Independent author Chris Culver's The Abbey has been a critical and commercial success. See my review of it here. An interview is below.
Your new novel will come out soon. What would you like to share about it?
My newest novel is a short, stand-alone thriller called Just Run. In my free time, I typically read crime novels and mysteries of various stripes, so a stand-alone thriller is a little out of my comfort zone. In fact, when I wrote it I didn't anticipate it ever leaving my computer's hard drive. It was only after my wife's cajoling that I've decided to put it out. The story is about a math professor, Dr. Renee Carter, who discovers that the website on which her students play online poker is subtly rigged. Being a good academic, Renee writes a paper about it. All sorts of bad things happen after that. I think it's a fun story. I'm also working on a new Ash Rashid mystery, about which I'm very excited. The novel is still untitled, but it's about a hit and run investigation that turns out to be much more than just a simple hit and run. I plan to have a draft of this completed by November, but I'm not quite sure when it will actually launch. In my mind, I'd rather have something done correctly than have it done quickly.
Why did you choose to center your series around an Indianapolis detective of the Muslim faith?
I chose Indianapolis for two reasons. I currently live in St. Louis, but I'm an Indiana native. My wife and I both went to college in Indiana, I went to graduate school at Purdue, my wife went to graduate school at IU. Even though we don't live there anymore, Indiana is still home for both of us, and we have a lot of fond memories of Indianapolis. I also chose Indy because it's a little different. There are a lot of great detective stories set in Los Angeles or New York. It's not hard to see why authors chose those cities, either; both cities have a unique feel that adds depth to the works which are set in them. Indianapolis – along with a number of other Midwestern cities – seems to be forgotten by crime writers, though. That's a shame, I think. Midwestern cities are unique and interesting in their own rights. I wanted to show that there's more to Indianapolis than a couple of professional sports teams. Making Ash Islamic was a bit of a risk. I think Islam adds depth to his character and makes for interesting internal conflicts. I also wanted to create an Islamic character to show that the vast majority of Muslims are normal people. They love their families, respect their government, volunteer in their communities. The vast majority are just like everyone else.
The descriptions of police concerns and thoughts seemed so textured and nuanced. Do you have a background in law enforcement?
I do not have a law enforcement background, but I did do quite a bit of research. I read a dozen or so books on police procedure and the history of law enforcement in America, I read two or three criminal law textbooks, I read a couple of things on forensics. More than anything else, though, I talked with and listened to a lot of people. There are great opportunities to learn about law enforcement. Many larger departments have dedicated public affairs officers who are usually willing to answer questions, and many even offer ride-along programs whereby a civilian can ride with an officer as he goes on calls.
This is practically an error-free indie novel. What did you do to make this happen?
It's damn hard to remove every error from a novel. I think the key, though, is to have a number of eagle-eyed proofreaders go through your work before you publish. A lot of self-published writers complain that they can't afford to hire professional editors. I sympathize with the complaint, but expense doesn't mitigate the need for an independent editor. No matter how good a writer is or how much training he has, errors will slip by. Here's the thing, though: self-pubbed writers don't have to spend an arm and a leg to hire a good editor. If money's tight and you're a self-pubbed writer, see if you can find a retired English teacher and offer to mow his or her lawn, babysit his kids, clean his house, etc., in exchange for editing a novel. Or perhaps even better, swap novels with three or four other people and edit each other's work. It's free and you'll probably learn quite a bit in doing so.
Any thoughts about the future of indie writers and writing?
It's a great time to be a writer. I'm not a publishing expert, so I hesitate to make broad prognostications about the future of publishing or writing. That said, I think the attributes that make a writer successful today will stay constant no matter what happens to the market. Specifically, if a writer consistently turns out quality, well-written stories, he or she will find success. I think that's just fantastic.
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