Thursday, February 13, 2014

Steven Konkoly - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Steven Konkoly. He is the Author of the apocalyptic thriller, The Jakarta Pandemic, and gritty covert-ops series, Black Flagged.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Horror, Literature & Fiction

Website: Steven Konkoly - Thriller Fiction
Twitter: @stevenkonkoly
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Author Description:
"I write political/military thrillers and apocalyptic stories with gritty, often unapologetic themes. I don't believe in a black and white world - so strap in for a roller coaster ride through conflicted territory, where the right decision is rarely clear, and always comes at a difficult price."

Steven graduated with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy, receiving a Bachelor of Science in English Literature. He was one of sixteen graduating Ensigns selected for the elite Naval Special Warfare program (SEALs).

He served the next eight years on active duty in various Navy and Marine Corps units: training with the Navy SEALs, driving warships, and directly guiding every conceivable munition onto target. From leading Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations as a boarding officer in the Arabian Gulf, to directing Close Air Support (CAS) as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) assigned to a specialized Marine Corps unit, Steven's "in-house" experience with a wide variety of regular and elite military units brings a unique authenticity to his writing.

Upon resigning his commission, Steven moved with his family to coastal southern Maine, where he wakes up at "zero dark thirty" to write for most of the day. When "off duty," he struggles to strike a balance between a woefully short sailing season and unreasonably long winter.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Event Horizon. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes! I just wrapped up Event Horizon, the second book in The Perseid Collapse Series. It’s available now for preorder on Amazon, and will be released on March 20, 2014. The Perseid Collapse Series is a gritty, post-apocalyptic story set in New England that chronicles the collapse of society from an “event.” The “event” is a devastating combination of a natural phenomenon with a sinister, manmade attack. The first several chapters of the novel focus on the big picture conspiracy and mechanics behind the “event,” but the reader is quickly put in regular shoes, to experience the disaster on a personal level.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

My Twitter following can be a little deceptive. While I do engage with readers on Twitter, most of the impact there comes from retweets by other authors or followers interested in my genres of writing (Post-apocalyptic and political/espionage thrillers).

It’s an easy way for readers to reach out to me, without a ton of expectation. 140 characters makes for short conversation. Twitter also draws people to my blog. I keep a Twitter feed rolling with book reviews (for other authors’ books) and articles that I have posted to my blog. I see these retweeted quite often. The bulk of my regular social media presence comes from Facebook, both my personal page and thriller-writing page. It’s probably the best place to catch what I’m doing, besides my blog.

All of my news filters through Facebook. Blog posts, new release updates, exclusive content releases, contests, genre related news pieces. Beyond that, I do keep a mailing list, which I regularly (2x per month) update with new release information, exclusive content (sneak peek chapters), and upcoming book deals. I converse regularly via email with many readers on this list.

Finally, I’ll talk about finding a niche and expanding it— on my blog at Sorry to do that to everyone, but I can’t possible do justice to this important topic without sending this interview’s word count through the stratosphere.

Do you do book signings, 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?

I have to admit that this is one part of the writer’s world in which I am conspicuously absent. Prior to quitting my day job in September of 2013, my time was divided between day job, family and writing, which left little time for anything else. The prospect of giving up weekend time or evenings to sign books didn’t appeal to me.

I have started to do radio interviews, which typically occur later at night and do not interfere with home life. Last week I spent an hour talking to a radio host and listeners in Fairbanks, Alaska. Reaching out and expanding my public exposure is one of my 2014 goals.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. 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?

Jeroen ten Berge is a gifted artist. I truly wish I could say that I had a direct hand in creating these amazing covers, but I don’t. I send Jeroen an early draft, sometimes just half of the book, and he starts to conceptualize the cover. He’s a big post-apocalyptic fan, so we talked back and forth quite a bit about the story, but I never dictate what I want to see. I leave that to him, and the results are incredible.

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

I belong to a local writing group that meets once a month. This group provides craft advice, which I eventually apply to all of my manuscripts. Unfortunately, I write too fast to take the advice and directly apply it to most of the passages we review as a group. Often, the chapter they critique is part of a finished draft, well past the point where I can go back and address new writing suggestion. It’s a diverse group, including literary fiction, YA and thriller writers, which broadens the range of craft suggestions and the value of their critique. As a writer, if you can find a supportive, yet honest writing group, I highly suggest you seek its company.

I also frequent a few of the better known Indie boards, like Kindle Board’s Writer’s CafĂ©. Here you’ll find a combination of craft, marketing and publishing information and advice. There’s always a lively conversation (sometimes too lively) about the most recent topics in the writing industry, along with shared advice about “what works and what doesn’t.” Well worth a visit.

Lastly, I have built my own network of author friends, mostly in the same genres, all of whom have shared their successes and failures. This group has undoubtedly been my greatest support network. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other authors. I count the people in this group to be among my best friends, which is an odd thing to say about mainly virtual friendships.

Between your book writing, blogging, 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?

Let me start by quoting Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now. “The horror…the horror.” When I first started writing, I struggled to manage it all. I didn’t have a set schedule. I wrote when I had free time, often at night, which never worked for me… too tired by the end of the day. It took me over two years to finish The Jakarta Pandemic. After meeting with publishing success, I decided to write a second book— but I couldn’t wrap my head around spending two years working on it. Jakarta hit the shelves in the fall of 2010, right on the fringe of the ebook explosion, and I knew that a two-year timeline between books was too long to maintain the momentum and traction I had gained from my first novel. My wife suggested I wake up early and try to write for a few hours before our house descended into chaos. I looked at her like she was crazy, but took her advice. After two weeks of painful 4:00 AM wakeups, I settled into a routine that I have maintained for two years. I may not be up and at the keyboard that early every day, but I’m typically in my office by 5:00 AM, tending to a little business before I’m ready to dive into my current manuscript. By front loading my writing day, I can respond to the unexpected and unplanned moments in life and still keep my self-imposed publishing deadline. My goal is to release a book every four months.

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 have easily given away more than a 100,000 copies of my books, all of which have been the first books in my series. I’ve used a few different strategies to give the books away. Currently, I schedule a free book promotion with a service like BookBub and coordinate this with KDP Select free days. This is a fantastic and relatively inexpensive way to expose prospective readers to your writing, and hopefully create a valued, repeat reader.

I rarely turn down the request to giveaway my books on a genre related blog or book review site. For my post-apocalyptic books, I actively seek out these opportunities, especially within the prepper/survivalist community. Readers in that community either love or hate my books (most enjoy them), and they spread the word. It’s an inexpensive way to gain exposure and future readers, plus it has sparked some great friendships and online conversations. This is expanded upon in my “finding a niche” blog post.

How do you start your book launch process for a new book? Give a brief outline of the steps you go through to get your book to market. What methods were the most successful?

I approach my book launches a little differently now. Having built a solid readership, I rely heavily on their support in the beginning. The momentum gained by these initial purchases continues as Amazon’s algorithms and recommendations kick in, exposing my books to readers with similar interests. Amazon has recently given me the option offer my novels for preorder, which presents me with more opportunity to spread the word in advance of the launch. Like most authors, I hit the “airwaves” on Facebook, my blog, Twitter and any other forum possible to get the word out in advance. For me, leaning on my reader list has been the most effective. Another important aspect of maintaining a dedicated reader list, is the sheer number of reviews they can generate within the first month. My latest release, The Perseid Collapse received 100 reviews within the first two month on the market, giving prospective readers a solid idea of what they’re getting into with this series.

How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?

I get asked this often, since my plots are complex, the characters are numerous and the timelines within each book are painfully synchronized and critical to the story arc. I’ll give you the short version, then once again refer everyone to a more comprehensive blog post called “The Process.” Here it is in case you want to jump into the details. I recommend using software (Aeon Timeline) for the timeline. I now use a trick within Word, involving the sidebar window and heading styles, which I can explain if you email me. It accomplishes the basic timeline structure I require to keep it all straight, but something like Aeon Timeline give you a robust platform with options to track plot elements, character appearances and many other aspects that can help round out your writing. If used properly, you can instantly see if you’ve ignored a primary character or setting for too long in the context of your work.

The characters require a brief description, usually kept in a printed out sheet next to my desk. I leave enough space to add detail and relationships. This sheet gets messy. I don’t lean on physical descriptions to start, but when they are given in the story, I jot them down to ensure continuity later. Some writers devote entire pages to character sketches. This might be a good idea for the first book, but I find that after two or three novels in the same series, I rarely refer to this background information.

As for the plots. Read my blog post. They twist and turn, often as I write the story. I know where I’m going, the direction changes more often than I care to admit.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I definitely rely on my reading audience to supply them. Like I mentioned above, with a decent size following, I rack up reviews fairly quickly and don’t feel any need to seek reviews from review sites or services. Every once in a while, I will take to the airwaves to ask readers to write a review if they feel compelled enough to do so. I also include a gentle request for a short review at the back of each novel.

You have published a couple different genres (Post-Apocalyptic Saga + Mystery, Thriller & Suspense). Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which genre did you enjoy writing the most?

Yes. Changing hats takes some adjustment. There are many similarities between the genres and key themes that I transfer through all of my stories. My writing is gritty, regardless, so I don’t feel the need to tone down the violence (when it surfaces) in one genre over the next. Description and pace are often similarly measured. The biggest difficulty comes from switching characters. I wrote four novels about covert operatives, D.C. politicians, terrorists, and CIA/FBI bureaucrats…it’s a starkly different world than the family life of Alex Fletcher and his neighbors. The Fletchers are a capable bunch, and Alex is ex-military, but my wife had to constantly remind me that they weren’t hardened, black-ops commandos. Writing family dynamics, emotions and every day fears or concerns took some adjustment. Overall, the writing style stays the same, so a reader who enjoys my post-apocalyptic offerings, will not be disappointed with my Black Flagged Series. I found my true voice with the Black Flagged Series and kept it for The Perseid Collapse. I’m seeing more crossover now between my readers than ever before.

Which genre do I enjoy the most? Tough question. Without a doubt, I loved writing the Black Flagged books. I hesitated to put that pen down to write in the post-apocalyptic genre. I was convinced by readers who enjoyed The Jakarta Pandemic.

Jakarta developed a strong following, and I consistently received requests to either bring back the Fletchers or write another post-apocalyptic book. I combined the requests into The Perseid Collapse books. I plan to finish three books in that series and return to Black Flagged to round out the core series, which includes one more book (Black Flagged Reprisals) in a linear time progression, followed by a prequel (Black Flagged Beginnings…something like that). The hard part is that I’m torn. I love both series so much, it’s like choosing between children.

Author's Book List
Event Horizon - The Perseid Collapse Series
Book Two in The Perseid Collapse Series

The critically acclaimed, post-apocalyptic saga continues…

With Boston collapsing faster than Alex Fletcher predicted, his personal rescue mission deep into the heart of an increasingly unfamiliar city reaches a critical point. Pursued by a ruthless militia group and forced to navigate a treacherous landscape, he runs a gauntlet of grim decisions and impossible odds to reach perceived safety. Perceived because nothing is safe in the world rapidly emerging after the “event.”

In Maine, the consequences of a random, deadly encounter has left Kate Fletcher and her travel companions in a state of perpetual fear. Finally reaching the Fletcher’s western Maine retreat, they prepare for the worst—not truly understanding what that means to rogue militia leader, Eli Russell. Nothing can prepare them for what he is willing to unleash.

A series of lethal coincidences fuels Eli’s ghastly strategy to raise a private army, planting the Fletcher’s firmly at the intersection of his shocking desires—and the epicenter of his rage.

The human darkness released on August 19, 2019 threatens to tear the fabric of society apart, until nothing remains but a distant memory of the past. Event Horizon sets the stage for an epic clash to keep those memories alive and restore hope to a battered nation.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Black Flagged Vektor - Black Flagged Series
Book Four in the Black Flagged Series

With the most recent bioterrorism threat against the United States neutralized, and Dr. Anatoly Reznikov in secret custody; CIA Deputy Director Karl Berg proposes a more permanent solution to prevent future attacks.

- A covert raid by General Sanderson's Black Flag unit against Vektor Labs, deep inside destroy a bioweapons program that should have ended with the Cold War -

The United States isn't the only nation looking to tie up loose ends. The sudden abduction of a CIA officer in Stockholm exposes the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service's (SVR) ruthless campaign to discover the truth behind the massacre of an elite Spetsnaz team sent to eliminate Reznikov...and permanently bury his knowledge of Vektor's sinister purpose.

When the SVR investigation takes a turn that could threaten the mission against Vektor Labs, Berg goes "off the books" like never before to even the odds.

Through an intricate web of unsavory alliances, deviously orchestrated political maneuvers and shockingly brutal black-ops sanctions, Karl Berg will set in motion an unstoppable chain of events with the potential to ignite a new Cold War.

Black Flagged Vektor continues the series' tradition of gritty, unapologetic storytelling, plunging readers even deeper into the murky, shark infested waters navigated by covert operators and their puppet masters.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Black Flagged Apex - Black Flagged Series
Book Three in the Black Flagged Series

A tense alliance between General Sanderson and the CIA narrowly averts an apocalyptic attack by Islamic fundamentalists in Europe, but ultimately fails to recover the virus canisters. With the biological weapons still missing, the specter of an attack against the United States looms dangerously closer.

Desperate to stop Al Qaeda, Daniel Petrovich's "black ops" team is sent to investigate the last lead provided by Anatoly Reznikov, the twisted scientist responsible for designing the virus. What they uncover will shake U.S. authorities to the core.

Every canister of the Zulu Virus has been shipped to the United States...

Back in Washington D.C., this startling revelation is intensified by a grim discovery. Suspected Al Qaeda cells under FBI surveillance have been simultaneously massacred, targets of a shadowy domestic terror organization with ties to a rising political movement. When Special Agent in Charge Ryan Sharpe discovers that Al Qaeda lost possession of every virus canisters in the coordinated attack, he deploys Task Force Scorpion to hunt down a new breed of terrorist and recover the virus.

As Sharpe's task force unravels the curious fabric of True America's plot, they start to assemble the chilling details of an impending domestic bioweapons attack--on an unimaginable scale. With time expiring, and his task force running out of options, Sharpe embraces the illicit help of a sworn enemy, whose questionable tactics may be their only chance of stopping an insidious plan to destabilize the United States.

Black Flagged Apex propels the gritty, often unapologetic Black Flagged Series into new territory, where hidden agendas, startling betrayals and brutal action define the daily landscape navigated by the puppet masters and frontline operators in the war on terror.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Black Flagged Redux - Black Flagged Series
Book Two of the Black Flagged Series

Two years after shocking Washington D.C. with a brutal betrayal, General Terrence Sanderson prepares for his triumphant return. With his illegal covert operations group resurrected, he waits in the shadows for the right moment to demonstrate the grim necessity of the Black Flag program. His opportunity may arrive sooner than expected.

At Langley, Karl Berg is appointed to a new position with the CIA's National Clandestine Service. As senior liaison to the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Intelligence Center, he makes a disturbing discovery. Russian Federation intelligence services are secretly scouring Europe to find Anatoly Reznikov, a rogue Russian scientist at the top of every nation's WMD watch list. Criminally obsessed with reviving a project long banned by the Russian government, Reznikov has finally found partners willing to fund his project, for an unimaginable price.

While the Russians pursue Reznikov, Berg goes "off the books" again and sends one of Sanderson's Black Flag teams to investigate. Led by Daniel Petrovich, the team uncovers a twisted conspiracy aimed at striking a horrific blow against the West, with the frightening potential to bring the United States to its knees. With the help of Berg's shadowy network, Petrovich races against the clock to find Reznikov, before the Russians eliminate the only link to the emerging worldwide threat.

Nothing is what it seems in this gritty world of covert operatives and back room Washington agendas.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Jakarta Pandemic
The People's Republic of China announces strict travel restrictions…

Indonesia goes dark…

Cases of an uncategorized influenza virus appear in major cities around the globe…

Department of Health and Human Services officials claim that measures have been taken to safeguard the American public…

Most ignore the warnings…

Few prepare…

Alex Fletcher, Iraq War veteran, has read the signs for years. A seasoned sales representative for Biosphere Pharmaceuticals, he understands the unique dangers of a pandemic flu and has taken the necessary steps to prepare. With his family and home mobilized to endure an extended period of seclusion, Alex thinks he's ready for the pandemic. He's not even close.

The lethal H16N1 virus rapidly spreads across the nation, stretching the fragile bonds of society to the breaking point. Schools close, grocery stores empty, fuel deliveries stop, hospitals start turning away the sick…riots engulf the cities.

As hostility and mistrust engulfs his idyllic Maine neighborhood, Alex quickly realizes that the H16N1 virus will be the least of his problems.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
The Perseid Collapse - The Perseid Collapse Series
Book One in The Perseid Collapse Series.

Alex Fletcher is back, in the epic, post-apocalyptic sequel to "prepper-themed" bestseller, The Jakarta Pandemic.

2019. Six years after the Jakarta Pandemic "decimated" the world's population; life is back to normal for the Fletchers and most Americans. The United States stands at the brink of a complete domestic and international resurgence, with stories of confidence and prosperity dominating the headlines. Appearances can be deceiving.

An undercurrent of paranoia and fear still runs strong below the surface; the collective angst spawned by 28 million American deaths forever stamped into population's fragile psyche. Suppressed memories of helplessness and desperation, anger and jealousy--All of it lurks in the shadows, waiting to be released.

On August 19, 2019, an inconceivable "event" will unleash a darkness over the United States. A human darkness with a vast appetite for chaos and violence.

Alex Fletcher will wake to this new world, catapulted headfirst into an impossible journey through a brutally hostile landscape--where the forged bonds of friendship and family remain the only true constant.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Black Flagged
A graduate of the Department of Defense's experimental Black Flag program, Daniel Petrovich carries a secret he's taken extreme measures to keep buried. A secret hidden in the deepest vaults of the Pentagon.

Someone is trying to raise the fallen program from the ashes and bring Daniel back with it. Someone who holds the key to Daniel's darkest secrets...and has pulled his strings before.

In exchange for the promise of a clean slate, and a chance to keep the life he has built with the woman he loves, Daniel agrees to carry out one final mission: the seemingly uncomplicated assassination of a confirmed terrorist financier.

Daniel's life is about to disintegrate, as he becomes the focus of a relentless federal manhunt, and the target of a ruthlessly vengeful CIA agent. To survive, he'll be forced to release a dark side he'd fought for years to suppress. A dark side critical to his former puppet master's intricate plan to revive the Black Flag program.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
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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