Friday, August 22, 2008

Interview with Author Austin Comacho!

I met Austin a few years ago at a large book festival and receive his newsletter every week. He is always on the go, too! (I thought I was a road warrior, but wow!) Austin was gracious enough to give me some quotes for my upcoming non-fiction book, "Overcoming Obstacles With Spunk! The Keys to leadership & Goal-Setting", and even had time to answer some questions.
Thank you, Austin!
I envy anyone who can write mystery/thriller! How did you come to select that genre for your main series?

I think most of us write what we love, and I love to read mysteries and thrillers. After reading a few hundred one day I was about a third of the way thru a book and suddenly realized I knew everything that was going to happen for the rest of the book. I said to myself, “I can do better than this!” Thus is arrogance born, and a mystery series too.

From where did Hannibal Jones spring?

Hannibal grew from an effort to recreate the hardboiled detectives of the 30s and 40s, then drag them into the 21st Century. The world has changed a lot with women’s liberation, cultural diversity and relative morality, but the basic iconic hero remains the same. I enjoy watching him deal with today’s world. Also a lot of my son’s personality slipped into Hannibal as they are both young men of mixed race. There are few fictional heroes who recognized both a white and African American heritages. It just gave me so many fun concepts to work with.

You are very successful with signings and promotions. Is there a secret? Is there something that gives you an advantage over other authors?

Um, the aforementioned arrogance? Seriously, the whole secret to success at book signings is to make the bookseller happy. Even if you don’t sell a lot of books, if you make the customers smile and feel part of something special, (“Borders is featuring my mystery novels today, and asked me to come in person so I can sign one for you”) book sellers invite you back. And I arm them with posters, brochures, and a script to read announcements.

Time is my biggest challenge. (I need a 40-hour day!) How do you accomplish so much online and in the physical world and STILL keep up with your writing without neglecting your family?

It’s all about being organized and having a plan. I sincerely don’t believe that I spend as much time away from my family as the guy who shoots 18 holes of golf every weekend and stops after work a couple times a week for a drink with friends. I believe we always have time for those things that are important to us.
Book signings ARE time away, but writers conferences are often mini-vacations for both of us. As for online work, you learn to repurpose content. I write my newsletter in 5 discreet sections. That’s 5 days of blog posts to 7 different blogs I maintain that are aimed at potential readers. My main blog, aimed at writers and those who want to know about us, gets more personal attention, but I do recruit very capable guest bloggers from time to time. ;-)

What types of writing courses do you teach? What seems to be the biggest challenge faced by writers?

I teach the basics of craft. One class is on creating great characters and another is on the use of setting. I also give classes on dialog and plot, mostly at writers’ conferences.

“Public Affairs Specialist”! Is it as exciting as it sounds? What can you tell us about your work in the media?

As a public affairs specialist for the Military Health System my job is two-fold. Most visibly, I respond to media queries. That means I answer their questions when I can, and set up interviews with subject matter experts when I can’t. The media also often have bad data that I need to correct. Recently I read an article that referred to the thousands of amputees returning from the current war that need treatment. I had to let that paper’s editor know that in fact there are fewer than a thousand Iraq/Afghanistan amputees, and that have me a chance to talk about the care they are getting.
But I also work to proactively put out information. That means I write press releases, draft articles for various publications, and run a Blog Talk Radio show with military medical guests.
Fun? You bet. Exciting? Not since the first Gulf War when I was in the field covering the troops.

You’ve obviously traveled a great deal. Is the Virginia/Maryland area what you consider ‘home’?

Despite being born in NY City, growing up in Upstate NY, and the many interesting places the Army sent me, Northern Virginia is now my home. I love being in a suburban atmosphere, but only a 20 ride to the heart of the nation’s capital.

Tell me about Princess the Wonder Cat!

Princess is a black and white Maine Coons with some definitely non-cat habits. She greets us at the door when we get home and wakes me in the morning for work. And if there’s a bottle cap or small enough ball handy, she fetches. She’s really a dog in a cat suit. One day I said something like, “Watch as Wonder Dog fetches this stick.” My lovely wife Denise corrected me that she is indeed a Wonder Cat and it stuck. I’m looking for the right plot right now to feature Princess in her own short story. Got any ideas?

What is next for Austin?

My agent has the 5th Hannibal Jones novel, and the first of a new series I can’t tell you about, and is pushing them hard. I’m cautiously optimistic that my readers will be able to see one of them in print next year. I’ll continue to place short stories in anthologies whenever I can, and I’ve got the third Stark & O’Brien story just about wrapped up so stay tuned!

Austin S. Camacho, author of the Hannibal Jones Mysteries -

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