The Targets, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Targets?
SEBASTIAN DARK: The Targets is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller. It follows Ryan Jackson, a grizzled New York detective, who moved to a small town in Minnesota looking for a quieter life. Unfortunately for him, things are not always as they seem, and soon after his arrival, a gruesome set of murders grips the community. Reluctantly, he agrees to help the investigation, and soon finds himself leading the police department in a gripping race against the clock to find and stop a serial killer.
It's live now on Amazon US and costs only $3.15.
It's a book that I take great pride in, and has a completely unexpected twist at the end that (so far, based on reader reviews) really excites people.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
SEBASTIAN DARK: Character development, to me, always felt like more of an art form than an exact science. As with any book, I began by making notes on as much of it as I could (when the idea first came to me). Then, somewhere along the line, I begin to think of the characters in the book.
I try to think of characters who need to be written about, and who would contribute most to an interesting read. What are the types of personalities my readers would enjoy reading about? And then, I have to create the character's histories: where they came from, what their background and experiences are, what their motivations are, that type of thing. Also of great importance is their relationship with one another. Why does one character act this way in this particular situation, while another does something completely different?
I think those are the questions my readers like thinking about, and I put a lot of time in giving them that experience.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
SEBASTIAN DARK: Great question. At first, I thought I'd say those readers who like thrillers, who don't want to sit through a slow-paced, description-laden novel, and who want a gripping, page-turning experience. But then I realized that an answer like that limits me to a small percentage of the population. Instead, I realized that my ideal reader is anybody who likes adventure, and wants to get excited by the books they're reading. I tried to get The Targets to provide that experience.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
SEBASTIAN DARK: Long, convoluted, but very rewarding.
I've been reading prolifically since I was a little kid—my family moved around a lot, and books were a welcome constant in my life. Then, when I went to college, I got involved with the school newspaper, and began writing editorials and other opinion pieces. People told me they liked my work, and I always enjoyed the process. Then, when I graduated (in 2002), I went to work for a criminology consulting firm in Chicago. It was a great experience, and when I was there I was put in so many different situations that gave me inspiration for my books. Five years later, I had my first manuscript published by a major house. And in another ten months, I quit my job to write full time.
The Targets is my first foray into the world of ebook self-publishing. My previous titles were all published under a pen-name, so there's no name recognition that goes in on promoting The Targets... at least not yet.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
SEBASTIAN DARK: I think I answered a part of this in the "character development" question, but I'll expand a bit more here. For me, writing is a very organic process. I can't make a full outline for a book and then be pigeon holed by that outline. When I write, events always end up going not exactly where I expected at the outset. And my characters evolve and grow so that by the time I finish the first draft, I have to go back and make changes at the start of the book to make the characters fit with my new understanding of them.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
SEBASTIAN DARK: The ones who never gave up.
Having a book published is a dream for many, but a reality for few. A lot of people I know speak of the difficulty of getting published. And while that's completely true, I think it does a disservice to the authors who do get published. The ones who got out there worked their asses off and wrote hundreds of thousands of words before even having a single agent show interest in their book. They worked hard, and never gave up on their dream.
So, I don't think publishing's as much of a crapshoot as people think—the authors who get published are the ones who keep plugging away, and always work towards their goals.
SEBASTIAN DARK: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
This is an easy answer for me, but may surprise a lot of people because it's so far from the genre I write in. I wish I wrote The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. It was the starting book for a fascinating, epic fantasy series, and the world he developed was just unbelievable. Some day, I'd like to write a long series of books like that—but it'll be a while yet before I get there.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
SEBASTIAN DARK: The Targets only came out four days ago, but it's already selling quite well. Most of my promotions focus on getting the book up on book review blogs, and getting people excited about it. I think the combination of a good cover (which I think I nailed), a low price, and a quality product (to stand out from the other self-published, inexpensive books out there) will help my book find a readership sooner rather than later.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
SEBASTIAN DARK: Control, access, and convenience.
First, I'm able to have full control over every aspect of the book: from the cover, to the title, to the description, to the genre it's put in. That gives me the flexibility I so desire as an author.
Next, access. More people have kindles than ever before, and ebooks are taking off. It's so easy for a reader to see my book on the virtual shelf, read the description, get intrigued, read the sample, enjoy the sample, and then purchase the book—without any physical effort on their part. That type of access to my work is unprecedented.
Last, convenience. There's a certain convenience to being able to buy a new book without leaving your couch. And it's easier for me to manage the entire writing/publishing process, from the first frantic brain-map to the final, finished book.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
SEBASTIAN DARK: Proofread, proofread, and proofread some more.
Always put time into checking your work before it goes live. Customers are picky, and even the smallest misspelling or grammatical error can turn them off your book. With the convenience of e-publishing, many first-time authors get an itchy trigger finger and are eager to get their work out there. Take a deep breath, relax, and put the time into make sure your work is as good as it can be.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Taking inspiration from his career, he's written a series of thrillers under various pen names that excite readers with gripping action and a thunderous pace.
The Targets represents his first foray into the e-book world, and is the first of a series of books starring Detective Ryan Jackson and Mars Kilborn. It is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK.
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