Today you are releasing Act of God, your first collection of short stories. What is it about the short story that appeals to you? What kind of advantages does it present to you as a writer? Disadvantages?
I like short stories because they fit in with today’s lifestyles where everything is go, go, go. You can take a moment to relax, escape and be entertained without a big time investment. Shorts also let you to travel to many different places, if you will, in a small amount of time.
As a writer, short stories allow you to take more risks. For example, you can kill off a main character, not necessarily for the shock value, but to put a greater twist to the story that the reader wouldn’t expect and that you couldn’t get away with in a full length novel. Plus your twists have a bigger impact on the story that would get lost or diminished in a longer story.
But as with most things, there are two sides to the coin. One of the biggest drawbacks to some short stories is that you don’t have the time to fully develop your characters. You know who they are but not always what makes them tick. Another drawback is there is little room for a back story or painting descriptions that can really help set the mood of the story.
Can you tell us a little bit about the title story, “Act of God”? Why did you select this particular story for the title? How did you decide which stories to include in this collection?
From a writing stand point, Act of God exemplifies the rest of the collection. The human condition if you will, ordinary people put into extraordinary circumstance. Each of the tales has a Twilight Zone feel to them and I not only hope the reader will enjoy the stories, but I hope they find themselves asking the question, “What would I have done in that situation?”
From a marketing standpoint, Act of God was the best title. It provided the best punch and sparks the imagination more than the other titles. I sent the stories to my illustrator, Andy Wenner, not telling him which title I had chosen and he picked out Act of God on his own. Designing a book cover is hard enough when you are telling just one story, but when you’re telling seven, it’s especially challenging. I think he did a remarkable job of capturing the mystery, intrigue and the essence behind themes of the stories.
Congratulations for being selected as one of the judges for the International Thriller Writers 2012 Awards. What does this nomination mean to you and your writing career?
Thank you. I look upon being tapped as a judge as a big honor. Whether they drew my name out of a hat or reviewed my work and liked what they saw doesn’t matter. I look at it as a plaque to hang on my cyber wall of accomplishments. I think it lends a sense of creditability to my work that says: Hey this guy is serious about what he does.
As you mention on your website, one of the greatest writers, Mark Twain, once said, “Write what you know.” How does this advice inspire your writing? What passions do you write about?
Readers can tell when you’re just quoting facts or cranking out a story just to beat a deadline and make another buck. Trust me, I have nothing against making money and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do here too, but there has to be more to your motivation in your writing than just dollar signs. My first novel, Catalyst, was a labor of love, if you will, combining my interest in WWII history and aviation into an exciting thriller. I wrote Arctic Fire, in part, to prove to myself that I really could write and that I wasn’t just a one hit wonder.
I thoroughly enjoy writing and making the reader think, and I hope to be successful at it, but thinking about it, I’d say my real passion is sharing and encouraging others to follow their dreams of writing. Without fail, whenever I’m doing a book signing, I have one or two people come up to me and either say they’ve thought about writing something or they ask me about the publishing process. I encourage them whenever possible telling that, hey, if I can do it and get published at 50, with all the distractions of a family, a day job and a stupid dog who eats rocks, then anyone can succeed.
I give talks in the local high schools in their creative writing classes. There are usually 2-3 kids who really have no interest and they have that deer-in-the-headlight look, which is okay, not everyone is a writer. The majority of the class listens politely, showing mild interest, but then there are those one or two. Their eyes light up as I speak and they get it. They see the vision and have the spark of passion for writing smoldering just under the surface. Moments like that are what make it worthwhile.
What are your specific marketing plans for Act of God? Will you be participating in online blog tours, book signings, or book tours?
For starters, I’ll be announcing it through the social medias first—Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn and a few others—then move on to the local and regional papers, letting them know that a local author has a new book out. In the cyber world, as with Arctic Fire and Catalyst, I’ll be setting up book reviews and interviews along with guest blog spots that I hope will build momentum and excitement and keep Act of God and my other books in the public’s eye. Book signings are always a great way to spread the news, and of course through my website, www.paulbyersonline.com.
A lot of new releases open with a big launch party then the excitement and hoopla slowly fizzles out. My goal is to do a little marketing everyday if I can and, as I said earlier, to keep the books popping up all over the net on new blogs and review sites weekly. After all, if they don’t know it’s out there, how will they read it?
Want to learn more about Paul Byers or his books? Check out his website.
Libby is the book review editor and chief contributing writer for the What’s Next? series.