Kenneth Atchity Discusses His New Thriller, “The Messiah Matrix,” and the Many Misconceptions Aspiring Novelists Have About the BusinessI recently had the pleasure of interviewing my literary manager, Emmy-nominated film producer and writer Kenneth Atchity about his new thriller, “The Messiah Matrix,” and the many misconceptions aspiring novelists have about the business of writing.
Here’s what he told me.
YOU’VE AUTHORED SEVERAL BOOKS OVER THE YEARS, BUT ALL NONFICTION WITH THE EXCEPTION OF FINISHING THE LATE WILLIAM DIEHL’S (AUTHOR OF “PRIMAL FEAR“) TITLE, “SEVEN WAYS TO DIE.” WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO WRITE FICTION?
I’ve always worked with fiction, analyzing it as a professor and academic, and editing and publishing it in my second career as a literary manager and now publisher.
I just hadn’t found a story that captured my imagination until this one did.
“THE MESSIAH MATRIX” IS SELLING VERY WELL AND GETTING AMAZING REVIEWS. TELL US ABOUT THE STORY.
It’s a story targeting all those who’ve wondered whether the “facts” we were told about Jesus, growing up Catholic and Christian, were all really true. And why there are so many contradictions in the New Testament.
And why there is no historical evidence that Jesus ever existed as an actual man walking the earth. I believed all that until I was about sixteen, and started putting two and two together and getting five.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE “BEST” AND “WORST” ASPECTS OF BEING A WRITER?
The best aspect is the intensity of having absolute control over the world you’re building and the characters who live in it.
The worst is the interface between writing and publishing.
But the worst has now been massively mitigated by the Internet age and e-publishing that allows writers to get their stories direct to their audience, for better or for worse.
HOW DO YOU MARKET YOURSELF AND YOUR BOOKS?
Like everyone else, I punt. I let all my friends and contacts know about them. I blog about them. I have Facebook pages–visit Messiah Matrix’s page or its website, www.messiahmatrix.com.
I made a book trailer and got it posted on every book blog that would take it as well as on YouTube.
I don’t let a day go by without thinking of another way to market it. If you believe in a story, you move heaven and earth to get people to read it.
If Shakespeare and Euripides and Sophocles and the Brontes had to do that why shouldn’t I?
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST EFFECTIVE PROMOTIONAL TOOLS?
That’s a great question. I think my most effective tool has been reaching out to my “database” and asking them to spread the word about my book, but I do that with the trailer embedded in the reach out.
WHAT ADVANTAGES DO YOU ENJOY AS AN INDIE AUTHOR THAT YOU WOULDN’T HAVE WITH A TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING HOUSE?
Ownership is the greatest advantage. I’m not giving up my publishing rights in perpetuity which I’d be doing if a traditional publisher published the book.
I made a joint venture with a small British publisher that allowed them basically to distribute it, while allowing me to share 50/50 in all rights with them. So we are already pursuing film interest.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL WRITING DAY.
I don’t have writing days. I write every single day, and make sure I get in at least an hour a day–on a stopwatch that clocks ONLY writing time.
When I’m not writing, I stop the watch, as described in my book, “A Writer’s Time.”
As Hesiod said long ago, “If you put a little upon a little, soon it will become a lot.”
DO YOU EVER EXPERIENCE WRITER’S BLOCK?
I honestly have never experienced it in my life, except before the age of seven when I wasn’t writing. I’m too busy to be blocked.
If I get “stuck” for a moment, I turn off the day’s stopwatch and move to something else until I get unstuck.
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS AS A WRITER?
My only long-term goal is to continue writing.This year I’ve published my completion of William Diehl’s (the late author of “Primal Fear”) “Seven Ways to Die,” my nonfiction book “Quit Your Day Job and Live Out Your Dreams,” and now “The Messiah Matrix.”
I’m now completing the screenplay for “Seven Ways to Die,” and have two other nonfiction books to get to.
I can’t imagine running out of ideas of what to write next, though I’m determined not to start a new novel until I find a story as compelling as the one behind “The Messiah Matrix.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGES AS A NOVELIST?
Endless revising is the biggest challenge. I’m still revising, and the book is published. I will do a new edition someday with little tweaks in it.
“WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WRITE?
Sheer love for storytelling and for the act of formal communication.
I believe communication is the hope for the human race, and that we are approaching that Omega Point predicted by Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin where all humans are in full communication all the time.
WHAT ARE SOME MISCONCEPTIONS YOU BELIEVE ASPIRING NOVELISTS HAVE?
Misconceptions held by aspiring novelists are as numerous as aspiring novelists. And we all have to go through them: belief that they know what they’re doing as novelists, belief that they don’t need editorial help, belief that the world will beat a path to their door, belief that they deserve fame and fortune, belief that they can bully others–as someone who’s represented authors for twenty-five years I could go on and on.
The aspiring authors who are happy to be writing, thrilled to be represented, delighted to be published, and humble about constantly improving their art make it all worthwhile–though they are few and far between.
I’m happy to say I’ve represented some of them for nearly twenty years at this point.
And now, through Story Merchant Books, I’m privileged to be publishing them as well. See www.storymerchant.com.
ANY WORDS YOU’D LIKE TO LEAVE FOR ASPIRING NOVELISTS?
Never give up, never give up, never give up. Hone your craft. Be eager and grateful for constructive criticism. Be appreciative to anyone who’s in the marketplace who will actually help you.
Throw all preconceptions about the world of publishing out the window, because the world has done just that in the last five years. Think outside the box. Don’t confuse your creativity with your marketing. Build an iron curtain between them in your brain, and spend as much time marketing as you do writing.
You must proselytize your own work! You must take responsibility for it, from the very beginning–if you have a dream, and don’t make it come true, the world may lose something unique forever.
If you construct the dream, you MUST let us know about it no matter how long it takes you and what it costs you. If you’re not going to invest in your own career, how can you expect anyone else to?
The great thing about today’s publishing situation is that if you’re an unknown writer, or even a ‘somewhat known’ one, and get accepted by a traditional publisher you will HAVE TO promote your book or no one will see it.
If you publish yourself, or through my company for example, you will still HAVE TO promote it, but the difference is that you’ll get nearly five times more of the revenues and you will not lose control of the rights. So it’s not hard to figure out what to do, is it?
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTATION?
I have so many I’m about to publish a book of quotations for writers that I’ve collected all my life. But I love this one:
“On the day of victory no one is tired.”
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME, KEN!
Thank you for this opportunity!