Although I’ve been on hiatus for a bit, I am so glad I had already scheduled this interview with DA Bale, the author of a three-part thriller series (thank you, DA!). The first novel, Running Into the Darkness, introduces the reader to Samantha. I must admit that I liked her right from the beginning. The first chapter grabbed my attention and showed me what I liked about Samantha right away. There’s tension and fast-paced action. Readers looking for a new thriller series should enjoy this one!
First off, this interview is coming on the heels of your virtual book blog tour. What has been your experience with the tour? What would you say were the pros and cons?
DAB: The tour was a blast! And a lot of work too! I had never before signed up for a tour on any of my books, though I’d participated with other authors on theirs. Nicole at Tribute Books was just a pleasure to work with. She was extremely organized and quick to answer questions at various intervals throughout the tour from little technologically challenged me. I’d recommend her in a heartbeat!
I can’t really say there were any cons, though it was a tad upsetting when a couple of sites didn’t post when they said they’d participate. But I understand too when life happens. The pros, however, were too numerous to count. The review days had me shaking in my shoes, but I was so surprised when the positive reviews kept flowing in – very humbling. It was also great to be able to connect with many new readers and authors along my journey of the blogosphere. Personally, that was the best part. Plus I sold some books!
How did you come to writing after a career working as a government liaison?
DAB: Actually, I wanted to be an author from the time I was in grade school. Agatha Christie was my idol. I used to drag out my parents’ ANCIENT typewriter and peck my way through page after page of stories. I would have given my hair for an electric typewriter back then! Only problem – I had a way of complicating my stories so much that I got lost in the twist and turns and couldn’t figure out how to extricate myself. I never finished anything but short stories for school assignments and thus gave up for a time. But I continued to read voraciously.
In my past career, I got to do a lot of writing and presentations but it was more along the lines of technical writing and “how-to’s”, which aren’t much fun. It never allowed much room for the creative side to creep out the way fiction writing does. Then after seeing and experiencing a darker side to humanity, I started writing as a sort of catharsis again, just something to break through the shell. I’d never even realized how thick it had become until I started having to tear through it. Writing helped tremendously!
You’ve written two books for your Deepest Darkness Series (RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS and PIERCING THE DARKNESS). Where do you see the series going from here?
DAB: Presently I’m working on the third and final book in the series, RISING FROM THE DARKNESS. In RITD, we see Samantha, the protagonist, as she makes choices that lead her down a very slippery slope until she realizes she is virtually a prisoner. Samantha fights perceived injustices but not in a constructive manner. In PTD, she is trying to come to terms with what she’s done and whether she can allow herself to trust someone for the first time in her life. Trust can be a very scary commodity, especially when it is misplaced. In RFTD, Samantha has a chance at redemption, but will she take it and at what cost? How far is too far to be worthy of redemption? Of course, there are ten-bazillion other things happening too, but this is the primary theme through the series.
It was interesting when one of my final continuity readers mentioned she’d detected an over-arcing emotion in each of the first two books. In RITD, she said anger was the primary emotion and in PTD, she detected fear as the primary emotion. She thought I’d done that on purpose, but I must confess, it was purely coincidence. I have no idea if RISING will continue that emotional theme element, but I can guarantee you it will have plenty of emotion throughout.
The first chapter of RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS opens with a bang (in my opinion). I feel the reader can instantly like Samantha just based on that chapter alone. What more do you have in store for her?
DAB: I’m so glad it grabbed your attention!
I have a really bad habit of putting my characters through too much crap. But hey, that tends to be reality at varying times in life too! When I write, it’s important for me to incorporate enough realism to anchor the unrealistic and rather fabricated elements a bit. That way, I hope, it helps the reader to connect with my characters on some level.
That emotional element is where we first see Samantha. She’s not afraid to challenge the status quo, to stand up for what’s right even when it costs her – and the cost keeps rising. From the loss of her entire family we see the protective shell she has built around herself. The only problem is that it keeps out those who only want to help her when life crumbles at her feet. She makes the mistake of grieving alone. I imagine there are many in our audience who can relate to that at some point in life.
But that’s also where others take advantage of Samantha’s grief. She discovers how seemingly everything in her life has been a lie. At her breaking point, someone steps in to lead her down a path she never saw coming and from whence she cannot escape.
Have I muddled things enough for you?
Adult themes are a part of the story in RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS. How difficult were those scenes to write?
DAB: I lost a lot of sleep over those scenes. Initially I just side-stepped them, skipping over and only alluding to them in following scenes. But I knew that was the worst thing I could do as a writer – to not be completely honest with my audience. It required me to go back and plumb some buried depths from my own life. Eventually I sat down and allowed myself to “experience” the horror, to allow my mind to wander into the territory of the characters that would perpetrate such things as rape, incest, etc.
The character of Warner was especially difficult. He’s an extremely powerful man but self-centered and severely degraded. My flesh crawled when I had to write his introductory scene, and I cried buckets as I imagined myself as the young lady left on the bed. But the interesting thing was that as I more fully fleshed him out, he did have a blink of a redeeming moment to him – but it was quickly snuffed out again by his selfish demeanor.
I also worried about the responsibility I felt should young eyes ever see my book. To this day, I still haven’t allowed my 20-year-old to read it! But I finally relented and let my mother – and was pleasantly surprised by her reaction. I think the fact that she’s just a teensy bit proud of me rather clouded her judgment on the rather seedier aspects of Samantha’s story.
How much do you use your previous career in your writing? Can you give us any examples?
DAB: It’s not something I consciously think of like oh, I’m going to put this experience in the book, and oh, that experience should go here. I think it comes out more in the nuances as I write, little things like a final bill getting stuck in committee to iron out the differences in similar bills approved between the House and the Senate chambers. The process is a continual series of wrangling from start to finish (and IF it ever gets to the President’s desk).
Then there’s the fundraisers, breakfasts, parties, wining and dining. You can probably appreciate this from your own experience in the banking world, but you always had to make sure that you were careful at equally sponsoring the chairs of your applicable House and Senate committees (like Small Business, Appropriations, etc.) should there at any time be a flip in the majority party. Everyone is out to protect their own interests. There’s the endless jockeying for power and control between not only the parties, but the people within the parties, the different committees and sub-committees, the different chambers of the Legislative branch, and then between the three branches of government, not to include the endless groups lobbying for someone’s – anyone’s – ear. Promises are a dime a dozen and easily forgotten. There’s so much talk but nobody is really listening.
Okay, do I sound really jaded or what? I did, however, appreciate the chance to explore these United States during that time. Every locale throughout the series I’ve had the pleasure of strolling through – well, all except one, but you’ll have to read PIERCING THE DARKNESS to pinpoint that one. But even that locale is still on my bucket list.
Anyway, it wasn’t so much about putting in detailed, real-life experiences as it was getting across the “feeling” of the political arena. If you’ve ever had the chance to visit D.C., I’m sure that feeling comes through loud and clear. I hope that makes sense.
What kind of books or authors excite you? Do you have a primary influence?
DAB: I absolutely LOVE a good thriller, mystery or suspense. I have an illness – it’s called “I hate it that I figure out every movie within the first five minutes and every book within the first couple of chapters”. It feels like not just an illness but a flipping curse! I blame too much Agatha Christie at a young age and too much NCIS (the early years) as the culprits.
Some of my favorite authors tend to be Clive Cussler’s early Dirk Pitt works and also Dean Koontz. Now Koontz had me up until the final few chapters of INTENSITY before I figured out who the bad guy really was. It also helped me in being able to write my own bad guys in all their horrible-ness, as Koontz did an incredible job creating a truly sick and twisted character in that particular work.
Believe it or not, I also love many of the classics like Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE and Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. I love the richness of Tolkien’s settings but I am addicted to the depth of character in JANE EYRE. I try to read it nearly every year. It’s a multi-layered mystery with beautiful and rich character development. Jane is my heroine!
Along with your books, you write a very helpful blog for other writers.What part of writing your blog do you find the most rewarding?
DAB: Feedback! J Seriously, I love hearing from the audience. It is nice to know it’s not all just falling on deaf ears (or I guess in this case blind eyes). I write because I HAVE to write, but I also work hard to be as helpful as possible. I kinda associate it with the same attitude as toward my critique group: everything I do – whether perceived good or bad – is to try to help my fellow writers to become BETTER writers and to help my fellow readers to find QUALITY books to enjoy. When I come across a juicy writing tidbit or great book, I want to tell everyone I know. The blogosphere has become the best resource for incorporating both of my loves of writing and reading.
Marketing is one of the most difficult aspects of publishing – especially for the self-published. RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS was published in 2011 and PIERCING THE DARKNESS in 2012. What have you learned about promotion and marketing since then?
DAB: It’s funny you ask this question! I’ve been working on gathering information from various authors I know about what is and isn’t working for them in regard to marketing their novels. I’m going to put it all together and hopefully have an article to post sometime in August or September.
One thing I’ve learned is that I’m not going to buy all of those “How I Did It” books that are out there. The thing John Locke and all of the others conveniently left out of their “how to” books is that they paid hundreds and thousands of dollars for five-star reviews – and most of these so-called reviewers admitted to not reading the books when this scandal was first uncovered. Several authors I know were doing everything these books said and still weren’t hitting the mother lode, so now they feel very let down and betrayed by this misinformation.
In the build-up to my first release, I started doing all of the social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but found I was spending far too much time trying to figure these things out when all I wanted to do was write. And none of the Facebooking and Tweeting seemed to be doing anything other than taking up precious time. Thus, I decided to narrow my focus and spend the majority of my time on promotion through blogging. So I write on my blog, host other authors, and highlight books the majority of the time. Plus I always try to comment on other blogger posts when I read something interesting and helpful. There are some great blogs out there!
Another thing I would recommend is to participate in a blog tour. No, you probably won’t make your money back in book sales right away, but it is great publicity and a way to increase online visibility. I noticed a nice little jump in sales during my recent tour and I’m still seeing residuals after the fact.
One other thing I’ve started doing in earnest is just giving RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS away for free. Smashwords is a great resource for generating coupons at a discounted price. I also periodically have sales on my books for ninety-nine cents, which draws in more willing to take a chance on an unknown author like me. Then perhaps they’ll like it enough to continue with the series.
The last thing I’d say is just getting out there and building relationships with other authors. It’s the old saying “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” in action. Plus I’ve made some wonderful new virtual friends I hope to someday meet in person.
If you had any advice for other aspiring writers, what would it be?
DAB: Grow some major thick skin if you want to be an author. Your work – even when you put out the best possible writing – won’t resonate with everyone. That’s okay!
Editors will always be pointing out the bad, so put on your big girl and boy panties and be prepared for that.
Know what you’re good at and be humble enough to accept areas where you need improvement.
Bathe every day and get away from the computer for more than a coffee or bathroom break.
Be willing to share your work with others and accept their THOUGHTFUL criticisms. A book created in a vacuum will sound just like that (think about it…).
Stretch yourself – and thus your characters – beyond your comfort zone to achieve a truly great piece of work – your own. Now get back to writing!
When can readers expect another book from you? Will you write more series or do you have plans for any “stand-alone” books?
DAB: When I first sit down to write, I never plan whether something will be stand-alone or a series. They usually end up snaking around on their own until they are too weighty to support just one book. That’s how my trilogy came to be!
RISING FROM THE DARKNESS is the culmination of the first two books, and so I’ve decided to take my time to ensure tie-ups of all the loose ends. It’s something I don’t want to rush, so release is planned for 2014. I can promise you – the end is going to be a doozy. There’s going to be a big explosion – and yes, more people will die. I usually try to keep my blog followers updated on writing progress, so check back on my blog periodically for more information.
I’ve also been working on the fan-requested sequel to my short story, THE STUDY. I’d like to say it will be ready for publishing by the end of 2013, but don’t hold me to that. Earlier this year it wasn’t coming together like I’d hoped so it went into the holding bin to gather a bit of dust while my mind ruminated on it some more. I’m not one to just throw something out there until I’m happy with it first.
After completing the Deepest Darkness series, I plan to start work on a paranormal mystery along the lines of ghost hunting (I’m even making plans to go on a local ghost hunt!). About a year ago, I had an incredible nightmare, awoke and wrote out a treatise in order to come back to it and put it together as a novel once I was done with the current series. I’m so excited to get started on it! It should be a stand-alone, but I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what comes of it.
And I always love to hear from readers, so don’t be shy!
Thanks, Kellie, for hosting me on your blog. It’s been a real treat.
Death follows Dr. Samantha Bartlett throughout her life until it claims everyone close to her. There’s one powerful man responsible on whom Samantha sets her sights for revenge. The price is her soul. For centuries, sex has been the weapon of men…now it’s her turn. “I never intended to kill the President. As a doctor, I swore an oath to protect life – not take it. But that was before…” Second year resident, Dr. Samantha Bartlett, is swept from the frigid New York winter to once again confront the sting of death back home – and face those she left behind. But she’s not alone. A strange man she dubs Shades haunts her every step as she seeks answers to the inferno which claimed her grandmother, an eerie reminder of her parents’ deaths. The secrets Samantha uncovers forever changes her image of those she only thought she knew. Confronted by Shades, Samantha joins a secret underworld known only as the Elite, where a web of power and control is woven deep within governments worldwide. Their sights are set on the power structure of the United States, and Samantha becomes the unlikely key to infiltrating the White House at its most intimate levels. The quest for blood threatens to destroy Samantha. From the darkness there is no escape.
Sometimes life emulates fiction. Life is filled with tragedy and Ms. Bale’s writing reflects this reality. However, there is always a silver lining…even if one must spend their entire life searching for it. In her previous career, Ms. Bale traveled the United States as a Government Relations Liaison, working closely with Congressional offices and various government agencies. This experience afforded her a glimpse into the sometimes “not so pretty” reality of the political sphere. Much of this reality and various locations throughout her travels make it into her writing.
She dreams of the day she can return to visit Alaska.