Monday, April 02, 2018

Indie Author Interview: R.J. Eastwood


Indie Author Interview with R.J. Eastwood - Author of the Science-Fiction Novel The Autopsy of Planet Earth.

R.J. Eastwood has written, produced, and directed both feature films and television programming and everything in between and has been honored with over 75 industry awards along the way. To date, R.J. has published five books, four of which are nonfiction. His first novel (as Robert J. Emery) was chosen as one of the top five finalists in the Next Generation Indie Books Awards. He now writes under the pen name R.J. Eastwood.

Interview with R.J. Eastwood

Author R.J. Eastwood
Author R.J. Eastwood
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
R.J. Eastwood: First, let’s clear something up. My real name is Robert Emery. I decided to write The Autopsy of Planet Earth under the pen name R.J. Eastwood, which I will explain below. For future novels I will stick with Eastwood – it has a nice ring to it.

My background is film and TV production. I began writing and directing TV commercials back in my early twenties. I made a few small documentaries and then wrote my first screenplay, which I also directed. Over the years I have written a number of screenplays eight of which became feature films. My last movie, “Swimming Upstream”, I wrote and directed for the Lifetime Movie Channel and remains available on Netflix. Along the way I wrote and directed over a 125 hours of TV documentaries, over 300 TV commercials, and many corporate films. My TV series, “The Directors” - I wrote and produced 91 one-hour episodes - was originally produced for Starz Encore. It ran on Starz for five years then was picked up in reruns by the Reels Channel for another five years. It also has been viewed worldwide in over seventy-five countries and has won a number of awards. I have written and produced programs for PBS, MSNBC, and a number of cable networks. During my production career I received over 75 awards for my work.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
Although Autopsy is science fiction, readers might find it odd that I don’t read science fiction, at least not hardcore sci-fi. My interests favor examining the human condition; what makes us tick, why we make the decisions we do. That said, I read a lot of biographies as well as writers like Steven King, Dan Brown, Hemingway, Steinbeck. I’m in the middle of reading Mary Beard’s detailed history of Rome and as well as the letters of Mark Twain– I love history books. When it comes to fiction, I enjoy books with well crafted human characters. If I cannot relate to the characters or the uniqueness of the story, I rarely will make it past a chapter or two. My TV watching preferences are pretty much the same.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 12 or 13 years old I tried writing song lyrics; who knows why a 12 or 14 year old kid attempts to write lyrics? I quickly realized I wasn’t very good at it, so I began writing short stories sharing them with whoever had the patience to read them. One of my school teachers, a nun by the name of Sister Mary Dora, would read them and encourage me (a scene I included in “Swimming Upstream” documents that). When I signed up for 4 years in the Air Force, I continued writing short stores and shared them with the 1st Lieutenant I worked for who also encouraged me. My last two years of my four years in the Air Force was spent overseas in the Pacific with the Armed Forces Radio and TV Network, which pretty much convinced me I would somehow use my writing to work in TV and film production.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Oddly enough, yes. Around the age of 14, I wrote a short story about a kid who goes to Saturday matinees at the local movie theater and his anticipation as he waits for the current western to begin. When this kid comes out of the theater, he takes on the persona of whoever was the lead in the film. Wacky, I know, but that’s what I actually did as a kid in those Saturday morning matinees in my small New England town. It’s all about imagination.

"[...] work in the morning since that’s when my brain cooperates best."

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
I like to work in the morning since that’s when my brain cooperates best. On a good day that begins around 10:00 am and could go to 2-3 in the afternoon. By then the neurons in my brain are no longer kicking on all cylinders.

Please, describe your desk/workplace.
My office is in the large master bedroom on the second floor. There is an adjoining space that was designed as a large sitting area. A few feet away from my desk is a mini-frig and a coffer maker (I’m a big coffee drinker). To my back out the glass sliding doors is a small patio where I go and sit when I need a break, which is all too often when I hit a blank spot while writing.

"The hardest is keeping my characters in character."

What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?

The easiest for me is making stuff up. That’s the beauty of writing fiction, there are no rules, just let your imagination run wild, nothing is too outrageous, so go for it, don’t hold back. You can always edit later. In writing Autopsy, I tried to keep everything real with themes that people can relate to as actually having happened or could happen. The hardest is keeping my characters in character. I try to give each some sort of tick, some quirkiness that makes them an individual with their own way of speaking. If they all spoke like me, that would be a boring. I also like humor, but sometimes have to hold myself back when I go too far. And I have a tendency to want to perfect each line as I go as opposed to getting it all down then going back. My wife is constantly on me about this bad habit.

"If you don’t have a plausible ending, you don’t have a story [...]"

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Oh, that’s easy. I love conjuring up stories that present characters who find themselves in harms way and then try to discover how to resolve their dilemma with plot twists that readers can believe could actually happen. Nothing turns me off faster, whether it be a novel, a TV show, or a movie, that doesn’t have a realistic ending. If you don’t have a plausible ending, you don’t have a story, in which case the writer should go back to the drawing board and figure it out what went wrong.

R.J., please tell us a little about your Science-Fiction Novel The Autopsy of Planet Earth.
I don’t want to give too much away because the story presents many twists and turns that lead to an ending I hope readers won’t see coming. The book centers around mankind’s first contact with a highly advanced extraterrestrial race. The aliens claim to have come to save human society, but the question becomes at what price? The main protagonist is Gabriel Ferro, the US Presidents Chief of Staff. Ferro becomes ensnared in a conspiracy to hide the alien presence from the president and the public. There is a trip to the Alien’s home planet, which is the first sign that not all is what it first appears. That’s as much as I want to reveal.

The Autopsy of Planet Earth (R.J. Eastwood)
Click to Read an Excerpt

What inspired you to write the book?
So, this is where the plot thickens. Autopsy began life as a screenplay that did not get produced. It languished on my shelf for a number of years before I decided to turn it into a novel titled “In The Realm of Eden”, which was a total failure and only sold about 500 copies. A couple of years went by before I came to the realization that Realm was not what I had set out to write – I had followed the screenplay too closely (“Realm” has subsequently been removed never again to see the light of day). I made the decision to give the story a second try and fleshed out the original 130 page screenplay into a 553 page novel and renamed it “The Autopsy of Planet Earth”, which more more closely defined what I had originally set out to do, but had not. To separate myself from that first failed attempt, I published Autopsy under the pen name R.J. Eastwood (my real initials). To me a name change represented a fresh start. Not sure this makes sense, but that’s what I did. Now my kids and friends call me R. J.

"[The Novel] examines in great detail how we just might react to first contact with an alien race."

Who do you see as your target audience?
Anyone who enjoys reading science fiction, but particularly readers who enjoy sci-fi when it’s wrapped around a government conspiracy. Autopsy has a little bit of everything and should appeal to a wider audience beyond just those who enjoy hardcore “Star Wars” adventures. Autopsy is about us as a civilization, albeit a struggling one. It examines in great detail how we just might react to first contact with an alien race.

What makes your book special?
Well, for one, what I have written could very well be our reality if and when we make contact with aliens, wrapped around characters a reader can root for.

"How to best let people know your book is out there? That’s the challenge[...]"

How would you describe the success of your self-published books so far?
I have had five books published via traditional publishers (under my real name Robert J. Emery. Four non-fiction, one novel) and was never pleased with the outcome. So, this time I thought I would give self-publishing a try. The publishing experience was fine, but the PR aspect has proven to be daunting. How to best let people know your book is out there? That’s the challenge and its really time consuming, which of course takes time away from my writing. The book was released at the end of November 2017 and thus far I have done better out of the chute than with my previous publishers. Like any other form of advertising, I think self-promotion is all about consistency. You have to remain visible in as many ways as possible and you have to be creative about it. Ah, by the way, this would also be a good place for a plug. For the month of April, the E-book is being promoted at 99 cents wherever E-books are sold. Yes, I would like to make a few bucks along the way, but I also want as many people as possible to read my book in the hope they will follow me when “Midnight Black” comes out in the Fall. In the meantime, those reviewing “The Autopsy of Planet Earth” have been very kind earning me an overall Amazon rating of 5-stars.

"Write what is in your heart, not what you think might be trending."

Can you give some advice for other Authors regarding the writing process?
Be consistent and write every day even if it’s only an hour or so. Write what is in your heart, not what you think might be trending. Never, ever, try to emulate another writer. If you can’t be original, try doing something else. And always, always get your book edited if for no other reason to catch typos, misspellings, and bad punctuation, all of which I am guilty of. Finally, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. There are any number of ways to write a sentence. Experiment with which string of words makes your point best. I once tired to employ and editor who turned me down because I had failed to make every word count. “Come back when you do” was his advice.

Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I am presently working on a dystopian novel titled “Midnight Black.” It has elements of science fiction, but is really about one’s broken man’s journey as he literally saves the world from from what has become a one-world government that rules the planet.

Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
I have no idea, like all technology it seems to be morphing month by month. I believe E-books will remain, but as I have done with Autopsy, I published in both E-book and paperback versions for readers like me who prefer holding actual books in their hands. I also believe bookstores will remain, maybe even grow again. I hope so.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle.

Do you write full-time or do you have a day job? When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I retired from active film and TV production and now devote full time to writing. When not writing, my wife and I spend time at our beach house over on Florida’s East Coast enjoying spectacular Atlantic Ocean sunrises and eating way too much. I like to cook (had a Sicilian mother who taught me) and really enjoy cooking for my kids and grand-kids.

"I’d love to hear from readers as well as other authors."

How can readers connect with you?
Through my alien friends. Seriously, I’d love to hear from readers as well as other authors. My email is media8@verzion.net. My author home page, where I occasionally write a blog, is another way to reach me. the address is www.theautopsyofplanetearth.com.

Thank you very much for the Interview, R.J.



About the Book The Autopsy of Planet Earth

The Autopsy of Planet Earth (R.J. Eastwood)
Click to Read an Excerpt
The year is wherever your imagination takes you.

A single extraterrestrial arrives on Planet Earth claiming his race created mankind only to have abandoned them early in their evolution.

The Alien, known only as Legna, has returned to reverse mankind’s downward spiral by transitioning humans to a new dynamic of peace, harmony, and balance. Gabriel Ferro, Chief of Staff to the United States President, and Dr. Catherine Blake, are unwittingly drawn into a world beyond their wildest imaginations, a world beyond Earth, beyond the Milky Way—the first humans to go where no humans have gone before.

Will the arrival of a mystifying extraterrestrial save Earth from the destruction of the natural world, caused by the very society that relies on it for survival? Can the missteps of antiquity, blindly repeated time and time again, be reversed?

"What a story - I don't normally dig sci-fi, but after the first couple pages I couldn't put the book down. Well-told with provocative ideas about our future and our home, the earth!" - Reader Review (5-Stars)




Links to the Book

Link to the Paperback The Autopsy of Planet Earth on Amazon

Link to the eBook The Autopsy of Planet Earth on Amazon



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