Happy publication day to Taylor Zajonc and his debut sea adventure, THE WRECKING CREW, which releases tomorrow!
I love thrillers that keep me on the edge of my seat, and there is definitely nothing expected in this story, which when I first read, I found myself mentally pitching as an underwater Indiana Jones. Enjoy Taylor's interview below and be sure to pick up a copy of the book!
For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.
I'm a nautical historian and shipwreck expert, I've done everything from accompany a Titanic expedition to dive the deepest wooden shipwreck ever discovered. (You can read more about this on my blog: expeditionwriter.com). A few years ago, I was part of a underwater search effort that uncovered a number of World War 2-era German submarines. In my efforts to identify these U-boats, I became absolutely transfixed by the era's submarine captains ... young, brave men, largely (though not completely) apolitical to the machinations of the Nazi empire who served with distinction despite overwhelming odds and the worst attrition rate out of any service in the German military. I wondered to myself - could such a young, charismatic, intelligent, tragic figure exist in our world? It was the genesis of main character Jonah Blackwell and the series THE WRECKING CREW. I've been writing for years, but I believe that inspiration combined with a greater command of craft and passion for the subject propelled this project into publication.
After the contract was signed, were there any unexpected aspects of the publishing process that surprised you?
I had to get used to being a little out of the loop. Ultimately, it was a good thing - do you really want your agent telling you about every single lunch meeting where she pitches your book? Do you want your publisher going through printing and distribution logistics with you on a daily basis? Of course not! I learned it's best to simply continue moving forward and trust that everybody was doing their utmost at every step. That being said, it was very easy to trust the fantastic team we put together for this project!
How do you think your manuscript has changed since you started working with your editor?
I was lucky - the editor was very much on board for the story and the way I told it right from the beginning. Kristy Makansi at Blank Slate did an amazing job of bringing out the best in the story, making sure each sentence read as well as it possibly could. I live and breathe this subject matter, so she was also awesome about helping me translate all my obscure nautical jargon into normal people words!
Did you feel like you were involved in the various stages your book went through? What kind of input did you have and do you think that is an experience unique to working with an indie press?
Working with an indie press was a great experience. I never felt like just another author, they made sure I knew that this project was just as critical to them as it was to me. They kept me at the absolute center of every step in the process and treated me like their biggest priority at every stage. I can't say I've ever worked with one of the larger publishers - but I can say nothing beats being able to "cc" an entire company when you have a question!
What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest?
My favorite part of this entire process has been the new connections and friends I've made through publishing. It provided me a reason and an avenue through which to contact authors and other figures I had admired from afar since my childhood. I was blown away by how open, kind and supportive they were to this project - even total strangers!
For me - honestly - the hardest part is stopping to smell the roses. I am always moving forward, always working on the next project, the next expedition, the next idea. I'm the type of person who will finish a novel, have an hour to kill and start the next one. But I'm lucky to have people in my life like my wife, who forces me to slow down and take stock of what I've accomplished, even if I'm totally unaware of it myself.
What have you had to do to promote your book? What kind of social media do you think has been the most important in publicizing THE WRECKING CREW?
I am all about making a personal connection, getting as specific as possible. Rather than a generalized marketing strategy, I've been narrowly targeting people and communities that are already fanatical about submarines, history, shipwrecks, adventure and the underwater world. Facebook has been a powerful way of connecting with these communities. I think it's paid off - THE WRECKING CREW has the best presales and largest print run ever done by the publisher. Long term? We'll have to see, but I have high hopes.
Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences?
Where to begin? The internet is so full of (mostly) wonderful advice on how to write well, learn the industry and ultimately publish. If I were to say one thing, it would be this: cynicism is overrated. Be earnest. Nobody else is going to be excited about your writing if you're dismissive or don't take it seriously. We're cynical to protect our hearts; especially in an industry as difficult and competitive as publishing. Even the best among us will face a gauntlet of disinterest or rejection. Be smart about things, but don't be afraid to keep your heart on your sleeve ... people will respond to that, especially readers.
You recently signed another contract with Blank Slate for a sequel. Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to read next?
If you loved THE WRECKING CREW, I have some fantastic news for you! The sequel is well underway and you hopefully won't have to wait too long before it comes out. In fact, you hardly have to wait at all--we snuck the first two chapters of the sequel into the end of this book so you can get a head start as the adventure continues!
What's a fun fact about yourself?
I'm a new dad! Little Samuel Oliver Zajonc is going to turn one month old just a couple days before our February 23 release date. Balancing baby and book has been tough but rewarding - I wouldn't trade either for the world.
I'm so excited about THE WRECKING CREW and hope you are all, too!