Monday, December 12, 2016

Author Interview with Jeff Lyons

I am so excited to present an interview with the author and screenwriter Jeff Lyons. He has been gracious enough to allow an interview, and I hope you enjoy it. I really enjoyed gettting to read about him, and I look forward to reading his books! I hope you do, too. So, spend a few minutes today and get to know Mr. Jeff Lyons!


Q: If you could, would you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

A: I am a traditionally published and a self-published author.  I have more than 25 years of experience working in the film/TV and publishing industries as a screenwriter, story consultant, and developmental editor. I work in nonfiction and scifi/fantasy, but also cross other genres. Unlike a lot of so-called writing gurus, I actually write fiction and work as a working screenwriter. I’ve worked with literally thousands of novelists and screenwriters over the years helping them learn effective and solid story development techniques. I don’t want this to sound like a resume or job interview, so let me also share that I’m a dog freak (but I own a cat—go figure), and have a bizarre sense of humor that tends to offend most people. But, I have good personal hygiene, no outstanding parking tickets (that’s more of an issue than you might imagine), and drink way too much coffee.

Q:  How long have you been writing?

A:  Since I was a teenager, but I didn’t get serious until I was in my thirties, that’s when I started working in the movie business. The entertainment industry was where I really cut my teeth as a writer, but I grew up in the 1960s and like G.R.R. Martin grew up with the comic book, monster magazine, and scifi magazines. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that I realized writing and storytelling were not the same thing, and then had to learn the craft of story structure structure and story development. I’ve been a story development addict ever since. Most people are good writers, but most writers are very weak when it comes to story.  (hint: that’s why I wrote my first book—Anatomy of a Premise Line).

Q:  So, what have you written?

A: A lot.  Publishing-wise I’ve published one book with Focal Press (Anatomy of a Premise Line) and have a second book coming out with them in late 2017 (Rapid Story Development: How to Use the Enneagram-Story Connection to Become a Master Storyteller). I am also now pursuing my own self-publishing career and have two novellas out (13 Minutes and Jack Be Dead:Revelation).  I’m also writing more short fiction and an historical novel (The Abbess) set in the Middle Ages. Im all over the map with genres, but I think writers have to be these days. The most successful authors (IMO) cross genres and mix it up. I’ve also written a bunch of screenplays for film and TV and still have movie project making the rounds “around town.” I’m still an active screenwriter and work in the entertainment industry.

Q: Where can we find your books?

A: The usual suspects: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Nobel… all the major e-book retailers.  Some Barnes & Nobel stores have my Anatomy of a Premise Line in stock.

Q:What genre are your books?

A:  Nonfiction, but all my fiction is scifi/horror right now.

Q: Is there something about this genre that draws you to it?

A: I’m sure I love scifi and horror because of my childhood. I grew up reading Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, etc. Reading was my escape from a pretty horrific family life and I lived in my head most of my childhood and adolescence. If it wasn’t for these writers and all the monster magazines I don’t know that I’d still be on the planet.  Not to be overly dramatic about it.

Q: Do you have a favorite book that you've written?

A:  Lots of writers hate answering this question. They say it’s like asking a parent which kid they like best, and no parent can do that.  I say bunk. Parents have favorites—don’t kid yourself. So do authors. Right now, my favorite is Anatomy of a Premise Line because it is helping so many people learn the basic craft of story development. It really is a good book. My other books know this about me, and I have them in therapy, so it should all work out.

Q: If you could cast anyone to play the characters in your most recent book, who would they be?

A: I leave that to the producers and casting agents.  I’m terrible at casting.

Q: Why do you write?

A:  Because I’m too old to be short stop for the Yankees.

Q:  Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

A:  I see it taking me to a self-sustained career as a fiction writer.  Screenwriting is great, but there is no real future in it—for anyone. I know that sounds like Debbie-Downer, but it’s the truth.  Screenwriting is a dead end for 99.9% of writers. The action is in  self-publishing. I tell all my screenwriter friends they need to be writing novels and turning the scripts into books. The world has changed and you can make a living as a writer for the first time in the history of publishing. The tools are there, the technology is there, the platforms are there, the third-party business services are there… it’s all there for any author who wants to build a life as a working writer. It’s hard, and it’s now a very crowded environment, but so what. Slow and steady is what will win this race. That’s what I’m trying to build now, my own platform, presence, and readership with e-books, novels, and short stories. There are no more gatekeepers and you don’t have to ask anyone for permission anymore. “All” you have to do is learn how it all works and build your platform. You have to do both, though, traditional and self-publishing. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. But, the self-publishing can sustain you and maybe even make you rich.  It really all depends on you.

Q: Where do the your ideas come from?

A:  The same place the great director Billy Wilder got his ideas:  I put an empty milk bottle out on the stoop at night and in the morning there is a story idea sticking out of it.

Q: Some authors use outlines, some just fly by the seat of their pants. How do you write?

A:  This is a very complex question, because it pushes a lot of my buttons. Bottom line is I do what I teach:  develop a premise line,  develop a log line, develop a short synopsis, develop a long synopsis and then NEVER start actual pages until I have these things well developed and feel the story has legs. This is what I teach in my book and it works.  Period.  For those who fly by the seat of their pants… good luck with that. For 99.9% of writers this is the worst thing they can do because they don’t know how to fly by the seat of their pants.  Some can, but that’s because they have a natural talent for story, so they have a safety net to keep them from breaking their necks. Most people buy into the biggest myth of writing, which is “the story will write itself.” This is a lie. Stories don’t write themselves—NEVER. Writers write stories, not the other way around. It feels like they write themselves, but it only feels that way, that’s not what’s happening. I told you this pushes my buttons. I could go on for pages—indeed, chapters—but I’ll shut up. I practice what I preach, and it works well for me.

Q:  How long on average does it take you to write a book?

A:  Short fiction takes around a month or so.  Jack Be Dead took about three months.  13 Minutes took about a month.  Anatomy of a Premise Line took me about eight months and then two months for rewrites. I don’t think novel should take someone years and years (though  it’s not bad or wrong if it does). I think if you write on a regular basis and have your story figured out BEFORE you start writing then you can do a novel a year on average, no problem. But, that’s me and that and fifty cents will get me a dial tone.

Q: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

A:  HA!  Well, no.  I write all the time, everywhere I go. I don’t always write stuff down, but I’m always writing in my head. My day is totally unstructured. I tell people all the time “Don’t do what I do.” I’m distracted all day lone: Facebook, Twitter,, blog sites, etc. I’m online all day and all night and I have to work that way.  I can’t just focus a time-of-day for writing.  I have to be distracted with noise (music) and technology.  Believe it or not, I’m productive.  So, don’t do what I do.  Be warned.

Q: Do you design your own book covers?

A:  No.  My publisher does my traditional books and a woman I use in Canada ( does my self-published covers.  She’s amazing and affordable.

Q:  Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

A:  CRITICAL.  My covers sell my books. You must have a professional cover, front and back. This separates the professionals from the amateurs.

Q: How do you market your books?

A:  Ugh.  Badly. I’m doing what everyone does: Facebook, Twitter, all the social media, email auto-responder campaigns, local bookstores, signings, conferences, yada yada.  It’s impossible to get noticed these days because everyone is publishing books. Five years ago, not so much, but now it’s overwhelming. What I’ve discovered is that social media (for me anyway) is pretty useless attracting new readers. It’s main use is for holding on to existing readers and interacting with them.

Q: Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

A:  Hire a third-party service company to do it. It will cost you money, but you can’t do everything. We need to be writing, not marketing our books.  We have to get product out there. Let marketing people do the selling.  But…you have to be able to afford that and you have to know enough about marketing online to manage them.  So, you have to learn the basics, but let others do the work.  My 2 cents.

Q: Do you have any advice on how to get book reviews?

A:  That’s part of the marketing effort now. Reviews help you find readers.  Hire someone to find book bloggers and review sites.  It really is just part of marketing now.

Q: What are your thoughts on good vs. bad reviews?

A:  You want good ones and you don’t want bad ones.  What else is there to say?  I don’t give a rat’s you-no-what about reviews.  Never read them.  Most people don’t really say anything of substance, all you’re going for are the stars. That’s all anyone ever really looks for anyway.  Good books get lots of stars, so don’t write sucky books.

Q: If you could have been an author for any book, who would it be and what book?

A: George R.R. Martin. Song of Fire and Ice series.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Learn story structure and story development. Writing and storytelling are two different things and have nothing to do with one another. You don’t need to be anywhere near a word processor or pen and paper to tell a story. Stories can be danced, mimed, spoken, painted, etc. Stories need storytellers, not writers. So learn how to tell a story. That means story structure and story development. This is all craft driven by talent, not the other way around.  Development is the craft piece. Writing has its own craft, but that’s not the same craft as storytelling. The next piece of advice is self-publish. Learn the ropes, learn the business of publishing, become an authorprenure. You can make a living writing, and you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission anymore. Just be sure you write good books. That means good stories, but also professional presentations: clean editing, great covers, professional interior design—your books need to be as good as anything put out by traditional publishers—and they can be now.  It’s doable.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

A:  Chocolate or vanilla?  I still don’t know the answer to that one.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Twitter: @storygeeks
Amazon Author Page: Jeff Lyons
Goodreads: Jeff Lyons

Jeff Lyons

Author:  Anatomy of a Premise Line  (Available Now)
Media Inquiries:   Contact

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