Best friends Duncan and Ray run a successful bookie business in Phoenix. Outgrowing the life they began in college, the late twenty-something pair set out on the road with a plan to never return. Their trip takes them cross-country with eventful stops in Las Vegas, Omaha, and Niagara Falls. Along their journey they meet several colorful characters and even agree to bring a pretty young girl named Ruby along with them for the ride. Landing in Boston to run an errand for an old friend, the travelers begin to lay roots in an attempt to forge for themselves the life they’d always hoped for. Easier said than done. As romances begin to burgeon, and one of their lives is put in danger, the group quickly discovers that where they are may indeed have little effect on who they are.
The First Three Questions Every Author Gets. (And That I Have Trouble Answering)
If and when during conversation it should come up that I write novels, any one of, and sometimes all of, three fundamental questions invariably follow. They seem like simple questions, and it would therefore be assumed that they should beget simple answers. The answers to these seemingly common requests actually cause more trouble for me than I would otherwise like to let on.
I’m going to now attempt to answer these questions as best I can, just for you. My latest work of fiction is called BOUNDLESS (available on Amazon now), so I’m going to answer them in relation to that book. Hope you enjoy.
How long did it take you to write the book?
One of my favorite books on the craft is On Writing, by Stephen King. I’m not a horror/thriller reader, but you would be hard-pressed to find a better book on the subject of writing than this one. In this book, Mr. King suggests that an author should write a minimum of 1000 a day.
I do not subscribe to this decree.
I wrote BOUNDLESS over the span of about 10 months. I wrote voraciously for two months, but then I took a break. I didn’t sit back down to continue for several weeks. When I did, I wrote for about two months more and then I took another break. The next time I sat down to write, months later, I had the rest of the story mapped out in my mind. I wrote again until the first draft was complete.
After a several read-throughs, tweaks, and moments of self-hatred, I was prepared to have others read my manuscript. First, my wife read it and added her two cents. Then, I searched out and found a local editor and shelled out a few bucks to have it professionally edited. By the time I felt the manuscript was ready, a year and a half had passed by since I wrote the first word.
It takes time to write, of course it does; but it also takes time to polish. If you are a first-timer looking for a book deal, be sure your first 10 pages so polished that you can see your reflection in them. Take all the time you need.
Is it hard to get a book published?
This is an excellent question asked by interesting and curious people. My answer: Very much yes, and just a little bit no. Allow me to explain…
For my first book, A Work in Progress, I selected publishers that best suited my writing, my perspective, and my style. Believe it or not, I actually had a feeling about the publisher that eventually signed me based on their website copy. It was irreverent, playful, and somewhat sarcastic – I loved it. After I found this particular publisher I went out and bought a few of their books and read them. I was sure to mention in my query all the similarities between those books and mine. Unless you’re a millionaire, celebrity, or someone from reality TV (yes, there is a difference), getting published for the first time is a real slog.
For BOUNDLESS I took a different tack. I decided to leave my publisher and self-publish instead. Why, you might ask? Several reasons. I wanted to try it, to learn about it, to understand the industry better. For A Work in Progress, I just handed over my manuscript and waited for ARCs to arrive in the mail. This time around, everything was different. However, my answer to the above question remains the same. Self-publishing, like traditional, is mostly difficult, but sometimes not. If you are willing to listen, learn, put in a ton of time, and yes, make mistakes along the way, then in this era of Internet omnipotence, anyone can self-publish a book. Should they? Lord no. Can they? Yes.
There are so many online resources, forums, communities, and sites dedicated to walking you through each step. I utilized these tools myself. But I will say, with the utmost sincerity, the most helpful resource I found during my publishing journey was other authors. The stigma to self-publishing is gone. Reach out to self published authors and they will respond. Have a question about traditional or self-publishing? I’m all ears: email@example.com
What is your book about?
This question makes me want to run and hide in a box. It’s not a bad question, and if I wrote about vampires or Transformers or perverted billionaires it might be one to which I could easily respond. That’s not to say that BOUNDLESS is so much more intricate than the topics mentioned above, but only that it deals instead with the real life situations and trials of characters that (hopefully) feel like real people. I therefore find it overtly difficult to describe the book without being too vague, or alternatively, giving it all away!
Here are a few of my stock answers:
Answer 1: It’s about a road trip
Answer 2: It’s about starting life from scratch
Answer 3: It’s about money, gambling, travel, lies, secrets, sex, death, God, self-discovery, friendship, love, romance, and whether or not you can escape your true nature.
Answer 4: …It’s hard to describe. (This, you will agree, is the worst response of them all.)
A Better Answer: BOUNDLESS is partly a road trip story, but it is also about what happens when the road trip ends. Can you pick up, take off, and start life over again? Can you become someone new or will your true self break through? Best friends Duncan and Ray leave Phoenix and head east. They eventually land in Boston and try to answer these questions. Along their trip they learn about each other and themselves, and about the young girl they agree to bring with them for the ride. When they finally stop and begin to lay roots, they find success, and trouble. Love, money, rivalry, and ego all play a part in what will become their new legacy — if, of course, their past doesn’t come back around and change everything.
So there you have it. If you’re a writer, you’ll recognize these three questions. If you’re a reader, I’ve just robbed you of a conversation should we one day meet. No problem, if it ever happens we can talk about you instead.
ABOUT BRAD COTTON
Born and raised in Toronto, Brad has been writing professionally for over a decade. An average guitarist, a sub-par painter, and a horrible juggler of anything larger than a tangerine, he is currently married to a woman, but does not have a cat, a drum set or any children.