion and its deceased inhabitants, starting with lumber magnate John Bradford Condon and focusing on controversial poet/songwriter Ian Ellison. The author does such a good job weaving this history into the story through old journals, news clippings and interviews, that I was left wondering what was real and what was fiction. I hope it was all fiction, because the integration is disturbingly realistic, which in my view is why the story scared the daylights out of me.

Like McFarland’s other work, the novel is well written, with vivid descriptions and natural dialogue. Well paced, building tension from start to finish, the story will keep you turning the pages or clicking the buttons. I am very eager to read McFarland’s next offering.

Review of DUPLEX:

DuplexMichael McFarland has created novella worthy of inclusion in any of Stephen King’s anthologies. The novella incorporates a perfect mix of supernatural suspense and pure human malevolence, to leave the reader reeling with a dominant sense of helplessness, and a sliver hope, even at the most disturbing moments in the story. For a novella, the plot is perfectly paced, launching the reader into immediate distress, and dragging it out just long enough until the ceiling caves in. I found myself attached to the protagonist, and intimately concerned with the family’s situation. What happens to the family, is for the reader to discover. As a huge fan of Stephen King’s writing, I stand by my statement, that this story has all of the elements I’ve grown to love and seek out in Stephen King’s short stories. Michael McFarland has a bright future in the horror genre, if “Duplex” is any indication of the stories rattling around inside of his head.

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Book Review of Allegiance by Tom Abrahams

AllegianceMy book reviews have shrunk over the past six months, mainly due to the time constraints of full-time writing. You’d think I’d have more time, but that hasn’t been the case. Size matters in Texas, but don’t judge the quality of Tom’s book by the length of my review. Allegiance is awesome, and I’ll let you in on a little secret—I’m reading an advanced copy of Allegiance Burned (Book Two). INCREDIBLE. Abrahams has put together a winning series, with memorable characters and serpentine plots.

“There’s a lot to like about Tom Abrahams’ recent release—beyond “Beer, Redheads, And Politics.” Sizzling storyline, snappy dialogue and fiercely intelligent twists are just a few of the elements that lift Allegiance out of the vast political thriller muck and establish Abrahams as one of my favorite authors.

Allegiance pits underdog, Jackson Quick, against a powerful cartel of Texas politicians, oil barons and multinational interest groups, in a brutal, high-octane cat and mouse game played out across the southwest United States. Abrahams quickly turns Quick’s comfortable, Texas lifestyle upside down, tossing him into the middle of a complicated conspiracy with the potential to bring the Oil Industry to its knees. Paired involuntarily with one of Abrahams’ most brilliantly notorious characters, Sir Spencer, Quick reluctantly embarks on a deadly mission to uncover the truth about his boss, the Governor of Texas.

Nothing is what it seems in this story, each situation and scenario shifting with a mercurial precision that will leave the reader stunned. The result is nothing short of a wickedly intelligent, breathtaking thriller.”

Grab a copy today!

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Fiction Research: Black Hole or Thousand Points of Light?

The answer to this question depends on the genre. I’ll stick to what I know and focus on Technothrillers. 

Walking a fine lineReading reviews for my novels can be confusing. “If you like Clancy, you’ll love—” “Doesn’t overwhelm the reader with technical details.” “Too many equipment descriptions.” “Not Clancy.” All true, depending on the reader. For story details, I strive for the middle ground, with a tendency toward descriptions that would satisfy the pickiest Clancy readers.  On the flip side, Clancy-esque minutiae is NOT for everyone, including myself. I’ll be the first to admit, that I’ve read about three quarters of every Clancy novel. Readers skip passages no matter what you write, that’s reality—my goal is meet readers half way.  This has always been my personal preference as a reader, but as a writer, it’s necessary for survival. With most of my books purchased ($5.99 or below) and read on an e-reader, I can’t afford to lose a reader’s attention for very long. Within seconds, they can switch to something new and forget about me.

Research Bookmarks for The Perseid Collapse

Research Bookmarks for The Perseid Collapse

Been there. Done thatMany of my readers are convinced that I’m 1.)  a D.C. insider 2.) a former covert operative 3.) still involved in intelligence agency operations and 4.) have travelled extensively across every continent. There may be some truth to this. I’m not here to dispel rumors or burst anyone’s version of Steven Konkoly. What I will admit, is that I’ve never led an “off the books” Black Ops team on a raid against a Russian bioweapons facility or secretly crossed the Finnish border to investigate rumors of a virus outbreak in the Kola Peninsula.

How do I manage to capture the essence of these operations? My background gives me an advantage. I know the lingo (there’s still a ton I don’t know) and how to navigate online research. I know where to look for articles and how to tell if it’s authentic. Reading everything and anything (books, online articles, subscription sites) helps immensely. I wasn’t on the raid to capture Osama Bin Laden, but I know I could write a fictional OBL raid scene right now, and most readers would believe I had exclusive access to one of the DEVGRU operators on the mission.

How did someone like Tom Clancy get his descriptions, operational details and military jargon so close to reality? In the beginning, he must have fought for exclusive access to some incredible sources. There’s no other explanation. When he became famous, Clancy was granted nearly unfettered access to the military and D.C.  Keep in mind, Tom Clancy  worked in the insurance industry for nearly 15 years before his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, was released. Clancy never served in the military, but he managed to create the impression, from the very start, that he was an insider.

Research Bookmarks for Event Horizon

Research Bookmarks for Event Horizon

Prepping the battle field For me, initial research is critical to achieving momentum. I research on the fly, but I prefer to have the “framework research” already established. Once I finish with my version of plotting, as described in THE PROCESS, I sit back and figure out “framework” topics that need research. If a Marine Infantry Battalion plays a significant role in the story (like in The Perseid Collapse series), I need to know everything there is to know (without going crazy) about the current and future structures for a Marine Infantry Battalion. The Perseid Collapse series takes place in 2019, so I was particularly interested in papers published out of Quantico or the Navy War College about future structure and equipment concepts. This is one example of  dozens of framework research.

Don’t get bogged down here. You have to start writing at some point, and if you’re like me, I feel lost when I’m not in a story. This doesn’t require weeks of prep work. I identify the framework research and do enough to get me started on the novel. I typically like to write 20K words without breaking for heavy research.

Research on the flyThis is the land of Black Holes. Vast seas of time vanish from my day when I’m not disciplined about research on the fly. Sometimes it’s necessary to gain a solid understanding of an important concept, but there’s a difference between researching for the sake of educating yourself and researching to enhance your novel. Trust me, the line is extremely blurry. I still haven’t mastered it. Most of the time, you’ll only know it AFTER the fact. Like getting pick-pocketed. You’ll feel guilty and probably take a break—treat yourself to a snack, because…you’ve gone down a rabbit hole looking for a rabbit, and ended up finding Wonderland. I know I’ve seriously mismanaged my time, when I go on YouTube to watch a clip of a suppressed .50 Caliber sniper rifle for a scene in a book, and emerge from YouTube land 40 minutes later after watching the .50 Cal sniper scene from the movie Smoking Aces. It’s crazy if you haven’t seen it.  Careful, it’s violent and full of bad language. I just watched it again—I never learn.

Google Maps street level view of bridge in Event Horizon

Google Maps street level view of bridge in Event Horizon

Google is my travel agent:  I’ve never been to Novosibirsk, Russia, or Moscow, but I have it on pretty solid authority from a Russian author that most readers would never figure that out through my writing. Damn, I just spilled a secret. Oh well, while I’m at it—I’ve never been to Kazakstan or Argentina. My Russian author friend was surprised that I had never travelled to either Russian location. He knew I hadn’t lived there for any length of time, but the descriptions of the locations, the general feel and the “little things” passed muster.

I like the “little things.” Details about the culture, restaurants, beers, food, street conditions, traffic, graffiti, weather, money, trends—stuff you can find by reading traveller articles, restaurant reviews, hotel reviews, city reviews and tourism board sponsored sites. I spend time on this stuff, and in most cases, if I put a specific description of a location, hotel, street corner, park or restaurant in my novel, it’s real. I change the names (sometimes) for obvious reasons, but here’s a little hint. I rarely make us street names, and I often visualize scenes using Google Maps. If a gunfight occurs in front of 22 Bondegatan in Stockholm, disrupting a cafe with a red and white checkered awning, you’ll very likely find this to be a real place. Okay, I sort of pulled a fast one on you here. I’ve been to Stockholm—but I wrote the scenes from that book and submitted the manuscript to my editor before our Iceland Air flight left Boston.

Militia stronghold in Event Horizon-Eli Russell's place.

Militia stronghold in Event Horizon-Eli Russell’s place.

Here is an excerpt from a recent review. The reviewer is Gustavo Rossi from Buenos Aires. “…The political context is well managed too, and the references to Argentina (books 2 and 3 have long parts there) are surprisingly correct for an american writer…” I’ve never been there in person, but I’ve logged dozens of hours on the internet in “virtual Argentina.” Lesson learned? You don’t have to write on James Michener’s level to connect with a locale. 

Secret Contacts : I graduated from Annapolis with over 1,000 top notch men and women (somehow I got mixed in this crew), many of whom are still on active duty or in the active reserves. They’ve commanded warships, led SEAL platoons and Marine infantry companies in combat, served in the Pentagon, rotated on and off Unified Combatant Command staff (PACOM, CENTCOM, EURCOM, etc). During my eight years on active duty, I’ve met 100′s of other officer, enlisted and civilian contractors. It’s a vast network of professionals that doesn’t divulge secrets or pass information to celebrities. I’ll leave it at that.

The Bottom Line: For my style of writing and genre, detailed research is well worth the time. I’m always feeling the crunch to make progress on a novel, but not at the expense of the reader experience. The trick is deciding which details are essential to the story, and which are gratuitous displays of knowledge gained during a Black Hole trip through the Web. I’m still honing this process. 

 

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EVENT HORIZON: Book Two in The Perseid Collapse

Cover Design and Pre-Order

The cover design for EVENT HORIZON is insanely amazing. Jeroen ten Berge went beyond the call of duty on this one…it doesn’t hurt that he has read every word of these books and has a deep understanding of The Perseid Collapse world. His vision of Boston’s post-apocalyptic landscape is evocative to say the least. Thank you, Jeroen!

I’ve seen bits and pieces of his creative process before, but nothing like this. He’s taken an iconic image of Boston and transformed it into the hell Alex Fletcher must face in EVENT HORIZON. Truly epic!

Before you take a look, and I forget. EVENT HORIZON will be available as an e-book on March 20th. YOU CAN PREORDER EVENT HORIZON TODAY

1051 Steve Konkoly ebook EVENT HORIZON_3_L


Boston before the fire

 

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