Friday, February 25, 2011

JA Konrath Interviews Barry Eisler

If you spend any reasonable amount of time with me (more than ten seconds), I eventually will begin evangelizing ebooks and self-publishing. While I've stopped doing this in public (with the exception of this blog), all of my peers who talk to me on a regular basis wind up getting an earful.

As a result, most of my friends have given self-publishing a try. Henry Perez and I have done Floaters. Blake Crouch and I have worked on so many ebook projects together I've lost count, the latest of which is Killers, the sequel to Serial. F. Paul Wilson has jumped into self-pubbing his backlist. I helped Robert Walker get his backlist live. Jeff Strand (who does a guest post HERE) after years of self-pubbing is finally plunging into the Kindlesphere. Ann Voss Peterson and I finished a short story that will go live, and are halfway through a collaborative novel. Lee Goldberg has gone from being vehemently against self-pubbing to endorsing it in certain instances.

And now, after two years of nagging, Barry Eisler has finally given self-publishing a try.

Barry is an interesting case study for a few reasons. First, because he's an international bestseller who commands big advances. Second, because even though I've been telling him for years he needs to write a short story, he never had.

Until now.

Barry used the incomparable Rob Siders to do the formatting for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, and the amazingly talented Carl Graves to create the terrific cover (which includes a photo Eisler took of the titular location using his iPhone.)

The result is The Lost Coast, a slick, fast-paced thriller short that went from idea to live in two short weeks. Here's the description:

For Larison, a man off the grid and on the run, the sleepy northern California town of Arcata, gateway to the state's fabled Lost Coast, seems like a perfect place to disappear for a while. But Arcata isn't nearly as sleepy as it seems, and when three locals decide Larison would make a perfect target for their twisted sport, Larison exacts a lifetime of vengeance in one explosive evening.

Includes an excerpt from the new John Rain novel, The Detachment (available soon), featuring Larison, Rain, Dox, Treven, and others. Also includes a fun interview with novelist J.A. Konrath.

Warning: this story is intended for mature audiences, and contains depictions of sexual activity, though perhaps not in the way you're expecting. 6600 words.

You can read more details about The Lost Coast on Eisler's website and blog.

Barry's ebook novels, released through his publishers, range from $5.99 to $9.99, so $2.99 seemed like the sweet spot for an original story.

How has it worked for him?

In 24 hours he's sold several hundred copies, and is currently ranked on Kindle at #566.

Included in the ebook is a Q&A I did with Barry, which I'm posting here for my blog readers. And it should go without saying that I loved the story, it's awesome, go buy it.

Barry will also be hanging around my blog for a bit, so if you have any questions for him, or just want to welcome him to the dark side, do so in the comments.

Q&A: J.A. Konrath Interviews Barry Eisler

Joe: Correct me if I’m wrong (not), but I believe The Lost Coast is your very first short story. Why haven’t you visited this form before?

Barry: Because you’ve never suggested it to me, you bastard.

Kidding, obviously — my reluctance has been despite your frequent blandishments, and I’m glad you finally got through to me. I think there were a number of factors. The thought of appearing in an anthology or magazine never really excited me that much, even though an anthology or magazine placement could be a good advertisement for a novel. And probably I was a little afraid to try my hand at the new form (though now that I have, I think I must have been crazy. Short stories are a blast to write). In the end, I think it was the combination of knowing I could reach the huge new audience digital publishing has made possible and make money doing it. Plus you just wore me down.

Joe: I really liked the Larison character in Inside Out. Though he’s one of the antagonists in that book, I wouldn’t actually label him a villain. He’s more of an anti-hero, sort of a darker, scarier version of John Rain. Why did you decide to write a short about him?

Barry: As usual, it wasn’t a conscious plan; more something influenced by my interests, travel, and reading habits. Anyone who reads my blog, Heart of the Matter, knows I’m passionate about equal rights for gays. At some point, I was reading something about gay-bashing, and I had this idea... what if a few of these twisted, self-loathing shitbags picked the absolutely wrongest guy in the world to jump outside a bar? That was the story idea that led to The Lost Coast.

Joe: The ending of Lost Coast is pretty ballsy (in more ways than one.) You could have gone a more conservative route, but you didn’t wimp out and shy away from what I feel is a laudable climax. Are you purposely inviting controversy? Was this the story you intended to tell from the onset?

Barry: I imagined it from the beginning as a pretty rough story — a little about redemption, a lot about revenge. But midway through it got darker than I’d originally envisioned. Thanks for saying I didn’t wimp out because for me, the story was being driven by Larison, who while being a fascinating guy is also a nasty piece of work. When I’m writing a character like Larison, there’s always a temptation to soften him a little to make him more palatable to more readers, but in the end I’ve always managed to resist that (misguided) impulse. For the story to come to life, you have to trust the character as you’ve conceived him and as he presents himself to you. For better or worse (I’d say better), that’s what I’ve done with Larison.

Joe: After this interview, there’s an excerpt from the upcoming seventh John Rain novel, The Detachment. This is also a sequel to Fault Line and Inside Out, featuring your hero Ben Treven. It also showcases Larison, Dox, and a few other characters from your past novels. Was it your intention all along to bring both of your series together?

Barry: I’m afraid that “all along” and related concepts will probably always elude me. Usually I get an idea for the next book while I’m working on the current one, and that’s what happened while I was working on Inside Out. I thought, “With what Hort’s up to, what he really needs is an off-the-books, totally deniable, awesomely capable natural causes specialist. So what has Rain been doing since Requiem for an Assassin? And how would Hort get to him? Through Treven and Larison, naturally... and the next thing I knew, I was working on The Detachment. It’s like the Dirty Dozen, but deadlier. Plus there’s sex.

Joe: Your sex scenes tend to err toward the aggressive side. That isn’t a question. It’s an understatement. The question is, why do you think the US is so repressed when it comes to sex in the media, especially homosexuality, and at the same time so tolerant of violence?

Barry: George Carlin had some typically wonderful insights on this subject in his book, Brain Droppings. When you look at not just our laws on drugs and prostitution, but the whole approach to those laws (unlike just about any other regulated area, drugs and prostitution are dealt with without any weighing of costs and benefits), it becomes obvious America has some hangups about pleasure. With regard to homosexuality specifically, some of the craziness is probably driven by self-hatred; some by the need for an Other to denigrate (Orwell was all over this); some just by inertia. As for the relative comfort with depictions of violence as opposed to sex, I’ve never understood that, either, because in fiction I obviously enjoy them both

Joe: Will we be seeing more short stories from Barry Eisler?

Barry: Yes! Got a great idea for a Rain/Delilah short set in Paris in the period between the end of Requiem for an Assassin and the kickoff of The Detachment. The research, the research...