Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jeff Gunhus - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on best-selling Author Jeff Gunhus. He is the author of the The Templar Chronicles, Allison McNeil Thrillers and The Career Series.

Author Genre: Children's, Young Adult, Fantasy

Website: Jeff Gunhus
Twitter: @Jtmonsterhunter
E-Mail: jgunhus@aol.com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Google+: Check Out Google+
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Author Description:
Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Middle Grade/YA series The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. Jeff is also the co-CEO of a national company with over 4,000 employees that has been featured in national media for its unique opportunity for college students to learn entrepreneurial skills. He is the author of the motivational career guides No Parachute Required (Hyperion)

and Wake Up Call (Seven Guns Press). After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active lifestyle in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with his kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Café in Annapolis working on his next novel.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: Killer Within. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Night Terror coming soon. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease? (see link below.)

Thank you, the response to Killer Within has been great. I originally self-published the book, but in was recently purchased by Thomas & Mercer and will be republished on February 1st. I'm currently working with the T&M team and they have been fantastic. Until then, I'm staying busy getting Night Terror, the sequel to Night Chill, ready for release. This novel picks up ten years after the events in Night Chill as the Tremont family is once again plagued by a group interested in Sarah Tremont's special gifts. I think this is the scariest novel yet and pre-release reviews have mentioned more than a few readers having to stop reading at night after getting scared. That's music to my ears. Night Terror is available now for pre-order on Amazon.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

I genuinely enjoy connecting not only with readers of my novels but just people who love reading and story in general. I think people have a pretty good BS meter so they know if you're just posting and tweeting self-serving ads all the time. I try to use social media with the same mindset as mingling at a party. No-one enjoys a person who endlessly talks about themselves (or tries to sell you something.) I like to share quotes from great writers, share my "Cool writing spots" from around the country as I travel and urge people to support local coffeehouses and bookstores. I think these relationships help with the book success in that people are more willing to help get the word out when they have a relationship with you prior to the (rare) time you ask for their help. ?

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

Yes, blog tours are great opportunities drive people to your reader list, especially if there is a rafflecopter/giveaway involved. However, the most valuable readers to capture are your raving fans who are willing to spread the word about your work. I try to target them and do things to make them feel special such as ask them to be early readers, send them paperback copies, visit their blogs, etc. This is the long build of a writing career so it has to be nurtured and, most importantly, you have to enjoy it. I’m so humbled when someone choses to read my books and over the moon when they like what they read. I’ll talk to those people all day!

You do a lot of book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I really enjoy being in front of people. Nothing is better than face-to-face contact with readers. However, I’m a father of five so I simply don’t have the bandwidth to do to many public appearances. The exception I make is for school visits and conferences that want me to talk about strategies for reaching reluctant readers. This is what motivated my MG/YA series and I’m passionate about the topic. Other than that, I do appearances at independent bookstores in our region to support these very important businesses. I will be at Hard Bean Bookseller in Annapolis on October 1st to coincide with the launch of my new book, Night Terror and I will be speaking at the NINC conference at the end of October in Florida. All of my events are announced via Twitter and Facebook.

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?

I really enjoy creating the covers. For the Jack Templar books, I have an amazing artist, Nicole Cardiff (www.artofnicolecardiff.com), who does original artwork for me. We start with my description of the image I have in my mind and she creates pencil sketches of 3-4 versions. We go back and forth (and sometimes start from scratch) until we have an image that works. Then she does a three step process of refining the details until we have a finished product. When she’s done, the image goes to my brother, Eric Gunhus, who does the actual design. He’s ultra talented and it’s fun for us to have something creative to work on together. For Killer Within, Night Chill and Night Terror, we discuss an image that we both think might work and then we both independently comb through stock photo archives looking for ideas. There’s a tremendous amount of back and forth where I drive my brother crazy. Fortunately, he is somewhat obsessive and a perfectionist so I know the end product will be great.

You have a great book trailer for Jack Templar Monster Hunter. (See link below.) It looks very professional. Do you know how much impact it has had on Jack Templar series success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailer?

Thank you. I actually did the trailer myself just to see if I could do it. I used iMovie on the Mac and stock images and video that I was able to license for use. It took far more time than I imagined it would but it was a lot of fun. Since then, I discovered Yvi Jone at http://loewenherz-creative.com who is doing my trailers. She is excellent and reasonably priced. We plan a roll-out of the trailers she’s created this Fall. As for how much the trailer has impacted the success of the books, my feeling is that you never know which single reader will become an advocate for the book and generate hundreds of sales because they become an evangelist. If the trailer only helped find a few more initial readers, it was worthwhile. My overall sense from the feedback is that the younger readers really enjoy the trailers. Sometimes they confuse it to think there is a movie for the books so I get questions sometimes about when the movie is coming out.

Several of you novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience?

Yes, I think in today’s market you need to offer your audience whatever experience they want to have when consuming your story. ACX is such an author-friendly platform that they are really revolutionizing the audio book world. I don’t understand why an author wouldn’t be in audio. It just makes sense on every level.

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 participated in several types of giveaways and have found them to be very helpful. Goodreads has a great system for giveaways which increased discoverability on their site. I also use giveaways during blog tours to encourage participation. While some people participate only for the giveaway, if they follow my Facebook site and Twitter feed as part of the rafflecopter then I have an opportunity to market to them as a customer later.

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?

The most important step in preparing a book for market is doing the hard work with an outside editor to make sure the story is solid (the developmental edit) and then a second edit for typos (the copy edit). During this time, I work on creating a cover that represents the story and will generate interest. I choose a launch date, usually giving myself a 2-3 month runway for the project. For my early books, I sought out paid reviews from Kirkus, Foreword Reviews and Publishers Weekly. These can be a double-edged sword as there is no guarantee of a good review, but a blurb from a known entity helps a great deal for marketing. I also contact past bloggers who have reviewed my books and offer ARC (Advance Reader Copies) for early reviews. Lastly, I then set up a blog tour with one of the companies I have used to coincide with my launch. Blog tours have proven to be the most successful way to build a long-term audience and supporters.


I have had several authors that I have interviewed who have participated in literacy programs and donated the proceeds to a charity. You have done that with your book: Reaching Your Reluctant Reader. How rewarding is it to know you are helping children learn the beauty of books?

Reading skills have consistently shown to be a leading indicator for academic success for young people. The earlier the appreciation of books starts, the better chance we have of creating life-long learners. That’s what Reaching Your Reluctant Reader is all about and the Toys For Tots Literacy Program has a very similar mission. It feels great to support their program with 100% of author proceeds from the book. Interestingly enough, a publishing company from Azerbaijan recently contacted me and wants to translate Reaching Your Reluctant Reader for use in their schools. All proceeds from the rights sale for that book will go to Toys For Tots Literacy.

Author's Book List
Night Terror - Night Chill Book 2
Coming in October

Ten years after her abduction and near-sacrifice to the Source, Sarah Tremont struggles to be a normal teenager. As much as she’s tried to suppress the power inside of her, it’s grown dangerously strong and has drawn the attention of those who want to possess her power for themselves.

The nightmare that she thought was long over starts again as powerful forces descend upon Prescott City to seek her out. With her parents and Joseph Lonetree’s help, Sarah must stand up to an evil much more powerful than the one she faced in the caves a decade earlier. But in the end, she discovers the greatest danger might come from the power living inside of her.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Killer Within - An Allison McNeil Thriller
Arnie Milhouse is a murderer. A millionaire with dozens of kills in his past and no one the wiser. But when his name surfaces in connection with the death of a D.C. call girl, Arnie knows it’s only a matter of time before the FBI puts the pieces together. As he makes plans to disappear and leave his life in Annapolis behind forever, he meets a beautiful, mysterious woman who takes an interest in him. The perfect final victim. He can’t believe his luck. Only luck has nothing to do with it. Allison McNeil has returned to Annapolis, a city that she promised herself she would never come back to, not while the cruel memories of her time at the United States Naval Academy still haunt her. But she’s willing to do just about anything to get close to Arnie, even if it means having to face down the demons of her past. Her plans work and soon she and Arnie find themselves locked in a dangerous dance of seduction and betrayal. But Arnie isn’t the only one who carries a secret and the dark truth about Allison McNeil makes a final confrontation between them inevitable. Neither of them know it, but they're on a collision course that only one of them will survive.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Night Chill
Jack Tremont moves his family to the quiet mountains of Western Maryland hoping to leave behind a troubled past and restart his life. Instead, he finds himself caught up in a nightmare when his daughter Sarah is targeted by Nate Huckley, a mysterious and horrifying stranger driven by a dark power that will stop at nothing to possess Sarah. When Sarah goes missing, suspicion falls on Jack and he must uncover the secrets of the small mountain town of Prescott City and face the evil secret hidden there. As he digs further, he learns the conspiracy reaches more deeply than he could have imagined. Finally, he will have to face the question, What is a father willing to do to save his child? The answer? Anything. Anything at all.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Jack Templar And The Lord Of The Vampires - Book #3 of the Templar Chronicles
After fighting a goblin army, befriending an ancient werewolf, and battling two fire breathing dragons during his adventures at the Monster Hunter Academy, Jack Templar hoped for a rest. No such luck.

In this third adventure of the Jack Templar Monster Hunter series, Jack embarks on a quest to track down and acquire the first of five mythical Jerusalem Stones, an ancient power source found by his ancestors, the Templar Knights. Only the reunited Stones can stop Ren Lucre, the Dark Lord who holds Jack’s father hostage and prepares for an all-out war against an unsuspecting human world.

A different Creach Lord holds each Stone, and recovering them will not be easy. Jack and his friends begin their quest by seeking out a powerful and terrifying adversary, the Lord of the Vampires. The fate of the world rests on Jack’s shoulders and he will be tested like never before.

Join Jack Templar on his most dangerous journey yet, but remember that doing so makes you part of his world. Read this book only if you are prepared to battle the Creach and live by the monster hunter motto. Because to survive, you must...

Do your duty, come what may!

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy - Book #2 of the Templar Chronicles
After barely surviving the onslaught of monsters that tried to kill him the day before his fourteenth birthday, Jack Templar leaves his hometown on a quest to rescue his father and discover the truth about his past. Joined by his friends Will and T-Rex, and led by Eva, the mysterious one-handed monster hunter, Jack sets out for the Monster Hunter Academy where he hopes to find answers to his questions. Little does he suspect that the Academy is filled with dangers of its own, many of them more terrifying than anything he’s faced so far.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Reaching Your Reluctant Reader
When Jeff Gunhus discovered his 11 year-old son was a reluctant reader, he decided to try some out of the box ideas to get him excited about books. After a lot of trial and error, including writing the middle grade novel Jack Templar Monster Hunter, he discovered a process that worked and his son is now an avid reader. After posting on the topic of reluctant readers on a blog, he was bombarded with positive feedback from parents who also had a reluctant reader. In response to this, he decided to write Reaching The Reluctant Reader to hopefully help parents get their young readers excited about books. 100% of author proceeds will benefit the Toys For Tots Literacy Program.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Jack Templar Monster Hunter - Book #1 of the Templar Chronicles
If you're not a monster hunter, don't read this book!

Seriously, this book is not meant for you. By reading it, you run the risk of attracting monsters to your position and being attacked. So, unless you are willing to join the fight...just walk away.

Still here? OK, don't say I didn't warn you. Let me introduce myself. I'm Jack Templar and I'm an orphan.

Recently, I discovered that I came from a long line of monster hunters. You know, vampires, werewolves, zombies, you name it. Turns out there was some kind of truce between monsters and the hunters that kids under fourteen were off-limits. I didn't find out about all this until the day before my birthday. Yeah, you guessed it, my fourteenth birthday. So, all bets were off. The monsters were coming to get me.

Not only that, but I also found out that if monsters around the world could choose one human to kill, it would be me. Why? I haven’t a clue, but the hunters I've met talk about a prophecy and that they think I'm the One...whatever that means. I’d like to find out some day, but for right now, I’m just trying to stay alive.

If you want to hear a story that will scare you, gross you out and forever change the way you look at the world around you, then you came to the right place.

But, if you want to keep the illusion that the world is a safe and orderly place, then get out of here and stop wasting my time.

Do your duty, come what may.

Book Trailer: Jack Templar Monster Hunter

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
Top Shelf Author Advice
Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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