Interview with Andrew Seaward, author of 'Some Are Sicker Than Others'

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Andrew Seaward is the author of Some Are Sicker Than Others. Although he makes his living as a chemical engineer in the Oil & Gas industry, his true passion is telling great stories through both acting and writing. He is a contributing member of the Professional Artists Workshop in Hollywood, CA and the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO. He has written and acted in several independent productions including the poignant short film, DROWNING, which won the Award of Merit at the 2010 Indie Fest.

1. How have you been able to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) to help market your book?

Funny you should ask. I just picked up a book titled “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months”, written by John Locke, the first-ever self-published author to sell 1 million books on Amazon. In this book, Mr. Locke lays out “the most original and effective” component of his system for success, a concept which he coins “loyalty transfer.” Now, I can’t explain it as well as Mr. Locke can, but I’ll give it a shot:

Through the use of blogs that “speak” to your target audience, the loyalty that already exists between your readers and your subject matter will automatically be transferred to you. For example, before the whole Penn State scandal erupted, Mr. Locke wrote a blog dedicated to the late, great Joe Paterno. Basically, the blog was a tribute to “Joe Pa” and the idealistic, family-focused community he created on the Penn State campus. After publishing the blog, Mr. Locke went on Twitter and created a “viral circle” in which he posted the link to the blog with hash tags for #Joe Paterno. He then ran a Twitter search for #Penn State and found hundreds of people tweeting to each other about the upcoming game against Northwestern. He picked the first 100 people and sent them an individual tweet with the title of his blog and a link to it. Based on the title alone, most, if not all of them clicked the link and read his blog post. Then they began forwarding it to friends all over the world. It wound up being posted on Penn State’s official website and was the highlighted blog of the day.

At that point, Mr. Locke says his books started “selling like crazy”. As he explains, “they [the readers] felt a kinship to me through my blog and they transferred their loyalty from Joe to me, a total stranger.”

At first glance, this method sounds a bit underhanded. After all, you’re basically trying to piggyback upon someone else’s celebrity and draw their fans to you. Mr. Locke even acknowledges this concept can be quickly corrupted if its only intention is to sell books. I mean, how hard is it to pick a topic or a person that’s already trending, like Barack Obama, and write a blog meant to transfer his fans’ loyalty to you? Not very difficult, right? But unless you write with genuine conviction about your subject, I don’t think readers will be fooled. Readers are smart. They can see through an author’s bullshit. And unless you give them the truth, they’ll just see you as a used car salesman. This is why, if you’re going to blog, it’s important to write with absolute honesty. Otherwise what’s the point? Why should anyone care?

This is why, I’ve chosen to blog about something for which I’m genuinely passionate; eliminating the unfair stigma of addiction. As a recovering alcoholic, I know how difficult it can be releasing the shame of what some people perceive addiction to be—a lack of willpower—rather than what it truly is, a serious medical condition. I wasted many years of my life ashamed of myself and my inability to stop drinking, which made quitting nearly impossible. It wasn’t until I accepted my alcoholism for what it was—a progressive illness—that I was able to begin the long road of recovery. I was one of the lucky ones. Most people don’t make it. They end up in jails, institutions, and sometimes coffins. But I aim to change that. Through my new blog, Portraits of Addiction, I’m hoping I can encourage people to celebrate their recovery, not hide from it. Because by sharing our stories of hope, strength, and courage, I believe we can encourage those still struggling with the denial of their problem to make that first step and get treatment.

From a book-marketing standpoint, this blog is a good strategy. For one, it allows me to write about something for which I’m truly passionate. And at the same time, it’ll be attracting the target audience for my book; alcoholics and addicts, both recovering and not. I’ll use the different social media platforms (facebook, twitter, google+ etc.) to promote the blog and drive readers back to the website. If they like what they see, and are interested in reading more of my writing, they can then take the next step and check out my book, Some Are Sicker Than Others. It’s a good first step in getting my name out there, but with a more targeted approach aimed at my core audience.

2. Do you have any advice for new authors looking to promote themselves on these sites?

Yes. If you’re not already blogging, I suggest starting. A blog allows you to both showcase your writing and draw potential readers to your book on Amazon and elsewhere. You can use the various social media platforms (facebook, twitter, google+, etc) to promote your blogs and increase website traffic. If your readers like what they see, they’ll become your blog followers, and, hopefully, your book customers.

But as I said above, blog about something for which you are truly passionate. Don’t just write about an arbitrary subject because they happen to have an established fan base. Any shred of insincerity will be detected by your readers and they will turn their backs on you in a heartbeat.

Also, don’t promote your book too often. It turns people off if you’re constantly pushing the same old novel. Readers want new content. They want to know something personal about you. They want to feel a connection to you and your subject matter. You can’t do that if all your posts consist of the following: “Tales of Tragedy and Sorrow…now only 99 cents on Amazon!” One out of ten is a good rule of thumb to follow. Meaning, every tenth post can be something about your novel. Keep it fresh. Keep it interesting. Always be creating new content. And don’t be afraid to experiment. The last thing you want to do is become bored with your own writing. That’s a slippery slope to giving up altogether.

3. What type of writing routine do you have? Any tips you can share about it?

For me, the best time to write is first thing in the morning. 4:30 am—that gives me a good two hours before I have to be at work. I’ve tried writing at night but I’m not as productive. I sit in front of the computer all day slaving away on engineering calculations and the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit down and stare at the computer screen. But if I write first thing in the morning, I find I have much more clarity. I’m fresh. I’m well rested. And I don’t have the exhaustion from the day wearing down on me. Plus, there’s something about getting up while everyone’s still sleeping and being able to just sit there, relax, and enjoy a hot, creamy cup of coffee. I like the solitude, the quiet reflection. I love immersing myself into the lives of my characters. The only problem is pulling myself out of it. That two hours goes by fairly quickly and it can be hard to pull myself away and get to work in the mornings. If I could write all day, I think I’d be happy. But I guess that’s what we’re all striving for; the life of the full-time writer.

4. How has it been trying to balance your writing with your day job and/or family life? Is there anything you would change?

I won’t lie. It sucks. It can get pretty exhausting, and not just physically but also psychologically. If you’re a writer, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Our characters have a way of infiltrating our lives and hijacking our daily existence. Just because we’re not sitting in front of the computer, doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about our stories. Sometimes I’ll catch myself at work just daydreaming for hours upon hours. It’s like I become paralyzed. I can’t think of anything but the story.

This happened to me on when I was trying to figure out the perfect ending for Some Are Sicker Than Others. I had three POV characters, each with their own thread in the story, and my job was to get their lives to converge in a compelling, but logical manner. It was all I could think about for a good two months. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t exercise. My relationship with my girlfriend suffered. She’d be talking to me about something and I wouldn’t even be paying attention. She’d say, “What the hell is wrong with you?” I’d just look up with a dazed look on my face: “How do I end the story?”

It actually became a serious health hazard. I can’t tell you how many car accidents I nearly had because I wasn’t paying attention to what was in front of me. One time I missed my exit and accidentally drove all the way to Boulder. Boulder’s thirty miles away in the opposite direction! I have no idea what I was thinking. Well, actually I do. I was thinking about my antagonist’s confession to the hit-and-run accident!

5. Setting is an extremely important aspect in grabbing your readers attention. What made you choose to set your book in Colorado?

I’m a Southern boy. I grew up on the Panhandle of Northwest Florida. I went to school in Alabama and my first job out of college was in Houston. If you’ve lived in the South, you know it’s hot, sticky, and suffocating. Everything’s very flat and there’s not much to look at. That’s why when I got transferred to Denver I was absolutely mesmerized by the dream-like winter landscape. The ice, the evergreens, the snow-capped mountains—I’d never seen anything like it. It was absolutely intoxicating.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find the snow to be very cleansing. There’s something about it that makes everything so much purer. It’s like all the mistakes and imperfections are covered up with a white blanket, and all you’re left with is a blank canvass from which to start over. What a perfect backdrop for a story about addiction, especially one about a guilt-plagued alcoholic hell-bent on running from his past offenses. The snow’s blank canvass provides Monty with the perfect opportunity for starting over. Of course, he ends up corrupting it, just as I did many times before with my own addiction.

6. What types of books do you read? How do you think they have influenced your writing?

My favorite books are ones that involve complex characters with big, strong voices. Tom Wolfe, Andre Dubus III, Hubert Selby Jr.…these are some of my favorite authors. I guess the genre is literary fiction, but drilled down even further, you could call it “harsh realism”. Stories that are truthful, but dark and gritty; that portray life’s sometimes unjust cruelty. These are the stories, I like. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. It makes sense. Not only did I spend 10 years battling an unrelenting alcohol addiction, I decided to relive it all over in a 300 page novel!


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