HOSTILE WITNESS (legal thriller, thriller)
(The Witness Series,#1)
4.3 rating on 1,298
Kindle Bestseller FREE
Q. Your degree was in English but your career was in Advertising. How did that happen? And what led you back to writing?
A. Like every other college graduate, I just needed a job when I was hired as a receptionist (on a plug-in switchboard) in the advertising department of a large corporation I loved the business, got my MBA, and climbed the corporate ladder. When I met my client’s wife, Danielle Steel, I told a colleague “I could do that (write a book)”. She dared me to try. I took that dare and a lark turned into a passion and a career. I had never done any creative writing before that, only studied other authors. The experience taught me be bold, brave and take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself.
Q. You have a very varied background and seem to enjoy different things. Has that helped you in your writing process? Does it help with research for different types of genres?
A. I am an overly curious sort. I love watching and talking to people, I love traveling, and I have always had a sort of hyper-awareness of place. For me, curiosity and a desire to analyze what I see and hear are an essential part of what I do. I am also a law enforcement voyeur, so researching any aspect of the law is as exciting for me as weaving the new knowledge into a book. I take a novelist’s charge to create a believable universe very seriously. The writing process is all about taking in the world around me and reforming it into one suited for my characters. Every author is, by definition, curious.
Q. Tell us a little about your writing process: Do you make an outline first, write an ending first, drink coffee for a week first, ect.? And how does this process help you develop plots, characters or scenes in the story?
A. Up at 5:30 at work before 8:00 a.m., answer emails for an hour, write for another four, run errands (still thinking about work) and at night check in with pen-pal fans, answer mail that comes through the website, submit my books for review. I have been writing at a local coffee shop for 14 years so I’m won’t be distracted by chores at home. I also love the inspiration I get by watching the different types of people coming through the door. I do not work from an outline and the real work for me is in the editing. I will give a manuscript five or six full edits. Often, I slash out multiple pages and even chapters and rework. I wish I was one of those people who could work in my pajamas and get it right the first time around! However, after a book is published I take a whole month off and play a lot of tennis.
Q. Some of your plots are probably discussed with your husband who is a Judge, at least for accuracy checks, what other types of research do you recommend for legal thriller writers?
A. I am a big fan of sharing information so I have a list on my website specifically for thriller authors (http://www.rebeccaforster.com. Click ‘for writers’). Court watching, ride-alongs, college libraries and departments are great resources.
As for my husband, we don’t actually discuss my books before they are written. I have to take him out to dinner when I have specific questions that need detailed answers. We have a ball. Someday, I’m going to turn him into a fiction reader. Meanwhile, this part of the research is always fun.
Q. Do you have a favorite character and if so how was that character developed – was he or she based on someone you know outside of your head?
A. I feel like a traitor even saying I have favorites, but there are two that truly were compelling. Tessa in Before Her Eyes haunted me. She was based on an extraordinarily beautiful woman who never thought herself worthy of attention or of having the ability to accomplish anything worthwhile. I thought that was sad and I knew it to be untrue. Through Tessa, I imagined a voice for this woman. The end of this book is always surprising to readers but it was fitting for this wonderful character.
Hannah, the sixteen-year-old character in The Witness Series, is a compilation of the girls I saw at my son’s high school. These beautiful young women looked so sophisticated, were so sexy and seemingly mature, and yet if you spent time with them they really were just children trying to reflecting a reality adults created for them. I love that she found a champion in Josie. Conversely, Hannah has Josie’s back. All of my women characters seem to have a bit of tragic heroism about them. I hope that comes through to the reader because I believe all women can identify with that.
Q. How has digital sales helped you as an author?
A. I had a wonderful career in traditional publishing for twenty-five years but the market tightened. I thought it was time to retire until my husband urged me to explore digital publishing. Now I’m back to working seven days a week, have written four original novels, and been completely re-energized. I am taking greater creative risks. Before Her Eyes just won a Readers Choice Award for mystery and it was a book that New York editors didn’t think would find an audience. I am beyond thrilled that I had a chance to go with my gut and publish that book.
Q, What has changed the most in your opinion over the several years you have been publishing books?
A. There is no buffer between and author’s work and the reader’s opinion. That is both scary and exciting. Writing is no longer a lonely or solitary profession.
Q. What should self published writers do to make their work more marketable whether pitching to a traditional publisher or DIY?
A. Bottom line, communicate what your book is about and define its genre. I teach a weekend class at UCLA and it’s all about the ‘elevator’ pitch – a quick, compelling description of your book that encompasses, plot, story and character. It is a paragraph or two at most and darn hard to write. An author can use that one pitch to open their query letter or describe their book to the digital universe. If you don’t define your book, someone else will and that may not be to your advantage.
Q. How has your advertising background helped you with book marketing efforts?
A. It is really my corporate background that comes into play. Today creative people need to recognize that writing is a business not a creative exercise. Their product is their book, their job is to both create a market for it. I am a devotee of a marvelous book by Robin Blakely, a PR professional and coach who deals with creative people. The book is called Six Hats and it is a step-by-step guide for artists and writers who want to turn their creative passion into a business.
Q. What are 3 tips you can offer for Indie authors on finding readers for their books?
1) Interact with everyone to build a personal community,
2) educate yourself about review sites and submit your book; guest blog on blog sites
3) write a great book. Word-of- mouth is a double-edged sword; it is the surest way to gain new readers or lose them.
Q. What has worked best for you with online sales?
A. Offering Hostile Witness free was the key to success but I didn’t use that strategy until I had three books published in the series. Free only works if you have additional inventory for the reader to continue with.
Q. Is there still advertising opportunities for Indie authors who want to pitch paperback books but can’t get any into traditional retail stores?
A. Not everyone likes to strictly go online. Advertising is expensive and PR is free. Send a press release to your local paper (especially if you use your town as a local), or do a signing at an indie bookstore (I always do a talk with a signing). Schools would love you to talk to their classes about writing (even if you write adult fiction). Always bring bookmarks to send home with the kids. Women’s groups will be especially happy to hear from you. I speak at many luncheons hosted by philanthropic groups. They usually want you to bring books to sign. I do have 6 of my books available on Createspace in order to have hard copies available specifically for these occasions. I contacted the Chamber of Commerce in Hermosa Beach and they invited me to sign books in their booth at their fabulous street festival. We sold hundreds because the books are set in Hermosa. That was super cool. Finally, use your writing talents in the nonprofit world to build your reputation.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your latest release:
A. Eyewitness was inspired by a trip I took to Albania to visit my son in the Peace Corps. I realized how sheltered I had been the moment I walked into that village at the rocky feet of the Alps. What I really found, though, was a culture that fascinated me. The Albanians have an ancient set of laws laid out in a book called The Kunan. Learning about this drove the story of Eyewitness. It is about the clash of ancient and modern law. There is nothing more dramatic than real life and this book reflects a reality that is fascinating.
Other Books by Rebecca Forster