Posts Tagged James Rollins

James Rollins–NY Times Best-Selling Cyborg or Human Geek Like Us?

Not an actual photo of Jim, rather a hastily Photoshopped rendition of my warped imagination.

Today, we will be chatting with James Rollins. Yes, you read correctly–JAMES ROLLINS. As in New York Times Mega-Best-Selling Author *swooning*. Whether you have read Jim’s books….*giggle* I totally just called him JIM *squee!*. Okay, being serious now.

Whether you have read Jim’s books or not, there is something about that title–NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR–that takes away a writer’s humanness. For some reason, us mere mortals look upon the NYTBSAs (pronounced Nyit-buh-Saws) as if they no longer eat meals or have to pee. They are the…NYTBSAs and they live in their mansions made of gold while agents deliver big bags of money. Every thought they have is utter brilliance and they write 10,000 words a day of magic. Their biggest worries are what to wear to the book signings.

Nothing with buttons that could get ripped off by hoardes of screaming fans.

Many of us treat the NYTBSAs like some other creature, a new step in writer evolution. We get this weird vision that they start out like us….lowly writing caterpillars crawling along, struggling to say “dangling participle” without giggling. Then one day, they land an agent. Feeling dizzy, they stagger to their offices and cling to their laptops. Paralyzed, a crysalis forms around them and begins to pulsate with life. It is during this metamorphosis that these writer-humans start to change…into NYTBSAs.

Once they break free from their cocoons, NYTBSAs no longer go out in public or even shop for their own groceries because the brilliance of their sheer awesomness could blind onlookers. We believe the NYTBSAs spend their days talking to Hollywood about who should be cast in the movie version of their latest book. There is a part of us that is very jealous because, in our minds, the NYTBSAs no longer have worries or struggle with self-doubt.

They aren’t like us. They aren’t human. They are NYTBSAs, the cyborgs of the writer world–part human, part machine….

…or maybe not.

I actually have had the rare privilege of getting to know James Rollins. It started with fan mail. Jim just kept sending me letters begging to get to talk to me and tell people he was my friend and please, please, please could I sign one of my books for him.

…okay, I totally made that up. 

No, I have been blessed to get to know Jim and find out he is probably one of THE single coolest people I’ve ever met. I now realize that at least one part of the NYTBSA legend is true. Jim possibly could blind others with his sheer awesomeness. But, don’t take my word for it. Here is the interview that proves my point, and you guys can decide.

James Rollins–NY Times Best Selling Cyborg or Human Geek Like the Rest of Us? 

Jim, thank you for being here and agreeing to answer a few questions.

Uh…sure. Who are you? Are we in a van?

You’re so funny.

No, seriously, I think I’m in a van. Why are my hands tied?

Sorry about that. For your own safety. Just answer our questions and we’ll set you free. Back to the interview. It looks like the prophesied Rapture came and went, and yet we’re all still here. Any advice for those of us facing the NEW end of the world date….October 21st? What preparations have you made for the 2012 Apocalypse?

What?  October 21st?  Before Halloween? And I bought all of those discounted post-Halloween decorations last year.  I guess I’m going to have to put them out right now.  The decorations may raise the eyebrows of a few neighbors, but I’m getting my money’s worth.  Man, apocalypses are so inconvenient.  

You wrote the novelization for the most recent Indiana Jones film. How was this fan fic experience? If you could have one piece of Indy’s gear for yourself, which would it be?

One piece?  I already own an Indy hat and a whip. Okay the last is not an official “Indy”-endorsed product (hmm, am I revealing too much about myself?).  As to writing Indy, I had a blast.  I was the biggest fan, so to be able to put on that hat and play Indy on paper was so much fun.  Plus visiting the Lucas studios was like Charlie visiting the Wonka Factory (just no Oompa-Loompas).

Is scuba-diving part of your master plan to be the discoverer of the lost city of Atlantis, or are you just visiting relatives? Why the fascination with water?

I grew up in the land-locked Midwest.  I never saw the ocean until my mid-twenties.  So once I reached that first shoreline, it was love at first sight—and I literally dove right in.  I think one of the reasons I enjoy scuba-diving (and caving) is because this world is so thoroughly mapped and Googled that there are few places “unseen”–but underwater or underground you have a potential to “see” something for the very first time.

Reality television is just more proof that zombies likely will take over. When the zombies do strike, how long do you think you’ll survive? What items would you grab before taking shelter?

Wait?  Are you saying the Apocalypse of Oct 21 is going to be a zombie apocalypse?  Great, now I can’t use those zombie Halloween decorations.  Zombies absolutely hate being teased and made fun of  (and, boy, do I know that first hand…but that’s another story for another time).  As to going into shelter: no way.  I’m going 100% Zombieland during that apocalypse.  I’m going on a cross-country zombie-slaying rampage.  I may do that even if there’s no zombie apocalypse.  I may pair it up with my book tour.

What is the ultimate combination of pizza toppings, not to mention the perfect cheese ratio?

Oh, now we’re getting dead serious here.  The perfect pie is Italian sausage, pepperoni, and green pepper on a thin, crisp cracker crust with extra cheese (the exact cheese to pie ratio is still being perfected in an underground lab in Eastern Europe).  And that pie should be from Aurelio’s Pizza in Chicago.

I hear that you’re a gamer, does that mean you’re hardcore and have an IV of Monster energy drinks and your favorite food is Cheetos, or are you more of a casual gamer (Mountain Dew and pizza)? Since you are a writer AND a gamer, do you consider yourself a connoisseur of energy drinks? OOOH! Squirrel! Where was I?

That’s a lot of questions.  I need to grab another Rockstar Energy Drink before answering that (and yes, I’ve moved from Monster to Rockstar…I mean, it is the afternoon right now.  Monster is a morning drink).  As to gaming, I’ve got it bad.  Perfect day:  Gears of War on Horde, a pizza, a Rockstar hydration drink, and a bathroom close enough nearby to run to between rounds.  And by perfect day, I do mean day…as in 24 straight hours of game play.

What bad habit do you struggle with? What do you wish you could change?

Um, did you hear my answer to your last question?  Stop me before I start wearing diapers when I play.

I see, among your recommended authors, Neil Gaiman, JRR Tolkien, and Roger Zelazny. Admit it! You’re a fanboy just like the rest of us! *ahem* With that in mind, if you were ever able to sit down with JRR Tolkien, what would you ask him (once you got over the fact that you were talking with a ghost or had successfully traveled back in time)?

Admit I’m a fanboy?  I wave my Geek flag proudly. I met Terry Brooks at a writing conference where I all but genuflected in front of him.  I wore a t-shirt all through high school that read “Keep on Tolkien.”  So you think that flag isn’t still flying?  My office looks half like something out of the British Museum and half out of a comic book store.  What would I ask Tolkien?  I would ask him where that secret portal to Middle Earth is and what should I pack.   

You once were a veterinarian, so maybe we can finally lay this question to rest. What is the average air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

European or African?  (Oh, man, now I’ve really shown how much of a Geek I am, quoting Monty Python).

How many pets do you have, and do they boss you around?

At this exact moment, I have a drool-laden tennis ball in my lap, dropped there by my Golden Retriever. She’s very upset that I’m doing this interview versus giving her my full, undivided attention.  I also have a Dachshund who’s only command is:  Feed me now. I hear it every morning at 6 am.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

You’ve got to be kidding.  As a movie buff, just my Top Ten is a Top 100.  I can’t pick just one.  Just off the top of my head:  Jurassic Park, Alien/Aliens, Terminator, All the Indiana Jones pictures, the Star Wars trilogy (and you know WHICH trilogy I’m referring to), Sound of Music (how did that get in there?!?), the LOTR trilogy, Galaxy Quest, and the list goes on an on.

Finally, you have a new novel, The Devil’s Colony, that is about to be released. What was your favorite part about writing this novel? Tell us a little about why you are so excited about this particular story. 

The most exciting part is being able to set a story in the United States.  It took me forever to come up with a story to address the “national” in an “international” thriller.  Even after coming up with the idea, it took a full two years to write.  As to the favorite part, it’s the appearance of the Orcas.  And that’s all I’m going to say—not because it’s a secret, only because that wet tennis ball is soaking through my pants and there’s a very demanding paw resting on my knee.

Thanks, Jim! We can set you free now. Your dogs were most helpful in abducting you. Apparently Chuck Wendig is not the only one who can be bought with bacon.

I was totally kidding about the van, though there are some regular readers who probably wouldn’t put it past me. I hope you enjoyed this interview with James Rollins, and if you have any additional questions for Jim, feel free to put them into the comments. Either Jim can answer or I will try to hack into his computer and answer for him later. Please tell your friends about this interview and offer some writer support to our pal, James Rollins. Apparently even NYTBSAs still need help and do a lion’s share of their own promotion, and I know you guys are an amazing group who always impress me with your enthusastic support.

I love hearing from you! No need to be shy. What do you want to know? Thoughts about your own notions of NYTBSAs? And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I HIGHLY recommend his new short story exclusive The Skeleton Key, and also check out this killer video clip where Jim tells us all about his upcoming book The Devil’s Colony (pre-order today!). Was America founded on a lie? Was there a cursed 14th colony blotted from the pages of history?

Also, Sigma to the Rescue. More proof of how super cool Jim really is. Support Sigma, and you SUPPORT THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF AMERICA! How cool is THAT????? Spread the word and save a life. Sigma Force saves puppies and kittens, too. Ahhhh.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

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59 Comments

Why Pen Names Suck & Can Make Us Crazy

Yes, you heard me correctly. Pen names suck 50%….no 67%…no….okay, 99% of the time. Oh, don’t start whining. Don’t you think I would have like to have been something a tad more glamorous than Kristen Lamb? When I was 5 my father convinced me that he had legally changed my name to Mary Hannah. Get it? Mary Hannah Lamb? Yeah, I didn’t find it funny either.

I actually am on your side. When we are about to make a decision that is going to cost extra work, we need to make sure we are doing it for business purposes. Yet, in my five years experience with social media, most of the time, people want pen names for the wrong reasons. We will talk more on that in a moment.

Pen names can suck. They are old paradigm. Before you disagree, let me explain.

Novelists, historically, have had a staggering failure rate. It was actually statistically EASIER to be elected to Congress than to make the NY Times best-seller list.

Why? Because writers only had control over the book. Marketing and platform was handled by other people.

Note: I use the term “handled” very loosely, because even now, if you aren’t a heavy hitter, you can expect little to no marketing support. Is it because NY is evil and sitting up all night thinking of ways to sabotage the dreams of new writers? No. They are a business and have overhead and payroll. New writers are an untested commodity, thus money, time and effort gets sunk into proven players. Makes total business sense.

Unless you’re the new kid.

But, until now novelists had ZERO control over building a platform of people who knew them and supported them even before the book went to print. These days? Totally different story. There are unagented self-published writers now becoming millionaires because of their PLATFORM…but that’s another discussion for another day.

In the old days, an author had ONE way to build a platform….LOVE for their books.

Ahhh, but there is the sticky wicket. If I write a book and no one knows about it, then it is likely to fail because no one knew about it. So the only way to help a book succeed is to have fans, but if no one knows about my book, how do I get fans?

It’s like we need experience to get a job, but if we don’t get a job, how can we get experience? We need credit to get a credit card but how do we get credit if no one will give us a credit card?

Social media has changed everything. Our following now supports US. People liked and supported Kristen Lamb before I ever even had a finished book (THANKS, btw :D). Now I have fans of me and my book. How? I built a social media platform.

Unlike writers in the past, I do have control over writing a darn good book AND building a platform. It is double the work, but now I actually exercise some control over my future. It is already DOUBLE the work, why make even MORE?

We already have a full time day job and kids and pets and needy houseplants, why balance multiple identities when you don’t have to? Why make the marketing side an even BIGGER chore?

This is part of why pen names can suck. But let’s look into traditional reasons to have a pen name and why most of the time they are no longer valid.

Privacy—Okay, um privacy is an illusion. Unless we only use cash and live as a wandering hobo on the fringes of society, there is no such thing. Everything is electronic.

That grocery store card on our keychain that saves us money is recording everything we buy and how often. We are on camera everywhere we go. Nothing about our life is private…period. Believing that a pen name is somehow going to give us this magical anonymity is like thinking that hiding under a blanket makes us invisible.

 Whooooo…you can’t see me.

If we are wanting to build an entirely new identity for marketing purposes, that is great. But we cannot suffer any illusions that we can hide. It is a pen name, not witness protection. Yes, historically, the nom de plume was a safe haven. That is ancient history.

An example…

Say I write kid’s books under one name and hardcore bondage erotica under a pen name. Stop laughing.

All it takes is someone taking my picture at an event or a book signing then posting that on their Facebook page for everything I have spent years building to crumble. Someone surfing recognizes me as the same lady who read her new kid’s book at the mall.

Now I potentially have a huge problem. I tried to use my pen name to hide what I was doing.

I have friends who write erotica and they are fun and wild and carefree…and often like hanging around a bunch of 8th grade boys. But these women feel very confident in their work and their sexuality, and if they are using a pen name it is to make their writing sell more copies because their name sounds sexier. Their motivation is not to hide from the world what they are doing.

BIG difference.

Any 10 year old with basic computer skills can find out our real name. As search engines get faster and better and more and more people are contributing content? The problem only grows larger. It is a Brave New World. There are blessings…but they come at a price.

People at work will find out—This is the same scenario. Privacy is an illusion. And, like I said on Wednesday’s blog, the good news is that most normal people don’t spend their free time googling coworkers to see what they are up to when they leave the employee parking lot. That’s just weird…and kind of creepy.

Just write. If you become a best-selling author you won’t be working there anymore anyway. Why care?

I have a difficult last name—On social media we get to see people’s names over and over and over. We don’t have to be able to pronounce your last name in order to recognize it. In fact, that name you have hated since grade school actually can help you stand apart from all the other writers. Don’t take my word for it; ask Janet Evanovich.

If my name is Inga Skjold, all someone needs to remember is my name begins with “Skj…” and the Amazon search engines will deliver them right to my books.

Google has red slanty letters to correct people who misspell your name. Go type in “Author Janet Ewanoviche” and see what happens. Google will be right there with red slanty letters asking “Did you mean Author Janet Evanovich?”

My name is boring—Okay, our name is only half of the brand. NAME + CONTENT = BRAND.

Stephen King was a boring name shared by thousands of other young men. Then, the name was associated so many times with horror writing, that the name Stephen King is now synonymous with horror, and I really feel sorry for King’s male peers who share his name.

Our name only sells books because people recognize it, not because it is fancy. How many of you have ever said, “Wow, that author has a really snazzy name. I think I will buy her book.” We buy books because the title of the book sounds cool or the story sounds interesting. Dan Brown, Sandra Brown, Stephen King are not terribly exotic names.

The pen name is not the place to be glamorous. Earning fat royalty checks that let us go spend a weekend at a spa is the real place to get glamorous. If we don’t have time left over to write great books, then who cares what our name is?

I write more than one genre—For now? Yes, that might be necessary. My opinion? This practice is going extinct and will be dead before the end of the decade. I give it five years max.

Historically, publishing houses made authors use different names if they switched genre. Why? Because the only platform a novelist could grow was a platform of people who loved the writer’s books.

We were trapped under a traditional marketing paradigm. The general public wasn’t on-line interacting real time with their favorite authors. We needed multiple names to keep readers from getting confused.

I have a confession. Are you sitting down? I write thrillers too. How many of you just had your brains explode? No one? Did it rip the fabric of your reality that I do more than one thing?

This is the first time in history that authors had control over their platform. ONE NAME. If you must have a pen name, build it under the umbrella of YOUR NAME. Bob Mayer has his books listed on his site. We get that Bob Mayer writes thrillers, sci-fi, romance, NF, and now historical fiction…and yet we live to tell the tale.

If you want sci-fi, check out Bob Mayer as Robert Doherty. Still alive? Good. See how easy that was?

If we build our platform using our own name and then our agent wants us to have a pen name? No problem. Just keep business as usual then mention, “Oh and soon my romance under my pen name FiFi Fakename will be available for sale. I’ll let you know when.” Notice we don’t have to scurry off and build an entirely new platform with an entirely new identity.

I just found out Kristen writes fiction, too. Can I go on?

I am afraid of failure—Join the club. Some of you want to wait until the writing is successful to let friends and family know about the other half of your life. But it is coming at the cost of you spreading yourself too thinly to be effective. Hey, I have been there. I know!

Dreams come with risk. We don’t get a pass on risking failure. We all risk that. I have failed many, many times, and I have learned to take my lumps, laugh it off and keep going. Failure is part of life, and it is a core ingredient of the successful life. If we are spending so much time hedging against a fall, then you are planning for failure. Your focus is in the wrong spot. Focus on success.

Take the plunge!!!

When we use the name that all our friends and family, coworkers and people who knew us in school remember, we get an added advantage of activating our intimate networks. I have people who barely spoke to me in high school who are now some of my biggest cheerleaders. They are excited to get to support a writer they know.

Never underestimate the power of those close connections. The same family members rolling their eyes at you now will be the first to buy a book and tell all their friends and coworkers.

Are there good reasons to have a pen name? Certainly! But expect more work and plan accordingly. Make sure you are choosing that name for good reasons, not to hide, buttress against failure, or to masquerade fear.

That simple.

Can you have a pen name? Sure. I won’t stop you. But my job as a social media expert is to give you my honest opinion. Most of the time, pen names are a total time suck that take away valuable time doing more productive things like writing great books. If you still want a pen name, rock on. Make sure you get a copy of my book so you can do it in a way that won’t have you up on your roof with a shotgun and a stockpile of tequila.

All right. Questions? Comments? For those of you who have a pen name, any pointers for those who must have a nom de plume?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

This Week’s Winner of 5 Page Critique–Laura Droege

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

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166 Comments

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