Wouldn’t you love to sit down with a published author and pick their brain? Get all the information you can about what to do (and not to do) when it comes to being published, writing, and dealing with rejection? Well you can! Mark Eibert has given some fabulous advice for writers below. It’s honest and comes from experience, so for any aspiring writers out there, I encourage you to read it. His tips on writing a query letters are especially helpful, because that’s something many writers forget. Mark has a very interesting background and has written some wonderful works that reflect his personal knowledge and experience. Enjoy this interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
I live with my wife, Anna, in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was employed in the Intelligence Community for twenty-six years before deciding to write. Actually it was some people I worked with that suggested I should write a book on my exploits. I traveled extensively, mostly over seas while I was employed in Intelligence. My career started during the cold war, and then after 9/11 my focus turned to terrorism. I’ve been to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan during the course of my career and am now writing on my exploits. My first book, Under Every Rock, covers my career from the beginning until I semi-retired two years ago. I still do consulting and teaching on interrogation procedures and techniques. I’m often called out to consult on a special interrogation. With all the red tape that I had with my first non-fiction book, I found it easier to write what I call faction books. The stories aren’t true, but some of the methods, places, and operations I drew from my career. I’m an avid golfer, not to be confused with a good golfer.
Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?
My latest book, Classified Amnesia, was just released on November the 14th, so I’m real excited to get that going. The book is a thriller of an agent that is sent to Madagascar to assassinate a terrorist that is hiding there. The agent falls in love with the Terrorists wife and now the terrorist and his own government is after them. It’s kind of a global free for all. I’m trying to change genre, which is not easy. I’m gradually weaning myself from writing about terrorism to political thrillers. The book I’m working on now takes place in the small mining town of Tin Cup, Colorado. It’s about an ex-counter terrorism fighter, who is retired and just wants to get away from life and all that goes with it. He decides to change his Identity and just disappear. I think it’s going to be entertaining. When I write, I write for the reader. I want my readers to entertained, excited, and hopefully laugh. Let’s face it, we read not just to learn, but also to be entertained.
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
Of course we all want the six-figure advance, the Oprah show, the book tours, the whole ball of wax. But I believe that happens not because you aim for it, but because you love what you do. If you really enjoy writing, and stick with it, then you hard work and perseverance will reward you with these things.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
That’s a tough one. I’ve read so many great books by so many great authors. I liked the concept and the story of the The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. Also The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was a great story. And then I guess The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski was different. I read a lot of books on the subject I write about, terrorism, war, CIA, etc. they are very interesting, but too close to work.
I’m glad you made that plural. I could never pick only one author. My favorites are the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn. I really enjoy the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. Mr. Child is a very strong writer. I like his short prose. His sentences are very short and too the point. No wasted words at all. Lately I’ve become a fan of Patrick Taylor and the Irish Country series. And as I said in the last question, Khaled Hosseini is a great storyteller. I can’t remember where I heard the quote, there are two kinds of books; those that tell a great story, or a story told greatly. If you have a great story to tell, it’s hard to mess it up. But there are those writers who can make any story interesting by their prose. The one that comes to mind is Michael Gates Gill in his book, How Starbucks Saved My Life. That’s a query letter I would have loved to read. I think if I would have told my agent I want to write a book on working at Starbucks, well lets just say I would probably have a different agent. But Mr. Gill pulled it off and it’s a great book.
Book you’re currently reading?
I always read two books at a time. It’s kind of a habit of mine. I usually read one for entertainment and one on writing. Right now I’m reading Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik and The Shop Keeper by James Best.
Any type of writing ritual you have?
I have worked at nights nearly my whole life. So I usually rise at 11:00pm, take my wife to work. She works the late shift in a casino. Then I come home and write. At that time of night, there are no phones, no traffic noise, no kids, and no dogs. All distractions are at a minimal. I write until around 7:00am when I get my wife from work. I try and write a chapter a night, but depending on where I’m in the story, it’s not always possible. I do try to write something even if its only a paragraph or two. Once I’m done, I leave it alone. I won’t write any more the rest of the day. I try and treat it like a business. The rest of the day I spend promoting, networking, and giving radio interviews.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
Yes and no. I don’t get blocked, but I paint myself into a corner and can’t get myself out of it sometimes. Some writers believe in outlines. I don’t know what I’m going to do next until I write it. For me this works best because I create as I go along instead of sticking to an outline. The down side is, if I have my character in a corner, I have to figure how to get him out of the situation he is in and it has to be believable. I have a little putting green in the back yard, so when I get in a pickle, I grab a cup of coffee, my putter and go think it through. Sometimes it’s a couple of days before I get my character out of his jam. Then I’m off and running again. Whether it’s a novel you’re writing or a non-fiction, I’ve learned you can’t fool the readers. You have to make it believable, even the smallest details I get emails about.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
When an authors name becomes a household word. For example the other day I was in the store, I over heard a couple that were apparently looking at Halloween costumes for their kids, the man had picked out a particular gruesome costume and his wife turned to him and said, “that’s to Stephen King for them.” Now that’s success.
Advice for other writers?
Read-read-read. Read and study about your craft. Read other writers work in your genre. Learn all you can. Stephen King said in his book, On Writing, that a writer that doesn’t read will never be an author. You might love to run marathons, but you wouldn’t try to run 26 miles without training. Why would you try and write a book and never read one.
Query/Proposals are just as important if not more than your manuscript. You might have just finished a number one best seller, with one of those six figure advances, but it won’t do you any good if your query letter doesn’t make it past the slush pile. My last query letter took me two weeks to write before I was satisfied with it. “Caution” don’t send out that query until your manuscript is complete. This little lesson I learned the hard way. I had completed my manuscript and I usually receive request for the manuscript about one out of every ten letters I send out. So I sent the query letter before I had started my rewrite. The day after I sent off the query letters, I received three agencies’ that requested my manuscript. Instead of sending in inferior work, I had to write a letter of apology. I never got a second chance with these agencies. At least I knew my query letter was spot on. The best book on queries I have found is Making the Pitch Perfect by Katharine Sands.
Write about something you love, if you don’t love something enough to write about it, then write about what you know. If you have a passion for something, it shows in your writing. It also keeps research to a minimum if you know your subject.
When you sit down to write, don’t try to be creative and critical at the same time. Some authors can do this, but most can’t. Get your story on paper first. Don’t fret over grammar, punctuations, and language. Just write your story. When you get your story down then is the time to put on your critical hat. Go back over and over your manuscript correcting all those errors that drove you crazy when you were writing. If you try and be both at the same time, your writing looses it’s story and can sound mechanical. I found out that when I read books on grammar, punctuations etc. when I’m writing my story, I catch myself going back over sentences after I write them. (My weakness, I can tell a story, but my mechanics aint not the best.) So I’m taking classes and studying to become better. It sure pays to have a good editor.
Shut out all distractions when you sit down to write. Find a place that has no TV, no Internet access. If you have to research something on the Internet, go to the other room, do your research and come back. No distractions if possible. Those of you with children, well I have no LEGAL answers.
DO NOT FIGHT with your agent/publisher. You are in the writing business they are publishers and marketers. They know what sells best; it’s their business. They won’t give you any bad advice on purpose. They make money you make money. Everyone has to pay the bills. If you absolutely don’t want to change something, let your agent handle it. That’s their jobs and their good at it.
Where can we learn more about you?
My web sight is www.undereveryrock.com. I have a sight on FaceBook, and also a daily blog on Vigilance and Terrorism at http://undereveryrock-meibert.blogspot.com/. I’m also on Tweeter, but don’t tweet, twit, twoot, ….
Anything else you’d like to add?
REJECTIONS-You are going to get rejection letters, no way around it. Get use to it. It goes with the business. If J.K. Rowling had quit after the tenth rejection letter you would have never heard of “Harry Potter.” Keep sending those queries out. Sooner or later you will get a request. I’ve read about authors that sent them out everyday for 8 months. Finally the day came when they got a request. If you have thin skin are easily discouraged, you’re in for a long hard road. But when you hold a copy of your first book in your hands, all of those rejections just seem to disappear. You will tell yourself it was worth it. And for me it was.