In about 1979 a good friend gave me a worn paperback copy of “Raise the Titanic” by Clive Cussler. Until that time, I seldom read for pleasure—there was plenty of reading required for my college studies and I felt that was sufficient. Still, I started reading one evening and soon met Dirk Pitt and the rest of the cast. From that moment, I was hooked on action thrillers. If only I could create these wonderful stories, I would often daydream when the rigors of university studies and work seemed to be endless.
Eventually I completed my undergraduate and then graduate studies, and I went off into the “real world” and started a career in science, engineering, and business. My love of thrillers never faded. I read all of Cussler’s novels and discovered many other authors to follow including Michael Crichton, James Rollins, Dale Brown, Matthew Reilly, Jon Land, Wilbur Smith and Lincoln Child.
The analytical part of my brain was contented with inventing and navigating through business relationships with companies around the globe. But over time the creative part of me was yearning for something more—something different.
About 5 years ago I started to put together the bare framework of a plot that eventually became the structure of “Crossing Savage”, an action/political thriller and the first Peter Savage novel to be released through Light Messages Publishing. Initially, I did all the outlining in secret, not even telling my wife. It was a strange feeling, like I was embarrassed. After all, my education was in science, my profession engineering—what did I think I was doing?
Of course, once I started to actually write the manuscript there was no way to conceal my effort. My wife just smiled—she didn’t accuse me of being nuts but I couldn’t blame her if she thought so. That first manuscript was a birthday gift for my son; he was 9 years old. I still have it.
I absolutely loved writing that story. To be in control of the characters—their actions, feelings, how they responded to events—and the plot elements, everything! It was mine, and I could do what I wanted, including stretching the laws of science and engineering to suit my whims. Well, birthday over, the manuscript was put away, and that’s where it would have stayed had it not been for that same friend who, years earlier, had given me the paperback copy of “Raise the Titanic”. When he learned of the manuscript, he encouraged me to send it to him (he’s an English major), and I did. His feedback was brutally honest (necessary) and, at the same time, he was very supportive—he really liked the story and characters.
I set to reworking the rough draft (yes, it was very rough) and when done I decided to learn how to get it published. That was an education. I took an evening class in publishing offered through the local college, and devoured everything I could find on the internet. After several months, I felt I knew what to do. So I began by seeking literary agent. Again, more searching, about a hundred submissions, lots of rejection, even more ‘no-replies’. But one agent did accept me as a client. It felt like a victory. Alas, that feeling did not last long. After 6 months of no results, I terminated the agency relationship and plunged head-first into self-publishing. Why not? I knew how to form a business as a legal entity, and I had educated myself in publishing—plus it is so easy now to format a book and make it available through Amazon.
All the while I kept looking for a traditional publisher. Eventually my persistence—well, truthfully, it was luck—paid off and I was contacted by Light Messages Publishing. After several conversations I submitted my manuscript, it was read, and more conversations—and then I was offered a four-book contract. Standard deal, no six-figure advance or anything like that, but hey, I was under contract with a traditional publishing house!
As I worked with my editor I quickly realized that it takes the contributions of many talented folks to bring out the highest quality in a novel. From the cover design to the editing to the interior design and formatting; the book trailer, marketing support, and general advice—so many people were engaged and bringing skills that I could only wish I possessed. Plus, the process was more enjoyable since I now had the luxury of focusing mostly on the writing. Sure, I offered commentary on the cover and trailer; discussed certain aspects of the editing to stay true to my vision for the story—but I had wonderfully talented people working with me, plugging the gaps in my skill set. The end result, which involved a significant rewrite, is a hundred times better than the version I self-published.
I’ll continue to write adventures for Peter Savage and his friends, mixing in speculative geopolitical tension based on current events, and sprinkle with plausible science and engineering that stretches reality just enough to add interest. The second Peter Savage novel is with my editor and we are planning a release date in early 2015. I’m looking forward to working through the manuscript and seeing it transform from a rough draft into a finished novel. It really is quite a process!