Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Interview with Stuart Nachbar, Author of Defending College Heights
Firstly can you tell us a little bit about your novel Defending College Heights?
Defending College Heights is a story of an investigation into the murder of a U.S. Army recruiter on a college campus, Hudson Technical University in New York State. Anti-war activists are first suspected to be involved, but as the story unravels the truth about the murder and the future of the college are closely linked together.
What is your writing background up until now?
Defending College Heights is my second novel. My first, The Sex Ed Chronicles, is the story of a young reporter who comes to the aid of a teacher who is accused of teaching sex education and blacklisted by a conservative parent's group. That story takes place in 1980 New Jersey as the state board of education considers sex ed while politics are shifting to the right.
What inspired your idea for your currently published novel?
I worked for ten years in software marketing and college career counselors were clients. I learned a lot about on-campus recruiting as well as military recruiting through my work. I also followed education politics quite closely. I was curious to learn what might happen if a recruiter were actually murdered--such an event has never happened--and to compare Vietnam-era anti-war activism with anti-war activism today.
Do you have any specific daily writing routines you stick to?
I blog most mornings on education-related topics on my own site at www.EducatedQuest.com and reserve the remainder of the day for writing and research for the novels.
So now that you have published Defending College Heights and a few other novels are you planning a next novel we should be looking forward to?
I am finishing the manuscript for a new novel, Tip Offs, about a young bank executive who reluctantly becomes a girl's high school basketball coach.
Very interesting. We will look out for that one. After you completed Defending College Heights or your very first novel how difficult was it for you to land an agent?
For The Sex Ed Chronicles, my goal was to complete and write a compelling story. I did not give consideration to seeking an agent. I felt that I had worked so hard on the story that I wanted to see it published. So, I went the print-on-demand route through iUniverse. My relationship with iUniverse was successful. Chronicles earned Publisher's Choice, their highest writing and design award, and the story got into Barnes and Noble and Borders stores close to home. For Defending I tried to get an agent. I went to a Writer's Digest "pitch-slam" that was a part of Book Expo America. I spoke to five agents, got five requests for chapters, but all rejections.
The same thing happened when I contacted agents I had researched though Predators and Editors, an excellent reference site. So, I went the print-on-demand route again. The story also won an iUniverse award as well as a presence in bookstores. Defending has reviewed very well, so I'm convinced that the next time will be the charmer. I have gotten considerable advice and criticism for Tip Offs that has helped make it a better story. I will go the traditional route for this book and work with an agent.
Would you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write about what you know. I worked with schools for several years, so I had a good understanding of their issues and politics. I had contacts who could help fill in the blanks in my knowledge. I want people to believe that I have added something new to help them understand some very complex issues. Find serious readers, writers and instructors. After my experiences with writing Chronicles, I invested in workshops conducted at Colgate University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and by Writer's Digest Online. I needed to know the basics about how stories must be told so that they hold the reader's attention. I received the best direction from instructors who are also professional writers. Develop a Web presence and learn as much as possible about marketing online. I had been in an Internet business before I started writing but I knew little to nothing about search engine optimization and search engine marketing, among other things. I discovered these were musts. The most cost effective way to sell and promote is online; the 'Net takes you to the largest possible audience. I'm now enrolled in a certificate program in digital media marketing at New York University, and so far that education has been worth every penny.
Would you have done anything differently?
Possibly. I might have been better served to take the digital media courses earlier, but the technology available to writers four-five years ago was not close to what it is today. I might have blogged earlier, too.
After doing Defending through print-on-demand, I worked with a very good editor to shape up the story. Had I worked with an editor prior to submitting the manuscript and remained persistent, I believe that I would have earned representation. Defending became that good a story.
Thanks so much for your time Stuart and I hope you guys enjoy!