Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelists and scriptwriters Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Ken, Buck. Please tell us something about yourselves, where you’re based, and how you came to be writers.
Ken: We started our writing careers at the bright young ages of 69 and 62 respectfully. My background was in film / TV and script writing and Buck’s was as a professional pilot and writer of technical manuals. In two years, we’ve published five novels totaling over 500,000 words. We are located in Gainesville, Texas, just south of the Red River and north of Dallas.
Morgen: Focusing on your scripts for a moment. What would you say is the main difference between the script format and novels?
Ken & Buck: To us, mainly tense. Script writing is present tense and novel writing is primarily past tense. Took us a while to change writing habits. It’s still storytelling. In film, don’t say it if you can show it.
Morgen: Ah yes, the great ‘show don’t tell’. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Buck: We write primarily in Military / Action / Techno and Western, but we’re not married to either. We have some screen / teleplay scripts in murder mystery / thriller and comedy that we could easily adapt to novels. Actually our western, The Nations, was an adaptation from a screenplay Ken wrote back in ’86.
Morgen: Script is mostly constructed of dialogue and stage / camera directions. Some writers find dialogue hard to write, do you have any tips for them?
Buck: For us, that’s the easy part. Ken has 40 years as a professional actor and pretty much has seen every type of script (good and bad) there is. Best tips: Write like people talk and don’t write “on the nose”, that means don’t have the character say more than is absolutely necessary. When we edit our work, we read it aloud. If it doesn’t flow and is not easy to say, it doesn’t work.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Ken & Buck: LOL. We have never done an outline, script or novel if that’s what you mean. We get an idea, turn it over to the characters and see where they take it. Even surprises us sometimes. We really never know how a story is going to turn out when we start.
Morgen: That’s what I love about fiction. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
We have published five full-length novels to date, all in less than one year. We have four novels in our Black Eagle Force series and one historical fiction western (listed below). All hit Amazon’s best seller list in less than four months, one in less than a week. No pseudonyms, or nom de plums, worked too long and hard to build a name, ain’t gonna waste it.
- Black Eagle Force: Eye of the Storm (#1)
- Black Eagle Force: Sacred Mountain (#2)
- Return of the Starfighter (#3)
- Black Eagle Force: Blood Ivory (#4)
- The Nations (Western)
Morgen: You’ve self-published. What lead to you going your own way?
Ken & Buck: Our first novel was published by a traditional publisher, but they kinda pissed us off in that it took them over a year and their editors didn’t know their butts from a gin whistle about military terminology or acronyms. Got tired of fighting with them and decided to form our own publishing company, Timber Creek Press. We have published seven books in the last twelve months, four of our own and three for others.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Buck: All of our novels are in E and paper, world wide. The E books are in both Mobi and E-Pub. We are totally involved all the way through because we are very particular about proper formating and presentation. We both prefer paper, but Ken just got a Kindle Fire and is trying it out.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Ken: I suppose one of my favorites is Marshal Jack McGann in The Nations. When I wrote the original screenplay, I created Jack for myself…didn’t work out. If Nations were to be made into a movie, I see Denzel Washington as Bass Reeves. And in Black Eagle Force, I see Mark Harmon or Liam Neeson as Dare “Iron Horse” Phillips and Charlize Theron as Jill.
Morgen: Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Ken: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Issac Asimov, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Kenneth Robeson, Philip José Farmer, Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey. I would say, yes, they shaped me, but I’ll let the reader decide that.
Buck: Robert Louis Stevenson, J. R. R. Tolkien, Stephen Hunter. I’m drawn to exotic locals and unique characters who can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
Morgen: Did you choose the titles / covers of your books?
Ken & Buck: We created our titles and covers ourselves. Actually we normally start with the title, then write the book. We had to fight our original publisher, Tate, over our first cover and finally got it our way. Their illustrator had not even read the book. (One of the reasons we fired them.) We know how to grab interest with the title and cover and don’t see any sense in fighting with some nabob over it. Our last two covers, Return of the Starfighter and Black Eagle Force: Blood Ivory, were hand painted by illustrator Steve Daniels out of North Carolina.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Ken & Buck: Since we both have acting backgrounds, we use the same procedure / approach to characters as in acting. We use the backstory method to create their personalities and are careful that each character has his/her own speaking style. Names? Friends, relatives, phone book and sometimes we pull a name out of the air… especially for bad guys.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Ken & Buck: Our writing is becoming more fully-formed, however, we don’t believe you ever outgrow or get too good that it can’t be better. We edit as we go and then go through a line-by-line edit at the end. You’d be surprised what you’ll find. Why did we say it that way?
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Ken & Buck: Thank God for the Internet. Our military novels are very techno and we pride ourselves on being totally accurate. You know, weapons, aircraft, terminology, dialogue. Sometime one of us will write and the other researches and sometimes both of us research and write at the same time. We try to blend actual facts with fiction so that the reader doesn’t have far to go to suspend disbelief.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Ken & Buck: We prefer third person. We feel it’s much more conducive to storytelling and not nearly so limiting as first person, Louis L’Amour not withstanding. We like to see that every pertinent character has a POV. Second person doesn’t appeal to us. Too much like a lecture.
Morgen: It can feel like that. I love it but definitely in short doses. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Ken & Buck: We just released our fourth Black Eagle Force novel, Black Eagle Force: Blood Ivory. It went to #3 in Amazon’s Best Seller list for War Fiction and #1 in the Hot New Releases list in less than one week. Oorah! We are currently on Chapter Four of the sequel to our best selling western, The Nations, entitled, Haunted Falls.
Morgen: Congratulations. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Ken & Buck: We write every day. Ken prefers to write in the mornings and Buck in the evenings. What is writer’s block? Neither of us can conceive of exactly what that is. At over 500,000 words in a year, we don’t have time for writer’s block.
Morgen: Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Ken & Buck: Next to writing, marketing is the most important part of being a successful author. Every event we go to, we don’t sell our books… we sell ourselves. We use all the social media, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, interviews (radio / TV) and print. We also participate in the annual Roundup for Autism charity event in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area. And if it made sense, we would rent an airplane and drag a banner around. Never go anywhere without books and cards… anywhere.
Morgen: Renting a plane would certainly be eye-catching. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Ken & Buck: We both love to create characters, stories and ideas and see them come to life. Least favorite… typing and not having enough time. Side note: Typing with a computer beats the hell out of longhand. Biggest surprise was how long it takes a traditional publisher to go from manuscript to release… Over a year! Unbelievable.
Morgen: It is, and part of the reason why I self-published. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Ken & Buck: Write, write, write. Make mistakes and learn from them. Learn from other successful writers and stay aware of current marketing trends…they tend to change rapidly. Write what you like…believe us, if you don’t like it, neither with your readers. Time spent trying to market your first book is better spent writing a second and third. It’s easier and more financially rewarding to market multiple titles in sequence than spend all your time hawking one title.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Buck: George Washington, Albert Einstein, Chesty Puller – aged beef steak on a Big Green Egg smoker / grill.
Ken: Audie Murphy, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan – my special chicken chilli with buttermilk cornbread. If I told you the recipe, I’d have to kill you.
Morgen: I love chicken so I might take the risk. 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Ken & Buck: We enjoy holding writing workshops to try to give aspiring writers the benefit of our experiences and mistakes. Since our background is in professional acting, we specialise in realistic dialogue and storytelling. We try to teach writers how to bring the reader into the story by making them see, hear, feel, taste and smell what’s going on in the scene.
Morgen: The five senses are easy to forget but really important to use as a checklist. Taste, feel and smell wont necessarily be in every piece but they do add extra dimensions. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Ken & Buck: We individually and jointly have a large presence on Facebook, with personal pages and book fan pages as well as numerous author groups like Military Writers Society of America, ReadWest, Lexicon, Spirit of the Cowboy, Author Friends and several book festival pages. We find them absolutely invaluable. One, you can get exposed to a great number of people and drive them to your web site or pages on Amazon and two… it’s cheap.
Morgen: It is. Hard to do but it you’re proactive enough, which it sounds like you are then that’s half the battle. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Ken & Buck: People are always going to read… now the means by which that happens are changing rapidly. Our E books are outselling our print books by 500 to 1. There will always be people who will want paper books, but the new wave of electronic and the not to be overlooked Audio books is certainly going to garner a large share of the market, both now and in the foreseeable future.
Morgen: 500:1. My goodness. It’s the way reading is going because of portability but that’s a stunning figure. Books won’t go though and most authors I’ve spoken to still love to hold a book so I think they can live happily alongside each other. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Ken & Buck: We have numerous places to find out about Buck and Ken. Our web site (www.blackeagleforce.com) (www.timbercreekpress.net), Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Author Pages, Goodreads, IMDB, LinkedIn, Authors Den.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Ken & Buck: One thing cool about science-based fiction is that you can actually affect the future. Some of the things we write about do not actually exist at this point in time. However, it is not unlikely that we might inspire some young engineer, doctor or physicist to decide to devote his / her energy to make something a reality. Example of the cell phone being inspired by the flip communicator on the original Star Trek.
Morgen: Oh yes. I love technology. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Ken & Buck: How did you get started in blogging and why did you choose the interview approach?
Morgen: It sort of chose me actually. My website (http://morgenbailey.com) wasn’t attracting many visits (about three or four a day) and I’d heard blogging was a good thing to do so I set up http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com in March 2011 (and this site on 1st February 2013 because I was getting so many enquiries for interviews) and I was invited to do an interview on another blog and enjoyed it so much that I put a shout out online for authors to be interviewed. I’ve done over 700. 🙂
Thank you, gentlemen. Great chatting with you today.
OVER BIG SPRING, TEXAS
Mama Bird leveled off at 12,000 feet AGL and reduced her cruise speed to 250 knots true airspeed. The rear clamshell doors of the were open and the ramp was in the level down position. Jill, in Eagle One, was on the ramp. Mike, in Eagle Two, was in the trail position fifty feet below and two hundred yards behind the giant C5-M Super Galaxy and had matched her 250 kts. speed while Jill was docking.
As Jill’s Eagle One was being pulled inside Mama Bird, she came on the BEF common frequency,
“Not to worry, Cowboy, it’s only like threading a needle at 285 miles per hour during an earthquake…Pieceacake.”
“Easy for you to say,” Mike responded as he gradually pushed the throttle and crept forward twenty feet below and fifty feet behind the ramp of the giant dark gray aircraft. He started to work his way into the somewhat stable air pocket just under her tail. Eagle One had just disappeared into the black hole of Mama Bird’s cargo bay.
Without warning, an invisible clear air mountain wave grabbed the massive cargo craft and shook her like a rag doll in its unyielding fingers. The four hundred thousand pound craft dropped almost ten feet instantaneously as the huge T-tail came down like a gigantic fly swatter toward the tiny Eagle Two. A split second later the same wave struck the much smaller fighter with more intensity. Mike instinctively slammed the stick forward to provide separation from his intended landing site. The Eagle pitched down and rolled hard left, then snapped right as each pilot’s helmet bounced hard off the canopy.
“Jesus!” Mike blurted as he fought to control the aircraft.
“Damn! What the hell was that?” asked Maria as she automatically covered Mike’s hand on the stick.
“I got it,” he said as the Eagle leveled off fifty feet below the extended ramp.
Inside the C-5M cockpit, both Gears and Kit were holding onto to the yokes. Kit looked over at Gears who was shaking his head. Both men had instinctively disconnected the auto pilot which had been controlling Mama Bird.
“Eagle Two, say status,” Gears transmitted on the encrypted BEF frequency.
“No harm, no foul, AC. Ya’ll keep it between the white lines and maybe we can come aboard.”
And a synopsis of BLOOD IVORY (#4 in the BLACK EAGLE FORCE series)…
Elephant ivory and rhino horn poachers kidnap US Senator Brietbart and his daughter Sarah in Kenya while on a photo safari. The world’s largest cruise liner, Royal Pleiades, on its maiden voyage in the Indian Ocean, is hijacked north of Madagascar by al Qaeda and Somali pirates. Onboard are Mike Hermann and Mickey Williams, sons of the President of the United States, and their brides Jill McElheney and Maria Sanchez on their honeymoons. Their identities and the fact they are all operatives of the Top Secret Alpha Tier One group, the BLACK EAGLE FORCE is unknown to the hijackers—much to their sorrow.
The BEF is tasked with dual missions—Recapture the ocean liner and rescue the Senator and his daughter. Mark Ingram, Kenyan Wildlife Service agent and former US Marine, on the trail of the kidnappers is joined by BEF Raptors.
Buck Stienke – Captain – Fighter Pilot – United States Air Force, has an extensive background in military aviation and weaponry. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Buck (call sign ‘Shoehorn’) was a member of the undefeated Rugby team and was on the Dean’s List. After leaving the Air Force, Buck was a pilot for Delta Airlines for over twenty-five years. He has vast knowledge of weapons, tactics and survival techniques. Buck is the owner of Lone Star Shooting Supply, Gainesville, TX. As a successful actor, writer and businessman, Buck lives in Gainesville with his wife, Carolyn. Buck was Executive Producer for the award winning film, Rockabilly Baby.
Ken Farmer – After proudly serving his country as a US Marine (call sign ‘Tarzan’), Ken attended Stephen F. Austin State University on a full football scholarship, receiving his Bachelors Degree in Business and Speech & Drama. Ken quickly discovered his love for acting when he starred as a cowboy in a Dairy Queen commercial. Ken has over 39 years as a professional actor, with memorable roles Silverado, Friday Night Lights, The Newton Boys and Uncommon Valor. He was the OC and VO spokesman for Wolf Brand Chili for eight years. Ken now lives near Gainesville, TX, where he continues to write screen plays and novels.
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