Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A guest post with Richard Aaron, author of "Gauntlet"

I am quite excited to introduce to you Richard Aaron, author of "Gauntlet". I am participating in his Pump Up Your Book Promotion blog tour, and tomorrow will be reviewing his action-packed debut novel.

To give us a peek into his thought process on writing an action thriller, Richard is going to explain how he keeps the reader engaged from the first sentence to the very last page. (Trust me, it works.)

It’s like fishing. You need to get the reader’s interest, have him nibble about a bit, and then reel him in. I’ve stood back in bookstores and watched the process when I’m doing a signing. The first thing you need is a good cover – anything that will make the customer pick up the book. Once they have the book in hand, you need a back cover that is loaded with quotes from critics as to how good it is. If you don’t have good quotes, you’re in trouble. The next thing is the front inside jacket fold, summarizing the book. You need to get the customer to read that. It should be full of hooks. THEN you get to the first line, or the first paragraph. It must engage the reader. Here is the first line of Gauntlet: “’So just how big a crater will it make if we blow up 660 tons of Semtex?’ Richard Lawrence asked Sergeant Jason McMurray.”

Here is the opening paragraph of the sequel (Counterplay): “Zak Goldberg was running for his life.”

You need something that will hit hard, and fast. I never even realized that this was a requirement until I found the first line I was going to use for Gauntlet. Then it all made sense.

You must also have, in the first few pages, an exciting event. It’s got to be BIG, or you’ll lose your reader (I’m told you have about 30 seconds to grab an agent’s attention, three pages to grab a reader’s). From there, quickly introduce other intertwining plot lines – I usually play with three or four. As the one story reaches a strategic or dramatic point, cut it off and move to another plot line. This keeps the reader on the hook. They desperately want to know what is happening to Turbee, or Richard, or whoever. But you’ve started talking instead about smuggling drugs across borders.

You have to give the protagonist a long and winding road. If he’s been given a whole novel to tell about his life, make sure it’s an interesting one! Don’t give him the easy way out, and throw a hard situation his way every couple chapters to keep him (or her) guessing. Theirs should not be an easy path to the climax.

Finally, the end should be as big as the beginning. I like to say that Gauntlet starts and ends with a bang, and I think the second novel is going to go the same way. It’s satisfying to the reader, and it appeases my very structured mind.

Thanks so much Richard! Everyone stay tuned for tomorrow's review!


Natural said...

great info. i know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but i do and then i turn it over and read what it's about. then i open to the first chapter and read a few lines. it has to start off with something that doesn't make me want to put it down. leave me hanging in the beginning and even if it's not a great book, i will finish it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Natural! Great to see you over here at my place! The thing is, we DO judge a book by the cover often enough. There a billions of them out there. How else do we decide? Anyway, it seems that Aaron knew what he was talking about because he grabbed me from the beginning!

Unknown said...

Interesting guest post. I freely admit that I do judge books by their cover. That's not all I judge them by but a bad or uninteresting cover or title prevents me from picking up a book in the first place. (I wonder what will do it once the Kindle takes over the world.) The one cover rule I follow without exception is: Never take a book seriously if the author's picture is on the cover. The author's picture belongs on the back inside flap. This rule has never failed me.

I also agree that the first sentence must be great, but as a book buyer I follow the page 69 rule. Read page 69, if you want to read page 70 consider buying the book. I've been sold by first lines of books that failed to deliver the goods before. The page 69 rule is a better guide.

Beth F said...

Interesting post. I generally read the blurb/summary. If the general idea or the setting or the genre catch me, I'm sold. I don't read anything inside the book before picking it up. And I am attracted by a good cover.

Unknown said...

I always judge books by their covers. Luckily I buy most of my books thanks to recommendations of trusted people (like you!) and I am sometimes really surprised by the covers of the books that come through my door.

I have to admit that the picture of that submarine really puts me off reading it, so I'll be interested to read your review tomorrow.

Sandy Nawrot said...

James - that is an interesting tactic. I may have to try it! Although lately, I'm not so much in the position to browse with the billions of books on my shelf that I have won, and my Kindle. (Good point about that too!)

Beth - All these things do make a difference. Of course, I've picked up a book with a great cover and the book ended up being pretty bad, but a good cover is a good start.

Desert Rose - I hope I can get to this post! I am frantically getting ready for my trip. If I don't, I'll do it when I return!

Jackie - With regards to this book, you are right. When I see subs, I think WWII naval strategy and things I am not interested in. But it also is very ominous, which is representative of the story.

Literary Feline said...

A good front cover can certainly give me pause to pick up a book and take a closer look. I do disagree with the author on one point--at least in my case, I don't pay attention to the blurbs by other authors and critics. They are more likely to cause an eye roll than interest for me. What matters most is what the book is about. I've started doing "taste" tests as well (like CB mentioned--only not a specific page)--opening the book to a random page or sometimes the first page to read a sampling. I can usually tell right away if the book will hook me or lose me.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Wendy - Gotta agree with you on that one...I'm not a blurb girl!

Melody said...

Thanks for the guest post, Sandy! I look forward to reading your review on this book soon!

Desert Rose said...

No problem take your time.. I know I am ;) I'm trying to catch up on my posts that are so overdue ;)

You have a little something waiting for you at my blog :)

Iliana said...

Oh fun! I am not a very big reader of thrillers but when I read one I definitely want an ending that rocks too!

And, yes, I judge books by their covers. I can't help it :)