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Advice from IR Approved Author Eric Linnell: “‘Don’t force it.’…if you do, you’re probably not going to end up with very good results.”

This Side of Zero received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.

Following find an interview with author Eric Linnell.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

This Side of Zero, May 2018

What’s the book’s first line? 

Eddie turns on, tunes in, drops out.

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

It’s a dark psychological thriller about several characters in a small Minnesota town, all of them fighting the demons of their individual childhoods. Carl, the main narrator, is well intentioned but misunderstood. His OCD controls his life, even as he tries to ignore the voice in his head. Rex is a sex addict with sociopathic tendencies whose narration is told through entries in his little black book. And finally, there is Denise, a struggling alcoholic whose POV is told through several letters to her estranged father.

During a late night storm, the tension that’s been building between these three very different lives finally explodes, drastically altering the fates of each.

What inspired you to write the book?

I wanted to write a thriller with alternating first person perspectives, creating misunderstandings between characters that only the reader is privy to, building layers of overlapping depth and tension. As a reader, I love being pulled into a world where I feel like I have a unique outlook over the cast of characters, all to myself. Maybe it’s a God complex in a way, lol.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

Because they love intensely disturbing psychological thrillers that keep them guessing until the end. …unless they don’t …then maybe pass.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character?

Carl has a big heart, but he’s surrounded by a cloud of darkness that even he doesn’t understand. And like a lot of people in the real world, he tries to help others, but stumbles and comes up short when his own issues get in the way.

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

Well, it’s fun to dream… so… Tom Hardy would make a great Carl. He has this darkness and smoldering intensity. I think he would pull off Carl’s introversion, extreme OCD, and violent impulses he struggles to keep at bay. But the main thing about Carl is that he wants to make the world a better place. Tom Hardy has a natural charisma that would fit nicely with that. He also looked pretty good wearing that Bane mask, so I think a gas mask would be a natural fit.

Is this the first book you’ve written?

No, it’s the second. Reflex Blue, published in 2014, is my first novel.

When did you first decide to become an author?

I’m not sure. I always enjoyed creative writing, even as a kid. In sixth grade, I would sit on the top of the monkey bars with my good friend, John, and we would write our own movie scripts for fun. With the help of some school yard buddies as extras, my mom even filmed one with a big clunky 80s VHS camcorder on her shoulder. The year after high school John tragically past away. I started a lot of different creative distractions as a way to deal with that. In my 20s I began studying and writing screenplays. I think from there, writing novels was a natural progression. I eventually converted a screenplay into what would become my first novel, Reflex Blue, in 2014, and dedicated it to John. I thought that might be the end of it, but shortly after I started writing again. And that became This Side of Zero.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I’ve got a couple other full time jobs: I’m a grunt in the printing industry and a father of 3 ages 4 and under. God knows when I’ll ever get time to write another novel, lol.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

That’s a good question. The process drastically changed between novels. For the first one, I didn’t have any kids and I worked weekends, so I had all week to write. For the second one, I had a Monday through Friday job, two toddlers and a surprise newborn on the way, so it became a lot of late nights, burning up my vaca hours, and negotiating with the wife.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

The best part is having 100% creative control. I can hire my own editor, and I have the final say in what I want to do as far as cuts, changes, and additions. I can self-publish any work, whenever I want, whereas a big pub house can decide not to release your book and permanently shelf it after they have purchased the rights, and there’s nothing you can do about it (the horror stories are out there). As far as I see it, there are a lot of benefits to being an indie author. With one BIG exception: promotion… Promotion… PROMOTION. As an indie author you are responsible for your own marketing. There is no big publishing house machine chugging along behind you that has your back. That’s why getting a great review from IndieReader, or any reputable source, is priceless.

What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?

When people ask me this, the number one thing I always say is this: “Don’t force it.” I don’t believe you can force the creative process, and if you do, you’re probably not going to end up with very good results. People talk a lot about writer’s block. Everyone gets it, so what do you do? Say you are a busy person–who isn’t?–and you’ve carved out a block of time to sit down and write. And boom. Writer’s block. Don’t get frustrated. There are other productive things you can do to serve your current project. Go over your outline. Do you have one? If not, start one. Or go over your notes you’ve jotted down in your pocket. Don’t have a notebook? Go buy a small Mead one. Or proof/revise your previous chapters. The point is don’t get frustrated. There’s always something else to focus on. And try not to make it work. It should be something fun you look forward to.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?

I love this question, because the cool answer is, “hell no.” But the real answer is, “probably.” Because a big pub gives you a much wider potential audience. It’s a sad but true fact. I’m happy to be an indie author because to me writing books is more important than selling them. But I’ll be honest, if I got the shot, and the circumstances were right, I’d swing for it.

Is there something in particular that motivates you?

I’m motivated by the end of the project. I love the process and seeing it evolve; each chapter a piece of a puzzle coming together. But it’s the light at the end of the tunnel and the vision of holding and reading through the finished project, and that feeling of accomplishment that I’ve put out the best and most polished version of a story that I possibly could, that pushes me forward.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is probably my all time favorite. I’ve read it multiple times. It’s such a great story about friendship, sacrifice, and having nothing but a simple dream. It also has the kind of heartbreaking but satisfying ending that I crave in a complete story. And the 1992 film adaptation starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich is one of my all time favorite movies and some of the best dramatic acting I’ve ever seen.