Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rob Cornell - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Rob Cornell. He is a bestselling author of The Lockman Chronicles and Ridley Brone mysteries.

Author Genre: Mystery, Dark Fantasy

Website: Rob Cornell
Author's Blog: Rob Cornell - "News" page
Twitter: @RobCornellBooks
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
An accidental nomad, Rob Cornell grew up in suburban Detroit, then spent five years living in Los Angeles before moving to Chicago to receive a BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College. He has traveled full circle, now living in rural southeast Michigan with his wife, two kids, and dog, Kinsey--named after Sue Grafton's famous detective. In between moving and writing, he's worked all manner of odd jobs, including lead singer for an acoustic cover band and a three-day stint as assistant to a movie producer after which he quit because the producer was a nut job.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Good luck with your new book, Red Run. We highlight it below. So what’s next? Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Actually, I just released the third book in The Lockman Chronicles last week, Darkest Hour. It continues the adventures of ex-government agent turned paranormal vigilante, Craig Lockman, as he struggles with the tragedy from the previous book, Dark Legion. He faces his most dangerous—and personal—enemy, who threatens to destroy everything Lockman stands for, and everyone he loves.

Coming next is the fourth book in the series, Darkness Returns. This book rounds out the arc started in the first book, Darker Things. I say “rounds out the arc” instead of concludes the series, because I think there could be more dangers in store for Craig Lockman, just different dangers. We’ll see. I try not to plan too far ahead. But you can expect Darkness Returns to hit stores this summer (fingers crossed).

You have a great twitter following. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success? Do you rely on social media for your book launch process?

I took to Twitter pretty hardcore early on, using all the tricks of building a network of like-minded folks, mainly by following people who followed people I liked. It’s a tedious process, and doesn’t always work. The more followers you gain, the more spam you have to combat. I recently spent half a day going through and trying to kill spam accounts following me because they were getting in the way of my interacting with the real people.

It’s gotten better, but it’ll never be like it was. With so many following/followers, continuing any meaningful interaction is tough. And I really don’t want to turn into a spammer myself by only talking about my own books.

With that in mind, I’ll be doing quite a bit less with social media. Frankly, I’m one of those writers that believes the best way to build a readership is to give them lots of stuff to read (i.e. write more). That said, I will continue to use Facebook and Twitter to announce launches and any sales/promotions I do. Because I know for a fact that I gained a number of readers through Twitter.

Facebook? Not so much. I use that more to keep in touch with writer friends.

Do you do book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

Normally, no. I’ve done blog interviews like this one, but not for a long, long time. And that’s it. Ironically, I do have another interview on April 1st, this one on blogtalk radio, so people will get to hear my voice. That’ll be new. Other than that, I have nothing else planned. I prefer to spend the time writing if I can.

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thank you! My covers are all DIY. Early on, I received a lot of help from my wife, who has an art degree and some design experience, mostly in the marketing field. But I’ve since taken over the cover process. It was a painful learning curve, and I’m nowhere near the level as some designers. At the same time, I find the work enjoyable, and I’m slowly getting better.

Quick tip for other DIY cover designers: The art’s important, but the typography is everything. Bad typography will ruin a cover, and will give you away as an amateur more than anything else.

You have used a book trailer for marketing before. (See links below.) Do you know how much impact it had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailers? Do you use the trailer in your character development? Are the pictures and background the way you see your characters and scenes?

LOL! I forgot about that thing. The “trailer” I did for Darker Things was actually me trying to be funny. I don’t have the time or tools to put together a real trailer—and I don’t think they’re worth the investment, frankly. However, inspired by indie publishing guru, Zoe Winters’s, Zoe Who? Videos (, I put together one of those Xtranormal movies. Technically, it is a plug for my book, but I highly doubt it convinced anybody to go out and buy a copy.

What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I received a BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. There I met a group of talented writers who all wanted to write popular fiction. An instructor of ours put together a group that met at her house, and that group ran for a little while. A lot of talent there. Some names you might even recognize who’ve gone on to great success. But since I’ve moved out of Chicago to rural Michigan, I don’t have a group, except for those I stay in touch with online. I don’t believe in critique groups. I’ve learned the hard way that they do more harm than good. But having a network of like-minded people who understand a writer’s mindset is invaluable.

Those are the writers I connect with on Facebook.

I also continue to take online craft workshops, and I have a week-long intensive writing workshop on the Oregon coast I’m going to this summer. You can never stop learning as a writer. I don’t care if you’re Stephen King. You never stop learning.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?

Not anything. Everything. I could write a short book about what electronic publishing has done for me. The doors it’s opened. The readers I’ve found. The actual money I’ve made. I can’t imagine ever going back to the old way.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I’ve had mixed luck with giveaways. This is an area I’m still learning, though I have made up my mind about a few things. The Kindle Select program can be very powerful. I made a killing over the holiday season by offering books free and reaping the rewards on my other titles, as well as increased sales on the free title when it returned to paid status.

On the flip side, one giveaway I did had no effect on sales, and only a few hundred copies were downloaded. The trick is getting the word out. The other trick is being lucky. I’m not a very lucky guy, so I don’t like to depend on that to make my career.

That said, starting on April 1st, my crime thriller, Red Run, will be free for five days. So if you’re reading this interview and thinking about picking up a copy, I’d wait a couple weeks and snag a free one off Amazon. The book features a single father of two teens whose daughter is murdered and his son is the prime suspect. Readers who like Harlan Coben or Linwood Barclay should enjoy this one.

Do you publish your books in other languages?

Nyet. However, if anyone out there wants to purchase translation rights, contact me and we’ll talk. (grin)

Between your book writing, social media, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear? How do you have time to keep up with your followers?

This is the magic key to success. A schedule. Put writing at the top of it—which doesn’t mean do it first. It means do it when you are at your best. Leave everything else for those times of day when you feel blah.

I have three kids and a tricky health issue. So having a schedule, setting protective boundaries around my writing time, helps keep the work going. Then I have to remind myself that I have three kids and a tricky health issue, so sometimes the schedule has to break.

But if I make sure to have time for the most important part of my job—the writing—the other stuff tends to fall in place.

You are the second author in the HBS Spotlight that named their dog after something in the writing world. How did you chose Kinsey (named after Sue Grafton's famous detective) and do you have a picture?

Kinsey just seemed to fit. It felt unique and had a tie to one of my passions, detective novels. And since she’s a girl, we couldn’t name her Scudder or Spenser or Archer, which would have been my first choices for a boy dog.

Alas, I do not have a picture of her handy. But she is a cross between a Jack Russell and an American Eskimo. We call her a Jackimo.

Author's Book List
Red Run
Any father's worst nightmare.

A knock on the door in the middle of the night.

A police detective tells you your daughter's been found beaten to death and left in the Red Run Drain.

When you go to tell your son, he's missing.

Evidence links your son to the killing.

What will you do to prove your son's innocence? Will you sacrifice your own?
Order the Book From: Amazon
Darkest Hour - The Lockman Chronicles #3
An enemy so close...

Craig Lockman has always protected the world from evil. Battled wicked creatures with an unquenchable thirst to destroy our world. Stood against the darkest of the darker things.

Now his most dreaded enemy lurks closer than ever before.

It's a horror he's not prepared--much less equipped--to fight. And if he doesn't prevail, the future of everyone he loves will fall into darkness.

For the first time in his life, Lockman feels afraid.

He is about to face his Darkest Hour.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
The Hustle - A Ridley Brone Mystery
Three years after the case that changed Ridley Brone forever, Ridley has cobbled together a life he can deal with, working as a PI out of the office above his karaoke bar, the High Note. Then Eddie Arndt walks in.

He wants Ridley to investigate his family’s murder-suicide from twenty years ago. Eddie insists his father could never have killed his mom and little brother, no matter what the police say. But to Ridley, it doesn’t sound like there’s much to investigate. He passes on the case until he receives a peculiar phone call.

Cryptic, vulgar, and disturbing. the caller threatens the one thing most precious to Ridley. Something very few even know about.

Ridley uses Eddie’s case as a distraction from the continued harassment by the strange caller. But when Ridley learns Eddie has a caller of his own who claims to be his family’s real killer, Ridley can draw only one conclusion…they’re both getting conned.

The search for who’s hustling them and why leads Ridley down the twisted trails of both their pasts. What he discovers will force him to question every assumption, and lead him to one hard truth…

The easiest targets are those with the most to lose.
Order the Book From: Amazon
Dark Legion - The Lockman Chronicles #2
Craig Lockman Returns...

The Agency taught him how to fight monsters, not a war.

How to protect his country, not those he loved.

How to kill, not how to live.

Now Craig Lockman faces a legion of vampires led by a self-proclaimed vampire king. Never before have these creatures amassed in such great numbers. Their goal is uncertain. Their reach unknown.

And while Lockman's training can help in the battle against this dark legion, nothing can prepare him for the sacrifice he must make in order to defeat its king.
Order the Book From: Amazon
Darker Things - The Lockman Chronicles #1
Craig Lockman...

No one had called him that in fifteen years.

Not since his days at the Agency. Not since he was trained to kill creatures that were supposed to exist only in nightmares.

Yet the teenage girl on his doorstep not only knows his real name, she claims she's his daughter.

Before Lockman can learn how the girl found him, he's attacked by a black-ops team of assassins. But these aren't ordinary killers—they're heavily armed vampires sent by his most hated enemy.

Forced on the run, Lockman protects his daughter from an onslaught of horrors while searching for who betrayed him and why. The investigation leads him to Detroit, where he unwittingly sets a plan into motion that could trigger a paranormal apocalypse and cost him his soul.
Book Trailer: Darker Things
Order the Book From: Amazon - Smashwords
Last Call - A Ridley Brone Mystery
Just ask Ridley Brone, a California private investigator who returns to his Michigan hometown when he inherits his estranged parents' multimillion dollar estate. The songs his mom and dad wrote made them rich, but their popular karaoke bar, the High Note, made them famous. Now Ridley owns a bar he doesn't have a clue how to manage, and his every effort seems only to further tarnish his parents' legacy.

Then Ridley's high school love, Autumn, shows up asking for help. She suspects her husband of having an affair and wants Ridley to find the truth. Itching to do the kind of work he knows, Ridley takes her case. But after he finds her husband murdered, the karaoke bar feels like vacation compared to the hard job of proving Autumn's innocence.

Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

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