A couple of months ago I read Meets Girl by Will Entrekin and became an instant fan of his work. I jokingly said in my review that if he needed someone to review The Prodigal Hour, his forthcoming novel, to holler. Well, he took me seriously. (YAY!)
A few weeks ago Will sent me an email with his new baby attached. I was very eager to begin reading it. I had grandiose plans to read it all in one sitting but life has a way of catching up with you, as we all know. Things have been extremely hectic for me with work, kids and the family, so there were times that I could only read for 10-15 minutes before duty called. But during each of those sessions, I was pulled into the world that Will created — a world where time travel exists.
Last night I sat down and finished the last third of The Prodigal Hour. After I was done I sat back and stared off into space for a few minutes with my mouth hanging open a little bit as I absorbed what I’d just read. (I’m sure I was quite the sight.) In my mind I kept saying “WOW” because it was that great of a story. By the end, I had completely fallen in love with the characters and was rooting for all of them to have a happy ending.
Yes, The Prodigal Hour is COMPLETELY different than Meets Girl, but that difference is not a bad thing. I can honestly say this is Will’s best work. One cannot read it and not see the amount of time and effort that was put into it. It’s obvious how important this story was to him. I, for one, know that I could never write something like this. That’s not me searching for compliments. Anyone that says I can is just kissing my butt. I know what I’m capable of, and I cannot hold a candle to the talent that Will Entrekin possesses.
So, in conclusion, I gave Will a solid five stars. (And would give him more if I could.)
If you would like to The Prodigal Hour, it’s now available at Amazon for $2.99. So head on over and purchase a copy. You won’t be disappointed. It’s worth every penny. (I think Will could charge even more, and it would still be worth it.)
“Chance Sowin hoped only for a new beginning.”
On October 31st, 2001, six weeks after escaping the World Trade Center attacks, Chance Sowin moves back home, hoping for familiarity and security. Instead, he interrupts a burglary during which his father, Dennis, is shot and killed.
What begins as a homicide investigation escalates when the Joint Terrorism Task Force arrives. Where he hoped for solutions, Chance finds only more questions: who killed his father, and why? Was his father–a physicist at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study–working on dangerous research? Why did Dennis build a secret laboratory in his basement?
Chance might not know the answers, but Cassie Lackesis, Dennis’ research assistant, thinks she does. She isn’t certain Dennis discovered a way to time travel, but she knows who told her: Chance.
Together with Cassie, Chance will go on a journey across time and space that will challenge his every notion of ideas like “right” and “good.” One young man’s desire to make a difference will become, instead, a race against time as he tries to prevent forces he could never understand from not just destroying the universe but rendering it nonexistent.
When every action has a reaction, every force its counter, Chance will find that the truest measure of his character is not what he wants but what he will do when the prodigal hour returns.
Today’s guest blog post is from the amazingly talented Will Entrekin.
You may recall that awhile back I reviewed his novel Meets Girl, as well as interviewed him. Since then, we’ve kept in touch. At one point I mentioned to him I would love for him to write up a guest blog post for my site once the release date for The Prodigal Hour, his forthcoming novel, drew closer. Well, that day is just around the corner, so Will dropped me an email yesterday with this lovely post. If you enjoy what he has to say, I strongly suggest you stop by his site. I do on a regular basis.
I must note that I’m not sure why he panicked when I asked him to contribute my site. I think he has a brilliant mind and a wonderful way with words, so he’s welcome here at any time.
So without further ado, here’s Will!
When Nikki asked me to do an interview with her, I leapt at the opportunity. When she asked after a guest post, though, I panicked a bit, like I generally do, because there’s so much to write about I never know where to begin. But then I thought of a couple of questions she had asked me that had made me pause: what has been most rewarding to me as an author, and what has been the greatest challenge? I thought this would be a good opportunity to elaborate on my responses to those questions, because they’re the ones I’ve been most concerned with as I’ve grown into independence.
For authors, independence is yet a tricky beast. We still live in a culture of writing and publishing that values contracts with corporations as among the hallmarks of legitimacy–and often, such a contract is required for consideration for various prizes and awards. Oddly, this seems to be demanded mainly by the major genre associations, including the MWA, the SFWA, and the RWA. One would think that the science fiction culture, which is all about spaceships and other worlds and the future and technology, would be quick to embrace new methods and modes, but such is sadly not the case. So far as I can tell, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction still requires submissions on the pulp of dead trees, which seems utterly backward.
In practice, these requirements are often an attempt at either maintaining or in some cases creating a hierarchy. Genre has rarely been held in similar regard to what many would call “literary fiction”–consider the quality of fiction for Chandler and Hammett and King and then their reputation when regarded next to Fitzgerald’s or Faulkner’s or Delillo’s. But independence gives genre authors colleagues to sneer about.
Many independent authors counter this with a sales defense. Joe Konrath, for one, has become known as something of an advocate for what he calls “self-publishing” (a term I dislike and tend to avoid except when other people use it. There’s a lot of power in words. Witness popular support for “the public option” but not “government-mandated universal health insurance” during those healthcare debates despite that both are the same thing). His blog is a regular fount of knowledge regarding publishing, formatting, marketing, and other considerations with which indie authors must concern themselves–and a must read. He also tends to talk regularly about his sales.
Now, don’t take me wrong: I admire his transparency, and even appreciate it. It’s great to know the figures, and even greater when he talks about his royalties and experiments with pricing.
On the other hand, Konrath is pretty clearly what Malcom Gladwell would call an outlier–an exceptional example on an outside end of a success curve. I’d say most independent authors will never achieve that level of success, but the truth is that most authors in general–no matter their method of distribution and who is behind it (which is pretty much what publishing ultimately comes down to)–never achieve that sort of success either. (Here there is probably an argument about whether it’s easier for an author published by a corporation to achieve that success. I think the answer is probably, but not by much.)
And on the other other hand, I fear that discussion of sales figures is employed as a way to counter the contempt with which so many regard indie authors. Even authors who got their start with what they call “self-publishing”–and who subsequently went on to sign with corporations–deride authors who call themselves independent, imploring us to “own” self-publishing. (To which my response was, fine. I own it. Now I’m going to rethink it, recondition it, rebrand it, remarket it, repackage it, and rebuild it from the ground up, and I’m going to call it independent publishing, thank you very much. It’s also worth noting most of the authors and publishing professionals who propagate this mindset are tied in some concrete ways to corporate publishing.)
And on the other other other hand–well, this part’s personal, but I was raised that discussions of money and finances is personal business and not meant for polite company. I don’t see doctors or lawyers–or editors or agents, for that matter–tending to discuss things like salaries (though I suppose we do generally know that a standard contract nets literary agents fifteen percent of an author’s income from the sales the agents brokered).
I think part of it, too, is my personal movement away from that ultimate goal of a publication contract with a corporation. For years, it was all I wanted. I was concerned about the quality of my writing only insofar as it was a means to that publication goal. I wanted a book deal. I wanted a six-figure advance and royalties. I wanted to call myself an author.
That last part there was, for so long, contingent on the others, if only because corporations were the only real way to distribution that didn’t involve door-to-door sales and a stack of “vanity” books in your garage. Things aren’t that way anymore. Nowadays, writers can write a good book, and then start Twitter and blog accounts to network and connect their work with people. Some connect more successfully, more deeply, or more widely than others, but the reason I’m discussing all this is that, at least for me, my own personal and professional challenge for the past several years has been to focus more on the “write a good book” part of things, which I fear is so often neglected by authors and corporations alike. I used to post something and follow blog views and subscribers, retweets and followers, friends and likes.
My goal right now is not so much to forget those things but to get back to that first part. To write good stories and connect with people. Like I’ve connected with Nikki, for example.
I don’t know how people will respond to The Prodigal Hour. It’s a big, bold, epic time-travel adventure story that’s the world’s first pre-/post-9/11 novel, and it concerns faith and grief and love and loss, and it’s got a huge cast of characters that includes historical figures (it’s got time travel in it, after all), not to mention key historical events in locales both temporally and geographically exotic. I don’t know how many copies it will sell. Probably not many at first, because while I’ve been concentrated on writing a better book, I’ve also very much neglected my online presence–that oft-mentioned platform so necessary nowadays.
But the thing is, I’m proud of it. I think it’s my best book so far, and it’s certainly my most ambitious. I hope it does well–extraordinarily, egregiously well–but my real hope is that I remain as pleased as I am with it regardless of its reception.
On a slight side note, keep an eye out for my review of The Prodigal Hour. Will was kind of enough to send me an advanced copy of it. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some truly amazing and talented authors who have taught me a lot and who have ultimately made me a better writer. I believe author Will Entrekin is another one that I’ll be adding to that list.
Will and I have been chatting a little bit over the past couple of weeks about his novels, Meets Girl and The Prodigal Hour. We’ve also discussed writing and certain methods we use when crafting a story.
During our messages back and forth I mentioned I would love to interview him if he was interested. He was. So I, in typical Nikki style, agonized over the questions to ask him. I finally put together a list of questions I liked and sent them off. His answers are below. Enjoy!
Will: I’m from Jersey. I was born and raised in a small town about twenty minutes away from Philadelphia, and then I went to college in Jersey City, where I subsequently lived while I worked in Manhattan. So I basically lived in New Jersey until I was 28.
Will: Sure. Love to. They’re ludicrously different beasts that probably would have required a pen name were I with a corporation.
The Prodigal Hour is the book I completed first, at USC, where I worked on it as my thesis with the help of Irvin Kershner and Sid Stebel. It’s a big, mainstream time-travel adventure story that’s set (mostly) on October 31, 2001. It’s about a young guy named Chance Sowin, who moves back home after September 11, hoping to regroup, collect himself, get his head together (“Some damned thing,” as I think he puts it at one point), but whose father—who accidentally discovered a way to time travel—is murdered. So here’s this guy trying to cope with grief and tragedy on several different levels, who suddenly finds himself in possession of a time machine.
Meets Girl, on the other hand, is a smaller book. I wrote after I’d finished The Prodigal Hour, and it’s about a young unnamed narrator who lives and writes in Manhattan, and who falls in love with a girl who doesn’t love him in return. About midway through, he meets a guy named Angus Silver, and it basically becomes a contemporary retelling of Faust except way more meta. To me, I sort of think of it as The Colbert Report of debut literary novels.
Nikki: I have to say yet again that I’m psyched to read The Prodigal Hour, as I’m sure others are, too. For those who are interested, when will it be available for purchase? How will you be publishing it?
Will: In several ways. It’ll be live on Kindle on July 1st, and I’ll post the first chapter that day, and then the second on July 4th, with the basic hope of outright owning July 4th weekend—appropriate, I feel, for an independent author. I plan to continue to serialize the book through to the end of its second act—roughly thirty chapters.
Nikki: What comes next? Are you working on something new?
Will: Pretty much always. Personally, I’ve got several projects in process, one of which is related to The Prodigal Hour, because really, how does one accidentally discover a way to time travel? Also, some short stories and a non-fiction project. I’m hoping to publish fairly regularly until my next big novel.
Professionally, I’m opening the press I founded, Exciting Press, to other authors. I worked with a colleague to publish a short story collection over the holidays, and it came off really successfully. I’d like to work with other authors to continue that. I met a terrific editor at USC, and I’m about to finish my MBA in marketing, so it feels like a natural progression. I’m about to incorporate, because you sort of have to, legally and all, but we’re going to be more of a service, I hope. We’ll have author and reader centric practices in place, and we’re going to move away from this absolutely failing business model that has basically killed the corporate and retail bookselling industries in favor of one that makes sense.
Will: Lately, I’ve been trying to be more grateful for the reward that comes from good work, and not worrying about arbitrary indicators that probably don’t even really correlate to success. Over the holidays, the short story collection I mentioned ran up the Amazon rankings, and it was great to become a bestselling author (and go higher than James Franco), but really, the best part of the experience was working with someone I respected to produce something we were both proud of.
Those two stories, in fact, were part of it. I wrote two—“Blues’n How to Play’em” and “Struck by the Light of the Son”—and both were among the best things I’d ever written. I was rarely successful with short stories, and I struggled with “Blues” for years, but I still think there was something in finishing those right that was more rewarding than anything else ever.
Same with The Prodigal Hour. I’m obviously hoping it does well, and has a successful launch, and all those things, but really, I wrote a book I’m damned proud of, and I think it’s awesome. Doing justice to a story was about as rewarding as life ever gets.
Nikki: What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
Will: Still struggling with that idea of being grateful for the work and finding reward from writing well. For a long while, I became very bitter about the state of the publishing industry, but I’m working hard to put those feelings aside by putting my best stories forward.
Nikki: We all have our own writing process. I use to outline stories, but now I tend to shoot from the hip. What is yours? Do you outline or just start writing and see what unfolds?
Will: It tends to vary. There’s usually a lot of percolation. I tend to outline (even if only in my head) longer work. I remember I had a chapter outline of The Prodigal Hour when I was finishing its current draft. I worked closely with Sid Stebel on novels and Syd Field on screenwriting while I was at USC, and both men had somewhat similar ideas in terms of stories, dramatic structures, conflicts, beats, all those things that make stories more exciting. I took a lot from those classes. I find, for example, that I tend to think in either three-act or five-act structure for anything longer than 50k words (in fact, I think those are the only structures there are. Unless you don’t have structure, and in which case, well, there are probably bigger issues to worry about).
Anyway, I tend to have some sense of where things are going, either by instinct or outline, and then method write the scenes. One big thing is awareness of what characters want/need. Follow that, and you’re golden. Can’t go wrong.
Nikki: I always ask this during any interview that I do with a fellow author. What advice do you have for those looking to follow in your footsteps? What advice do you give to your students?
Will: I used to say my advice was to give up, because if you can, you should, and if you can’t, you need to find your own way, anyway.
For my students, though? A line from The Prodigal Hour: “You need to stop worrying about some grades on a transcript and start writing something you believe in.”
Nikki: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?
Will: Good question. Especially since I’m finishing that MBA and wondering myself. Likely independent. Hopefully a dozen or so books (novels, stories, poems) on Kindle. A great job.
Nikki: And last but not least, I was recently asked in an interview to provide five unique facts about myself. I thought it was fun, so I’m going to ask you the same thing. Please provide five unique facts about you.
Will: I seem to be just ahead of trends. I got two Japanese character tattoos in 2000, right before getting them became way more popular. I bought a Kmart fedora in 2005, right before everyone started wearing them again. Just recently, I started wearing bow ties. Which are, apparently, making a comeback. I know, right? Color me surprised.
My Eagle scout service project involved publishing.
I swam the individual medley in high school.
That’s three, but that first one was long, so maybe that counts? I don’t know. There are, what, 8 billion people here? Honestly, the only five unique things about me are the five books on my Amazon page.
Nikki: Thank you so much, Will, for stopping by The Evolution of Nikki. Before you go, please let everyone know where they can purchase your work and how they can find out more information about you.
Will: No problem! Thanks for having me!
The easiest spot is my site: willentrekin.com. That’s where I’ll be posting chapters, and it connects to my Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as my Amazon author page, so that’s pretty convenient.
That Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.com/Will-Entrekin/e/B004JPDYBY