Sunday, February 27, 2011

Interview with author Ethan Cross

I'm very happy to have Ethan Cross, author of The Shepherd, here with me today. Click here to read my review of The Shepherd, which will be published on March 16th.

Q. Welcome to My Book Retreat! I really enjoyed reading The Shepherd. Is it your first novel? And can you share a little about your writing background before The Shepherd?

A. The Shepherd is my first novel, but writing and telling stories has always been a passion of mine. When I was young, I would force my parents to take me to sometimes two to three movies in a single weekend. Now that I've grown up, I try to do the same thing to my wife (but she usually restrains me to one). In High School, I wrote a screenplay, and I had aspirations of breaking into writing for the film industry. I had already outlined several movie ideas in my head (something that I had been doing since I was a little boy). However, I knew that was an uphill battle, and most of my time was being taken up by another passion of mine: music. With a few different bands that I played with as lead singer and guitar player, I was able to record a few albums and open for some national recording artists. After my last band broke up, I rekindled my love for stories with books. And it wasn't long before one night at about two o'clock in the morning, I decided to start writing a novel. I had no idea at the time what I was getting myself into.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for The Shepherd?

A. The original idea for The Shepherd started out years ago as a short 40 page story for a college English class. I was watching a movie called Frailty (great movie, by the way), and it got me interested in the idea of turning the tables on who we saw as the villain and the "good guy." The short story asked the question, "Do the ends justify the means?" and dealt with the abuse of power. The serial killer in the short story (the character that later evolved into Ackerman) was actually not a character at all, since the story centered upon the finding of the killer's dead body. I originally intended to use the short story as a starting point for the novel, but the book took me in such different directions that there is basically nothing recognizable left from the short story. The class was a senior level English course, and the story came on one of the last days before graduation. The day after I turned in the story the teacher asked me to stay after class and urged me not to stop writing. Her words meant a lot and really stuck with me.

Q. Tell me about the research that went into writing The Shepherd. How long have you been working on it?

A. The total time from beginning the novel to the date of publication has been about five years, but that's a little deceptive since not all of that was spent writing and the whole finding an agent and publishing process accounted for a great deal of that time. In regard to research, I did a good deal into police procedures and the minds of serial killers as well as general research. I'm lucky enough to have been aided by several law enforcement officers including ATF Agents and the Colorado State Patrol. I also have a brother-in-law that was a part-time cop and am friends with a man who was the chief of police of our town. So I got to spend as much time as I wanted in the back of a cop car (not something most people hope for).

Q. That's for sure! Although it's a standalone novel, you've also said The Shepherd is the first in a series of books. Have you started on the next one yet? What are you currently working on?

A. The Shepherd is set up to be a series, and the next book is going to be called The Cleansing. Beyond that book, I have several more books in the series outlined. Hopefully, people will enjoy taking a journey with these characters, and I'll be able to get those stories out of my head and onto paper. But The Cleansing probably isn't going to be my next project. I've done quite a bit of work on the first book in a new action/adventure series and also on a new standalone thriller called The Darkness Never Sleeps. It deals with a repentant serial killer that must fall into his old habits in order to save his daughter from a group of drug runners being financed by the CIA.

Q. The Shepherd was published by Lou Aronica's new publishing imprint, The Fiction Studio. How has that experience been for you?

A. Working with Lou has been an incredible experience. If I have any success with this book or others to come, it will be due in large part to the efforts of Lou Aronica. I was truly honored when Lou asked me to be published under his new imprint (which was by invitation only). The truly ironic (or serendipitous) thing about it is that I was first truly introduced to a love of reading by the first Star Wars novels by Timothy Zahn. I had of course read books before then, but I wasn't a truly avid reader. Those books showed me the joy of reading, and it wasn't long before I was reading everything I could get my hands on (sometimes 3 to 4 books a week). The funny thing is that Lou Aronica was the guy that came up with the idea to have Star Wars books and published the books that made me fall in love with novels. And now he's also publishing my first book.

Q. Some of the first books my son read were also Star Wars books, so I completely understand. So I'm curious what made you decide to use a pen name for this novel?

A. Well, the easiest answer is that my agent told me to. But in truth, I always knew that I would have to use pen names. This is because the publishing industry wants authors to be established as a brand just like any other product. They want people to be able to pick up any Ethan Cross novel and know what to expect. It's a sound business principle. It's kind of like the concept of Pepsi versus Mountain Dew. If you opened up a Pepsi and it tasted like Mountain Dew, you would probably be shocked and disappointed. You may even like Mountain Dew, but you sat down expecting a Pepsi since that's what you bought. It's the same idea with an author. I want readers to pick up an Ethan Cross novel and be able to count on a breathless, fast-paced suspense thriller. I do plan, however, on writing books in several different genres including action/adventure, science fiction, literary fiction, horror, fantasy, or whatever good idea comes along. I love all types of books and stories and have ideas that don't fit into one type of box. But those ideas will fit into a box because they will be under different names. So nobody will buy an Ethan Cross book and get a bad taste in their mouth expecting Pepsi but receiving Mountain Dew instead.

Q. Interesting. So it sounds like you enjoy writing different genres, but what sorts of books do you enjoy reading? Do you generally stick to thrillers or do you branch out to other genres? What are you reading now?

A. I pretty much enjoy any book that’s fast-paced and action-packed, regardless of genre. There are also those rare books that are a slow burn but are still completely enthralling for a variety of reasons, but those are few and far between. I love David Morrell, James Rollins, F. Paul Wilson, Dean Koontz, Jeffery Deaver, James Patterson, Douglas Preston, Clive Cussler, and many more. Currently, I’m reading The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (on audiobook) and The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry. But I just finished reading First Blood by David Morrell (the book that the first Rambo film was based upon) and Hostage Zero by John Gilstrap.

Q. Hostage Zero sounds very good. I may have to add it to my ever-growing TBR list! So what do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

A. I enjoy spending time with my wife, my two daughters (4 and 12), and my two Shih Tzus. I also spend a great deal of time at church where I am a deacon, worship leader, and leader in the youth group. My favorite pastime is most definitely watching movies and reading books. I’m the kind of person that gets completely immersed in a good movie or book, and I love that feeling.

It's interesting that you're so involved with your church. The Shepherd doesn't have any overt religious themes, but I did sense a religious undertone at times, so I wondered about that. Thank you so much for visiting with me here at My Book Retreat!

For more information about Ethan Cross and The Shepherd, visit his website. You can also read my review of The Shepherd. And you can check out my interview with Lou Aronica to learn more about The Fiction Studio imprint.

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