# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I am the author of two critically-acclaimed suspense novels under the pen name Colin Kersey. For 48 years, I’ve been employed creating advertising, PR and other marketing materials for numerous companies, large and small. Advertising is essentially creating company stories and it’s one of many ways to earn a decent living while trying to become a novelist – witness the success of James Patterson, Lee Child and many other writers who came from the communications industry.
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
For my first novel, Soul Catcher, I read a small story in the Seattle Times about two boys whose bodies were found wrapped together when they washed up on the shore of an island in Puget Sound. No one, including the police, could understand how this might have happened. Not long after, I received a letter from a friend that mentioned a sudden, violent wind that flipped over her husband’s small float plane while he was fishing on a remote lake in Alaska. He was rescued by a couple of Inuit people who called the wind a Williwaw that protected their holy places. I now had my answer and the book’s triggering event.
# What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I typically find my inspiration in news articles. The inspiration for my latest novel, Swimming with the Angels, came from reading about hundreds of millions in cybercash stolen from a secret international banking network called SWIFT. I wondered what might happen if the money was stolen by a man’s greedy wife without his knowledge and it belonged to a violent drug cartel attempting to launder their cash.
# How do you deal with creative block?
I wish there was one simple and effective solution for dealing with creative block. I rely on a toolkit containing several strategies that often work for me. The quickest and easiest is just taking a break, like going for a walk or taking a nap. Fresh ideas often spring from a change of scenery or just unplugging for a bit. If those don’t work, I try sketching several possible solutions for where I’m feeling stuck and choosing the best one. Reading a novel by someone whose writing you admire or listening to a particular piece of music (The Hours by Philip Glass became my theme song for Swimming with the Angels) can help lubricate the writing muscle. Sometimes, however, the only way forward is to backtrack, or literally start over, which I’ve had to do many times. This gives my brain time to analyze the previous route and plot a possible path forward.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I’ve learned there are several potentially fatal mistakes. Characters on some level must be true to themselves by speaking and acting consistently based on emotions that, while loathsome or heroic, are identifiable by readers. The horrific creature in the movie Alien, for instance, can be recognized as a mother protecting her progeny. Another mistake is the absence of a plot. Even if a story is only about a conversation, there must be some catalyst that is driving the story forward toward a resolution that is satisfying to the reader. Also, dialogue in a story cannot resemble real dialogue – it would be too clumsy and boring. Story dialogue is very much up-tempo, without ums and ahs, and must serve a purpose such as showing conflicting desires between characters.
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Researching Native American tribes and their beliefs led me to discover a powerful, carved ivory device called a “soul catcher” that was used by shamans in the sub-arctic region to capture evil spirits. Soul Catcher became both the title and the cover art for my first novel.
For the title of my second novel, I had to imagine the terror of a young blind girl being taken swimming for the first time in a trout pond by her dying mother. The cover was inspired by her frail beauty framed against the mystery of the trout farm. My tip for choosing a title or cover art is to thoroughly research your story background or location, and try to get inside your characters’ heads.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
In my own case, I’ve been blessed by mostly positive reviews and reader responses. However, rejection by agents and negative reviews or feedback can be very difficult to deal with. It’s helpful to remember that even the best, most successful authors have also had to deal with rejection. Some people will always respond negatively — it’s human nature. The more original and unique your work is, the more some people will hate it simply because they don’t recognize it.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
A few years ago, after struggling through many revisions with my second book, I enrolled in a new remote-learning certificate program for authors at Stanford University. In addition to the valuable feedback of students and teachers, I learned to more effectively use writing tools, like editing, that I was previously doing by instinct rather than knowledge.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The discovery of my blind character Valerie’s voice was a surprise and became a key to the success of Swimming with the Angels. One of my teachers at Stanford tasked us with writing from the viewpoint of a character other than our protagonist. Writing in the voice of a young woman who is blind and slowly losing her mind was illuminating and led me to give her a major voice in the book.
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Personally, I like to challenge myself as a writer. My first novel included a deaf teenager as a major character. My second novel features a young woman who is blind and losing her mind. Writing from their viewpoints was incredibly difficult, but also immensely satisfying. With that said, if a book doesn’t satisfy readers, what is the point? My greatest reward is hearing that a reader couldn’t put the book down.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
Emotions are the driving force behind characters motives, whether you’re writing a mystery, a horror story or a romance. As a writer, you draw upon your own anger, fear, love and other emotions in order to write authentically.
# Do you have any creativity tricks?
I often begin with a map in my head indicating the story starting and ending points. I then add stops along the way as the story progresses. Hopefully, the book grows and evolves into a living, breathing creature. For characters, I often use the names of real people, which can be a source of humor for some readers who may recognize a neighbor, an ex-husband, or a family member.
# What are your plans for future books?
My third book features the protagonist from my second novel. Gray is still being hunted by the drug cartel whose $100 million his wife stole, but now, due to circumstances beyond his control, he’s also a target of the CIA, the FBI, and MSS, the Chinese secret service. I promise that it’s going to be a wild ride.
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I grew up in a small town in Washington state with zero role models for someone who wanted to be a writer. As a young man, I took lots of risks. I nearly drowned three times. I also climbed Mt. Rainier. I’ve traveled all over the US as well as dozens of countries for work and pleasure. Before I wore out my joints, I enjoyed exploring large cities like Tokyo, Manhattan, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, etc., by walking all over their streets and alleyways to observe their people and discover their culture and architecture. Today, I live on a small, man-made island and own an 18’ electric boat called Soul Catcher. I invite readers to contact me at colinkersey.com or visit my website at www.colinkersey.com.