Brew Book Release and Author Interview with David Estes

October 01, 2014

A big congratulations to David Estes for today's publication of BREW and BOIL! I had the opportunity to ask David some questions about BREW and novel-writing. (NaNoWriMo participants, I entreat you to read his answers to #3-5!)

1. BREW felt awesomely reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz. Assuming that was intentional, which Oz-inspired scenes did you enjoy writing the most?

Great first question, Kat! It's very interesting you picked up on that connection, as I tried to make it as subtle as possible. However, as I'm sure you noticed, I did make one very brief reference to Oz early in the book in one of the most pivotal and life-changing scenes for the main character, Rhett Carter. Although I didn't specifically write scenes that were Oz-inspired, it was more the overall journey that Dorothy went through that I wanted to encapsulate, as well as her period of hero-worship (i.e. her belief in the great and powerful Wizard) that eventually succumbed to the harsh reality of truth. In this case, the scene that most conveys that feeling is toward the end when Rhett comes face to face with someone from his past in a showdown of fantasy and truth that will leave him struggling with his core beliefs, much like Dorothy was faced with when she eventually met the Wizard.

2. Gorgeous cover, by the way! Can you tell us about the creative process between you and the designer?

Thanks so much! Because I'm releasing the first two books in the series at the same time, I was in a unique position to consider the overall feeling for the series that I wanted to convey with the covers. As we do with all of my book covers, my wife and I come up with the initial concept in quite a lot of detail, which we then attempt to put into words. For this particular series, I really wanted the covers to reflect actual scenes from the books, under the common theme of "The Light of Hope in a World of Darkness". Something I think will be really cool for readers is when they read the parts in the books that correspond to the covers and have those "Now I get it!" moments of revelation. In terms of my artist, the exceptionally talented Tony Wilson at Winkipop Design, his main task was to take our visions and bring them to life. We tend to use rather vague language, like “mystical elements” or “vibrant colors” when describing aspects of the cover, and we rely on Tony to use his own artistic interpretation to create the perfect end result. He’s a master with colors and contrast, as well as custom fonts. As you can see from the results, his talent transcends the covers themselves!

3. In your opinion, what is the most efficient way to write a first draft?

Although I don’t pretend to be an expert on the writing process, I have managed to fine tune my own approach to first-draft writing that has empowered me to churn them out extremely efficiently. Getting a first draft finished efficiently leads to efficiency in the rest of the writing and publishing process and has allowed me to publish 16 books in three years, with two more coming in December.

For me, there are four major keys:

1) Word count goals and writing schedule: You must have a word count goal and a writing schedule to be efficient. Saying I’ll write when I feel inspired just isn’t enough. You have to make your plan realistic and fit well with the rest of your life. Before I was lucky enough to quit my day job and start writing fulltime that meant writing two hours a day, seven days a week, with a goal of 2,000 words per day. Because I was working fulltime, Monday through Friday I would write an hour on the ferry to and from work, and an hour on my lunch break. Soon I discovered that my average was around 1,250 words per hour, which meant 2,000 was a reasonable daily goal for me. On the weekends I would stick with the 2,000-word goal, but with more free time usually hit 3,000 or 4,000. This led to tremendous first draft efficiency which helped to launch my career—after two years I was able to begin writing fulltime, and be more flexible with my writing schedule. As a fulltime writer, I now write four days a week, five hours a day, with a goal of 6,000 words per writing day. That’s 24,000 words per week, while still giving me plenty of time for marketing and promotion. Don’t be intimidated by my aggressive writing schedule, everyone has a different pace, you just have to set one that’s realistic for you, and STICK TO IT. The moment you start saying, “It’s okay if I skip a day” or “I’ll make up for it tomorrow”, you’ve already killed your efficiency.

2) Have a plan for the book: This doesn’t necessarily mean a full outline or even a complete idea of where the story is going. I personally don’t outline and rarely know exactly where each book is going to take me. Again, it’s finding what works for you. If it took you a year to write a book without an outline, then maybe you should try using one for your next book. For me, it’s as simple as a list of bullet points that I refer to before and after each writing session. The bullet points include major plot points, twists, introductions of characters (including planned character ARCs), and even exact lines I want to include in the book, when the time is right. That way you can get down to business and write the book without constantly having to think about what’s coming next. Your plan should evolve and grow as you go, becoming more detailed.

3) Have a plan for each writing session: This is HUGE. When you hit your word count goal for the day, you’re probably tired and ready to get something to eat or watch TV. Not yet! First, grab ahold of all the ideas that are in your head and jot them down, slotting them into your plan at the appropriate points in the story. And before you put your laptop away, you MUST take specific notes for your NEXT writing session. Whose point of view will it be from? What scene are you planning to write? The more specific the better. Then when you start your next writing session, there is very little thinking involved, you just read the last part of what you wrote the previous day as well as your notes, and then start writing. This leads to a greater word count per hour spent on your book, and better yet, you’ll feel more efficient and motivated.

4) Don’t spin your wheels: If you’re in the midst of writing some scene and it’s going really slowly and the ideas aren’t flowing and you feel like you’ll never hit your word count and you want to throw your laptop across the room because it’s looking at you funny, then STOP writing that scene. Write a different scene. Word count is word count, and every word you write gets you closer to the end goal of completing your first draft. So you don’t always have to write in order. Sometimes you need to inspire yourself by writing a part of the story you’re really excited about, and then go back and fill in the blanks. I’ve recently done this a few times when I was struggling with my storyline. I raced ahead and wrote some fast-paced action scenes which made me feel good about myself, and then went back to write some slower (but important) character-building scenes.

4. Do you have any advice for authors who have difficulty writing action-driven stories with dual POV?

Ha! You know me too well! I’ve been told I write action scenes well, and I love having multiple points of view to keep the story more interesting and exciting. My biggest advice here is to make every scene count. Each and every scene, regardless of which POV it’s from, should build to the end purpose of the story. In dual-POV stories in particular, getting inside each of the character’s heads should leave the reader feeling fulfilled. And please please please, when writing action scenes, choose your verbs extremely carefully. Nothing pains me more than reading an action scene that feels like you’re walking rather than running. Or worse yet, like you’re crawling. Action scenes should leave the reader’s heart pounding and their hands practically itching to turn the next page to find out what happens. Each verb should exactly describe what the characters are doing. “She ran…” is pretty general. Better: “She sprinted, her heart pounding, her thighs burning, as if chased by a Hell hound.” Or even better: “She stumbled through the forest, the roots and foliage seeming to collude against her, their gnarled bony fingers clutching at her ankles, tearing at her clothes.” Excite your readers with the action. Another thing I do is to read all the action scenes out loud. They have to flow effortlessly, so your readers don’t have to go back and reread anything in order to understand what’s happening. Reading out loud will really help identify a scene’s problem areas so you can focus your revisions.

5. What's your favorite piece of advice for first-time authors?
Write because you love it! If you’re not enjoying it, either you’re writing the wrong thing or you’re writing for the wrong reasons. I write the exact same type of books that I love to read, in the hopes that my readers will be entertained by my books as I am by my favorite authors. Although it’s become my career, I originally started writing because I loved it, and that carries through to today. I laugh when I write something funny, I feel my heart racing when my characters are going through something scary, and I tear up (or I’ll admit, even cry), when I write something sad. Those are all signs that I’m getting as much out of writing as my readers are out of reading. Don’t worry about book sales or money or anything else but the words. The rest will follow. Good luck!

A special thanks to the talented and awesome Kat Mellon for having me on her blog and for asking such interesting and thoughtful questions! I hope you all enjoy Brew, my new tale of the witch apocalypse as told from a teenager’s perspective!

Salem’s Revenge strikes without warning or mercy, ravaging the powerless human race under the forces of united gangs of witches, wizards, and warlocks. During the slaughter, Rhett Carter's foster parents and sister are killed, and his best friend and girlfriend are abducted by a gang of witches calling themselves the Necromancers, who deal in the dark magic of raising the dead. Rhett’s sword-wielding neighbor with a mysterious past saves Rhett from becoming another casualty of the massacre and teaches him the skills he needs to survive in this new world. Rhett is broken, his normal high school life of book blogging and football playing shoved in a witch-apocalyptic blender. The only thing he has left is his burning desire for revenge. Armed with his new witch hunting skills and a loyal, magic powered dog named Hex, he sets out into the unknown with one mission: hunt and destroy those who took away everyone he ever loved.
But Rhett isn’t just a witch hunter; He has secrets of his own that he has yet to discover, secrets that his enemies will stop at nothing to keep him from. And discovering the truth about himself is the human race’s only hope.
Revenge. That’s all that’s left for witch hunter Rhett Carter. The magic-born have stripped everything from him - killed his friends, cursed his warlock father, shattered his future - leaving him bare and broken, but not dead. Their mistake. When Rhett and Laney are suddenly thrust in different directions, Rhett must decide who to trust and who to kill. Backed by his trusty canine sidekick Hex, Rhett will embark on his deadliest mission yet, one that will lead him directly toward those who want him dead, pushing his unique resistance to magic to the edge and back again as he tries to remove his father’s curse. Separated from Rhett, Laney seeks to understand the strange changes to her sister, Trish, who’s believed to be the last living Clairvoyant, and what role she’s destined to play in the future of humankind. Wrapped around everything are four major groups: the Necromancers, the Changelings, the witch hunters, and New America, the remnants of humanity. When the major forces are brought together for an epic battle, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Click to purchase BREW

Get both Brew and its sequel, Boil, the first two books in the Salem's Revenge series, for a special price of $0.99 each for a limited time only (Amazon Kindle exclusive: Brew until October 17th; Boil until October 7th) Click on the above buttons to take advantage of this limited time deal!

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David Estes was born in El Paso, Texas but moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he was very young. David grew up in Pittsburgh and then went to Penn State for college. Eventually he moved to Sydney, Australia where he met his wife. They now live together in their dream location, Hawaii. A reader all his life, he began writing novels for the children's and YA markets in 2010, and started writing full time in June 2012. Now he travels the world writing with his wife, Adele. David's a writer with OCD, a love of dancing and singing (but only when no one is looking or listening), a mad-skilled ping-pong player, and prefers writing at the swimming pool to writing at a table.

To celebrate the launch of Brew and Boil, David Estes is also giving away FREE Kindle copies of his popular YA dystopian/adventure book, Fire Country. Just click the above link to nab your free copy.

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