Wednesday 1 October 2014

Author Interview with Ben Coes, author of An Eye for an Eye

Title: Eye for an Eye
Author: Ben Coes
Published: 25th September 2014
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Ben Coes Q&A

Ben Coes is the author of the critically acclaimed Dewey Andreas series, including Coup d’Etat and The Last Refuge. He is a former speechwriter for the George H .W. Bush White House, worked for Boone
Pickens, was a fellow at the JFK School of Government at Harvard, a campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s run for governor in 2002, and is currently a partner in a private equity company out of Boston. He lives in Wellesley, Mass.

1. Tell us anything about you as a working writer that you think might be interesting or unusual:

I get up at 5 AM.  I write from 5 – 7:30 AM, then go to work.  

Because I have 4 kids, a wife, a dog, and a full time job, I knew that I would need to create a completely new window in my day to write and not take away from either my family or my work.  

You would be shocked to see the environment I work in.  Typically, at least one of my kids is in the room with me, at least from about 5:30 on.  My 3-year old daughter, Esmé, often sits on my lap as I write.  She asks me if she can “press a button.”  There are many words in the book that were in point-of-fact typed by her (me dictating to her, one letter at a time!) 

I used to think writing was about being inspired, and I would write when I was inspired by an idea, an image, a thought.  A big break-through for me was making writing more of a daily operation.  Whether I’m in the mood or not, I write.  I have a self-imposed minimum of 5 pages double-spaced a day that I need to put out. Sometimes it’s terrible, sometimes it’s good, but by forcing this output I inevitably end up with content. What I’ve found is that there is no corollary between how much I want to write when I wake up and how much and what quality I end up with after a few hours of work.

Also, our house is very drafty.  It’s old, big and drafty.  There are times in the middle of winter that I am sitting in front of the computer in ski pants, a down parka, boots, typing with gloves on.  Those are the days you know you really must want to be a writer.

2. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers on how to get published?

Finish your manuscript.  Then, before you try to get an agent or talk to a publisher, get advice from an editor or writer(s).  Heed that advice and re-write.  When you have something completed, go back to that person and ask if you got it right.  Take more of their advice and re-write again.  I worked with a veteran thriller freelance editor named Ed Stackler who taught me so much I can’t even begin to thank him enough.  The other way of getting great critical advice is by joining a writers group.  I have a friend whose first novel Knopf is publishing in January.  She got her critical feedback from her writers group.  The point is, do not put your MS into the agent/publisher universe until it’s the best it can be.  It’s like toothpaste, once it’s out there, you can’t put it back in the tube.  

Next you need an agent.  Once you have a completed MS you’re excited about, try and get a great agent.  Figure out who represents the top writers in your genre.  I approached Aaron Priest, an agent who is legend in the publishing industry, because he represents a number of the best-selling thriller writers in the world, including David Baldacci.  He agreed to take me on after reading an early draft of POWER DOWN.  I found out while I was on a golf course in California – I felt like I was on Entourage.  Of course I then proceeded to hit the next three balls into a lake.  

Having an agent who believes in your work and who is well-respected in the industry is as important as having a great publisher.  Your agent will likely have more suggested changes – they know what works, listen to them.  At some point you will have something you feel good about and they feel good about selling.  At this point, you should leave it in the hands of your agents.  If you are fortunate enough to have several publishers interested in publishing your work, don’t simply choose the one who offers the biggest advance - choose the publisher most committed to building a long-term career for you as a writer.    

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