Allan Leverone’s excellent thriller THE LONELY MILE reached Amazon bestseller status in February, peaking at #21 overall in the paid store, #16 in all fiction titles and #2 in Suspense Thrillers. It’s available here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Lonely-Mile-ebook/dp/B005DAX06I
Welcome to Sunday Quickie, Al. How about we start by you telling us a little about yourself.
I went to college with the intention of majoring in newspaper journalism, but after my freshman year, changed my major to Business Administration. That was pretty much the end of my writing career for a quarter-century or so.
About six and-a-half years ago I began writing a sports blog at Foxsports.com, kind of on a lark, because I love sports and just felt like I wanted to write. It was actually pretty successful and I began to develop a decent following, but roughly ten months into my sports blogging career it dawned on me that what I really wanted to do was write fiction—thrillers and horror, the things I’ve loved reading my entire life—so I did.
I wrote a novel-length manuscript with the idea I would submit it to all the big publishers and then sit back and wait for the offers to come rolling in. To answer your question, yes, I really was that naïve. Obviously, it’s been a long and extremely bumpy road since those days half a decade ago, but I’m nothing if not persistent, and I just kept writing, figuring if I was good enough and didn’t give up, eventually good things would happen. To answer your question again, yes, I really was that naïve.
So, what’s the elevator pitch for your book?
Everyone likes to think they would do the right thing under pressure. But what if you stumbled onto the kidnapping of a young girl, and did what you thought was the right thing—broke up the crime and saved the victim—but in so doing, placed your own child directly in the sights of a sociopath? That’s Bill Ferguson’s situation in THE LONELY MILE. When his teenage daughter falls victim to a homicidal kidnapper, he must battle a ticking clock as well as his own self-recrimination to save her. But the situation may not be as it seems, and everything Bill Ferguson doesn’t know may determine whether his child lives or dies.
Sounds exciting! Who are the protagonist and antagonist in the story – and what do you like about them?
Bill Ferguson is the protagonist, and when I wrote his character I wanted to create a regular guy, not a cartoon character or a superhero. Bullets don’t bounce off this guy’s chest. I wanted someone every parent can relate to. He’s not perfect. He’s divorced and living alone, struggling to make ends meet as the owner of a pair of hardware stores being squeezed out of business by the big-franchise competitors.
But he loves his daughter, and when she disappears as a direct result of his actions, he is forced to dig deep inside himself, to discover reserves he doesn’t even know he has, if his child is to have any chance of surviving.
The antagonist is a really nasty character named Martin Krall. He’s a classic sociopath and definitely not someone you’d want to meet in a dark alley, which, of course, made him a lot of fun to write. There’s not a lot about Martin Krall that’s likeable, but as the engine that drives the plot, he’s indispensable.
There’s another character, too, who is extremely complex: FBI Special Agent Angela Canfield. She is the leader of the task force which has been tracking Krall for years, and she teams up with Bill Ferguson in the desperate search to bring down a killer. But there’s more to Canfield than meets the eye, which made her a lot of fun to write as well.
How do you work on your story to bring character and plot together into the final product?
Obviously you can’t have a story without a coherent plot, and I work hard to keep the reader engaged and hopefully throw in a twist or two that you don’t see coming. But in my opinion, characterization is the thing that separates a mediocre story from a spellbinding one. The people everything is happening to have to be real. The more the reader cares about the characters in the fictional world they’re reading about, the more invested they become. And as you know, Ian, that emotional investment is what every author is working to achieve.
What is one thing that has helped you develop as a writer?
Oh, man, narrowing it down to just one thing? That’s tough to do. I’ve learned so much since I started and I know I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what it takes to be a truly skilled writer. I guess I would have to say working with professional editors like Lorie Popp at Medallion Press and freelance thriller editor Jodie Renner. I’ve learned more about writing tight, exciting thrillers from those two extremely competent people than probably every other way combined. It’s part science, part art, and part magic.
Other than that, there’s no substitute for hard work. It’s kind of a cliché that a writer has to write, but it really is true. Writing is like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it.
What is the most successful thing you’ve done to market THE LONELY MILE?
I suppose that depends on how you define success. I’ve worked hard to develop an online presence through my website, Facebook and Twitter, not just pimping my books, but also hopefully giving potential readers a chance to get to know me. My goal is to develop a long-term relationship with readers, not just to sell them stuff.
However, writing books without giving yourself a legitimate chance to sell any of them is no different than keeping a journal, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to introduce myself to readers. As far as individual marketing is concerned, taking advantage of Amazon’s Kindle Select Program was the most successful. Giving away THE LONELY MILE for three days directly contributed to the better than twelve thousand sales of the very same book which followed.
Unfortunately, that giveaway occurred back in February and I’m not sure the dynamics of the program are the same now. So many free ebooks have flooded the market that the effect has been lessened, at least for me. Your results may vary, as the TV advertisers say, but I’m thinking of staying away from the free giveaways, at least for the time being.
Kindle Nation Daily sponsorships are always a good way to reach ebook readers, especially readers of thrillers. The sponsorships can be pricy, though. A very cost-effective way to reach readers is the brainchild of Scott Nicholson, www.ebookswag.com. It’s brand new and author sponsorships are available at a very reasonable price. The site is growing like crazy and for my money is outstanding.
You can find out more about out Al and his writing at www.allanleverone.com.