Stavros Halvatzis, a Self-publishing, character development and post-apocalyptic mysteries returns for a second interview to update us on his latest post-apocalyptic mystery, The Land Below.
Tell us about your latest book
The Land Below is the first in an on-going series of post-apocalyptic novels concerning the fate of Paulie and his friend, Anthea, who lead a band of young men and women to the surface after generations of living in a converted goldmine underground. The central mystery is: how did life end on the surface of the world, and who created the engine that kept the subterranean society alive all these years. BTW, Brenton Thwaites would make a terrific Paulie in the movie!
Where did the idea for the story come from?
There is a massive meteor crater in Parys in the South African Highveld mining belt that is reportedly one of the biggest in the world. There are theories that the impact created many of the special ores found in the vicinity. The spot seemed to me to be a suitable backdrop for the unravelling mystery of a post-apocalyptic story.
How much planning goes into your books before you actually start writing?
I generally start with the concept, write the log-line, then map out the major structural plot points of the story. Much of the magic, however, happens unexpectedly. You can never tell the muse which path to follow, but you can, at least, start your journey with a roadmap in hand.
Why did you decide to self-publish over traditional publishing?
Self-publishing allows you to take your own writing life in your hands. With the challenges this presents, come many freedoms. Self-publishing forces you to wear many hats — writer, editor, cover creator. The challenge is to recognise which of these tasks you’re good at, and which to leave to the experts.
How has has your experience of self-publishing been?
Amazon has been great in giving indie writers a platform for their work. But just recently they have began taking measures that hurt new authors, such as the latest kindle library adjustment which only allows payment to the author depending on the number of pages read. This is preposterous. The author should get paid the full amount whether the reader finishes the book or not. This is on top of the reader being able to return the book for a refund if she happens not to like it. That’s unfair to the author, plain and simple.
What advice can you give to those out there trying to write a thriller?
Read other thrillers, watch as many films in the genre as possible; study human nature, and practice story structure through books and websites such as mine. And no matter what, keep on writing till the book is done. Time enough for improvement and self-criticism in the second draft.
How do you develop your characters?
I typically create a list of traits that define a character’s personality and impact the plot. I usually include one trait that is at odds with the others in order to create dramatic tension. I have a list of cards that describe certain personality types drawn from my observation of the folks around me and I use these as background to my fictional characters in order to imbue them with a sense of verisimilitude.
How have you promoted and marketed your books?
I offer free writing advice on my blog with a list of my books on the side. The hope is that people who benefit from my articles on writing will reward me by purchasing one of my books. I am also a prodigious user of Twitter, Facebook, and I occasionally advertise my books through various payed websites.
Knowing what you know now, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?
Probably nothing different. I’ve been very fortunate to have had several of my books on the best seller lists at one time or another, including capturing the #1 spot on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk for Scarab. I’m happy to emulate that success.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently a third of the way through The Land Above, the second book in the post-apocalyptic series, and I’m also part way into a literary novel, The Nostalgia of Time Travel. It’s about a retired theoretical physicist who is trying to develop the mathematics that will allow him to change the past in order to prevent his wife’s death in Sidney harbour, thirty years previously. I intend entering this book in several literary competitions.
Who built the mysterious machine that keeps the last humans alive? And why is it faltering now?