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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Switching Themes - Writing What You Love: Author Interview with Peter M. Leschner

Peter M. Leschner has been a practicing real estate and corporate attorney in New York City and New Jersey for over 30 years. But that wasn't enough for him. He wanted to dabble in something more creative and started writing. Startling Connections was his first novel. The Sapphire Prism Cave (Book 1 of A Journey Through the Space Vortex trilogy) is his second novel.

What made you decide to take on the challenge and write a novel? How long did it take to write your first book? How many rewrites did you do on it?
I am attorney having practiced commercial real estate law for over 30 years. Ever since reading The Firm by John Grisham years ago, the idea of writing a novel and doing something artistically creative has intrigued me. I worked on a thriller entitled Startling Connections over the span of many years while practicing law. I tried to get an agent and/or a publisher to publish it but my attempts were met with numerous rejections. Although the book was finished, I put it in a drawer and did nothing with it for several years. Fast forward to 2009. 

What happened next?
After leaving my traditional law firm job in New York and starting up my own law practice, I had more time to think about writing again. On most nights when I put my children to bed they wanted to hear a bedtime story. Night after night they asked me to come up with a bedtime tale and usually I did. One day I mentioned to my daughter that I had actually written a whole book (Startling Connections) and parts of other books. She was very interested and wanted me to read the book to her. Startling Connections is actually a thriller for adults so I had to read her an edited version of parts of it. She thought it was very good and encouraged me to get it published.

Around, 2010 self-publishing through Amazon, the iBookstore and Barnes & Noble for e-readers was really taking off. I spent a year rewriting and updating Startling Connections. I also hired an editor to work with me and by the end of the 2010 beginning of 2011 I self- published Startling Connections. To date it has received 11 five star, 2 four star reviews and two three star reviews on Amazon.

Who helped you with the editing?
I did pay someone to help with a light edit of Startling Connections since it was my first book and I wanted it to be a as professional as possible.

How did you decide on the way to do your self-publishing
I researched self-publishing (uploading the files) and figured how to do it on my own after a lot of reading on the subject. I did utilize a professional to format the e-books so that they would come out well.

Are you involved with any critique groups?
I am not active in any critique groups, however, I sometimes interact with readers or authors in the author's forums on Amazon.

How do you go about getting book reviews?
I have given some books away but I never condition giving a book in return for a review. I thank a reader and say if they want I would welcome a feedback either in the form of an email or a review. Some reviews are from people who know me but others are posted by strangers who I don't know and have never met.

Could you give me a short synopsis on suspense novel, Startling Connections for my readers?
The protagonist, Larry, lived an uneventful life as a commodity trader in New York City until a sudden tragic incident during a routine dinner with a friend connected him to Sofia, the beautiful and intriguing woman of his dreams.

Their ensuing relationship unravels a sequence of life-changing events. Sofia is mysteriously abducted by a global terrorist organization about to launch an attack of unprecedented dimensions. Though ill prepared for such a journey, Larry's love for Sofia and his fear of losing her force him to embark on a dangerous quest filled with thrilling non-stop action as he travels to the ends of the earth to try to find Sofia, get her back and thwart the terrorist organization's diabolical plans.
Startling Connections, though packed with action and a twisting plot, also examines the causes of extremism and terrorism in modern society and the dilemma as to best way to confront and eradicate it.

Sounds intriguing! How did you make the jump from adult suspense to your second book which was written for children?
 Although my daughter was excited that I had published Startling Connections she quickly came to realize that it was not a book for kids that she could have her friends read. I was thinking of writing another thriller but she pleaded "Dad can't your write a kid's book that my friends could read?" I protested "I don't know... I was thinking about another thriller." "PLEASE Dad..." Well, as any parent knows, it is extremely difficult to turn down a request like that from your child so after some thought, I agreed.

I ran my idea for the story A Journey Through the Space Vortex broken into three books by Katherine. She gave the story concept a thumbs up. Day after day I would work on the outline and write a few pages of book one-The Sapphire Prism Cave. Night after night I would read her what I wrote and she would give me helpful comments like "Dad, a kid wouldn't say it like that - how about..." So I had a good instant feedback from a great "editorial assistant."

Every day she should would ask "Did you write?"  Most days the answer would be "yes", but if it was "no" I was in big trouble!  Finally, I finished a first draft of the book. We were both very happy and excited with how the story turned out. For the next six months I edited, polished and proofread the book with the assistance of a number of readers.

It was first published on Amazon, the iBookstore, Barnes & Noble and Kobo as an e-book. Just this year in April, I published it using Createspace, as a physical book. So far the book is just being discovered, but I have gotten very positive feedback on it so far from both children and adults.

How far along are you on the rest of the trilogy?
I have a rough outline of the plot for the second novel in the A Journey Through The Space Vortex series and have the concept for the third and final book.

How do you write? Did you do an outline first? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
I use three separate documents for writing. The first is an “idea list” where all ideas for the book are quickly jotted down as they occur so that they are preserved. The second is an outline where I organize and develop the ideas. Lastly, there is the draft of the book itself where the story is actually written.

Although many of the thoughts and ideas are organized in the outline, I often spontaneously develop and add plot, description detail while doing the actual writing. I also find that listening to great music helps get the creative juices flowing. (The Rolling Stones and The Who are two of my favorites to listen to while writing.) With respect to character development, I usually think about and feel the character’s personality and bring it out during the writing. For example, in The Sapphire Prism Cave, James is full of energy, enthusiastic and daring. These characteristics comes out through his actions and dialogue.

How much does social media play in your promotion of your books?
I have separate Facebook pages for each book where I can post about things of interest and interact with readers. I find that reading a review from someone who truly liked your book or receiving an e-mail from someone touched by it is one of the most rewarding aspects of writing. I sometimes post about my books on pages like Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble.

A writer is often confronted with a dilemma as to how to get their books noticed by readers. If he or she says nothing, it is harder for a potential reader to discover the book and the author. If he or she constantly posts only about the book, many readers “tune it out” because they consider it spam. The best thing seems to be to try to provide interesting content, i.e., pictures, articles and writing, which the provides value to the reader. The problem with this is that providing truly valuable content can be very time consuming.

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book? What has worked best for you in generating sales?
The best way I have found to promote my books and actually generate sales is to temporarily reduce the price and publicize the book and price reduction through sites such as eReader News Today, Kindle Nation, Book Bub, Pixel of Ink, Kindle Tips and Tricks. I think more readers will give a book a try when the price is reduced and it is brought to their attention by these sites. Before doing this though it is best to have a number of good reviews, a good synopsis and a great cover.

I have tried Facebook ads and unfortunately found that that so far they have not been very effective in actually increasing sales of books.

The ultimate goal, though hard to achieve, is to get enough people talking about and recommending the book through word of mouth so that publicity and promotion is no longer necessary. I think most people discover and read books recommended by their friends and also in a book review or from a “best seller”

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
Coming up with a good marketing plan for one’s books is difficult and involves a lot of trial and error and consistent, hard work. Also how difficult it is to turn marketing efforts into actual sales.

What have you learned about writing you would like to pass along?
You have to have a real passion for what you are writing about. You have to really care about quality and pay attention to details. Quality is more important than quantity. You have to define what success means to you. Do not be afraid to try new things and experiment. Don’t be afraid of failure. If you don’t try something you will never succeed and if you don’t love what you do, you will never do it well enough to truly succeed. Keep trying new things and don’t give up. Don’t make excuses for not writing or getting a book done.  Just do it, despite obstacles that inevitably arise. The satisfaction of accomplishment from finishing it makes the struggle to get it done worthwhile.

What is the best advice you’ve heard about writing?
Veronica Roth gave an amazing answer to a similar question which has stuck with me. She said “One piece of advice I have is: Want something else more than success. Success is a lovely thing, but your desire to say something, your worth, and your identity shouldn’t rely on it, because it’s not guaranteed and it’s not permanent and it’s not sufficient. So work hard, fall in love with the writing—the characters, the story, the words, the themes—and make sure that you are who you are regardless of your life circumstances. That way, when the good things come, they don’t warp you, and when the bad things hit you, you don’t fall apart.”
That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to know more about Peter’s writing and his books, here’s some links to do that.

Startling Connections on Amazon:

Startling Connections Facebook page:

The Sapphire Prism Cave on Amazon:

The Sapphire Prism Cave Facebook page:

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