AUTHOR: Mike Sullivan
BOOK TITLE: Dead Girl Beach
GENRE: Adult Thriller
PUBLISHER: Damnation Books/Eternal Press
BUY LINK: www. Amazon.com and www.damnationbooks.com and www.mjpsullivan
Please tell us about yourself.
I’m a retired expat living in Bangkok, Thailand. I have a wife and a daughter and devote myself to a career as a full-time fiction writer. I enjoy long walks in the countryside and immersing myself in Thai culture. Thailand is a wonderful place to live and write. There is so much to see and some many excellent ideas for future novels imbedded in Thai culture.
Please tell us your latest news.
Since the publication of Dead Girl Beach in June, I’ve also signed contracts for two other novels with my publisher Damnation Books. Ransom Drop will launch December 1st, and Eden2 will launch early 2014. I’ve been quite busy creating a series that depicts the life of my main character, merchant seaman Sam Seabury. He’s a tough, gritty Hawaiian who travels the world and faces danger each time he helps someone in trouble. He has the mind of Lee Child’s epic hero, Jack Reacher and the bold determination of John Sandford’ Lucas Davenport. I enjoy writing about him.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’m a full time writer now that I’m retired. It took me over thirty years to get into this position. After several years of struggling to get published I finally had a publisher willing to take a chance on my work. Kudos to Damnation Books for their kindness and support.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’m an avid reader of crime, mystery and thriller novels. As a young boy I could easily get lost in a good novel. While others were out playing baseball or football, I was the one home on the back porch reading.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I think it was mainly the challenge of seeing if I could do it, write a story from beginning to end and make it sound plausible. I think if you have the right character and setting, then it becomes a whole lot easier. You also have to like what you do, telling a story.
What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
As mentioned earlier, I picnic and take walks in the Thai countryside, and spend time with my family. Bangkok has some of the world’s biggest shopping malls so I like to wander around with my family and shop whenever possible.
What are your thoughts about promotion?
I want to be completely honest here. I think writing a novel and promoting it are two separate worlds. They require two different skill-sets. One is gregarious and outgoing, talking to people via the Internet or in person, making presentations, marketing and getting reviews done on your books etc. The other is hard, solitary, often painstaking work creating your next novel. I’ve always believed that you need time to create. Creative ideas can vanish in a moment if you’re not constantly thinking about them. Promotion takes time away from what the writer does best…writing. Being a realist, however, I know that promotion is important and I try to spend as much time each day as possible promoting my books over the Internet, utilizing social networks and doing a tri-weekly blog. I’m now learning to wear two hats. The writer-hat I wear in the morning. The promotion hat I slip on during the afternoon.
What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
The major criticism was that I need to write more Sam Seabury novels. He has a lot of potential as a rough, worldly, yet perceptive action-hero if only the public sees more of him. I think this is called a left-handed compliment. My biggest compliment came from my editor and from my friends and fans. They seem to like my visualization skills and the way I create drama and suspense. They also like the idea that Seabury travels all over the world. He can reach crisis-mode at any time, anywhere in the world. He’s like James Bond; he gets around.
Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
I don’t think too much about it…really. When you’ve put in the time and preparation to write your next book, the reward for doing so is a consistent outpour of scenes and chapters that drive the work toward its conclusion. I guess if you’re not prepared writer’s block could be a problem.
Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
I learned that if you don’t quit you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Writing is hard, but enjoyable work. However, there are so many ways to ruin a good story line. From my experience, you need to stand back from the work and be objective. You need to be your own critic. Is the work good or bad? If bad, how can you improve it? You owe this form of self-criticism to your readers. They’re hopefully going to buy the book, so you must turn out the best book you can …for them. I also believe that a writer evolves over time. His/her books get better the more works the writer produces. A first novel (I know there are exceptions) may not be as good as a writer’s fourth or fifth book. You learn by doing, and writing continually each day helps the writer to improve his craft and thus create better books. This is my opinion anyway.
Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
Damnation Books/Eternal Press is the publisher. I wrote a manuscript, submitted it, and they published it. Now I’ve signed a third book contract with them. They gave me a chance for which I am grateful.
What is your marketing plan?
I do social networking, get out the word about my up-coming novels, and try to encourage sales. I write a tri-weekly blog titled ‘The Bangkok Blog’ and hope to build a broader platform and eventually use You-tube videos to gain a wider audience for my Sam Seabury novels. I’m not a computer whiz so much of the technical side of marketing is fairly new, and I need to learn on the fly.
What are your current projects?
I’ve completed the third novel, Eden 2, in the Sam Seabury series. Its launch date is early, 2014. Presently, I’m working on The Anonymous Hacker, set in Brussels, Belgium. The fourth novel has Seabury pitted against global elitists advocating a New World Order.
What do you plan for the future?
I plan to continue writing more Sam Seabury novels. He’s interesting, he keeps me challenged, and willing to do the research necessary to engage him in another conflict. Bohemian Grove, the fifth novel in the series (yet to be written) will complete a trilogy started with the writing of Eden2.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
My website is www.mjpsullivan.com. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google Plus, Amazon, and Pinterest. I do a tri-weekly blog. As always, I appreciate comments about my blogs and enjoy writing them.
Any other news you’d like to share?
I want to thanks friends and fans for their interest in the Sam Seabury series. I also want to say it’s been a pleasure doing this interview, and thanks to you Penny for giving me the opportunity.
What genre do you write in and why?
I’ve introduced a fictional character, Sam Seabury, to the public. He’s involved in a series of action thrillers set in dark, exotic lands. I like reading thriller novels, so now I have the opportunity to write them.
Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
Presently, I’m promoting two books, Ransom Drop and Eden2. Both are novels in the Seabury series. Each leaves the reader with thought-provoking questions long after the last page has been read.
What gave you the idea for this particular book?
For Ransom Drop it was researching the nearby country of Laos (I live in Thailand), and being fascinated with America’s involvement in the Secret War in Laos, over four decades ago. With Eden 2, I became fascinated with the possibility of the Garden of Eden existing in SE Asia rather than in the Middle East as told in the Bible. There’s controversy here, and Seabury is immersed up to his ears in it.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
No, I research thoroughly, know my characters well, and allow them to tell the story. I write in ‘patches or clusters’ then fit them together into a story line leading to a plausible conclusion.
What comes first: the plot or characters?
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I love Seabury. He’s a kind, generous, helpful person. Yet there is a mystery about him, his past, and his willingness to remain single. Women are fascinated by him and want to get romantically involved, but he manages to resist their efforts to form relationships, either long or short-term. There is a reason behind this which is covered in the novels.
Which characters were the hardest to develop and why?
Sometimes my antagonists are difficult to create. I want to touch that dark corridor of their minds which allow them to do the horrible things they do to other human beings. By doing this, I have succeeded in creating villains the reader will remember.
How did you decide how your characters should look?
What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
In my first novel Dead Girl Beach, I came across a story depicting how dangerous tropical needlefish are. They are more dangerous than sharks. One night a small boy was killed by a needlefish that leapt out of the water at a lantern inside the boat. The fish’s steel-tipped beak punctured the boy’s right eye, entered his brain, and he died instantly. Greta Langer, the sick, female socio-path in the novel, kills her victims by attracting the fish to her victims. In my memory, no such murder weapon has ever been used
Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
I live in Thailand and my first book, Dead Girl Beach is set in the lush tropical paradise of Koh Phrangan Island in the southern gulf of Thailand. Books are available in English about the island, and I used them, plus the Internet for my research. I put a lot of time researching my novels. It pays off in dividends you might not be aware of at the time you’re doing your research. Research creates the authenticity which makes the novel appear real. Your characters are the engine that drives the book toward its conclusion. I use libraries and the Internet as my main sources of research.
Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?
I try to limit graphic sex as much as possible in my novels. You don’t have to go into detail to create a picture. The reader is smart enough to visualize the image you create. At least that’s what I think. Writing action scenes, mayhem and murder doesn’t bother me as much as writing sexual scenes since the object behind my novels is to create a dark, seedy underworld filled with crime and corruption.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
It was a little bit of everything: pace, mood, setting, getting the characters involved in the conflict and moving it toward a violent conclusion. All the things necessary to keep the plot moving and the reader interested.
How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?
I’ve been working at a pace of two novels per year now that I’ve been published. That’s a huge goal to maintain. But if the idea is there and my Seabury series is to continue then I need to put out the effort and have the books available for my readers given their interest. It’s what we do as writers, and we need to be dedicated to our craft.
What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
My advice would be never to stop writing, or quit and give up. If you enjoy writing, keep at it; never stop trying to get your book completed and out to a publisher. Some day you will hear those magic words, “Your novel has been accepted for publication,’ and believe me, there is no better sound in the world.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I enjoy picnicking, and spending time with my family.
What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
The book has to have three things for me to hold my interest. It must be fast paced, have memorable characters, and end up leaving me with some thought-provoking questions.
What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
I read page one; if it doesn’t engage me, I stop reading.
What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?
I’m reading James Lee Burke’s book, The Tin Roof Blow Down. Burke is a genius, there is no other way to describe him. I’ve read all his novels and would recommend them to anyone.
What books have most influenced your life?
Earlier I was influenced by Camus, Steinbeck and Hemmingway. They are the masters. Now I enjoy reading modern thrillers. David Lindsey, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Andrew Klavan and John Sandford are among my favorite authors.
What seven words would you use to describe yourself?
Honest, caring, motivated passionate, interesting, interested, and affable.
Describe your writing space.
A writing table, a laptop, cups of black coffee in the upstairs room of my home in Bangkok, Thailand suits me just fine.
What has been your favorite part of being an author?
I think creating my novels has been the most gratifying part. After that, the friends and fans I’ve met, those who have enjoyed my work and my blogs, has been a plus. They’ve contacted me through my website. I’m always glad to hear from them.
What has been your least favorite?
Marketing my books and the time it takes away from the actual writing. I’ve learned, however, that marketing is important if you hope to reach a wider audience. So I put a great deal of time into it.
What is the strangest thing a reader asked you?
I can’t recall any significant question.
What was your most embarrassing moment as an author?
I arrived late one night for the first local writer’s meeting I attended in downtown Bangkok. I took the Skytrain to the right location, but took the wrong stairs going down and ended up on the wrong side of the street. Holding up a makeshift map of the restaurant, I asked two street vendors if they knew where the place was. They didn’t. I asked a man in a dark business. He brushed me off as fast as the vendors. I ended up on the back end of a motorcycle and the driver took me across the main boulevard and down a couple of side streets to the restaurant.
When I got there twenty minutes late, one of the writers said, “Oh, good morning Mister Sullivan, so glad you could join us.” He was only joking but my face looked as red as a tomato.